“Adopted Highway” by the Dave King Trucking Company – Review

Dave King Adopted Highway

I’m not gonna lie — I made fun of these guys at the show. Initially I got the impression that they played the kind of horrifying wankistry endorsed by those genuinely evil jazz people who take pleasure in (urp) Blue Train and the like. So they had a guitarist. So fucking what. I heard one tune I enjoyed, which they told me after the show was titled “I Will Live Next to the Wrecking Yard” (laughably bad song titles are a unifying theme in the Dave King Trucking Company’s discography); it was on their Adopted Highway LP, an actual record, which they sold to me below the quoted price (twenty instead of twenty-five, for which I must give them credit) and I took it home. I put the favored song on briefly as I entered my room for the evening and it sounded even more neutered and tuneless than it had during the show. I sighed and went to bed. Maybe the record would turn into a good investment, as in asset to be liquefied at an opportune time.

I listened to it again on Wednesday and I realized that the guitarist overtly appropriates the hilarious, anti-melodic histrionics of Greg Ginn, one of the least talented and most consequently overhyped slingers of a six-stringer I’ve ever come across. Listen to My War and you will understand. I was surprised, though, that a player in a “jazz” band like the Trucking Company would tolerate goofery like the feedback solo in “This Is a Non-Lecture”, and I listened some more.

As I did I noticed some other attractive elements. The album has excellent sound and was recorded to analog tape, a fact of which I was surprised they made so little hay. Normally tape devotees promote the shit out of their militant anti-digitalism. I also took especial notice of the drumming on “Ice Princess” (bitchin’) and the compositional quality of most of the other songs by Dave King himself. For jazz this is melodic stuff, bearing little resemblance to the oft-racket of the concert (which may have had something to do with the cold acoustics of the chapel where it took place). According to the record label Dave King’s goal is to meld “American roots music and the avant-garde”; if by this he means introducing tunes into jazz, I’m all for it. I encourage you all to listen to this Trucking Company album — and if they come to your town, vote with your buck and support them a little. These guys deserve it, even if they do play jazz.

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How To Be Better DJ’s (Part 1?)

“…there must be some semblance of order to stay alive. That’s why FM underground freeform radio died. Because you can’t turn seven crazy freaky guys loose on the air to do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it, play the same cut seventeen times or play some obtuse album, ’cause who cares?”

– Lester Bangs, “Screwing the System with Dick Clark”

I am going to begin an apprentice disc-jockeyship with KMUZ in a few weeks. It’s a small volunteer-driven community radio station based in Salem, OR and it services the Greater Willamette Valley with all manner of programming — as I look at their weekly schedule I see “Antiquity Radio”, music from the first half of the twentieth century, on Sunday afternoons; “Russian Rock Radio” at 6am Saturdays and 6pm Sundays, probably circling the scheduled Masses at some local Greek Orthodox church; and Arlene’s “Mundo Mojo”, worldbeat to wait for work to end to. It hosts a range of shows, that’s for sure, and I bit when they showed up at the Willamette University club fair a few weeks ago. I filled out the application online and a few days later director Melanie Zermer emailed me back. “Since 15 [students] expressed interest, and we do not have many open slots to offer, I would like you to consider how you can work together to have a show,” she generously offered. I felt glad about that — I mean, I’m not Elvis. I can share a bill. It would make things interesting, really, to work with other people on this radio stuff. I would have a presence (or two or three) to bounce off of on the hot mic, instead of just mumbling the title of the song and the station name and what was going to play next.

The more I’ve thought about it, though, the less jazzed I am about the whole radio thing and the more apprehensions arise. I feel as though I’m about to cut into the napalmed turkey from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I really would like to bring my favorite music to a wider audience, and maybe I could work with these other DJ’s and learn more about the stuff they listen to. But ultimately I worry that I’m going to hit the same brick wall I hit in all the record shops and in all the discussions I ever end up having about the music I love to listen to. I speak, of course, of the sheer insularity of the music-appreciation community.

