Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My Building Has Every Convenience...

One of the benefits of having an hour long bike commute to and from work is that I have time to listen to at least two albums a day. Two weeks ago, I started out Monday morning listening to Talking Heads’ first album, Talking Heads: 77, the remastered version of which I had just added to my iPod, along with the rest of the band’s studio albums. This turned into a week-long listen to the band’s entire back catalog, including not only the studio albums, but also their live sets Stop Making Sense and The Name of this Band is Talking Heads.

An important, and somewhat embarrassing note before we get into a discussion of my thoughts: I have never really listened to Talking Heads’ studio albums before two weeks ago. I had heard the original CD versions of some of the early album, and the incredibly trebly mix as compared to the remastered live albums turned me off of exploring any further.

The mix on the newer versions is a revelation to someone who only heard the original CDs. The increased clarity and, especially, the significantly strengthened low end is essential for this band. Tina Weymouth’s bass is the driving instrument for the Heads’ sound, and without her busy melodic lines, the band can become static and, frankly, quite boring. “Heaven” exemplifies the power Weymouth wields, transforming a pretty, but uneventful song into an absolute masterpiece by simply never falling into a real groove; her constant runs emphasizing the unease in David Byrne’s lyrics. Put simply, if you have not heard Talking Heads outside of the original CDs of the studio albums, you have not heard Talking Heads, which is a situation you might want to think about taking care of.

That being said, I would still direct any newly interested parties to the two live albums first, as this band really excels in that setting. While The Name of this Band... is the superior album, I would recommend starting with Stop Making Sense, simply because it has more of the “hits”, and works a bit better as a primer (it also makes one of the studio albums redundant, as I mention below).

As every fan of the band will note, though, no amount of remastering can alter the fact that the band’s output follows a too common trajectory, with ’77, More Songs about Buildings and Food, Fear of Music, and much of Remain in Light and Speaking in Tongues being absolutely vital, with the rest pretty forgettable. The reason for this downward trajectory is notable in that it exemplifies one of the more notable qualities of their early triumphs. Talking Heads: ’77 came out in its titular year, the height of Punk Rock, and the band cut its teeth in the same scene that helped to birth that movement. However, I have always found it difficult to mentally define Talking Heads as a punk band. It’s not the sound of the music, as I have a fairly broad view of what punk rock can be musically; it was something else, something intrinsic. During the course of listening to everything, I finally put my finger on it.

If one gets to the bottom of everything, every musical genre/movement has at its core a specific emotional basis. Rock & Roll, at its origin, was about youthful exuberance, rap is empowerment, metal is masculinity, country is longing, etc. (yes, I know there are TONS of exceptions to all of these, but I think the core is there, but I would love to hear alternatives). Punk rock, at its emotional core, is the music of anger, and anger’s cousin emotions of frustration and indignation. Post-punk, as a genre, on the other hand, has at its emotional core anxiety, fear, and nervousness. Where Punk is an attack against the status quo, whether that be the government or the fact one’s girlfriend dumped him, post-punk sees that status quo and accepts it as inevitability – you can’t fight the status quo, but you can certainly be scared of it. For example, The Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen in Love” deals with a similar factual situation as Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. The difference is how the narrators deal with the same set of facts. Pete Shelley seethes at the difficulty of situation, but offers the glimmer of hope in “we won’t be together much longer, unless we realize that we are the same,” holding forth a possible way to save things. Ian Curtis doesn’t permit this speck of hope, deeming the failure of the relationship not just imminent, but inexorable – “Love WILL tear us apart, again.” Similarly, one can compare The Clash’s “Career Opportunities” to Talking Heads’ “Don’t Worry about the Government” – while The Clash fight the impulse to settle into a menial job, David Byrne accepts it as a inevitability, he is going to have to settle into his modern building with every modern convenience to allow him to give up his life to work, except for the few times he is able to slip away because his “friends are important”. Byrne’s “Psycho Killer” is far from the swaggering, evil sociopath of horror films, but a troubled, jittery, compulsive mess, who just genuinely cannot control himself.

