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Tuesday, July 31, 2001

Technical stuff
I have changed a couple of things on this site. On the left side there are two sections now. On top there are the site specific items like description, window toggle, search and the preview. Below in a smaller font (I am still not really convinced please tell me your thoughts in the forum) are all the links, most of them external.

During the last week I remarked that the page did not load very quickly. Apparently this was due to ReBlogger a commentary system which is hosted on a Norwegian server. It is a very good program by Jesse Malone, who is also very helpful but I replaced it by Forum Romanum. This is a forum program widely used in Germany with the obvious disadvantage that the comments are not post specific anymore. An advantage is nevertheless that there can be threads and that there is the possibility to turn e-mail notification on which does not exist for ReBlogger. A big disadvantage I only discovered later on is that sometimes maximised ad windows pop-up when clicking on the forum link. And posting of html tags does not work in the forum but it did in ReBlogger. But the most important issue was the speed and that is acceptable now.

What happened to my audience? Last Tuesday, one week ago, I had my all-time maximum of 60 visitors. Yesterday I had 29 and today I have 17 up till now. I could say hello personally to each of you. Is it the summer heat in Europe which lets the people run away from their computers? Or were my early visitors all spiders which did detect me and are crawling elsewhere now? Or could it be the code red worm virus? Anyone any ideas? I have done my part of promotion by registering for web rings and directories as well as posting to forums and newsgroups. Sorry to tell you but I am not giving up. I will continue writing even if no one surfs to this site.

Countdown Top ten 2000 almost finished
#2 Yo La Tengo: And then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (81)
A short review of an album which captivates by its simplicity and slow flow:

This is lullaby music for the late summer nights. Beautiful singing of the nicest indie couple. With this record Georgia and Ira seem to declare each other their eternal love. The mellowest, calmest and most soothing music I know of. Night falls on Hoboken could go on for hours. I preferred the CD to the live performance. Live I prefer when they mix pop tunes with real rockers. Actually this is not their best release but still good enough to be one of the top 3 albums in 2000. My favourites are President Yo La Tengo and Electropura.

Another good site on Yo La Tengo is from their label Matador with a discography annotated by band members, news, tours, a mailing list, loads of live mp3s can be found here.

Monday, July 30, 2001

Countdown top ten 2000 continued
#3 Aimee Mann: Bachelor No.2 (or, the last remains of the dodo) (87)
Aimee Mann (excellent mailing list) recorded her album in 1999, released it in the US in 2000 and in Germany this year, so I guess it is ok to consider her record a 2000 vintage. And it is. When listening to this record I cannot refrain myself of thinking about Joni Mitchell (Jorn's portal), my favourite female songwriter. Aimee looks like her and writes similar songs from a very female point of view. Very emotional and clever stuff. She looks like an angel with her long blond hair and frail body. The song Susan reminded me so much of Amelia (from the superb Hejira) Joni's beautiful song on an unlucky relation about which she talks to her friend. Vapor trails appear in both songs and Aimee's story is the same: "I had some trouble with the goodbye / I checked my roman candle supply".

I have the impression that I have heard Aimee's voice before. Like her album which is an instant classic. As classic as Hejira. Her voice is like a blend of Karen Carpenter's for the poppier parts and Chrissie Hynde's for the rock element. It is crystal clear and warm at the same time. Bachelor no.2 is a Gesamtkunstwerk (synthesis of the arts) from the slightly green cover with the dodo, the lyric sheet with a small black and white drawing for each song, the lyrics itself, the song melodies and the voice. The melody, voice and lyrics are married like the bouquet, the colour and the taste of a great red wine. It is no coincidence that the stand-out single Red Vines also alludes to the alcoholic grape drink, like Joni Mitchell she would not mind to drink A Case of You. This music is perfect pop and perfect songwriting. And the songs are so varied and there is no weak track at all. The least convincing song is The Fall of the World's Own Optimist which Costello has co-written with her.

The meanings of her songs are like nuts in a nutshell and it is quite difficult to crack them. But when you succeed the nuts inside are bitter and sweet at the same time. I still have not opened most of them. One song I understood because she told us at the concert is Ghost World. It is about the first summer after high school when you still do not know where to go and what to do. A situation she has been in recently (she is 40 now). I guess I am still in that position: "And all that I need now / is someone with the brains / and the know-how / to tell me what I want". Another line from It Takes All Kinds about the disillusionment really touched me: "spreading the word / that you've become / what you hated". In Deathly from the Magnolia soundtrack the dying father says to his lost son: "Now that i've met you / would you object to / never seeing each other again". The last song You Do is a beautiful way to end this phantastic album. The remaining songs which I have not really decrypted up till now are like jam jars in my larder for the next winter.

Sunday, July 29, 2001

My girl friend, a friend of mine and me went to see Paradiso. Sieben Tage mit sieben Frauen. (Paradiso. Seven days with seven women.) [review DE] by Rudolf Thome (bio). And it was like paradise. Not the fact that the main character celebrated his 60th birthday with the seven most important women of his life for seven days in his house on the country side. It was the atmosphere, the landscape, the beautiful images and the sometimes funny and always subtle dialogues. The film evolves very slowly, it takes its time. When the guests arrive one after the other it is like a small brook which rises to a wide river and becomes a small stream again when everyone leaves at the end.

Adam is a composer of modern music. The model for him must have been Hans Werner Henze who has just turned 75. Adam was and is a casanova, has been married three times and had even more lovers. What is a little strange is that Adam as a character stays relatively vague. All his women who are all quite distinct one from the other seem to be much more special than him. Or let's say as characters they are more precisely depicted. After the week when the birthday community dissolves Adam is alone with the trees again. One of the women (I guess it was Lulu whose present were 60 poplars to protect the house from the wind and the bad spirits) had said before that she could not live together with him anymore as he spoke with the trees. She would have coped with a rival but not with trees. I just realize that Adam's current wife is called Eva and a snake also plays a role in this film. When thinking about his son whom he did not know before Adam characterises him as very masculine and boyish playful at the same time. And says that these are the qualities women love in men. Probably not too far from the truth.
What I like about films like this one is that they are full of small details you only realise later on when you rethink about them or even better discuss about them with someone else.

Together with Truffaut, Rohmer and Kieslowski, Thome is my favourite director of the "dialogue" (or author) cinema which focuses on the relations between men and women. Kieslowski minimises conversation so that each word in his dialogues is of utter importance.

Crisis? What Crisis?
I do not know if anyone has noticed but I am extremely unsatisfied with my blog writing in the last days. Up till the end of the month, that is Tuesday, I am determined to write at least one post per day. Maybe that is the reason for my poor scribbling. I hope that it will become better when I won't put me under pressure anymore. But there must be other reasons.

