Satchel: The Family

I don’t know how to review this album. It’s definitely in my top ten albums of all time, probably more like top three or four. It’s perfect. Every CD should strive to be this good. There’s really nothing more I can say about it. So let me tell you my memory of the first time I listened to it.

This album was my first real exposure to Satchel. I’d heard EDC maybe once from a friend and wasn’t that impressed. But I was a big fan of Brad’s first two records, so I gave this a shot. I don’t know where I got it, but I have an advance copy of the CD, so it was either a bargain bin pick-up or I swiped it from KWUR.

Anyway, I was in love from the first listen. How often does that happen? How often do you listen to an album for the first time and every note resonates with you? Well here’s one of the few times it happened for me. As “Roll On” ended and I blissfully faded into the silence, completely rewarded by the album for having lived over two decades at that point, I noticed that the CD was still going…it was silent but the timer was still ticking forward. Then the sounds of a light but steady rain (Seattle) came over the speakers, and I thought, “Oh no, how could you? How could you ruin a perfect CD, one that ended perfectly, with a hidden track?”

But then something weird happened. The hidden track, which is more mood than song, made the album even more perfect. How about that? An album that was perfect on first listen and whose hidden track actually worked as such. I don’t think there’s anything more I need to say.

– “Isn’t That Right,” “Without Love,” “Not Too Late,” “Criminal Justice,” “Breathe Deep,” ‘Time “O” The Year,’ “For So Long,” “Some More Trouble,” “Tomorrow,” “Roll On”
Filed Between: Satchel’s Mr. Pink and Sausage (Riddles Are Abound Tonight)
Song Notes: After the jump
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The Beatles: Let It Be

letitbe The Beatles’ last album, which was actually recorded prior to Abbey Road, gets a lot of crap, very little of it deserved.

Let’s get the bad out of the way. Yes, Phil Spector’s production is pretty bad. The sound is compressed and peaky in a way nobody else would really start to mess up until this century. The bits of dialogue around the songs, which ended up being illuminating on the Anthology releases, are distracting and annoying here. And three of the songs (“Dig It,” “Maggie Mae,” and “For You Blue”) are half-finished, in an even rawer state than that of what I call Brad’s unfinished tracks. In his defense (though I’m loath to defend Spector at all), the band completely scrapped the first version of the album, titled Get Back, they was not getting along at all and I believe were not even communicating with each other as this was recorded individually. Point is, he probably didn’t have a lot to produce.

And granted, this isn’t as good as Abbey Road, BUT (huge but), that’s setting the bar awfully high. Furthermore, to write this album off is to ignore many of the band’s best songs, in particular McCartney really coming into his own as a songwriter, particularly on the ballads. There’s not a band song on here and the highlights include “Let It Be,” “The Long And Winding Road,” and “Get Back.”

In a way, the half-finished songs serve a nice role in breaking up what otherwise would be such a collection of excellent songwriting that it might crumble under its own weight. That’s kind of a cowardly way out of that conundrum, but if I had to wildly speculate at what brought down Get Back (and let’s do that, why don’t we?), I’d guess it was along the lines of not being able to get all these great songs to work together. It’s like the Bulls of the 90’s or the Lakers of the 00’s, but Spector’s not Phil Jackson and so couldn’t get them to the championship.

Anyway, great album. Not without its faults, but definitely under-appreciated.

– “I Me Mine,” “Let It Be,” “I’ve Got A Feeling,” “One After 909,” “The Long And Winding Road,” “Get Back”
– “Two Of Us,” “Dig A Pony,” “Across The Universe,” “Dig It,” “Maggie Mae,” “For You Blue”
Filed Between: Abbey Road and 1967-1970
Song Notes: After the jump
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Lenovo Break Key

Hoping this will save somebody else the (literally) hours it took me trying to track this down.

I’d been very frustrated using Remote Desktop Connection ever since I got my Lenovo Twist in the fall because it was missing the Pause and Break keys. So if I wanted to go from full screen RDC back to the windows on my PC, I had to use the mouse to resize the remote desktop.

I tried all kinds of things, including Microsoft’s key mapper, KeyTweak, and SharpKeys. Nothing seemed to work…the Break key seemed to be disabled on this box, probably in the registry. I poked around in the registry looking for a way to re-map it.

Finally I came across this post on the Lenovo blog. It pointed out that break was mapped to Fn+P. So now I can Ctrl+Alt+Fn+P to toggle between full screen and not in remote desktop connection. Awesome. Total victory. Even if I don’t get anything else done today, this is a good day.

Screaming Trees: Other Worlds

otherworlds On Screaming Trees’ debut EP, there is little sign of the band that would come or of the “Seattle sound” of the early 90’s. That’s not that surprising given that this is from 1985(!) or that the band is really from Ellensburg, a college town over one hundred miles east on I-90, on the other side of the mountains. But it is striking in that the other bands from that era–Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden–all had at least some parts of their sound in their very early stuff. Mudhoney (nee Green River) and Alice In Chains in particular had their sound figured out and nailed down very early

With Other Worlds, though, the only real similarity is smartly written, guitar-driven pop songs. It’s more like hippie dippie psychedlia poppy stuff than grunge. Even Mark Lanegan’s voice, which would go on to become, more than anything, the band’s calling card, is nascent here. Instead of the dark, brooding bass, it’s more of a thin, reedy, though competent, tenor.

I like every one of these songs. I wouldn’t skip past a single one. Not one really jumps out at you, though, and that’s in no small part due to the thin, distant sound quality. Great melodies, tightly packed hooks, and no screwing around. It’s an auspicious beginning for one of my favorite bands.

