Barrett Martin has the right idea about things. At a time where reissues are parked out like clockwork every five years, selling the same thing to the same people over and over again, he seems to prefer the more honest and altogether fun approach by picking up a box of tapes, soaking up the memories that they bring back, and then letting the rest of us share in his reminiscence. Following on from 2011’s reissue of previously unissued Screaming Trees recordings comes this expansive and emotionally-tempered re-release of one of Seattle’s stranger supergroups.
In this era of technological marvel, it’s quite sad to see that nobody’s really wowed by anything any more other than a new phone arriving (or, even more blandly, a new operating system for a phone). We have just put a robot on the surface of another planet *again*, and nobody blinks. The man whose first steps on the Moon (the Moon!)’s recent passing was all-too-briefly noted by most, before returning to celeb gossip. To be honest, the only thing that would raise an eyebrow nowadays would be if the chocolate pudding wasn’t drugged…
So with that in mind, it’s nice to see that the spirit of looking beyond the currently explainable or achievable is kept alive in some quarters. Enter Van Conner, interested Cryptozooloist and Astrophilosopher, and his band VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System, according to Philip K Dick) who continue to look at the world – and beyond – with an intention to find the wonder, strangeness and general otherness when most of the rest of the population are looking increasingly inwards.
After a week where I did two live reviews (the Afghan Whigs in London and Mark Lanegan in Wolverhampton), I’m reminded just how much a pain it is to review live shows. Records are easy by comparison, because they can be written about while comfortably experiencing them and trying to locate the feel of something, and if you don’t quite grasp it the first time, then you can go back and re-examine certain hooks and tracks. Live, it’s a one-hit affair where feel is absolutely everything that makes that show what it is, and sometimes it’s a race to get home afterwards to capture that before it dissipates and all that you’re left with to type about is a setlist and a recollection of whether the venue’s sound was good or not. It also doesn’t help when my short-term memory frazzles sometimes. This last sentence also acting as a subtle way of apologising to my friend Alison for a certain non-remembering of a thing last week.
The 70-mile drive back home from Wolverhampton on Wednesday did mean that my initial review of that gig was fuzzy and perfunctory, especially compared to (and perhaps also because of) the Whigs show a few days earlier where I have to admit to still buzzing about a week later. Thankfully, a couple of things came back to me later on and a post that had been bugging me for a couple of days for being crap has been altered, amended and added to so now it’s crap and longer, albeit hopefully a bit more representative of the uniqueness of that evening.
Not to worry though, as the first version was (strangely, given the subject’s historically decent read figures) so barely read that nobody would have noticed all the extra words anyway. Ah well, it cheered me up anyway.
Two weeks of awfulness over, now it’s back to mere drudgery. And now I have a bit of time to myself, I’ve got a small pile to navigate that will start getting bigger after tomorrow plus I’m going to force myself to do the thing I keep saying that I’m going to do and delve back into the 80s and 90s once more to bring back a “From The Past” section that is getting too close for comfort to requiring the services of a professional necromancer.
And I’ll also take this opportunity to once more mention the startling debut from Keaton Henson that I made time to mention last week – an incredible record, and a post about it that sadly (and, slightly ironically given the subject’s own reticence) went largely unread…
Anyways, on with what’s been keeping me awake this week. And as a bit of a treat to Spotify types who follow either my Facebook or Twitter doingses and get the playlists that accompany these Whatevers, someone’s finally pointed out to this technological halfwit that the songs on my list that are in grey can’t be seen by people who aren’t me. So I’ve picked a whole list of things that can actually be heard for a change.
And yes, I forgot to post this yesterday.
If I had allowed pure sentiment to run the rule over this Top 50, this would be Number 1 for the sheer amount of memories I have accrued whilst listening to this band. In the spirit of fairness however (I know, that I have one of those came as a surprise to me as well) I’ve had to put it purely in the contextual vacuum of this year alone, and so here it happily sits. It’s something that I will mention a bit later on in the week, but something that became apparent to me very early on when putting this list together is that the number of plays a record gets does not necessarily push it to the top; the criteria is far more complicated and involved than just that. Or I might just be saying that to disguise the fact that I’m making this up as I go along.
