Sunday, August 26, 2007

Goodnight Gracie Podcast #6-The Rise of the Instruments

Welcome to the world of Takeshi Terauchi and other masters of instruments


Quiet Surf-The Mermen
Pet Sounds-The Beach Boys
And I Love Her-Chet Atkins
Noue Buschi-Takeshi Terauchi & Bunnys
Sombre Reptiles-Brian Eno
Drum Song-Jackie Mitoo
Egyptian Reggae-Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers
Snapshots of Nairobi-The Homosexuals
Superstar Watcher-Yo La Tengo
Sketch for Summer-The Durutti Column
Last Night-The Mar-Keys

Click here for the:
  • first ever all-instrumental Goodnight-Gracie Podcast

  • b.

    Thursday, August 23, 2007

    Bedhead, Transaction de Novo, 1998

    Transaction de Novo

    This is the newest record I have tried writing extensively about. Usually preferring the crucible of time to vet the bands I discuss, I will however, throw caution to the wind and simply infer that Bedhead will survive the vicissitudes, trends, and changing attitudes of history, and be considered something of a great, if somewhat obscure band.

    Before I start in earnest there are two terms, which I find distasteful on almost aesthetic grounds, that I refuse to use in describing Bedhead: “post-rock” and “slowcore,” which are both ill-considered subgenres that do nothing more than muddle things. Bedhead were simply minimalists, not unlike Steve Reich in his early days, playing simple and controlled melodies off each other in staid syncopation, only doing so in an instrumentally rock format; like the Velvets circa their third record, Bedhead could sound as fragile and brittle as a folk band, or as compressed and streamlined as a bullet fired from a gun.

    Bedhead was the brainchild of two North-Texas brothers named Kadane, one called Matt and the other Bubba. According to the Touch & Go website, the young brothers experimented with stringed instruments, and by that I think they meant violins, violas, and/or cellos, but I suppose they could have meant guitars, bass-guitars, and pianos. The brothers took on extra members and evolved into a band that featured the novelty of three electric guitar players—a novelty that I wish were repeated more, given the textural possibilities.

    I was introduced to this band by a lanky red headed young man named Adam who, like me, attended Sonoma State University in the mid Nineties. He liked a host of bands that I had never heard of then—Pram, Eggs, Labradford, Slowdive; I even spied an Old Dirty Bastard disc in his collection.

    All the trademarks that made Transaction de Novo a classic were apparent early on in the gestation of Bedhead: repeated melodies, simple, evenhanded drumming, laconic, almost mumbled vocals that bore just the slightest hint of melody, and the slow, meticulous build of simple guitar chords, angular lines, and other more percussive dalliances that made each song sound how an inverted triangle looked, only subtler. The production though was not where it would be in 1998 though.

    Bedhead’s first record—1994’s WhatFunLifeWas on Trance Syndicate sounded not unlike their first EP, which was released the same year and was recorded with one microphone in one take in a Dallas church. This single microphone technique provides spacious surface area, but no depth; and despite the fact that WhatFunLifeWas was recorded to a 16-track tape machine, it sounds very similar to the two-track mixer approach used on the 4-Song EP, which is to say a bit flat and undynamic. And though I would be the first to admit to having an affinity for under produced music, material as textural and subtle as that produced by Bedhead demands a certain amount of dynamism not easily captured in their earliest efforts.

    After having proved themselves Joy Division acolytes by recording the frenetic “Disorder” in half time for their 4-Song EP, they paid a similar if not as explicit debt to the Velvet Underground with “To the Ground,” a song on WhatFunLifeWas which bears more than a passing sonic, if not lyrical—the esoteric lyrics are, on the surface, about the unseemly death of a cockroach but I am sure there is a deeper meaning that I failed to grasp—resemblance to “That’s the Story of My Life.”

    Most of WhatFunLifeWas though is made up of hushed, twisting and interlocking electric guitars, and like the song “Foaming Love” is more reminiscent of folk than even Dylan after he plugged in, replete with the simple two-beat bleating of a tambourine. Much of it though tritely builds toward forced crescendos, a habit they would grow out of as their latter day songs climaxed naturally, or not at all, which bore a hallmark of maturity.

    Their next album, Beheaded, was produced by the group and takes a step toward the cavernous, ultra-disciplined guitar minimalism of Transaction de Novo, while adhering to their rigorously slow pace that made everything sound as somber as a black hat. Songs such as “Withdraw” “Smoke,” and “Roman Candle” utilized the theretofore only experimented with slide guitar that bears the guitarists’ Texas roots and points to a kind of kindred association with artists such as Will Oldham and Simon Joyner, which is rarely mentioned because Bedhead avoided the bonds of neo-country pretensions; still though, it is not a far leap.