Ultimately, while Talking Heads pre-dates post-punk, they have an emotional core much closer to that later movement than they do that of what has become accepted as punk. There are a few other early punk-era bands that have similarly out-of-sync emotional cores that become much easier to categorize if they are considered as precursors to post-punk, such as Television and Pere Ubu. Talking Heads are the best example, though, as they basically epitomize the nervous end of post-punk’s anxious core. Everything is on edge and over-caffeniated, from the previously-mentioned bass lines to the skittery guitar lines to Byrne’s hiccuped vocals. Even when they add more percussion, it’s largely amped up and unsettling. Byrne’s lyrics follow suit, finding worry and anxiety in every aspect of modern life – buildings, animal, art, love, and even Heaven itself are all sources of concern. Byrne offers no answers, no hope for escape from the unease, just a constant reminder that things aren’t nearly as simple or as harmless as they seem on the surface. “Once in a Lifetime” decries the feeling of realizing that one has no idea how one’s life turned out the way it has with the simple mantra, “same as it ever was” – modern life is by its very nature unsettled, and that isn’t going to change.

Tellingly, the only real call to action Byrne issues is during “Girlfriend is Better”, when he exhorts that everything, “stop making sense,” as the only way to avert the sheer crushing inanity is to stop acting following logic and do something unpredictable. It is notable that this call to action, as minor as it is, comes on Speaking in Tongues, the last really good Talking Heads album, as it shows how the trajectory of the quality of their music traces the trajectory of their driving philosophy. Simply put, once the Heads stopped being nervous, they stopped being as musically interesting. Some bands are able to shift from their initial emotional core to embrace another, and maintain their vitality. Most aren’t, and Talking Heads falls apart like so many others when they start to grow emotionally and feel less trapped by the causes of their initial nervousness.

Thus, the first two albums and most of the third represent their artistic high points. Everyone needs to own these records. Remain in Light alters their sound by bringing in their noted afro-beat percussion, which, in and of itself, doesn’t hurt, but the songwriting drops off in the second half, with the notable exception of “The Overload”, where Weymouth’s bass finally drops to the bottom, the beats become darker and murkier, and Byrne’s nervousness finally succumbs to genuine fear. It’s a huge break from anything they had done before, and they would only really revisit it (mostly successfully) on the second half of their last album. However, Remain in Light is the last Talking Heads album I can fully endorse as a purchase.

Speaking in Tongues has the songs to be a great album, but it is also the album where recording in the 80’s finally catches up with them. Even remastered, the album is so tinny and bottom-light that it feels weightless and boring. There are any number of great albums that have suffered due to poor production, from ...And Justice for All to Give ‘Em Enough Rope to Raw Power (which may actually have accomplished the rare feat of being misproduced twice, sorry Iggy, but pushing EVERYTHING to 11 does not equal creating a more dynamic mix, it just means everything is one louder). Thankfully, the songs trapped in Speaking in Tongues' poor mix have an edge over those on these other albums, as Stop Making Sense has infinitely superior versions of all of the good songs on this album. Basically, buy that, avoid the studio album, as, except maybe for the studio version of “Burning Down the House”, it never comes close to its live counterpart.

Little Creatures and True Stories are completely forgettable records, with the notable exception of the former’s “Road to Nowhere”. Little Creatures is really where you can see Byrne trying to write more optimistic songs, and the nervousness of the band waning rapidly. Unfortunately, at this point, Byrne isn’t very good with this writing style, and they ultimately come of as flat and uninteresting at best, and pedantic and insulting at worst. The one bright spot is Byrne’s vocals as he begins to push toward the more soulful vocal style he would use in his solo work.

Naked isn’t quite a return to form, though it is better than the previous two albums, especially the last half, which revists the darkness of “The Overload”, reinserting some of that existential unease that was missing since Remain in Light. The only problem that I have with this album is the sequencing, in that “(Nothing But) Flowers” should have been the last song, as it perfectly sums up the situation in which Talking Heads, as a band, is no longer needed. The song, one of the band’s best, tells of an urban setting which, for reasons unexplained, is reverting back to nature – kind of like “Big Yellow Taxi” in reverse. Talking Heads, in addition to being the epitome of nervousness, is also the epitome of an urban band. Therefore, in the world of this song, a band that sings about finding a city to live in and taking the highway that runs next to the buildings, that rants about not trusting animals, that decries rural America with the pithy “I wouldn’t live there if you paid me too” (as ironic as these things are, of course) is no longer of value. Ultimately, for as nervous as Byrne was about modern city life, it at least was something he could express. Ultimately, Talking Heads wrote the song that defines their own obsolescence, the feeling of finding themselves in world they can no longer operate in and no longer grasp the parameters. It’s a perfect send-off for the band, and it is too bad it is widely seen merely as “that song that was in Clerks II.” (though it worked fairly well there). He ends “Flowers” with the perfect send-off, not just for the song, but for the band itself as an idea whose time had come, “I just can’t get used to this lifestyle.”

