Archive for June, 2013

#54 – The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat

June 27th, 2013 No comments

I do apologize for missing a couple days but duty calls sometimes

The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat

If you grew up in suburban Chicago in a town called Wheaton (if properly pronounced you should be both emphasizing and holding the “Wh” just a smidgen longer) then the topics discussed on this album could be a bit foreign. Parts of the album will rip your skin off, other parts might be there just to shock the fuck out of you.

Lester Bangs said that “his litmus test for telling a true punk rocker from a poser was to pull White Light/ White Heat from their record collection and note if the grooves on the record showed signs of having been played.”

White Light/White Heat is that maximum moment of gore, sex and drugs for anyone to handle. Even though this album did come out in early 1968, those were still different times and Rock and Roll was still fairly young.

There was a period of time that I seemed to have ‘Sister Ray’ on repeat. Not abrupt in the least, song builds up into a crescendo that is paramont of the psychaedelic era. The Velvet Underground were always able to take the absurd in life and expand upon this in a manner that often times revealed a completely different culture from within it’s music. The song was recorded in 1 take which is surprising at any time but for a 17 minute song that is even more of a shock and would make an argument that it is one of the most important rock tracks ever recorded. It’s combination of rock and avant gard jazz along with a storyline that is NC-17 (containing plenty of transvestites having an orgy with drugs involved)

“The Quine Tapes” which were released in 2001 had contained a couple of shows recorded by Robert Quine of the Velvet Underground and on those recordings, it shows recording times of 3 Sister Ray performances to be 24, 28 and 38 minutes respectfully. That these recordings where over a span of 2 months shows a bit of the background of the band as they improvised onstage.

The album as a whole displays a level frustration and angst throughout. The Velvet Underground’s first album did not sell as well as planned and they dumped both Andy Warhol and Nico and pushed forward.

The more beautiful moments of their debut album such as “Sunday Morning” are replaced with tracks such as “Lady Godiva’s Operation” which attempts two different storylines within the lyrics which at first come off fairly sexual and turns into a botched operation. It takes this moment of beauty and turns it into a moment of gore. The story of “The Gift” as recited by John Cale should be made into a short movie if it had not been done so already tells a story of hope and love and ends with tragedy.

In a way it feels like Grimm’s outlandish fairytales before Walt Disney got his hands on them. However, I cannot think of an album that has truly been able to match it moment for moment.

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#55 – Galaxie 500 – Today

June 23rd, 2013 No comments

Galaxie 500 – Today

Sometimes a cover song can just trump over the original, as is the case for Galaxie 500’s guitar-laden version of Jonathan Richman/The Modern Lover’s “Don’t Let Your Youth Go to Waste”, backed by the impressive Damon Krukowski on Drums and Naomi Yang (who is the infamous “Naomi” of Neutral Milk Hotel fame).

(I will not spend too much time on the above clip of Jeff Mangum performing Naomi other than to say that this has to be one of the more impressive songs about a musician)

This is not to say that the Jonathan Richman version is bunk but rather Galaxie 500’s gainful exploration in certain areas where the Velvet Underground left off makes them a gem of the 80’s. To consider that Thurston Moore called Galaxie 500’s ‘Today’ the guitar record of 1988,” which happened to be the same year that his band Sonic Youth released “Daydream Nation” is both a huge compliment and a revelation.

When I saw Wareham perform songs of Galaxie 500 at Lincoln Hall a couple years ago, I have to admit that I thought that the shows would sell out faster and that the name Galaxie 500 would be legendary. I imagine that the Velvet Underground have been name-dropped by a plethora of bands but consider it was bands like Galaxie 500 that began to explore this realm of New York-bred psychedelic material. While Damon and Naomi were not present, it was still an opportunity to hear some of these songs being performed live for the first time.

The band did not last long. Wareham went to form Luna and Krukowski and Yang went to form several bands, most notably, Damon and Naomi. For for all intents and purposes the most influential records these three released were the Galaxie 500 albums, helping create a genre and exploring the fascination of staring at your shoes.

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#56 – Tame Impala – Innerspeaker

June 22nd, 2013 No comments

Tame Impala – Innerspeaker

I can say this for certain that this 2010 release is the most recent recording on this list.

The Zimmermann Notes Note: I tried to avoid either more recent releases/purchases. Time is such an essential component to the album review and something that is quite impossible early on because it lacks a certain amount of context. There could be an entire post about this but if you do not let your opinions change then you are an idiot. I love the idea, for example, of someone telling me that they went back to an album that they initially thought sucked, and listened to it in it’s entirety again and came up with the same conclusion. If they were honest with themselves that there was a desire to check again to see if they missed something, i.e. when they listened to it the first time around that something was clouding their judgment. It should not be looked at as an exercise in futility and surely they are not pissing into the wind either.

