Friday, March 20, 2009

the upside and downside of grand pop ambition

The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love Live from SXSW on NPR (listen) performing the whole of their new rock opera The Hazards of Love. There are those in my circle that exhibit contempt for The Decemberists and their fussy "lit-rock" but I don't know, it hits me square where I live as a somewhat lit-oriented fussy obsessive. I might be projecting my obsessiveness into theirs, but I am hearing a little Pearls Before Swine in this; Colin Meloy and Tom Rapp both are hampered and helped by their respective idiosyncratic enunciation ticks.

That said, there is also a marked Zeppelin aspect to the album, or at least the live presentation thereof, and I think that's a smart move for The Decemberists. They are one of the few band around with the chops to pull something like that off, even as they are dismissed for having too many costumed nerds on stage. The NPR commenters aren't helping in masking the dork-factor; they sound a little like golf announcers during the wait for the encore. Whatever, the music sounds great, like their music always does, and geeks shall once again inherit the earth.
Scott Walker - Scott 2 (listen) I've never understood the widely-held appeal of Scott Walker's more difficult modern records Tilt and The Drift - I like them and all, but I like willfully difficult things; I would think Walker's creepy baritone, plodding dirge rhythms, and the abrasive soundscapes would hit most people like Komar & Melamid's art project seeking the statistically worst song possible (listen). Thanks to the Pretty Goes With Pretty, I have forced myself finally to explore the earlier Scott Walker records in earnest, and that is the stuff. His misanthropic lyrics placed against string-fatted lush schmatlz, like Tom Jones in Brecht opera, it is world's weirder than The Drift. Experience the full-sensory onslaught of "Jackie"

P.J. Proby - The Savoy Sessions
(listen) Now, if you are looking for some perverse torture tape fodder, drop faded yet resilient pop singer P.J. Proby's good-time-rock'n'roll version of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and win the hour.

and for the Phil Collins lover...

and those are the less weird parts of the record. Dig if you will this reading over the "Gone With the Wind" theme.

This album only gets better/worse depending on how you approach things.

More info via Perfect Sound Forever

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