One is the language. Why do I write in English besides practicing a foreign language? It would be so much easier in my mother tongue. But I prefer to write in English as it makes my writing more impersonal (at least for me). I do not want to write too personal stuff here. This is not a diary. This is just a way for me to digest cultural experiences more intensely by trying to put them into words.

As I noted before I am not a music or whatever critic. That is one of my problems. Very often I do not find the words to describe pieces of art. I can only say that I like or dislike something. It is like I am depraved of the words to describe the phenomenon. And if I pass judgement on something too quickly and too decidedly it could be that I am too lazy to have a critical look at it. One of my biggest faults next to impatience is laziness.

Saturday, July 28, 2001

Perfect Day
Is there a relation between this post's title and the two items in the blog title?

Anyways the sunshine factor was 100% today. We made a bicycle trip of about 65 kilometers along the Nidda (a small and picturesque tributary of the Main) via Frankfurt-Rödelheim to Karben and back. And it was 33 degrees Celsius. We were sweating so much that the waiter in a beer garden asked us if we had had a shower or if it was the perspiration.

Cycling along waterways has got two main advantages. You cannot get lost and there are no hills. These are also the shortcomings. Cycling along rivers is a tad boring, there is no challenge really. Neither the adventure of losing one's way and arriving at an unknown unplanned destination nor the physical challenge to cycle up mountains. Nevertheless regarding the weather conditions we made the right choice.

After lunch (picnic) I continued the autobiography of Klaus Kinski (favourite actor of Werner Herzog, played always the demonic or bad guy) which is called Ich brauche Liebe (I need love). The title has to be taken literally in the physical sense. I have only read the first 50 pages (of 500) which cover about the first fifteen years and the only real theme (besides poverty and hunger issues) are women and certain activities men and women carry out together. Quite amazing because I think Kinski is telling the truth. A very enjoyable read.
[amended 29th July]

Changing my mind
I get more and more the impression that I am very prejudiced towards certain things and people. Before I always thought I was extremely open and tolerant.
A semi-long digression about tolerance here: Yesterday we went to see a satirical political revue (Kabarett in German) by a Turk named Sinasi. The main theme of his show was the Greek-Turkish relation. Basically the non-relation. The Turks are quite jealous of the Greeks as Greece was the native country of civilisation, democracy, philosophy etc. And today the main foreign nationality is Turkish in Germany and those Turks are doing all the work the Germans do not want to do. Whereas most of the few Greeks in Germany own restaurants and make good money. Anyways Sinasi was speaking about being a Toleranzterrorist (terrorist of tolerance). That is a terrorist who does not kill, a terrorist who just practices openly tolerance. A little bit like a mixture of Gandhi (for the non-violent terrorist part) and Buddha (for the tolerance part). An interesting concept. That makes me think of (oh my God, a digression in a digression) Pat Metheny, the guitar hero of fusion and late jazz rock. A couple of years ago he recorded Zero Tolerance for Silence. A beautiful album title (actually it would be perfect for my blog) for a record which can compete with Neil Young's Weld or Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. Basically noise at full volume. Sometimes you need it. End of digression.
So back to my prejudices. I never liked Radiohead (we had this theme before). An acquaintance gave me The Bends from 1995 to listen to which he considers their best. And a strange thing happened. I listened to the album in its entirety and I liked it. The only track I did not like was the one I knew (nice dream). Must have been the single or something. And what I really found repulsive about Radiohead before, the voice of Thom Yorke was ok. Maybe it will be the same with Radiohead as with Neil Young. I used to hate Heart of Gold when I was in my teens because of his thin, non-masculine, high-pitch voice. Later on he became one of my favourite songwriters. Especially when being lovesick listening to his music has always been a big consolation for me.
[amended 29th July]

Friday, July 27, 2001

Good day sunshine
No music (except the title incl. a *.wav file link) and no ideas today. Let's just talk about the weather.
As I mentioned before it was my birthday 14th July. As usual it was raining. But just a couple of days later summer arrived in Germany. Yesterday at Frankfurt airport it was 31 degrees Celsius at 4pm. Now at 11am the thermometer indicates already 28 degrees. And the weather will not change for at least the next ten days. Check the up to date weather map for Europe. You plan to go on holiday and you want to know about the climate of your destination? In case you are interested in weather forecasts and the like a good friend of mine has started to build a weather portal (right now it is still an almost empty construction site).

Thursday, July 26, 2001

By accident I stumbled upon this old thread at ILM about Interpol from New York. Sounded quite interesting to me as Joy Division is one of my favourite bands. They released an EP in December last year within the Fukd I.D. Series of Chemikal Underground. Those EP's are collector items, they are limited to a 1,000 copies each. I checked Amazon (UK) and Ebay to no avail. Then I found this excellent French music zine Poplane which maps a huge segment of my musical taste (another good French zine is Popnews). They have got a four part article on the band. Additionally I listened to the four 90 second real audio clips of the EP via the archive drop down menu on page 4 of the article. Some interesting comments on the tracks by the band. I do not think that they copy Joy Division. Their sound is also very powerful, dark and accentuated by hypnotising drums. But the singer's voice is quite different from Ian Curtis's. Anyways they are a band to watch and I would like to know where I can get that EP.

P.S. I guess you have another five days to download the great comeback single Crystal by New Order as wma file (30 days validity). Their music has never been so smart and varied before.
link credit: Dave M. on this ILM thread.

P.P.S. I got linked by Rumble Strip, an interesting indie music blog by Chris Angotti from San Rafael, CA. Thanks Chris, as soon as Blogger permits to change my template I will return the link.

Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Sex sells
So finally I have been googlarized (remember that Captain Beefheart song?). Unfortunately they only have the June posts in their cache. That means they crawled my site about three weeks ago and only published the result now.
And of course the first unwanted visitors drop in. They look for things like gold sex (sounds good to me). Strangely enough I do not find my site in the first 100 results of that query. If you have got the time and a little patience you can scroll through the remaining 886,900 results, somewhere hidden in there is my page like a needle in a haystack.
So to please these smudgy people I have a sex special today. Some quotes on sex:

"My girlfriend always laughs during sex - no matter what she's reading." ~ Steve Jobs link credit: LibrisExMachina.

