Mar 15

My Own Private Record Club*

FT110 comments • 5,499 views

boredoms vcn This is a post listing the records I’m listening to for my YEAR OF ROCKISM**, as outlined here (cut and pasted from Tumblr):

I’m going to listen to one album on a once-a-day basis for a week, a different one each week. Not in order to write about them or anything, unless I decide I want to. Just a minor attention-span workout, the listening equivalent of that “20 minutes of brisk exercise daily” or “5 a day” advice. I realised now I don’t review albums any more I’ve got out of that habit of intensive listening, except for Popular, which is done very much with writing as the aim. It would be healthy to get it back, I reckon.

The albums will mostly be a) stuff I already own that b) I know I like but c) have never really given the time they deserve. The listening cycle is Friday to Thursday, until such time as I miss a day, at which point it will shift currently Tuesday to Monday. Albums below:

Week 1 – 16/1/15 – 22/1/15: WU-TANG CLAN – “Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers” (Comments 1-13)
Week 2 – 23/1/15 – 29/1/15: BRIAN ENO – “Music For Films” (Comments 14-15)
Week 3 – 30/1/15 – 5/2/15: SKY FERREIRA – “Night Time, My Time” (Comments 16-20, 58)
Week 4 – 6/2/15 – 12/2/15: MILES DAVIS – “Sketches Of Spain” (Comments 21-56)
Week 5 – 13/2/15 – 19/2/15: LIZ PHAIR – “Exile In Guyville” (Comments 57, 59-67, 70)
Week 6 – 20/2/15 – 26/2/15: FKA TWIGS – “LP1” (Comments 68-69, 71-85)
Week 7 – 27/2/15 – 9/3/15: KANYE WEST – “The College Dropout” (Comments 86-100)
Week 8 – 10/2/15 – 16/2/15: THE BOREDOMS – “Vision Creation Newsun”

*You can talk about the records if you want, of course! You don’t have to, though. This is simply bookkeeping.
**I am not using this word seriously.


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  1. 31

    Format wars were for a long time a proxy for taste wars in the discussion of jazz: as late as the 1980s, you still encountered significant numbers of jazz enthusiasts and scholars who basically argued that the 78 was the blessed form, and that the jazz that wasn’t explicitly made for (and on) the 78 was a fallen version. But this wing of the fandom hasn’t really had a look in, in the era of “what one record should I get?”, because this question is asked by people who assume that an LP (or the associated CD) is going to be in the answer. Basically the reps for styles prior to “modern jazz” had (by their own choices and passions) no platform in the kinds of forum where the question was being discussed in these terms: they might get room in Downbeat or Jazz Journal, but not in the sunday supps or — since it didn’t even yet exist — Q.

    Albums in the sense of “curated collections of songs on an LP” were (in the 50s, the decade of this ideas emergence) very much aimed at a listenership unfamiliar with most jazz — an audience being opened up to a music — and the musicians best able to adapt to this tended to be the younger players just then making their names: Davis and Coltrane; Mingus and Ornette Coleman; Stan Kenton and Dave Brubeck. Established figures — like Goodman — of course made albums too, though not necessarily yet of the kinds of material Wichita mentions, which only began being put together en masse in the late 60s and early 70s (often quite cheaply and shoddily, with poor provenance info and even less scrupulous as regards copyright and such than the US leisure industry).

    Occasionally collections of music they’d made that everyone agreed on — Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Sevens the most obvious example — did suit LP-sized length, but of course established figures didn’t want to be being always stuck behind the “classic status” of the music they’d made when younger: they wanted ppl to pay attention (and respect) to their NEW releases (sometimes quite justifiably). I think this aspect applies even to Ellington, who was fashioning LP-suited work from quite early on (work that was too long not to get broken up on 78s, for example).

    So I think the young turks of the 50s were just in a super-strong position to get their work motored to the top of such lists from quite early on; and as we all know, once it’s there, it’s hard to remove. Stan Kenton has lost his place in the pantheon; Brubeck — who like Goodman made a thing of playing to college kids — has not, though (as a result) he’s never quite had the artistic cachet other far less successful players have.