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hypebusting- pt.3 (Dirty Projectors)

Continuing our series of reviews with Mike from Central Target, which takes us to Dirty Projectors' Bitte Orca

Mike :I already WAY prefer this music to the last album, but the vocals are already driving me crazy

These are about as prototypical "indie" vocals as one can get, both male and female. I don't even know what that means, but it's all I can think of. I like the song, but the way the vocals are mixed hurts it.

Mike: Yeah. Completely in the same court. This is way less infuriating than I remember their music being.

You know, when the girls aren't singing, this is quite enjoyable.

Mike : I could see you feeling that way. But this second song's vocals are making me disagree. I hate the lyrics too

Yeah, the second song came on right when I wrote that and killed what I was saying

Mike: it's like he's doing Doobie Brothers-type tenor soul vocals or some crap like that

Melodies, we don't need melodies

Mike : oh, a rhythm turnaround. Isn't that supposed to be a sign of musicality? But didn't Rod Stewart do that, too?

Holy crap, I just got the Doobie Brothers vibe. It manifested as a cold shiver down my spine.

Mike: I with the sun would never rise over Temecula, so the plants wouldn't get sun, they wouldn't produce oxygen for animals to breathe, and everyone there would die.

More so, it's bad Van Morrison

Mike: Oh, that's PERFECTLY ACCURATE. And I HATE Van Morrison.

I did a guitar solo like this once. They threw me out of Guitar Center

Mike: HA! I wanna just drink until this sounds better. We're only TWO SONGS IN!

Strap in, big guy... this is going to be a bumpy ride.

This third song is far more like Jeff Buckley's Van Morrison covers than anything on that last album. And it's no good. None at all.

At least the guy from Grizzly Bear had the voice to pull off a Buckley copy. This guy just doesn't

Mike: Yeah. Falsetto can just as easily lead you down a road that ends up at Anthony Kiedis. And NOBODY wants to go down that road.

Whoa whoa whoa

I like this song, "Stillness Is The Move". So far, that is.

This sounds like some serious 80's white guy synth-funk

There's actually a song here, that's a plus.

Mike: this could be like a Vanity 6 track or something. Yeah, this isn't bad.

we're going to have to discuss some other time how we feel about the hype surrounding the actual records, vs. the music on it's own. That's another LOOOONG discussion.


Mike: But how can can album that is almost unlistenable until the 4th track get "Best Of The Year" hype BEFORE IT EVEN COMES OUT?!?!

I think we're in agreement that none of these three are likely to appear on our top 10 of 2009 lists

Probably not even on our top 10 of the first half of 2009 lists

Mike: I would entertain the possibility that Animal Collective could end up in contention for my first-half list

to be clear.... MAYBE be a POSSIBLE OPTION to POSSIBLY get on the list. Not a chance with the other two

Fair enough
Mike: But no way would any of them end up on the end of the year top ten

I was actively annoyed too often by the Animal Collective record for that to happen.

Mike: all three of them are awash in their own self-importance, which really kills it for me. Seriousness is one thing, but it's like once someone believes that they're a genius 'cause they've been told so many times.

It is interesting to think that someone heard that Animal Collective record and thought, "this is almost certainly the best thing I am going to hear all year."

"Two Doves" is another pretty, but unexceptional track.

Mike: Take this song. It's not bad, but it's not a good enough song to warrant all the trouble that went into the arrangement.


But your comment on the AC record? Perfectly put.

Just checking out the reviews, allmusic says "Two Doves" sounds like A-Ha's "Take On Me", and they say that as a compliment.

Mike: Everything about that concept is wrong.

I don't hear the similarity AT ALL.

Mike: Me neither, and while "Take On Me" is a nice song, it's no measuring stick for other tunes, you know?


Mike: "Well, this record is either as good as Take On Me, or it's not...."

That's how I judge EVERYTHING from now on.

I like that the start of "Useful Chamber" sounds like a neutered version of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer"

Mike: Ha... after jogging to Nine Inch Nails this morning, that's an extra funny comparison.

"I wanna cuddle you like an animal."

