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

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”

Obit: David Foster Wallace

Writer, novelist, teacher. 21 02 1962 – 12 09 2008

Contributing author: Adam Rivett

1. Writing/Ethics

Please bear in mind this is a delayed and indirect response to DFW’s dying; that I wanted to write something critical/writerly as opposed to the usual obit-minded gush and hyperbole; neither some sarcastically styled imitation by way of excessively footnoted ramble, nor a personal-reflective fan-letter with woodwinds and strings. Continue reading “Obit: David Foster Wallace”

What makes Elvis great?

Notes on the Big E with a focus on the 68 Comeback Special.

The question is heavily rhetorical ― to me it’s self-evident, redundant. But for my many colleagues past who’ve heard me warbling about Charlie Hodge and Cadillacs and blue Christmases, or who think he’s a kitsch joke in a gawky suit, I always like to run through a little pop-list of angles on the Big E.  Continue reading “What makes Elvis great?”

Radiohead — In Rainbows

Wonderfully coherent, thoroughly of our time, strictly Radiohead and yet gilded with a strange and subtle beauty ― a really great album of non-pop at last.

This is an essay in two parts. I want to discuss the download issue separately from the musical content of the album, because in too many articles the latter is dismissed to focus on the former. If you don’t want to hear any more about online distribution, then flick straight to part II. Continue reading “Radiohead — In Rainbows”

Meditations on a U2 B-side

Notes on The Formula and a glorious b-side from The Unforgettable Fire period, with additional commentary on Success and always trusting your bass player.

What privilege, what artistic prestige, to be able to make the music one wants ― the only music one can ― and be wildly successful. And what an abused banality that is ― surely all musicians get to indulge their creativity and vision? I think your average session or pub musician is hemmed in by demand and directive, play this or do that set of covers; and when your income depends on it, you accede. But when your income is stratospheric, like the established and world-dominating behemoth of U2, you get to indulge your creative (and pretty much any other) urge quite a bit. Which is not to say that U2 are pushing the creative flight envelope so much any more ― the last few albums were pretty standard-mould U2. They’re just trying to stay relevant, and engaged; which, beyond talent, is the harder thing. Continue reading “Meditations on a U2 B-side”

Catherine Millet – The Sexual Life of Catherine M

Er, sorry folks: no picture for this review. But get a load of all that group sex action.

Ostensibly a portrait of group sex, which I don’t think has been given its full literary due since de Sade, this is also an interesting read in feminine sexuality, or feminine sexual desire, to be more precise. Compared to other dabblers of group sex (Houellebecq comes to mind, positively juvenile in contrast, though juvenility is an interesting starting point here too), Millet comes across like an old hand at the game. She’s thorough, honest and precise in recounting the blur and the gross joys of group action. She’s got a finger on the resultant memorial contours of intimacy and space, from the outskirts of Paris parking lots to domestic nooks and crannies. She’s got an appreciably serious and hungry eye for sex and larger scales of satisfaction; Paglia would no doubt detect a trace of masculine perspective and attitude in her ability to project (imagination-wise, here) and indulge the raw desires as just that, raw, slightly detached, self-pleasing love of detail and variety in number etc. Continue reading “Catherine Millet – The Sexual Life of Catherine M”

Grant Gee – Meeting People is Easy

Avoid peril. Hands on the wheel. You are a target market. Calm, fitter, happier. Enter the visual nerve-storm of the modern rock-god-celebrity experience with your pals Radiohead. And whatever happened to all that Pre-Millennial Angst?

It was a while before I could get my mits around this side-promo-rockumentary filmed in the immediate aftermath of OK Computer’s release. No commercial broadcaster would play a doco whose promotional time-frame has expired the way this has, but it’s still a highly revealing and slightly disturbing look at the chaotic miasma and flashing hypermedia of the modern pop success phenomenon. Continue reading “Grant Gee – Meeting People is Easy”