    Add to this, the fact that a lot of musicians felt and — and some jazz critics continue to argue — that jazz on record is very much a lesser thing than jazz live in the moment: which means that the LP is, in a key aesthetic sense, unrepresentative of the music at its best; the more album-oriented it is, the more this is felt to be true. So again, I think this version of canon-formation happened (by default) among people more interested in making such lists (and establshing such sales) than its equivalent in pop or rock. Where the same kinds of arguments of course existed — rock vs pop! lps vs singles — but the quarrel always being more central to the main discussion, and more part of the point of the music?

    (Back in the day, an album was a collection of 78s, possibly in a fancy box of some sort. So these did exist, for some kinds of music. You’d have to ask a collector or a scholar how well earlier modes of jazz were covered: I don’t know the answer, though I do know that “Birth of the Cool” first came out as 78s.)

  2. 32
    wichitalineman on 10 Feb 2015 #

    Thanks Mark. I had no idea about the jazz format wars, but it really makes a lot of sense. And just the older generation dying off seems to have sealed the fate of, say, Stan Kenton who I know was a huge influence on John Barry but I know absolutely nothing about.

    I can relate it pretty easily to my own personal tastes – I’m becoming increasingly aware of how very old (and therefore, from a professional viewpoint, irrelevant) a lot of 50s and even mid 60s pop is beginning to sound. It’s influence doesn’t reach to anywhere near the present day.

    It’s also good to be reminded that Duke Ellington embraced the album from the beginning. I only discovered his Nutcracker Suite last Christmas – this is extraordinary:

    Tom, I’d guessed you didn’t really mean token jazz record! But the phrase and the notion exist. It never seems to be questioned in the way that rockist best of/Top 10 lists are hummed and hawed over – but it’s always the same names: a few Miles Davis, Headhunters, Love Supreme, yadda yadda. And the smart arse extensions to that short shortlist are always Moondog and Sun Ra, as if ‘Jazz’ had a back catalogue of a similar depth to Washington Go-Go.

  3. 33
    enitharmon on 10 Feb 2015 #

    Ed @ 26: I suppose it depends on which qualities you find off-putting. There’s jazz and there’s other jazz that sounds completely different.

  4. 34
    Mark M on 10 Feb 2015 #

    Re27: I’m going to assume you’re being rhetorical. The one absolute in all forms of art (indeed all taste-related matters) is there is nothing in the ‘no one can resist’ category. But I know you know that.

  5. 35
    Ed on 11 Feb 2015 #

    @31 That’s fascinating.

    Re this: “a lot of musicians felt and — and some jazz critics continue to argue — that jazz on record is very much a lesser thing than jazz live in the moment: which means that the LP is, in a key aesthetic sense, unrepresentative of the music at its best;”

    Maybe that’s why rock and pop fans like me feel comfortable with In A Silent Way and those other Davis / Macero albums, which are the antithesis of “live in the moment” recordings.

  6. 36
    swanstep on 11 Feb 2015 #

    @34, Mark M.. Yes, I was being rhetorical… but I’ve never known anyone, once exposed, to not love Blue Train through to about 1963 Village Vanguard sessions (w/ Dolphy) though. I dunno, those records occupy a region of musical space where freedom from and constraint by melodies and beats are perfectly balanced somehow…it feels like a new peak classical music, and in my view a lot of the best stuff that came before feels in retrospect to be leading up to it.

    Wichita, 28’s question about why do people with little jazz in their collections tend to go for Coltrane/Monk/Davis etc. and not Ellington/Goodman/Armstrong/Whiteman etc.? is partially answered I think by considering that that earlier jazz is to a significant extent just the popular dance music of its era. Post-rock-n-roll, however, Jazz kind of specializes in cool, non-dance music. People wanting to jazz up their record collection have already got a ton of various sorts of dance music in their collection and aren’t that interested in ’20s-40s attempts to do dance music without much bass (witness the anachronistic soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s Gatsby recently) whereas they specifically gravitate to the disambiguated jazz cool of the late ’50s. Wynton Marsalis used to bang the drum for Armstrong et al., bemoaning that Jazz had lost touch with its dance music/popular music roots, but that message has almost no appeal for the masses I believe. Rather the same insurgent forces that drove Jazz musicians away from dance/pop music back in the ’50s still apply today, and the jazz that’s of broadest interest tries to do something else, and Coltrane et al. were the first, most stable cab off the rank in the competition for what else small ensemble music could do.