This guy needs to stop with the falsetto

Mike: Yeah

Ok, so "bitte" is german for "please" (and, to a lesser extent, "you're welcome")

I'm really hoping that the album's title is being used like ODB's album title. "Orca, PLEASE!"

Mike: actually, he's unintentionally slipping into Kiedis territory with that melisma vocal thing he's slipping into at 4:40 of 'Useful Chamber'

He's way past the Kiedis line

These female vocals remind me of some of the Residents backing singers

Mike: I could see that. The female vocals are mixed so weird, you wouldn't know that they're in tune as harmonies

It's like they are mixed for maximum annoyance value

Mike: let's check out what Mark Prindle says about Dirty Projectors: "Quirky Brooklyn band with kooky ideas like a concept album about Don Henley and an art-pop "reimagining" of Black Flag's Damaged LP. In addition to normal rock instruments (and occasional brass or strings), they also use tons of multi-vocal harmonies, bizarre sound loops and all kinds of crazy things. Certainly quirky, I'll give them that. Near unlistenable at times, but they definitely have their own thing going on."

I like the weird space/dub bassline to this

This groove, this little moment, is nice

With the 2&4 drum hits

Right before it fades out

It is nice. I even like the little guitar lines

Mike: oh wait, it's not fading

yeah, this one is groovy and enjoyable. So far, that's 2 songs out of 7.

that's a 26.7% grade

I liked the first song, so 3 out of 7

It's like they get a good groove going, and then realize they need to do something weird with their vocals or something, and so they just throw something into the middle.

Yeah, this track is quite nice.

Mike: yeah, this weird little un-reverbed guitar solo is irritating me

like if I was plaing guitar along with an album I've never heard.

They couldn't just have a nice guitar solo there, could they?

Mike: While this album is different than say, Matchbox 20, it's not really any more interesting to me, and I HATE Matchbox 20. Refuse to listen to them, if they come on somewhere, I change it or leave the room.

I expected to like this one better than the other two, but I can't honestly say that I do at this point.

Mike: Does this feel at all like a f***ed up sort of Paul Simon goes-to-Africa vocal style?

Yes. Oh good grief, just stop that.

Mike: I expected to like this least, but wanted to like it the most, to prove that I was being a judgmental old crank.

I just realized something, and I should have noticed it earlier, but this guy DESPERATELY wants to be David Byrne

Mike: But it's not disappointing, in the sense that I like it LESS than I expected to.

Yeah, I could see the Byrne thing.

I will say that I quite like their song with Byrne on that "Dark Was the Night" comp.

Mike: I've heard that once, and it was nice enough.

This must be what indie hipsters rock out to, like the way that fratboys love Umphree's McGee or the String Cheese Incident.

Oooh.. the sultry Sade-style ballad

It saddens me to think of someone rocking out to this album

Mike: Oh, they make out to this song.


Mike : "Flourescent Half-Dome"

I think this is an indie-rocker dorm-room sexin' staple, and this is the afterglow ballad.

which retroactively makes me wish I'd dropped out of college

That's the most awkward sex music ever

Mike: Yeah.

I'm already thinking of what I'm going to put on when this endless song finally stops making me hate.

the next minute cannot be over soon enough, but I will persevere. For science!

Man, this is as soulless as any music ever

I like this little last 20 seconds, for the same reason as I liked the intros to the AC album

OK, so we did it.
Ok, Let's give our final grades.

Animal Collective: C+
Grizzly Bear: C+
Dirty Projectors: D
Maybe a bit generous

Mike: Animal Collective: B+
Grizzly Bear: C
Dirty Projectors: D- (I get it, I just don't get why anyone would DO it!)

Any final words to say to anyone who's still reading?

If you honestly like any of these albums more than Dinosaur Jr.'s "Farm", we probably don't have much in common.

Mike: I'd like to second that, and claim that I feel that at least 50% of the people who claim these to be "great albums" don't fully know their reasons for saying that. They may like them, but they cannot tell me why.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hypebusting- pt.2 (Grizzly Bear)

[UPDATE: I have sense come around to this record quite a bit, to the point where, were this the barren wasteland of great music like last year, it would have been in contention for my top 10 of the year. As 2009 has been lousy with great records, it still won't be on my list this year, but it's a solid B+/A- record, and well worth your time.]

Continuing our series of reviews with Mike from Central Target, which takes us to Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest

Mike: it's weird hearing an acoustic guitar now.

Yeah, this is a huge downshift.