And from the Quotations Page:
"Life is a sexually transmitted disease." ~ Anonymous

"God created sex. Priests created marriage." ~ Voltaire

"The only unnatural sexual act is that which you cannot perform." ~ Alfred Kinsey (DE)

"Documentation is like sex: when it is good, it is very, very good; and when it is bad, it is better than nothing." ~ Dick Brandon

"Love is what we call the situation which occurs when two people who are sexually comptatible discover that they can also tolerate one another in various other circumstances." ~ Marc Maihueird

"Philosophy is to the real world as masturbation is to sex." ~ Karl Marx

"I wouldn't recommend sex, drugs or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me." ~ Hunter S. Thompson

"In America sex is an obsession, in other parts of the world it is a fact." ~ Marlene Dietrich

"Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night." ~ Woody Allen

"Is sex dirty? Only if it's done right." ~ Woody Allen

"Sex between 2 people is a beautiful thing ; between 5 it's fantastic ..." ~ Woody Allen

"I believe that sex is one of the most beautiful, natural, wholesome things that money can buy." ~ Steve Martin

"Sex is hereditary. If your parents never had it, chances are you wont either." ~ Joseph (Joschka) Fischer

"Most men who are not married by the age of thirty-five are either homosexual or really smart." ~ Becky Rodenbeck

Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Top ten 2000 countdown continued
#4 Montgolfier Brothers: Seventeen Stars
I wrote the original version of this review in German for Let's hope that I won't have any copyright problems with them. It would be ridiculous anyway as they did not pay me.
When I heard Nick Drake for the first time, it was exactly the same as when first listening to this record: afterwards the world was somehow richer, deeper, more beautiful and sadder than before. It was the 100 second title pro celebrity standing around, which can be downloaded from the Poptones website. It tells a small history of a guy waiting for his girl-friend. While waiting he thinks about the reasons why she does not arrive in time: it could be that she confused the day or that all street names changed during the night (these blokes even have a sense of humour) or that she got stuck in a traffic jam. At the end when she arrives her kiss makes him forgive her immediately. The song is only orchestrated with some guitar and bass, the voice is a very pleasant baritone and well articulated with a slight Northern English accent. The Montgolfier Brothers have been compared to Durutti Column, this unsuccessful Factory band in the spirit and at the times of Joy Division. This is probably justified from the musical and geographical standpoint, both bands come from the area of Manchester, but the singing and songwriting of the Montgolfiers is a million times better.
With these songs you can hover in a hot-air balloon away from the terrible reality. The frequently used glockenspiel makes this dream music still more unreal, somehow like a far memory to the innocent days of the childhood. The gentleness, tenderness and ease of the singing and the instrumentation make this music so precious. The melodies are wonderfully melancholic, there is a certain touch of chamber music.
My absolute favourite titles are Even if my mind can't tell you and Une chanson du crépuscule. Every time I listen to the latter song and the sprechgesang begins a shiver runs down my spine, this music is too beautiful for this world. Alan McGee, the ex-boss of Creation and current boss of Poptones has discovered a jewel again. It would not surprise me if the title was inspired by Seventeen Seconds, the chef d'oeuvre of The Cure.

Juhuu! Yahoo! has found me
When customizing a Quickbrowse page with different searches for my blog title sex and sunshine I found out that Yahoo! (US) finds me. Strange thing is that Google which is used by Yahoo! still does not find me. It finds 407 explicit pages.
By the way the word Yahoo has been used first in 1726 by Jonathan Swift in part 4 of Gulliver's Travels. It is meant "to refer to a race of creatures who are in the form of men. They are portrayed as being bestial, uncultivated, violent and loutish brutes" (sources of the word). Funny that the author of this does not use the website anymore because of the etymology. A slightly obscure religious explanation of Yahoo = Yahweh = God = Antichrist is here. The use of the word Yahoo by Filo/Yang as the acronym for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle seems only to be a secondary explication.
Roland from Ronsens found me as well. Nice to know that there are more people with a decent music taste.
Yesterday I had 54 visitors, my personal record since I use the Extreme tracker which I installed one week ago. Thank you.

Monday, July 23, 2001

Top ten 2000 countdown continued
#5 Ryan Adams: Heartbreaker
Ryan Adams, the singer of the now dissolved band Whiskeytown has released the most astounding songwriter debut of last year. Extremely eclectic but also very personal. The bluesy mood is accentuated by the mouth harp play. It starts with an argument on which album(s) Morrissey's Suedehead can be found. The first song To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be high) (the title names alone are worth the purchase of this record) sounds like an outtake of an early electrified Bob Dylan album like Blonde on Blonde. Adams voice is slightly nasal but lower than Dylan's and he elongates the syllables. The song subtitle I Love a Woman that Rains is like a paraphrase on Rainy Day Women #12 & 35. The atmosphere and intonation of Call Me on Your Way Back Home make me think very much of Tim Hardin's Hang on to a Dream. And there is Shakedown on 9th Street a song Jeffrey Lee Pierce from the Gun Club would have been proud of. The lyrics are phantastic as well, mostly quite romantic and sad but funny at the same time, e.g. in Come Pick Me Up: "Come pick me up / Take me out / Fuck me up / Steal my records / Screw all my friends behind my back / With a smile on your face".

Sunday, July 22, 2001

Purchased two classic cds (which have been on my wishlist before) mainly because they were mentioned in ILM recently. Patti Smith Horses from 1975 with the brilliant opening line: Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine. And Johnny Cash's Live at Folsom Prison from 1968. That is a very touching concert by the man in black who had been arrested on drug charges himself. I guess I am getting more into country. I was also listening to the latest Lloyd Cole which I almost bought. In What's Wrong With This Picture Lloyd is back on form. The new Cowboy Junkies was probably not the right music at 10 am. It is so bloody slow. I think I can only listen to it after 10 pm in the right mood. The guitar of Michael Timmins reminded me very much of Santana which I cannot stand anymore. The seventies is still the worst decade in pop from my point of view. I grew up with Abba, Santana, Supertramp, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Bee Gees, Yes, Sweet, Kiss etc. etc. Just terribly dated music.

Friday, July 20, 2001

Stealing, copying and recycling
Some quoting (mainly myself) from ILM of a recent thread about Radiohead:

"I loved Creep when it came out. Nowadays I find it unlistenable. Somehow this image of Yorke as a creep has stayed in my mind. After that nothing touched me for a while. Then there was the Help sampler for the children of Bosnia and the standout track was Lucky, the best song they ever made I guess.
Kid A did not impress me, Soft Machine and King Crimson have made similar stuff in the early seventies. I used to love those groups but somehow progrock has become a bête noire for me.
A week ago I purchased Amnesiac and I am still not sure what to make of it. The first track I liked was Knives out where the sadness in Yorke's voice really hit me. Of course Pyramid Song is great as well. The progressive stuff I have to listen to again. But the big problem with Radiohead I guess is Yorke's voice. It really touches me in the beginning but after listening to one whole album or several times to one song, it really gets annoying.
I do not really hate Radiohead but I hate all the fuss about them. They are a group like all other groups. They will not save rock music. On the contrary I think maybe rock has saved Thom Yorke's life (remember that Lou Reed song?). "
-- alex in mainhattan (alex63@...), July 18, 2001.

"which King Crimson album would that be?Radiohead have committed the crime of releasing albums that have to be listened to in their entirety,and all of a sudden they are prog-rock?they do one song that's got a bit that's not in 4/4 time and they are prog-rock? examples,please - but try not to list Pink's partly the truth,but it's also lazy. "
-- Damian (spacelab@...), July 19, 2001.

