Table of Contents: Music


Guitarist Wanted

‘The Perfect Guitarist’
for Avant Rock Group
Original, creative, adaptable
melodic, fast, slow, elegant, witty
scary, stable, tricky
QUALITY MUSICIANS ONLY
‘Roxy’ 223 0296

Ad placed by Bryan Ferry in Melody Maker soliciting a guitarist to join him, Andy Mackay, and Brian Eno in the fledgling Roxy Music.

Some Swedish Type

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Swedish_Record_Typography_3

Swedish_Record_Typography_1

So, recently I was over in Sweden visiting IKEA HQ (more on that, later-ish…) IKEA is located in Älmhult, a small picture postcard of a town. Quaint cobblestone square anchored by statue of Carl Linnaeus (you remember Linnaean taxonomy, yes? — three kingdoms, divided into classes, orders, families, genera, and species, eighth grade or so, feathered hair, Toughskins jeans, 3/4 black sleeved Cars T-shirt…sorry, pardon my corduroy reverie…)

Anyway, I’m wandering around and happen upon a gas station / burger & ice cream hut / thrift store (!) where, between fan belts, spark plugs, a row of swedish potboilers, needlepoint, and axel grease, I spot these 10″ records in a crate.

What a score! Each one of these Swedish type compositions is gorgeous — and each anchored by a contrastingly dense, filagreed record label. Häftigt!

Public Image Limited

In retrospect, the album cover designs of the early releases by Public Image Limited constitute one hell of a brilliant run. By his own admission John Lydon’s music has been basically a big conceptual media prank, playing with, subverting, and looting the whole notion of the public image. Therefore it’s no surprise that packaging and design figured so heavily in his work from the very beginning.

Arguably British tabloids were the closest things in the cultural landscape, both aesthetically and attitudinally, to punk rock, so it was fitting that Never Mind The Bollocks was designed like a cross between a tabloid and a ransom note (which, incidentally is an apt description of the record itself.)

With Public Image Limited, those influences and themes became more sophisticated and overt. The mock slick magazine design of the debut was an ironic riposte to the expected image of Lydon as a young savage. This was followed by the unprecedented, and justly celebrated, configuration of 1980’s Metal Box – 3 12inch singles in a, um, metal box. After that came the aggressively sexy glamorous cover for 1981’s Flowers of Romance. Among other things, it strikingly prefigures the the snapshot aesthetic of current fashion and nightlife photographers like Nikola Tamindzic and, ugh, that skeezy doofus Terry Richardson. The sleeper of the bunch is the cover of 1983’s cynically bland cash-in Live in Tokyo – shot and composed perfectly. Dig the way the commercial riot of neon signage converges and perfectly frames the iconic PiL logo, interrupted only briefly by Lydon’s fab shiny suit.

What ties it all together is the same tension that animates the music – a constant flickering between art and commerce, sincerity and fakery, and, ultimately, what is false and worthless and what is true and enduring.

Public Image Limited: Public Image: [download]

[audio:http://shepelavy.com/audio/PIL_PublicImage.mp3]


Public Image Limited:
Careering (astonishing BBC version): [download]

[audio:http://shepelavy.com/audio/PIL_CareeringBBCSession.mp3]

For Your Pleasure 2012

The year in music was spent under the vast shadow of Christian Mistress. This colossally awesome band rose up from the waters in early March, unbidden, unknown, and wrapped it’s massive hulk around the turntable, it’s grip unshakeable. It’s like some scruffy metal kids in Portland got a hold of the fax/phone modem contraption that synthesizes Kelly leBrock in Weird Science and shoved in pre-Bruce Dickenson Iron Maiden, Hawkwind, and — most improbably — Sandy Denny era- Fairport Convention. A lean and wooly metal monster, this Mistress, but what defines them are the rough yet transcendent vocals of frontwoman Christine Davis. Possession is thier first full-length, handily the record of the year. Everything they’ve done to date though – the Agony & Opium EP and the debut single — is simply crushing.

The only thing more absurd than the idea of a sequel to Jethro Tull’s beloved 1971 prog-rock masterpiece Thick as a Brick is how absurdly good it actually is.