Mike: Comparatively, this is like Neil Young to me right now

Pretty decent comparison, actually

Mike: dusty, dramatic Ennio Morricone soundtrack music

I like that surge. That was quite nice.

Mike: yeah, that's a nice rush. It's already certainly more trad-pop leaning

But that's not a bad thing

Mike: i'm liking this backwards tape thing

but after all the pretty ambience in the earlier record, it sounds a lot darker to me

The harmonies are quite nice. It's much more downcast

Mike: yeah. Ooh... another nice shift in tone in the song

I am really enjoying this

Mike: it's nice

I will say though, I'm having trouble clearing my mood from the last album, which was so much less organic. I feel like I'm a barn or something, wood all around.

This guy's voice reminds me of someone I cannot place

Mike: someone from the mid-80s, and I can't place who that is either, for me

Ugh, that's going to bother me.

Mike: On another day, I'd most likely feel a different way, but I think I, so far, prefer the Animal Collective.

I'm the opposite.

Mike: Distant fingerpicked electric guitar combined with no hooks? Tha has a home, my friend. And that home is called "Secretly Canadian".

Well, at least nothing here has annoyed me yet. There are hooks here, I just think they are kind of subdued. This third track is not nearly as good as the first two, though.

Mike: This isn't bad, but for me it may as well be by Songs: Ohia or something (the album, not the song.)

I do think the first two songs were better, as well.

See, I don't see that as a bad thing.

Mike: True, I like that type of music.

I can see having this on in the background. I can at least see a place for it. I don't know what my mood would need to be to want to hear that Animal Collective again.

Mike: This just doesn't distinguish itself from the pack at all, really. I guess it's determined genre-sitting annoys me.

Is it wrong to judge this by what it ISN'T? Like, I want to like this a lot, but I'm mad at it because it's so average

It's pleasant, well-mannered folk-pop

Mike: and that it's averageness has annoyed me annoys me even more. It's basically a hate-spiral opening up and swallowing my heart.

I'd make a snide Palace comparison, but I've only listened to Palace enough to know i don't like them

JEFF BUCKLEY; that's the voice. Reminds me of Jeff Buckley.

It's Buckley without the Zeppelin fixation.

Mike: Yerp.

Mike: Not just the falsetto, either. It just took falsetto to help me realize.

I think I like the other vocalist better. The one who sang the first track. A little less dramatic.

Mike: yeah, the other guy was a little less affected was certainly my preferred vocalist

I know he has a side project band, Department of Eagles, I want to say. I might check that out.

Mike: I can't say that this is bad, but based on this, I wouldn't be interested in the side project. There's nothing offensive about it to me, it's just boring to me. Like Band Of Horses.

fair enough. It's certainly nothing especially exciting. I've already forgotten how the previous songs sounded.

Mike: Yeah, me neither.

It's making my mind wander to that "indie rock hype" game where you combine two unlikely artists and put them in a weird situation. Once you decode what it's saying, it's meaningless.

"Neil Young meets MF Doom in a Saugerties, NY chicken coop"

"James Taylor and Sun Ra having a cookout on the moon"

"Van Morrison and Phillip Glass guest star on an episode of 'Little House On The Prairie"

"The Raveonettes and Bootsy Collins doing the limbo in Cancun"

Mike: is this the loop from the end of Sgt. Pepper that starts off "Dory"? The one in the locked groove?

ooh! I like yours!

Philip Glass on Little House is an amazing image

Mike: just giving a creepy look to Michael Landon the whole time


Mike: that look

Awesome. Did you ever see the Landon bloopers that were floating around videogum?

Mike: No... I'll have to look that up, though.

Good stuff? Little House or Highway to Heaven -era?

Little House

Michael Landon was awesome

Mike: Weird... I wanna see those.



Mike: I always thought he was supposed to be a drunk or something, like an abusive a**hole

I could be completely wrong though.

Right, Michael Landon's estate?

heh heh heh...

You know, that's about as good a review of this record as we can give. It's less interesting to talk about than Michael Landon bloopers.

Mike: I was just thinking that. There's this little punky sixteenth-note rhythm under this that I keep waiting to just explode, but it never does, it just turns into harp glissandos

I think that's why I liked the first two songs better than anything following, they actually let out some of the building energy.

