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Morrissey – You are the Quarry (2004)

[Album 331/1001]220px-You_Are_The_Quarry

What do people think of when they think of Morrissey?

Let’s see: miserable/sad bastard, says stupid things, can only sing 3 notes, and according to one High Court Judge, he is “devious, truculent, and unreliable.”

So I obviously enjoy when friends say, “I think of you when I think of Morrissey!” :D

Recently, my afternoon was made when my friend Heather sent me the link, “21 charts that only Morrissey fans will find funny.”

It appears I’m part of the target audience as I thought the collection of charts & graphs was the cat’s pyjamas.  It also inspired me to create some of my own diagrams for this review.

I’d love to highlight all 12 You are the Quarry tracks but out of respect for your time &/or due to my inability to create more than 3 graphics, the opening trio will act as a representative sample for the album.  Bonus marks if you can guess the track names based on the hastily assembled Powerpoint slides!

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Slide1

Though LL Cool J once advised, “Don’t call it a comeback,” it’s hard to view this record through any other lens.

Despite fleeing to the U.S., he chose to open his first studio album in 7 years by telling his new home of America just where they could shove their hamburger!

Hopefully by the end of 2016, this song will need yet another lyric revision to the line, “But where the President is never black, female, or gay.”

A bold, if unspectacular, opener.

On the second song however, he’s back to his spectacular self.

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Slide2

Song 2 is comparable in feel and is probably his best song since The Boy Racer.  It’s actually not dissimilar to Blur’s Song 2 for that matter, though without the chorus screams (can you really picture Morrissey screaming?).

Even if there will never be another partnership quite like Morrissey/Marr, Alain Whyte was an underrated songwriting partner.  It’s a shame he isn’t writing with Morrissey any more.  From my gateway Moz song, We Hate it When Our Friends Become Successful, to their last epic, Life is a Pigsty, they put together a pretty impressive body of work.

Speaking of super song titles:

Slide3

I’m glad to hear he’s capable of forgiveness; I’d imagine many Canadian fans are still struggling to be as accepting of his decision/publicity stunt to boycott Canada because of the Seal Hunt!

Like its title, the song is memorable, as are several of the others (notably First of the Gang to Die) on this 2004 return-to-form release.

I often change my mind as to whether I prefer its follow-up, Ringleader of the Tormentors; either way, it was good to have him back saying questionable things and making some unquestionably great music.

Mercury Rev – Deserter’s Songs (1998)

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There was a funny/sadly accurate post on CBC this week, proclaiming 1999 as the worst year in music history.

Based on the list, it’s convincing!

As I previously ranted in a Fatboy Slim review, 1998 wasn’t much better.

There was the odd standout of course (Mermaid Avenue, Lauryn Hill), old favourites were still putting out great stuff (Phantom Power, Navy Blues) but few would call the ’98 calendar year one of the all-time greats.

Not an awful year per se, just a bizarre transitional time for music.

However, when there is no one dominant sound that record labels are eagerly replicating, sometimes more interesting music breaks through.

Take Mercury Rev.

Deserter’s Songs has the vocal frailty of Elliott Smith and the musical far-out fantastic-ness of The Flaming Lips.

It even has a moment early on reminiscent of “Sleep in Heavenly Peace” from Silent Night.

So, not your typical rock record!

As a whole, the record is a grower.  The record also grows best as a whole, it’s not one for the shuffle feature.

I’m surprised Goddess on a Hiway wasn’t a bigger hit in Canada; fortunately, as I’ve since learned, it wasn’t so overlooked across the pond.

It may not be the most inherently exciting record but at the nadir of popular music in the late 90s, Deserter’s Songs likely provided an exciting promise of better music days ahead.

Especially when compared with some of those unwelcome late 90s earworms in the CBC post above!

Top 5 “M” Artists

Do you hear that?

The sound of Jon Bon Jovi singing Whoa we’re halfway there?

Lucky Letter #13/26, the Top 5 Ms!

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5. Mika
Believe it or not, in the first draft, Motörhead was my #5.  But until my daughter starts belting out Ace of Spades, her car sing-alongs with Mika’s Life in Cartoon Motion bump him into the Top 5.

Like The Darkness, Mika brought some fun back into music in the mid-00s.  Grace Kelly, Lollipop and Big Girl are practically perfect pop ditties.

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4. McCartney, Paul
Speaking of songwriting, few have been better at the craft than Paul McCartney.  Much like Lennon with the “L” artists, this ranking is based solely on his post-Beatles output.  He hasn’t always been consistent but when he’s on (as with Ram), he’s on.

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3. Metallica
Four albums made the 1001 (Master of Puppets, …And Justice, Metallica, and S&M); many would argue that merely scratches the surface!
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2. Modest Mouse
Yes there’s the inevitable Johnny Marr bias but a lot of their stuff without him is equally strong.

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1. Morrissey
Hard to believe he’s been a solo artist, singing his patented 3-note range, for 26 years!  Viva Hate set the bar, later raised by Your Arsenal & Vauxhall, hopefully his 2014 album will be a return to form.

And there will hopefully be a couple “M” reviews before too long, enjoy!

The Lemonheads – It’s a Shame About Ray (1992)

[Album 329/1001]220px-Lemonheads_It's_a_Shame_About_Ray

A few years ago, my friend/fellow-music-enthusiast Megan gave me a book named Music Listography.  A book of make-your-own-top-music lists, talk about knowing your audience!

