Thursday, December 30, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Although mainly considered androgynous, Grace Jones has more machismo than I do or most of my male friends, and maintains an air of unshakable confidence, which is as the forefront of her music and vocal delivery. The queen of underground funk followed up her well-received 4th album, Warm Leatherette, with this post-disco new wave classic in 1981. There’s no cloying sentimentality, just synthy grooves oozing with pop/reggae/afro-beat rhythms. The album is predominately like this aside from the sedated final track, “I’ve Done it Again” which is a nice, soothing closer. Two particular covers, “I’ve Seen That Face Before,” which carries a nice French feel with an accordion (bandoneon perhaps?) accompaniment, and her rendition of Iggy Pop and David Bowie’s Nightclubbing, were some of the more successful hits outside of my favorite track, the vintage futuristic funk jam, “Pull up to the bumper.” Nightclubbing was way ahead of its time and has aged well, still fresh today 30 years later.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Although forming in 1980, they didn’t really pick up momentum until ’85 with their freshman 12” forty five EP. John Peel was thoroughly impressed and invited them to do a session and from there on the sky was the limit. The sextet released their first album, Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out) (phew) in 1987, to some fairly critical acclaim and reached number 4 on the UK indie charts. The band eventually played a major part in the Madchester scene of the early 90s with their groovy, sexy, debauching moiety of pop and rock and acid house, funk, and northern soul. Produced by trance guru Paul Oakenfold, the classic Pills 'N' Thrills, and Bellyaches is their most well known album and was released in 1990 at the height of their success (going platinum in the UK). Singles “Step On” and “Kinky Afro” were the two biggest singles from this album, but you could have easily chosen from a handful of hits to replace them. Their stay was hardly meteoric, however, as they followed up this with Yes, Please which also was fairly successful and their precursor, Bummed sold decently as well.
All in all, Happy Mondays make for good party music. It has just enough rock to not fall into raver kitsch, and has just enough electronic influences to make them stand out among their peers. I’m sure there’s better music out there to pop a tab of MDMA to (The KLF’s White Room comes immediately to mind), but there’s little doubt that this album was intended for consuming drugs and indulging in mindless youthful perversions - which - is a good thing.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
According to internet lore, a young Gary Wilson once received the following advice from John Cage: “If you aren’t irritating people, then you’re doing something wrong.” Gary apparently took these words to heart and, having since occupied his rightful throne as the dark prince of creep-funk anxiety, has accrued a reputation among those in the know of being one of the strangest and most rewarding players in the obtuse arena of outsider art.
Given that Wilson’s father, an IBM technician by trade, spent nights playing stand-up bass in a local lounge band, and that Gary himself was a proficient multi-instrumentalist by the time he entered primary school, the “outsider” label might seem a bit of a stretch; but a cursory listen to 2005’s Mary Had Brown Hair, Gary’s return from self-imposed obscurity and his first record in over 25 years – a deeply strange, obsessive and oftentimes troubling album filled with nasty hooks and pitched-up schizoid robot voices – reveals that there isn’t much about Gary Wilson’s paranoid brand of basement electro-funk that you might call “traditional.”
This album tends to garner the kind of criticism often hurled at similar weirdo bastions of the avant-garde: it’s alienating, obnoxious, and occasionally unlistenable. I’ll concede that this album isn’t for everybody, but supporting the record’s veneer of abstraction and repulsion is a bedrock of unstoppable groovescapes and sticky pop perfection. In the face of these foiled impulses, Mary Had Brown Hair prompts listeners to ask a very basic question of themselves: “Am I the kind of person this album is meant for?”
And the deduction process is surprisingly simple: If you’ve ever had the desire to move into your mom’s basement, make a dedicated commitment to spurn the daylight and its constant threat of humiliation, pour a bag of flour over your head and aggressively stalk an unresponsive lover while making everyone with whom you come in contact intensely uncomfortable – and, really, who hasn’t? – then, congratulations, this weird shit might just be meant for you.