Five Songs, 8/13/2021
Five Songs

Five Songs, 8/13/2021

Benton Falls, "Sad Like Winter Leaves"

We don't get a ton of emo around here. Not because I dislike it, but I think mostly because when emo has had its various peaks, I was kind of listening to other stuff, and sort of missed out on a lot of it. I'm definitely the target audience! I've sat in a completely dark room listening to Slint's Spiderland, which is extremely My Emotions Are Hard To Handle. At any rate, I generally like emo, and Benton Falls' two albums are really very good. And: special shout-out to that song title. That is TREMENDOUS hustle right there. Primo sad boy shit.

The Wedding Present, "Swingers"

The Wedding Present would sometimes end their albums on a curve ball, taking the listener down from a high with a nice little cooler. Like, on the magnificent Watusi, they go from the tremelo-picking emotional high of "Catwoman" to a nice, pleasant little surf-rock outro in "Hot Pants". Similarly, on El Ray, an album that seems consciously to evoke their peak years and featuring an Albini engineering job, they go from the similarly loud "Boo Boo" to the relatively cool "Swingers" to end things. It's a nice move, and I appreciate the deliberate echo of their old album.

Slapstick, "Not Tonite"

Mid-90s punk band Slapstick were very clearly following in Operation Ivy's footsteps, combining the same blistering tempos with some ska sounds for a bundle of pure energy. It's a winning formula, and Slapstick did it better than most. The key thing is that the punk needs to be good for the formula to work, and they did a nice job with it.

Sturgill Simpson, "Ronin"

Sturgill Simpson kept up the surprises on his third album. After achieving something of a breakthrough, he went about trying to alienating everybody who had started following him, by dragging in a bunch more musical styles and tying it all together with an anime. For the most part, I prefer his first two records, but I can't really fault someone for having a lot of ambition. I ain't gonna watch his anime, though.

The Flaming Lips, "Riding to Work in the Year 2025 (Your Invisible Now)"

Before The Soft Bulletin saw the Lips pivot into lush, orchestra psychedelia, they started experimenting with the form on Zaireeka, the least practical album ever released by a major label (as far as I know). The idea was germinated with their "car stereo orchestras", public performances where they would give a cassette tape to everybody who showed up to a parking lot, and have everybody play at the same time. The different tapes would then play different parts of the music, giving a physical presence to the tunes that you might get with a real orchestra. They didn't have the ability to make home listeners do that, but somehow they sold Warner Bros on the idea of trying to get close.

Zaireeka was released as a four CD set, but it wasn't four CDs of individual songs. No, instead, you had to find four different CD players, and then hit play on them all at the same time. And, in theory, you'd get some of that same physical presence, as the different tracks on the CD allowed eight different things to make noise (thanks to stereo recording). I actually got it going with my set at one point, with people showing up with portable CD players. What I learned is that:

  • It wasn't really that different from just listening to music and
  • CD players have a surprising amount of variance in how quickly they play music, such that by the time we finished each track, we'd have to re-synchronize with everybody to get things kind of lined up again.

Huge pain in the ass! But the style of composition they settled on here did pay huge dividends, so I'm glad they did it. But it's a pain in the ass. Enough of a pain the ass that I ripped WAVs from the four discs, overlaid the WAVs into a single file, and just kept that. That's what you're listening to here. If you want to get the full experience, start this blog on four different computers simultaneously.

Joshua Buergel
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