    Bedhead generally gets lumped in with Mogwai, who are neither disciplined or austere, and nearly never as stately; and Low which is probably a comparison that they will find themselves running from forever because the similarities are sometimes striking—sparseness, reverential sense of quiet, and a measured, deliberate vocal style. Though I have not seen it mentioned much, they sound a great deal like Galaxie 500, and nothing like, which I have seen, Spaceman 3.

    Working within a kind of bi-year framework that saw a record released in 1994 and 1996, Bedhead released their masterpiece Transaction de Novo in 1998. Where their earlier efforts merged into a kind of subtle and unhurried malaise of unemotional vocals that bordered on the histrionic, and anachronistically quiet electric guitars that forever built toward some finite outcome of meaningfulness, their final album took disciplined control of the quiet space with an almost Catholic sense of organized asceticism.

    Transaction de Novo opens with the skeletally bass-heavy “Exhume,” which personally is a title I would steer clear of if I was not trying on lyrics for a death-metal band—especially if like Bedhead, I was using a glockenspiel. The song is so low it vibrates and croaks with the heaviness of Matt Kadane’s frog voice, weighted down with something like remorse as he utters his one stanza—“Half sunk in the mud with one eye showing, a cracked smile and hair still growing. Your hands miles apart as if they'd never met, you were the happiest I'd seen you yet.” Not really the stuff of legend, but lyrics rarely point toward musical acumen.

    Lyrics had always acted as a lesser component of Bedhead’s studio-built monuments, almost as if they were used as a block against being an instrumental band. Their first single, “Bedside Table,” which appears on their first record sounds as if, with a little more guitar playfulness, it could be a surf song by the Mermen or another such band imbued with the same kind of arch languidness before erupting into controlled sonic chaos. Lyrically though it’s a bit meta, and like “Exhume,” impossibly brief: “what I was just reading about someone deciding to quit speaking began to dissolve into my lap as the words gave up their attempts at meaning.” Personally, I don’t like lyrics to be confusing or in need of some sort of Rosetta stone to decipher the meaning, but I understand that I am particularly literal about such things.

    Transaction de Novo showed a band at the height of its powers, lyrically it was actually sad instead of just taking on the hallmarks of sadness—namely a lyrical slow-voiced crawl. The second song, “More Than Ever,” is also built upon the thick bones of the bass guitar (possibly two), but utilizes their signature curling web like guitars, and a lonely bass/snare march to create a backdrop of somber regret for Matt Kadane’s plaintive moral searching: “But I won't change it and neither will you, when what seemed the appropriate are now the wrong things to do. If in every act there's something good, I haven't done all the good things I could.”

    Two other songs stand out—one the magnificent “Forgetting” which is as conventional as Bedhead had ever sounded, with a heavy dose of slide guitar, and even a guitar solo; and “Extramundane” which sounds almost like pop, and must have had their fans tapping their converse sneakers and bobbing their heads at one of their few shows. The one misstep is the unfortunately titled “Psychosomatica,” which sounds to me a bit like Unwound in the worse way.

    Transaction de Novo was one of the last great records of the nineties from one of the last bands to actually try representing the time in which they worked without trying to sound like something that could have been recorded twenty to thirty years before. Bedhead turned their noses up at rock’s cocky swaggering and muscular virtuosity and used an architectural sense of space and melody to create something boldly majestic. Transaction de Novo was special because it showed a band that had a real ethos—a religiously minimalist zeal for simple contrasting melodies coupled with a sense of open, almost lonely space that at times they refused to fill, displaying a keen discipline rarely seen in such a decadent business as creating rock and roll music.


    Sunday, August 19, 2007

    Goodnight Gracie Podcast #5-1976: The Year of my Birth

    The Modern Lovers-Bicentennial Rock


    Please don't be scared off by the first song.

    Click here for:
  • Podcast #5-1976

  • Love Rollercoaster-The Ohio Players
    I Want More-Can
    Livin' Thing-Electric Light Orchestra
    Had to Phone Ya-The Beach Boys
    You Tore Me Down-The Flamin' Groovies
    Government Center-The Modern Lovers
    When You Find Out-The Nerves
    Judy is a Punk-The Ramones
    Cherry Bomb-The Runaways
    The Boys Are Back in Town-Thin Lizzy

    ps: I'd actually like to make a correction and at the same time point out a bit of rather embarrassing irony. I mentioned that "Government Center" was on the John Cale-produced first Modern Lovers album. That is somewhat untrue. After doing a bit of digging for a future bit of prose i plan to do on the Modern Lovers, I found that only six songs on the first Modern Lovers album were produced by Cale, and "Government Center"-at least the version I played-was actually produced by that pervert Kim Fowley in 1973, and appear on the 1986 reissue that i have. So there you go. Sorry.