– “Like I Said,” “Pictures In My Mind,” “The Turning,” “Other Worlds,” “Barriers,” “Now Your Mind Is Next To Mine”
Song Notes: After the jump
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Dub Trio: Another Sound Is Dying

anothersoundisdyingDub Trio’s Another Sound Is Dying is a very good record. But it’s also a failure.  The band’s schtick is that they combine an aggressive instrumental punk/metal hybrid thing with dub. So you’ve got thrashy headbanging stuff going on for most of most songs, and then for a minute or two of each song, usually in the middle, they break into dub. A nice idea for a song experiment or two, but as the basis for an entire band it doesn’t quite work.

Every once in a while, it does work, like on album opener “Regression Line,” but for the most part you end up wondering why they’re still in dub mode and when they’re going to get back to rocking it hard. I mean, I’m not sure what mood you would be in that you’d want to, over the course of an entire album, be swung back and forth between thrash and dub.

The best parts, and there are plenty of them, are when they integrate the timbres of dub (or just wacked-out studio inventions) into the fabric of the metal stuff. It’s always impressive when a band can layer tons of different sounds on a song and make it sound like it couldn’t be any other way. That’s what Dub Trio is best at, and thankfully there’s enough of it to enjoy here that that’s what you end up remembering the most about it.

Oddly, the worst song on the album is “No Flag,” where Mike Patton guests. On some of his more recent stuff he’s completely mailing it in. I mean this scary voice talky stuff followed by screams…we’ve heard that in at least two or three different places before. And this track as a whole kind of sounds like it’s Sepultura’s “Lookaway” redux.

This is a band trying to milk an idea too far. They’re excellent at merging different sounds and styles together, but switching from metal to dub in almost all of their songs feels forced and arbitrary. Once you focus on their strengths, though, and forget about the overreach, it’s a damn fine listen.

– “Regression Line,” “Not For Nothing,” “Felicitation,” “Bay Vs. Leonard,” “Jog On”
– “No Flag,” “Respite,” “Who Wants To Die?,” “The Midnight Runner,” “Safe And Sane,” “Agonist,” “Fuck What You Heard,” “Mortar Dub,” “Funishment”

Song Notes: After the jump
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Satchel: Mr. Pink

mrpinkI’m having some serious cognitive dissonance listening to this. I can’t believe I didn’t get “Mr. Pink” down as a full heart when I reviewed EDC. I mean, it’s not a total slam dunk, but I have no hesitation at all about wanting to share its full, gorgeous sound of layered Shawn Smiths and crunchy guitars.

Well, I’d been thinking about making full heart a bit less restrictive, making it closer to something meaning the combo of mix+keep categories of old instead of just mix. So this seems like a good enough time to make the switch. Important announcement: Please see the last two sentences. That will create a volume (and therefore time) problem when it’s time to create the end-of-year mixes, but let’s go with it, huh?

“Nice Guy Eddie” and “Vic Vega” (you see the Reservoir Dogs theme continues) are also great, though both are much more demo-ish. They feel like great ideas that haven’t quite taken that last step or two through the editing process to get that final releaseable-song product. They kind trail off at the end with a bit of a jam, no vocals, and instruments gradually dropping out. “Vic Vega” in particular should have been resurrected as something more deliberate.

Anyway, it’s all very nearly perfect.

Rating: Clowns for copying only, no rating implied
– “Mr. Pink,” “Vic Vega”
– “Nice Guy Eddie”
Filed Between: Satchel’s EDC and The Family

BR549: Tangled In The Pines

tangledinthepinesThis album is another huge win for BR549. I’m so glad I didn’t totally give up on these guys. I was a bit concerned this wouldn’t be very good, given that one of the band’s two lead vocalists, Gary Bennett, left after This Is BR549. So this is Chuck Mead’s baby now, and I think for the first time they don’t have a cover anywhere on the record.

The band’s pretty much completely matured by this point and have come into their own voice. With no covers and not much more relying on quirky content, they’re much more confident here, and rightly so. In fact, their worst stuff is when they try to get too cute, like “She’s Talking To Someone (She Ain’t Talking To Me).”

The songs’ protagonists aren’t usually losers, either. Some of them have hard-luck stories (“Movin’ The Country”, “Tangled In The Pines”), but they’re always told with full self-awareness of circumstances and the situation and no self-pity. The best songs are when the characters boldly and proudly state their place in the world, a tactic usually employed more successfully by women in country. Examples of this are “Ain’t Got Time” (“I ain’t got time to die”), “No Friend Of Mine,” and the obligatory party rocker, “Way Too Late (To Go Home Early Now)”.

Vividness is in fullest effect on “Run A Mile,” where our hero has to run to the river and swim across state lines to throw off the posse on his tail for, from his point of view, being falsely accused of raping a young woman. To hear him tell it, it was her idea, he should have known better, and, while the river may kill him, that’s a far preferable fate than the one that’s chasing him from behind. You can feel this one; feel the drying semen on your pants as you run through the Ozark or Appalachian back country on a hot morning, driven on by a sense of self-preservation. Among other things, it’s a great song to run to.

BR549 never received as much attention or love for their later stuff than they did for their earlier stuff, and I can’t help but wonder if Big Backyard Beat Show and Coast To Coast Live were just too disappointing enough to come back from. Maybe it wasn’t just me who became disenchanted and stopped following them.

– “That’s What I Get,” “Ain’t Got Time,” “Run A Mile,” “No Friend Of Mine,” “Way Too Late (To Go Home Early Now)”
– “I’m All Right (For The Shape I’m In),” “Tangled In The Pines,” “No Train To Memphis,” “Movin’ The Country,” “When I Come Home,” “Honky Tonkin’ Lifestyle”
– “She’s Talking To Someone (She Ain’t Talking To Me)”
Filed Between: Coast To Coast Live and Brad (Shame)
Song Notes: After the jump
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