  7. 37
    Ed on 11 Feb 2015 #

    That said, I’m not prepared to concede entirely to the argument that my utterly predictable and orthodox “token jazz” tastes – basically Wichita’s list @32 – are all culturally / technologically / economically determined.

    It’s also relevant that A Love Supreme and In A Silent Way are works of transcendent genius.

    @33: “Off-putting” was Mark M’s word @25, used to describe “noodlieness”. I couldn’t tell you exactly what that is, but I think I know it when I hear it.

  8. 38

    actually after a lifetime of paying pretty close attention to jazz, i still remain basically unmoved by coltrane, early *or* late: and ditto hard bop, which is probably the period i’m least taken by, even including the marsalis retro-wave

    “earlier jazz is to a significant extent just the popular dance music of its era” <-- think you ruin this argt by dropping in the word "just"; it's true that the relentless trebly peppiness of the 20s jazz backline especially can be a bit hard going for more modern ears (and that this is a product of a music having to cut through the limitations of the medium), but it's seriously nuts to claim that armstrong, bechet, pee-wee russell, ellington (i could go on) were all "just" making dance music and to reiterate, the emergent jazz audience in the 50s/60s was *at war* with the scholars and fans of earlier jazz (and basically won the war, bcz the technologies they were getting behind had better general heft): the loss of a good historical sense of what had gone before -- which i don't to be fair think the musicians lost -- is as much the explanation of why this era is so over-represented in the tastemaker armoury i too prefer miles once he encounters teo: for me, in a silent way >>>>>>>> a love supreme, but actually i like him best in the deep black rock phase (agharta, pangaea, dark magus)

    don’t get me started on KIND OF EFFING BLUE

  9. 39

    adding: it’s true that a tranche of snobbery of much this stripe did begin to emerge re cool* jazz — it’s what got dave brubeck onto the cover of time magazine, and what so pissed off the free jazzers (and leroi jones) — but insofaras it was an element in the “such token alb, much limited selection” phenom, it was driven by ppl who knew nearly nothing about jazz prior to the mid-40s (goodman partially excepted), and considered themselves a lot more racially/culturally sophisticated than they actually likely were <-- not to say there weren't interesting consequences, but i still basically think that 50s jazz (excluding ornette, mingus, cecil, and some of the titans of earlier times) was hunkering down into limitations and resignation, and backing off from the voracious overreach of earlier periods #notallcool obv

  10. 40
    Izzy on 11 Feb 2015 #

    Is it maybe related to the rock & roll lifestyle of Bird, Mingus, Miles et al? They always seemed to me to have got there first, before the beat groups, and thus established an easy framework to be acclaimed in? It’s not just about the music after all.

    Admittedly I don’t know anything about the early cats, no doubt they were mainlining absinthe with flappers on each arm, basslessly.

  11. 41

    Retroactively, I think lifestories that are entertaining to read did indeed help get some names into people’s minds — a lot of rockwriting is NOT about the details of the music (this is often considered more feature than bug) so the more exotic shores of behaviour aren’t unhelpful, for hooking jazzers into the rockwrite-sanctioned canon. But this doesn’t explain Coltrane, really (I mean, yes, ex-junkie but not his story is little but dedication to music, inc.the music of others).

    Also doesn’t explain why Bird’s salience doesn’t extend to getting his records into the “token” list (this lack I’d argue is almost entirely technologically determined; except the bit that’s determined by his dying young, too soon be get to try out concept ideas the way Mingus or Miles shortly would).

  12. 42
    Mark M on 11 Feb 2015 #

    Re40: No shortage of incident in the Jelly Roll Morton story, for just one example.

    (Sprang straight to mind because of the mention of him in the recent Billy Bragg-fronted Radio 4 doc about Alan Lomax, which – up to the point I heard it – had completely ignored all of the controversy about Lomax’s work. Anyone else listen to it?)