M83’s Hurry Up We’re Dreaming still goes on the hi-fi just about weekly – this giant pipe organ of 80’s nostalgia remains a pure undiminished pleasure to listen to…

Blanche Blanche Blanche and US Girls beam fuzzy transmissions from deeply quirky imaginations, tuned to personal obsessions and record collections… 70’s AOR radio for the former, girl groups and glam rock for the later.

Wonderful and obscure new music appeared from two wonderful and obscure acts I thought utterly dormant – arch disco provocauter and Roxy Music cover model Amanda Lear (that’s her walking the panther on For Your Pleasure) and muscular 80’s synth band B-Movie (Nowhere Girl, a staple of the savvier 80’s hits comps)

Gobsmacking songwriter and all around American treasure Stew launched another tune into the Negro Problem’s indelible songbook.

2008’s best of included Lissy Trullie which I loved, despite being the kind of too-cool for school hipster new wave they play at photoshoots. She’s gotten a lot of jaded flak for being a singing model, hangin’ with Sevigny blah blah. Nonsense. Her full-length debut album is stunning. The downtown moves are still there, mellowed and matured by Siouxie-esque moody touches.

Speaking of Siouxie, a good portion of the year was spent channeling the summer sountrack of a precocious 16 year old Long Island girl circa 1986…

Winged Victory for the Sullen is a collaboration between Stars Of The Lid member Adam Wiltzie and composer Dustin O’Halloran. It is piano based ambient music in a Satie vien. It is simply gorgeous. Thanks gentlemen.

This year saw the US release of the legendary Des Jeunes Gens Moderns compilation documenting France’s 1978-1983 postpunk and cold wave scene – sort of a Euro-Nuggets for new wavers. Poking around the blogosphere I happened upon the swinging soundtracks of Gallic meatro Guy Peterson. A fizzy sonic tonic.

The new OFF! record sounds exactly the same as the lst four EP that preceded it, which were, collectively, my favorite record of 2010. Keith Morris continues to prove how hard and elusive it is to create pure vintage American hardcore – and how exhilarating its rush still is. Thier church basement show with the Spits was the years second best live show. Surf monsters Daikaiju’s show at tiny Kung Fu Necktie was hands down the years best. Played mostly from within the small audeince the show culmiated with the entire drum kit stacked into a giant heap over a delighted fan who drummed it from underneath. Aces. Worship psycho-surf band Daikaiju daily for good luck and health!

When my wife would go out for drinks I listened to a lot of Chrome.

[Download the comp, here.]

Swing Era

A boxed record set spotted in a motley pile at the Cackleberry Farm Antique Mall in Paradise, PA… Funny, Swing has always struck me as hopelessly wacka wacka, a square pantomime of exuberance and abandon – but this New Wave Cinema poster style composition and the freeze frame cutouts invest them with a crackling energy and style… a sock hop away from the iconic poster for Antonioni’s Blow Up and a frug and a boogie-woogie away from Robert Longo’s skinny tie 80′s series Men in the Cities, about which I’m reposting, below. 

For Donna…

This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of music for the next 15 years. – Brian Eno

With disco albums, we started using themes…I was always the ideas man, and so for Love Trilogy I came up with the idea of having three separate songs and then a fourth song consisting of those three songs linked together, all combined into one. Four Seasons Of Love was a double album, with each side featuring a season, and my next idea — having just read Anthony Powell’s A Dance To The Music Of Time, which is 12 novels inspired by the painting of that name by Nicolas Poussin — was to record an album that chronicled popular music up until the present and on into the future. So, we started out with a ’50s song, ‘I Remember Yesterday’ — I was rather peeved when the album was changed to that name, because I really wanted it to be called A Dance To The Music Of Time — and continued with a bit of rock, a Tamla Motown number and so on, and then brought it up to date with disco, before the final, futuristic song was ‘I Feel Love’. – co-writer Pete Bellotte

Blondie: I Feel Love (Donna Summer Cover) 

 

Cherry Vanilla

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[Reposting this jem in light of two things – finally happening upon the 7″ of “The Punk” in a dusty box under the counter at the endlessly magical Molly’s Record and Book Store in Philly’s Italian Market, and the publication of Lick Me, Vanilla’s deliciously lurid memoirs. Cheers.]