It’s hazardous anyways to try and build relationships based on something as subjective as music. Like they say, there’s no accounting for taste (though occasionally I can tell things about people from the kinds of music they concentrate on), and when you get as deep into the stuff as I have you will find, like Richard Rodriguez did when he reached the top academic levels of the study of British literature, that you have reached an ivory tower indeed. Past a certain point the collection and appreciation of certain musics reach a sort of cultism, where otherwise reasonable people exhibit the kind of devotion Gollum reserves for the One Ring. Words like “loner” and “dark (insert vague genre header)” and “chillout” and “private press” and “proto-punk”, wherever they arise, become incantations, words of power that endow certain records with obscene money value. The pursuit of records has never been a rational quest — if these songs could be had for decent prices and at high fidelity as digital files, and if all music listeners were rational, then easily scratched, unstoreable, usually warped, weak-bassed long-playing records would have been abandoned years ago as the impractical relics that they ought to be. Yet I carry these same records on my shelf and I constantly lust after more. (I have a CD collection too, which fills a seven-inch-thick disc sleeve. I think it must top two hundred and fifty albums at this point.) I do this in the age of digital music and Spotify because what physical music media have is talismanic value, which counts for more than the supposedly superior vinyl sound quality or the “aesthetic” experience of listening to it could ever could hope to in the competition between records and modern technology. George Orwell once said that to “Deliberately to revert to primitive methods, to use archaic tools, to put silly difficulties in your own way, [is] a piece of dilettantism, of pretty-pretty arty and craftiness”; that, it seems, is exactly what record collectors are after. I confess that I often go through my own discography, smiling beatifically and feeling utterly at peace as I flick through records and think of the times I’ve listened to them and (more often than not) of their monetary worth and the veritable steals I’ve gotten on the things. I really hate the Hampton Grease Band, but I keep Music to Eat in my stacks because it has a certain cachet — an I-found-it value. The only conceivable reason for this behavior, which I confess I have identified as hoarding in people with other obsessions, is because these albums are spiritual objects — there is something more to them, in my mind, than just the music in the grooves. They feel special.

And I fear that the peculiar homogeneity of music collectors’ tastes will afflict all these other prospective DJ’s, as they seem to afflict me. My nightmares currently consist of me walking up to the orientation in October, pulling open the door and entering the room to discover as my eyes adjust from the bright light out of doors that the other prospective DJ’s are all just me. Most have shorter hair, and a few are bespectacled or have freckles or wear the Soundgarden T-shirt I wear to concerts; but they are totally generic in appearance, in attitude, in music preference, in timbre of speaking voice for chrissakes. And then I come to a horrible, probably flawed conclusion that my record collecting is nothing but a symptom, a distractive hobby that grew out of the pubescent horror show I lived in for between the ages of eight and thirteen, and the worst thing of all is that nobody will get it. It will forever remain a niche thingy like every other feature of my refined taste in comedy and movies and art and religion and music, something only poor little rich kids have ever been able to indulge in — and somebody, sooner or later, will use it against me, and call me out as a poseur and force me to swallow my pride and listen to nothing but Aerosmith and Pink Floyd and Taylor Swift and if I ever poke my sorry presumptuous head above that bourgeois tedium again I will be called out as a snob and wilt like a pressed adolescent flower. I want to believe that I am wrong, that there is more to the music I love than my background and what has been done to me, but either way the college-age DJ’s whose work I have sampled exhibit a crippling ingrowth. That is what I hate about the insularity of the music community: because of its relentless push for the Velvet Underground and Slint and Mudhoney, etc. I can’t bear to listen to most independent radio anymore. (KPIG, which broadcasts from San Luis Obispo, CA, is an astounding exception.) Most of the programmers I have heard are as self-absorbed as the worst sort of record hobbits, crafting playlists based on whatever they feel like listening to that day and sometimes they toss in a little death metal cuz they think it might throw the chillbient techno into sharper relief (only it doesn’t, it just makes them look like fucking assholes). Independent radio is diseased, and that sickness is solipsism — most of the time we seem unable to make people understand why they should broaden their tastes.

