Friday, March 09, 2007

Notes From Underground-Zimmerman, Yo La Tengo, Declan MacManus, Robert Wyatt, and Any Trouble

I am in the midst of putting the finishing touches on my bit about power pop. But in the meantime, here are more notes.


1. “I Threw it All Away”-Bob Dylan, Nashville Skyline (1969)-Though I’m not a fan of the frog voice, this is a surprisingly remorseful and stately song from the characteristically prickly Dylan, who six years before released the unremittingly spiteful “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” Not to say that a songwriter cannot sway from pole to pole, especially given the six year swing, but sometimes it seems as if Dylan would grow out of the grumpiness that characterized songs like his wounded-pride classic “Positively 4th Street.” Perhaps he did not need to “grow out” of such angry brilliance? I suppose though for all the grown-up literary gravitas of “Tangled up in Blue” he could still summon the angry meanness for a crabby entry like “Idiot Wind.”

2. “The Whole of the Law”-Yo La Tengo, Painful, (1993)-Yo La Tengo did a wonderful cover of the aforementioned Dylan song, so I thought that I would revisit another one of their fine covers, this one of an Only Ones song. Yes, them again. For one, Yo La Tengo ditched the sax, which incidentally, is a lesson I wish all rock bands would have learned since after, say, 1957: The Saxophone is intrusive! OK, The Coasters can do it, but please David Bowie, you should have put the saxophone down, it does not sound good. For some very strange reason the punk generation brought the horn back into pop music and for that, among other reasons, they should be spanked.

3. “I Want You”-Elvis Costello, Blood and Chocolate, (1986)-One of the most uncomfortable and brutally sad songs ever recorded. If anyone could write wounded pride better than Zimmerman it was MacManus. I once was drinking and listening to records with a dear friend and we were trying to outdo each other—who could play the saddest song. A silly game that appeals only to the sad and the lame I know, but we attempted it. I played this song and thought that I won. Then he played “Mother” by John Lennon…the bastard.

4. “Sea Song”-Robert Wyatt, Rock Bottom, (1974)-The covers are bedeviling me. Robert Wyatt did a stunning, shall I say, better, version of Elvis Costello’s “Shipbuilding,” but I’d rather focus on this bit of Canterbury weirdness that to me, sounds strangely like the Television Personalities on a Schoenberg kick. And though I go back and forth over the importance of context in music criticism—this is the first record Wyatt recorded after falling from a fifth story window, which paralyzed him.

5. “Yesterday's Love”-Any Trouble, Where Are All the Nice Girls?, (1980)-Back to Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus and Stiff Records. So first, let me get it out: this band is "heavily indebted" to Elvis Costello. The glasses, the Fender Jazzmaster? With that being said, this is a frighteningly good song, but it still is a rip. Next on the chopping block: The Jags.



Post a Comment

<< Home

Music Blogs - Blog Top Sites Directory of Music Blogs
Music Blogs
Music Blogs