  13. 43
    swanstep on 12 Feb 2015 #

    @38, Sukrat. I cheerily retract my ‘just’. I wasn’t meaning to put down those early jazz-swing guys at all by saying they were principally the popular/dance music of their period , only offering a partial explanation of why (together with technological barriers) it might not answer as much of a need for (not especially historically-minded) people today as the later ‘cool’ stuff does. Example: I’m a big fan of Doris Day records from the ’40s but have never been able to get anyone else, not even my siblings interested in them: they just strike them as more pop of which they’ve already got plenty that’s more spaciously recorded, etc.. By way of contrast, those same folks have eaten up anything from the same period that’s evidently en route to the hard bop promised land, e.g., http://youtu.be/2v_Y3Pbiims (that said, Gene Krupa and Louis Jordan have also gone down a treat with them).

  14. 44

    i think we’re more or less in agreement then, apologies for coming in a bit hard :)

  15. 45
    Tommy Mack on 12 Feb 2015 #

    Sukrat, what’s yr beef with Kind Of Blue? I know it’s the ‘I own one jazz album’ album* but I’ve never heard anyone express dislike with it in and of itself. I thought the concensus was ‘this is Miles hitting a peak so pure even the squares can dig it’ rather than ‘this is Miles watered down to score a hit with the squares’. Curious to hear yr thoughts.

    *I own about six jazz albums, one of which is inevitably Kind of Blue, so am about five times as cool as squares, which is still not very cool.

  16. 46

    the short version is i suppose this: that it is a sly, niggling, jittery record of odd subtle hard-to-pin-down not-very-nice emotions and evocations, which depends for its expressive intent on the listener having a pretty solid familiarity with the music of its day and what went before, for its devices and effects to come across properly (most famously the introduction of the modal approach to harmony, the details and purpose of which i’ve watched seriously learned and articulate musicians struggle to explain coherently or usefully)

    and yet it has somehow become the stand-alone representative of the form it is on the whole sardonically setting itself against: something about the way it’s been made — its constituent parts, its presentation — exactly and completely masks this subtly hostile aspect of it, to the extent that it’s instead become a kind of nice-to-hear-in-the-background chill-out classic, which in my opinion suggests a flaw in its conception or execution: that it can’t (or anyway doesn’t) draw the newbie into its darker heart

    i don’t think it’s bland or diluted, exactly the opposite — but there’s something about it that allows it to be excerpted from its somewhat snidey role in a larger conversation, and set up on a plinth that puts the rest of this conversation into shadow if not oblivion… which annoys me! miles was never not an argumentative man: he disliked a lot of the work his peers were making, but this almost always meant he came round to his own version of this work by another route

    if my musicological chops were less rusty i’d write this up in more detail — tho if/when i attempt this will probably then merge itself into my long-awaited ever-expanding epic dissection of rattle and hum (the “angel of harlem” volume) –:D

  17. 47

    my eru2itorum if you will X(

  18. 48
    Tommy Mack on 12 Feb 2015 #

    “depends for its expressive intent on the listener having a pretty solid familiarity with the music of its day and what went before” – interesting, my brother, major jazz freak who drums in a swing band (and quoth, only half-joking ‘bebop was the death of jazz’) reckoned the only way to properly enjoy jazz was to work your way through chronologically ‘if you just put on Bitches Brew it’ll make no sense’. Mind you, his own entry point to Jazz was Jamiroquai so not entirely in keeping with chronology!

    I definitely identify with the notion of wanting jazz to do something different to pop (where pop = not jazz or classical) but not exclusively, I enjoy loads of the pre-war stuff mentioned and more but as others have said, put off by the lack of approachable portion size (40 minute LP vs multi-disc cheapo comp box set). With jazz, as with classical music, I prefer to listen to a single album on a loop for the best part of a day and ideally subsequent days, feeling like I’m picking up different things each time. (this while doing other things, I can’t remember the last time I had minutes let alone hours to JUST listen to music)

    I feel about Jazz like I feel about comics: whenever I’m listening /reading to it/them, I think I should do way more of this but generally I imagine a huge and daunting body of work I’ll never wrap my head around. This is clearly ridiculous, I mean it’s true but no more so than pop music or literature are unconquerable. I’m aware canonism has convinced me pop and lit come in easier meal-sized portions.

