Monthly Archives: July 2008

“Come to my house/I got whisky and chairs”

16 Horsepower – “Horse Head” from Hoarse [2001]

Whenever I speak with fellow aficionados of 16 Horsepower, we can all agree on the importance of the crazed, drunken preacher with hellfire in his eyes coming out of frontman David Eugene Edwards, just as we can agree that this band has rekindled the fear of the Lord in our souls. But I never hear about the importance and soul-crushing weight of Pascal Humbert’s low end: on Secret South‘s opener “Clogger,” the whole album starts with a massive, speaker-rattling bowed contrabass. It’s got some physical weight to it, which is a nice counterbalance to Edwards’ hysterical yelping.

This track is particularly ominous, primarily because the low end acts as the song’s pallbearer; jerky guitar interpositions, hair-raising fiddle, and gawky yells into an old ribbon microphone act as the clouds, rain, and crows flying over the funeral procession.

This is one of the scariest songs I’ve ever heard. It’s a drunken man in a torn shirt, hurriedly staggering towards the instigator of a crop fire, pistol in one hand and a bottle of gin in the other.

Put the fear of the Lord in ya

Posted by Phil

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Filed under 2000s, Country

So long to the Old Pueblo

Calexico – “Hair Like Spanish Moss” from Tool Box [tour release] (2007)

After three years of desert living, my wife and I are leaving Tucson to begin anew in Washington, DC.

I will miss this place, its landscape, and its people.  Southern Arizona is truly a wonderful part of the world.

My posts may be sporadic at best over the next couple of months so bear with me.  I know I can count on my colleagues to pick up the slack.

Viva Calexico

Posted by Jordy

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Filed under 2000s, Instrumental

Worst Song Ever: Part Four

(To be cross-filed under the possibly new Department of the Unforgivable.)

Red House Painters – “Trailways” from Songs for a Blue Guitar [1996]

Red House Painters – “I Feel The Rain Fall” from Songs for a Blue Guitar [1996]

To truly understand the abject horror of “I Feel The Rain Fall,” you should first listen to “Trailways,” the immediately preceding track on Songs For A Blue Guitar.

Let’s be honest. “I Feel The Rain Fall” is not a good song. In fact, I think it’s a terrible song. I think it’s one of the stupidest things Mark Kozelek has ever put on tape. I think it insults my intelligence, what with its campy back-and-forth guitars and little snare drum part, feigning a musical connection with old-time C&W and gospel music. Mark Kozelek, you are a sad bastard who writes great sad-bastard songs like “Trailways.” Please stick to your strengths.

The real problem is that “Trailways” is a highlight in the RHP catalog. A masterpiece of understatement, with elliptical personal lyrics that hint at specifics but never really give you the whole story. With dueling e-bows. A transcendent song, followed by a seventh-grade pastiche of a genre in which the student has never been remotely adept. Why, why, why would you follow up such a brilliant demonstration of loss with such a clunker?

Still, it’s a good record. Buy it, ok?

Posted by Phil

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Filed under 1990s, Rock, Uncategorized, Worst Songs Ever

“She’s a victim of her senses”

Neil Young – “I’ve Loved Her So Long” from Neil Young (1969)

Neil Young’s eponymous first album receives and deserves much criticism for being a bit bloated and overwrought.  Young himself has said that he and producer/genius/madman Jack Nitzsche got a bit carried away in the studio.

Nevertheless, there are many shining moments on this album, “I’ve Loved Her so Long” being the most charming among them.  The Bacharachian orchestration and background singers add to the beauty of the song rather than distract from it.  Listen for Merry Clayton who also kicked ass on the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”

I’m glad NY signed up Crazy Horse and moved in a more rocking direction, but this fascinating album shows a curious solo artist trying to find his voice.

Buy it here

Posted by Jordy

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Filed under 1960s, Rock

Worst Song Ever: Part Three

The Kinks – “Phenomenal Cat” from The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society [1968]

The Kinks truly deserve the high praise that they have recieved on this blog.  They are a really great band.  And Village Green… is a stellar album.  Except for this song, which is just awful.  Seriously, what is this  “Fum fum diddle-um di” stuff?  Are we in the Merry Old Land of Oz?  No.

The volume in the 33&1/3 series devoted to this album says that “Phenomenal Cat” and “Wicked Annabella” (also appearing on Village Green…) are the Kinks’ attempts at psychedelia, which was the predominant force in British music at the time.  I’m glad Ray Davies and Co. stayed out of the psychedelic movement, because this attempt is really, really bad.  The book also posits that “Phenomenal Cat” could be an attempt at satire.  If this song is an attempt at satire, it fails.  If it is an attempt at making a crappy song, it succeeds admirably.

Seriously, though, you should still buy the album.

Posted by Adam

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Filed under 1960s, Rock, Uncategorized, Worst Songs Ever

“Don’t you know about the bird?”

Ramones – “Surfin’ Bird” & “Rockaway Beach” from Rocket To Russia (1977)

Some of us here at SWR adore the Ramones. Some (ahem, Jordy) somehow lost a few of the chromosomes responsible for deriving pleasure from rock ‘n’ roll, and probably don’t even like the beach, where I’ll be spending the next week.

Take a shot of Wittgenstein-ian linguistic analysis and chase it with a paean to the Irish Riviera.

Apply for a scholarship to Rock n Roll High School

Posted by Glenn

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Filed under 1970s, Punk, Rock

Let them try and follow

Dirty Three – Sister Let Them Try and Follow from She Has No Strings, Apollo [2003]

I was on the speech team in High School, okay? People consider me articulate, and I can write in sentences that make sense. But my truest thoughts aren’t words at all. I think best in colored shapes that move together in space. Ribbons, or big giant squares. And they make sense to me, but I can’t really articulate it except by saying “it’s like a blue ribbon arced up, convex to the ground and then its parabola reversed and precisely at that moment, a red ribbon came up to it from the ground and wrapped around it, loosely, and they go on from there.” Which is a nice picture, I suppose, but what sense does it make to anybody else? People ask me what I’m thinking about and instead of giving long descriptions of esoteric colors, I just put on the Dirty Three and say “this it what it sounds like.”

Dirty Three were formed when God himself put weirdo zen guitars, time-signature-transcending drums, and insanity in a violin into an Australian crucible and crushed the living hell out of it, leaving only the best instrumental band on the face of the planet. I’m only slightly exaggerating. This particular song is a prime example of what makes Dirty Three work so well, namely that Mick Turner, Jim White, and Warren Ellis are doing such different things that shouldn’t work together but fit together so very well. Like holding hands with your girlfriend. But maybe she has ten hands.

I wrote out a list of the highlights in this song, but there were too many and they devolved into nothing but swears and “aaaaaaaaaaahh”s. I’ll spare you. But trust me, this song is better the louder you can get it. Listen to the violin scream and the drums fall in and out. I’ve never heard a guitar plunk and glimmer at the same time like this. Treat yourself to early hearing loss. There is not a better way.

You can buy this or other fine Dirty Three recordings here

Posted by Phil

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Filed under 2000s, Instrumental, Post-rock