The fact that this album made the list to begin with says just how much it has impressed me in this short period of time.

How does time make a difference? When I put together my best of 2010 listing this album was 11th on the list. Looking back at that list there are some amazing albums that I still listen to. Tame Impala was a grower, which as I think back upon it, had not as much to do with Tame Impala but rather a slew of amazing albums in 2010 and a debut album from a band from the land of OZ might not capture your attention right away. When the dust settled however, it was this album that I went back to.

I remember seeing the band at Lincoln Hall in 2011 and was blown away partly due to the fact that Lincoln Hall in Chicago is the best sounding venue that I have ever been to. I was particularly impressed however with a cover that they did of Massive Attack’s ‘Angel’:

When you put a psychedelic band onstage in an acoustically perfect venue the rest is history. Kevin Parker, the brainchild behind the entire band, found a way to make 60s psychaedelic music sound fresh. This is “Open Your Mind” music plain and simple.

The other important factor, and if you have ever listened to Sound Opinions is that they have a segment where Derogatis and Kot host “Rock Doctor” where they try to set up music for couples that have differing tastes. While we do both have our own interests there are bands such as Tame Impala and especially this album that we both thoroughly enjoy so this one is definitely wife approved.

Judging from their latest release ‘Lonerism’, Tame Impala could be the biggest thing that has come out of Australia in a long time.

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#57 Leonard Cohen – Songs

June 21st, 2013 No comments

#57 Leonard Cohen – Songs

When I thought I could write, I had conceived a screenplay in my head based on the song ‘So Long Marianne’. I have to admit the details are hazy, other than to say it would have been some very complicated postmodern plot that would have been hard to follow. Secondly, I had always felt that if I did do something it could have to have been something unique and surreal. Keep formulas in the classroom.

The above does not have much to do with Cohen other than to suggest that a certain song had caught my liking and was played fairly often because that is what you do when you play songs (especially on CD or any electronic format) as it is much easier than the days prior when batteries were wasted rewinding tape players.

At this time, Cohen did not have his raspy, Pall Mall voice but if you were to give me a folk singer that I have most obsessed over it would be Cohen over Dylan anyday. Bold statements, I know, and trust me it is not to diss my namesake Mr. Zimmerman, (minus the second N in the name) but rather to stress what I thought Cohen’s words have been so meticulously chosen.

He’s created a couple of sirens during his time. “Suzanne” for example, which is not a song about love per se, but the human condition especially with the parallel to Jesus.

“So Long, Marianne” offers both the bittersweet reminiscing of past events as well as the current truth of a relationship gone bad, not to mention the subject of a previously mentioned never written screenplay for a movie that will not be coming to your hometown anytime soon.

What strikes Cohen as a true artist was that he was a poet first before grabbing a guitar and beginning a professional music career. His poetry offers a certain vividness that cannot be replaced. You feel that certain bohemian quality in his work. He feels like a man of the streets, seen injustice, seen his heart broken or yearn for others. He did spend some time in Warhol’s Factory which might suggest that bands and artists like The Velvet Underground and Nico might have rubbed off on him.

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Number 58 – Mission of Burma – Signals, Calls and Marches

June 20th, 2013 No comments

My introduction to Mission of Burma was actually through R.E.M. who used to cover the song “Academy Fight Song” on their live shows, especially in the late 80’s when they were touring for that pop album, ‘Green’ and thus my interest in the Burmese began around then.

“Walk into my room, ask me jerky questions”- Academy Fight Song

At this point, ‘Mission of Burma’ was not a household name but rather featured a fairly catchy song that didn’t describe the true genius of this band and in the process, I admit to asking some fairly jerky questions regarding its background. For example, the original release of ‘Signals, Calls and Marches’ did not include either Academy Fight Song or Max Ernst, which were added later in a reissue of the album. The two songs were actually the first single the band had released in 1980. When you chip away and find gold, there might be more where you are looking.

In the case of Mission of Burma, it is the fact that they have probably not received their due recognition for their role in the post-punk movement. The fact that they were influential on bands like Nirvana and Fugazi should suggest their importance but I bet that if Mission of Burma play in your hometown that the show will probably not be sold out and will put on a better performance than bands half their age.

