Friday, November 25, 2011

My Black Friday

Three great albums bought used at Soundstation in New Jersey. Thanks Bob!

Nomo, Ghost Rock (Ubiquity, 2008)
El Michaels Affair, Sounding Out the City (Truth and Soul, 2005)
Tommy Guerrero, Loose Grooves and Bastard Blues (Galaxia, 2007)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Oranges and Lemons

On the way back from work last week I picked up XTC's Oranges and Lemons (1989) at K Starke Records on Western Ave. XTC had first been recommended to me by my friend Ben Mercer, who sent me a copy of Drums and Wires (1979) in a CD swap last year (he got Bandwagonesque). More on that other XTC album later.

By cover alone, it's clear Oranges and Lemons is a young, mixed-up relative to both Sgt. Pepper's and Yellow Submarine. (It's one of those albums you somehow recognize from seeing in music shops when you were 15.) XTC's mixture of heartfelt British pop with cartoony, inane imagery recalls that era of the Beatles. But after the first spin, further listening proved difficult, even frustrating, for me. There's A LOT to listen to on this double album. Songs like "Merely a Man" and "Mayor of Simpleton" are packed with melodies: vocals, background vocals, guitar lines, trumpets, even pitched, flanged drums and bass seem to carry their own lyrical force. Down side: this makes an album of otherwise catchy pop songs almost impossible to completely digest in one sitting. Up side: serious replay value.

So then I went back to Drums and Wires. I was amazed! These two albums sound like they were recorded by two entirely different bands. Not surprisingly, Drums came out in '79 at the height of New Wave. It sounds like it. And even though this album is much more frenetic and jerky than Oranges, it proves to be much more of an enjoyable listen for two reasons. One, the songs are more cohesive, hold together better in feel and tone. Two, the arrangements are simpler. Whereas Oranges fills up space, Drums cuts to the chase. Especially on "Life Begins at the Hop", one of my favorites from the album.