    Saturday, August 18, 2007

    Notes From Underground-Twice As Much, The Field Mice, Lou Christie, Emitt Rhodes, Brenton Wood


    1. “You Should Be Ashamed”-Emitt Rhodes, Emitt Rhodes, 1970-After doing time in LA area garage pop acts the Palace Guard and the Merry-Go-Round—both of which are collected on the Nuggets box set—as a drummer, multi-instrumentalist, and lead vocalist, Rhodes eschewed the problems and drama of band mates and recorded his self-titled debut by himself, even doing all the myriad harmonies. “You Should Be Ashamed,” along with the rest of the record, owes a tremendous debt to the Beatles—his bouncing, melancholy piano and rich voice is evocative of McCartney during the rupture and his turn as a solo artist, but I think the constant linking of Rhodes to McCartney is unfair.

    2. “Two Faces Have I”-Lou Christie, Two Faces Have I Single on Columbia Records, 1963-Lou Christie backed-up by the immortal Tammys shows off his startlingly high upper register as he belts out the chorus in an almost cartoon-like falsetto. Born Luigi Sacco in Moon Township outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylavania Christie promptly made the move to New York as a young man and scored a hit “The Gypsy Cried,” which he followed with "Two Faces Have I," which I think is better than much of what the Four Seasons did, if only because it doesn’t sound so hyper managed; it’s coarse the way rock and roll was intended to be.

    3. “The Coldest Night of the Year”-Twice as Much (feat. Vashti Bunyan), That’s All, 1968-I came across this one on the same Immediate comp that featured the Nico song “I’m Not Sayin’.” After some minor digging—and I still may be wrong—the song billed as “Twice as Much” by Vashti Bunyan is really by another Immediate band called Twice As Much which featured a young Vashti Bunyan on vocals. This is very different from Bunyan’s stellar 1970 folk record Just Another Diamond Day, her breathy vocals are similar, but the music is breezy folk pop not sounding unlike the Walker Brothers with its washed out acoustic guitars and sleigh bells.

    4. “If You Need Someone”-The Field Mice, Where’d You Learn to Kiss That Way, 1998-Twee to the max, the Field Mice were the best example of what a Sarah Records band should sound like—liltingly sensitive vocals, softly strummed guitars, and simple beats, all executed crisply and economically with a supposed guileless preciousness that often fuels the ire of their and twee's detractors. For some reason many bands like this reside across the Atlantic: The Pastels, Heavenly, and Boyracer, I think it all has something to do with Morrissey. The Field Mice had a tendency to get a little too cute with things like sequencers and drum machines to their detriment. The compilation—Where’d You Learn to Kiss That Way—is out of print and kind of pricey, but if you find it you should snap it up.

    5. "The Oogum Boogum Song"-Brenton Wood, The Oogum Boogum Song Single on Double Shot Records, 1967. Mostly known as a low-rider song, like Billy Stewart's "Sitting in the Park," and Rosie & the Originals' "Angel Baby," I first heard "The Oogum Boogum Song" on Alex Chilton's most recent record Loose Shoes and Tight Pussy, censoriously renamed Set for American audiences. Wood spends the song basically describing a knockout that is for some reason wearing a trench coat: "When you wear those big earrings, long hair, and things, You got style, girl, that sure is wild, And you wear that cute trench coat, And you're standing there posing, You got soul, you got too much soul."


    Sunday, August 12, 2007

    Goodnight Gracie Podcast #4-A Brief Retrospective of L. Hazlewood


    Lee Hazlewood-Poet, Bum, Disc Jockey, Record Producer, SMU Med Student, Svengali, Gram Parsons Ball-Breaker, Impossibly Mustachioed Memory.

    Click here for a
  • Lee Hazlewood Retrospective

  • Lee Hazlewood Podcast Playlist

    The Lonely One-Duane Eddy
    Jackson-Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra
    The Cheat-Jarvis Cocker & Richard Hawley
    Pray Them Bars Away-Lee Hazlewood
    Night Before-Lee Hazlewood
    My Elusive Dreams-Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra
    Son of a Gun-Lee Hazlewood
    Sand-Lee Hazlewood & Suzi Jane Hokum


    Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    Lee Hazlewood, RIP

    Lee Hazlewood, RIP

    Scratch that instrumental podcast stuff, Sunday's entry will be Total Lee.

    Monday, August 06, 2007

    Goodnight-Gracie Podcast #3 Donovan vs. Dylan


    & Dylan (with his booze on the table)


  • Here is the belated third podcast

  • Next Sunday's podcast will delve into the world of instrumental rock, more or less. I am working on a few prose things that will be posted within the week. Until then, please enjoy the wonderful world of Zimmerman and Leitch.

    Donovan Vs. Dylan Podcast Playlist

    Jersey Thursday-Donovan
    Positively Fourth Street-Bob Dylan
    Wear Your Love Like Heaven-Donovan
    I Want You-Bob Dylan
    Hurdy Gurdy Man-Donovan
    You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go-Bob Dylan
    Catch the Wind-Donovan
    I Threw It All Away-Bob Dylan

    bye bye.

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