"What's wrong with being prog? Oh, and RH were only prog circa OK Computer. "
-- Sterling Clover (sterling_clover@...), July 19, 2001.

"Radiohead were prog for a few minutes in Paranoid Android,and as far as I'm concerned,that was it.I don't hate prog - hell,I like King Crimson and Yes - but just because Radiohead made something thematic and remotely complex,it doesn't mean they are prog,does it?They used mellotrons - does that make them Genesis?I don't think so. "
-- (spacelab@...), July 19, 2001.

"Ok. Ok. I guess I have to row back a little. The prog-rock comparison is maybe a little dubious (OK Computer nevertheless is not so far off this drawer) considering that Radiohead reinvent themselves every two albums or so. But the point is something else. They are deeply eclectic. And not in a way like Beck who I think is the genius of eclecticism (where is he now, haven't heard of him for a while). They do not create anything groundbreakingly new. The sum is not more than the parts in their case. But the press celebrates them as the most innovative group of our times which they are definitely not. When I listen to them I always feel that I have heard it before. They are chameleons. Yesterday brown today green. They do not have a distinctive sound except Yorke's voice. And that is something I really have to reproach them. Every great band has a unique sound, be it The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Fall, The Cure, Joy Division, The Cocteau Twins, The Gun Club, My Bloody Valentine, Nirvana just to name a few. "
-- alex in mainhattan (alex63@...), July 20, 2001.

"I don't really know what to say to that to change your mind, but I really disagree. At the very least, I think that the guitarists, drummer, and vocals together make them pretty distinctive, when they're playing like a "real band" with instruments in real time etc. The last two albums are pretty distinctive, too, in my opinion. One might cynically say that they just sound like the sum of their influences, but for the most part they still sound distinctive even when you might be able to say, e.g., 'this sounds like a Warp Records outtake'. "
-- Josh (kortbein@...), July 20, 2001.

"I thought that part of the beauty of the new Radiohead was that you could turn your radio on and hear something fucked up and there was always a possibility that it could be a new Radiohead song - there's an element of surprise that none of the wouldbe Radioheads can provide.A distinctive sound is something that surely can only be established through repetition,isn't it?And that's something that can only sustain itself for so long,which is why it was fitting that you used Joy Division and MBV as examples - their music is great,but there isn't much of it. "
-- Damian (spacelab@...), July 20, 2001.

Strange thing here as soon as one person criticises Radiohead there are at least two people joining in to defend them. Yesterday I listened for the first time to Amnesiac in its entirety. It is probably their best album (though I do not really know them). But there they do not have any sound whatsoever, every song is different and there is this surprise element but I still do not think they are innovative. The album seems like patchwork to me. Not the sequencing of the album is bad, but the songs do not fit together. Radiohead still have ordered them in the best possible way. Mostly alternating between an experimental and a more tuneful track. What I like about them nevertheless that they are keeping such a low profile. What we really do not need nowadays is another Sting or Bono.

Less is more
Just an idea. Why not concentrate more on things. I would like to choose ten records to which I would listen for six months. But only to those ten exclusively and let's say at least to one of them per day. At the end I should know those records by heart. Probably some of them would not stand the test and I would hate them at the end.

Solving the problem of Babylon
A couple of days ago there was an article about machine translation in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the most neutral of all European newspapers. It described the funny translation results programs like Babelfish can produce. At the end of the article they mention Swift's "language philosophy". Gulliver visits the strange academy of Lagado where they try to improve the language. The plan is to abolish all words in order to tear down all language barriers: The other, was a Scheme for entirely abolishing all Words whatsoever; and this was urged as a great Advantage in Point of Health as well as Brevity. And later: An Expedient was therefore offered, that since Words are only Names for Things, it would be more convenient for all Men to carry about them, such Things as were necessary to express the particular Business they are to discourse on. Indeed a brilliant idea. It would reduce conversation to the strict minimum. We could only talk about what we can carry. No more gossip. No more misunderstandings.

Thursday, July 19, 2001

Let's count down the top ten 2000:

#7 Godspeed You Black Emperor!: Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven! (80)
Music to be listened to on headphones with hardly any lights on. It starts very calm and slowly and builds up to climax in a cacophony of sound. I think Godspeed who are from Quebec have eight members, they play some classical instruments like violins, french horn, but also drums (2) and guitars and are a collective in the sense that no member is privileged. There are no lyrics except recorded statements of people (love the old man remembering Coney Island). The music is almost symphonic and closer to classical than pop music.

#6 Trembling Blue Stars: Broken by Whispers (70)
Robert Wratten used to be the head of the late 80s/beginning 90s British band The Field Mice. I think they are the most underrated band of the last 10 years. They are something like the missing link between The Smiths and Belle and Sebastian. Melancholic very tuneful pop which only the English are able to create. The Trembling Blue Stars is more or less his solo project. Their third album is their best. Robert seems a little out-of-place still lamenting about an old love story (the female singer of the Field Mice) in his mid-thirties. He is something like the never growing-up adolescent.

Internal stuff
A big thank you to Jon from the biscuit city road fan club for linking back to me, even mentioning me here and putting up this wonderful mp3 live tracks page.
I do not know if anyone has noticed but a couple of things have changed on this site recently. I put up a comment feature below every post where you can transform yourself for a second or two from a passive reader to an active participator. Do not hesitate to criticise and add to my ramblings. It seems to me that the loading of the page has slowed down a little because of this external link to Reblogger. When you see "" contacted in the status line of Netscape this is why.
Besides a sitetracker (Extreme) I added a search. The Atomz search engine seems a bit crappy. Every time I crawl my site I have to give Atomz all my archive directory links, it does not find the subdirectories itself. Anyways now you can search on my two (!) pages and the really good thing is that you arrive at the correct (anchor) post when you click on the search result.
I am still waiting for Google to find my site (it has found my terrible homepage though). Most sites that link to me have been crawled June 4th (Google cache) the last time. Somewhere I read Google recreates its index every month. So they are a little late this time. There should be loads of visitors flowing in as soon as I am indexed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Classical lines then and now
"My life is an open book, you can read it on the radio" (Neil Young).
My life is an open window you can scroll it on the internet.

"The times they are a-changing" (Bob Dylan).
We all are, even me, 'cept you Bobby boy.

"My life was saved by rockn'roll" (Lou Reed).
Techno destroyed mine.