  19. 49

    i should add that my general view is not your brother’s! i don’t think you need to do lots of homework before jumping into jazz at any point other than the start: but i also think there are good and bad records to jump in at, and kind of blue is — for me, for the reasons given, not a good one (not least because it seems to end up being the first AND ONLY for so many ppl, which is i think telling)

    i tried to put together a quick list of records that would be better places to start in roughly this era — obviously this cleaves to my own tastes (no coltrane) but i don’t think any of these are these days controversial or quirky or contrarian; all of them are strong and striking just in themselves, obviously you get more out of them if you do know more (this is true of everything) but you don’t need a run up

    sonny rollins: saxophone colossus (prestige, 1957) [1]
    ornette coleman: the shape of jazz to come (atlantic, 1959) [2]
    charles mingus: mingus ah um (columbia, 1959) [3]
    oliver nelson: the blues and the abstract truth (impulse!, 1961) [4]
    roland kirk: we free kings (mercury, 1961) [5]
    lee konitz: motion (verve, 1961) [6]
    eric dolphy: out to lunch (blue note, 1964) [7]

    1: rollins is actually the player i’m most circumspect abt saying you can come to cold and get something out of, bcz (a) i came really late to him, and (b) actually maybe prefer “way out west” myself, which is a complex and playful argument abt quarrels in jazz in the late 50s (and authenticity! which it teases!) — rollins has enormous knowledge of the history of jazz (and other musics) so he always is talking about them, but i don’t think you have to bring this with you yourself, i think you can begin learning it from him! (others may disagree…) (miles by contrast is a really tricky place to start learning abt the rest of jazz, he has OPINIONS and a MANIPULATIVE AGENDA —> not that these are bad, quite the reverse, but caveat the newbie listener)
    2: originally i went with ornette on tenor here, the first ornette i owned myself, but it is more of an oddity i suppose — i am very fond of it though; ornette’s desired title for “the shape of jazz to come” was “focus on sanity”, haha x0x0 never change dude (he is probably my favourite player of all, forever)
    3: kind of a history lesson in itself: mingus when not irascible sprawling (he’s great when irascible and sprawling also, but keeps it very tight here — and establishes the links to black music that isn’t jazz very effectively); great title, great cover
    4: nelson probably the least widely known in my list; bcz he afterwards went to LA and mainly composed for the telly — as per the title, yet another stab at the question of how to combine composition, arrangement and the improvised encounter of individuals only just now in a group (a very 50s question, which many returned to), but again, entirely stands on its own; gripping, not least because the modern remaster means the sounds just leaps out and grabs you (i hadn’t listened for ages, just went to find it on spotify)
    5: not yet “rahsaan roland kirk” (he found his extra name in a dream), kirk was blind, a multi-instrumentalist showman, with a dramatising fascination for sound — like mingus (who he played with) he has a fascination with and knowledge of black music history, so you’re learning upfront from him and the homework can come afterwards :) he’s also wildly and weirdly funny
    6: i saw konitz play at one of derek bailey’s company weeks, genuinely one the strangest and startling performances i’ve ever seen (he was way out of his apparent comfort zone — a white cerebral scion of the cool school in hardcore improv terrain — except he seemed not only comfy but composedly making more of the adventure than anyone else there); this is not *that* but in a curious way not entirely dissimilar, a deeply reserved man finding a space to make endless reflective plangent shapes
    7: this is of course the record everyone should have if they only have one :D

    if i were to pick a miles i think it wd be “live at the plugged nickel” — “in a silent way” is lovely but no longer really “jazz” in the sense wichita and others are puzzling at (contentious i guess, but it’s miles’s own position also)

    quite pleased that i got seven difft labels there — this wasn’t done on purpose!

  20. 50

    ^^^this also skirts the shores of the NEW THING (aka free jazz) without plunging in: like miles post “in a silent way”, free jazz is i think a different issue — it was actually my starting point (i think this is quite often true of ppl arriving from rockier territories), and declares itself more ab novo than it probably actually is (which i didn’t then realise)

  21. 51
    punctum on 13 Feb 2015 #

    My starting point also, aged about five, when life is a big cartoon and so Ornette etc. were yet more crazy but lovable primary-coloured blocks-o’-fun. Before you fall into the trap of “learning” about anything.*

    *”what do you mean, five, you poseur?” My father loved, bought and played the stuff (and Stockhausen, Xenakis &c. on parallel plane) and I listened.**

    **but then you get to where I am now and have worked your way back to The Beginning Of Jazz with the starkly delightful revelation: oh, they were doing this kind of stuff from the off!