At the Rock n Roll High School cafeteria, Cherry Vanilla was the wild tag-along little sister who sat with the Ramones whenever they decided to attend, and never got over the one time the New York Dolls asked her to share a cigarette behind the gym. But what she really pined for was the part of Magenta in the class production of Rocky Horror Picture Show.

At first, The Punk, her greatest (and single) moment, seems plugged into the same outlet that powers Sheena is a Punk Rocker and Personality Crisis – all buzz-saw chords and pounding keys. But what really beats at the heart of this corker is The Time Warp. That is what makes this song so awesome, its utter fakery, its schmaltz. It’s not gutter rock, it’s musical theatre. It’s a prime exponent of the other great strand of New York Punk, the hammy glammy one that gave us Rocky Horror, the Mumps, Klaus Nomi, etc…

Cherry Vanilla was David Bowie’s publicist until the mid 70’s. After they parted ways she embarked on a short lived rock bender. (In a wonderful footnote, she’s also the object of Blondie’s catty classic Rip Her to Shreds) All of which is perfectly fitting. “The Punk” is punk written by a publicist – insanely enthusiastic but utterly inauthentic.

Cherry Vanilla — The Punk:

 

Music Hang

Some observations  – I have a sneaking suspicion that T.S.O.L’s whole spooky-washy punk/goth sound might be lifted straight out of Siouxie and the Banshees’ Into the Light. Sort of the way that Eno’s Third Uncle seems to beget all of Bauhaus. That first Fear record is really something – it’s got New York Dolls moments and Deep Purple moments, sections that sound like Robert Fripp and Greg Lake singing hardcore and during a song called Foreign Policy there’s a section that sounds like a punk version of Loverboy. Oh, and the first two songs on After the Snow by Modern English top Melt with You. Which remains melty.

Siouxie and the Banshees: Into the Light

Eno: Third Uncle 

Fear: I Don’t Care About You [download]

Fear: Foreign Policy [download]

Modern English: Someone’s Calling [download]

Modern English: Life in the Gladhouse [download]

Going to Melody…

Leon Wieseltier writing in the New Republic on the closing of his local record store. It’s an perfectly articulated tribute to the deep pleasures of browsing; a eulogy; and a defiant, fierce refusal to accept all this as collateral damage in the interest of progress. Read, treasure – and if it stirs you, take time to tend to and nourish the analog rhythms…

# # #

GOING TO MELODY, February 2, 2012

In a country as injured as ours, there is something unseemly about all this sagacious talk of creative destruction. A concept that was designed to suggest the ironic cruelty of innovation has been twisted into an extenuation of economic misery—into capitalism’s theodicy. Where there are winners, there are losers: praise the Lord and pass the Kindle. I have always believed that the losers know more about life than the winners, though I wish affluence upon us all; but it does not romanticize the poor to demythologize the rich, and to propose that sometimes creative destruction is not very creative but very destructive. The brutality of large businesses toward small businesses, for example, is neither brilliant nor heroic. They do it because they can. Last week a record store in Dupont Circle announced that it was closing. The immediate cause of its demise—it had outlasted national and regional chains—was Price Check, Amazon’s new idea for exterminating competition. It is an app that allows shoppers to scan the bar code on any item in any store and transmit it to Amazon for purposes of comparison, and if it compares favorably to Amazon’s price, Amazon’s special promotion promises a discount on the same item. In this way shoppers become spies, and stores, merely by letting customers through their doors, become complicit in their own undoing. It will not do to shrug that this is capitalism, because it is a particular kind of capitalism: the kind that entertains fantasies of monopoly. For all its technological newness, Amazon’s “vision” is disgustingly familiar. (“Amazon is coming to eat me,” a small publisher of fine religious books stoically told me a few weeks ago.) Nor will it do to explain that Amazon’s app is convenient, unless one is prepared to acquiesce in a view of American existence according to which its supreme consideration must be convenience. How easy must every little thing be? A record store in your neighborhood is also convenient, and so is a bookstore. There is also a sinister side to the convenience of online shopping: hours once spent in the sensory world, in the diversified satisfaction of material needs and desires, can now be surrendered to work. It appears to be a law of American life that there shall be no respite from screens. And so Amazon’s practices raise the old question of the cultural consequences of market piggishness. For there are businesses that are not only businesses, that also have non-monetary reasons for being, that are public goods. Their devastation in the name of profit may be economically legitimate, but it is culturally calamitous. In a word, wrong.