The biggest torture
At I Love Music a thread titled Used to love it, had to kill it gets going. It is about a theme I already touched before when writing about best of lists and the last REM. It concerns the problem that certain albums one used to love in the past can become unlistenable one day.
It happened to me with many albums e.g. Out of Time by REM, Grace by Jeff Buckley, most albums by King Crimson, Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, Freedom by Neil Young etc. I think the problem is quite easy. If you love a record in the beginning you listen to it as many times as possibles. One day the record is exhausted. Your feeling towards the music changes from love and veneration to hate and contempt. So it is much better not to love a record too much in the beginning and let it grow slowly. But this is a kind of paradoxon. Who would buy a record he does not like from the start? So actually you should try to find records you think you might love in the future. That is a little bit like buying shares on the stock market. You have to forecast the future. But instead of prophesying what other people will do as on the stock market you have to forecast your own future taste which seems to be much more difficult I guess.
When thinking about this from another angle I can think of an almost devilish idea how to torment people. You ask them what their all-time favourite piece of music is (some answers are here) and then you play it to them 24 hours a day. After a short while they will suffer as you will have destroyed their favourite music and they will become crazy listening to it again and again. This works not only with music but with everything people love. If you force them to do what they like, be it eating sweets, having sex, drinking cocktails or/and lying in the sun they will quickly start to hate what they considered a pleasure before and will feel oppressed. So I finish this with a nice ending. The most valuable good for a man is his liberty to do what he wants without others dictating him what to do. But it is also his fate when it comes to buying records...

Tuesday, July 17, 2001

My favourite chess variant
Originally I wanted to write something about the Dortmund tournament with all big names except Kasparov participating. But it is too much hassle to replay grandmaster games. And it is quite boring usually especially when Kramnik leads. Maybe when the tournament is over I will comment on it.
For now I would like to explain Touch and Move or Touche Bouge as we called it in French when we played it in Luxembourg. We met once per week in a pub and in the beginning we only had one chessboard. But after a while three or four people came and we invented this variant which is not mentioned on the chess variants page. It is two against two. In each team one person touches the piece which should be moved and the other one moves the touched piece. That is all.
I really fell in love with this simple adaptation for four people. Suddenly chess becomes a social game. It is not only brain against brain but the connection of two brains against two brains. Almost a network game. Of course the person who touches decides on the main direction of the game. The mover only executes and tries to read the mind of the toucher. When there were mixed teams usually the male touched and the female moved (no offense intended). I really would have liked the idea of playing with my girl-friend in one team. Unfortunately I was on my own at that time. The games usually do not develop as logical and smooth as normal games but they can still be quite interesting.
What I also like about this is that it was born out of poverty, out of scarcity. In German we say Not macht erfinderisch ( necessity is the mother of invention). That is one of the few cases where German is much shorter than English.

Monday, July 16, 2001

Top Ten 2000 continued
As I said in my methodological note on best of lists the population is the most important. The top ten which is taken out of the population is the sample. We are talking statistics now. So I am sorry but this post is really boring. Just all the CDs released in 2000 I (and my girl-friend) have bought up to now:

Adams, Ryan - Heartbreaker. Belle and Sebastian - Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk ... Calexico - Hot Rail. Cash, Johnny - American III: Solitary Man. Cat Power - The Covers Record. Comelade, Pascal - September Song. Cure - Bloodflowers. Dirty Three - Whatever You Love, You Are. Eleventh Dream Day - Stalled Parade. Giant Sand - Chore of Enchantment. Giant Sand - OBS 2: The Rock Opera Years. Godspeed You Black Emp. - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like A.t.H. Goldfrapp - Felt Mountain. Hardy, Françoise - Clair-Obscur. Harvey, Polly J. - Stories from the City, St. F. t.Sea. Kozelek, Mark - Rock'n' Roll Singer. Lambchop - Nixon. Lilium - Transmission of all the Good-Byes. Lloyd, Charles - The Water Is Wide. Louise Attaque - Comme On A Dit. Mann, Aimee - Bachelor #2. Mitchell, Joni - Both Sides Now. Mojave 3 - Excuses for Travellers. Montgolfier Brothers - Seventeen Stars. Primal Scream - Xtrmntr. Reed, Lou - Ecstasy. Ringsgwandl - Gache Wurzn. Salvador, Henri - Chambre avec Vue. Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun. Silver Mount Zion, A - He Has Left Us Alone... Sixteen Horsepower - Secret South. Sleater-Kinney - All Hands on the Bad One. Sonic Youth - SYR 5. Surrogat - Rock. Thomas, David+2Pale Boys - Surf's Up. Trembling Blue Stars - Broken by Whispers. Various - In the Mood for Love. Williams, Kathryn - Little Black Numbers. Yo La Tengo - And then Nothing Turned Itself Insi. Young, Neil - Silver and Gold.

The population is of cause bigger as I have listened to more than this and did not purchase albums I thought were rubbish from the beginning. Enough trivia now. We go on with the countdown.

#8 Johnny Cash: Solitary Man (American III) (72)
I always hated country music and especially Johnny Cash. With this album Johnny Cash rehabilitates himself. Cash sounds like someone who has survived a short stay in his own coffin. You can hear that he has won a battle against death, his voice is even more masculine than usually (Solitary Man by Neil Diamond). The songs are a good mix of his own and some very good covers. Those include One from U2 (better than the original as Cash lacks the affectations of the false prophet Bono), a very intensive rendering of The Mercy Seat by Nick Cave and one song by Will Oldham who accompanies Cash. The simplicity of this music (you basically listen to an acoustic guitar plus Cash's voice) makes it so strong.

Your Precious You, continued
I have been writing about them recently. I sent them an e-mail and they answered. There are still a few Painkiller EPs available for $25(!). They are a little bit ashamed about the price. They say that the packaging was done by their singer and that the band members have printed and hand-folded them (In ten years time this EP will probably sell for thousands of bucks). Additionally they propose to include a t-shirt for $5. And the Test Pattern album will not be released as an album but as a set of EPs. Hmmm. Somehow I get the impression these people want to rip me off. Anyways I will probably go for the EPs nevertheless.

Austria rules (DE)
Vielleicht nicht der richtige Titel. Man könnte das falsch verstehen (*grab in der Geschichte*). Nichtsdestotrotz: Der Sofa Blogger Peter Praschl hat mich aufgestöbert. Und zitiert sogar aus meinem Vergleich von Wein und Musik. Vielen Dank Peter, auch wenn Du mein Blog gut findest, so nehme ich mir doch die Freiheit heraus, Deins auch phantastisch zu finden. Sonst hätte ich Dich ja nicht gelinkt.:) Sehe gerade, dass Du mich weder unter [Watch], noch [Like] und natürlich nicht unter [Miss] einsortiert hast, sondern unter [Love] (*versinke im Boden vor Scham und Stolz*).
Die Neu!-Alben muss ich mir unbedingt auch sofort zulegen!
[amended July 18th]

Sunday, July 15, 2001

Too lazy to blog
I know it's sad. But it is true. I do not know what to write about. And the worst. I even write about that. How crap can a blog become. If the blog writer only writes about his writer's block. And nothing else. About nothing. About zero. I stop. I am so ashamed. .... Silence

So musically still the thread on Yo La Tengo live. It gets interesting. There is Alex, Phil, Dr.C. and friends against Pinefox, Keith, Ned and friends with Josh as arbiter. Who is going to score next?

