Alex Chilton R.I.P. (1950 - 2010)

by Sean Murphy

18 March 2010

 

Man, the American rock and roll scene just got discernibly smaller.

I’ll defer to the bigger Big Star fans (of whom there are many) to properly eulogize this American rock icon.

I’ll simply say, for now, that while many people (understandably) associate Chilton’s best work with the ’70s, he was still making serious noise in the ’90s. Quite by chance, as we eased past Y2K, I stumbled upon the truly bizarre, and beautiful, album he made with Alan Vega and Ben Vaughn, 1996’s Cubist Blues.

If you are a fan, or if you are curious (check out the clip below and I dare you to not be hooked) it comes highly recommended. This is midnight of the soul mixed with ’50s Beat energy and what Elvis would sound like if he had ever tried to channel Jerry Lee Lewis, drunk. Only one million times deeper and darker and, for my money, more satisfying. This is at once deliberate, narcotic and wonderfully disorienting. It’s like you walked into the wrong bar and stumbled onto a one-off jam session featuring a bunch of bruised and wily underground legends, laying it all on the line for nobody but themselves. Which is exactly what this album is.

Back in September 2003 the east coast was about to get rocked by a hurricane named Isabel. We knew it was coming, and it was one even the TV weathermen couldn’t get wrong. We didn’t know how bad it was going to be and fortunately, for D.C. denizens, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It got darker and later, and once the wind really started blowing and the rain began pounding down, I knew exactly what album I needed to have playing. Cubist Blues came through for me before, and has come through since, but I’ll always consider this an ideal soundtrack for a hurricane.

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