Records Bought: Blur – On Your Own (Single); Boris – Pink; Boris with Michio – Rainbow; Catherine Wheel – Happy Days; Cluster – Sowiesoso (Reissue); Elvis Costello – My Aim is True; Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model; The Dirtbombs – Party Store; Disappears – Guider; Brian Eno – Apollo; PJ Harvey – Let England Shake; Wanda Jackson – Thunder on the Mountain (Single); Jesu – Conqueror; The Jesus and Mary Chain – I Love Rock N Roll (Single); The Jim Carrol Band – Catholic Boy; Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will; Neu! (Reissue); Neu! 2 (Reissue); Pere Ubu – The Modern Dance; Liz Phair – Supernova (Single); Iggy Pop – Lust for Life; Spacemen 3 – Walking with Jesus (12″ Single); Spiritualized – Lazer Guided Melodies (Reissue); Spiritualized – Pure Phase (Reissue); The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Y Control (Single); Yuck – S/T;
Records Rocked: Brian Eno – Apollo; Cluster – Sowiesoso; Yuck – S/T; Neu! – S/T; Neu! – 2; Boris – Pink; Boris – Rainbow; Spiritualized – Lazer Guided Melodies; PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Much of my listening during the past month can be explained by one word: February. For those who aren’t in Cleveland, or are otherwise unfamiliar with our winters, the second month of the new year is the most brutal time of year on the North Coast. 2011 has been no exception. We’ve had cold and snow and snow and more snow and then a blizzard. We did get couple melts, but we also got a mad thunderstorm and a flooding to the end of the month.
Although the calendar now reads March 1st, I’m under no illusion that the crazy weather has subsided. If frogs started falling from the sky tonight, I wouldn’t be surprised. I’d shrug my shoulders and say, “Cleveland.” I’ve learned to cope.
How do I cope? Some people may curse. Some people dream. Others leave for warmer climes. I put on Brian Eno records.
Originally released in 1983, Apollo: Atomospheres and Soundtracks, finds Eno, here with his brother, Roger, and pedal steel master, Daniel Lanois, delivering a set of songs so light and so airy, they can take the edge off of the gnarliest of days. And, it’s not just snow days where an album like Apollo can come in handy. As director Danny Boyle has shown, it can also help bring you down after days running from zombies (“An Ending (Ascnet) can be heard in 28 Days Later), or deal with being a nobody with no future in Scotland (“Deep Blue Day” was featured on the soundtrack to Trainspotting).
Winter can help explain why I’ve been listening to so much Eno, and similarly, why Spiritualized has been such a constant, too. However, it can’t account for all the krautrock blaring from the soundsystem.
Rather, I came to albums like Neu!, Neu! 2, and Cluster’s Sowiesoso because krautrock has become the sound du jour for underground rock bands and electronic bands, alike, these days. Everything from the hippie-electronics of Animal Collective to the feedback force of guitar rockers, Disappears, can trace its lineage back t0 1970s Germany. I really needed to hear more.
Fascinatingly, aside from a couple tracks on that Cluster set which sound as if they were ripped from an ’80s b-movie, horror flick, these albums hold up remarkably well. They hold up so well, in fact, that when I put on Guider, that new album by Disappears, I quickly became bored. That robotic, motorik beat and those layered, repetitious melodies which Disappears work into an American punk framework, sounded so redundant when compared to the original. Plus, Neu!’s American contemporaries completely missed the beat when it came to experimentation. Neu! 2’s second side, may be one long fuck you to the record company — Songs are too fast and too slow, like a 33 at 45 speed and vice versa, and tapes cut out unexpectedly. Still, as you’re listening to this recorded act of defiance, you can not only hear pieces of Neu!’s trademark sound, all wobbly and warped, but also, you can easily leap a decade or two and see how Neu! 2 would push American bands like Mission of Burma and Sonic Youth towards noise.
VIDEO: Cluster – Sowiesoso
The Japanese rock band Boris needs neither a season nor a reason, unless of course, that reason is rocking your lame ass. Then, you have the right band. My reasons included not only needing some rocking out to be the yin to Eno’s yang, but also the fact I found two of their albums, Pink and Rainbow, on eBay for somewhat reasonable prices. I do say somewhat, mind you, for if you’ve spent any time tracking down Boris’ back catalog on vinyl, you know as well as I do that there are record speculators out there who seem to be financing their kids’ college with these limited edition releases. If you miss out on one auction for Akuma No Uta, don’t worry. The same record will be listed one month later with an additional 20% markup.
Of the two Boris records I recently picked up, Pink, is rightfully regarded as their definitive statement to date. Its two records and four sides are packed with scuzzed out, heavy guitar melodies. The beastly drones, and there are a couple of them here, too, are saved for later in the set, just when your brain could use a break from all the bashing. Rainbow, meanwhile, showcases the band’s diversity. It’s light on the bruising drones, blistering blues riffs, and fuzz galore. Instead, with collaborator Michio Kurihara, the Japanese trio work their buzz into unfamiliar settings like lounge rock, shoegaze, and dream pop, saving the biggest riffs for the least expected moments.
VIDEO: Boris – Rainbow
VIDEO: Boris – Pink