Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Listening Notes: Introduction, Battles, Buddy Miller, Loudon Wainwright III


I need to write more and not be so precious about it. So I'm going to write about what I'm listening to. I don't pretend that what follows is brilliant, insightful or even clever. Some of it is going to be flat out wrong. I'll change my mind after a few weeks or months or whatever. The point is to write without worrying about being brilliant, insightful or clever. Since no one is going to read any of this.

Battles - Gloss Drop

I once called Battles Yes for the 21st century. I'm not sure I want to take that back. Gloss Drop is much better than Mirrored, but it's still art rock. There are two roughly two distinct kinds of art rock - art rock by virtue of conceptual stance and art rock by virtue of technical virtuosity and knowledge of the European art music canon. Battles are art rock in the former category, as are TV on the Radio, Roxy Music, Brain Eno and Talking Heads to name only a few. Yes have elements of the conceptual within their work, but they sold records and arenas on the basis of their technical virtuosity. God knows, some people like that endless noodling. Battles's noodling is sharper and more driving, but it's still noodling.

Buddy Miller's Majestic Silver Strings

Buddy Miller's Majestic Silver Strings is a meeting of four hot shot guitar players. Since only two of them sing, neither of them all that well, they have all sorts of guest vocalists. I have nothing against hot shot guitar players or guest vocalists, but the result just doesn't work. I mean, Dang Me is supposed to be a funny song. Taking it slow and serious is an idea, just a bad idea. Buddy's carried off decent albums both as a solo singer and with his wife, so I'm not sure what the problem was here. Was he intimidated by Ribot and Frisell? Or did he have to leave space in the music for them to solo?

Loudon Wainwight III - 40 Odd Years

Bill Frisell's best album of the last 10 years is Loudon Wainwright's Here Come the Choppers. Loudon's box set, 40 Odd Years, is both too much and not enough. His prep school Warren Zevon act is best experienced in shorter doses, but there are serious song omissions on the 3 CDs he's chosen to represent his 40 years. Which is to say that serious acolytes can assemble their own playlist. I like him almost as much as I like Zevon, which is high praise. I like the box set's disc of collectorama and love the notes. But then I like box sets...