WHEN MY FRIEND at Melody Records told me about the death of his store, I was bereft. This was in part because he is my friend—after my father died, I received a letter from the Holocaust Museum informing me that he had made a donation in my father’s memory—and now he must fend for himself and his family and his staff in the American wreckage. But my dejection was owed also to the fact that this store was one of the primary scenes of my personal cultivation. For thirty years it stimulated me, and provided a sanctuary from sadness and sterility. “Going to Melody” was a reliable way of improving my mind’s weather. The people who worked there had knowledge and taste: they apprised me of obscure pressings of Frank Martin’s chamber music, and warned me about the sound quality of certain reissues of Lucky Thompson and Don Byas, and turned me on to old salsa and new fado. They even teased me about my insane affection for Rihanna. When they added DVDs to the store, my pleasures multiplied. (Also my amusements. Not long ago Marcel Ophuls’ great film arrived in the shop, and the box declared: “Woody Allen presents The Sorrow and The Pity.” Beat that.) Of course all these discs can be found online. But the motive of my visits to the store was not acquisitiveness, it was inquisitiveness. I went there to engage in the time-honored intellectual and cultural activity known as browsing.

IT IS A MATTER OF some importance that the nature of browsing be properly understood. Browsing is a method of humanistic education. It gathers not information but impressions, and refines them by brief (but longer than 29 seconds!) immersions in sound or language. Browsing is to Amazon what flaneurie is to Google Earth. It is an immediate encounter with the actual object of curiosity. The browser (no, not that one) is the flaneur in a room. Browsing is not idleness; or rather, it is active idleness—an exploring capacity, a kind of questing non-instrumental behavior. Browsing is the opposite of “search.” Search is precise, browsing is imprecise. When you search, you find what you were looking for; when you browse, you find what you were not looking for. Search corrects your knowledge, browsing corrects your ignorance. Search narrows, browsing enlarges. It does so by means of accidents, of unexpected adjacencies and improbable associations. On Amazon, by contrast, there are no accidents. Its adjacencies are expected and its associations are probable, because it is programmed for precedents. It takes you to where you have already been—to what you have already bought or thought of buying, and to similar things. It sells similarities. After all, serendipity is a poor business model. But serendipity is how the spirit is renewed; and a record store, like a bookstore, is nothing less than an institution of spiritual renewal.

MY FATHER HAD furniture stores. I grew up with the pathos of retail: you throw all your money into a location and an inventory, you hang out a sign, you trick out a window, you unlock a door, and (if you lack the resources to advertise formidably) you wait. If they come in, you use your skill; but they have to come in. When my father was ill, I would quit the library and mind the store. One day I set a house record for sofas sold because the store was located in a neighborhood where many U.N. people lived, and I knew more than most furniture salesmen about the crises in Iran and Cyprus. Eventually the store failed. But the failure of some stores is more repercussive than the failure of other stores. The commerce of culture is a trade in ideals of beauty, goodness, and truth. A hunger for profit exploits a hunger for meaning. If the one gets too ravenous, the other may find it harder to subsist. The disappearance of our bookstores and our record stores constitutes one of the great self-inflicted wounds of this wounding time.

NOTE: I’ve quoted this essay in its entirety because it deserves to be read widely. It says important things in beautiful ways. I’ve taken it, though, from behind The New Republic’s paywall. Pay them a visit. Linger, read, and please consider subscribing… thank you.

For Your Pleasure, 2011


His trailblazing adventures in the wilds between punk & glam & into the then-uncharted waters of minimal synth behind him, exUltravox frontman John Foxx seemingly faded into genteel retirement. He tended to small scale sonic experimentation and lovely ambient soundscapes, like an old general fussing over orchids in a greenhouse. His encounter a few years ago with vintage synthesizer archivist Benge awoke a wanderlust in Foxx. Their collaboration, Interplay, credited to John Foxx and the Maths, is an exhilarating listen – ace tunes rigorously constructed from the essential sounds of vintage synths, played and sung with great muscle and presence. Anchored in the past, with explicit nods to the early, still astonishing, Ultravox, but squarely facing the future. The year’s best record.