I hope I was funny today. Good night.

Saturday, July 14, 2001

Moments in Love commented today on Youth Decay on Sleater Kinney's last album All Hands on the Bad One (a smashing 81/100 score by the critics, I thought it was ok, but nothing special). It reminded me of something I almost forgot. It is my birthday today. 38. The numbers get weirder and weirder. I have not yet been accustomed to that figure. I liked 37 as three times 37 is 111, a Schnapszahl as we call it. Before I liked 32 because of 32 bit processing.
It is strange with birthdays. The first ones you do not even realize. Between 5 and 18 you are really keen to get one year older. Then between 19 and 29 you do not really care anymore for birthdays. From 30 to 36 or something I was afraid of my birthday. I did not want to become older, become an old grown-up. But from the last birthday on I am back to my twenties. I do not care anymore. What is age? It is about the only thing you get for free in this world (except its consumption, i.e. death of course).
So I have also asked myself the question why I still buy at least two indie rock cd's per week like a teenager or twenty-something. Maybe I am still catching up as I only started serious record buying in 1991. Before it was mainly books. Maybe it makes me younger. Whatever. See you tomorrow. Now I have to take care of the guests.

More thanks
Badger has said some nice things about this blog on July 12th. I feel flattered again, his characterization of my musical taste as "leaning towards the more heartbroken, vaguely intellectual music of the indie spectrum" is quite striking. I almost missed the part on me as he writes quite a lot every day and I thought I had already read his post of two days ago.
Nothing about music today, except this ILM thread on Yo La Tengo live. It started quite positive but when I joined to praise YLT even more suddenly the critics arrived. How bizarre, how bizarre, how bizarre (what was this song again?).
[amended July 15th]

Friday, July 13, 2001

Another blogger reads me
Concerning the link business I must thank Phil from Eyes that Can See in the Dark for linking back to me yesterday. I feel almost ashamed about his compliment. And I envy the clever name of his blog so much. Mine on the other hand is so trivial, so idle, so obvious. But it can be interpreted in many ways. It is called s.a.s. as I never write about those two themes (not really but I try to at least). Or the most important things in life (without one of those two there wouldn't be any) are s.a.s. but there is more to life and that is music. Or the truth: I would have killed myself long ago if there would not be s.a.s. in my life. I would feel like a castrated Eskimo in winter.
Coming back to Phil's blog I guess I found it via Josh blog. And it is a very good read. We share a similar taste of music (with exceptions, Ivan Rebroff does not belong to my favourite singers). I just listened to the mp3 Phil posted July 11th which is a collaboration with his friend Scott. A very nice guitar instrumental with some synthesizer, makes me think of new age a little bit, which is not bad. There was this guy Georg Deuter (sorry this is German), who followed the Bhagwan to Poona in India in the late seventies/early eighties, he made similar meditative music.

A surf tool and more
I have also added some more links on the left side. There are some Quickbrowse collections including news sites and music sites. Quickbrowse is a smart and free (for how long?) program by Marc Fest, a German journalist who lives in Florida now. I think their office is on the beach. You can use it to browse up to 50 sites at once, i.e. have 50 sites on one looong page which you can scroll nicely. No more clicking, no more opening of zillions of windows. And the best is that you can even bookmark those collections. So you can edit your collection, throw out dead links, put in new links and the bookmark link does not change. Brilliant stuff. Marc really deserves to become a millionaire for this great idea one day. I think it has not worked out yet.
I also put a Coming soon section in the left upper corner. This is more to put myself under pressure to write something interesting and useful. It is not meant to be a strict calendar of postings to come. Very important is what I added under Me, Myself and I. I called it Make me happy and it is as quite common for poor (actually I am doing quite fine) bloggers a wishlist. You can buy me stuff (cd's, films, books etc.) there. I do not name the company, no plugs here.

Interesting article by Michael Goldberg for The InsiderOne Daily Report on Gil Scott-Heron and other musicians taking drugs. Is there a link between destroying your body and creating art? The most blatant example coming to my mind is Chet Baker. His body was consumed by heroine but his singing was pure, innocent and from another world. This makes me think of the opposite to Faust's pact. To create something immaterial, something possibly eternal, you have to pay with something physical, your health or maybe even your life.
Footnote: Faust sold his soul (immaterial) to the devil who gave him knowledge (of the physical world) in return.

Thursday, July 12, 2001

#10 Neil Young: Silver and Gold
Neil's best effort since Ragged Glory ten years ago. But this time it is Neil's soft side again. If there is a worthy sequel to Harvest it will be Silver and Gold (metascore 65/100) and not this mediocre and kitschy Harvest Moon. Even if the best tune Razor Love is from 1987 Neil is back again with 55 years. There is hardly a bad track, Neil is playing mouth harp like 30 years ago, sometimes the steel guitar brings us quite close to country. The album is very tranquil and serene, a typical later works of someone who has experienced the worst and the best. It is a little bit like Faust II (DE). I can imagine Neil as Philemon and his wife as Baucis sitting in the garden and enjoying the soft sun rays of indian summer.

#9 Lambchop: Nixon (metascore 72)
The most heart-warming album in 2000. I imagine Kurt Wagner sitting in the middle of his 12 person orchestra (saw them live). Kurt's voice is sometimes slightly annoying (when it is high-pitch) but the instrumental part makes up for it. You can hear that this music comes from people who really love music. It has rich melodies and is sometimes swinging (Grumpus). To be heard in late autumn nights. The title of the album was politically quite anticipatory but it would probably have sold much better would it have been called Dubya.
P.S. Kurt Wagner met Richard Brautigan the author of Trout Fishing in America and So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away (my favourite) just before he died. Brautigan died like Kerouac. Totally drunk all the time, with no friend left.

Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Top Ten Albums 2000 (stand-out tracks in brackets)
- Giant Sand: Chore of Enchantment (4, 12, 16; 3; 2, 8; 1, 9; 11)
- Yo La Tengo: And then Nothing Turned Itself inside-out (4, 13; 6, 12; 8, 10))
- Mann, Aimee: Bachelor No. 2 (1, 3, 7, 9; 5)
- Montgolfier Brothers: Seventeen Stars (2, 8; 9; 3)
- Adams, Ryan: Heartbreaker (2; 7, 9)
- Trembling Blue Stars: Broken by Whispers (1, 2, 3, 5)
- Godspeed You Black Emperor!: Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (9; 10; 6, 12; 1)
- Cash, Johnny: American III: Solitary Man (4; 2, 7; 1)
- Lambchop: Nixon (2; 1)
- Young, Neil: Silver and Gold (9; 5, 6; 1)

Honorable mentions:
- Louise Attaque: Comme On A Dit (2)
- Goldfrapp: Felt Mountain (8; 3)
- Harvey, Polly Jean: Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (9)

And thank you so much to Absintheur's Journal who has not only got an amazingly good musical taste but is also generous enough to link back to me. He is a big fan of Wedding Present's Seamonsters (tom e. - ned r.) of 1991, one of my favourite rock albums of the 90's. And his writing is quite prolific.

Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Best of lists, music and wine
There are some problems with best of lists (some rules). First there is the time frame. A best of list usually covers a time period, e.g. a year.
Trivium #1: You cannot make a serious best of list before the end of the period covered. Actually this is not as simple as it sounds. Speaking of records, release dates are different in different countries. Which one to choose? For the sake of simplicity you could take the release date in the home country of the artist. But this is maybe irrelevant to you as you discover the record later which brings us to the next point.
Trivium #2: You can only include items which you know. Seems to be really stupid, but this determines the contents of the best of list decisively. So actually you can only make a serious best of list when you know all let’s say records which have been released in the said year.
Therefore once you have established your best of list it is not definite. As it could be that you discover new albums you did not know before. Even subtler it could be that you have known a specific album but you did not recognise it as a great album, it is a grower and you did not have enough time to listen to it. Especially probable for albums which are released the 30th December.
But there is also the other way round. You put a record in your best of list but when you listen to it a couple of months later it has lost its charm. Happens quite frequently to me. Using wine terminology we could say the said record has exceeded its apogee. In the first case when you did not listen enough it has not yet reached its apogee (like the Mouton Rothschild 2000). This leads me to the idea of the perfect album which would be a record which reaches its apogee at the end of your life. It grows every time you listen to it. Does something like this exist? Maybe the soundtrack of nature, e.g. the birds singing!
Conclusion: Best of lists are never final. They should be revised regularly as Parker revises his wine notations every year. Having said that I will post my revised Best of 2000 list as from July, 11th 2001 tomorrow.

Parallels between wine and music: Wine has three main properties. Colour, bouquet (smell) and taste (on the tongue). These properties could be compared to genre (e.g. white=pop, rose=jazz and red=classical), introduction and melody in music. Even better analogies can be found for grape in the sense of cépage (=style, e.g. shoegazing within pop), winery (=artist) and certain vintage of one winery (=record). The grapes are the instruments. The wine dresser is the musician. The sommelier is the deejay. The wine consumers are the audience. The alcohol is the beat. A corky wine is like a false note. The structure (or maybe the body) of a wine could be compared to the musical rhythm. The water in the wine could be the air. The water transports the alcohol into our body, the air conveys the sound to our ears. A live concert is like a wine we drink in the region where it comes from. Talking when drinking socially is like dancing to music. The vintage year is not equal to the release year. It is the year when you heard a record for the first time. Etc. etc.
In giving notes to music we have the same problem as with wines. How can we compare techno with baroque on the same scale? This is why they only compare wines within an appellation (smaller than a region, geographical term which is purely wine derived) in the Guide Hachette. A wine with three stars is a representative wine of the appellation and nothing more. A coup de coeur Vin de Pays de l’Aude is not necessarily better than a two star Chateau Latour.

P.S. Calexico's tour CD Aerocalexico I mentioned yesterday is phantastic. No mariachi at all, quite experimental. Doug McCombs from Tortoise and Eleventh Dream Day participates and there are many very short but interesting slightly dissonant tracks. Definitely a grower. Calexico are following in Giant Sand's footsteps. Very DIY like Howe's recent album Confluence (amg). The record sounds like a homegrown cannabis (a strange crop anyway) plant. Actually Joey Burns almost looked like Howe on Sunday. He was wearing the same kind of baseball cap.

Monday, July 09, 2001

Yesterday we went to see Calexico in Mainz. The concert was ok but very similar to last year's one at the Frankfurt University. The first half was nice with a very good trumpet solo by the Mexican guy whose trumpet sound can be very similar to the cold and lonely intonation of Miles Davis. Joey Burns did some nice distortions with his electric guitar and also with his voice whenever he used the left microphone. He must have learnt that trick from Howe whom I missed sadly. There were also some quiet songs, I think I heard a Nick Drake cover, but it was not Clothes of Sand. That song can be found on the nice exclusive tour CD Aerocalexico with some live stuff and covers, e.g. a great instrumental version of Goldfrapp's Human renamed Humano.
The second half (no pause) was too Mariachi, Tex-Mex for my liking. The trumpet parts were very predictable. I liked it when they played this very calm song (do not know the name) and suddenly went berserk in the middle of it bursting into an amazing cacophony of sounds. For a minute or so we listened to a free jazz session. Besides Burns and Convertino there were four other musicians. Two trumpet players who were also playing guitar and singing. Then there was a bassist who looked like the son of Phil Collins. And finally the pedal steel player. The pedal steel sound was really predominant, but not annoying though it gave the music the C&W tinge. The pedal steel is a kind of guitar which (from far) looks like a keyboard. The way it is played reminded me of the washboard which is used in Bavaria but apparently also in Zydeco and Skiffle.

Sunday, July 08, 2001

Your Precious You
A couple of days ago I started my first thread on I Love Music on this awkwardly named group from Cupertino near San Jose, CA. ILM must be one of the busiest forums on pop, rock and indie music on the web. There are about 100 messages per day. Unfortunately my thread got completely trashed as people thought I wanted to advertise for my band. Actually I would like to if I had a band, but I am afraid that my relation to music is purely passive. I only listen to it.
So I have to praise this band which blends Idaho (fan site), Smashing Pumpkins (especially Billy Corgan's voice) and Catherine Wheel here. The latter is particularly present on Wake, one of the four mp3 downloads on their site. Something like a worthy sequel to Flower to Hide, one of my favourite songs of the 90s from Catherine Wheel's 1992 debut Ferment. That song was shoegazing in nuce for me much more than anything My Bloody Valentine, Ride or Lush ever released. Hypnotic, psychedelic music at its best.
I am looking for records by Your Precious You but did not find any neither at Amazon nor at Ebay. Apparently they released Painkiller EP and Test Pattern. If anyone knows where to buy their music I would be glad if he/she could tell me. On the web there is hardly any information on them. There are only 56 pages in Google's index. Today I started another thread in some newsgroups. Somebody must know this band.

