The song logic of Tom Waits

Musicians can be typified by their interplay ― and songwriters by their song logic.

When I first encountered Tom Waits, I was intrigued not only by the voice and the raw soul behind it, but the amazing songwriter at work. I was especially fond of his sense for the humanly absurd, and for the weird and completely logical way he works his themes into timeless song structures and dirty rhythm & soul. Circus freaks and broken sailors, drunken whores and forlorn desperadoes cast in road songs, train songs and roustabout sing-alongs. Songs from the street and songs from the heart, alternating with gruff gravel and aching tenderness or pastoral warmth, and all set in their most native form. Continue reading “The song logic of Tom Waits”

The Grateful Dead play Hard to Handle

Classic jams, classic jams… from ten different angles…

Remember those musical hits that go straight for the sacral iliac? Where there’s no question, just straight musical interface? You put it on, you get up and shimmy about ― because it’s right and necessary? That good old unalloyed musical power, the hair standing on your arms, that cool cerebral chill. Doesn’t happen very often, does it?  Continue reading “The Grateful Dead play Hard to Handle”

Steely Dan – Everything Must Go

Ah, the Dan… where would the 70s be without them? But watch out, they snare and draw you in with their studio smarts and pop cleverness! A dialogic review.

A dialogue with Adam Rivett contributing.

Rino
This must be a sign of something: I’m listening to Everything Must Go (from 2003). I see what you mean about the Beckerblues overplayed on the current live show… this album is littered with light-blues fills. And he plays bass all over it too: nice Sadowksy sounds according to the credits, but not that good a groove feel.  Continue reading “Steely Dan – Everything Must Go”

Terrence Malick – The New World

An austere yet faithful meditation on the nature of two worlds in collision, this is one of the best films of the last ten years. Forget the Farrell factor, this is pure spiritualism in cinematic movement.

Firstly, there’s all the potential clichés of films about discovery, the West, and the colonial Eden of American dreams. If you saw The New World trailer with Indian natives, European tall ships and fighting colonialists, especially after those Columbus films of several years back, and the entire cliché-catalogue of cowboys & injuns or films that go up the river, then you’d be prepared to sigh dispiritedly. But this is the pure, honest opposite of that cliché and drivel. It completely eschews any prejudiced POV or familiar fare. Continue reading “Terrence Malick – The New World”

On Boredom Sublime

I’ve come to some interesting conclusions about boredom: we tend to fear boredom and boring others. We shield ourselves with a culture of distraction, as though every moment must be gainfully occupied. But boredom can be a rich experience because it can help train attention…

Boredom — everyone has experienced it in some form or other. Much of our lives are spent actively avoiding or denying boredom, even though it’s one of the commonest, shared elements of consciousness. Maybe it’s the hydrogen of subjective elements, surrounding us at all times and emotionally pervasive. That was a boring party/movie/conversation. Let’s avoid that boring person in future. What a boring website; I’m bored just looking at it. Continue reading “On Boredom Sublime”

The Velvet Underground — Ocean

Lou Reed at his chilling, decadent best.

Fans often say that Lou’s work with the Velvet Underground is better than (so) much of the work he did after, and is still doing. Citing either the glorious decadence of the VU catalogue or the simply better song- and band-craft, Lou consequently gets pretty riled in interviews when the Velvets are mentioned. Obviously for Lou, he’s pissed because critics glorify his past over current projects, fearing they’ll be talking more about former in the great annals of music history. I must say that I side with the fans; with the exception of Transformer and maybe even Metal Machine Music, I don’t think Lou’s solo work has much of the energy or crafted smarts of his VU catalogue. The songs are better, his singing was definitely better, and the music more powerfully singular back then. I’d even speculate that the phrase ‘I like your old stuff better than your new stuff’ was inspired solely by Lou Reed’s situation. Oh Lou, what to do. Continue reading “The Velvet Underground — Ocean”

ABBA — The Visitors

When the glorious 70s slipped into the cool 80s, Abba put out their last album. Welcome to some serious art built on divorce, sadness
and savvy.

This is an album that has a long personal history for me. Firstly, I am a child of the 80s who can remember the 70s turning into a big new number. Which means I’m not intimidated or dazed by 80s production values, synths and pompous drum sounds, or the odd spot of chintzy disco. My first record, for reference, was a cheesy disco compilation. Also, my father worked in the Persian Gulf in the late 70s and brought back an impressive stack of bootleg cassettes of everything that was on the charts then. A lot of it in questionable taste, of course, and I’m sure in retrospect he bought so many Abba and BoneyM and Kenny Rogers tapes only because they were so very cheap. But these tapes were my first big musical experience, and I sat around for hours tucking into catchy melodies and dancy beats and even DJing my own compilations. I was also inadvertently picking up a lot of English, as I discovered a year or two later (having moved to Australia from Holland) and finding I could recite lyrics from memory and with sudden, uncanny understanding. Continue reading “ABBA — The Visitors”

The Cannonball Adderley solo on ‘Flamenco Sketches’

I’ll always love Cannonball over Coltrane. Jazz sin!

Despite all the banging on about Kind of Blue‘s modal improvisation and the fact that “Flamenco Sketches” is very clearly modal, it is nonetheless one of the most perfect pieces of jazz ever recorded. In part because it is pure improvisation set in ultimate structural harmony. It’s free soloing over an organic and conducive ensemble where everything sounds together. The furthest remove from indulgent jazz noodling and ego-exercises on a technical scale; this is emotional and affective music where the means and message merge to become Art. It’s gentle, contemplative and meditatively sparse yet reassuringly intimate. The emotional contour takes in warm groove in one mode and the soul’s weathering of the storm in the next, before returning again to the comfort of late night. It is one of the great extrapolations of the blues ballad form; the heart of music laid bare with grace and maturity. Continue reading “The Cannonball Adderley solo on ‘Flamenco Sketches’”

James Ellroy – Underworld USA Trilogy

The Slow Review panel work through American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and Blood's a Rover. We are exhausted but elated at the master of crime, conspiracy, complicated conscience and filing.

By Adam Rivett & Rino Breebaart

Adam:
Item! Picked up an imported U.S. hardcover of Blood’s A Rover at Readings on Friday night — the local paperback has been delayed for some reason. Fifty bucks, but so be it. Read 200 pages yesterday — fucking great. Any fears of a drop-off are as yet completely unfounded. Plus it’s got his greatest narrative coup, a genuine motherfucker of a trick. Don’t want to say too much, but I wanted to applaud, laugh out loud and damn him for his daring SIMULFUCKINGTANEOUSLY. The prose has a little more breathing room that Cold Six Thousand while still being uber-tight and rapid.  Once I clock off, I’m running back home for another extended session with the Demon Dog; current brutal headache hopefully containable. Continue reading “James Ellroy – Underworld USA Trilogy”