Mike: This track is like a boring, dirge-like version of Animal Collective.
"Ready, Able" for those of you not listening along.

that's a fair comparison

Mike: now, "About Face"'s verses sound like me messing around in my room on a song before I write words or a hook or a second riff

This one is just teasing me. They up the volume on a distorted guitar, then cut it out right before it would slam in. Perfectly appropriately, I might add.

Yep, Grizzly Bear hate you

That is a really, really effective tease

Mike: This is like the worst aspects of Jeff Buckley without any of the good.

at least, "Hold Still", is the shortest song on the album.

It's about as static a song as I've heard

At what point does it go from a song to just playing a few notes over and over?

Mike: Never.

It never did.

"Big Rock Song"?

"While You Wait For The Others" isn't any more interesting to me, but at least it's a little more propulsive.

I think "Two Weeks" was also a big rock song, compared to the others.

I like the chorus to this one quite a bit.

Mike: It's certainly a standout for me

Oh, good, here comes the big string & chorus-laden ballad right near the end of the album

of course

Mike: a saxophone trio in there too... huh...

this is the "need to get a beer" portion of their live set, I'm sure

Mike: I'd need to find another venue

This album is largely hookless, meandering, a bit self-important, and enamored of the texture that folk music would add to their sound, without bringing any actual other elements of folk music.

As I told you when we spoke, my wife's response to this band's live show was perfect. They had been on for a good thirty minutes, and she turns to me and says, "when are they going to start playing?"

With a few exceptions, I think that review is dead on.

Mike: She is either wonderfully innocent, or the craftiest, meanest, sharpest comic I've ever known.

either way, you win

I think it's both

Mike: Oh god, there's another song to listen to.

Yeah, "I Live With You" gets my award for the most overblown pile of nothing that I've heard in a while.

Mike: If there had been a center to that candy, I might have liked it, but it was like biting into what you think is a cherry cordial and finding out it's only the thin, outer chocolate shell.

At least the last song was pleasant enough

Completely dull, but not aggravating

Tomorrow we'll finish up with a look at Dirty Projectors Bitte Orca

Monday, July 6, 2009

Hypebusting- pt.1 (Animal Collective)

Mike Hiltz at Central Target and I had the bright idea to do a marathon listen/chat through Animal Collective's Merriwheather Post Pavilion, Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest, Dirty Projectors' Bitte Orca. These records have each been named the "best record of 2009" by various outlets as early as December of 2008, and we thought it was our duty to see if any of them actually deserved the extravagant hype. My comments appear in italics below. I'm breaking the chat up by albums, so for today's post we have Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion. After all of the chats are up, I'll be back with a proper post to sum up my thoughts.

Before we start listening, maybe we should predict how much we'll like each of them.

Mike: sounds good... I'm gonna say "pretty good, B" to Grizzly Bear, C+ to animal collective, and a D to Dirty Projectors. I should say though, I've only heard bits and pieces of any of the bands' other work. Those grades are really basically random

I've heard the last album by Animal Collective, "Strawberry Jam", and the lead singer's last solo album, "Person Pitch". I heard Grizzly Bear play at the Pitchfork Festival, and was very unimpressed. Dirty Projectors, all I've heard is their song with David Byrne on the "Dark Was the Night" charity record and a few stray tracks. Oh, and I know they covered Black Flag's "Damaged" in its entirety.

Mike: I love David Byrne. I've only heard Projectors material from that Damaged cover album. As a Black Flag fan, I had to hear it. Oh, and my typing is terrible, as our readers will find out.

How were the covers? I know of it, never heard anything

Mike (1:13:23 PM): Written from memory, allegedly, not actual re-listening. It was like if you and I tried to cover Cracked Rear View from remembering what it sounded like. Allegedly. I don't buy any of that crap, but whatever. By being so contrived and theoretical, it made it pretentious

Now I'm trying to imagine how I would actually want to cover Cracked Rear View.

Mike HA! We have more important things at hand though

A Place to Bury Hootie

Mike: *ugh*... so where do we start? who's up?

Let's do this chronologically and start with Animal Collective.

Mike: oh, wait... I'm an ass. So real quick: what's your grade for this one?

I'm guessing a C or C- for this one.

Mike: Oooh! Let's rock it...ready?


Mike: alright.... GO!

Ah yes... "Maggot Brain" I love this album

I can't fault an album for starting with what sounds like a toilet flushing

Mike: (By the way, Dogdoguwar readers... I'm the snide one in the group. Nice to meet ya!)

Yeah I was thinking more "bong-y".

oh. psychedelic handclaps. Oh boy.