Of course part of the issue with the band was their inability to cash in on their success. With Roger Miller’s worsening Tinnuitis, due to their live shows the band had to call it quits.

Thirty plus years later their legacy still grows and this is the album to start with.

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Number 59: Animal Collective – Sung Tongs

June 19th, 2013 No comments

#59 – Animal Collective – Sung Tongs

What I always found special about listening to ‘Sung Tongs’ was its ability to reminisce on the past.
A song ‘We Tigers’ express this as almost as if they are moments pulled from our unfeigned memories. Dancing around with masks, beating of drums, shrieking like a child in such a vivid detail it feels as if you are there.

Sung Tongs was the earliest of the releases that really bonded with me both due to themes as well as it’s ability to create more arching melodies that didn’t just feel like art students banging pots and pans and screeching. Of course the last comment was not to offend the art community but rather bring to attention at what Animal Collective had been slowly attempting to do.

At the heart of the album is primordial and the ability to live and thrive, a very Peter Pan-like quality.

‘Winter’s Love’ on the surface is so beautifully written that if handled in the wrong hands could musically sound very schlocky. The song challenges that same childlike premise, suggesting that more than just foreplay happened on this winter evening and turned that boy into a man. While there is no suggestion that this was completely innocent or lacks a certain level of complication, (I mean when is sex not complicated) there is still a level of vigor to the event but also a level of transformation. That boy turned into a man.

The soul of the band has been it’s strong understanding of rhythm. It’s the drumcircle, or the campfire songs, the most primitive nature at which we listened to music in the first place and they slowly begin to expand this onto a broader stage.

Maybe as I get older and consider my own mortality I see that in my son, this concept of life, the random shrieks or the banging of pots and to conclude there has been a level of comfort from the album. I am reminded in songs like ‘Who Could Win a Rabbit’, that Mr. Ferris Bueller, said it best when he said, “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once and awhile you can miss it.”

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The dreaded best albums list starting at #60

June 18th, 2013 No comments

It seemed fairly obvious that after the government was caught snooping in my private life that I could no longer keep this list a secret. As we count through the days of summer, what better time than to spend moments careening over my 60 best albums of all time. Unlike a Greatest Hits listing this is a Best Of which means it’s going to be better quality than a greatest hits. For example, if you were to ask someone how you did on a task, and you got “You did great!” that is not as good as “You were the best”.

Secondly, this is better than a top 100 listing in that there are 40 less spots so this makes it just that much tougher.

I made this argument fairly recently that best of lists are more than just showing off my record collection but rather provides a gauge in terms of how I felt about music in 2013. Now of course I have been working on this list on and off for over a year and I realized that at some point I needed to stop fucking around and actually post something.

I decided to spend time and do something fairly substantial because at the time I had started this list, I was only a “Father-to-be” and wanted to share something with my son that I enjoyed and that was music. That and I am in my 40th year and I wanted to come back to something years from now to see how right or wrong I was. I wanted to see what albums pushed up the ranks and which ones fell down.

There has not been any typical rules per se, other than being albums that I listened to. There might be situations where the actual tracks were different on import releases or the disc changed on later versions so my rule was that I stuck with what I listened to.

No soundtracks are included although I have to give kudos to “Until the End of the World” which was the only soundtrack that could even be close to consideration.

Every day or so I will try to post my next album on the list counting down from 60. And drumroll please…….

Number 60: R.E.M. – Out Of Time

Part of me wanted to lead off with this album just to fuck with people. I guess if you live in the R.E.M. world as I do, there is part of me that finds moody Michael dancing around with Kate Pierson pretty hilarious. While Stipe at this time was not Morrissey and writing songs about unhappy birthdays I surely would not call him Mr. Congeniality either. That being said ‘Shiny Happy People’ has a certain dated quality on this album and might work better as a hilarious B-Side. Another B-Side would be Radio Song which leads off with KRS-1 intermixing a bit of rap. There is a song somewhere buried here but the song feels too much like 1991. For every Radio Song there is a song like “Country Feedback” for which Neil Young wished he wrote himself and arguably their best song ever written.

I would make the case that people that think that “Shiny Happy People” sucks also think that “Losing My Religion” has anything to do with the literal translation in the title.

For me it was not the singles but the subtle moments on this album with album tracks like “Low”, “Belong” and “Me in Honey” that really begin the delve into an album on relationships, something that Stipe had not attempted much before this.

Lastly, the reason that the album made the list is that it was the album that pushed my fandom onto a different level. The album came out just before I went to college which meant access to better record stores and well we know the end of this story.

Oh yeah, this one too..

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