Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Song I Sing For You, Is My Message Getting Through?

A couple of my vinyl finds, bought sight-unseen, as it were, were the self-titled LP British Lions and the No One Sleeps When I'm Awake 7" from The Sounds. I also got off my butt and got ahold of Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside's The Untamed Beast LP after a year of listening to 'Party Kids'. We'll take a look at each of these today.

A brief word on our 7": 'No One Sleeps When I'm Awake' is an interesting, and very polished pop-punk track with a Blondie-like sound, albeit harder edged. The B-side is a live track, and shows that the group has the same chops onstage. I think they'd be a worthy listen. Must do research. 

Apparently this is the remainder of Mott The Hoople after the departure of Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson! Morgan Fisher, Pete Watts and Dale Griffin remained, adding Ray Major (of Opal Butterfly) and John Fiddler (of Medicine Head). They put together this self-titled debut and a sophomore effort titled Trouble With Women and split up after neither album performed at all. The 1978 self-titled release came into my possession thanks to the bargain basement at Jerry's Records (no, seriously). 

What I Liked:
They have energy and fair chops, rock-wise; there are riffs and solos, and it doesn't offend through ineptness, but it settles for competence when it should push for more. John Fiddler has a good voice for hard rock, and it's a shame he didn't seem to go further as a hard rock vocalist. Some songs show flashes of prog rock, but there are still pop hooks in between - sometimes too many in one song though. At best, you could call them generic rock. Best songs: 'One More Chance To Run'; the mostly restrained 'Break This Fool'; debatably, 'Fork Talking Man' and 'Booster'. 

What I Didn't Like:
One of their core problems (and I'm not the only one who has said this) is that they couldn't decide whether to be glam rock (after the subgenre's demise), or go all out on the current hard rock sound. Their sound is in the middle; it's half-hearted in both directions, it can't tell what it really wants to be, it's an average instead of a synergy. As such, it's powerful, but not enough; but it's also showy, and still not enough. The songwriting, though not truly terrible has some awkward or lackluster moments. 'Wild In The Streets' is probably the best example of this dichotomy; a solid verse, but a cheesy chorus, and a disco beat beneath it all. The songs 'International Heroes' and 'My Life's In Your Hands' begin to sound overwrought and perhaps a bit hammy, the latter featuring an obnoxious repeating fill near the end of the song. The saddest example is the album closer 'Eat The Rich', a leaden-riffed social commentary that just sounds preachy and trite. It's Neil Young's 'Welfare Mothers' all over again, without Neil's star power. 

In Conclusion:
If I didn't have such a soft spot for anything rock, this would have ended up in front of Dave's for free. But it's not a total washout, and for those who might feel the same way, you might want to see if any of it's on YouTube and see if you like it before tracking it down. In a word, I would call them listenable, but not very interesting

Now sadly split at the time of this review, Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside present a brash but well-crafted slice of solidly 60's-sounding rock and roll and pop. The single 'Party Kids' seems to have done well, and even made it to Pittsburgh's 91.3 WYEP. It's kind of strange, and somewhat sad to me, that they've called it quits. Ford herself has since found a new backing band, although it remains to be seen whether bassist Tyler Tornfelt, guitarist Jeff Munger, and drummer Ford Tennis will continue to perform after the split.

What I Liked:
A bluesy, twangy first single? Everything about their song 'Party Kids' is everything they do right. Ford's sweetly brassy voice has both swagger and sex appeal here; either Ford or Munger is responsible for that meat-hook of a riff and I want to hug them for it; the 'big beat' behind everything ties it all together nicely; and it's a truly classic song in every sense. The group shines when following this formula. Outside of this, Ford's voice, while not perfectly versatile, can do sensitive and soulful; see 'Shivers'. Perfect fluency in rockabilly and over-the-top early R&B seem to be the main draw for the band's fans, and I've always liked Best songs: 'They Told Me'; 'Party Kids'; 'Shivers'; and I'll throw in 'Do Me Right' for the perfect 50's popabilly sound.

What I Didn't Like:
Some of the songwriting and arranging gets a bit schmaltzy; see the faux New Orleans jazz outro on 'Addicted'. A few songs, and a few lines in some songs, can feel rushed and don't give Ford's voice the space it needs to do its thing. 'Rockability' is guilty of this (in addition to having Ford howl and yip at times, which I find off-putting). Album closer 'Roll Around' is a clunky and out-of-place acoustic number that should sound soulful and nostalgic, but it's too much Sallie and not enough everyone else.

