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Thursday, Nov 10, 2011
If what eventually follows Secret Chiefs 3's Book of Horizons (2004) is half as good as the opening salvo (now seven years old, already!), we are in for something special, and Trey Spruance will begin to solidify his case as one of the most important -- if largely unheralded -- musicians of his time.

I used to believe it was one of the minor musical tragedies of the last quarter-century that the great Mr. Bungle could not keep it together. Three spectacular albums (each better than the last) and… done. It seemed neither fair nor possible that one band with so much talent and eccentric, rejuvenating brilliance would call it quits. A lot of diehard fans, like myself, thought the individual musicians were making a big mistake; how could they walk away from what they’d created? I’ve since come to realize—and appreciate—that regardless of the reasons (one may have simply been that there literally were too many ideas and possible directions for one band to handle, plain and simple), the demise of Bungle was, ironically, a blessing on multiple fronts. For one, the band could end on the highest of notes, and secondly, it freed the boys up to leap headlong into their various—and quite varied—obsessions and distractions.

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Thursday, Aug 11, 2011
Faith No More's Angel Dust compels us to reimagine the genre distinctions on which the processes of music production and consumption rest.

I can’t help but snicker at the recent ruckus that The Onion caused at the MetalSucks website. After The A.V. Club ran a crossword puzzle on July 13 with the clue “Faith No More’s only hit” (36 down), MetalSucks responded with a month-long blog series, spanning all of the following August, dedicated to celebrating that band’s music. Entitled “31 Days of Faith No More”, the series contains brief musings on one FNM track for each and every one of August’s days. What’s more is that the series is archived under MS‘s “Hipsters Out of Metal!” category.

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of metal. I’m also beyond over the hipster backlash. Nevertheless, it brings me great joy to see MS‘s obvious full-throated attack at The A.V. Club. If Steven Hyden’s often brilliant series Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation? proved anything, it was that metal (still) is not highly regarded among “hip” music writers. While expending several hundreds of words in the series, Hyden succeeded in ignoring Faith No More entirely, lambasting nü metal, and, of course, singing the praises of Guided by Voices. If all of us could just stop right here and, for once, be honest with ourselves, we could acknowledge that if, say, Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst ever wrote a song called “Tractor Rape Chain”, every indie/hip/left-of-center media outlet in the universe would get all Brent DiCrescenzo on him (those outlets have already done that, actually). But since Robert Pollard is kind of cheeky and weird, he (apparently) gets a permanent hall pass—as do men who name themselves after cute, cuddly animals.

Tagged as: faith no more
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Thursday, Jun 9, 2011
Moose was really never shoegaze. In many ways, Moose was a much more successful band than Ride. Even though that claim is a bit strange, it's never too late to make it.

Well, the world didn’t end, which means that I can continue my tradition of breaking news late. Today’s top story: the August 2009 remaster of Moose’s debut album, . . . Xyz. Yep, you read that correctly: 2009. But before you close your web browser (because a story about an event this old couldn’t possibly be news, right?), remember that you’ve never heard of Moose, the band, and even if you have, you most likely haven’t heard that much of its music, because virtually all of it has been out of print for well over a decade. In other words, this humble blog post actually is news, no matter how long it took to reach the Web.

By now, it’s been thoroughly established that the term “shoegaze” was, and perhaps still is, pretty clunky. What’s most interesting about the term is not so much the way that it has been sort-of reclaimed by contemporary groups as varied as Animal Collective, Autolux, and Wild Nothing, but rather the fact that it continues to garner so much revulsion, even though it’s not entirely clear where, or when, the genre description originated. Some histories date the term’s origins to reviews of Slowdive’s early shows, whereas others broaden their scope, painting the entire Creation Records roster of the early 1990s with that particular fuzzy brush. Still, others argue that the term was actually first used in a Sounds review of a Moose gig, in which lead singer Russell Yates read his lyrics off of a sheet that he had taped to the floor.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011
McCoy Tyner epitomizes the restless spirit and inspiration that characterizes all of our great artists. He was already a master by the mid-’60s; his work with John Coltrane could be studied and analyzed the way entire catalogs of music get dissected by critics. He was neither sated nor satisfied though, so he kept pushing and his work became increasingly ambitious, wide in scope and rewarding

It seems that when jazz pianist McCoy Tyner is mentioned, it’s invariably in the context of his work with John Coltrane. This is fine, as far as it goes, and quite appropriate, since the music (and history) he made as part of the “Classic Quartet” is enough to ensure his immortality in jazz circles. However, a compelling case could be made that he has pound for pound been the most prolific, consistently brilliant, and straight-out important jazz musician of the last half-century.

Let’s review the file. While employed by Coltrane (and make no mistake, far from being “merely” the pianist, he was also contributing compositions, like “Aisha” from Ole Coltrane), he simultaneously was making remarkable albums under his own name. That he was also appearing with compatriots (like Wayne Shorter) and appearing on masterpiece after masterpiece for the Blue Note label would seal the deal. But this all occurred in the 1960s. Not enough people know that Tyner continued to make astonishing music into the ’70s and has not slowed down since. Indeed, his streak of albums starting with Expansions from the late ’60s, through the mid-to-late ’70s with Trident, represents a body of work that, by itself, can stand alongside anything anyone has ever done (in any genre, by the way).

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011
When all the elements on Ride's first album are at play in perfect alignment, Nowhere becomes a magical record, one that you can see deserving of its reputation as one of the best the shoegaze genre has to offer

This week sees the British DVD release of Upside Down, a documentary tackling the history of seminal UK indie label Creation Records, which was extant from 1983 until 1999.  Primarily dedicated to propagating 1960s-influenced alternative rock of all sorts and permutations, Creation was a collision of rockist traditionalism, hyperbolic bravado, and influential innovation, responsible for bringing the likes of the Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Oasis, and Super Furry Animals to the world at large.

Of all Creation’s myriad releases, it’s Ride’s 1990 debut Nowhere that I adore the most.  Yes, Oasis’ first two albums are more tuneful, and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless is a visionary work by an uncompromising musical auteur, but it’s Nowhere that touches me like no other record in the Creation back catalog. Long held as the second-best band in the shoegaze genre (after My Bloody Valentine) and the second-best band from Oxford, England (after Radiohead), Ride has never really gotten its proper due.  As such, I held hope that the 20th anniversary deluxe reissue of its first album this year (yes, the record actually came out 21 years ago—don’t ask) would go a ways towards drawing attention and accolades to the dreamy melodic charms of the disbanded foursome’s music.

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