Mendelsohn: The other day I was listening to music and thinking about the Bible. Not the fun parts where the world ends or people get smote, but the rather dry part—specifically Chronicles 1, with all the begats and what not. I was thinking about lineage. Tracing lineage can be incredibly boring, because forsooth, I’m not sure why it’s important to know that Abigail childed Amasa. Having said that, I’m going to trace some lineage in hopes of explaining why the Avalanches’ Since I Left You, released in 2000 the Year of Our Lord, was such a critical and commercial success and how exactly a couple of ex-punks from Australia made it happen. I’ll dispense with all the begats and forsooths in favor of terms like turntablism, sampling and plunderphonics. Ah, who am I kidding? Let the begatting begin.
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Mendelsohn: One more spin on the Pink Floyd space shuttle, Klinger. Are you ready? This will be the last go around. As much as I love this band, as large as they loom in my rock psyche, there aren’t too many other albums in their repertoire that I think merit extended examination: maybe Animals, maybe Meddle, maybe even their late-game return with Division Bell. This week will mark the fourth Pink Floyd record we’ve discussed—at number 207 is Wish You Were Here.
Klinger: And given my ambivalence toward Pink Floyd, I’m of two minds as to how to react to this announcement. Part of me wants to thank you, and yet another part of me wants to make you listen to The Final Cut just for making me go through all this so many times.
Klinger: Make no mistake, popular music in the 20th century was split nearly down the middle with the advent of rock and roll. And the result was something like a street brawl, fought out in the newspaper columns and nightclub stages and dining room tables of America. The old guard took every opportunity to take potshots at this new, sexually/morally/ethnically ambiguous form, while the youngsters bobbed and weaved their way through the whole skirmish, confident that they’d at least end up winning the war of attrition. That’s the official story at least, and it’s not without its truths. But too many people, musician and critic alike, took the whole thing a little too literally, and as a result the age of rock criticism hasn’t done much more than pay lip service to the music that came before the Great Divide.
Mendelsohn: Confession time, Klinger. For the past six months I’ve been listening to the new album from Run the Jewels nearly nonstop. Remember those weeks when we had to listen to the Violent Femmes, or the Beatles, or Husker Du, or Jefferson Airplane, or Daft Punk, or the Kinks? I was listening to Run the Jewels instead.
That’s a bit of an exaggeration, I did listen to the other records—a little bit—but most of the time, when I was by myself, the kids weren’t in the car, or I was hanging out in the garage making stuff out of wood, Run the Jewels 2 would be on as loud as possible. I am enthralled by this messy, uncouth, unbelievably smart record from the Odd Couple of Hip-Hop. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t perfect, but for my money it is pretty damn close.
Klinger: Sometimes sitting down to talk about an album is a daunting task. Sometimes that’s because an album just isn’t sparking a conversation in your head. But sometimes it’s because you quite simply have no idea where to begin talking. That’s the case for me with this week’s album, XTC’s 1986 masterpiece Skylarking. Arising from a series of difficult sessions with Todd Rundgren (“As if there were any other kind of sessions with Todd,” say the New York Dolls), Skylarking polishes up the group’s sometimes thorny pop and creates a shimmering, technicolor gem that I’m pretty sure every critic everywhere has called “pastoral”—and for good reason. Not only does it sound wholly organic with its lush strings and instrumentation, but it also conveys an almost spiritual quality in its underlying wisdom, “Dear God” notwithstanding. Skylarking is so nearly perfect to my way of thinking that it’s hard to actually pull it apart and turn it into words.