Friday, October 05, 2007

In The Changer: What Up, G?

It's Friday, and sometimes, occasionally, rarely that means a new edition of "In the Changer" in which I review stuff that I've been listening to lately. I've been cleaning out the piles alphabetically in recent months and am up to the Gs. By the way -- just to show that I am responsive to my readers in my way, I want GingerM to know that I finally picked up Blonde Redhead the other day, and while it may be quite a while before I get to write about it, I'll say that it reminds me a little bit of Bends era Radiohead filtered through, I don't know, Feist or something. I'm only through a couple of listenings. It has an ethereal spookiness that I think I dig.

G. Love: The Hustle When I was living in Boston in 1994 G. Love and Special Sauce's "Blues Music" played a lot on one of the cooler radio stations and I loved it. A mishmash of blues and hip hop and lo-fi rock, the Philly born and bred G. Love, (Not to blow his cover, but his real, decidedly less down name is Garrett Dutton III) a Berklee School of Music grad and a regular in the Boston music scene, immediately entered that pantheon for me of artists whose music I'll always buy, to whom I will always be devoted, and whose shows I'll always see. Devotion is blind, so I had frankly overlooked a little bit of flatlining on his part in which his albums have been ok but not great. But his last couple of been great, with The Hustle arguably his best since the eponymous debut. G. Love has always carried himself as a hep cat, and while one wonders for how long he'll be able to pull off songs like "Bootie Call" without descending into self parody, for now he's still the coolest kid at Rock 'n' Roll High. Grade: A-

Maallem Mahmoud Ghania with Pharoah Sanders: The Trace of Seven Colors Merge the North-West African style of music known as Essaouira (a style named after Gania, also spelled "Guinia" and "Gania") with a legendary American jazz saxophonist and you get this mesmerizing meeting of cultures. Pharoah places his saxophone in the duty of Gania's Moroccan stylings, and so newcomers to the genre may find it a bit grating initially, with Pharoah's bleatings perhaps ironically the most dissonant. But if you keep listening you'll find that Ghania constructs his music like a tapestry with the discrete parts distinguishable but serving a larger whole. This won't be for everyone, but it's worth checking out to see if it might be for you. B

Golden Smog: Another Fine Day The putative supergroup Golden Smog has a constantly shifting membership consisting at various times of members of the Jayhawks, Wilco, Soul Asylum, Big Star, and official favorite band of dcat, The Replacements, among others. Originally founded in the oft-overlooked music mecca of Minneapolis, Golden Smog reappears every few years to play live shows, and if they can pull enough sessions together, to record an album. Another Fine Day represents just such a mashup and as a result is on the schizophrenic side, but in the end, talent will out. Golden Smog also probably deserves pride of place in the y'alternative (or No Depression, or Alt-Country, or what have you) revolution, as the collective's explicit goal in gathering was to give a country twist to the punk and postpunk and protopunk and hardcore thrash that tended to dominate their respective scenes. Sure, it's a bit self indulgent, but then again, I have a fucking blog, so who am I to talk? B+

Gomez: How We Operate Look, it's simple. Certain bands always put out great albums. Gomez, another in the succession of great Britpop bands that make this world worth inhabiting, is one of these bands. Thus How We Operate is a great album. QED and all that. (The song that has me in a tizzy right now is "Girlshapedlovedrug" but they're just about all awesome. Go buy it.) A-

Gorillaz: Demon Days Move over Josie and the Pussycats. Tell The Archies the News. The Gorillaz are the greatest cartoon band of all time. Even better than Poison. B

Grandaddy: Just Like the Fambly Cat Usually great, Grandaddy stumbles here. Beginning with an interlude (yup -- I know what an interlude means, and yet they did it. So it goes.) that has a child repeating, over and over and fucking over again, "what happened to the fambly cat?" this album never approaches the highs of previous Grandaddy all-time great albums The Sophtware Slump (2000) or Sumday (2003). This isn't bad. It's just disappointing. But disappointment from someone you love is bad, isn't it? B-

