Soundz

|December 22, 2011 | Found Sounds

I get a lot of email asking what I’m listening to, and these communications often have a plaintive tone to them. Is there any new music that’s any good? Am I crazy? Does it all suck? Of course not, and I caution against comparing the records that come out in one year to the entire history of recorded sound. 2011? Not a ton of stuff I like, but not so bad. I’ve been listening to a lot of rock n’ roll again – which sounds funny, I know, coming from me, but there it is. Anyway, since you asked, here are three albums, one new, two old,  that I’m really into right now.

Dead Skeletons, from Iceland, play what I guess I would call psychedelic death rock, but I don’t mean to say that they’ve got a bunch of fun songs about skulls and coffins and martians and stuff, I mean that the theme of Dead Magick, their new LP, is death, and living with it: their Dead Mantra, in four different languages, is ” he who fears death cannot enjoy life “. Jón Sæmundur Audarson, the band’s singer, has been living with HIV for almost 20 years, and, yeah, think about that. There’s definitely a debt to The Jesus And Mary Chain here, and shades of Neu!, Suicide, Spacemen 3 – cool drug rock, some of my favorites. This is a super dark album, but I find myself playing it even when the sun’s shining.

01. Dead Skeletons : Yama

01. Dead Skeletons : Yama

02. Dead Skeletons : Dead Mantra

02. Dead Skeletons : Dead Mantra

Dave Bone from The Company Band turned me on to Hard Beat, a compilation of tracks by the Indonesian rock band AKA spanning 1971-1977. The funny thing is how non-exotic this is – you’d think that Deep Purple-obsessed freaks ( with a James Brown-infatuated singer, which is not so apparent from these tracks here, but features in some of the other, funkier ones ) from a predominantly Muslim country where smoking pot is an offense slightly worse than murder would make music that would be pretty goofy, or kind of alien, or super-crap, but, no, these are straight-up  jams.

01. AKA : Aka Untuk Mu

01. AKA : Aka Untuk Mu

02. AKA : Open Doors

02. AKA : Open Doors

Also : I fucking love fucking Aqualung by Jethro Tull. Glad I got that off my chest. Feels good, man. There’re are all kinds of remastered albums, anthologies, box sets ( I mean, just look at this, some of the reissues that are out for Xmas this year ) coming out, and you can snark it up all you want about how this is the record companies desperately doing whatever they can to sell back-catalog music to the only people who might still actually pay for it, older people who are music geeks and mega-fans ( yeah, that’s me ) – but, so? Are you under the impression that corporations exist for some other reason than to make money? The technology available to pull the sound off of those old tapes is far more advanced than it was just a couple of years ago, and there are some very talented people being employed to do it, and I want to hear that stuff.

First I got the London Calling remaster ( luv the accompanying DVD with footage of producer Guy Stevens throwing chairs around the studio ), and then, the Beatles mono box, which I was on the fence about, but I kept on reading reviews where these audiophile snob-types were moved to tears by the amazing sound, and then one day it was on sale at the record store ( still pretty expensive ), and I bought it, and, hallelujah, it really is worth every penny. I always thought of the pre-Rubber Soul/ Revolver material as some well written, but dumb, cute stuff that you hear on the radio, and I never really considered what a real-deal, hardworking, super-tight combo they’d become from all those nights playing in Hamburg. The first album was recorded live, singing and everything, in a day. Rock n’ roll! All of the 1963-64 records have an unexpected depth, and I like the glossy little repro album covers ( complete with correct paper inner sleeves ) the CDs come in.

01. Jethro Tull : Hymn 43

01. Jethro Tull : Hymn 43

02. Jethro Tull : My God

02. Jethro Tull : My God

Every time I get a remastered version of something I’m already a fan of ( The Kraftwerk 2009 reissues, for example. I really, REALLY love Kraftwerk, and now I love them even more ), I tend to get a whole lot of enjoyment out of it, and so I’ve started to dig into reissues of albums which are classics but that I’ve never payed any attention to: The John Lennon 2010 signature box ( although I grew up with the Beatles, I never heard any of Lennon’s solo music besides the hits – I was surprised at how much I enjoy his early records, and at how obviously influential they were on other artists of the time ), the 2010 Exile On Main Street remaster ( I’ve never been a big Stones fan, but I like the clear, hi-fi treatment of this relatively raw material. There will probably not be many more recordings made by at-the-top-of-their-game millionaire rock stars in rented mansions, but this release brings that era alive, I think ).

So, the other day, I saw this brand new, remixed and remastered 40th anniversary edition Tull album, and I thought about how, when I was little, Aqualung ( the song ) was all around, in the air, for years, a parody of itself. I don’t listen to classic rock radio ( shudder ), so I don’t hear this kind of stuff nearly as much anymore, and it’s such a different time and place that even music that’s been played to death can seem fresh to me ( OK, NOT Hotel California. Fuck that song, and fuck you for playing it on the jukebox. You really needed to hear it so much that you spent a dollar on it? ), and I thought, ” millions of people love that record. I bet that’s a very good record ” – so I picked it up, and, by golly, it’s not all laughing, flute-playing gnomes dancing in the forest, but anger, alienation, questioning of religion, homelessness, globalization – same as any punk album.