One of the lists was, “Songs you wish you’d written.”

While it’s tempting to put songs like Happy Birthday (billions of people know your song, either for annual celebrating or as a time guideline for washing hands!) or Bohemian Rhapsody (because how on earth does one come up with a song like that?), I opted for songs that had more in common with the ones I’d actually write.

These three Lemonheads tunes would fit under that category of more realistic/plausible choices:

1. Bit Part -  When it comes to love songs, I’m a sucker for the ones with modest goals/understated compliments, the old under-promise/over-deliver.  Flight of The Conchords had this brilliant scene explaining the pitfalls of over-promising in song:

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The Reasons (by The Weakerthans) is an exemplar when it comes to less than grandiose flattery, “You might roll your eyes at this but I’m so glad that you exist.”

Like The Reasons, Bit Part is quite catchy and it features one of the top lines in recent memory:”I just want a bit part in your life.  Rehearsing all the time.”

2. Rudderless – Another acoustic/electric gem, reinforcing my belief in the power of a strong second verse.  Big fan of the female back-up vocals & the “ship without a rudder” outro.

 3. It’s a Shame About Ray – I always find it curious when a solid album shares a name with its weakest song, such as Sonic Youth’s Goo.  No such curiousity here; the title track is an effortlessly excellent tune.

Some may be put off by Evan Dando’s vocals, insisting he sounds like, to borrow a term from Mr. Strickland in Back To The Future, a slacker.  I’d argue he’s more like Pavel Datsyuk, who skates and ‘dangles’ so smoothly on the ice, it only looks like he’s not really trying.

Besides, like other ‘slacker’ alternative artists from the decade (Pavement, Beck), It’s a Shame About Ray, both the song and parent album, hold up remarkably well.

K.D. Lang – Shadowland (1988)

[Album 328/1001]K.d._lang_-_Shadowland

I mentioned last week that I appreciated Carole King’s ability to hit a note and move on with life.

There are times however, when I fully endorse artists that take their time when arriving at a note.

The man who wrote the book on moving targets? Bing Crosby.

His landing gear is down looooong before he touches down on a given note’s tarmac.  Particularly in his signature song, White Christmas, he swoops into just about every note and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

If Bing is King of the slide-ins, K.D. (or intentionally lower case k.d.) is the Queen.  She has some terrific slides of her own on Shadowland.

Check out this beauty (at 2:30):

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I’ve heard the argument that Lang is often better than her song choices and there may be some validity to that theory.  If it is true here, it’s due more to singer strength than song shortcomings.  I don’t think that’s the case though as I quite enjoyed the Shadowland set.

The musical highlights for me included:

- Busy Being Blue’s late night sax, some of the finest since Peter Gabriel’s Start

- the straight-out-of-a-saloon piano in (Waltz Me) Once Again Around the Dance Floor

- the delightful Maui (or happy place of your choice) imagery conjured by the ukelele in Sugar Moon

Strong as the backing band may be, make no mistake, it’s a backing band.

The singer is the star; when it’s a world-class, Top 5 chanteuse, that’s probably the way it should be.

Top 5 “L” Artists

Nearing the halfway mark of the alphabet, another letter that ain’t half bad!

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5. K.D. Lang
If all goes according to plan, there will be a Shadowland review before moving on to the “M”s.

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4. Lemonheads, The
Replace Shadowland with It’s a Shame About Ray in the above sentence!

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3. Lennon, John
His solo work was at times soul-searching (Plastic Ono Band), others solid (the hits from Double Fantasy), and occasionally superb (parts of Imagine).
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2. Libertines, The
What became of the likely lads?  There’s talk of a reunion but for now, the first (and only) two records still sound scrap-tastic.

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1. LFO
Few lyrics have been as poignant; fewer still have been more revealing about the human condition than the chorus to Summer Girls:

“New Kids On The block had a bunch of hits
Chinese food makes me sick.
And I think it’s fly when girls stop by for the summer,for the summer”

The words say it all: proof of the commercial viability of boy bands, confessions of indigestion, and the acknowledgement of the ‘fly’ness in the moment when…well maybe not such a ‘fly’ misdirect here but could #1 really be anyone other than Led Zeppelin? :)

10 tunes in 10 seconds – the results!

Thank you for participating & a happy Independence Day to the bloggers in the USA!

The headache-inducing video…

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…and the correct responses:

1. The Kinks – Afternoon Tea, from Something Else by the Kinks

2. Pixies – Here Comes Your Man, from Doolittle

3. Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter, from The Depaaaaated (and of course Let it Bleed)

4. Calexico – Sunken Waltz, from Feast of Wire

5. The Who – Armenia City in the Sky, from The Who Sell Out

6. Peter Gabriel – Solsbury Hill, from Peter Gabriel (I)

7. Jay-Z – Izzo (H.O.V.A.), from The Blueprint

8. Blondie – Hanging on the Telephone, from Parallel Lines

9. Led Zeppelin – Ramble On, from LZII

10. Faith No More – Epic, from The Real Thing

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And congratulations to the medal* winners!

Bronze medal: Andy @ http://aholeinthehead.wordpress.com

Silver medal: Ovidiu @ http://tangledupinmusic.wordpress.com

and with a very impressive 8/10,

Gold medal: Rich @ http://kamertunesblog.wordpress.com

The “L” artists are up next week, enjoy the weekend!

 

*medals may or may not actually exist but the bragging rights are very real!

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