Of course, regular radio is even worse (fight the Clear Channel monopoly!), but every time I try to connect with my people, these supposed purveyors of weird and wonderful music beyond the mainstream, I feel like I’m reading my fellow atheists’ polemics against “the Christians” again. They seem to have lost the whole meaning of music exploration, which is that there is always a superior alternative to the garbage that some horrific music conglomerate is pushing on the population. One size doesn’t fit all. You have to seek out the good stuff yourself, which takes time and cultivation and a lot of luck; but you will, somehow, find music that speaks to you. There are dangerous rabbit holes, as I noted above; the farther you retreat into some corners (French/British progressive rock, ginuwine Brazilian bossa nova, old blues 78’s, 1960’s California folk, etc.) the fewer sensible people you end up meeting. But if you do it right your music journey will lead you to a state of astonishing grace, in which you finally realize that, objectively, there is no right or wrong music to listen to. Everyone will have their own favorite songs and listen to what they find viscerally pleasing, whether they were introduced to it by a friend or by the Internet or by the radio; there is not a damn thing you can do to change it, and they can’t do anything to make you enjoy their stuff. Hopefully you will overlap at some point, but this music thing is irresoluble and should just be left alone if you guys are diametrically opposed. Maybe play some Super Smash Bros. or something.

Of course, my special brand of beatific existentialist libertarianism lasts only as long as I can avoid the evangelical mob screaming at me outside that one Nine Inch Nails show (true story). When a dude in my class today played Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” for a “road song” assignment I listened with studied patience and my fists balled up a little underneath the desk when he said he thought it was very deep and had “a lot of meaning for [him] personally.” This is what I mean when I say that there can sometimes be accounting for taste. I am no fool. I may be only eighteen, but I have thought a great deal about things that matter to me like my music and literature, and if there’s one thing in this world that deserves no sympathy whatsoever it’s the cliché — the trite repetition of whatever’s convenient, what I called the “blunt chisel of aphorism” in a poem a few weeks ago for Creative Writing. I am frustrated by the lack of imagination, the quality of feeling one’s way through life that is implied by the appropriation of somebody else’s words into which you slot a mangled bastardization of your beautiful and unique and new experience. You brutalize your life by describing it only with clichés. (“Why do you intellectualize everything?” somebody once asked Henry Flynt. He replied, “Because hedonism will get you nowhere.”) I know that words have profound and impassable limits, that they can be cheap in the face of the most dramatic events in our lives. But you people don’t have to prove me right.* I can respect the tastes of a person who’s gone out and sampled the world’s music, at least a little. I once knew an impressive guy at my high school, who had an iPod full of songs I had never heard of, all by reggae or hip-hop artists from around the globe — Iran, Jamaica, Indonesia. I’m not big on either one but I gave him kudos. He had done some digging and discovered real connections with some interesting music in spite of itself; I let him be. He was not bound by commercial radio, even if I didn’t like his music. He seemed to think outside the box, and I could learn something from his library if I ever wanted to. I think that’s what I enjoy most of all: trading music suggestions with people and growing through others’ collections. Rarely do I get those chances in record stores or with friends.

And even in my righteous fury I can concede that clichés have vitality in the right hands — Dock Boggs sings murder ballads and drinking songs, and John Lee Hooker and Lightnin’ Hopkins and hell, maybe even the Rolling Stones cover the old blues tropes like they’re going out of style (which they kind of are). But they work in grand and noble traditions, and all these guys are great formalists. And these words have the weight of lived lifetimes behind them (though I must point out that the Stones really don’t, and sometimes the clichés overtake them — the “car don’t start” line from “Loving Cup” is particularly irritating.) But the profusion of garbage music that has emanated from hit factories and literally evil record companies since about the mid-Seventies is just too much. Somewhere in the backs of their minds the people who listen to this stuff must feel dimly that a crucial element is missing. And I retreat from its corruptions because of this lack of profundity, which is the big hallmark of popular music and really always has been. By “profound” I don’t mean a group has a grand social statement to make; plenty of foolish musicians did that in the late Sixties and their records were bought by millions of people, but they still weren’t really profound. What I mean is that I like music to “speak” to me, if I’ll permit myself one cliché; I want it to click somehow, with an identifiable lyric or a kickass groove or a killer improvisation or any combination of those things. Flipper was good at combining those, now that I think about it. The problem is that what makes that vital electric connection with one person means jack shit to another a lot of the time; of course, that’s much of what makes music interesting. So often we end up with an unlistenable popular Muzak in the restaurants and clubs of the world and overcompensate by creating homogeneous acolytic communities of the One True Church of the Sonic Youth. If Whitesnake is a perfect symbol of the concentrated deactivation of the cortex necessary to enjoy most popular music, the affected cool and “postmodern” smegma of the Sonic Youth stand in my mind for the deliberate adoption of the opposite stance, which we all know is the most insidious way that any enemy can control you. It goes without saying that I am not a Whitesnake guy. What I constantly have to explain to myself and to everyone who raises an eyebrow at my apparent snobbery is that I also do not like the Sonic Youth. (Not anymore, at least. When I was a junior cloistered “music for music’s sake” has its moments. 🙂

