Marvel Kind - Mini
True musical eclecticism in pop music is a rarity. Most artists find a niche or carve one of their own and spend a career perfecting it. Certainly artists make forays into different aural territory for various reasons, but they are usually small jumps into similar genre. Bands that do attempt to be truly eclectic often fail miserably, simply because they don't have the chops to pull it off convincingly. Those that can pull it off, often don't develop large audiences, because, well, music is steeped in style - someone who might like the R&B track probably won't care for the one-riff and scream track. Ween was a perfect example of this, however, they developed enough indie cred with their first album to last the life of their career, thanks in large part ot their tongue-in-cheek treatment of genre that resonated so well with those angst ridden college kids of the '90s. Sadly, this wasn't the case with Marvel Kind. This six song recording is absolutely brilliant, eclectic and solid. But definitely, weird. While they are kindred spirits of Ween, their sound is more reminiscent of Spiderbait (please tell me someone else remembers them besides me). Like Spiderbait, thier music is frenetic and charged , but not quite as in-your-face, less use of electronic tricks, and with a greater pop sensibility. It is sonically challenging lunacy. They don't settle for just pilfering genre after genre and making some formulaic song, they blend these influences into one big potpouri of noise. And, every song sounds so different from each other, that unless you heard them altogether, you would probably never know they were all by the same band And yet, I have never met anyone else who has heard this record. It's sad, and their loss.
Test Dept - Beating the Retreat, Ecstasy Under Duress, Materia Prima, and Pax Britannica
Heh, and these are only about half the albums I have to listen to. But I can only listen to so much at one time. Test Dept is old school industrial. What most people call industrial is rock/techno industrial (NIN, Ministry, etc). And while Test Dept does use some electronics, the bulk of thier music is percussion generated from banging anything and everything. Metal, plastic, wood, you name it. This is your grandmother's industrial, kiddos. These records are very dark, brooding, and moody - much like modern industrial I guess. This isn't the sort of music that has many "fans" either. It's not like you can have a favorite Test Dept song you hum while doing the laundry. But it's an interesting listen. The first two recordings were older material, from around 1982-1983, while the other two were later recordings from the early 1990's. So far, I'd have to say I like the older stuff better. It was early in the group's career and a lot more risks were taken. Expansive percussive songs generated from banging on huge sheets of metal, plastic barrels, hollowed-out logs, and plumbing pipes. The sound is dense, complex, and compelling with minimal orchestration. The latter two recordings rely much more on orchestration. On Pax Britannica a full orchestra and vocal choir is utilized, but the percussion is reduced to basic accompaniment. Sometime next week I'll try and finish up the rest of them.
Doug Stanhope - A Little Something To Take the Edge Off, Die Laughing, and Sicko
uggh introduced me to Mr. Stanhope's comedy records recently. To paraphrase a line from on of his bits, Doug Stanhope is kinda like animal porn, he's not for everyone. His comedy is sometimes thought-provoking and very often disgusting. The topics of his act generally revolve around sex, drugs, controversial topics like suicide, abortion, school shooting... yeah, he's basically a shock comic, but he's funnier than most. I'd rather listen to this than the mindless comedy of Sam Kinison or Andrew "Dice" Clay. Unlike most shock comics, Stanhope doesn't rely quite so heavily on shtick and his own crass persona, he actually writes jokes. He is essentially a hedonist who isn't afraid to talk about some of his experiences and find a little humor along the way. It'll be interesting to see what he does with his persona now that he is the new co-host of The Man Show.
Muddy Waters - One More Mile
There are few who did 12-bar blues better than Muddy. This two disc set was released in conjunction with a box set: the box set was for the afficianado, the two disc set was for the more casual fan of the blues who needed a good Muddy retrospective for their collections. It works perfectly as that: none of the zillion demos and outtakes, just the meat and potatoes of a blues legend. The recordings are superb and the songs top notch.
Various - O Brother Where Art Thou? Soundtrack
I love Coen brothers films and I love bluegrass. I'm amazed it took me this long to get around to listening to this. I've heard better bluegrass, in fact, it's safe to say that most of this album isn't really bluegrass. It's definitely old-timey country music with a strong blues influence typical of pre-war southern popular music. It's the kind of music Bill Monroe was influenced by, but it's like calling the New York Dolls a punk band - it's close but not quite. Aside from this distinction, the music is honest, simple, and beautiful. If nothing else, the success of the film and its soundtrack exposed a lot of people to a style of music that, save for some purists, has largely been forgotten.
Music on my plate for the following week: another Muddy Waters collection of singles released between 1955 and 1959, a Boyracer b-sides collection, six more Test Dept albums, Bessie Smith, Leadbelly, and Buddy Guy (yeah, I got a buncha blues I'm working my way through). I also have some Rachmaninoff symphonies that I may try and culture my heathen ass with. But for now, I'll probably wallow in some Johnny Cash which I happened to have with me.