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  Daav's Pocket Reviews Vol. 1

Daav's Pocket Reviews Vol. 1

A brief explanation: Dave Piel (Daav to his friends) is a St. Louisian who has spent a lifetime listening to music without spending a lifetime immersed in the culture of it, if that makes any sense. His viewpoints are fresh and intelligent, even if sometimes surprising to people who have heard some of these records many times in years past. We’ll be running Daav’s Pocket Reviews periodically, starting with this batch culled from a bunch of e-mails over the last year. Occasional references to VV’s Steve Pick and other names of recipients crop up, but for the most part, you’ll find a lot of really well written record reviews.

Pavement "Slanted and Enchanted"

While Sonic Youth was jamming with the Electric Prunes, Robert Fripp dropped by and showed them how to play the solo from 'Baby's On Fire.' Singer sounds like he's slept with the Velvet Underground's third album under his pillow every night for the last thirty years. I thought I was going to hate this when I saw the trendy "ugly" cover art but I like it. Catchy racket.

James Carter (everything)

I find it impossible to compare this artist to anyone of lesser stature than Sonny Rollins. His tone is huge and inimitable. Like Rollins he makes everything he touches with his horn his own.Ellington, reggae, be-bop, pop, his own masterful originals...hell, I even love his fusion album, which his admirers accept with grudging tolerance. I had a brief acquaintance with Carter years back but never took the trouble to explore further. Wow!  Was I missing something!

Autechre "ep7" and "Confield"

And I thought Radiohead's "Kid A / Amnesiac duo was rock 'n' roll Stockhausen. Love it or hate it, this is the real deal. I've heard two Autechre cds (how does one pronounce that name anyway?) ep7 (loved it) and  Confield (hated it). The first truly different sound I've heard in a long, long time. I've heard other electronica by now but ep7's short on the hip - hop dance beats and long on the experimentation I first heard.

Mercury Rev "Deserter's Songs"

Wimp-rock from the late nineties. The first time I listened to this I thought "Oh,brother!" The songs, though, proved impossible to shake off. Sort of a cross between Spandau Ballet (see what I mean about wimp-rock?) and "Music From Big Pink." I still can't figure out if the disc is more "sophisticated" or "rustic". I'll keep listening though on the off-chance that the electric guitar's place of prominence in rock 'n' roll  is supplanted by the musical saw. Considering some of the odd-ball instrumentation I hear on Elephant 6 releases anything's possible.

Nektar "A Tab In The Ocean"

With the possible exception of "Wish You Were Here" the best Pink Floyd album since the soundtrack to the film "More" (You guys know I'm a sucker for early Floyd, hate the later poppy crap). Much more crunchy and engaging than the pieceashit "Remember The Future" which was like KSHE's album of the year the year we graduated high school or thereabouts.

Bjork "Vespertine"

Bjack to Bjork. I know what you mean Steve P. when you say " great arrangements, not so great vocals." I'll respectfully reserve judgement for the time being and enjoy the great arrangements and settings. After Bob Dylan, Eno, Russell Mael, David Byrne, David Thomas et al. I always wait awhile before I judge rock vocalists. I mean, the first time I heard the Sex Pistols, I thought Johnny Rotten sounded like Screwy Squirrel.

Badly Drawn Boy "The Hour Of Bewilderbeast"(sic)

I'll reserve judgement on this one, too.I ordered "The Soft Bulletin" by the Flaming Lips and this was inside the jewel case instead. After straightening the mistake with the library I found out via the internet that this interestingly titled cd had won Great Britain's coveted Mercury Award (what's a Mercury Award?) Like Mercury Rev (lotsa Mercuries today,huh?) the songs, after I overcame suspected wimpoid tendencies therein, started to ingratiate themselves so I'll wait and see. I catch a whiff of Donovan underneath it all especially on one cut (not necessarily a bad thing). The cd's actual jewel case cover ( which I saw on the 'net) is vaguely blasphemous but it may simply be... well...Badly Drawn.