Tuesday, July 03, 2001

What is love?
The day before yesterday we watched Le beau mariage by Eric Rohmer as a home video. The movie dates from 1981 and is very low-budget. As all Rohmers it is mainly conversation. Rohmer is like the small brother (actually he is older and his films are wiser as well) of Truffaut. Quite simple but still intellectual films.
The plot is really simple. A beautiful brunette in her early twenties (Béatrice Romand looks younger than she is) splits with her married painter boyfriend. She is sick of being only second choice. So she decides to marry. Very strange. She does not even know whom. But soon her friend introduces her to her cousin, a lawyer. From the beginning her friend makes clear that she is exactly her cousin's type. Dark hair, slim figure. Now she knows whom she will marry. She gives up her job and runs after him. It is like the Diary of a Seducer by Kierkegaard, but there it works and here not. Maybe men are better seducers. :)
She is so sure of herself but the guy does not respond. So finally she goes to see him in the office and he tells her that actually she is exactly his type of woman, but this is exactly the problem. The reason he puts forward that he has no time for a relationship and that he has to work on his career is of course bullshit. In fact he says no as she is trying too hard.
The quintessence for me is that it does not work as no love is involved. She is absolutely not in love with the guy. She is only acting rationally so she cannot expect that he will love her back. It is all too perfect. You cannot force love. Love is always a present, with something irrational or unpredictable. There is a very human aspect in love. We do not want to be overrun. We want to be respected, free to choose or at least we want to think that we have a free will.

Sunday, July 01, 2001

REM – Reveal
I finally came round writing the review, sorry that it took so long and got so long as well.
The first thing that strikes the eye with REM's new record Reveal is the cover. It must be one of the most horrid covers ever produced in the history of cover art. It pictures a lawn in the midday sun with some ducks in the distance moving towards a pond. As the photo is overexposed the predominant colour is yellow. The photography seems to be taken against the sun, but the photographer's shadow can be seen in the left corner in front, so that the sun must be behind. So actually he has taken a picture of himself (self-referential , how smart!) in an artificially (either via mirror reflections or via a spotlight) bright looking landscape. And then there is R.E.M. in big capitals with orange circles near the "M." in the right corner in front. The upper part of the cover is in plain yellow with the song titles in font 5 on the left and the album title in capitals on the right. A really tasteless creation, looking awfully cheap. It shocks the eye. A title which would have fit much better with the cover art would have been Disguise instead of Reveal.
Speaking of the title, is it by chance that Stipe has just had his official (we have known it for a long time) coming out when the album was published? Another revelation is the inclusion of a lyrics sheet for the first time as far as I know. Before Stipe was never proud enough of his lyrics to publish them. REM seem to have arrived where they always wanted to be. They have become adults, they really have matured. The music is now on such a high level, it is pure magic, very calm and very self confident but nevertheless melancholic. We should be happy that Stipe’s voice will never sound happy.
The most frequent words on Reveal suggest a new direction in their song writing : eyes, cry, high, gravity, fly, sing, light, summer. The songs are airy, very light and can be compared to a delicate blossom. The old college rock days are definitely gone. There are several songs where Stipe seems to literally take off (also with his voice).
Maybe Stipe is right when he said that this is the perfect music for housewives to do the cleaning and washing to. On the other hand this must have been ironical, the production of Reveal (especially the strings) is so perfectionist, Stipe has become really cool to say something similar about REM’s chef d’oeuvre.
When listening to the album what strikes the ear most is a certain ease. This can certainly also be explained by the more ample use of samples and electronics than usual. Already the gorgeous New Adventures in Hi-Fi was pointing in this direction, Up was even more experimental but did not succeed. The departure of their former drummer seems to have given REM a means to redefine and liberate their sound and to adjust it to modern contemporary pop music.

Some short impressions track by track:

you’ve said the air was singing (the lifting)
Already the title of the first song „The Lifting“ sets the theme of the record. It is a perfect opener, a lush production with symphonical support. Michael even welcomes us with „good morning, and how are you?“. My favourite part comes just before the end at the climax when Stipe sings „never“ for 19 times and it is like a song in a song.

but life it sometimes washes over me (i’ve been so high)
Somber keyboards and a dark drum machine rhythm and then the lighting up with one high keyboard chord. Loads of strange electronic noises and a string section complete this good song.

you’ve dusted the non-believers and challenged the laws of chance (all the way to reno)
Light and optimistic song. Slight country touch with pedal steel sound. Additional electronic „bubble“ sounds.
String section is in the background. Stipe’s voice reaches quite high when he sings „you know who you are“.

and now is greater than the whole of the past (she just wants to be)
A more classic and conventional REM tune. Nice simple guitar intro and outro. A song with lyrics like “it’s not that she wasn’t rewarded with pomegranate afternoons of mingus, chet baker and chess“ cannot really be bad. The string arrangement and the Knopfler like guitar make this track nevertheless a little too close to schmalz for my liking.

the only thing worth looking for is what you find inside (disappear)
Slightly experimental dissonant electronic start. Some banjos, some dark electronic string-like noises, Peter Buck’s guitar and the music suddenly has the typical REM classic sound. Most average song yet but not really bad.

easy to take off harder to fly (saturn return)
A ballad with sprechgesang. Strange beginning and atmosphere with dark electronic sounds and whistles. Suddenly Stipe’s voice and the piano set in. Stamping drum-machine rhythm. Then some electric guitars in the background. Some electronic experiments. At the end Stipe‘s voice too high when he sings „harder to fly“.

i knocked my head against the sky (beat a drum)
A brighter song. Piano driven. Rhythmic piano play. The start „the sun reflected in the back of my eye“ is the clue to the strange lighting conditions on the cover. A line like „the dragonflies are busy buzzing me“ sets the tone. There still is melancholy, but it is serene: „halfway from coal, halfway to diamond“. After 2:50 a beautiful magic horn entry for ten seconds. A great song musically and lyrically.

no one can see you cry (imitation of life)
The single. Typical REM sound. Buck’s guitar is predominant. Nice synthie after 2:00 with bell-like noises.
This song will be killed by airplay this summer.

the fireflies and time move like syrup through the evening (summer turns to high)
Atmospheric beginning with keyboards and sprechgesang. Another allusion to the cover: „i won’t step on my own shadow“. Most average track yet, too repetitive, melody not really hooking.

the machine of god singing (chorus and the ring)
The low point of the album. Sprechgesang and no melody. Just terrible. Stipe’s singing not à la hauteur. The end when Stipe repeats „sing“ a couple of times embarrassing. Skip!

and summer’s song it fades to memory (i’ll take the rain)
Strong guitar intro. Melancholic lyrics, singing and melody. One of the top three songs of the album. After 3:15 bass line. Best chorus of the album: „i used to think, as birds take wing, they sing through life, so why can’t we?“. Near the end guitar line. Somehow this song reminds me of the beautiful psychedelic Beta Band rain song Dry the Rain.

this life is sweet we’re dancing in the street (beachball)
Perfect closer. Ballad. Very relaxed atmosphere with accordion and horn section. String section a little too sugary. „good mood“ song.

This is one of those records which I am afraid of to listen to too often. I fear that the beauty will fade with each listen. This is what happened to Out of Time. I heard it everywhere during the spring and summer of 1991 and I loved it to death, the music wore out. From my point of view right now REM’s best album. Before it used to be Automatic for the People. But there is definitely more filler and kitsch on that album.


Copyright 2001, 2002 Alexander Fritz
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