If you think about it too hard, Ladytron’s gauzy, languid Gravity the Seducer seems kind of obvious. Though when you think about most sexy, seductive things too hard they seem kind of obvious. So don’t think about it too hard.

in which Sahara Hotnights reveal that, far from the worshiping at the crowded shrine of Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, all long they’ve been walking in the shoes of Quarterflash. Amen, sisters.

So, this “Genius” feature in iTunes… Color me fogey, but when it comes to music, for me – feh on algorithmic suggestion engines. Except this once, right? –  I had just highlighted a track by Music Go Music, a beloved, rather obscure band who sound at times like ABBA crossed with Van Der Graf Generator. And “Genius” pipes up with this Sons and Daughters. And I think, what on earth does this algorithm think might appeal to fans of Scandinavian pop and arch British prog? The answer turns out to be careening, slashing, lipstick smeared Scottish melodrama. Genius.

Amidst my notes the night after seeing Wild Flag on their inaugural tour: Glass Tambourines = Hawkwind!!!!

Cement Slippers….  the chorus of the year.

Two years ago I wrote that Dan Bejar’s Destroyer had checked into some magical Baroque hotel of blissed out self indulgence, across the hall from Jimmy Webb and a drunk Richard Harris. The song that sparked this observation was the 12” single “Bay of Pigs,” his “MacArthur Park” – ridiculous, sublime, and drunk. This year’s album, Kaputt, was the morning after – drawling, sleepy, hungover and acerbic. Still sublime though… even more so – a true work of art, and almost the years best album….

Sheesh, that Fujiya & Miyagi song is sinister. But what a song…

This year’s best-of is all synth on synth with synth shavings in a synth sauce with a side of synth. Even this year’s favorite punk rock discovery, Portland’s now defunct Epoxies, is goopy with synth. Hell, the song’s called fucking Synthesized. Song of the year, though.

Age of Confusion by DADA is one of the best new wave songs ever. Recorded in New York City in 1987 it has since fallen off the face of the earth. That it now drifts on the edges of the web and in the backwaters of eBay, waiting to be found, matters. It’s a reminder that the treasures of the past are never exhausted; it also underscores how much that darn fool internet has revolutionized cultural archeology. It’s also a bitchin’ dance song.

These guys really did land the plane after all. Well done, REM… cheers and thanks.

Tim Monger is an old pal, a deeply gifted songwriter I’ve known and worked with since the mid 90’s. It was an honor designing the artwork for his beautiful, stirring new solo record The New Britton Sound. When I had praised Mining Accident Tim told me he felt it was perhaps a bit slight, and he almost left it off the album. The power of this stunning little sketch speaks volumes about how good the rest of the record is. “You’ll be mine when the government falls” – lyric of the year.

This years revelatory remastering of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung just confirms what I think every time I listen to it – if this came out now it would be hailed today as the independent rock masterpiece it was 40 years ago. A towering achievement, now expanded by a second disc of recordings every bit as good as the album itself.

Sea and Cake, as dependable as the tides…

As regards Zombi – remember – they say that every generation gets the Tangerine Dream it deserves.

DOWNLOAD THE COMP, HERE. Happy New Year!

Poly Styrene

Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard
But I think
Oh Bondage! Up Yours!
One, Two, Three, FOUR!

I remember precisely where I heard “Oh Bondage! Up yours!” by X Ray Spex for the first time – in a beer soaked rathskeller called the Candlelight in West Philadelphia. I’m sure I’m not the only one for whom the recollection is that visceral. It was, and still is, that kind of song.

Part of it, for me, was its rarity. In 1987, among my ragtag band of punks it was a song universally known and never actually heard. It wasn’t even on the brilliant debut LP Germ Free Adolescents, which didn’t matter cause even that was impossible to find.

