.

album reviews

Brian Eno

Before and After Science

Before and After Science is being touted as Brian Eno's most commercial album, and with some reason: it's a graceful, seductively melodic work, and side one even kicks off with a neat little disco riff. But this view also confuses the issue. People who think of Eno solely in terms of the static, artsy instrumentals on David Bowie's Heroes and Low forget, or never knew, that on Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), the master of dadaist cybernetics als... | More »

Kraftwerk

The Man-Machine

Less than three minutes into The Man Machine, an album that faithfully extends Kraftwerk's unmistakable brand of exquisite torture, this group has successfully drained the blood from the listener's body and pumped in the liquid Lysol. With its efficient modern-world toys — synthesizers, speech synthesizers, synthesized percussion — Kraftwerk strikingly creates a sound so antiseptic that germs would die there. What's more, the band has never been this conceptually st... | More »

Art Garfunkel

Watermark

I first heard Art Garfunkel's third and best solo LP in the living room of the man who wrote ten of its twelve songs. Almost apologetically, Jimmy Webb introduced Watermark as "highly esoteric" before shyly venturing that he considered it a "major work." Well, the encouraging sales figures would seem to indicate that the album isn't as limited in appeal as Webb may have feared. And that's good, because Watermark contains some very worthy pop music. Garfunkel, a longtime admire... | More »

May 4, 1978

Jefferson Starship

Earth

What is this? A Buckminster Fuller-influenced statement on humanity? Maybe an opus about the elements? (There's a song called "Fire" and a verse about surfing.) Or maybe there's a clue in the perspective of the title art. Is this the Jefferson Starship coming back down to earth, or simply waving goodbye as the group is propelled into hyperspace for another Flashback Gordon fantasy? How about just another pop record? Earth is a grab bag of everything the Starship does, well or poorl... | More »

Van Halen

Van Halen Warner Bros.

Mark my words: in three years, Van Halen is going to be fat and self-indulgent and disgusting, and they'll follow Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin right into the toilet. In the meantime, they are likely to be a big deal. Their cover of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" does everything right, and they have three or four other cuts capable of jumping out of the radio the same way "Feels like the First Time" and "More than a Feeling" did amid all the candyass singer/songwriters and Shaun Cass... | More »

April 20, 1978

Patti Smith

Easter Arista

The hero represents the gift of love, or again, grace — the latter epitomized, for example, in Arthur's effortless raising of the sword from the rock — or, in Hindu mythology, Rama's similar lifting of the bow. Both deeds indicate how heroic feats of critical importance are enacted at moments when there no longer exists a clear dividing line between will and act, or rather when, beyond all necessity to proceed according to any attitude of "intentional" motivation whateve... | More »

April 6, 1978

Muddy Waters

I'm Ready

Muddy Waters looks like a candidate for the fifth face on Mount Rushmore. There's that much dignity and wisdom in his countenance, and his legend is of sufficient stature to make people take the bid seriously. But the way he's played on his last two albums. Waters deserves a national monument of his own. Both I'm Ready and last year's similar Hard Again seem to have rejuvenated Waters, but rejuvenation may not be the issue. Waters seems never to have lost his incredible s... | More »

Lou Reed

Street Hassle Arista

Near the beginning of this brilliant new album, Lou Reed sings: "It's been a long time since I've spoken to you." The line has a resonance far beyond its literal meaning. In the years following the breakup of the Velvet Underground, Reed's bizarre and half-baked semistardom became a travesty of his art, as one of the most magical raw nerves of our time coarsened into a crude, death-trip clown. Whereas Reed with the Velvets had once broken our hearts with a compelling vision of... | More »

March 23, 1978

Parliament-Funkadelic

Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome

George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and the rest of the Parliament Funkadelic and Rubber Band hydra seem blessed with unlimited inspiration. Clinton, who helps produce and write nearly everything these bands release, taps a — you'll pardon the expression — mother lode of black popular culture, gathering up all genres of music, humor and pulp fiction. Funkentelechy vs, the Placebo Syndrome is the new "funk opera" by Parliament, while Booty? Player of the Year further elucidates and... | More »

March 9, 1978

Joni Mitchell

Don Juan's Reckless Daughter Asylum

In retrospect, Blue turns out to have been the album that displayed Joni Mitchell at her most buoyant and comfortable — with herself, with the nature of her talents, and with the conventions of pop songwriting. From that happy juncture, she has moved on to more graceful and sober self-scrutiny (For the Roses and Court and Spark), to dramatic musical experimentation mixed with failed social commentary (The Hissing of Summer Lawns), to ever-more-seductive singing (Miles of Aisles) and to ... | More »

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Song Stories

“Stillness Is the Move”

Dirty Projectors | 2009

A Wim Wenders film and a rapper inspired the Dirty Projectors duo David Longstreth and Amber Coffmanto write "sort of a love song." "We rented the movie Wings of Desire from Dave's brother's recommendation, and he had me go through it and just write down some things that I found interesting, and they made it into the song," Coffman said. As for the hip-hop connection, Longstreth explained, "The beat is based on T-Pain. We commissioned a radio mix of the song by the guy who mixes all of Timbaland's records, but the mix we made sounded way better, so we didn't use it."

More Song Stories entries »
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