Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Audio meme

Via Fangrrrl [best wishes for the move to US] a song-meme:

"List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to."

It's moving into Winter here at present, which might be influencing some of the songs resonating below.

1 Laughing Clowns: Theme from Mad flies, Mad Flies

Laughing Clowns arose from the ashes of The Saints who were always, it's reported, pissed off that their antipodean providence had punters mistaking them for followers rather than timely co-creators in the punk take-off of 1976. While Chris Bailey, in the words of Simon Reynolds from blissblog, had one of the best fucked-up and fucked-off rock voices, guitarist Ed Keupper had a way with direct riffs and sonic snarls that suited the band in its early incarnation. The instrumental trajectory of the Saints sets up the direction that Kuepper's post- saints outfit, The Laughing Clowns, moved into: a sort of jazz-punk fusion that Iggy Pop might have dreamt of.

The loss of Bailey's voice and persona is noticable in this recording, but, I think, more than compensated for by the stunning drumming of Jeffrey Wegener.

Who cares what Kuepper is singing-slurring here - it's the other instruments that carry a sense of being on the edge of something driving and, dare I say it for post-punk like this, fun. The sharp horn riffs catch, and the driving double-bass figure that introduces the piece still sounds crisp, woody and dynamic. Kuepper's guitar opens rather than clouds passages here, moving from single-note rhythms to expansive slashes. But it's Wegener's drums that made the Clowns: here his brushes seem to be tap-dancing on the snare.

This tune's got songcraft with a coda snapping the conclusion to attention. A song, for me at the time, about the possibilities of rock's dialogues with the dirtier side of jazz-based rhythms.

[Link here - audio only]

2 Portishead: Strangers

I was a fairly late-comer to Portishead and to the sort of chemical epiphanies that might have made their appeal more immediately apparent. Beth Gibbons does the job, but it's the reverbating spaces in the arrangement and the way that the breezy cocktail bar guitar-vocal duet gets almost seamlessly pummelled by heavy drums and digital squawk, that I'm fond of at the moment. Great dynamics.

Live version from 1998 @ NYC with orchestra- Youtube

3 Low and Dirty Three: Down by the River (2001)

An old Neil Young song that Low of Duluth (Dylan's hometown) teamed up with Melbourne trio Dirty Three to cover. We 'eternally loaned' the CD this is from to a friend before moving interstate, but the pace and pathos of this version came to me while at the local hall's piano the other day. A fairly simple song to play that has a seductive lift out of the verse into the chorus.
I find the lyric contradictory - it seems to be a song about romantic loyalty and murder: directed at the same lover.

While Young's version is a stomped and bludgeoning guitar workout the Low/Dirty 3 version is melancholic and shimmering. Warren Ellis' violin hovers over the slow introduction like a fine rain-shower. Jim White's drums, like Jeff Wegener's from the Clowns, shuffle-dance and Mick Turner dobs and brush-strokes his guitar. Mimi Parker's singing is suitably mournful with a hint of something keening at the edge of her voice.

Youtube here - a truncated version, unfortunately.

4 Curve -Fait Accompli

Great pop song! Hooks, melody, driving-phased bass and guitars that screech. Gothic-britpop. "Hear me now - Fate!" I find it spine-tingling this tune.

Youtube here

5 Lou Reed: Satellite of Love

Another fun song that uses voices really well - almost a doo-wop tune. It took me a long time to recognise Reed's gift with melody but here's a perfect example of melodic movement, married to his lyrical talents. Great finish, with Bowie chiming in on high.

U-tubing original

6 Elvis Costello: Sleepness Nights

A lament that was often on my lips when I picked up the guitar during the last year, and after, for our dog Jessie.

It has an exquisite chord-melody-lyric structure written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant and was brought to prominence by Gram Parsons. I first heard Elvis' version on the Parsons tribute LP 'Return of the Greivous Angel' and have never been able to decipher the chord progression well enough to play the whole song. Even the introduction theme is haunting and the middle-eight is gorgeous.

Can't find Elvis C's version but here's Gram with EmmyLou Harris on U-tube

Lastly and the closest to Spring-feeling:

7 Lullaby in Birdland (George Shearing)

My partner was singing this tune while drying her hair the other day. Swingin' she was! Couldn't stop humming it.

Here's Ella Fitzgerald on Youtube.

The meme is offered on to Flopeared Mule, Decomposing Trees, s0metim3s, Homecooked Theory, Darkness at noon, blah-feme, and a reminder.

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