Things I Noticed in 2004
Not a best of, year-end wrap sorta thing this time, but rather a collection of things I came across this year, old and new. In a year that contained (another) stolen election and the tragic majesty of nature, still found a bit of time for popular culture. Ok, maybe not that popular, I guess…
Robyn Hitchcock, Spooked (Yep Roc) • Considering how long Hitchcock has been creating his brilliant and odd music, it’s surprising that his latest is the first one I’ve ever played multiple times. Recorded in Nashville with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, this is a somber, quiet record that manages to twist reality on its head. And a nifty cover of Dylan’s “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven Before They Close the Door,” too.
Immortal Technique, Revolutionary Volume 2 (Viper) • I guess that for the next revolution, rap is the folk music of the times. Which makes Immortal Technique, with his pointed jabs at the Bush administration and corrupt music business types, a sort of Dylan for the scene. The only way out of the mess we’re in is by educating the masses to the reality of the world they inhabit. Immortal Technique is a start.
Hillbilly Boogie (Proper) • This five-disc box set, released a few years ago on the great Proper Music label in the UK, is a twangin’ yeehaw of a listen. With such greats as Zeb Turner, the Delmore Brothers, Chet Atkins and dozens more, this is a great overview of a musical form that you hear echoes of in modern Alt-Country, although not in contemporary country music. Which is just one reason why CMT Country music sucks. That and the flag-waving, kill-everyone-but-us, big belt buckle bullies that record most of that bilge, ya know.
Bob Dylan, at The Tabernacle, Atlanta, April 2004 • It is impossible to compare Dylan to his peers, because with each year it becomes more apparent that he has none. Name a single performer from the heyday of rock music that still creates with even a glimmer (Ha. Bad Stones pun…) of their former ability, other than Dylan. Hard to do. Sure, he has good nights and some lesser evenings live, but when he’s on, he’s as good as we have these days. And for three nights in Atlanta, he was definitely on.
The Rolling Stones, Four Flicks • Ok, I know I slag these guys repeatedly, because 90% of the time they deserve it. Overstuffed millionaires coasting on past glories, for the most part, true. But at various moments on these DVD’s, Keith and Ronnie are the foundation of the greatest live band on the planet. Granted, Jagger can no longer SING AT ALL, and makes one wish that the technology existed to remove his prancing ass from the footage, but man, there are brief glimpses scattered here and there that remind you why Richards is considered to be the archetypical guitar hero badass, and Charlie? Well, Charlie Watts is the greatest rock and roll drummer, ever. End of f’n story.
Mark Lanegan, Bubblegum • Record of the year. Menacing, smart, sexy, bigger and bolder than anything else out there. He was a major force on the last go-round with Queens of the Stone Age (who appear here as well), and this record, from the gnawing pain of “Methamphetamine Blues” to a garage rock homage, this is powerful stuff that his previous work merely hinted at. No hinting here. Lanegan doesn’t knock on doors. He kicks his way in.
Mark Doughty, Skittish/Rockity Roll • Mark Doughty was the leader of the hippest, smartest, funkiest white band to exist in the ’90s, the late, lamented, but not overly missed Soul Coughing. Not overly missed because most people can’t hear art with their heads way up their nether regions — or watching MTV, which is the same thing I guess. They had to wait until the genius freak of SC was recycled by Ricky Martin — try playing Martin’s “Shake Your Bon Bon” or WTF it was called at the same time ya wax SC’s “Super Bon Bon”. Same track. Whack. But I digress. This reissue/coupling of Doughty’s first two solo records will hopefully expose these twisted works of greatness to the larger audience they merit. Largely acoustic guitar-based, what these records lack in fullness they make up with uniqueness. His trademark surrealistic lyrics (this time, it’s “27 Jennifers” that makes you pause), his stuttering, dyslexic tempos and melodies that were the hallmark of the great Soul Coughing moments, it’s all here. Presented in a more personal, less expansive format than before, but not the less for it. Imagine, if you will, a booty-shakin’ Syd Barrett. Oh yeah, baby.
David Ray Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor • It can be stated no simpler than this: What you know, and what you believe about 9/11 changes how you view everything that has happened since. And frankly, most of what you know is either wrong, outdated, or more likely, a lie. Read this book with an open mind, and you will come away with questions. Questions that will hopefully (for the good of us all) lead to answers. And more questions. Because horrible things are happening, all around you.
Mark Sandman, Sandbox • He created a universe that contained only himself. A loving look at his non-Morphine works, all of which have the Sandman hallmarks — two-string slide bass, Spanish moss hanging off the vocals, that sort of thing — yet sound completely different from his better known material. A wizard, a true star.
And two last things I discovered this year:
Blogging. OK, everyone and their grandmother have been doing this for years, but I finally earned enough Ink 19 credit tokens to get a blog on here, and it’s a dang nifty thing. Come on by and spill your guts.