Richard Thompson

Small Town Romance (Hannibal 1984)

http://www.divshare.com/download/6116236-5bf

When one first encounters an artist with a vast discography, it is all too easy to reach for the accepted classics only to ignore the many back alleys and sidebars that make vast discographies so intruiging and rewarding. God knows that Richard Thompson’s solo work, collaborations with Linda Thompson as well as Fairport Convention are rife with worthwhile peaks and humdrum valleys. Thompson’s solo work of the mid 80s to the present gets ignored by anyone who doesn’t think that Ron Sexsmith and Billy Bragg are the bees knees. Actually, that is quite a slice of hyperbole, but folks rightfully gush over his brilliance in the 60s and 70s at the expense of great records like Rumour and Sigh, Amnesia and Mock Tudor. Yeah, they have their fannypack and granola munching moments, but musicians mature and evolve to varying degrees of success. However, Small Town Romance,  a live album recorded in 1982, exposes all of the sores and scabs of his divorce while exposing a vulnerable side of Thompson as he begins anew without his muse.

You can sense the hurt emanating from his voice and general demeanor as he plays. This is wholly unsurprising since 1982 was the year of his divorce from Linda Thompson. These internal and external conflicts fueled their collaborations and provided an edge lacking from his later work. Here, the edge has dulled and the furnace has gone cold. All that is left are broken pieces and he dutifully attempts to rearrange them on Small Town Romance.  He seems a bit lost without his usual foil when he tackles the songs they used to sing together. My heart really goes out to him on this one despite his own contributions to this sad conclusion.

There is one song in particular that really floors me and forces me to reflect on my own fuckups. “Beat the Retreat” deals with how he was prone to fuck things up. but took comfort in the fact that he could always retreat and find comfort in the arms of his love. On Small Town Romance, the door has been slammed shut and his backpedaling is only met by an empty bed.

Beat my retreat, back home to you
Beat my retreat, back home to you
I’m burning all my bridges
I’m burning all my bridges
I’m burning all my bridges
I’m running back home to you

Trailing my colours, back home to you
Trailing my colours, back home to you
This world is filled with sadness
This world is filled with sadness
This world is filled with sadness
I’m running back home to you

Follow the drum, back home to you
Follow the drum, back home to you
There was no sense in my leaving
There was no sense in my leaving
There was no sense in my leaving
I’m running back home to you

There is something so romantic, but flawed about the sentiment of this song. It is all about a man who can never decide what the hell he wants and blows things to holy hell, but expects his partner to welcome with open arms. There is also a deep sense of regret that permeates this song, but a sense of warmth and hope that there is someone out there in this cold world that loves you no matter what. I want to simultaneously punch and hug the man since he obviously has taken liberties, but really loves her to death and hates himself for every misstep.

It is one of those few showstoppers that renders the rest of the performances somewhat impotent by comparison. I used toincessantly listen to this song at the expense of the others. However, years have passed and the rest of the album feels like an old friend with a ton of hubris weighing it down at every turn.

The Warmers-s/t

December 17, 2008

360339

The Warmers

s/t (Dischord 1996)

http://www.mediafire.com/?ggm1jeod0km

It may not be the most glamorous album to write about here, but there is something primal and minimal about the Warmers that impels me to revisit it every few months. At first listen, it bears close resemblance to a more ramshackle Fugazi mixed with an even more messy Gang of Four, but there is a lot more going on here than implied by my lazy comparisons. Comprised of Alec Mackaye of Faith/Ignition, Amy Farina of the Evens/Lois and Juan Luis Carrera of the Slowdime label, the Warmers died out way before they should since their s/t debut is such a concise slice of compact riffs, tight drumming and simple, but effective shouts. Yes, these three components have fueled many a punk band, but the Warmers had it down to a science. There isn’t an ounce of fat or a bum note to be found, just the most economical path to getting to the punchline while batting you about the ears in the process. Where Fugazi and even the Gang of Four have worn out there welcome in this biased household, the Warmers’ imperfect masterpieces keep me reaching for this album more often than any other release on Dischord.  It is a damn shame that the band peetered out since there is something hypnotic about their tightly wound usage of repetitive riffs that pointed towards something even greater. Before you look for revelatory moments, remember it is definitely a grower, not a shower.

V/A-Tetes Lourdes

December 9, 2008

tetes-lourdes

Various Artists

Tetes Lourdes(No Label)

http://www.mediafire.com/?jmltodphd1x

When I think of gritty psychedelic rock and roll, France would be near the bottom of my list.  If you were discussing wellsprings of 70s prog, then I may consider France as a contender for the crown, but I have mistakenly associated it too closely with Serge Gainsbourg, Brigitte Fontaine and Magma.  I love a lot of the music France has foisted upon the world, but Tetes Lourdes has renewed my appreciation of the country’s contribution to 70s hard rock. In fact, much of the material collected on this bootleg falls somewhere between the James Gang, 70s metal and 60s psych rock. To be honest, the combo of these three phrases is more than enough to inspire devotion and love from this grimy soul.

To be honest, it isn’t one of those comps that fire on all cylinders. Some of it is just as bloated and cliched as other anonymous hard rock acts of the 70s, but half of it is postively brilliant and life-affirming in the way hoary rock chestnuts can be when it hits that perfect ratio of sleaze, fuzz, riffery and two-pack a day vocals. The absolute highlights of this comp are provided by Rotomagus whose “Fighting Cock” is nearly punk in its execution and absolutely ridiculous in its portrayal of a badass rooster in search of battle. This song is so raw and nasty that it makes the entire comp an essential listed by its mere inclusion. Their next contribution “Madame Wanda” veers into more familiar terrain with plenty of wah-wah and some psychedelic wailing choruses and upliting riffs that borrow from the majesty and grace of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland. The rest of the acts on Tetes Lourdes aren’t as innovative, but marry enough sleaze to their melodies to keep everything on par with the insanity of Rotomagus’ unexpected explosiveness.

Luciano Cilio

Dell’Universo Assente (1977, reissued by Die Schachtel in 2004)

http://www.mediafire.com/?0zzb39ali3w

Much thanks to Jim O’ Rourke and the Die Schachtel label for helping to reissue this Italian composer’s work so that new ears can appreciate its delicacy and beauty. Picture a lusher and more linear take on Morton Feldman abstract washes of sound. Now, I love me some Morton Feldman, but Dell’Universo Assente bests his high points by far. Some of it even reminds me of Roedelius’ hertbreaking piano work on Lustwandel minus the Vangelis sweep and majesty. It is not all shimmer and sparkle becaue Cilio’s compositions have plenty of rough edges and discordant moments that transcends a moody confection.

Dell’Universo Assente was his 1977 debut and this is made all the more tragic due to the fact that he took his own life in 1983. Maybe it is because I have been obsessed with Charles Ives, Feldman, Giacinto Scelsi and Steve Reich lately, but Cilio’s debut really speaks to me lately. I’ve been kind of down and out and its slow-motion dissonance coupled with stately melody just really sums up my mood these days. It’s kind of a bummer for a classical album and I feel like I am staring from the bottom of a well as I listen to it. There is something hopelessly gorgeous about it. It is the sound of giving up and reconciling yourself to your fate.  At the same time, there is something uplifting about it due to how it taps into the sublime and makes you believe that a classical/drone/etc. album can really change your whole day at the sound of the first note.