Guided By Voices "Under The Bushes, Under The Stars"

Every cut on this disc has a catchy riff.  But, of course, so did every Herman's Hermit's album. Guided By Voices apparently has a pretty vast discography so I don't know what to compare this to but Robert Pollard must be some kind of rock 'n' roll Schubert to have this much melody welling out of him non-stop at all times of day and night. A gazillion albums with a gazillion cuts on each one. Anyone out there have a particular favorite album or song by this artist? My pick on this one is "Cut-Out Witch"

Olivia Tremor Control "Dusk At Cubist Castle"

The best I've heard from anyone having anything to do with the Elephant 6 Collective so far. I've ordered "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel so we'll see. For the time being this has been my favorite pop album in a while. Beatlesque, psychedelic, trippy, weird, tuneful but best of all, musical. If I read my info right these lads are from Louisiana yet. Go figure. I'm still trying to get into the follow-up "Black Foliage" but it's taking a little more effort, "Cubist Castle" took none.

Spring Heel Jack "68 Million Shades..."

Now I know what Steve P. was talking about vis-a-vis my review of Autechre's "ep7". I had been impressed by it's truly different electronic aesthetic. This is far, far more conventional. Percussive sounds overlaid with "cool" electronic beeps and farts. By the forth or fifth cut I was ready to go to the maintenance shop and beg the building mechanic to cut off my head with his band saw. If this is the sort of "ambient" music you've been regularly exposed to, Steve, my heart goes out to you, you poor man.

My Bloody Valentine "Loveless"

Well now, I'm not yet sure what to make of this. It came with extremely high recommendations but mostly it sounds like Jimmy Page recording "Physical Graffiti" backwards after accidentally catching his tremolo bar on his fly and unable to shake it loose while Kate Pierson mumbles through a ring modulator. But music with this level of monkeying around with sound deserves at least a few listens before a final determination can be made. Oh well, it's catchier than "Metal Machine Music" even if the sound is fuzzier than Juan's new kittens.

Marvin Gaye "The Master 1961-1984"

Of all the multi-LP anthologies Motown released in the seventies I always thought Marvin's was the best (least filler). This 4-cd boxed set probably triples the length of the earlier set and there still isn't much dross here. With a period of absolute peak creativity roughly contemporaneous with that of the Rolling Stones (1968-1972) it can be argued that he was the world's greatest male R&B artist during this period. JB's quantity was greater but he couldn't always maintain consistent quality. Sly's aesthetic was more revolutionary but not always as directly appealing. Stax and other Motown acts were just beginning to run low on inspiration. Naturally I've heard most of this material over the last 40 years but it sure was fun listening to it in one big 5 hour gulp without being the least bit bored.

Cat Power "What Would The Community Think"

What the community would think would probably be along the lines of "what is this young woman moaning and intoning and groaning about?"

New Order "Substance"

I know I'm way behind the times with these jokers but I can see why I didn't go to dance clubs over the last 25 years. After half the first disc of this 2-cd extravaganza I began to feel like someone was slamming a car door on my head with the same unrelenting beat for twenty minutes or so. The whole Joy Division evolving into New Order mythos never grabbed my imagination anyway. Seemed like Black Sabbath going disco or something.

King Crimson "Thrak"

This came out just at the time I was buying all my Crimson albums on cd in the mid-90s but I never bit at the time. I hadn't been a fan of their most recent incarnation - much preferring the mid-70s John Wetton edition. This is pretty much up my alley. It explores new ideas in the standard rock band format like "Red" did back in '75 but with an agreeable electronic and world-rhythm awareness that updates that album. I sure wish that they'd work a little harder on avoiding lyrics though.