  22. 52
    Lena on 13 Feb 2015 #

    An American quartet called Mostly Other People Do The Killing (they are good and funny, yes humor does belong in jazz) have done a note-for-note cover of Kind Of Blue, which I am more & more intrigued by (like my mom I like things like Miles Smiles and Miles Ahead). A big co-sign from me on Sonny Rollins, as he once said that jazz is the umbrella that all other musics stand under, and his music proves it. Way Out West is great, but then so is The Bridge…

  23. 53
    Tommy Mack on 13 Feb 2015 #

    Thanks for the tips Sukrat, I’ve heard bits of most of those guys but never at length. I’ll be sure to have a deece listen.

    My dad too had a load of jazz and avant stuff though he rarely played it, having settled, by the 80s, into a dadrock diet of Joe Cooker, Eric Clapton and Dire Straits. He definitely played me On The Corner and In A Silent Way, possibly Bitches Brew and Live Evil too. I remember being intrigued but clearly not enough to return to them much. He was a big John McGlaughlan fan and definitely played me a couple of Mahavishnu Orchestra albums which I tried to get into, being similarly awestruck by McGlaughlan’s guitar playing but I found their sound harsh and ugly and their music impenetrable at the time. He also played me John Cage Cage, possibly Stockhausen, definitely Steve Reich who I found most interesting (It’s Gonna Rain sticks in my head – this must have been much later once I had re-embraced dance music as I remember hearing parallels with phase stuff DJs were doing). For the most part I plumped for the more rock/pop stuff in the parental record collection (Beefheart, Modern Lovers, Chuck Berry, Who, Zep, Atomic Rooster from my Dad, Nilsson and Nat King Cole from my mum, Beatles from both)

    What I did haven’t mentioned is that in our late teens, my brother and I used to go to live jazz all the time. It was mainly dancing to jazz-funk at Dancehouse Cafe Bar but the odd sit-down modern jazz gig too. We were stoned most nights. While I don’t want to sound like a tedious weed enthusiast (haven’t smoked it for years) for a bit it definitely helped me absorb myself in rich and complicated music.

  24. 54
    Ward Fowler on 13 Feb 2015 #

    Yes! to Way Out West over Saxophone Colossus. Yes! to Blues and the Abstract Truth – EVERYBODY likes that when they hear it. Hmmm to Out to Lunch, because in my experience ppl who are new to jazz find it quite difficult to get to grips with – in some ways those semi-free Blue Note albs of the early-to-mid 60s are more daunting – abstract, elusive – than the fire-breathing stuff like Spiritual Unity. Yes! to Motion: just as the Nelson smuggles in Bill Evans (so Kind of Blue is present anyway!) Motion smuggles in Coltrane via Elvin Jones (tho’ yeah Konitz and Coltrane are a million miles apart as players and people).

    My number eight wld be Speak No Evil by Wayne Shorter – because it’s quite ‘witchy’ modal jazz played by a stupendous group, and it has one of the great Blue Note front sleeves. ‘Where Flamingos Fly’ on Gil Evans’ Out of the Cool also has some of this semi-exotic/post-Martin Denny spookiness – ‘cool’ as heroin-y numbness and emptiness (see also the Chet album w/ Bill Evans again.) And Gil always said it best about Ornette – “I like him. He swings, and he’s got a good feeling for melody.”

  25. 55
    Tom on 13 Feb 2015 #

    The record’s changed over but the conversation can (of course) stick to jazz if you want! I have learned more from this excellent discussion than from Sketches itself, though I enjoyed it very much. It was at its most evocative in the car park outside Croydon IKEA waiting for a kids’ birthday party to finish at the nearby. bowling alley. Obviously what Miles and Gil Evans had in mind.

    Back to my university days this week.