The other was the fierceness of its individuality – its willful oddity. It was strange the way Roxy Music was strange, but it was urgent the way the Clash were urgent. Think of it this way – the Sex Pistols were culturally liberating – they operated on the level of art. The thing with X Ray Spex is that they were personally liberating. “Flying your freak flag” is a tired phrase, with a whiff of patchouli about it. And the word empowerment is soggy with therapeutic sentimentality. But with Poly Styrene, X Ray Spex’s galvanizing front-woman, both notions are dead on. Styrene died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. My daughters would be lucky to fall under the spell of someone like her.

X Ray Spex: Oh Bondage! Up yours!


Kabel

Two splendid specimens of Kabel, a geometric sans-serif typeface designed in Germany and released in 1927. Further geekery -The  L’eggs name, package and logo were created by designer Roger Ferriter, working in legendary typographer Herb Lubalin‘s studio in 1969. And, of course we have the James Gang to thank for the indestructible boogie of Funk #49Sleep all day, out all night / I know where you’re goin’ / I don’t think that’s actin’ right / You don’t think it’s showin’, etc… (L’eggs logo from over at so much pileup)

Bright Young Things, Pt. 2: Bowie Edition

Fascinating! So, I’m searching online for some an image along the theme of “bright young things” to accompany last week’s post of Muriel Sparks’ poem The Yellow Room. I come across a fragmentary result identifying Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies as the wellspring for David Bowie’s theatrical, spent, and off-kilter masterpeice Aladdin Sane (Vile Bodies? a hilarious, disjointed 1930’s Bright Lights Big City about the careening, hedonistic society set in the 20’s… excellent overview here.)

…the notion seemed familiar, like I had read it somewhere, but vague. The link led to a lovingly preserved recreation of a mesmerizing article from a July 1973 Circus Magazine. (On the cover Alice Cooper, Uriah Heep, free Robert Plant calendar, Seals and Crofts, and Marc Bolan)

The article was entitled “Bowie Sees America in Flames – the inside story of Aladdin Sane” This is relatively familiar territory for Bowie-philes… discussing it he’s always framed the album as Ziggy goes to America (The Velvet shout-outs, Detroit, Sunset & Vine, etc…) and discovers an near apocalyptic decadence.

In the Circus article, though Bowie, says flat out that the idea for Sane burst from him nearly fully formed while reading Vile Bodies, as the full circus of American rock celebrity and decadent notoriety is erected around him.

David Bowie sat in an overstuffed armchair in his suite aboard the ship Ellinis, returning to London from his first triumphal tour of the States. His delicate brows knit in a look of perplexed recognition as he read Evelyn Waugh’s “Vile Bodies” – a 40 year-old, futuristic novel about a society of “bright young things” whirling through lavish parties in outlandish costumes, dancing, gossiping and sipping champagne.  Suddenly David lowered the book to his lap, picked up the spiral notebook and pen sitting on the small mahogany table at his side, and began to write the words to the title song of his new LP, Aladdin Sane

“The book dealt with London in the period just before a massive, imaginary war.” David would later confide, touching one finger, with its green-painted nail, lightly to his chin.  “People were frivolous, decadent and silly.  And suddenly they were plunged into this horrendous holocaust.  They were totally out of place, still thinking about champagne and parties and dressing up.  Somehow it seemed to me that they were like people today.” But who was the frivolous, romantic young man Aladdin Sane?  At first David merely cupped his hands in a fragile cage and said “I don’t really think he’s me.”  Several days later, Bowie realised who – or rather what – the song, and in fact the entire album, were about.  “It’s my interpretation of what America means to me.  It’s like a summation of my first American tour.”

Knowing this goes along way towards explaining a distinctive stylistic coloring to the record – a dandyish swing that now makes perfect sense in light of the disjointed flapper flamboyance in Vile Bodies. (Songs like “Prettiest Star,” the title track, and especially “Lady Grinning Soul”for your pleasure, below –  are fuller, fed by their associations with the novel.)