And with context established we circle back to the original question: how do we avoid total self-absorption in that very personal quest to break the good and great music out of its isolation chamber? Are we even meant to? I believe that yes, it is possible; after all, the reggae dude did it. He didn’t apply himself to seeking out super weird stuff like I did in high school; he just followed his nose. It’s a way of finding music that could leave a lot of people open to the influence of helpful radio, and perhaps I will reach this audience from my lair at KMUZ. And so, with this in mind, I write us DJ’s a credo to follow in all programming decisions.

  • Repeat after me.
  • We, the independent disc jockeys, do solemnly pledge:
  • To guide our listeners gently, so as not to scare them;
  • To avoid solipsism at any cost;
  • And to remember, above all, to build a community,
  • In both the listening sense, and the concrete sense.
  • May my fellow DJ’s catch me should I stumble in this righteous path.
  • Indeed.**

Hopefully I can bring this philosophy to bear when I go to work at KMUZ. I want to bring more people into the community of music lovers, and I suspect that we at the station are not going to do that with the traditional free-form shows; we have to change things up a little, make our music choices a little less oblique and non-sequitur than typical independent radio stations, and introduce some conceptual continuity and a little familiarity into our programs to make our listeners feel somewhat at home in listening to new musics. We must also have on-air personality, instead of simply describing the songs in between; we have to be interesting DJ’s. I hope that the “community” nature of the radio station will help to provide some color from other areas of town, so that the admitted monotony of “college” rock taste doesn’t oppress the ear of the listener.

Of course it’s possible that we’ve reached the saturation point, and so such ideas may not work. Perhaps enough people have been turned off by the navel-gazing of non-corporate radio and the exhausting compressed uniformity of the “mainstream” that they have retreated entirely into their digital music libraries. I find it difficult to blame them (after all, I’ve done basically the same thing). All we can do is try our best to raise their awareness of the good stuff, and hope they listen in; another old existentialist idea, but it’s the best shot we’ve got. This is a lot of shit to think about before I’ve even started the job, but I think this will help me to do my best at KMUZ. Maybe I will write more on the topic once I have started. “Humanists…serve as best they can the highest abstraction of which they have some understanding, which is their community”, said Kurt Vonnegut. DJ’s and music lovers, I call upon you: let’s serve our people.

Epilogue: As some of you might have guessed, I was reading Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung today and I finally got through the relentless nihilism phase to Lester Bangs’ essays on the death of Peter Laughner and “The White Noise Supremacists”, and I am elated and impressed. The exuberance of my article would not have been conceivable without Lester’s help today, and today I thank his memory for that little bit of inspiration.

*I’m probably gonna laugh when I read this in my old age, but all philosophy has to start somewhere. Why not be combative?

**We have to end it somehow, and better a nondenominational “indeed” than “amen.”

“…And Justice for All” by Metallica – Review

Justice for all

I like my metal sharp and brutally precise, its edges gleaming with malice. The aesthetics of the album art are often a good indication — Heartwork, for one, has a cover that emphasizes a symmetrical chrome-plated sculpture, and it contains some of the best metal composition I ever have heard. So it is with the bleached grays and whites of …And Justice for All, which more or less describe the timbre of the music within. Bands of the Celtic Frost and Black Sabbath school of metal, with their unbearable sloppiness and clichéd transitions from slow to fast to 3/4 to slow bit again to brief decent motif to shit, all the while relying on stale elementary riffs, bore and exhaust me no matter how many times I listen to them. Give me surgery-metal instead.

