the bored-with-an-eye-infection update
Eels redux - it turns out that once you have the patience to distinguish the good tracks from the unnecessary filler and tonally redundant stuff (always a problem with such a morose dude), this is actually a pretty good album. Here's my edited-tracklist, for anyone who doesn't have the patience to do it themselves:
1. Son of a Bitch
2. Trouble With Dreams
3. Marie Floating Over The Backyard
4. In the Yard, Behind the Church
5. Railroad Man
6. Going Fetal
7. Dust Of Ages
8. Old Shit/New Shit
9. Bride of Theme From Blinking Lights
10. Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)
11. If You See Natalie
12. Sweet Li'l Thing
13. Dusk: A Peach In The Orchard
14. Whatever Happened To Soy Bomb?
15. Losing Streak
16. The Stars Shine In The Sky Tonight
17. Things The Grandchildren Should Know
I still resent Mr. E for making me dig through all that crap, but, at any rate, my version of his album is about half as long and quite good. I'm starting to see why someone could think he's a big deal, even though I still think he's just a minor guy with major moments.
The Go-Betweens, Oceans Apart - A slow-burning album whose charms are revealed only gradually. These are pop songs with very pared-down chord changes and careful, elaborate production; I can't speak as to their quality vs. the Go-Betweens' past work, which evidently has quite a cult, but metacritic assures me this is definitely a career peak for them. Highlights: "Here Comes A City," built around the almost impossibly archaic theme of trans-continental train travel while reading weighty books, and "Born To A Family," which is actually bouncy (the rest of the album aims mostly for intensity and gravitas). I like this album fine, though it's been wildly overpraised. which presumably has something to do with aging critics happy that some of their old college rock favorites are still agile and kicking ass.
M.I.A., Arular - On the other hand, some things are just overpraised. M.I.A. - as anyone reading this has probably heard 1369 times - is the super-innovative Sri Lankan rapper whose sound is a unique amalgamation of bhangra, dance-hall, grime, etc. SHE SOUNDS LIKE NO ONE ELSE EVER. Unfortunately for Mr. Arulpragasam, Gwen Stefani exists, and "Hollaback Girl" does everything she does in radio-single time, and better. Meanwhile, Arular is a taut but strident and noxious piece of goods, centered around the novel idea of melding rabble-rousing (if somewhat wooly) leftist protest politics with more arrogance than Jay-Z. The sound is a combination of low-end bass electronica, lots of M.I.A. yelping, and sampled "ethnic" drums, with lyrics like "I'll fight you just to get peace." Just because M.I.A. toys with Advanced Electronica For Amateurs and steals the Clash's proletarian jungle fever doesn't make her a good thing, and I find her incredibly obnoxious. Also, on "Hombre," she offers up this come-on: "I can get it squeaky so you can come up on me." Ew.
Stars, Set Yourself On Fire - Something near to a masterpiece, although it's ultimately 2 or 3 songs too long; that's what you get for being overly consistent. This is my favorite genre, namely, Pretty Songs with Bleak Lyrics: in a fashion reminiscent of the late Delgados, Stars trade-off dispassionate male-female vocals about death and romantic failure. They're also aware of sex, which is accepted as a part of mature adult life rather than treated as a source of unmixed angst and self-loathing (Cursive) or cause for hysteria (I'm looking at you, Pinkerton). Remarkably, they can do both giddy excitement ("The First Five Times," which captures the onrush of the opening stages of love perfectly) and elegiac perfectly; predictably, I'm a sucker for the elegiac ones, especially "Celebration Guns" and closer "The Calendar Girl," which is about nothing less than making peace with death: "I can't live forever/I can't always be/one day i'll be sand on a beach by the sea/the pages keep turning/I mark off each day with a cross/
and I'll laugh about all that we've lost." Lovely.
Venetian Snares, Rossz Csillag Allat Szuletett - This is my kind of abrasion: insanely fast, brutal electronic drums on top of extremely dissonant chamber music. This guy could score a David Lynch film in a second. Alternately confrontational and ambient, it's fascinating if somewhat chilly stuff.