The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
I have a goddamn ear infection and with the antibiotics and muffled hearing and general lethargy that comes from it, I have a hard time to get going, and I rely on the former denizens of Minneapolis - living there must be something akin to always having an earache - to kick my sick ass out of bed.
The Hold Steady is on my short list of Bands that Matter - the succulent tight sausage to emerge after putting emo and white boys into hip-hop and Springsteen and a high school's worth of drugs into the grinder and stuffing the mix into natural casing; only to then be grilled on the coal-stoked heart of rock-n-roll by a dad that still has a Guns 'N' Roses shirt up in the house somewhere. I cannot wait until Stay Positive comes out, the myspace samples give me hope for the survival of the species.
The Hold Steady capture in a shot glass the sweat of youth dripping down their arms as they collapse, and in the low light of the basement or the bar or the dome light of the car you can see everything swimming in that mixture, golden threads coiling in the clear water like strands of dead DNA, spinning in time with the stereo, at least until the cops show up.
Big John Patton - Let Em Roll
Honestly, I put this on just for the cover, but Big John delivers the crimson soul, abstract and modern enough to befit such stark lettering but with organ swells and sweet licks to get the girl in the photo to even show up. This is what the drugs deals on Boys and Girls in America sound like before everything goes wrong and half the people involved end up in the hospital.
To the vibraphonists of post-rock, should there be any of you left out there - did all the post rockers finally become reborn metalheads? - the title track will serve as a guide of how to have vibes integrate perfectly with guitar. Patton's organ hums like the vibrations of the earth while Grant Green - maybe the most tasteful of the jazz guitarists - kicks the summer melody back and forth with Bobby Hutcherson through the haze of Otis Finch's cymbals. Paton sends the song rolling down hills, cannonballing into the pool and lazily sunbathing on the bank.
Fleetwood Mac - The Pious Bird of Good Omen
It's hard to believe the bizarre English blues-rock combo languishing on this record would only in a few years become the dictionary example for cocaine-fueled mega-success and change the course of pop music for a while.
And unpolished for that matter! Fleetwood Mac, to me, is the model of seamlessness in my mind, and to hear old Peter Green chewing people out and the loose-limbed approach, I'm hard-pressed to believe this is the same band that produced Rumours eight years later, which I mean, I guess it really isn't the same band.
John Mayall - The Turning Point
While living in Kansas, I once heard "California" on the radio, maybe as a bumper on NPR or something and was completely transfixed by it. I wanted so badly to be teleported away from the five-lane streets and the apartment complex and the soul-sucking job I had there to some breezy Laurel Canyon compound, lounging in a hammock amid conspirators and loveable losers, lazily strumming a guitar laying around, rumored to be the one Neil Young wrote "Revolution Blues" on or something. I mean, my life is pretty good now, and still that option looks attractive. I can only imagine the allure California has for a dreamy-eyed long-hair from Macclesfield.
Now, the lyrics on "California" are embarrassingly insipid, but once the soprano sax and tambourines commence to spellcasting in the middle of the song over that hypnotic bass line and the idle fingerpicking, I see the genius of John Mayall, flickering like a campfire in the dark.