Watching him dash away, dragging
an old bouquet-dead roses
Sake and strange divine.
Um-m-m-m-you’ll make it
Passionate bright young things,
take him away to war-
..don’t fake it.
Who’ll love Aladdin Sane
Battle cries & champagne just in
time for sunrise…

The whole article is a must read. There’s a great Philly shout out, highlighting that Bowie was “one of the even fewer rock performers to attract a following so large in one city (Philadelphia) that he was forced to play there nine nights in a row.” Also, there are walk-ones by Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, Wayne County, Iggy Pop, Cyrinda Foxe and, my personal fave, punk publicist Cherry Vanilla. (profiled a year ago on the blog, here) Seriously, read it.

David Bowie: Prettiest Star [download]

[audio:http://shepelavy.com/audio/PrettiestStar.mp3]

David Bowie: Aladdin Sane [download]

[audio:http://shepelavy.com/audio/AladdinSane.mp3]

David Bowie: Lady Grinning Soul [download]

[audio:http://shepelavy.com/audio/LadyGrinningSoul.mp3]

Sonic Youth: Simon Werner A Disparu

Sonic Youth’s relationship to the visual arts is ardent and sincere. They share a sensibility with the downtown gallery scene they so clearly adore –  a mix of undiscerning hipsterism & progressive aesthetic instincts. On the positive side you get Gerhard Richter’s lovely candle painting on Daydream Nation, John Fahey’s expressionistic swirl on The Eternal. On the ‘meh, there’s Christopher Wool’s clunky stencils on Rather Ripped, Mike Kelley’s smart-alecky puppet on Dirty, and Richard Prince’s lazy, easy, smeary nurse on Sonic Nurse. And then there’s Raymond Pettibon. Look, his work is unimpeachable as shorthand for the glory days of LA hardcore, but I think they think he’s a talent for the ages. Feh. To be fair, though, they did get as good of a Pettibon as you can get for Goo. Thei covers for their artier, self released SYR series have been sharp but rather perfunctory takes on classic sound library records of the 60’s and 70’s. Their latest release under the imprint, a soundtrack for the French director Fabrice Gobert’s high-school mystery Simon Werner a Disparu, is a total stunner – a gorgeous, highly graphic vignette, and ace piece of prep-school pop art!

For Your Pleasure, 2010

OFF!, in which the Circle Jerks’ Keith Morris, 55, records the de facto sequel to Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown EP 32 years later – proving just how elusive pure punk is, creating a flat-out total work of art, and this year’s best record. The irrepressible egghead’s Small Craft on a Milk Sea has this year’s best title and a suite of exquisite ambient constructions, of which “2 Forms of Anger” is the “loud one.”

Of Montreal’s False Priest was a flamboyant mess sloshing around the precision glam of Coquet Coquette – my favorite song of the year. “Silver Jenny Dollar” is a cat’s cradle of baroque obliqueness from Dan Bejar, this time with loungy doo-wop whoah whoahs – the high point of the otherwise okie doke New Pornographers disc, Together.  (Thanks as well, New Pornos, for the tip-offs on Outrageous Cherry and Circle C – the northern lands do hold obscure and wonderful mysteries.)

The 40 years that separate the hand crafted psych of Kelley Stoltz and Big Boy Pete mean little – fitting then that these two consummate craftsmen have found each other. Their co-recording of Pete’s “Baby I’ve Got News For You” anchors Kelley’s uniformly excellent To Dreamers.

Bless you, whoever finally digitized “Magnetic Shoes,” a one and a half minute spray of power pop silly string that ruled my Walkman in high school. “The Day the Earth Stalled” and “Diego Garcia” are ace sides from old heads… The Psychedelic Furs played the best show I saw this year; honorable, too, going out like they came in, playing blistering sets in smaller halls, rather than jiving for tourists at casinos.

You are a talented man Mr. Murphy. Good to have you back Mr. Foxx.

Music Go Music? Melodramatic Scandinavian pop, shot through with heavy doses of prog, and alternating between pulsing euro disco and lush orchestrated pop – recorded in 2008, released in 2009, discovered in 2010, and my most favorite new band in ages…

I developed a weakness this year for what Robert Christgau, in a helplessly admiring review of Quarterflash’s 1981 debut, called “music for stewardesses.” “Goodbye To You” is a prime example of the form and its enduring awesomeness needs no further annotation.

Thank you Roky, for returning, and Captain, for being.

DOWNLOAD THE COMP, HERE. Happy New Year!