Strapping Fieldhands-Discus

September 8, 2008

Strapping Fieldhands

Discus LP (Omphalos 1994)

http://www.mediafire.com/?15lq59s4muc

There is something magical and special about this album and its place and time in my life. If you haven’t picked up my very unsubtle and non-existent hints, I grew up in Philadelphia and had the pleasure of spending much of my youth shopping at the Philadelphia Record Exchange, which is still manned by members of the Strapping Fieldhands. Now this is totally irrelevant to both mine and your enjoyment of this somewhat forgotten gem, but this store shaped much of my musical taste and served as an inspiration, source of advice and a place where I was mocked for buying a Steely Dan box set. Anyhow, it was a place to meander and get turned onto to the Majora and Siltbreeze labels while tempering my love of bad indie-rock with some hoary old psych chestnuts. In short, 3rd Street Jazz and Rock and Record Exchange sated my music addiction with proteins and monounsaturated fats instead of the empty calories to be found in the competing genres which could’ve stolen my attention. God, this was meant to be a simple salute and now it some meandering dedication, but thank you fellows.

Let us get back to the music.  After a couple singles on Siltbreeze, the band recorded their debut, which remains sadly out of print and unavailable to those that may latch onto their ramshackle love of loner psych, skiffle, untuned balladry and perfectly concocted pop melodies played off the cuff. I may be totally wrong, but Discus always seemed like a bunch of music aficionados tapping into the best of Peter Hamill, Incredible String Band, Lonnie Donegan and early Holy Modal Rounders in the context of what Guided By Voices were doing in the early 90s.

Until the day I die, I will always be sucker for the opening track “Boo Hoo Hoo” which says little beyond the chorus and invitations to engage in carnal passions in a Scottish glade. It is so simple, but a perfectly imperfect ditty about an illicit weekend rendezvous and the consequences with a lazy regard for the consequences. Almost three minutes into the track, there is a such a sloppy, but uplifting guitar riff that always plasters a grin on my face.

I could never figure out all of the lyrics to “When I Came” but it always engendered these melancholy feelings due to the ramshackle rise and fall of the instrumentation mixed with the endlessly hopeful chorus. It seemed like a feel good song strangled by an inability to decide which mood to embrace.

Polished isn’t a term I would use for any Strapping Fieldhands album or single, but there is something about the smudges and smears that endeared Discus to me. There is a sad heart that beats beneath the sloppiness, myriad of influences and happy-go-lucky exterior that kind of grabbed me and never let go years later.

I’ve been pondering the posting of lists. This will be the first in a series of thematic collections relating to floats my boat. Today’s list was inspired by a humid drive into the barren heart of Delaware County where Peter Jefferies’ depressing Electricity album placed me in one of those pensive moods that went perfectly with the blur of chain restaurants dominating my horizons. Therefore, this led to this list of songs that always make me feel like a maudlin chump. Sorry that these are individual tracks, but I broke it up so you may pick and choose. There will probably be a sequel since I gave up at twenty.

1. Skip Spence-“Broken Heart” from the Oar LP

-he sounds broken down before his life even began. There are many worthy choices on this album, but this captures the weight of love gone wrong.

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

2. Beck-“Lost Cause” from the Sea Change Lp

-he has devoted so much time to being the most wiggity-wack Scientologist in the club that you forget how great he can be without the fixins’. A vivid snapshot of regret, lost friendships and the worry that goes along with new beginnings.

http://www.mediafire.com/?2tst2o2jbts

3. Bread-“Look What You’ve Done” from the On the Waters LP

-a soft-rock classic where the protagonist is pitiful and pissed at the same time. Who knew Bread had such issues with passive aggressive behavior?

http://www.mediafire.com/?nfzg1c4gg91

4. Camper Van Beethoven-“All Her Favorite Fruit” from Key Lime Pie LP

-domesticity gone awry.

http://www.mediafire.com/?r69tkztryc2

5. Codeine-“3 Angels” from the Frigid Stars LP

-I could probably pick any of their songs, but this one crushes you more than the others.

http://www.mediafire.com/?3005tccwn42

6. Galaxie 500-When Will You Come Home” from Peel Sessions

http://www.mediafire.com/?mauo9b1cnem

An old chestnut that deals with those times you miss the company of other humans.

7. Gary Stewart-“She’s Acting Single(I’m Drinking Doubles) from The Essential Gary Stewart

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

-Oh Gary, lemme give you a big old hug. Nevermind, let’s finish the bottle.

8. Gene Clark-“Life’s Greatest Fool” from the No Other Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?39z1yp4mmog

-an exploration of powerlessness, then hope. Actually, this is kind of uplifting in its own way.

9. Go-Betweens-“Dive For Your Memory” from 16 lovers Lane LP

http://www.mediafire.com/?ify3xjmnyyw

-A man willing to do anything to regain the past. Kind of romantic, but tragic.

10. Graham Nash-“Military Madness” from the Songs For Beginners LP

http://www.mediafire.com/?hiyftjm9pdn

-Sad only because its Vietnam era warnings seem relevant again.

11. The Jayhawks-“Take Me With You When You Go” from Hollywood Town Hall

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

-I always imagined this to be about Mark Olson’s worries about his wife’s struggle with Multiple Sclerosis.

12. Kristin Hersh-“Beestung” from Hips and Makers Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?pqdg46mvcky

-I don’t know what the hell she’s talking about, but it seems to deal with her struggles with mental illness and her pleas for a lover to assist her.

13. Lisa Gerrard-“Sanvean” from Live in Dusseldorf bootleg.

http://www.mediafire.com/?ndelmnjn9an

-I hope these are the sounds I hear as my life enters its last minutes.

14. The Magick Heads-“Before We Go Under” from Before We Go Under Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?lmy9qzbtgzo

-A song about drowning from a side project of Robert Scott of The Bats.

15. Michael Hurley-“Sweedeedee” from Armchair Boogie(the best album ever made)

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

-another tale of lost love and the attempts to regain it.

16. Mickey Newbury-“The Future’s Not What It Used To Be” from ‘Frisco Mabel Joy

http://www.mediafire.com/?lxmd2y1ddij

-a man discovers that travel and booze won’t solve his problems. Go figure.

17. Peter Jefferies-“Scattered Logic” from the Electricity lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?el1jtm1ej3n

– my favorite song at the moment. A heart-wrenching three minutes.

18. John Cale-“I Keep a Close Watch on My Heart at Night” from Music for a New Society

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

-somebody not only broke this dude’s heart, but squashed it into a pulp.

19. Peter Hammill-“Been Alone So Long” from the Nadir’s Big Chance Lp

http://www.mediafire.com/?semmnz2ejsd

-This is a close second to the John Cale song in terms of crushing hopelessness. A song about a man who has been isolated so long that he’s forgotten how to relate to humanity.

20. Marc Ribot-“Saints” from the Saints Lp

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

-let’s end on a wordless note. His cover of Albert Ayler’s “Saints” is a dark, moody end to this self-indulgence.