May I make a small confession?
Occasionally, when I write this much-lauded column, I find myself stumbling for some sort of clever introductory paragraph.
Should I share episodes from my personal life? (“And you know why we’ve never had a lady president?” I asked my young sons. “Because she’d make everybody wear pink clothes!” Although my kids howled appreciatively, my wife, strangely, found this less than humorous.)
Should I be obnoxious about artists I think vastly overrated? (PJ Harvey, R.E.M., Nirvana, etc.)
Or should I simply…comb my hair?
TORI AMOS Boys For Pele (Atlantic) After reading oodles of negative press about this admittedly colorful artist’s new album–even in BAM itself!–I must beg to differ. Frankly, I feel Ms. Amos is one of very few American artists now enjoying a large audience who’d dare to rock the status quo by releasing such a difficult “non-commercial” album, and I think she should be lauded for it. There are plenty of fine, meaningful songs here, and if the occasionally stark arrangements and hoot-owl voicings are too much of a turn-off for some, I would refer them to such albums as Laura Nyroâ€™s New York Tendaberry–which was also very weird, very personal, and very, very good when it came out 27 years ago, and remains so today. That said, I do agree titling her next album Girls For Martina would be a bit much. 4.5/5
FRANK ZAPPA The Lost Episodes (Rykodisc) Not to be a twit, but one of the highpoints in my career as a human came in 1988, when I interviewed Frank Zappa at his house, and he–the very essence of a gentleman–showed me his massive downstairs “vault.” In it were tapes that filled shelves galore and appeared to document every phase of his career in vast quantity. I mention this because The Lost Episodes seems the first taste of that massive archive to surface since his death–and it’s incredible. Including utfab early Capt. Beefheart material as well as unreleased Hot Rats stuff, the disc is any Zappa fan’s dream and a welcome addition to his distinguished catalog. 5/5
RACHEL’S Music For Egon Schiele (Quarterstick) Much as I admire this beautiful package of what’s essentially “alternative classical music,â€ I can’t help wondering how many contemporary classical performing groups would similarly enjoy such attention were their records to be released as colored-vinyl limited editions by Sub Pop Records. Then, oddly, my nose itches. 3.5/5
CLUSTER & ENO Cluster & Eno ENO MOEBIUS ROEDELIUS After The Heat ENO MOEBIUS ROEDELIUS PLANK Begegnungen & Begegnungen II 3/5 to 5/5 (all Gyroscope) Forgive the peculiar multi-rating, but between the 33 tracks here and the obvious overlapping sessions, thereâ€™s too much variety to assign a simple rating to each of these four albums. Marvelous and influential, these late-â€™70s minimalist-leaning collaborations represent one of the first encounters between Anglo-pop proper and the so-called “Krautrock” about which Julian Cope recently penned a book. Having theoretically “lived” through the â€™60s and â€™70s, I’m becoming increasingly fascinated by newly-penned revisionist accounts of pop history that subtly give young alternative music fans the erroneous impression that the most prominent artists of that period were the Velvet Underground, Big Star, Nick Drake–and now Can, Neu!, and Faust. Gene Simmons and Dennis DeYoung would not be amused.
PATTO Sense Of The Absurd (Vertigo U.K. import) Just a brief note to inform you that this very fabbest of cult Brit bands have had their first two albums reissued, with four new songs tacked on for kicks. Had this band–featuring singer Mike Patto and guitarist Ollie Halsall–received the acclaim they rightfully deserved, there would have been no need for punk rock, jazz-fusion, or confused young women running around with their husband’s ashes sewn into teddy bears. Additionally, war and hunger would have ended! But, of course, Patto failed miserably. Too bad, eh? 5/5