It struck me the other day that the human brain only has so much space inside it–only so much room for a music fan like myself to dutifully store the name of the bass player in Spooky Tooth, or the correct chronological sequence of all those Peter Gabriel albums with the same title, or the name of each rapper in Bone Thugs-n-Harmony—before it folds into itself. And then come the data leaks.
Within the last week: 1) I forgot the PIN number for the checking account I have had since 1992, 2) Every night when I drive home and reach the intersection of Beverly Glen and Mulholland Boulevards I think of the phrase “atomic douchebag” and have no idea why, and 3) I spent most of this afternoon humming the melody to a Hellman’s mayonnaise commercial I used to hear a lot in the early ‘70s and probably haven’t heard since.
I mention this only because I plan to formulate an opinion about the new album by Tyler, The Creator in a few short paragraphs–and, sadly, am already hazy about which end of a toothbrush to use! Plus, now that I know all the songs on the new Justin Timberlake album were deliberately longish “by design,” what the hell is the capitol of North Carolina again? Finally, my pants: Have you seen them?
The Band Perry: Pioneer (Republic Nashville) I think most of the world is waiting for the second album by country stars The Band Perry, who tastefully blend elements of country and rock into a mixture that appeals to fans of both! And so comes Pioneer, the album in question, a scorching, thoroughly professional set that—word has it—was first going to be produced by the well-known Rick Rubin but finally, after a “realization” on part of the band, was ultimately handled by Nashville producer Dann Huff! The big question, of course, is why? Though no one’s saying for sure, I think the answer can be found on Amazon! “Our time in the studio was so incredible,” recounts band member Reid Perry there, “because during our early sessions he challenged us to set higher goats as songwriters.” Dude, most goats don’t even know what a diminished chord is!
Tyler, The Creator: Wolf (Columbia) With its eerily tasteful album cover and its fine array of music within, and this year’s prominent Grammy wins by his Odd Future associate Frank Ocean, Tyler, The Creator looks likely to win big with this new release! With guests galore—including Ocean, Pharrell, ultra-hip Laetitia Sadler, Erykah Badu and a dynamite line-up including Jasper, Lucas, L-Boy, Left Brain and Taco!—Wolf is a sonic delight! Still, Tyler’s bothersome name–which to those of us with a background in psychology suggests disturbing concepts involving Play-Doh and anal-compulsiveness—brings to mind the age-old maxim, “If you have to say it, it isn’t true.” I say call him Toby and be done with it!
New Kids On The Block: 10 (The Block) In many ways this long-lived combo’s Darkness On The Edge Of Town, new release 10 builds on the excitement and intensity readily on display since producer Maurice Starr assembled this talented bunch back in 1984! A thought provoking exercise in the futility of life in the fast lane, the album methodically examines the seedy underside of the entertainment business and then—to its credit—kicks everything down a notch! The seeming triumph of opener “We Own Tonight” is gradually, track by track, eroded by such dark material as “Wasted On You,” “Miss You More,” “Crash” and the harrowing “Now Or Never,” until the band’s bleak message of We are all of us, each and every one, condemned to a brief existence on this planet until we finally flicker out becomes a near-deafening roar of despair. Hey, by the way—they’re on tour this summer!
Ólafur Arnalds: For Now I Am Winter (Mercury Classics) One of the year’s finest new albums comes via skilled and now highly visible Icelandic composer Arnalds, who from his earliest days as, believe it or not, a drummer in a hardcore punk band, simultaneously crafted restive, highly melodic “neoclassical” music that has found surprising worldwide success: He’s all over a surprising number of film and television soundtracks, and at 26, he’s only getting started. His first major label release Stateside, For Now I Am Winter is bolstered by orchestral arrangements provided by composer Nico Muhly and, on four tracks, vocals—a first for him, and likely to broaden his appeal. Fans of classical minimalism and electronica should find this immensely appealing—and, for that matter, so should everybody else. A fine introduction to a fascinating talent.
Albert King: Born Under A Bad Sign (Stax) A superlative remastering of one of the best blues albums ever by one of the genre’s very finest guitarists. Originally released in 1967, and housing a stunning number of classics—the title track, “Crosscut Saw,” “The Hunter,” and more—that were methodically embraced by a younger generation of rock bands aching to play the blues, the collection is close to being a greatest hits set by default, is impeccably recorded, and features legendary combo Booker T. & the MGs as its backup band. With its five bonus tracks and superb remastering, it is the Albert King album every music fan needs to own.
Bring Me The Horizon: Sempiternal (Epitath) Non- or former Metal fans who have perhaps grown tired of the endless parade of troupers who have diligently stayed at it, making the same album over and over and over—and there are lots of bands like that—will find much to like in this fourth set by the UK’s Bring Me The Horizon. With substantial songwriting skill, the band brings forth 11 new tunes produced by Terry Date that sound fresh, are appealingly aggressive, and likely to resonate with hard rock fans of both sexes, which is no small matter. Sempiternal shows a youngish band on its way upward and still, gratifyingly, willing to innovate when the occasion calls for it. Good for them.
Klaus Dinger + Japandorf: Klaus Dinger + Japandorf (Groenland) Confusingly also issued bearing the band name La Düsseldorf—the late-‘70s offshoot of German band Neu! which also featured the late multi-instrumentalist Klaus Dinger—this unexpected set is the third of three 21st-century collaborations between Dinger and a group of Japanese musicians also residing in Germany. It’s a pleasure to hear–and now that Neu!’s influential ‘70s albums have been reissued and widely distributed, they’re likely to reach an audience even larger than Dinger himself might’ve reasonably expected. Two more albums are promised, and one hopes they’ll be equally as interesting.
Bruce Springsteen On Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches, And Encounters (edited by Jeff Burger) (Chicago Review Press) There’s much to be said for letting our brightest and most eloquent talents speak for themselves rather than be subjected to “interpreting” by others with sometimes different agendas in mind. Bruce Springsteen certainly falls in that category, and this collection—which compiles an extensive number of interviews and encounters with Springsteen dating back to 1973—is a great illustration of how, when the appropriate subject is chosen, no one on earth can say it better than that subject himself. A smart, warm-hearted man with a viewpoint that has quite naturally evolved in the near-40 years documented here, Springsteen is an engaging personality who, admirably and unusually, rarely repeats himself. Impressively thorough—a conversation I had with him 32 years ago is here, no less—and highly recommended.
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas: 50th Anniversary: Singles Collection 1962-1972 The Four Tops: 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection 1964-1972 (both Motown Select) As the CD configuration continues its apparent wind-down, and the world moves to the mildly tragic download-only model, a few bargains are still making their appearances. Here are two of them, courtesy of Motown Select, and they’re simply oozing good stuff. Both collections offer the complete singles—A sides and B sides—issued by these classic artists while at Motown, and each is bolstered by previously unissued tracks, takes and more, all expertly documented by a colorful accompanying booklet with photos, picture sleeves, and the sort of things that keep record collectors in their perpetual frenzy. Thoughtfully compiled, consumer-friendly, and, as these things go, top-notch.
Alkaline Trio: My Shame Is True (Heart & Skull) Former Detroit Tiger Kaline’s stunning career switch continues anew with a nod to both Elvis Costello and his apparently still galling career record of only 399 home runs! Dude, if I find my motorcycle keys, we can both drive out of here!