Thursday, June 23, 2005

O/PP (You know me!)

Outkast- Stankonia

File sharing, internet, the demise of radio, blah blah blah. You’ve heard the arguments, thrown tomatoes at members of Metallica, all that cool shit, right? The fact of the matter is that as important as the ‘net has been in the circulation of music, it’s still the established mediums, TV and radio, that break bands.

What about criticism? Good question. I’d say that reading reviews sometimes makes me buy records, but it sure as hell doesn’t make me listen to ‘em. There have been so many times when I’ve read a review of the new _________ record and have been compelled to go out and pick it up, only to listen to it like three times before filing it away.

So take ‘Stankonia.’ When the record was released, there was all this hype about it (and remember that this is the record that came out before ‘Hey Ya,’ a song that everyone loves because it’s fucking awesome). My relatives gave me some money for Christmas one year, so I totally impulse bought it based on all these articles I read. After the requisite three listens (which were probably actually half-listens because the fucking record is so long- we’re talking above and beyond my standard complaint about record length here) I filed it away, goddamn right, and forgot about it.

But the thing is that when I busted the record out for alphabetical review, there were a few songs that I not only knew but thought were really good- ‘So Fresh So Clean’ and ‘Ms. Jackson’. Songs that seeped into my head because they’ve become staples on the radio. I don’t spend a lot of time actively listening to the radio, by any means, but the shit is just on sometimes and the songs just sorta creep in there. All of the criticism in the world isn’t going to make me stop what I’m doing when I’m totally in the weeds and all of my tables want like ten things RIGHT NOW. Neither will the internet. But the right song can do that, and Outkast has a knack for writing the right song.

Gram Parsons- GP/Greivous Angel

I love both music and its history. Every now and again there will be a little ripple in the pool, not big enough to be considered a trend or revival, which will make me seek out some band or sub-genre (a good example being the month where I thought it would be cool to buy three Krautrock records. I checked ‘em out, thought that they were okay, then went right back to mail ordering Jandek discs and tracking down bands composed of ex-members of _________ who I saw one time ten years ago at the Elvis Room/Space/student union/whatever). Gram Parsons blipped enough times on my radar screen so finally I went out and bought his touted, seminal album. I wonder how much of the praise for this slab- which is a country record, no other way to say it- is due to Mr. Parson’s untimely demise. He and Nick Drake are probably laughing their asses off in heaven.

Pavement- Slanted And Enchanted Luxe And Redux

Carbone and I would drive around in his booger-green sedan, looking for curbs and ditches to skate, forgetting that we were in the Boston suburbs, not Dogtown. We’d take breaks and go over to the Burlington Newbury Comics. It was on one of those trips that I picked up ‘Slanted And Enchanted’- Spin had namechecked the Minutemen in their gushing Pavement review. Good enough for me.

One of those times when I heard a record and was like ‘everything changed.’

I listened to that tape nonstop- on the way back from the post-prom party in Terry G’s grandpa’s BMW, at camp, in the hospital. In college (again, I wore the Pavement shirt to my first day of UNH, hoping that I would find the rest of the cool kids). When the deluxe edition came out a few years back, I happily plunked down twenty bucks, even though I rail against reissues. This one is a gem- gorgeous packaging and notes, to say nothing of the music itself.

Sloppy, easy-sounding arrangements drenched in static and pop, a stoned ex-hippie drummer, lyrics that I assumed made sense in some alternate dimension, laconic poses and the wry humor of D. Boon. Then, ‘Watery, Domestic’ came out at the height of the indie clamor for more, a four-song EP that whetted the Pavement appetite like pouring gasoline on a fire. Better arrangements and less studio trickery, more focus than the sprawling ‘Slanted.’ Nobody could wait for the follow-up (which, sadly, was released at about the same time as ‘Dookie.’ Damn you, Green Day!)

I have everything that’s on ‘Luxe and Redux’ on some other format, every Peel Session and b-side and comp track- such was my voracious appetitie for a band that I considered to be the best in the world for at least six months. There’s a few duds, natch, over the course of two discs and 48 songs, but we’ll let ‘em slide. ‘Slanted’ and ‘Watery’ both remain essential, as do a bunch of the session tracks (‘So Stark (You’re a Skyscraper)’ is hilarious, f’r example). And the live stuff! By 1992, Bob Nastanovich had undergone a startling transformation- he went from being Pavement’s second drummer to Pavement’s Flavor Flav, totally goin’ off in the middle of the stage, the court jester to Malkmus’s bubble-of-irony ice king, Spiral Stairs’s blue-collar popsmith.

MIX TAPE: In The Mouth A Desert, Shoot The Singer

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