Thursday, October 04, 2007

On The Platter

Late in the actor's life a reporter approached Charles Laughton with a seemingly innocent question: why hadn't he ever done Falstaff? Laughton replied that thanks to his father's trade as a hotelier, he'd grown up among plenty of people who were the real deal, and there was nothing comic, wise or even unintentionally amusing about them. In saying this, Laughton all but explicitly condemned Shakespeare for bestowing these virtues on his beloved alcoholic.

Alright, cue The Yayhoos:

I'm gettin' DRUNK
Gettin' NAKED
And Gettin' OUT!!

Man, there's nothing redeeming about a song like that. When I was a pious young lad the pleasures of just such a song would cause me all manner of soul-searching. After years of moral consideration, the only conclusion I've reached is there is a particular tone of guitar, usually played in an open E, that will accommodate one message only: I'm drunk and horny and darlin' that's all the foreplay I got in me! If there's a Devil's Triad, this must be the Dionysian Dual-Tone -- and the Yayhoos play it to perfection.

Actually, there's more breadth and depth to the Yayhoos' songcraft than "humping and booze" (to borrow another band's self-description). But these are veterans of the rock & roll circuit, and their chief concern is keeping the audience on their feet. To that end they pull off some incredible covers of unsuspecting material: the O-Jays "Love Train" gets reverent treatment, while ABBA's "Dancing Queen" turns raucous and celebratory. When the guitars attack in the latter, the listener is having too much fun to concern herself with questions of irony. It's just ... fun! For those of us who have inner Laughtons to answer to, the best tack is to enjoy the Yayhoos first and sheepishly point to the irony of it all later.

The Yayhoos' site is here (Amazon here & here. eMusic here. And an appreciative hat-tip goes to my GG Award-Winning New Testament Scholar Buddy for making the introductions).

I'm a little surprised at the critical garlands being thrown at Nick Lowe's At My Age. It's not that it's a bad album -- not at all. The songs are all straightforward and neatly groomed, most of them clocking in at just under three minutes. The production is understated, befitting Lowe's quiet meditative mood. The guy who gave us "Cruel To Be Kind" still has it in him to deliver the cruel ("I Trained Her To Love Me"), but like the other 11 songs the message is ... "straightforward" is the word that keeps coming to mind. Returning to the earlier chart-topper for a moment, "Cruel To Be Kind" was a snappy little number that got a person singing along, only to inspire some troubled head-scratching when it was finished. There's not as much of that happening here, but, hey: I'm fond of At My Age, too. The current pop-clime seems determinedly set on delivering either angst or nonsense, and in such an environment "straightforward" is truly a welcome delight.

Nick Lowe's site is here. Amazon, eMusic.

Finally, I'm not at all sure what to say about From The Corner To The Block by Galactic, except this is music (hip-hop, funk, what have you) I wouldn't normally have touched with a ten-foot pole ... and I'm thoroughly digging it. DarkoV turned me on to these guys with this posting, and as persuasive as his words of praise are, what really pulled me in was the photo (album cover?) of the drummer. Who doesn't want to hear what this sounds like? From the little bit of surfing I've done, it looks like Galactic is a band that loves to play and invites the rappers of the day to come in and contribute. I'm happy to say none of it is of the chest-thumping variety that brings out my inner Charles Laughton: this is all finely observed material that even the big man from Britain might have appreciated.

Galactic's site is here. Amazon here.


DarkoV said...

Thanks for the references thrown in my general direction. I'm really glad you're enjoying the Galactic CD. I'll try to get around to sending you a compilation of their other stuff; I'm still stunned that the band was classified as Hip Hop. Nothing against the "Hip Hop" label, but e-music seems to be missing the boat.

Since you gay a Yay to the Yayhoos, I'll most certainly check out what they've got to say. Although, I think I'll most probably listen to them on headphones as what they have to say may give my neighbors pause as to what I have to say.

Great reviews!
Having lived in Jersey during my formative years, it is de rigeur that I love Bruce. And I do. But, alas, just like your comments about Mr. Lowe, the new album Magic from Mr. Springsteen isnot a bad album. but...The songs are great and...the songs are great. The E Street Band is one of the tightest, most enjoyable group of musicians to listen to. The main (and only) problem is that the production of the album stinks. The guitars, in general, are muted. Max Weinberg, a most excellent drummer, sounds garbled; the cymbals sound as if they're being played in a paper bag echo chamber.

If I were to know Brendan O'Brien's, the producer, address, I would give him an early Mischief Night visit and egg his house. I hope he wasn;t paid to much for his, ahem, "work".

I'm sure the live performance of the album will be great. It's a shame that the first studio album of Bruce and the band in such a long time is so tantalizingly good, when it could have been great.

I'll just cry in my coffee.

Whisky Prajer said...

Nice to hear that about the Boss. I understand that live on stage he still delivers like no-one else, but I've had trouble really sinking my teeth into his latest albums. Tunnel Of Love was probably the last album that really pulled me in, hook, line and sinker.

As for eMusic's classification of Galactic, it's become a moot point since Galactic's tenure with eMusic seems to be over. I'm thinking they get a etter profit margin via the new Amazon.

DarkoV said...

Received Fear Not the Obvious a few days ago and I've been playing it non-stop on the drive home.
WP, as you wrote,"the listener is having too much fun to concern herself with questions of irony. It's just ... fun! " Since the guys in the band have such varied experience in bands like the Georgia Satellites and Bottle Rockets, fun in large quantities is to be had. The fuzzy-wuzzy guitar stylings of Neil Young permeate "For Cryin' Out Loud" and "OH! Chicag", among others. "Baby, I Love You" is the perfect song about love and exasperation...and unfortunately (Damn!!) is not air-playable. Not a clunker in the bunch and all sound fabulous when played loud.

Too bad Mr. Eric "Roscoe" Ambel wasn't called in to produce Mr. Springsteen's latest album. Then, Magic would have been a great album.

I noticed that Eric "Roscoe" Ambel also produced 1995's Blue Mountain. Take a listen to it if you get a chance. I killed this cd playing it back in '95. The first three songs, in particular, sound eerily like some of the Yayhoos.

Thanks, WP, for pointing these guys out. How's the 2nd album, Put the Hammer Down, in comparison to the first?

DarkoV said...

Here's a (poor) example of Blue Mountain performing one of the songs off of their album, Dog Days

Whisky Prajer said...

Wow - Blue Mountain certainly have a Neil Young/Crazy Horse thing going on. Nice.

I have to admit I like Fear Not The Obvious just a touch more than Put The Hammer Down, but I still give the second album big props. It seems like those guys will only touch a project when it's a guarantee that everyone will have fun. They stomp through "Love Train" and pick up a bit of the Bachman Turner Overdrive vibe for "Everything/Anything". It's definitely drive-home music, so long as you turn down the volume once your driveway comes into view.