6.07.2005

We can make you feel like everything that's gone wrong happened for a reason

Dear friends,

I'm a'tired. I've woken up the past couple of days feeling like my eyes had just acquired their very own Birkins to carry. This heat is making me feel swarthier than ever. The sweat mustache has returned. Call me Zorba!

1. Last Friday was the first official Soft Communication Mix Exchange ("Covers" theme)/the Great Cover Band Project. I neglected to hit the office supply store early, so I had to use sad, little falling down blue post-its for name tags. People wrote their names on them but they could not be read. The bar did not accept my free drink marker 'cause I failed to cash it in on time. I got called a fascist or something like it by one contributor for not providing the name of the bands doing the covering on my mix (on purpose, I'm crafty.) I repeatedly got called a crazy by a snort-laughing would-be contributor (I say would-be because they have been unable to accept the invite to join yet) because my list of choices for covers for the band project was "like the bible" and "who can read that much?." I hit the bottle(s). The monkey provided vegetable fried rice. People at other tables looked at us funny. At some point Contributor George got a few brave souls to head out to see The Battle. We were late but we got to see some charmingly wrong-headed covers (musical theatre girl with outrageous cleavage trilling Ask) As well as some interestingly inventive ones (unnamed group doing a breath-heavy and foreboding Hanging Garden). Now, if those Loser Lounge folks would update their website and provide information as to who did what, that would be grand. The Smiths wuz robbed, natch. We left defeated but unbroken. Then the Monkey and I got a very nice cabdriver to take us back to the aerie in Brooklyn. Living large.

Despite all my kvetching, I had a fantastic time. Note to self: rent out the VFW Hall next time. Then things can get really rowdy. With opinions!

Since I don't know how to make an additional page to this, you can go here to see the play lists and/or comments for the cds offered by the pioneers of mixage. I will be posting the other playlists in the next couple o' days. Feel free to comment on your favorite covers. AND if you want a copy of anyone's, send me a blank cd and I'll mail one to ya.

2. I am listening to the new Gomez CD, a live offering called Out West. I like Gomez. I always have. Ever since seeing a video of theirs where they are being experimented on by scientists as they try to record a very silly song about getting yourself arrested. Heads are measured, coils are attached to guitars, door stoppers are placed under feet and so on.

For some reason or another, partly because some of their music makes white girls do that horrific waving arm boogie (you KNOW what I'm talking about), Gomez has been labeled a jam band. Jam music is not for me. I have no beef with jamming in general, it's just the whole "we play, therefore we JAM...endlessly" aesthetic makes me feel like I have no options. I can take a 10 minute version of a song, heck I can take 20, but a 40 minute version of a song? I start to panic. The voices in my head start going "I can't leave, can't get out, I'm TRAPPED!" and the musos improvise themselves into noodles AS I GET DIZZIER and DIZZIER. But enough about that...if any of you want to write about your love of the jam, please do, someone has to explain the why's of love in this world.

Back to the Gomi. It's true. They get crunchy at times. I blame one of their three(!) singers, Ben Ottewell, a guy who looks like Poindexter but sings like an unholy combination of Tom Waits and that guy in Canned Heat who wanted to go up the country. I do like his voice and still find it hard to believe that it comes from that body but it can be a bit much for an entire album, that's why I look forward to the interruptions by the other two singers, Ian ball and Tom Gray. Ian is the resident pin-up, scrawny and little boy lost looking. He also writes the "I'm a total screw-up" numbers guaranteed to keep attracting women for the rest of his rock 'n' roll existence. He's got a voice like a can of talcum powder trying to sound tough and this is an excellent weapon to use when fishing his tales of fuck-up disaster. Of late, he's started writing about a vague sort of redemption which makes me think 12 step but who cares really when it works and doesn't come across like an after school special. On the driving Nothing Is Wrong with its oh so satisfying opening scratch riff, he goes from repeatedly stating that "a little was too much" for him to confessing that too much was NEVER enough in a matter of minutes and manages to make this sudden inversion sound reasonable. He could be talking about any kind of vice, including the vice of needing constant support from well-meaning friends. Confusing ambivalent rock? Yeah. Tom or "The Hobbit" (seriously, with his pocket-sizedness and jovial appearance, you could easily slip him into the movie) as I like to call him, is nasally and conversational. His interest lie more in the personal arena. His tender, sad resignation of a song Sweet Virginia seems to be a long delayed reply, NOT to the Stones song of the same name, but to his own Sound of Sounds from the album In Our Gun. While the latter is a hymn-like realization of need for your partner, the former is a string-laden letting go, of themselves, their paramour, of anything that might matter too much. Sound a bit cringe-inducingly sensitive? It might be if the presentation were heavy-handed. The band, luckily, hold back. And so does Gray, it never gets too much like guys, as Contributor Mary likes to say, "having feelings".

