May 17, 2013
s/t (Tolotta 2000)
In theory, I should probably love everything Dead Meadow ever recorded. They alternate between chugging anthems that crib all the right notes from the best hard rock albums of the 70s and elongated ballads that borrow from the right loners of the 60s. However, the obstacles to a deep appreciation of what they play is the fact that it sometimes feels a bit too much like an homage instead of original and forceful statement of purpose. That’s just a mere quibble since most of my favorites of the past few decades have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar more than once. All of their albums are guilty of this vice, but their debut captures them at an embryonic moment when all the edges were still jagged and the connections between influences not quite so obvious. They’re still feeling their way towards an identity and it kind of captures them at a place where there was a wide-eyed sense of wonder and they kind of let it all hang out. I also have fond memories of this album because it really stuck out like a sore thumb in the rock and roll landscape as the band didn’t really have a niche as the deservedly short-lived era of stoner rock was petering out and indie-rock was kind of in a woeful state in the year 2000. They were kind of a square peg that kind of sounded like an emasculated Black Sabbath with a fondness for the sounds of Nuggets and Spacemen 3. That was enough for me then and it still is thirteen years later.
This all sounds like half-hearted praise, but I really do dig Dead Meadow and their later albums have grown on me in recent years even though I still haven’t quite reconciled myself with the nasal whine of Jason Simon who is the nephew of David Simon, the brilliant mind behind The Wire and Treme. Yes, it’s pointless trivia, but I always thought it was a neat little factoid. His voice doesn’t ruin the whole enchilada like that John Garcia’s repellent snarl in Kyuss, but it sometimes mars the impact of his guitar playing which often matches the bruising, rugged heights of the idols they so eagerly ape. The opener “Sleepy Silver Door” is a perfect example of this conundrum as the band offers a perfect introduction to their bread and butter. Simon’s riff overtakes the song and kind of falls somewhere between a clumsy, yet forceful combo of Tommy Iommi of Black Sabbath and Tony McPhee of the Groundhogs. It’s that good, but could be so great if the vocals matched the majesty of what his fingers hath wrought. It’s a bit of hyperbole, but it comes within spitting distance of it.
“Dragonfly” is another perfect slice of why Dead Meadow is capable of raising the bar beyond talented tribute as they carve out some unforseen landscape that taps into taps into the same well water the Verve were drinking on A Storm in Heaven. Like that classic album, it’s arena rock re-imagined for the small stage as they pen an anthem that kind of spills over the edge to the point that it kind of feels like it lasts forever. It’s kind of epic even though it only lasts four minutes. It kind of reminds me of the masculine counterpoint to Bardo Pond’s “Be a Fish” off of their Amanita album. Yes, it’s an overly esoteric reference, but listen to the two songs back to back and see if you jive with what I’m selling.
What makes Dead Meadow’s debut stand as their finest moment is that they kind of tried to encapsulate all that they loved into one single album and the end result is a flawed, but enigmatic mess that somehow captures the essence of all I love about the early 90s and mid 70s in a variety of styles: pseudo-shoegaze meltdowns, bluesy posturing and thudding riffs that I can hang my hat upon in times of jubilation. It ain’t perfect, but it beats the pants off of the majority of rock albums of the 2000s.
May 9, 2013
Magicistragic mix for May
Sometimes life grows hectic and puttering around on the internet loses its luster for a bit. This is one of those times. I fully expect to find more time to aimlessly ramble about albums in the near future. In the meantime, here is another mix that captures the vibe of my evening. On an unrelated note, this humble blog is slowly approaching its fifth anniversary this summer. Would anyone out there like to design a graphic to commemorate our humble beginnings when the day finally rears its meager head? If not, I guess I’ll just create a portrait of a bawling wizard myself.
