Hey, I know I haven’t posted in the last week, been *busy* but I’m gonna just get a bunch of posts ready during the weekend or whatever now and they’ll drop throughout the week, so don’t abandon the site! Anyfart – I enjoyed this song from Liverpool’s The Bordellos, not only because it’s a deece song, but also because as a Canadian in Israel I’ve been getting flack about the Beebs.
Ok, so Pitchfork gave this album an 8.5 and Best New Music. Both totally deserved. In the review they said that the album “clarifies that Before Today was not a sign of things to come but rather just a signpost along his unknowable path,” and this is also totally true. It reaffirms what most of us already knew – Before Today was, indeed, the cleaned up Ariel Pink-for-normal-people album meant to introduce a wider audience to Pink’s often less-than-accesible music. That being said, it did make a fine album. But Mature Themes manages to retain a lot of its predecessor’s accessibility while at the same time being a lot more interesting and working more in the vein of his earlier, more erratic/eclectic albums.
When people talk about Ariel Pink, something along the lines of ‘re-imagining retro sounds’ comes up. This is less applicable to Mature Themes than some of his other work. No doubt the album does have its share of retro-mania. This time around though it’s not the smooth AM pop of the 70’s/80’s but the sounds of San Francisco circa 1968 that get the nod, with “Incense And Peppermints”-esque organ on “Kinski Assassin”, Byrds-y jangling guitars on “Only In My Dreams”, and We’re Only In It For The Money-esque breaks throughout. But Pink has warped classic sounds and styles so radically, and added so many others into his incongruous mix, that one can reasonably say he’s managed to transcend the retro tags here.
He’s also a lot funnier. The whole album runs with an absurdist streak, but the shtick works best on “Symphony Of The Nymph”, which manages to be a really awesome song musically and production-wise, and the lyrics are *actually* hilarious. “I don’t want to burn any bridges/But I can’t get enough of those bitches/I’m just a rock and roller from Beverley Hills/My name is Ariel, and I’m a nymph.” Pink actually pulls these lyrics off. It’s easily my favourite song on the album, and not cuz it’s funny or a joke, but actually cuz it’s an awesome song and it’s title may or may not be a play on the Castlevania game Symphony Of The Night.
Admittedly the album is not consistently as great as its best songs and it ends with an identical cover of the boring-but-fashionable-right-now Donnie & Joe Emerson song “Baby”, but it’s (almost) never less than good, and seriously, always interesting. Compositionally, Pink is also doing a lot of interesting things – I’m starting to understand a bit more why John Maus is a big fan of his songwriting.
One of my favourite songwriters, AC Newman, best known as the frontman of the New Pornographers (perhaps you’ve heard of them…) has a new solo album on the horizon. While I wasn’t too crazy about his last, Get Guilty – which was a fine effort, but lacked chutzpa and staying power – his first, The Slow Wonder, was something of a minor masterpiece, so much so that it made the #9 spot on my Top 50 Canadian Albums Of The Decade list. The next entry is called Shut Down The Streets and drops sometime this fall. Annnnd there’s a first track out for all of us to talk about called “I’m Not Talking.
Well, if you’re not, I guess I’ll start. This a bit of a more grounded sound for Newman – one might even go so far as to say that it’s almost got a folksy vibe to it, but it’s hard to make that argument with all the synths and stuff going on in the song. But it definitely has that impressive, mature weightiness that Newman’s given the last two New Pornos albums (for better or worse). Except that it’s even more weighty – the vocals are very front and center and the whole thing is grounded with an acoustic guitar, borderline like he’s going for the adult-contemporary singer/songwriter indie niche (you know, like Sharon Van Etten). But it’s still as wonderfully melodic as Newman always is, and it’s got a good dose of the musical colour he typically employs. All in all, a great song and a good harbinger of sounds to come.
If you’re like me and grew up with the first two Strokes albums but weren’t so crazy about the last two, then you’re gonna want to try this out. I made this a long time ago, but decided that it’s worth sharing recently, after listening to it quite a bit.
First Impressions Of Earth, when it came out, was kind of disappointing album – but it was a Strokes album. Why the hell would they keep “On The Other Side” on there when the album was already considerably longer than the last two? I really don’t know. But hey, it also had a lot of great songs, like “You Only Live Once” and “Razorblade”. Those were seriously, seriously killer songs.
And now: Angles. Angles is the worst of all The Strokes‘ albums. True, it also has some good songs, especially “Under Cover Of Darkness” which is a stone-cold classic that ranks with their best stuff, but the rest of the album: it’s just not The Strokes. I’m sorry guys, but The Strokes is Julian Casablancas and a kick-ass band of musicians behind him. I know all you other Strokes got egos now cuz you released some solo albums of your own and some people wrote some nice things about them (unless you’re Nikolai Fraiture, in which case nobody wrote anything nice about your album), but you really shouldn’t have tried to make The Strokes a group writing project. That’s exactly how you messed it up and made Angles totally devoid of the Casablancas-ian character that made you guys stars in the first place. Sometimes you gotta suck stuff up and face the facts.
On the other hand, there’s Phrazes For The Young, Casablancas’ solo album. This album reflected the best and worst traits of Casablancas, his genius and his apathy or laziness. When this album is great, man is it great. Songs like “11th Dimension” and “Out Of The Blue” honestly make one wonder if Casablancas really needs The Strokes at all. And then there are songs like “Ludlow Street” which are borderline insulting to listen to, and even more so considering that there were better songs like “30 Minute Boyfriend” left off the album.
I read somewhere that Casablancas originally brought some of the songs off Phrazes For The Young to The Strokes as potential tracks for their next album, but the band rejected them. Let’s pretend that in some alternate dimension the rest of the band didn’t let their egos get snorted up their noses and they actually accepted Casablancas’ songs and used them instead of the stuff that came out.
I present to you the results of the alternate past I have created…
Angles For The Young! True, it’s more of a Frankenstein than a masterpiece, but at least it’s a Casablancas-ian Frankenstein, and thus much more interesting to listen to than either of the albums we ultimately received.
1. Under Cover Of Darkness
2. Two Kinds Of Happiness
3. River Of Brakelights
4. 11th Dimension
5. Left & Right In The Dark
6. 30 Minute Boyfriend
9. Out Of The Blue
Now, in order to not get sued or whatever, I’m not compiling this for you – you probably already have both albums in your iTunes if you’re reading this. Change the album title on all the songs listed above to “Angles For The Young” and just reorder the tracks and press play.