So, how far have I got with my End of Year listings then? This is a very easy thing to quantify, as I have done the square root of the sum total of bugger all. I’ve got a new phone though, so it all works out well in the end or something.
Sitewise, it’s been a bit busy and with some nice surprises (although I’m staying tight-lipped on that for a bit), and I may as well use this end-week preamble to mention something that’s been of a slight issue since shortly after starting this blog…
I won’t go into my reasons for starting this up (as they’re a bit odd and not really that cheerful), but it’s not unfair to say that the course has changed. Essentially, I wanted to put things in some sort of order by way of using what I was listening to and using certain bands and albums as marker posts. Or, as it was so well-put in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, organising my record collection in autobiographical order. I am not a particularly open person when it comes to talking about myself, so getting things out in the open via the semi-cryptic method of reviewing old LPs seemed like a good idea at the time.
When it became apparent that people actually read it, that affected this plan a fair bit. Also, I had rediscovered my appetite for listening to new stuff and broadening my musical pallette, so it wasn’t that hard to change tack a bit. It also made it easier in a way to dig out older records with harder memories attached to them so that I could confront old bitterness and bury it amongst more cheerful things. I suspect that this may not be the best way to go about things, but there you go.
Stranger still for me is that a fair amount of what I have done amongst these postings has ended up appearing on the concerned artists’ websites and various social media feeds. While this is good for the ego (because it is a genuine thrill when this happens and I’m certainly not complaining about it!), it is nonetheless a very odd state of affairs, as it then becomes a tad difficult to write without occasionally wondering if this next one will be read and it’s tricky then to carry on without unconsciously tapping out something that is deliberately intended to go “look at me!” – fortunately, I think that I have spotted when I have started to do this, and have gone for a long walk before deleting what I’d begun and then begun again. And in any case, it’s almost always the silly ones that get reprinted.
- Put record on
- Stop when record finishes
- Check spelling (not necessarily in 100% of cases)
- Check sense made (this one might actually be a massive lie)
It’s a system that has served me fairly well for a year and a half, and I’m not sure if I can do it any other way (especially the Wine bit, I insist upon that), as if I’m not listening to something then it’s hard to put into words what I feel about it. Short records mean either lots of repetition (which can wear down the appeal of them) or very fast typing (which is a bit of a strain on both fingers). Nevertheless, I’m always willing to have a go, albeit under the guise of a very long preamble to get the wordcount up before I actually start…
Oh, the fun I’ve had growing up and having times both great and awful whilst this band played in the background. The Screaming Trees are almost certainly my favourite band, something that is unlikely to alter given their position as (occasionally slightly odd) incidental soundtrack to my (again, occasionally odd) young adulthood.
I almost saw them once, except (people who know me may want to tune out now, you’ve heard this many times before!) that the Alice in Chains show that they were supposed to have been the support act for became half an hour of disappointment while some people who may or may not have been the Wildhearts pranced about in their unannounced stead. Still, never mind.
So it was with some excitement that I clockwatched last night, waiting for yesterday to turn into today (ooh, handy metaphor!) so that I could buy and listen to this new collection of old and unreleased songs from the band’s final recording days. Having barely slept for the past fortnight or so anyway meant that I would probably have been awake regardless of this, but it’s nice to have an excuse…
One of the most rubbish things about compact discs is their frankly boring anonymity. With records, they could come in a multitude of colours, shapes and styles to brighten up any turntable. With CDs, it’s a uniform silver where any artwork to separate it from the herd is buries within the apparatus of the CD player itself. Where’s the fun in that? There was a spate of shaped CDs in the early ’90s, but the accompanying warnings that such discs could destroy your equipment soon put paid to that as something that anyone would actually want.
So it comes across as somewhat cheeky that this 1994 Imaginary Records compilation proudly sells itself as coming on a Picture CD, even if the picture in question – a Warholesque rendition of tragic Carry On! star Kenneth Williams – is a bit of a corker.
Due to an unnaturally short attention span this weekend, I thought it might be an idea to just go through whatever I’ve been listening to this week and pick out five random tracks I’ve especially liked for no reason other than it might kill a bit of time before Match of the Day 2 starts: (more…)