Music Notes November 2009

November 25, 2009 at 2:22 am (Uncategorized)

This month’s music related round-up.

1. Nirvana – Bleach (20th anniversary Edition)

I have to admit a little fear about the latest wave of Nirvana releases, Bleach and the Reading Festival CD/DVD. In their short life, nirvana released three studio albums and the singles/rarities collection Incesticide. Now the posthumous releases, and that’s not including compilations, outnumber the living. I live in terror of recording being discovered and having new music added to them in order to squeeze the last few dollars out of the band.

All that aside, Bleach is a pretty good record. Not bad for a record that cost a couple of hundred bucks to make.  Twenty years later, Bleach is available in a shiny new edition with a 52-page book and a live concert from Portland dating to 1990. It’s not my favourite Nirvana recording, but it’s a fascinating snapshot of what was about to be.

2. The 5,6,7,8’s  Bomb the Twist

If Shonen Knife hadn’t wanted to be the Ramones, but instead, oh I don’t know, the Rock-a-Teens or Thee Headcoatees, they might sound a little like the 5,6,7,8’s. Most famous for their appearance in Tarrentino’s Kill Bill (yes, that song is included here), it’s worth a listen. But maybe not repeated plays.

3. The XX

Take one part Young Marble Giants, one part joy Division… seriously, if you can get beyond the hype, the XX are really worth a listen. Slow, serious music with great vocals. Watch videos on their site and get a remixed MP3 for signing up to their mailing list.

4. Nick Cave – The Death of Bunny Monroe

I like Nick Cave, I really do.  I’ve bought most of his records. I seen him play live several times. I bought the lyric/poem collections, and loved his first novel And the Ass Saw the Angel.  So…it really pains me to say how disappointed I was by this book. It’s the story of a sex-obsessed salesman dealing with life in the aftermath of his wife’s suicide:  A post-modern porno death of a salesman? Not really, just a bit dull. Page after page of sex-related comments and profanity is not particularly interesting. That said, the final chapters of the book show just how talented Cave is. There’s the clever wordplay and lyricism that fill his albums. A shame the rest of the book wasn’t more like that.  

5. Elijah Wald – How the Beatles Destroyed rock ‘n’ Roll

I wrote about this book last month, but hadn’t actually read it then. Ooh, not what I expected. I thought it might be about how the Beatles fueled the birth of classic rock radio – the totalitarian music form that presents a very selective view of sixties rock.

It isn’t. It’s a history of neglected American music forms. Fascinating stuff. If you’ve read Wald’s book on Robert Johnson, you know what you’re in for. Wald is a thorough and informed writer, but he’s also a fan of the music he describes. But, this isn’t about the Beatles. As such, the book is just this side of being dishonest in its title. I guess you can’t judge a book by its cover.

6. Greg Kot- Ripped

Kot is a Chicago music critic, and has written a thoroughly entertaining and informative book about the revolution in distribution in the music industry in the last ten years. It’s been quite a while since EMI manufactured blank cassettes and then complained that people used them to tape records. Now cassettes seem quaint and old hat. Like 8-tracks. The CD, the CD burner and then the internet made for much more efficient mass distribution. Kot’s book tells the stroy of how musicians and the music industry responded.

7. Massive Attack – Splitting the Atom

New EP released this summer as a warm up for the new album, due sometime in 2010. I’m not sure they’ll ever top Mezzanine, and on first listen this one doesn’t come close. But it’s a grower.

8. Charlotte Gainsbourg

If your parents are Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, is it possible that you not be cool? I’m not talking about the music here. If you watch movies or videos with Charlotte, she projects a kind of effortless cool (I suppose that’s unnecessary – cool is always effortless).   

Her new record is IRM  and is produced by Beck. you can get a free download of the single by signing up for her mailing list on her website.  There’s also a fun video for Heaven Can Wait, a track featuring Beck.

9 Erma Franklin – Piece of Her Heart

A compilation from the Epic and Shout years from Aretha’s sister. Erma is most famous for her original version of the song Janis Joplin made her signature tune, and heresy, Franklin’s is better. The rest of the album is pretty cool too.

10. Are show tunes cool again? So, I bought, unashamedly, the Glee soundtrack, and I can’t seem to get the show tunes out of my head. I read Wicked, didn’t see the muscial, but Defying Gravity is wedged there. Oh, and Don’t stop Believing. Sigh.

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