About Jon Chaisson

Writer, obsessed music listener and collector, okay bassist and guitarist, hoopy frood. Questionable logical circuits, but he gets by.

American Epic

Thought I’d share the trailer for this fabulous four-part documentary on the early days of recorded American music… A. and I watched this the other week (it’s available for streaming on the PBS website) and it’s fantastic. Definitely worth checking out.

Part four is dedicated to a little something extra: a number of the present-day artists that took part in the interviews (and some that didn’t!) joined in on recording some of the original songs via the same old-school process — recording through old tube amplifiers and directly onto the record lathe! Some of them are dead on, like Pokey LaFarge:

…and some fit quite nicely into the band’s niche, like Alabama Shakes:

…and some play out in unexpected ways that make total sense, like Nas:

Definitely a documentary worth checking out for any music fan.

Hip Priest

So I’ve been listening to a lot of The Fall lately.  They’re a band that has a VERY long history, an extremely convoluted discography, only one original member (the wonderfully irascible and outspoken Mark E Smith), and one of the weirdest rock styles in all of post-punk.  But I find I love them anyway.


(I taught myself how to play this particular track back in ’88, I love the guitar work on it!)

Retro: 80s Outliers

Believe it or not, I haven’t listened to my beloved 80s college radio-era albums and mixes in quite some time.  I did that on purpose as I wanted to soak my brain in some of the new stuff that’s out there.  Different sounds thirty years on.  Some music reminiscent of the early years, such as the noisy shoegazeyness of Panda Riot versus My Bloody Valentine.  Other music reveling in its weirdness like Alt-J or its sparse loveliness like London Grammar.

So going back down the 80s rabbit hole one more time, I’m hitting the usual cast of characters such as The Smiths and the Cure and so on.  I procured those discographies quite some time ago.  I still listen to them every now and again when the mood strikes.

Lately however, I’ve been wanting to do a bit more research in the bands and sounds that I never quite got around to following other than a few singles.  I recently caught up with the Fall’s discography for the most part (I’m bypassing their 1,058,736 live albums that seem to have the same release frequency as a Guided By Voices record), and now I’m curious once more about some of the other outliers from that era.

Here’s some of the stuff I’m talking about:

 

A lot of Electronic Body Music (aka EBM) there to be sure.  It might sound much more lower-tech than the DJ boffins we have nowadays like BT and Skrillex, but not bad considering a lot of those synths were brand spanking new at the time and no one really knew much of how to work them.  And as long as they got people on the floor, so much the better.

But I’m also curious about other genres out there from that era, like the various punk scenes (such as Boston versus DC versus LA versus SF, and so on), or more of the Athens scene (Pylon, Love Tractor, etc), or anything else that’s out there that I may have missed.

So yeah…if any of you have any suggestions for old-school tunage for me to look into, please feel free to let me know!

Recent Purchases, May Edition

More tasty tunage from what’s turning out to be a really good year for music!

LCD Soundsystem, “Call the Police”/”American Dream” single, released 5 May. I’m not the biggest LCD fan…they’d have been a band I’d have taped off the radio but probably wouldn’t have actively looked for, back in the day. I do like this b-side, which has a very early-80s-synth feel to it.

The Afghan Whigs, In Spades, released 5 May. They’re a bit of an odd band that uses tension well in their music, which is one of the reasons I like them.

The Primitives, New Thrills EP, released 5 May. First of many blasts from the past this month! Always loved this band’s bubblegummy alt-pop.

Blondie, Pollinator, released 5 May. Second blast! A welcome return, sounding quite like their late-70s/early-80s dance-punk.

Slowdive, Slowdive, released 5 May. Third blast! And HOT DAMN is this a gorgeous album. I expect all you shoegaze fans have to already have this in your collection.

Day Wave, The Days We Had, released 5 May. As you can tell, the beginning of May had one hell of a great list of releases. Perky, twitchy, echoey alt-rock similar to Two Door Cinema Club and the like.

The Darling Buds, Evergreen EP, released 12 May. Fourth blast! One of my favorite ealry-Britpop bands from 1989, returning with a new EP that sounds as just as fresh as their previous catalog.

Overlake, Fall, released 12 May. One of those bands I’d never heard of but given a great review on one of the music blogs, I checked it out and deemed it quite excellent. It’s been part of my Lidwells playlist lately.

White Sea, Tropical Odds, released 12 May. Morgan Kibby, under her band name, popped up not only on recent M83 tracks but duetted with Big Data. Her second release is beautiful, moody and fascinating.

The Charlatans UK, Different Days, 26 May. It’s been how many years since Some Friendly…? And they’re still going strong. A mellower affair than previous albums, but still strong and fantastic.

The Beatles, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Deluxe Edition, released 26 May. Well, DUH. Of course I’m playing the hell out of this lately!!

**********

Stay tuned for the June releases, which should contain the following:

Saint Etienne, Home Counties
Ani DiFranco, Binary
Panda Riot, Infinity Maps
Alison Moyet, Other
Cheap Trick, We’re All Alright!
Fleet Foxes, Crack-Up
Ride, Weather Diaries (!!!!)
Prince & the Revolution, Purple Rain Deluxe Edition
Radiohead, OK Computer: OKNOTOK 1997 2017

…and more that I haven’t been aware of! 😀

Get off your ass and jam

So apparently I did have a slice or two of P-Funk in my collection….just not the originals.


(samples “(Not Just) Knee Deep”)


(samples “Pumpin’ It Up”)


(samples “Let’s Play House”)


(samples “Man’s Best Friend”)


(samples “Mothership Connection”)


(samples “Come in Out of the Rain”)


(samples “Atomic Dog”)


(samples “Get Off Your Ass and Jam”)

Giving some of those early Funkadelic albums a listen and OH MAN are they tight. I have no idea why I didn’t get to them sooner.

Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow

I’m finally getting around to reading George Clinton’s autobiography Brothers Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? [BEST. TITLE. EVER.] and it occurs to me that I don’t own any Funkadelic (or Parliament, for that matter).

This really needs to be rectified.

I’ve known about them for years, of course.  I probably first heard of them in a few of those rock history books I used to take out from the library back when I was a preteen and already obsessing over music trivia.  I’m pretty sure I’d heard some of their jams in the background of some 70s movie or something.  I knew George Clinton had an extremely out-there stage persona.  They weren’t a band you’d find in the music bins at K-Mart or one of those mall stores, though, so they weren’t always on my radar.  It wasn’t until my freshman year roommate in college played me part of their 7th album Let’s Take It to the Stage that I got what they were about.  One listen to “Get Off Your Ass and Jam” and I knew what I was in for…  I liked it, but it didn’t quite gel with me at the time.

Reading his book, though, I finally figured out what they were about.  They weren’t merely a weird funk band from the 70s…they were much more than that.  Part soul, part psychedelic rock (I can definitely hear that now — the above track is reminiscent of those long-ass psych rock jams that early FM radio loved so much), part political, and part party.  There’s a lot going in this band’s music, and now I’m intrigued.

That said…given that their early work is available on eMusic, I’m going to download me some of this cosmic slop and do a bit of immersion.  Wish me luck!