David Gray: Life in Slow Motion David Gray hit the motherlode when the song "Babylon" hit the zeitgeist (well, a slice of the zeitgeist) a few years back and brought an otherwise languishing album (White Ladder) back from the remainder bin. That means he'll continue to sell albums to guys like me, who buy way, way, way too many albums. He'll also sell lots of albums to the Irish because the Irish love him. And that's all ok. David Gray produces affectless, somewhat anodyne, singer-songwritery pop (yes, Britpop). He's nonthreatening. One can imagine Lisa Simpson liking him when she grows up. I'm sure hipsters hate him. But I'm a sucker for a guy who can write a decent melody and couple it with earnest lyrics, which he does, and which he displays on LISM. Maybe I'm cool because I don't care if I'm cool. (Please think I'm cool.) B

Green Day: Presents: American Idiot It took me forever finally to buy this album, longer to give it much of a listen. Green Day is a lot more sophisticated than one would think given the limitations of genre. I'm still not sure what to think of the whole semi-punk rock opera idea (Oh, yes I am -- it's a really, really crap idea) but in the end the songs and the songwriting prevail even if the politics are a bit sophomoric. Plus that one song, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," sounds like the best Oasis song in a decade. Who knew they had it in them (either Green Day or Oasis, for that matter)? B+

Guided By Voices: Half Smiles of the Decomposed Allegedly the last album from GBV, it also represents one of their less shambolic efforts. It weighs in at a mere 14 songs, most of them essentially representing traditional approaches to the art of indie pop. I don't know if this is good or bad -- Robert Pollard is either legendary or infamous for putting just about every thought to album. Or so we thought, and then we realize that he has box sets worth of songs sill available, some of which are allegedly on the way in some format down the road and many of which are now part of his solo output. He might be the most prolific artist in the history of the form. "Half Smiles" won't go down as GBV's best album. So what? It's still pretty damned good. B+

Guns 'N' Roses: Appetite for Destruction If I have to convince you of why this, arguably the greatest hard rock album ever, completely and totally rules, then you are an idiot. I still cannot believe this came out twenty years ago. But I'll guarantee it sounds great at 40 too. And that's good, because we'll probably still be waiting for the release of Chinese Democracy in 2027. A+


Thunderstick said...

1. Thank god we're by the G's. I'm so excited to finally get to H for your review of Hanson's Xmas Album that you love so much.

2. You should review more bad albums--I think B- is the lowest grade you've given an album. Review some bad albums as you have started to look like that dude on the Simpsons that comes to review Springfield and is overly nice to everyone and says "I hated Springfield. I'm giving it my lowest rating ever...a 7 out of off 10."

3. I saw G Love and Special Sauce open for Rusted Root in 1996. Would have been hard to believe at the time had someone told me that in 11 years I'd still be listening to G Love and that Rusted Root was going to be a flash in the pan.

4. While Appetite was the more important album (much more important and really one of the most important albums of the last 25 years), I'll always hold that the Use Your Illusion double album was better, You Could Be Mine and the cover of Live and Let Die not withstanding. Appetite is a collection of fantastic rock anthems that will last forever. Illusion was always the better musical work to me--not nearly as commercial, but I thought that was the album that showed GNR's ambition and musical genius.

dcat said...

responding to T-Stick's four so-insightful points:

1) H is coming up soon, but no Hanson. I'm just glad this is not your regular feature, or else we'd be entering the "Hoobastank," "Humperdink" portion of the show.

2) Believe me, given the way I approach these, don't you think I wish I could unleash my wit and vitriol on bad albums? Hell, some of my reviews of stuff I like probably seems tinged with more sarcasm that most bad reviews in the mainstream sources. But it makes sense that the stuff I choose to listen to would be stuff that i genuinely like, or at least by artists i genuinely like. If i start getting paid and getting assigned albums to review, by all means, I'll unleash the hounds. Until then, most of these will be pretty positive. I have given a couple of Cs in the past, however.

3) I first saw G Love at a music festival called "One Kendall Square" at, well, One Kendall square in Cambridge. Among the other acts were Belly and Dig, if you remember them. And G Love used to be a regular at the Plough and Stars. I can say I have really liked G Love since the beginning. Rusted Root had that one song that was a great ripoff of the Talking Heads.

4) You are probably not alone in the way you feel about the Illusion albums, though I am of the belief that they could have been one kick ass single album. And I am just enough older than you that I was in high school when Appetite hit, and that might impact why I think it was so very vital. I could (and probably should) write an essay on the very controversial "Lies" album as well. Actually, I think I have. I'll see if I can find it in the dcat archives.