Live, Gomez is a wonder. The Hobbit jumps around like a maniac and tries to get the crowd amped. He's like the band's Bez* but with tremendous musical ability and without the crack. One particularly cruel but funny moment occurs when he makes Blackie, the bass player, give up his bass for the drug comedown turned rave song In Our Gun (better than my description suggests.) The Hobbit proceeds to seriously rip it up on bass and when he's done and hot steam is rising from the instrument, he gingerly hands it back. It almost seems like a sexual humiliation in concert. Ouch! Ian is like a closed-eyed crooning Twiggy with a glittery guitar. His guitar work is clever; he always finds unexpected ways to go against the beat in a way that adds texture to what might otherwise be very plain progressions. Ottewell is a decent lead guitarist. Sometimes he gets a bit samey but then he turns on you by doing these little sneaky bits in songs (like in Shot Shot, which is like the child of Radiohead's National Anthem but faster, more straight-ahead rawk) that make you feel sure he cheated and got a guitar ghostwriter to fill in. Their drummer, the absurdly named Ollie Peacock, is powerful and stylistically versatile. If you see them live, nothing beats the incredibly goofy grin he gets on his face when the band kicks into the pseudo-Latinisms of These Three Sins. It's like he realizes he gets to be Hispanic for four minutes and he can't believe his freakin' suerte.

I'd recommend starting slow with the Gomez so as not to psych yourself into thinking you can smell patchouli coming from somewhere. In terms of albums, I think Split the Difference is a good place to start (though "atypical" and "difficult" In Our Gun is probably my favorite.) In terms of songs, a chronological list is provided below.

Love, D

* "Dancer" for The Happy Mondays. See Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People.

Songs to seek: 78 Stone Wobble, Get Myself Arrested (Bring It On), Rie's Wagon (live on kKCRW), Shot Shot, Detroit Swing 66, In Our Gun, Even Song, Ruff Stuff, Sound of Sounds, Army Dub (In Our Gun), These Three Sins, We Don't Know Where Were Going, Sweet Virginia, Chicken Out, Extra Special Guy (Split the Difference), Fill My Cup (Live), Nothing Is Wrong (Live) (Out West)

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12 Comments:

Blogger Phil said...

Birkins? Kvetching? D, have you been kidnapped by Joan Rivers or something?

4:21 PM, June 07, 2005  
Blogger d said...

well, gill has always called me a "wannabe irish-jew" which I guess would make me...jared.

as for the birkin, you know how much stuff I carry around? right. when I first saw the birkin, an extremely large but attractive purse named after gainsbourg ex-wife, I salivated. of course I could do without the whole hermes thing.

4:46 PM, June 07, 2005  
Blogger Marta said...

hey zorba the geek, i would luve a copy of your covers mix. you can hide it under one of the North 6 bleachers tonight.

10:28 AM, June 08, 2005  
Blogger d said...

I'll be the one in the white skirt & black hoodie. the codeword is "cacoyannis".

11:03 AM, June 08, 2005  
Blogger george said...

I would have to disagree with your recommendation and tell everyone to start at their debut album "Bring It On". It won the frickin' Mercury Prize that year! Easily one of the best debut albums ever, especially when you consider that a good portion of it was recoded in the garage they rehearsed in! BUT, I love that you and the monkey defend those later difficult albums.

6:33 AM, June 09, 2005  
Blogger d said...

contrary motherf'r! actually, while the first one is mercury prize winnin' & all that jazz, I think it hasn't aged all that well, it sounds a bit dated. also, lyrically it's kinda eh? "tijuana lady...I think I lost my last sombrero"? eek. it IS a good record I just feel it stops rewarding faster than the difficult ones. THEN AGAIN, I'm a harcore wowiee zowiee fan, so maybe I just like "difficult".

3:41 PM, June 09, 2005  
Blogger therese said...

I think the unnamed Hanging Garden band may have been Flaming Fire

12:52 PM, June 10, 2005  
Blogger d said...

yeah that's them! t, you are, in the words of a very clever but snooty man, "my fact checkin' cuz"

1:05 PM, June 10, 2005  
Anonymous lisa said...

hey there. I was just perusing around looking for gomez sites when I found yours (eventually cuz it was at the bottom) and I must admit that I actually loved your review of them. This might not seem like much, except that I am a HARDCORE fan (one of those flailing armed white girls, but with a black booty so it balances out well). You were honest in there! As much as I love their music and the boys themselves, I couldnt help but laugh at your descriptions of them! They are quite true, god bless their hobbit, rock star, old black man in an english mans body souls. I also think that split the diff is a great place to start, its def more marketable and does make more sense (but don't be hung up on trying to make sense of gomez lyrics! cuz half the time there is no sense ie keep you warm in my silky poncho is just there cuz it sounded good to the music.) So I just thought Id share my respect with you, cuz I really am absolutely crazy about this band! good job and cheers! : )
ps another thing we agree on is the length of a good jam! another reason to enjoy gomez live; more than the album, but not enough to put you into a padded room!

7:19 PM, June 17, 2005  
Blogger d said...

thanks for the compliments lisa! I love gomez & despite my rant to contributor george, I like the first album plenty (that's how I was introduced, after all) despite the ponchos & bubblegum years. keep doing that flailing arm boogie & let me know if you ever want to recommend anything to us here!

12:49 PM, June 18, 2005  
Blogger d said...

ps thanks for the link on the gomez forum page! as you know from this piece, it's very much meant as a primer to those who might be dissuaded from checking them out because of whatever they may have read in a review written by someone who doesn't know their other records all that well. whew, that's a long, terrifying sentence.

special hello to any gomez fans that might wander over here as result of the link! I consider myself one of your number.

1:01 PM, June 18, 2005  
Blogger d said...

pps a direct link to this post is this:
http://softcommunication.blogspot.com/2005/06/we-can-make-you-feel-like-everything.html

1:10 PM, June 18, 2005  

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