  26. 56
    lonepilgrim on 13 Feb 2015 #

    I’ve also glad to have a(nother) recommended route into jazz. I’ve never listened to Kind of Blue – it’s another of those monoliths like Pet Sounds that I tend to avoid. Knowing that it is open to other interpretations makes it more appealing. I think I got drawn into jazz through Prog: Mahavishnu Orchestra > Miles Davis. His name was also dropped from time to time in the NME (and later in The Face). Weather Report got played a bit on Nicky Horne’s show on Capital Radio and there was some crossover via Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell. There’s something about Wayne Shorter’s playing that really appeals to me. I went to see Art Blakey in the early 80s because he was playing near and near the end of the decade I saw Abdullah Ibrahim and Ekaya. Both shows were marvellous. More recently I worked at a (state) boys school which supports a big Jazz band and it was an astonishing privilege to listen to them as they rehearsed – the volume! the rich complexity of tones! I appreciate that I’m wandering into ‘jumpers for goalposts’ territory here – but it is music that stimulates me whenever I get to hear it so I’m glad to have another set of routes to explore

  27. 57
    swanstep on 13 Feb 2015 #

    ‘Exile in Guyville’ at the time had some hype about it, started by Phair herself, as a song-by-song (same number of tracks) reply to the Stones’ ‘Exile on Mainstreet’. Has anyone found that an illuminating way to listen to the album? (I haven’t – maybe if I liked the Stones’ record more? I’ve never been able to get over its basically feeling like a shambles and a significant drop-off from the Stones’s previous 3 records.)

    Anyhow, EIG plays great taken by itself with ‘Strange Loop’ especially one of the great taut album-closers and a perennial fave. The implicit joke from its title; it’s so good you’ll be driven either to play it again or to start the album from the top. Phair herself must feel like she’s stuck in a strange loop because appreciation of her has never really got beyond EIG – nothing else has come close to escaping its shadow, and when she tried to go Avril-pop, all the poptimists in the world couldn’t stop Pitchfork et al. burning her in effigy.

  28. 58
    Tommy Mack on 13 Feb 2015 #

    Just to confuse the lineage further, I listened to the Sky Ferreira record today: enjoyed it, I had no preconceptions and was surprised by how punky she is (so clearly I did have some preconceptions!) I don’t know if I’ll come back to it much but like the super-compressed electropunk Spector sound. Deece as Jason Sleaford Mods would say.

  29. 59
    Tom on 13 Feb 2015 #

    I am not sure I’ve ever listened to Exile On Main Street as a whole – I took it a track or two at a time, it seemed so sprawling. I love “Rocks Off” as much as anything in the Stones’ catalogue – the rest? I dunno. I might try a side-by-side at some point this week!

    The self-titled LP may not be Liz Phair’s finest hour but the response to it sure as hell wasn’t Pitchfork’s (this was before I started working for them, FWIW). “Why Can’t I?” is, after “Fuck And Run”, the song of hers I have played most: conceptually and actually a fine pop record, exploring whether Avril-style teenpop could work as sung by and about an adult. A question worth asking by someone: because it was her, she got crucified. I never heard the whole thing, though.

    I haven’t heard Exile in full for a long time and never knew it well, so this week is something of a gamble: I never sit through sixty-minute indie rock records these days, and I’m interested to know if it’s a muscle that’s entirely atrophied or not…

  30. 60
    Mark M on 14 Feb 2015 #

    My favourite Phair album is Whitechocolatespaceegg, which I guess could be seen as the semi ‘sell-out’ album – the one before the self-titled one. It’s got bigger drums and bigger, airer production. Not things I’d necessarily consider myself as liking, but I think it works for Phair. So I listened to that, and Exile In Guyville, and the two state-named/cow-sex referencing songs from Juvenilia, all this morning, and concluded:

    – Although it’s meant to be the defining album, I’m not convinced that EIG is her standout work
    – To my ears, EIG doesn’t sound that lo-fi. It’s hardly Half Japanese or something (but then again, when you take the whole spectrum into account, I guess it might be closer to Half Japanese than Steely Dan)
    – I think her voice is the key – it’s distinctive and expressive
    – I kind of feel that Jenny Lewis nicked her patch (I know that there should be room for lots of people doing similar things, but it often feels like in the general discussion there really isn’t)
    – It’s been a long time since I listened to Liz Phair, and I’m really glad that Tom prompted me to, because I’ve enjoyed it. So thanks.

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