This is my favorite of the “Big Three” Metallica albums. For a long time it was Ride the Lightning, and with good reason; I mean, you listen to “Ride the Lightning” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Creeping [Fucking] Death” and try to avoid throwing yourself around the room like a damn maniac. But ultimately it didn’t quite have the super-rehearsed quality of the next two albums, and the mix was still too much in thrall to the emerging tropes of thrash-metal production (imagine that a given album was recorded in a grimy wind-tunnel with little to no bass and you have a decent approximation) to really kick all the ass it was capable of. And Master of Puppets had several good songs but never was really more than the sum of its parts, though the title track fuckin’ kills most other Metallica songs.

For one thing, Justice stands apart from these other two by virtue of its weirdness. If you ever have heard a metal album with a similar sound, please let me know. I don’t think I have, which isn’t saying much, but I still don’t believe that anything quite sounds like it. It famously lacks almost any audible bass guitar, the drums were apparently recorded with several key microphones turned off (without the producer’s knowledge) and the guitars have abandoned the ear-ripping treble of the last few albums for a mid-range assault that makes for fascinatingly difficult headphone listening. It is the exact inverse of listening to the Birthday Party’s Junkyard, in that Justice‘s middle and some lower ranges are emphasized at the expense of the bottom and top ends. From the band’s interview history it seems impossible to determine whether they arrived at the final mix intentionally or accidentally, which is probably the way they want it (though I suspect that it was the result of a series of accidents and they decided to keep it because it sounded cool). Much like Junkyard, too, the result is almost unlistenable except to fascinated fans like me — no wonder a lot of people hate it.

The quality of the playing is the other thing I notice has improved between Ride the Lightning and this album. Where the band was just a little bit sloppy in their early work, despite the speed and rigor their compositions begged for, they have tightened up to a mechanical degree for Justice, with Lars Ulrich pulling off a series of previously unimaginably complex fills and the guitars (particularly Kirk Hammett’s lead) hitting and muting notes with newfound precision. Combined with the uncomfortable mix this new attack seems to cut, scalpelesque, into the listener’s ears. I would probably find it irritating if it weren’t so damn cool.

If we want to calculate the percentage of awesome by time, we arrive at the conclusion that if the album is ~65.23 minutes long, then we can divide the runtime of the only through-and-through lame track, “Blackened” (6.66min), by the total length of the album to get 10.2% certified lameness. The high quality of certain tracks would also definitely set the kickass quotient well above ninety percent, given that the album contains compositions on the order of “Dyers Eve”, “Shortest Straw”, “Eye of the Beholder”, “And Justice for All”, “One” and “To Live Is To Die”. It’s only a rough estimate, but taking the numerical, scientifically verified badassitude (we are careful to use only scientific terms in our laboratory) of every above-average track into account and also removing one percent of the greatness for some of the less brilliant passages in “The Frayed Ends of Sanity”, such as starting it with the Winkies chant and moving the riff up by half-steps like untutored Black Flag-type novice morons, we still get a godhead value of about Ninety-Four Percent Awesomeness, which stretched over sixty-five minutes is a hell of an accomplishment.*

I know it’s a cliché approaching the critical mass of Satanic backmasking, but I have spent on this review nearly an hour of time that I could have spent writing my brief essay on the First Person Point of View and Unreliable Narrator that is due for my Creative Writing class tomorrow morning at nine a.m. I am mystified by people who grin briefly and throw a hand in the air in mock despair, as if tossing the assignment over their shoulders into the garbage, when they announce that they’re procrastinating, amirite. I feel very strongly about it because I suspect deep down that it’s not funny. When my fellow students are unable to finish their fucking homework like me and they end up typing until two in the morning (where do these people get their study habits?) about the decline of the British Empire, I don’t think it’s funny. It’s a sad and viciously self-consuming behavioral cycle and needs an affirmative solution, not a fucking giggle with friends. I don’t know why I feel so irritated when people casually neglect their sleep and laugh it off; maybe I should ask the counselor about it. Oh well. I don’t want to be angry when other people are wrong about their basic shit, but perhaps there is a good reason I’m not able to perceive right now. In the meantime, …And Justice for All will grind my nerves into awakeness until I finish this damn paper.