Uncle Tupelo "Anodyne"

This album by a trio of locals (Belleville,IL) was a big seller when I worked at Streetside at the turn of the last decade. At the time I assumed "more Head East...big deal." I just finally got around to hearing this in its entirety a couple of weeks ago and was impressed by a muse that is  as informed by the Band and 'Workingman's Dead' as by recent (late 80s) developments in country and western music. the group wrote, sang and played as well as anyone working in this style. You may like this, country rock fans, if you're not already familiar with it.

Neutral Milk Hotel "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea"

Rock 'n' roll has had many lyrical conceits over the decades. One of the more fascinating is that of telling a fairly straightforward story and burying it in dreamlike imagery either to: 1) attempt to articulate feelings or ideas that are too intense, beautiful,painful etc. to communicate directly (Bob Dylan, Van Morrison) or 2) for  pure joy in the English language and the play of words to create images or jokes that we aren't blessed enough to experience in day to day existence (Sgt. Pepper, psychedelic music in general).  This album has both in spades.

It sounds as though Lewis Carroll stopped in the middle of 'Alice in Wonderland' and turned his pen to domestic abuse, World War II, Anne Frank, communism, religious faith (real and feigned),death and other serious concerns instead. The music; acoustic (occasional) electric guitars, accordions, brass bands, kitchen sink; manages to sound both somber and mocking simultaneously. The album's subject matter may seem depressing but you will be uplifted by the music's joyful creativity. Consider this a rave review!

Apples In Stereo "Fun Trick Noisemaker"

Everything's Archie at the Elephant 6 Recording Company!! I suspect that this is an ironic stance by the Apples but they sound like they enjoy updating 60s bubble gum pop to much to be simply screwing around. Simple childlike (or childish if one prefers) fun. We all need a little 1910 Fruitgum Company from time to time.

Built To Spill "Keep It Like A Secret"

These little reviews are, of course, simply for fun, discussion, and the opportunity to practice my lousy typing but I suppose I should listen to these discs a few times before I foist my opinions on you but this one grabbed me right off the bat. What I like about it is how the song's time signatures change from bar to bar and still remain catchy...not a real common thing in rock; in fact the two terms are usually mutually exclusive. That the music is not semiconsciously experimental and is like this is even rarer. 'You Were Right' casts aspersions on the sixties and seventies rock generation by using it's own lyrics against it. Funny. The closer 'Broken Chairs' fades out with a 'genuine, fake' Jorma Kaukonen wah-wah solo. Guess the sixties weren't all bad eh BTS?

Toad The Wet Sprocket "Dulcinea"

I almost bought this years ago after hearing "Falling Down" on the Point and didn't. Turns out maybe I should have. There are probably hundreds (thousands) of bands that do this sort of radio-friendly pop. I just happen to like the melodies and production of the Toad's more than most. If you want a standard pop album with more hooks than a bait and tackle shop why not pick up one from a group named after a Monty Python skit after all?

Aphrodite's Child "666"

I've waited thirty years to catch up with this album (thirty years because it wasn't exactly high on my priority list). Is this the last weirdo psychedelic concept album I'll ever hear? (Of course I haven't heard P.F. Sorrow yet). This disc had a definite cult following back in the day including people I knew pretty well. (You guys remember Joe "Chicken Man" Bullock?)

Don't be put off by the title. This isn't satanic (at least no more than rock 'n' roll is all the time anyway). It's "about" the Apocalypse of St. John but except for a few scriptural references nobody is going to mistake this for 'Jesus Christ Superstar' anyway. What it's really about mostly is how much stuff can you pour into a pop album and still come out alive at the end of the last cut? Let's see there's:

Chant, “poetry", power pop: "The Four Horsemen" blazing, hard rock guitar solos: "Battle Of The Locusts", "Do It" a curious mixture of rock and ethnic Greek music: "The Lamb", "The Marching Beast" the aforementioned scripture readings early, new age instrumentals that would do Eno proud: "Aegian Sea" jazz: "Tribulation" comedy novelty music: "The Beast" a genuine Yes -style 20 minute prog-rock opus: "All The Seats Were Occupied" and last but not least kiddies the notorious track no.21 (infinity symbol) which features Greek actress Irene Pappas screaming a la Yoko Ono as if she were being raped by the mountain troll from "The Lord Of The Rings"

