Sunday, March 05, 2006

My Latest Novel, U2 and Michael Nyman

As I said yesterday, I did indeed go to purchase a number of CDs later that day. I had hoped to get back to you before then, but real life intervened and I didn't. Such is real life.

How real? Beats me.

I bought five CDs:

My Latest Novel - Wolves - - 2006 - - Bella Union (£12)
Pharoah Sanders - You've Got to Have Freedom: Anthology - - 2005 - - Universal (£9)
Leonard Cohen - The Future - - 1992 - - Columbia (£4 SH)
Michael Nyman - The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover - - 1989 - Venture (£5 SH)
Steely Dan - Can't Buy a Thrill - - 1998 (reissue) - - MCA (£6)

I am also going to mention two other recent releases:

U2 - Achtung Baby - - 1991 - - Island (£5 SH)
Scott Walker - Climate of Hunter - - 2006 Reissue - - EMI (£6)

First up - My Latest Novel. This IS going to be huge. I caught a track on the radio - DAB's The Arrow - 'Real Rock Radio'. (This is, incidentally, the best music station I have come across on DAB. Most of the time, it is more of the usual MOR rock standard. But there are floating around in the station a few DJs who know their music, and have played some very interesting bits and bobs. Anyway...) As soon as I heard this tune, I thought that it sounded interesting with a capital 'I' and instantly felt the need to hunt the sucker down. Discovering that it wasn't yet released as an LP, I pre-ordered with Steve (my dealer), and readied myself for possible vindication or disappointment. Thankfully, I am glad to announce that the former was in order. It's really fucking good.

To cut a long story short, its a folkier Arcade Fire. Whereas the Arcade Fire were more angular - especially in their Bowie/David Byrne/Pixies connections - these guys are a little more flowing, and less fixed in their textural palette. By that I mean that they let the percussion and strings do a lot more of the work than the Arcade Fire. (This is not to say that AF are stingy with these elements, but more that they use strings and percussion to augment what the 'traditional' rock instruments are doing, rather than let these instruments set their own terms - Does that make sense?). Where they are very similar, is in their energy and conveying a definite sense of urgency. On top of all that, the songs are pretty good too. 'Learning Lego', 'When We Were Wolves' and the single 'The Reputation of Ross Francis' make lovely use of chanting and shouting, while the opener 'Ghost in the Gutter' has a great Morricone feel. Go and buy it now!

I am going to deal with two more in the same chunk if that is OK. I used to have both U2's 'Achtung Baby' and Michael Nyman's 'The Cook, the theif...' on cassette (probably still do.... oh no, I don't - I binned all my cassettes) . Both of them had been somewhat sidelined in my attentions, and I felt almost lukewarm about re-buying them, despite the fact that they were both criminally missing from the collection.

Both of them were highly satisfying to actually play again and have reminded how damned great both artists are. Nyman's opener to this is such a headturner - 'Memorial' both recalls the film and is thoroughly evocative in its own terms. My instant thought is that I would love this track to a perpetual soundtrack to the whole of my life. Then, maybe, I would feel as important as I ought to feel. The whole world would be one grand procession. It's probably as well that this is not the case, since the sudden obligation to stand and walk at such a pace would surely piss every other living person alive off way too much. (Possibly even me). But the world would seem such a grand place. The last track was missable and probably accounts for my half-heartedness, being a vocal piece. I am not a great choral person.

'Achtung Baby' was placed in the deck with great misgivings. It has been heartily dissed by me on several occasions (despite kind of knowing that I was being unduly harsh). I am so so devoted to The Unforgettable Fire, that this seemed so so wrong on release. I bought it (on cassette - an indication of my purse-lipped attitude to it), listened to it and then set it to one side. I now know why: 'The Fly'. This was the first single and it sucks. It was all that was wrong with U2 post 1990 - over-brash and full of itself, but mostly shiny and luminescent. I liked the matt shades of greys from UF and even The Joshua Tree. But having listened to it through, with honest ears. I have to say that overall, it is pretty good. the other singles hold up very nicely. Even 'One', which is now Johnny Cash's, as far as I am concerned, was satisfying. It will never reflect that golden period of sullen growing up that I associate with UF, but still a damned good CD from a band that know how to rock (even if I wish they wouldn't).

Time prevents me from getting to the other stuff... I will be back.


Ben said...

My Latest Novel sound interesting, but could I forgive them for what must surely be the indiest band name in history? The album would have to be very good indeed...

Nice blog BTW - discovered via Paul's Is This A Good Idea?.

James said...

Indiest... hmmmm... it is pretty indie, but indiest? Not so sure: The Shop Assistants should probably win the '80s Indie Band-name with 'The....' as their format. Hyper-obscure goth band 'S'Haters' do well too (mind you, they are so obscure that I am not sure if even I have heard of them - I have a 7", I found in Probe Records in 1985). I kind of think that Will Oldham's off-shoot band with Scottish folkster Alasdair Roberts, The Amalgamated Sons of Rest, should rank pretty high too....

Huge thanks for your comments, by the way.. and I have just been discover your own blogging world. It might take me some time to get to grips with it all. I was, though, pleased to see that top of your 'LPs of 2005 list' was Arcade Fire. A rightful place.