*Since we have no other objective way of determining the greatness of a given record, we must always recourse to the most scientific methods possible. Remember, now — there are no opinions here.

“Speak No Evil” by Wayne Shorter – Review

Speak No Evil

I don’t normally enjoy jazz very much. I have a soft spot for its orphaned fusion children — the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Miles’ rock and funk albums, the Tony Williams Lifetime — but at best I find the familiar jazz “classics” lukewarm. Which is why I’m surprised by Speak No Evil, the first one that really sticks with me.

Wayne Shorter has a gift for composing memorable themes based on the floaty extended chords of modern jazz. Most of these songs stick in my head as ferociously as the simpler rock and pop songs that I usually enjoy; “Witch Hunt”, my initial favorite, sounds almost simplistic now next to the wow-inducing langorous beauty of tracks like “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum”, “Speak No Evil” and “Dance Cadaverous”. I pay little attention to jazz solos, and most of the time I can forget Speak No Evil‘s improvisations; but I have taken notice of several spontaneous moments from this album, particularly when Shorter or Herbie Hancock are playing. Like most jazzers they stumble around for a few minutes before uncovering an interesting lick; their licks are different, though, because unlike most on-the-spot ideas they have a rare memorable quality. Only a few other jazz dudes can craft improvisations for the pleasure center, in my experience: Eric Dolphy, McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman all come to mind. (The fact that these people all play horns or other unamplified jazz instruments probably doesn’t help.) The fact that two of these interesting players were present at the same session makes this a more rewarding jazz album than the average, which is a win in my rock-plebeian book.

So I congratulate you, Wayne Shorter: you can write a jazz album that holds my attention like few others. Perhaps someday I will give your other Blue Note records a try.

“Double Nickels on the Dime” by the Minutemen – Review

 

Double Nickels.jpg

I would like to call it a heady triumph of fusion and experimentation, a great blow struck for all creative musicians. I would like to say it enchants me all the way through and simultaneously challenges the brain while blasting forward with rockin’ propulsion and blistering leftist rants. And truly, it does all of these things. But only at various points in its eighty-odd minutes.

I wonder who thought it was a good idea for the Minutemen, whose name describes their work more or less exactly (only eleven of the forty-five original tracks exceed 1:59), to fill a pair of forty-minute discs with songs. Apparently it had something to dü with the Huskers (ha ha. i am funny) but I don’t care. It was a just plain bad idea to make a double album of tightly structured punk songs. The result is wildly uneven and makes for a hair-tearing denunciation, as I am forced to rip on an album that contains songs on the order of “Vietnam”, “Corona”, “No Exchange”, “One Reporter’s Opinion”, “Storm In My House” and “Maybe Partying Will Help”. May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I fail to make clear how incredible parts of it are.

The first side, for instance, is the best by far. Thirteen pieces encompass uninterrupted rock brilliance: slamming, funky, speedy, complex in that tasty jazzy way, and above all fun. Driving music for the ages. Legend has it that guitarist D. Boon got to pick all the songs for this side, and it is abundantly clear that he had the best ear in the band (and he produced the only good “solo” track). Starts great, ends fantastically and rides high in the middle. If I were in charge of editing the album the entire side would stay.

Side Mike (after the bassist, of course) is more obstinately goofy, alternating between sort of interesting dissonant puzzles (“Toadies”, “God Bows to Math”), Creedence choogle (“The Big Foist”, “Michael Jackson”) and wordy quiet songs (“Retreat”, “Maybe Partying Will Help”). Mike gets a lot of credit for being the band’s lyricist and one of the best bassists in punk and probably in rock as well; I submit that he should have probably stayed there more often — he composed the majority of the second side by himself, pausing only to throw us Boon’s “Corona” as a tuneful bone. These are mostly good songs, but they are only sometimes as good as the first quarter of the record.

The third side begins with a free-improvisation piece that verily necessitates the invention of the term “avant-garbage”. I will not speak its name.

