Thursday, February 26, 2015

Without Correction

The second in a series of post concerning my favorite records.

Reviewing Alex Chilton's Like Flies on Sherbert for Allmusic, David Cleary tells us...

"...this release is a dreadful disappointment. Production values are among the worst this reviewer has ever heard: sound quality is terrible, instrumental balances are careless and haphazard, and some selections even begin with recording start-up sound."

Then, horror of horros...."Chilton's false-start vocal on "Boogie Shoes" is simply left in without correction".

"Without correction"? It wasn't left there on purpose for a purpose beyond Cleary's capacity or willingness to accept. There is a proper way to do things and this was not was an error left uncorrected. I guess Jim Dickinson just didn't know what he was doing.

Cleary is well within his duties to point out the haphazard nature of the record. Let 'em know that if they're looking for The Ballad of El's not here. As for what's correct or incorrect Cleary can stick it above his collar...right up his butt.*

I wonder if he bothered with Bach's Bottom...surely his head would have exploded at Free Again (version 1)..."Put some kung fu on it this time"...or if he heard Chilton's sessions from 1970, before Big Star...

Throughout the sessions Dickinson would record players while they were warming up and use those takes. There's the oft reported anecdote that Chilton wanted Dickinson to play guitar because he still played like a teenager. The illusion created by crafting is removed. The false starts and uneven mixes...the overdubs to hide blank creates a level of uncertainty for the listener and when the whole thing comes off it is exhilarating.

I don't think there's any irony in the record...even the cover of Boogie Shoes sounds like earnest fun. How many songs have buried..."trampled" on well crafted, precise production? Still, the potential for a meta reading can't be denied. They knew, Jim Dickinson certainly knew, what they were doing. Others got what they were doing too. It's impossible, at least for me, to see Slay Tracks hit with the impact it did and not think of Like Flies on Sherbert.**

Finally, one reviewer complained that they all sound drunk and high.

Playing rocknroll while drunk and high on the dope. Well...I swanny!

That's Memphis may not play in Cincinnati, Oh-hyy-o but, nobody gives a damn.

*I've got the Trouser Press Record Guide from the 80's and the one they published in the 90's. In the 80's, Trouser's take on Bach's Bottom and Flies is as vitriolic as Cleary's...accusing the records of "trampling" on Chilton's songs. By 95, Bach's Bottom was an "intriguing stop/start" record.
** I think this is what they call foreshadowing.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cover All The Rugs With Cheap Perfume

Over the weekend, Swiss Adam at Bagging Area , featured the excellent Wedding Present single Brassneck in a post. Just so happens that Brassneck was backed with a cover of Pavement's Box Elder. This somehow came up in the comment he featured both the Wedding Present cover and a live version by Pavement.

Those of you who have followed the discussion will know that Singing Bear joined the rest of you miscreants in being banned...not because he doesn't like Pavement but, because he said he didn't "get" Pavement...obviously casting aspersions on your devoted author's efforts at getting the point across. Or did he? Maybe I haven't talked enough about Pavement. Maybe he was unfairly dealt with...maybe we haven't had enough Pavement on these pages...obviously we need more Pavement.

Bear...your ban has been officially rescinded but, we've still got a tight grip on the, watch your step.

One thing we need to quickly get out of the way...and C brought this up the last time Pavement graced this site...and it's cryptically referenced at Bagging the States, Pavement is not the sidewalk. It is black top,'s where you break your face open when learning to ride a bike. When Thurston Moore first picked up a copy of Slay Tracks he thought they must be an Industrial Band...."or something more nefarious." It has a very hard connotation here.

Anyway, before moving on let's have a few more covers...

I don't know who these shirtless idiots are...but man they got it. Kentucky Cocktail appears on early live sets and Pavemet's first Peel Session*. The riff is just balls more earnest hands it might have been a hit on classic radio but...Ha. I love this cover...never more than a demo, these kids take the song and just destroy it. He mumbles most of the lines...even seeming to look up for help at one point...perfect. When they come to the break and he yells F**CK! and it crashes right back into the a 5 year old with a flamethrower.

Cage the Elephant. Watch the rhythm guitarist and drummer...the song has nearly driven them out of their minds. Again...this is a b side. False Scorpion backed Rattled By the Rush from Wowee Zowee. They kill it...obliterate it. Awwwwesome indeed.

I don't know who these ladies are but, after a little investigating it saddens me to report that they are no longer a going concern...Good Story have split but, they got this one off before calling it quits...mason jar in hand. Zurich is Stained from Slanted and Enchanted.

Julie gets another appearance just because...and because it'll make it easier for me to pull it up on my phone.

How about a sing a long...get your lighters out. Built to Spill cover the sublime Here.

Even Dough Martsch can't keep from smiling...a couple of times.

Watch this space for more Pavement.

*Peel's love of Pavement owes a lot to that initial introduction by the Wedding Present.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Meet Me In The City


There are two towering figures in Mississippi Hill Country Blues. One is the irreplaceable R.L. Burnside...the other is the mighty Junior Kimbrough. Legends. As great as any of the players who left for Chicago or Detriot...greater in my estimation. Like all great players...Howlin' Wolf - Smokestack Lighting, Muddy Waters - Mannish Boy, etc...they both had a signature song...a song that was impossible, no matter how many times it was covered, to separate from its source. For Burnside it's Goin' Down South...for Kimbrough it's Meet Me In The City.