In Conclusion:
I'm behind this album all the way, despite a few shortcomings. If you want a classy and classic sound, I would eagerly recommend The Untamed Beast.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

One Wound Up Punch Of Intuition

Somehow, I always find myself down here. I don't think I've ever understood why and I'm not sure it's that important.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Smoking An Enormous Long Wooden Pipe

You don't have to listen to the entire ten minutes of the song. It's some really whacked-out, far-out-there doom metal; and as such, probably isn't for everybody. Even so, I like this band. From Electric Wizard's 1995 self-titled debut, and sharing the band's name as well, this track has a very interesting voiceover at the very end. If you skip to the last twenty or so seconds of the video, a deep voice will speak the line 'smoking an enormous long wooden pipe'. 

My friend Sam, who is obsessed with metal music of all kinds, turned me on to this group. His copy of the album seems to have the line as a separate track, simply titled 'Wooden Pipe'; but I couldn't find it by itself for some reason. All the videos available on YouTube have it appended to 'Electric Wizard', as above. When we first played it at the Shed, we actually thought the line was 'smoking an enormous large wooden pipe'. I don't think that's correct. 

It actually seems to be taken, word for word, from a line at the very beginning of The Hobbit, where Bilbo Baggins is relaxing outside and having a smoke:
"...and the hobbits were still numerous and prosperous, and Bilbo Baggins was standing at his door after breakfast smoking an enormous long wooden pipe that reached nearly down to his wooly toes (neatly brushed) - Gandalf came by. Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what I had heard about him..."
It never quite sounded like 'large' to me, and after making the connection, I'm certain that Jus Osborn, author of the band's debut, has some soft spot for The Hobbit, at the very least.

As an aside, a number of people I know have told me that what's being smoked in all of Middle-Earth is marijuana. No. Stop. It's not, and by that statement I know that you've never read all of The Lord Of The Rings; in the preface to The Fellowship Of The Ring, it's made quite clear that 'pipe-weed' is a close relative of tobacco. Stop it.

Also, that video is fuckin' weird. Good song though.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Snapshot Image Froze Without A Sound

As an aside, I should explain something about my photography approach in case I end up posting photos focused on people.

I'm used to photographing trains.

There's no way to pose a moving freight train exactly where you want it; it's more of a challenge of geography and timing and initiative. It's what I call the 'shoot what's really there' approach, with the resulting documentary atmosphere. No preparation, no touch-up, not even clearing the weeds, Lance. As soon as an interesting subject is found, I shoot as I find and move on. I also have a preoccupation with taking a good image, regardless of subject.

As a result, I suck at photographing people. I find myself trying to take the same approach as I do in railfan photography, and I top out at the level of candid photographs. I end up freezing their image as they are, rather than when they're ready to present themselves. There's not much preparation that twenty thousand tons of steel and cargo moving at fifty miles per hour can do to 'smile for the camera', in comparison. Taking photos in this manner could be off-putting for some people, I've since realized. It might be that my method presumes a familiarity with the people in the viewfinder that I may not really have, catching them in such casual (perhaps intimate?) moments.

It reminds one of the stories of African tribespeople who thought that a photo taken of them would steal part of their soul. Maybe there's something to that.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The 'Boston Blackie' Kind

I shaved my mustache off.

I know this may come as a shock to some of my readers who were fascinated with (read: concerned about) my hipster-colored antics of late; and it still hasn't sunk in for me yet. I look in a mirror and the reaction is some kind of shock, maybe denial.

That mustache was a lot of work; it took months to get it to grow to the right length, and weeks of using my (neck)beard as the greenhouse bed for its beginnings. Only a few weeks ago, I remembered how I got the fu-manchu-style verticals to the correct width in the beginning: hold them aside with a perfectly vertical finger, and use said finger as a guide for the trimmer. Weirdly, the soul patch stayed very light, compared to the rest of the 'stache, except for a few very dark hairs at the center. Never understood that. Maybe it's the Welshman in me. I always thought that, like the Dude's rug, that soul patch tied my facial hair together. It's been a fun project, actually, if you want to talk about it like that.

But there are reasons that it had to go. Right now, I'm supposed to be job hunting. I don't know if employers are going to take too kindly to some dude with unkempt hair and an apparently ironic mustache asking them for a job. And I'm told the ladies aren't a fan of the ol' face caterpillar either. So, until I have a job with a lax dress code and start dating a girl whose favorite actor is Burt Reynolds, I think I should face the world cleanshaven.
EDIT: An astute reader brought to my attention that, depending on the context, it should be Tom Selleck referenced in this post and not Burt Reynolds. As a matter of fact, I was indeed thinking of Selleck when I wrote it, although I will admit to a soft spot for the original Smokey And The Bandit. Thanks, Roi!