Sorry no ragtime or Hawaiian slack-key guitar music, no bagpipes but you can't have everything (this comes close to having everything though)

Olivia Tremor Control Black Foliage : Animation Music Vol. 1

I still prefer 'Dusk at Cubist Castle' in which the psychedelia was more aggressive; more 'I Am The Walrus'. this is more 'Strawberry Fields'. 'Dusk' strikes me as more brilliant but this is perhaps more consistent. Fans of this band (like me ) spend time debating which of the two albums is better but I wouldn't be without either one. Those outside the band's cult will still have to put up with a fair amount of electronic noodling, but hey, if you want to know John Lennon you're going to have to deal with 'Revolution 9' and 'Life With The Lions' not just 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away' right?

The Flaming Lips The Soft Bulletin

Is it just me? I've seen this disc in lists that indicate that it's one of the key albums of the nineties. To me a lot of this is just goofy. I know 'Slow Motion' (The Spiderbite Song) is autobiographical and must have been a harrowing experience for the wounded band member and his pals but the lyrics made me want to guffaw. Some of the music's okay I guess but I thought that ill-conceived sci-fi concept albums were a relic of the seventies. How this is a big improvement over Rush or Styx is beyond me.

Beulah When Your Heartstrings Break

You're probably getting bored with me getting so excited about every Elephant 6 recording that I get my hands on but I can't help it. I'm convinced that these folks bouncing from band to band and bouncing ideas around is the most fertile thing that pop music has had for a while. The mad lyrics and often gorgeous string arrangements remind me of 'Forever Changes' in a way. The mish-mash of stuff on display here is disparate but it's presented in a manner that isn't jarring

Ten Years After Live at the Fillmore East

Guitar hero or guitar wanker? People nowadays tend to forget or never even knew that along with Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Beck etc. Alvin Lee was one of the bona fide flash guitar heroes of the Woodstock era. He was mine. Unlike all the others listed above I didn't come to him even slightly later. I bought TYA from 'Ssssh' to 'Rock 'n' Roll Music To The World' pretty much as soon as they arrived on the store shelves. Ten Years After also hold a special place in my personal pantheon as being the first group that I ever saw live (in early summer 1971). This set of dates was recorded a little over a year earlier than when I saw them and displays them fairly well. Chick Churchill (another good organ player of the era ) doesn't get much to do here. Ric Lee unfortunately gets one of the ten minute drum solos that became the second-worst excess in rock.

Back to Alvin Lee and the review's original question. Only Hendrix was better at picking jazz-like runs at similar lightening speed. (Jeff Beck wouldn't pick up the ability or desire or whatever until years later). Alvin often constructs his lengthy solos on these discs with taste and intelligence. He also goes to the other side of the sky on 'Help Me'. However, I also hear a lot of the riff (you know the one that I mean) that goes (say it fast) deedely-deedely-deedely-deedely-deedely ,etc. that became the first-worst excess in rock. It's worth putting up with the occasional wanking to hear a lost guitar hero though.

They Might Be Giants Apollo 18

The Monty Python of alternative rock. This is the first record that I laughed aloud with in more years than I'd care to remember. I'm a sucker for the sort of wiseacre word play on display here. With songs like 'My Evil Twin', 'The Statue Got Me High', 'Dinner Bell' and 'Turn Around', I've got a feeling that this may tickle your funny-bone.

Of Montreal   The Gay Parade

No, not that gay. Gay as in what the word's meant for several hundred years. There are lots of silly, life-affirming charms in these ditties. So much in fact that you'll probably feel like your being put on. I'm not so sure you are though. This disc convincingly portrays a world that Ray Davies could have dreamed up (admittedly with more genius and insight). A village in which all citizens turn out to celebrate the finding of a little girl feared lost,. a village populated by eccentric but lovable roller skaters and fun-loving nuns. Cynicism must be becoming a dying art or something.

