Dirty Three

Sad and Dangerous(Poon Village 1995)

http://www.mediafire.com/?1ymnoimyyjd

The title of the Dirty Three’s debut album is an apt declaration of what was accomplished here. There is something elegant and anguished at work here being performed by a trio who was simultaneously masterful and rough around the edges. They were a bit of a paradox at the outset before they sanded away some of the jagged edges into a more streamlined and contoured unit. I do love all of the albums that followed, but Sad and Dangerous is forceful, direct and embraces its imperfections and outbursts where subsequent releases just aimed for a musical approximation of loneliness, regret and despair. Worthwhile pursuits to be sure, but this one was full of piss and vinegar too and it’s essence is a prickly and difficult beast.

Culled from a demo cassette recorded in 1992-1993, Sad and Dangerous captures the brilliant beginnings of a trio exploring the parameters of what was possible in an instrumental rock band with  violinist Warren Ellis as its centerpiece underpinned by an understated, but at times ferocious combo of guitarist Mick Turner and drummer Mick White. Their occasional swan dives into dissonance aren’t surprising since Turner and White previously played in the abrasive punk band Venom P. Stinger in the 80s. Other times, White and Turner sound like a stumbling drunk Grant Green jazz session only to rein themselves into a more mellow throb and strum that wouldn’t sound out of place on some forgotten 70s pastoral psych jam. They are the engine that drives this locomotive down its wayward and winding road and really fill in the background with some gorgeous and visceral melodies and brash and brutal stabs of noise that set a grand stage for Warren Ellis to glorify and mangle all that is good and great about the violin.

If Turner and White were responsible for painting the background of the canvas, Warren Ellis’s bold and vivid brushstrokes were splattered all over the foreground as he rightfully claimed the spotlight on both their recorded work and revelatory live performances. I remember seeing them on their first American tour and still remember the magical feeling during the opening strains of “Kim’s Dirt” as I realized within a few minutes that this was going to be one of those performances that forcefully suck you into the immediacy of the moment and are struck by the epiphany that you are witnessing greatness as it occurs. Yeah, Ellis’ drunken banter and rambunctious stage presence got everyone’s attention pretty quickly, but there was something truly romantic and vast about the melodies that emanated from his instrument. It swallowed you whole and conjured memories both ecstatic and romantic as well as troubled and tragic as each swell of sound gathered you in the palm of its hand like an impressionable child. It was a truly moving experience that was full of humor, drama, fuck-ups and true suspense which are incredibly rare qualities in a live or recorded event. Now, it was a bit disappointing when I traveled to see them a second and third time only to see Ellis use the same stories and schtick, but I refused to let it debase the purity of the first time I saw them perform.

Sad and Dangerous fittingly begins with the best moment of the career “Kim’s Dirt”, which is ironically not even written by the band, but by Kim Salmon of the equally brilliant Australian band, the Scientists. It encapsulates everything that is special about the band into a single ten-minute epic. The voyage begins with a deceptively simple and minimal guitar riff that gracefully putters along until Ellis breaks out the waterworks and delivers his best performance as he literally wrings every ounce of emotion out of each pull of the bow. It slowly builds and builds upon this pattern until they ever so gradually pick up the pace to hypnotic trot that continuously threatens to break into a sprint, but never does so in favor of a precarious control over a melody that threatens to topple over at any moment. “Devil in the Hole” is notable because it delves into chaos and clatter as an accompaniment and reveals a side of the band that should’ve been explored again, but rarely ever was. “You Were a Bum Dream” could almost be from the heyday of the 4ad or ECM labels due to its ethereal and ghostly ambiance and kind of foreshadows Ellis’ later career scoring such films as The Proposition and The Assassination of Jesse James. It is fitting that Sad and Dangerous’ closer is as abstract and difficult as its opening is warm and inviting as “Turk” buries its beauty under a swath of drones and feedback as if the band was not content with attaining beauty, but was interested in its seedy underbelly. I miss this side of the Dirty Three and wish they’d revel in the tatters and shards again for a little while. However, Sad and Dangerous is a reminder of when they were unsure of which way was up and the music was all the more powerful for it.