I think i can hear that they have beards.

I don't know how I can tell.

Because only bearded hippies play drums like this

Mike: Yeah, true

I long for the golden days when it was just an ambient thing. Pre-drums.

When the song started, I thought "I hope this picks up!", and now I wish I hadn't said that.

My sociology-sense just goes nuts when they start trying to do the "tribal drumming" thing

Mike: yeah

I'm trying hard not to judge this on people I knew in college's taste, to take it for itself, but big 'drum circle' drums and underwater ambient bits worry me

The outro wasn't bad

Mike: yeah

OK, this one sounds like Tangerine Dream.

In a good way?

Mike: Sorta. Not in a BAD way. But that synth riff that faded in was very TD. The vocals are throwing it off a bit. Actually, I'm sort of enjoying this vocal arrangement. But I'm on decent headphones.

WHOA! what the hell is that?

This is better than the first track. What surprised you?

Mike: The thudding percussion coming in, breaking up the space rock ambience. All low and squelchy.

See, I like this one a bit less than the first one, because this sounds like a lousy Beach Boys song from the "Still Cruisin'" era.

I thought it kind of worked well

Mike: it does. unexpected, I guess

Yeah, it is a bad Beach Boys song, but that's better than a bad song one would hear at People's Park

Very fair. And I think the Beach Boys thing comes from the singer sounding like a cross between Mike Love and the guy from They Might Be Giants.

Good point.

This song does go one about 2 years too long

Mike : Much like Mike Love's ego.


I'm finding the sudden urge to wander into the next room and grab a snack.

Ok, this song can just shut the hell up now.

Mike: Not because this is awful, but because it's just like nothing.

None of it seems to belong in the same song

Mike: Immaculately recorded, so I guess it's does SOUND really neat in the stereo field and all the reverb and whatnot.

You know when you're listening to something on your computer and then open a YouTube window, crushing the two audio sources together?


Mike: It's like Squarepusher, Bright Eyes, and an oompah band. I'd like to see that browser history.

You know what I do when that happens? I try to find one of the sources to turn it off. Animal Collective lets it run for 5:16.

Mike: We still have a minute and a half.

I think your time is better served by getting a snack

Mike: wait, it's getting nice... like shoegazer looping

Well, for a few seconds. Neat stereo panning...

You think "Summertime Clothes" is going to be the "big rock song"

It's going to be the big "rock" song

Mike: If I ever write a proper review of this album, I'm going to call this "Animal Collective's 'Takin' Care Of Business'".

It is the best thing so far on the album

Mike: I'm going to disagree. I feel that ambient MOMENTS in the first few songs were actually really great, in an Orb-like way, but this, so far, is the best SONG.

I'll agree with that

Mike: That uber-chipper double-timey rhythm kinda thing rubs me the wrong way though. Overdone since '05... like when they put that Sufjan Stevens song into 'Little Miss Sunshine'

It's got a real Yes or ELP vibe to me.

Mike: This vocalist is driving me crazy, but that's because I think he sounds like Conor Oberst, and I have a bias against Bright Eyes.

I say bring back Mike Love

I already regret saying that.

Yeah, it's a no-win scenerio

Mike: So does Mike Love get all the techno songs, and Conor Oberst gets the drum-circle ones?

A touch of Rivers Cuomo in Mike's voice, too.

That little repeating riff is pissing me off

Mike: agreed

Yeah, I hear the Cuomo comparison.

Ok, when I said I hated that riff, that didn't mean I wanted to hear more of it.

Mike: Oh, everything else is fading, but it's staying.

I can't really win.... they're good at the ambient intros and outros, but no good at spacing out parts of the song. When they go spacey, I want them to rock and move a little more, and then they do, and I don't want that once I hear it.

it's weird though. I'm getting, so far, a "more than the sum of it's parts" vibe from this one

I'm liking it objectively a little more than I expected. But I bet fake Conor Oberst is going to drop by and make me a liar.

It's not bad, to be sure, but I can't fathom getting very excited about it.

Mike: Nowhere near that pre-emptive "best of the year" hype, so far. But to assume that it won't end up on the list would be doing the same thing I've damned the press for doing previously.

It will end up on all the lists, but I have yet to hear anything that makes me feel like it deserves to be there.