Modest Mouse The Lonesome Crowed West

Pretty interesting take on the power trio concept instrumentally but oh my gracious these twerps certainly have their problems with the Lord Above don't they? They wear their militant atheism on their sleeves which makes me wonder who they think they're screaming at, cursing at, mocking and blaspheming in about 11 of the 15 songs here. Most notoriously in 'Jesus Christ Was An Only Child'. To wit:

Jesus Christ was an only child He went down to the river And he drank and smiled And His dad was oh-so-mad Should have killed the little fucker Before he even had

Charming. Anyways two of these three lads are named after Old Testament prophets so they may sit down and consider the ramifications of that some day. Let's pray for them. Oh well, at least they're not mishandling the Holy Rosary like Jah Fool or Rool or Tool or whatever.

Ride Nowhere

I finally got used to 'Loveless and listen to it a lot so I tried shoegazer album #2. Much more accessible than My Bloody Valentine's opus. It leaves me wanting to hear it again right away. (Okay so maybe it took me one or two initial spins before I caught it). You know what they say though. Usually the one that starts out being the toughest one to get into turns out to be the one that brings greater long-term satisfaction. We'll see. For now I dig them both.

Quicksilver Messenger Service Classic Masters

This brand spanking new anthology proves once again that Quicksilver was the slightest of the famous Frisco bands of the sixties (yes including Country Joe and the Fish). When they stretch out on 'Who Do You Love' they jam a bit but as songwriters they're atrocious. 'Fresh Air' is definitely the best of the lot. Makes you wonder how Dino Valenti managed to write 'Hey Joe'. Biggest surprise: the riff from 'Shady Grove' was ripped off by Blue Oyster Cult for 'Astronomy'.

Nine Inch Nails The Fragile

A couple of months ago Al expressed his contempt for Nirvana for leading rock where he had hoped it wouldn't go. My vote goes for this asshole.

Psst, rumor has it that this was recorded in the mansion where Sharon Tate and her baby were murdered. Such in-your-face shock tactics render Trent Reznor valuable to a generation of kiddies who didn't grow up with the benefit of EC horror comics. And he has the gall to put a Marilyn Manson put-down song on here?! All this and the general assumption that his Tourettes-Syndrome style of singing is supposed to make him the nineties poster-boy for disaffected youth or whatever leaves me unaffected.

Like Robert Christgau once said about the Cure (who I like for the most part) "why so glum chum? I mean you've got your record contract right? And you've got your synthesizers they must be fun to play with right?" Actually Trent makes some pretty cool electronic racket sometimes and this is his sunniest record. I mean I can't see a song like "We're In This Together" on 'The Downward Spiral'. He keeps asking all the big questions (ad nauseam) and looking for all the big answers in all the wrong places. Maybe he's ripe for conversion. Seriously.

Yes Magnification

I know some of you guys hate Yes, some of you like them. For those who like them, this, their most recent album, is easily and faraway their best since 'Relayer' more than a quarter century ago. Anderson, Howe, Squire and Alan White chuck the whole superstar keyboard gambit and flesh out the sound with full orchestral settings. Too bad they didn't try this in their heyday it would have received universal attention good or bad. Today it will barely register with the pop music world. The lyrics have lost some of their mystico-space-nature bent which to me is a shame. I've always thought that their seventies lyrics were underrated. A line like "a dewdrop can exalt you like the music of the sun" is no worse and is probably a great deal better than a lot of the psychedelic psycho-babble that's lauded in rock then and now.

Is the album pretentious? Like the kids say "well, duh!". Are the Rolling Stones raunchy? Is Steely Dan cynical? Is James Taylor sensitive? Is the music beautiful? Yes a lot of it is. Unfortunately Steve Howe doesn't exactly rip it up here. No 'Yours Is No Disgrace'. For those at all interested don't rush right out and buy it but if you get a chance to hear it give it a try, you may be pleasantly surprised after all the forgettable dreck they've put out over the last 28 years.

