I think we’re going to try something a little different this week. Here are five bands that have something in common. What is it?
Alice in Chains
Five albums I think everyone should get a copy of when they turn 14:
Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures
Ryan Adams, Love Is Hell
Loudermilk, Man With Gun Kills Three
Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings/3 Essays for Orchestra (Performed by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Louis Slatkin. The adagio is the really important piece, but the whole thing disc is completely breath-taking.)
Edward Elgar, Cello Concerto in E Minor (There are a lot of good recordings of it out there, but I’m particularly fond of the one by the London Philharmonic conducted by John Barbirolli. Any decent recording will do, though.)
Intro: Well hey, looks like I’ll be on time two weeks in a row. That, depressingly enough, nears my record for the weekly reviews, which I THINK I was able to do on-time a grand total of three times consecutively.
Point of Order – I’m pretty sure that “Tuesday Playlist” is a sucky name for a weekly music column, but I have no clue what to call it. Suggestions? Something Tuesday-related, I hope. I’m okay with campy, but “Tuesday Playlist” is just way too boring. I’ll be thinking on it, you all should as well. Any suggestions, please post them in the comments.
And with that, on to the rest of it.
Listening: So the past couple of weeks have definitely been an “listen to classic stuff” sort of period. This week especially I’ve been listening to a lot of Joy Division. I really think that, hard as this is may be to believe, Joy Division are a uniquely underrated band. Yes they’re cult idols and the darling of many a music reviewer, but I think that they were much more influential than most people give them credit for. I really think that their transition from the punk music of the 70s to the “post-Punk” era really pointed the way for most of the music made in the next decade. (Side note: as genre labels go “Post Punk” annoys me more than most. First of all “Punk”, as such, isn’t dead. And even if one means the end of the first wave of punk, then anything recorded after 1980 is “Post Punk”. I mean, all genre labels, for the most part, suck, but as they go “Post Punk” sucks extra hard.)
If you listen to “New Dawn Fades”, I really think you can hear the direction that Punk was headed in the 80s. In “Love Will Tear Us Apart” one can hear the setup for New Wave. Those two tunes, plus “Atrocity Exhibition” and “She’s Lost Control” paint a pretty good picture of where British music was going over the next ten years. I mean, conceded, Joy Division were Punk-influenced and appealed to a lot of the same musical sensibilities that Punk did. But I think they also were riffing on a lot of musical themes that were prevalent throughout the 80s. Of course correlation doesn’t equal causation. (I doubt that Boy George ever gathered Culture Club around a copy of Unknown Pleasures and said “let’s sound like that, but with more synthesizer and less talent”.) So maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part, but seriously: if you want to hear where music in Britain in the 80s was going to go, queue up the Joy Division discography.
I’ve also been listening to some Wilco and those Grooveballs tunes I posted awhile back. I think Wilco really matured as they went on. Or at least they started playing stuff that sounds a lot more crafted and well put-together. Though Yankee Hotel Foxtrot‘s still my favorite album.
Upcoming: Lately the only upcoming releases I can really get excited about are the new Beck album (which I just grabbed from Amazon earlier today), and the upcoming Oasis disk. Maybe it’s just me, but at the moment, the summer seems to be a bit of a wash for new albums. Unfortunate, that.
I’ll let you all know what I think of the new Beck album. Whether you want me to or not. MWAHAHAHA.
News: Okay, so at the risk of turning this into the “Joy Division fanboy” edition of the column: someone stole Ian Curtis’ tombstone. I mean, seriously, what the fuck? I was pissed about this when I first heard about it, and, after careful consideration, I’m even more pissed. Maybe it’s just how I was raised, but disrespect for the dead ranks pretty high on my list for “reasons to bring back flogging and/or general justice-oriented beatings.” I mean, I’m not by nature a violent man, but steal someone’s tombstone, and I suddenly have a lot fewer qualms about beating your ghoulish ass.
And really, Ian Curtis? Why? Why would anyone do so? The thief or thieves can’t hawk it. And if they did it because they’re fans, well, congrats, they’ve just clinched the “Douchiest Fan of the Year Award” for 2008.
Thoughts: Honestly I’ve been too busy to do much thinking about anything other than work and school. (Yes, I, uh, still have a thesis to finish.) I HAVE been thinking, however, about how it’s interesting what songs people choose to cover and, more to the point, which wind up being covered over and over again. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” has been covered literally hundreds of times. “Famous Blue Raincoat”? Nary a once, as far as I can tell. The Beatles’ “Yesterday” is a strong contender for the most covered song of all time, and yet most people would be hard-pressed to think of a single band that’s done “Hey Jude”. “Girl From Ipanema” is covered with stunning frequency, “Eu E Voce” almost never.
I mean, don’t get me wrong: the songs that wind up being recorded by tons of different bands are usually fantastic. But often there are tons of great songs from the same artist that don’t get covered at all. The phenomenon’s just sort of curious to me. I mean, I’m sure singles get covered more than non-single album tracks which are probably covered more than b-sides. But can that alone really account for the fact that I can’t find a good cover of “Raincheck” and can barely turn on the radio without hearing a bad cover of “Brown-Eyed Girl”?
Song of the Week: I’m tempted to post a Joy Division track just to keep with the theme, but instead I’ll go with a tune I’ve had on obsessive repeat several times in the past week. It’s my favorite John Vanderslice tune. It’s called “Me and My 424”, off of Life and Death of an American Fourtracker:
I am thoroughly charmed by this video that Jonathon Beamish did for Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. The opening montage is inexplicably genius, as is the segue into the footage of the band.
Just got back from seeing Control at the Magic Lantern Theater with Becky. Great movie, though watching two hours of Ian Curtis’ slow self-destruction got a bit painful at times. The film avoided portraying the “real” Ian Curtis, mostly eschewing attempts to vindicate him and instead simply portraying him as he most likely was: every bit as brilliant and as messed up as he seemed.
Joy Division fans should see it. I imagine most people would like the film, though, if the spectacle of a brilliant musician burning himself out and taking the people around him with him doesn’t put you off.
Here’s Joy Division performing “Transmission” in their breakthrough TV performance, which the movie did an amazing job of recreating.
(Major tip of the hat to Becky for taking me to see the film.)
P.S: Definitely catch a show at The Magic Lantern Theater if you’re ever in Spokane. Great, funky little art-house theater.