I wouldn't be surprised if one of you pops and says you've done a cover of it.

I love the North Mississippi Allstars. Some of their albums come off as too concerned with what they're trying to do but they've also been fantastic live. Luther and Cody are, of course, the sons of Jim Dickinson. They come by all this very honestly...this is their neighborhood.

Jon O'Spencer is gonna make "every-TING" so guitar take not played by Junior himself.

Gomez capture something different.

The Black Keys obviously have an affinity for the Hill Country...they got their start on Fat Possum so it's with some credibility and obvious tenderness that they take it on.

It's an untouchable song that deserves a place among the greatest expressions of the 20th century.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Warrior's Shadow

It doesn't come up much on here but, I was high-ish-ly trained in history...the work of it...the craft I reckon. My studies focused on the British Empire in the 19th century. It was just a good piece of luck that William Storey was at Millsaps College when I enrolled. Thanks to him and his encouragement I was able to turn my own interests into a legitimate pursuit.  One that eventually led and allowed me to study under people like Mridu Rai*, Jonathan Spence, Paul Kennedy, etc.

One of the biggest advantages I had though...was speaking English.

I don't speak Japanese. So another keen interest of mine, Sengoku era Japan, has gleefully remained a hobby. There comes a point where if you don't speak or read a hit a ceiling. So instead of learning Japanese...I just watch samurai movies.


My historical interests are not particularly sophisticated. I have no interest in how people used to wash up after supper or how their traditions for washing up were actually invented by their oppressors and therefore aren't really Real traditions. I like battles. I want WAR!...not anthropology and political studies. Just as in the heyday of British Imperialism...Sengoku Japan's got plenty of that.

One of Lincoln's more enthusiastic thugs, who freely talked about the need to exterminate Southerners and then Indians, famously described war as Hell. Which, as Clyde Wilson points out, is a sly dodge of responsibility for burning people out of their homes. Wilson contrasts this with a quote from Nathan Bedford Forest..."war is fighting and fighting means killing." No outside force that dictates or excuses the most extreme behavior.

Lee got closer to our looming point, when he said, after another fantastic victory at Fredricksburg, where he was outnumbered by 40,000 men, "it is well that war is so terrible, else we should grow too fond of it." Lee, like so many of the Confederate generals, was a throwback, a true warrior...not a thug, a murderer, an annihilationist. Without losing sight of its cost, I think Lee did love aspects of war...and what it required...sacrifice, honour, courage...selflessness.

Of course there's also the spectacle. It's the masculine drama...the stakes are ultimate and you get to put your pecker on the table while waving a flag. 

Nobody's ever done it with more style than the Samurai.

There's an outstanding book by Joanna Bourke called an Intimate History of Killing: Face to Face Killing in the Twentieth Century. One of the things she demonstrates through interviews, letters, diaries, etc is that combat veterans are often reluctant to talk about their experiences not because they are horrified by them but because they enjoyed it. They power was seductive but so was the aesthetic experience.**

The actual Battle of Nagashino was not directed by Kurosawa and was probably not so stylishly metaphorical. The Samurai rode these little pony's that could barely carry their weight...and they were surrounded by retainers jogging along with them in a charge. There would have been thousands of foot soldiers at the palisades with the hand gunners...who would have come out to finish it off by hand.

Still he hasn't made it up from whole cloth. If you've ever seen the old screens you know there were high style elements to the chaos. Perhaps more importantly it's closer to how these events persist in the imagination. In the film, the shadow warrior, the Kagemusha, demonstrates the highest qualities of a warrior. It's an act that is utterly futile...on every conceivable level. If only we could mount up and ride with him.

Who doesn't love Samurai movies...oh yeaaaaah.

*One of my favorite recurring scenes from graduate school was her pulling a pack of Marlboro Reds out of her sari. She's obviously razor sharp but, she was just a fun lady.

**I recently listened to a podcast on Greek Hoplites...the issue of post-traumatic-stress-disorder came up. I thought I was gonna eat my car keys. It's the worst kind of anachronism because you can see the legs on it. By the time they were was probably on psychopaths that thrived in war.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

For Bear...Somethin' about Momma, Trains, Trucks, Prison, Gettin' Drunk...

David Allan Coe...

I have my issues with Coe. He's prickly, which is alright, and doesn't care about being misunderstood in his writing. That's admirable.

Some of his best work was obviously driven by resentment. He's a songwriting genius....just ask Tanya Tucker, Johnny Paycheck or David Allan Coe...but he's never been embraced by the country establishment. At this point, it's hard to tell who's to blame....put out a stunning record...follow it up with an album featuring your father's corpse on the cover. Maybe he's a genuine Outsider...somebody who wants desperately to be loved and accepted because he knows he never can be.

If That Ain't Country cuts right to it. It's a series of tropes...and a thinly veiled mocking but, it ends with a mini-medley of Country Classics..."I didn't grow up in a tobacco field but, it's not necessary, I really can do this."

Coe is not a Texan. He's not from Nashville...he's not a Southerner at all. He's from Ohio...Akron, f****** Ohio. He spent a lot of his childhood in Michigan juvies...but he wants to make sure you know he "can sing all them songs about Texas." It's also probably got something to do with why he drapes himself in Confederate battle flags and tours a kinda Dixie Minstrel show. Can't say I love that.

Man...he can be brilliant though.