Verve A Storm In Heaven

This suite of swooshy multi-layered walls of wailing guitars and subtle percussion is one of my favorite new (to me) records so far this year. Verve controls huge masses of sound in a way I haven't heard since Ligeti's choral works or Berlioz' Requiem. The slow cuts are like beautiful dreams half-remembered in moments of relaxation. The production is a wonder. Unlike 'Loveless'' fuzzy blur, here every single musical gesture is clearly heard through the tornado of noise. In contrast the music itself has no concision which is an asset here. Because of this it can (like the cliche goes) stand up to hundreds of listenings allowing for new discoveries each time.

Well, so much for Elephant 6 for the time being. Early nineties shoegazer bands ( I love labels don't you ) are my flavor of the moment. To me this stuff is like rockabilly or punk you know? All the artists sound the same but they all sound wildly different at the same time. Too much music by dozens of artists that has stood the test of time. Too little chance to expand stylistically and still maintain it's own identity. Definitely a field for further exploration. Maybe I'll turn out to be one of those guys who, at age seventy, will still be arguing with friends about whether Catherine Wheel really is better than early Lush. (For the record, at age 46, I'd say "yes"). Too bad I missed all this music when it was current but I'm sure I couldn't handle the volume of this stuff live. I prefer the stereo where I ALone RULe AS THE LORD OF VOLUME ! ! ! (unless my wife yells at me to turn it the Hell down....then i'm not.)

Ian Hunter Rant

Unlike some people I don't think Dylan's 'Love and Theft' is a masterpiece...except maybe in the writing. I don't find the croaking ruin that his voice has become filled with nuance like Howlin' Wolf's or, for that matter, younger Dylan's. But his writing is still filled with nuanced non sequiturs and metaphors.

I had high hopes for 'Rant' but where the years have been kinder to Ian's voice than Bob's...what's become of the writing? No "spider West-siders" or "six string razors" here. Not that all of his songwriting was always filled with arresting imagery but on here he relies far too much on the, let's say, "direct approach" for me. Too much quoting of the Bard, too, methinks. I count "slings and arrows", "to be or not to be", "all the world's a stage". In the song "Soap and Water" I kept waiting for "out damned spot" to come up. He also paraphrases Dante... "abandon hope all who live here".  And how about these gems of cliche-ridden crap: "ain't worth the paper they're printed on", "beautiful losers", " this ain't no way to live", " I don't trust those suckers as far as I can throw them", "you're your own worst enemy". Maybe you are Ian.

Music's good though. God, I get sick of saying that as apology every other review!

Dream Theater Live Scenes from New York

Wow, a massive 3 disc live album extravaganza the likes of which I haven't seen since the seventies. I'm going to go out on a limb here and make two suppositions about this band. a) they're massively uncool. b) they're massively popular. I'll even bet that I'm more right about a) than b) even though one would need some real dough to finance a project like this. For a lot of good reasons arena rock has been uncool ever since Led Zeppelin stopped being cool. But wait, there's good arena rock and as long as the genera's going to survive it might as well be this. This is a technically good band with a tight rhythm section and a really good flash-type guitarist. I don't really have an emotional "in" to this sort of thing but then again I've never really needed one to enjoy good, well - played music.

Somewhere in your subconscious you may have a memory of this album. It was released on Sept. 11, 2001 and the band graciously consented to change the cover art which had depicted lower Manhattan in flames.

Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

More extravaganza. Why am I even reviewing this? This is one of THOSE albums (we've all heard them). It's really difficult to determine whether it's a dense, difficult masterwork or just plain old dog shit. Take every album everyone you've ever known has ever heard, mix them in a blender, pour in strings and electronic effects and douse with loud, metallic guitar... It's really just all too much. As you'd expect this sort of thing always has lyrics that sound profound (whether they are or not isn't easy to determine either). Sheesh, even the packaging artwork looks like Winsor McCay had been smoking dope with Hieronymous Bosch and Raphael. I guess I'll treat it like I did 'Quadrophenia', 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway' or 'The Wall'. Listen to it 'til it starts to thrill me ('Quadrophenia') or bore me ('The Wall'). At least it's not a "concept album". At least I think that it isn't.

Sloan One Chord to Another

I was on a Sloan kick a couple of months ago and one evening I made the drunken observation that they were the greatest group since the Beatles. Or at least the greatest Canadian group since the Band. Or at least the greatest power pop group since Paul Revere and the Raiders. Really though this album is loaded with loads of loaded riffs. Their other discs are all excellent (except the first and the most recent which are so-so at worst). With this one you get "Everything You've Done Wrong", Western civilization's all-time catchiest song.

Shonen Knife Let's Knife

The cutest Japanese export since Jigglypuff makes Sloan for girls. Cool. I love the way they sing "exprosion!" The cd provides Japanese versions of a bunch of the songs too. Hello Kitty!

Big Brother & the Holding Company     Cheap ThrillsM

Yup. Never heard it 'til just a while ago. Of course the singer upstages everything else but you know, this is a really exciting band in it's own right. Those Eastern-influenced guitars power a sort of manic energy that some people forget was as much a part of the Summer of Love as wafting, mellow lullabies like Janis' version of "Summertime". Big Brother could never control that mania the way Moby Grape could and ended up less highly regarded as a result but you know, at this distance in time it sounds pretty darn exciting. More daring, more on the edge than you may expect or remember. Not slighting the Grape of course. As far as Janis Joplin goes maybe, just maybe, this diamond would have been left better in the rough. She was widely critized for leaving Big Brother and actually lost a bit of popularity in America for a while as a result. I love 'Pearl' but who knows? Maybe she shouldn't have left. This album is another humbling reminder that I haven't heard everything yet. Heck, not even all the basic sixties pop canon.

The Verve Urban Hymns

They lay off the guitar heaven of the debut (somewhat) to explore a more standard pop format so very much in the spirit if not the substance of the late sixties Rolling Stones that Mick and Company (and I don't use the term "Company" lightly) should sue. Oh, wait a minute... they did (see, I told you). "Bittersweet Symphony" says big things in small ways while bathed in a gorgeous repeated string figure that was the cause of the afore - mentioned lawsuit. Speaking of substance, they remind us in a ballad that "The Drugs Don't Work" ironic in light of the fact that their second album was fueled by enough pharmaceuticals to keep the late-sixties Stones stoked to the gills.

The patented wall-of-noise as I said is still there when it counts as in "The Rolling People" (am I the only one to realize that this is from '666' by Aphrodite's Child? Another lawsuit?) and "Catching The Butterfly".

Notice that they were now THE Verve rather than just Verve after being threatened by suit by jazz label Verve. Gimme a fucking break. I could have seen it if they had been called Motown or Deutsche Grammophon. The band folded after all this nonsense. That and the fact that lead singer Richard Ashcroft started getting a Mick Jagger complex. Deadly for any band but one. I can't think of any band of the last 15 years that had a better first three accomplishments. They're the Albert Pujols of nineties rock. (The) Verve, you'll be sorely missed.

Wilco Being There

Alternative Country my ass. Only if you consider 'Exile on Main Street' "country". Unlike 'Mellon Collie' (see above) I don't have to guess whether this is a really good double album. It is. Actually it reminds me at times of 'Exile' (including... heh, heh, the country influences). The next couple of albums by this band get a lot more esoteric musically and (especially) lyrically. They're really interesting but take a bit more effort to get into than this one. "The future of classic rock" to coin an oxymoron but I certainly mean it as a sincere compliment.

Dave Piel




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