Its other songs are of generally high quality, and only the first unmentionable track is less than awesome. In conclusion, George Hurley is the only Minuteman who should never be allowed to say “guys, I have an idea” during rehearsal. (just kidding, he’s probably a very nice man in person)

Side four is where they just threw a bunch of unwanted songs that had to fill out the album. Apparently they didn’t know that you can have three-sided double-record sets. Some of these are very good, like “Storm In My House” and “Little Man With a Gun In His Hand” and the covers; most of the others are pretty negligible. Still kind of fun, I guess.

If I were to edit the album I would trim it down to one disc, with the following track listing. These numbers refer to the original running order.

1-14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, 31-35, 37, 39, 41-43

Time: 57:25

Longer records have been put onto one disc before. These tracks would comprise perhaps the single best punk album ever pressed, and the lesser cost of manufacturing one disc per album might induce the group to make more of them. Call it “Single Nickels” or something clever and people will eat it up. We should only be so lucky that the Minutemen are around in the first place to give us such a fine album to work with.

I submit a challenge thus to you, the readership: create your own tracklisting, with or without all the songs, that would turn Double Nickels on the Dime into the greatest single record of all time. Leave it in the comments and I’ll select a winner.

“Trompe Le Monde” by the Pixies – Review

Trompe Le Monde.jpg

Honestly, I did not like this one much at first. The thin sound and crushing treble (especially in the first half) were really off-putting, and I could remember little to nothing of the songs themselves except for that stupid “Jefrey with one f” phrase from “(I Believe In) Space” (which I could never identify, of course). I put it away after one or two absorptions.

Of course, in the spirit of Trout Mask Replica I willed myself to try it again. And again. And somehow a riff or two finally landed and I began to enjoy “Alec Eiffel” and “Distance Equals Rate Times Time”, listening more and more to the album in consequence, and finally embracing the thing and loving most every song it contained.

As Mark Prindle has pointed out, the CD really doesn’t have any bad tracks; aside from the Jesus and Mary Chain cover (I really dislike that major-key pop-punk stuff anyway) and “The Navajo Know”, it also lacks middling ones too. All these songs are memorable and tuneful, chief among them “Letter to Memphis”, and they exude a variety of moods and colors. While I’m not a big fan of their first three albums, Trompe Le Monde is certainly a very good record, and I do not hesitate to recommend it to you.

P.S. It’s also Edgar “Hot Fuzz” Wright’s favorite Pixies album.

“Heartwork” by Carcass – Review

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Heartwork is superb in almost every respect: the band hammers out brutally speedy, complex rhythms in a fashion that would confound a Celtic Frost or a Slayer, the production is dry and emphasizes the massive virtuosity of the guitarists and drummer, and most of the compositions (it’s hard to call them “songs”) range from enjoyable to transcendent. Certainly there are some forgettable go-nowhere tracks (“Doctrinal Expletives” and “This Mortal Coil” offend the most) but that’s honestly a constant throughout metal’s history, a truism as old as the throwaways of Black Sabbath and King Crimson. Only a puritanical scrooge (or Bob Christgau) could find nothing of redeeming value here.

The best songs are so great, in fact, that they basically carry the album. Some are fascinatingly ugly, like “Carnal Forge”, or at least very interesting like “Arbeit Macht Fleisch” and “Buried Dreams”; “Blind Bleeding the Blind”, “Rot N’ Roll” and “No Love Lost” are pretty dang great; and we cannot forget The Holy Trinity. “Death Certificate”, “Heartwork” and “This Is Your Life” absolutely MAKE this recording — without these three tracks Heartwork is a slightly-above-average death metal album, a trifle with a couple of interesting riffs. The first pounds magnificently with a few slow sections; the second is the summative statement of the entire album, with its beautiful themes and flawless structure. And the last, one of the few pieces on the album that could be called a melodic song, must be heard to be believed. I have no fucking idea why they left it off the first release.

(I advise purchasing the “Full Dynamic Range” edition available from the band itself on Bandcamp.com. It eschews a lot of the compression that makes other metal albums such a chore to listen to, especially for 55 minutes at a time. The bonus live tracks can be safely ignored.)