Last week’s feature of Bryan Ferry got me thinking about solo artists that have made a good fist of leaving their successful bands. Stephen Malkmus’s signature is unmistakable. The one-time frontman for Pavement, arguably the most effervescent group of ’90s indie music, could have suffered under the weight of legacy and expectation. But he took it all in his stride and with a dollop of his humour. ‘Jo Jo’s Jacket’ and the bald dome of Yul Brynner feature on his self-titled debut album.
A compilation for the weekend. My favourite 9 sounds of 1997, bookended by Radiohead. There are no surprises there; I have showed some restraint by not featuring more of their work.
Honourable mentions also go to: Radiohead for ‘No Surprises’; Radiohead for ‘Paranoid Android‘; Radiohead for ‘Lift‘; Supergrass ‘Richard III‘; Spiritualized ‘Broken Heart’; Yo La Tengo for ‘Autumn Sweater’, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds for ‘Into My Arms‘; Daft Punk for ‘Around The World’; NuYorican Soul (featuring Jocelyn Brown) for ‘It’s Alright, I Feel It!’ and The Notorious B.I.G. for ‘Mo Money Mo Problems‘.
I realise now that four albums – classic albums – were crowding out others from my ears in 1997.
A compilation for the weekend. My favourite songs of 1999 in no particular order:
This year, Will Toledo has got my attention. He is one of those singer-songwriter that operates as a “band” – in this case, Car Seat Headrest. ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ is off the project’s recommended album Teens Of Denial. The fact that this particular track reminds me of the combined output of some this blogger’s favourite bands (Sparklehorse, Beck, Okkervil River, Pavement) is a boon. Have a great week.
I read somewhere that The War on Drugs’ Adam Granduciel first met erstwhile collaborator Kurt Vile at a Kurt Vile event. At that gig, Vile was was performing a very indie cover of ‘Zurich is Stained’. The song originally featured on Slanted and Enchanted, Pavement’s the classic debut album. Glorious memories from 1992.
Some nostalgic thoughts from Liverpool last week. If you’re ever up in the ‘Pool, a trip across the Mersey to Birkenhead is an adventure. It’s the rough end of Merseyside. ‘Two To Birkenhead’ is off On West Kirby County Primary, Bill Ryder-Jones’s third studio album since leaving The Coral. The singer asks to be taken somewhere he’s not likely to forget. Indeed; my memories are of 8 year olds in trackies asking students for cash. While the lyrics make me smile, the sound is a very pleasing distraction, channeling Pavement to great effect. Have a great week.
It’s winter my friends and never has an album opened with a colder start than the lyric “Ice Baby”. ‘Summer Babe (Winter Version)’ kicks off Slanted and Enchanted, Pavement’s impertinent and preposterously good debut album. Full of reverb and garage drums, the song was omnipresent during my last college year. Where Icehouse’s Iva Davies tapped into Bryan Ferry’s vocals, Stephen wanted to sound like Lou Reed.
In their third album, Silver Jews’ frontman David Berman reunites with Stephen Malkmus, one of his original Silver Jews co-founders. You can tell so too, as the influence of the Pavement sound shines through, but with the added humour of Berman’s worldplay. The summery wah-wah sound of ‘People’ is a great example. “The drums march along at the clip of an IV drip/Like sparks from a muffler dragged down the strip.”
During my formative years, I thought that UK output in most music scenes was comparable to, and often better than, their US counterparts. But in the early nineties, and certainly prior to the 1995 release of The Bends by Radiohead, rock music was US-defined. During this time, UK creativity seemed to be channeled through dance music. Nirvana’s 1991 release of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was a game changer, but it was Pavement‘s output between 1992-94 that was most impressive to these ears. ‘Gold Soundz’ was the second single from their second long player, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. It reminisces about those gold sounds; I am nostalgic for its sound.
Another local SW London connection, Yuck played Kingston-upon-Thames in September 2011. I think that might be my only chance to get my home town into the blog. When they are not getting lost or selecting lamentable band names, Yuck are creating a sound reminiscent of Sonic Youth, Pavement and Smashing Pumpkins. ‘Get Away’ is the opening track off their self-titled debut album and it quickly sets out this stall of well chosen musical references.
Pavement make me smile. Barmy lyrics, guitar din and lovely melodies – a strange brew. The 1994 long player Crooked Rain Crooked Rain was my introduction, followed by their more influential, noise-rock masterpiece Slanted and Enchanted. (I recommend this route to the uninitiated.) But it is the first track off their indulgent third album Wowee Zowee that I feature here. “There is no castration fear… pick out some brazilian nuts for your engagement…maybe we could dance together”. Just as with the Beastie Boys, I get the feeling that the sound of the words is more important than their meaning. Actually, nothing like the Beasties at all.