 

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Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

The Good Son(Mute 1990)

http://www.mediafire.com/?lz5jkfvjo6e

I may be in the minority, but I never really bought Nick Cave as a primal, misanthropic entity attuned to the darkest impulses of mankind. Outside of the “Mercy Seat” which still gives me fucking chills, his solo work seemed most poetic when he spun heartfelt yarns about love and its inevitable absence. Sure. the Birthday Party were a singleminded bunch whose music was honestly unsettling and full of the kind of aggression that made you question whether it was mere persona or psychopath. However, he wisely chose a gentler vocabulary and pursued a subtler, but no less effective form of drama. Yeah, he occasionally fostered the occasional shitstorm worthy of the Birthday Party, but he really found his voice interpreting the songs of his heroes on Kicking at the Pricks. Now, that album really grabbed me because I never really saw him as much more than an artist that one listened to when in a pissed, morbid or oddball mood but there are moments of pristine beauty on it as he does what few pull off, which is to make a well-known standard entirely your own. I dunno…there was something tender, yet antagonistic about his take on the familiar that made it seem new. Its followup. Tender Prey, was pretty impressive, but I wanted him to slow things down and take his time with a song, so his subsequent release, The Good Son, was music to these biased ears.

By no means do I recommend The Good Son as a classic or even an entirely successful album since a few songs delve into superficial schtick instead of bloody-hearted pleading and frayed nerves. It’s sometimes hard to embrace a Nick Cave album in its entirety because his embrace of gospel and R&B is kind of ham-fisted as most European efforts tend to play out in their lovable, but shallow manner. Man, that sounds a bit harsh, but if I want clapping and gospel sing-a-longs, there are so many better outlets than Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in this wonderful world.

However, my passion for The Good Son possibly revolves around one single song. I think “Ship Song” is so fucking eloquent and symbolic of the tricky nature of loving someone who may ultimately burn you to the ground. In some ways, it may be one of my favorite metaphors in some ways. He portrays himself as an island while his lover is a ship who burns all bridges down in order to get sole access to her muse. The whole song is about how a love seems perfect in theory, but is destined to fail by their own hands. It is an ode to passion and the infantile decisions it sometimes inspires, but is also a paean to how alive these impulses make us feel. It is self-destructive, utterly romantic and a reflection of past mistakes that could possibly be made right in future relationships. For these reasons, this song is pure perfection as parable and song because it is universal just like the beloved standards he took the time to cover. He finally nailed the perfect blend of schmaltz, empathy, pain and composition required of a song that will stand the test of time.

The rest of The Good Son is no slouch either. Most of it is kind of boozy and drunken in a peculiarly restrain manner. He pursues a lovelorn and regretful mood throughout the album and the result is a pervasive theme of poor decision making and its consequences. It doesn’t hurt that the instrumentation allows the Bad Seeds to explore a more lush side of their musicianship. It’s a gorgeous album with just the right amount of occasional ugliness to make you wince as you slug it all down your gullet.

Tindersticks-BBC Sessions

August 5, 2008

Tindersticks

BBC Sessions

http://www.divshare.com/download/5112364-fcf

Just look at the kisser on this fella. You know he’s got some naughty sentiments to whisper into your ear at 3am. His classy sleazeball looks match the deep, sultry growl of his baritone crooning. Yes, there is an air of a bonafide “man crush” going on here. From the first time I heard Stuart Staples celebrate his hairy chest in song and weave a seedy tapestry of drunken sex in restrooms and wanton women, it was destined to be a music love affair for the ages.

I always was a sucker for the schmaltzy side of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The Birthday Party were too histrionic for my questionable taste and his screeching preacher tunes never excited me. However, I do love me some of his sappy ballads. “The Ship Song” and The Good Son album in particular still gets me terribly misty and sentimental. Since much of the Tindersticks work reminds me of a moody, orchestrated take on Cave’s most tender moments crossed with Lee Hazlewood, I tend to be a sucker for all of their work. Plus, the man sang a duet with Isabella Rosselini for gods sake.

This is a collection of their BBC Sessions and they don’t stray too far from the source material. The edges are a bit rougher, but Stuart Staples sounds even more desperate and pained on these live versions. Plus, it includes their cover of Pavement’s “Here” which eliminates the snarky irony and casts it as a baroque tale of a man at the end of his rope. I like the original fine, but this one possesses an epic sweep that Pavement couldn’t muster. Overall, this is a great introduction to the band since it includes mush of their best material while neglecting lesser tunes on later albums.