Steely Dan-Babylon Sisters
Tortoise-Magnet Pulls Through
Pere Ubu-Non Alignment Pact
The Clean-Getting Older
Glenn Jones-Across the Tappan Zee
Jimi Tenor and Kabukabu-Africa Kingdom
Marcos Valle-Ele E Ela
Bob Seger-Evil Edna
Django Django-Hail Bop
Lilacs and Champagne-Sour/Sweet
His Majesty’s Coachmen-I Don’t Want to See You
Thee In-Set-They Say
Girls Names-Drawing Lines
The Chills-After They Told Me She Was Gone
Gene Clark-Jimmy Christ
Thee Oh Sees-Putrifiers II
Television Personalities-Anxiety Block
Captain Beefheart-Twist Ah Luck
April 13, 2013
Magicistragic Mix for April
Sorry for the stream of cop-out posts brimming with re-ups and mixes. I’m in the process of ingesting mass quantities of HGTV as I stage my house for its imminent sale so I may move to greener pastures to accommodate an expanding family. Scrubbing grout with a toothbrush must take precedence for now. In the meantime, here is another mix that fluctuates between primal angst, new age twinklers and misguided meditations on the universe.
Mac DeMarco-Cooking Up Something Good
Heldon-Los Soucoupes Volantes Vertes
Frank Zappa-Peaches En Regalia
The Hunches-Ate My Teeth
Cocteau Twins-From the Flagstones
Husker Du-Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill
Lonnie Holley-Here I Stand Knocking at Your Door
Milk Music-Illegal and Free
Larry “Sunshine” Rice-In Again, Out Again
Swell-Is that Important?
John and Beverly Martin-Over the Hill
Westbam feat. Nena-Old School(Baby)
Low-Over the Ocean
Gerry Rafferty-Right Down the Line
Edie Callahan-Santa Cruz Mountains
Magnolia Electric Company-Hold On Magnolia
Great Unwashed-Small Girl
Primal Scream-Velocity Girl
d’Tigeas A Damsa-Clannad
March 30, 2013
I killed my mediafire account before they could do me dirty. Hell, It’s Easter and I figured that I should offer a few measly eggs to the lonely souls who breeze through our humble pages. Don’t get too excited. All of this shit’s been posted before. I’m not going to pen even a solitary word about what transpires next. It’s just a pile of lukewarm leftovers to satisfy you until I the spirit moves me to tap that keyboard in all the right places yet again.
Kings of Convenience
Quiet is the New Loud
Soundtrack to “The American Dreamer”
Ali Farke Toure
Brian Eno and John Cale
Wrong Way Up
Life, Love and Faith
Here is a duo worth your while.. The first two albums by Matt Suggs are so slept-upon it hurts my soul. Both kind of grow upon you in a way the best albums always do.
Golden Days Before the End
March 23, 2013
The Yes Album (1971 Atlantic)
I recently turned 40. Honestly, it arrived like any other day. The same things that brought joy to my life prior to this milestone still plastered a grin on my life the day after. My son still wanted to skateboard around the living room like a tazmanian devil and I continued my nightly tradition of a home-cooked meal with my lovely wife. Despite what I’ve read in the funny papers, the middle of my life is a time of contentment and wonder at what the next day may bring, not a crippling blow to my kneecaps as I slowly stumble into oblivion. Sorry to get all existential on your asses, but sometimes you gotta take a look around and appreciate your surroundings and bask in all that is good in your universe. Oh yeah, I was trying to pontificate about the nature of the number forty. Anyhow, I got to thinking about something when I was using a gift certificate to the local record store given to my by my sister-in-law. That something was that I realized that I had gripped an unlikely trio of albums that would have made me wretch twenty years ago. I kind of was looking to stretch out my dollars like hamburger helper and go for the cheapies, so my stubby fingers unconsciously gravitated towards Yes’ The Yes Album, Grateful Dead’s Reckoning and Steely Dan’s Aja. Once I realized my faux pas, I reflexively peered out of each eye to see if anyone had glimpsed what I had wrought. I honestly felt a flash of shame, but then I came to my senses and realized that I didn’t give a shit that I had crossed the line where my listening habits have come full circle and I now adore notes and refrains that I used to sneer at without a second thought. I guess that is one of the minor gifts of my nascent middle age. If it gets my toes tapping, then we’re cool and you can keep me company when I listen to you while I write weirdo odes to Yes and the Grateful Dead while my wife goes out to eat pizza with friends.
I’ve always kind of liked Steely Dan’s particularly smooth brand of sleaze all along and my wife finally broke down the barriers to an unadulterated love of Grateful Dead bootlegs a few years ago. However, Yes was the one band that I could tow the line on and take comfort in the fact that some things were okay to hate forever. Outside of a mercifully short phase where I would get depressed about working in a record store in Indiana, PA and listen to Yessongs incessantly since its overwhelming optimism seemed like the only thing that could fend off the realization that I would most likely have to listen to a Collective Soul album at some point in my day, there was nary a moment when I felt lie dipping my toes into the discography of Yes. However, I figured it was worth a shit if I’m now the kind of guy who actually pays his hard-earned money on Pure Prairie League and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band records. I picked up The Yes Album as if it were the canary in the coal mine to see if I could actually hang with “I’ve Seen All Good People” and I can attest that I surely can.
The Yes Album is kind of their last step before they dove off the deep end into a crazy-ass pit of songs about Topographic Oceans. It’s followup, Fragile, at least had “Long Distance Runaround” and “Roundabout” to even out the balance between pretentious and “pretentious”, but this one was the last time they bothered with the pretension of rocking out instead of finding new ways to noodle away their days. The best thing about the Yes Album might be how its opener “Your’s Is No Disgrace” begins like an gritty also-ran- from a Nuggets compilation and all off a sudden sprouts wings and soars into some proggy wonderland of multi-tracked harmonies and slap bass reveries. It’s so preposterous and over the top that it shouldn’t work, but thank god it does. The next track, “Clap” might be Yes’ only attempt at a jaunty folk instrumental, but it’s a damn fine piece that honestly wouldn’t sound out of place on John Fahey’s Yellow Princess. Plus, it has “I’ve Seen All Good People” which might be their crowning achievement. It’s like Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young at their finest, except it has a flute solo and mandolin breakdown and an extended metaphor involving chess and the Vietnam War. Yeah, The Yes Album is overly earnest and a bit too satisfied with itself, but it’s kind of brilliant once you strip away the contexts and memories you have assigned to it. Let me bring this to a close before my own ramblings take on the characteristics of a Yes double LP. In short, getting older is enjoyable and a doubleheader of Yes and the Grateful Dead sounds pretty sublime on a Saturday afternoon these days. I’ll post more re-ups next week.
March 9, 2013
As Magicistragic approaches its fifth anniversary of existence, I realize why most music blogs have been put out of their misery. It’s kind of a pain in the ass when most of your links have been nabbed by the keystone cops. Others may throw in the towel and call it quits, but what else am I going to do while the wife heads out with the gals? In order to avoid an alternate reality where magicistragic is extinct and I spend my nights reading Anthony Kiedis’s autobiography while The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is muted on the television. Oh wait, that’s actually what I did do last night? Fuck it. I’ve already gone down a horrible wormhole, so here is a slew of re-ups to links that met their untimely end.
Magicistragic Mix for March
Magicistragic Mix for February
Ofege-Try and Love
Radar Bros.-The Singing Hatchet
Magicistragic Mix for January
Magicistragic Mix for December
Richard Schneider-Dreamlike Land
Michael Garrison-In the Region of Sunreturn
Magicistragic Mix for November
Now for some tales from the crypt.
Lync-These Are Not Fall Colors
March 2, 2013
Magicistragic Mix for March(NEW LINK)
If I could make a mixtape and send it back in time to Indiana, PA circa 1994, my younger, longhaired and poorly dressed doppleganger would be so goddamn stoked and drink some shitty beer and have a special moment. Consider this my ode to my musical listening habits in the mid-90s even if half of it didn’t exist then.
Slant 6-Don’t You Ever
The Rentals-The Love I’m Searching For
Magic Circle-White Light
Dead Meadow-Dusty Nothing
Meat Puppets-Magic Toy Missing
Endless Boogie-Taking out the Trash
Lync-Silver Spoon Glasses
Jay Reatard-Flourescent Grey
The Fall-Container Drivers
Flaming Lips-T.H.E. W.A.N.D.
February 27, 2013
Try and Love (EMI 1971)
Try and Love saunters along at its own pace. There is something slinky, soulful and languid about how it kind of slinks out of the speakers. The guitar playing on Try and Love is exceedingly fried and stoned to the hilt and makes even the most trite lyrics sound impeccably cool by mere association. It’s kind of unsurprising that it was recorded by a bunch of Nigerian teenagers studying at a college in Nigeria. Ofege has this optimistic, wide-eyed sense of wonder about them that imbues itself into each song as they pine away for a simple world where we all just try to love one another while bemoaning those who bring bad vibes into their lives. While the subject material is straight out of Haight-Ashbury, the instrumentation falls somewhere between a strange Nexus of Santana, Nigerian highlife music and American r&b. It’s a strange brew just based on that stylistic concoction, but the guitarist elevates Ofege to something far more transcendent than an interesting footnote in musical history. His playing is so loose, expansive and free, yet funky that it kind of leads each song on a slow spiral out of control that is kind of psychedelic in ways I never thought possible as he channels countless cultures into each stoned riff.
Another thing I always appreciated about this album is how there is a lovesick and misanthropic vibe that serves as an undercurrent to the flower power that dominates as the theme of the album. For example, the lyrics to the opener “Nobody Fails” is almost straight out of a Morrissey tune as the singer kvetches about how the opposite sex never truly appreciates you until you’re gone. However, the guitarist bails Ofege out again by interjecting some real weirdo vibes as he kicks into some Santana-esque crescendo that breaks down into some bizarro staccato interlude that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the song. However, “It’s Not Easy” is one of those songs that outshine everything else on an album and make Try and Love a habitual listen instead of an occasional one. It’s just one of those perfectly imperfect compositions that just make the world a better place. It’s built upon a triumvirate that ebbs and flows throughout the song: a stoned chorus that chants the title of the song, impassioned pleading about the difficulties of love and a guitar riff that kind of dances a headlong strut throughout the song. It is all I ever wanted from a song and it makes me ignore every fault of this flawed, but eminently loveable album.
February 9, 2013
The Singing Hatchet(See Thru/Chemikal Underground 1999)
At first listen, the Radar Bros sound like any number of 90s sad sacks enamored with grandiose crescendos and morose sentiments set to song. A quick stroll through my admittedly hazy memories uncovers a panoply of Acetones, Lows, Idahos, American Analog Sets and Red House Painters equally enamored with this weathered, but worthwhile formula. At the time, I thought of every single one of these bands as my sullen stalwarts on those rainy days that bled into lonely nights, but time has eaten away at their charms. What was once soothing and intimate to these ears, now sounds bloated and boring. However, the Radar Bros are still as cozy as an afghan blanket. Yeah, they mined the same territory as the rest, but there has always been something panoramic and ostentatious about their music. To be honest, the real reason I love this band, especially their work on The Singing Hatchet and its followup And the Surrounding Mountains, is how it all falls somewhere between the vibe of a slow-motion Pink Floyd ballad and Neil Young at his most bruised and confused. That’s a bit of a dishonest and hyperbolic statement since the Radar Bros aren’t even in the same stratosphere as either, but they do a stellar job of conjuring up the same troubled, but beautiful hoodoo of both. During the 90s and early 2000s, Radar Bros just kind of perfected this languorous, glacial pace that served as the perfect canvas for some honest to god anthems that kind of make you wish they were big in the 70s so you could smoke a bowl and wave a lighter as they plodded through imaginary hit after imaginary hit.
The Singing Hatchet is one of the unsung albums of the 90s. The opening track “Shifty Lies” is kind of the most perfect and sublime beginning to an album that seems mired in defeatist posture. Hell, the chorus to the song is “shifty lies and senseless visions, overflow like frozen rivers, stand in line and watch the time, you’re cattled up and weeks behind, how long, how long until we reach the bottom of the lake?” It starts off like some 70s cosmic Country and Western meditation until it suddenly swells and rises to an almost proggy chorus glorifying resignation and ennui. It’s kind of epic in its own minor league way. It paints the lovable loser as unlikely hero who sees life as it truly is.
The rest of the album just grows more dour. “You’re on an Island” amps up the 70s prog quotient with some intro that sounds like an Alan Parsons Project instrumental that stumbles into some existential ballad where our protagonist kind of wonders a bit too hard about lost love a bit too much. In fact, it’s kind of creepy. I guess that’s another reason why I like this album. There’s some unsettling themes going on underneath the Live at Pompeii vibe. In fact, “Shoveling Sons” is kind of macabre too as it centers around some apocalyptic tale about young men digging the graves of the old as the earth crawls to its inevitable end. I like how the story doesn’t match the instrumentation which carries on as if its some stoned anthem about lazy days in a hammock. It’s kind of one long bummer after another, but there is something so soothing and relaxing about how each song gently eases you down another notch toward a crummy mood. I guess that’s why I gravitate to The Singing Hatchet so much. It’s kind of a thematically perfect narrative about a protagonist who gradually loses the will to fight and grows to like it.