There’s something rather pleasing about using numbers as something other than passing the time or showing how much there is of something. Tomorrow’s 11/11 is a good example of this as it is with its symmetry and a date that avoids transatlantic confusion, but throw the year into the mix and add the all the digits from 11/11/2014 together and you end up with another eleven. Which is nice. So what better date to usher in the release of a new solo record from one of rock music’s busiest men Alain Johannes (he of Eleven, naturally)?
Usually, and certainly of late, I find it a struggle to find that elusive interesting “in” to a record, that unique moment that allows me to begin a train of thought to wherever. The most difficult thing for me with this particular one is that it was all to easy to do and I remain unsure about if I want to go down that track. But here I am and there I go, and as nobody reads this anymore anyway I can relax a bit more and head off to wherever this is going to take me. It’s that sort of an album, and a fitting end to this brief jaunt around Pennsylvania’s gritty musical output.
It’s rare that I do posts of a personal nature these days. Partly because I’ve become a little bit more guarded over the past couple of years anyway due to this & that, but I suppose it’s mostly because I’ve been so busy trying to listen to so much new stuff that I’ve not been looking backwards so often anymore. Which is probably why it came as a genuine shock to me when I read a message from a friend of mine today stating that this record is ten years old today. Conversations that have sprung from this revelation have seemed to have the same effect on several other of my friends today, and then the floodgates opened – a whole decade of memories, communities and even enmities all springing from the collective coming-together over one record. Happy Birthday, Bubblegum.
I have no idea if it was a collective act or sheer coincidence, but somewhere along the line a switch was closed and we all became earnest, miserable sods. Or at the very least I did and presumed that everyone else did too. Thankfully, we have Sweet Apple here to decide that not only is it perfectly OK to be fun and bright and occasionally silly, but it’s also possible to look over one’s shoulder at the past and mark all the colourful spots without getting all maudlin about it. And of course it’s even better to do so when you get to include Mike Watt in a canoe.
I suspect that I may well be the only person who does this, but there you go. After waiting with bated breath from the moment it was announced to the day that it finally arrived on my doorstep, I then went and left the new Afghan Whigs album to one side for a day. Unplayed. Then again, it’s been over a decade and a half. Another 24 hours spent tantalisingly within touching distance just adds to the anticipation.
But now it’s here, and after a quick read – because this vinyl edition sees the return of something among the grooves that I thought this wax renaissance had forgotten about – it’s spinning. And it was worth every second, day and year of the wait.
More surprises ahoy, this time on the recommendation of a member of a forum I do very little work on (Spin The Blackest Circles), and instead of providing a calming influence on proceedings as with the previous two records, this one doesn’t half set off the fireworks. Italian combo Calibro 35 are a new one on me, but far from thinking “oh bugger, late to the party again”, I’m faced with a whole new pile of largely uptempo lunacy to play with, and that can only be a good thing. And as introductions go, this is as fine a welcome to a new band as it’s possible to get.
Something that any artist or band strives for is that “thing” that, when you hear it, you know that it’s them. It may be a unique vocal or choice of instruments, it could be something as superficially simple as subject matter of the style of artwork that adorns each release. With Blitzen Trapper, it’s slightly different – it’s the way that their songs walk. There’s something in the phrasing of each of their songs that has a footfall that, whatever else may be going on, sounds just like Blitzen Trapper.
I’m also happy to report that the lovely white vinyl of this, the band’s 7th album, remains unblemished by yours truly which is more than can be said for a record that arrived the previous week. It certainly helps to pay attention when slitting open cellophane shrinkwrapping from a foot-wide piece of sharp cardboard with one’s thumbnail, as my own digit – even a whole week later – still resembles an axolotl with a bemused expression thanks to the mother of all cardboard cuts…
Queens Of The Stone Age have always had a strange effect on me, I must admit. Play me pretty much any song of theirs and I’ll happily enthuse about whatever’s playing and possibly bore you with the details of who’s on any given one. Sit me down in front of any of their previous five albums in full however, and I’ll get a bit distant and twitchy.
Do I have any idea why this is the case? Not especially, no. I used to say that I could honestly either take or leave QotSA, but it’s something a bit stranger than that I think; more like “this is great, but I really need to be somewhere else, thanks”, going away for a bit, rinse and repeat. On the plus side, it’s a system that works for me.
This new one is different. On so many levels it’s different. The main difference here being that I’m more than happy to, nay – demand to – listen ardently from start to finish.
It’s a strange thing, scribbling about music. Translating sound into words in the hope that the person at the other end can vaguely translate it back again in their own minds is akin to typing out a recipe in one language, babelfishing it into another, and then getting someone to translate it back again with a different web-based translation tool and hoping that they don’t poison themselves or their entire family with the resulting culinary creation. And I’m sure that the people who make perfume adverts know exactly what’s going on when they come up with visual campaigns that essentially try to sell an indescribable smell; it’s just that by the time it gets to us mere consumers, it’s all a bit weird and arty.
Anyway. The reason for that mad preamble is that this record is something that I am in no small way struggling to describe. I could cheat and read the reviews of others who do know what they’re talking about, or I could plough on regardless and see what happens. Could be fun.
And now, back to where I was. Which is furiously catching up with things from the past two weeks before things from the next two weeks swamp me completely. Fortunately, a couple of these treats arrived in the form of pre-release/pre-order downloads that mean that instead of being two weeks late with this (and hopefully the next one too), I’m actually a day early. And, even more fortunately, I was in a strange turn of mood when I first heard this new record from Canadian band The Besnard Lakes which involved me actually taking down notes – something that I don’t usually do, and also something that came out a bit strange as first-listens are wont to do occasionally, and it’s a nice surprise to look back and discover that my views now after so many listens are undimmed from that first playthough.