Bisk-Ticklish Matters

October 18, 2008


Ticklish Matters (Sub Rosa 1998)

This one is a puzzle to me. Ten years have passed and it still befuddles me because I cannot make heads nor tails out of it. I cannot compare itto anything because I have yet to hear anything that approximates the dada anti-music compiled on Ticklish Matters. I’ve heard more difficult, noisy and chaotic albums, but none disorient me in the manner of this one. It’s not even a satisfying listen because it jumps from genre to genre, sample to sample and beat to beat every few seconds, but somehow I believe it is one of the more soothing albums I own.Maybe it is due to its frequent usage of drones, classical motifs and quiet, but busy percussion, but its restlessness makes my woes seem like a mellow moment in time.

A few years ago, a Sudanese immigrant came to teach Science at my school. After months of monotonous meetings, he whispered “They are busy being busy.” I felt this was a perfect description of how our administrators puttered about the building making copies, handouts and speeches to create the appearance of progress. Somehow I have flashbacks to these words whenever I hear Ticklish Matters because it is definitely “busy being busy.” So much happens without any progression as this Japanese musician just poofs out clouds of chatter that say nothing, but creates a sense of calm. I feel like I am listening to  an ant farm cannibalising its progeny as samples trample ambient passages while orchestras slowly crush plaintive piano chords. Please don’t expect a difficult listen from my description because it really is an amalgamation of beautiful ideas piled onto one another until nothing quite makes sense. It is one of the most chaotic, but gorgeous albums that I’ve heard.  On first listen, a mess is apparent, but repeated journeys reveal more of its genius amidst the playfulness and insanity.

Bob Seger-Mongrel

October 18, 2008

Bob Seger

Mongrel (Capitol 1970)

Before the flood of testosterone and confidence gave way to a mere trickle from his mangina, Bob Seger was one of the biggest badasses to ever be associated with rock and roll. Just listen to “Heavy Music” or “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” and you are left dumbfounded that this man later wrote “Night Moves” and “Against the Wind.” He was so cocksure and in control of a raucous band able to combine 60s soul, frat rock and gratuitous riffery that wouldn’t sound out of place on a southern rock album. This music was so male and funky that it seemed as if he would fuck or fight you in an instant.

1970’s Mongrel was his first album with a new version of the Bob Seger System band and the change in direction is apparent. Gone is the funk and an almost metallic boogie rock takes it rightful place. I love the Bob Seger System, but Mongrel snarls in a wholly different manner. I always find it hard to believe he is from the North instead of the South since some of this sounds like a southern-fried Springsteen by way of Wilson Pickett. Mongrel is a fitting title since it has digested soul, rock and blues and spit it out with a snarl usually lacking in all three genres. It is such a tight, vicious album that makes you wish there were more Seger albums in this vein. This is the last time you’ll see this Bob Seger in such consistent form. After Mongrel, this erupting phallus quickly shrunk and Seger became Buffalo Bill and performed the lamb dance.