Mike: I could, however, see this in my largest group of contenders for "Top Ten". Based on what I've heard so far, it would probably lose out in the first round of whittling. It's not great, but if I can put that Meat Puppets on my list, I could see it in the candidates

But I've already heard 10 albums this year that I like more than what I've heard on this.

I was, however expecting more "organic stringed instruments" on this. Like recognizable acoutstic guitars that sounded rusty or something.

It's more electronic-psych than I expected.

It sounds about like their last record, which, as I said, I liked well enough.

Mike: Makes sense. The pseudo-samba thing I'm hearing now is pissing me off

because it feels like they're using that whole style of music with all it's history at the most surface level, almost like HYPERirony. So ironic they're not sure if they get it and genuinely think it's awesome, like hipsters and yacht rock.

When they do come across an enjoyable sound, they don't hold it long enough. They play the hell out of the annoying parts, though.

Mike YES!

Again, I can't state enough how nicely recorded the space parts are. the intro to this song sounded WONDERFUL on my headphones.

Then Mike Love comes back with a Modest Mouse song and ruins the mood.

This one is alright, well until I started typing.

Now that you mention that, I want to hear 60's Mike Love sing "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes"

Mike: you're right about them repeating things. "Guys Eyes", which just started to do that thing the Beach Boys did, but without any of the payoff of a good countermelody vocal coming in.

Yeah, a good lead vocal coming in across that vocal bed would have been excellent. Without that, it's just kind of nothing.

Mike: i don't need my psych-rock to sound like music that came before it, but if it DOES recall obvious touchstones, try to meet the standard. Like, I'm not going to try to make a record that sounds like the Zombies, but if I clearly wrote a record just like the zombies, I'd try to make one that was good in that sense of "good"

You know, the Beach Boys never went full prog-hippie, which one might of expected, given Mike Love's Maharishi leanings. This is kind of what that might have sounded like. I'm very glad they didn't

Mike: yuck. agreed.

"Repetition in the music, and we're really gonna use it. Repetition in the music, and we're really gonna use it. Repetition in the music, and we're really gonna use it."
-Mark E. Smith, The Fall

On paper, just putting together the touchstones of this, I should like it. Beach Boys, shoegazer, psychedelia, etc.

Mike: They started a song called "Lion In A Coma" with a digeridoo? And it's CONOR singing? Screw this band.

Agreed on the touchstones

There's always an appropriate Mark E. Smith quote for an occasion.

Mike: i think that's the reason i'm not being harder on it. I think, "Well, it's sorta like X, and you LIKE X, so this must be alright."

Ok, I actively hate this song

Mike: The weird time signature in this one is irritating the hell out of me. I like weirdly-timed music, but this one feels like, "Look how good we are at musician-ing!"

"Hey, we listened to Captain Beefheart that one time!"

Mike: "Remember that?!? Let's DO that!"

Alright, I'm liking the start of this song. Now, let's see how long it takes to switch to something more irritating.

Mike: Let's mark once it gets screwed up.


There's a thin line between being atmospheric and being boring.

Mike: This is like if "Summertime Rolls" by Jane's Addiction didn't have any foreward momentum, and that was written and recorded by a bunch of heroin addicts.

I'm gonna hate this song.


Mike: and it's SIX MINUTES LONG!

Oh God


Mike: The Lion Sleeps Tonight with a Casio samba?!?

We're gonna do this

are they yelling "sports bra" in the background?

oh, "Support Your Brother", I think.

It's sports bra

Mike: I wrote this song when I was six and just started mashing my fists on my friend's Bert and Ernie keyboard.

If you want to get angrier, just imagine the day-glo colored scenester kids just going nuts doing the hippie dance with their hands to this song.

Mike: ah crap... thanks for that

Probably wearing a Ninja Turtles t-shirt and Kanye glasses. Are ironic mullets still a thing?


Mike: When did this go to a house song? With calypso vocals?

I think I get why hipsters and indie kids like this. I'm having a moment.

enlighten me

Mike: There are SO MANY STYLES on this record, often all at once, something in the brain registers that it must be good if it's that layered and wide-ranging. It's a mash of everything you commented on above, combined with heavy psych and prog, electronic dance music, hippe jam bands, the earthy side of Krautrock, a la Amon Duul II, soul, pop... on and on. It's without a doubt EPIC and swooping, but for me, those elements aren't glued together right

Thank god that ended

Mike: having that epiphany during that joyful energy burst at the end of the track was sorta nice though.

Come back tomorrow as our tour takes us to Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest