The Eternal Truths Just Keep Coming

No matter how clever or slyly eclectic an international music fusion is, if the recording centers on a voice, the same old, same old question is all that matters: “does the singing transcend language?”

No-budget recording will hamper an album no matter how much it combines obscure release and admirable taste (and even execution).

Stuff That Came Out of Speakers Today #61: “It Was 50 Years Ago Today …”

(I know, I know — UK release date.)

My current Sarge Pep vinyl is a replacement for a high-school copy that got lost in the shuffles (the undeniable tip-off is that it has a plastic inner sleeve). But I got it (I think) because I heard future LP editions would curtail the fold-out inner graphics, not because I played it all the time. Or even regularly — on the renewed turntable, this copy sounds as pure and pristine as brand-new. Since Sgt. P has become such a deathless cultural phenomenon, artistic assessment is irrelevant. But I will say two things: on June 1 (US release date) I will play some of these tunes in what I consider a superior format — The Beatles/1967-1970 anthology — and try to make it “Stuff That Came Out of Speakers #64.”

Guardian Music Critic’s Insights

A decent enough farewell piece (I was directed to it by a tweet from London Lee). But I think one of the five points is particularly bad and one particularly relevant and telling.

The first point is the clanger. “It’s a myth that critics could make someone popular.” WHAT!?! — If this is a major insight to you, you don’t understand what criticism does. The “make popular” tripe is just another duff variant on the canard that “critics tell people what to like.” Good criticism deepens your appreciation and understanding of what you listen to — and if an ace critic can’t turn you on to something fresh that you love, your tastes are too narrow to need criticism, anyway.

Although I’m not certain I know what’s going on with the second half of the first point — what are these “stories” exactly? — it seems to say: “serious criticism is out, backstory and profiles are in.” Nothing new about that — been Rolling Stone‘s basic agenda for 40 years.

The fifth point is the winner. I agree with every word about the dire narrowing of styles and experiences. I have spent my entire career trying to avoid situations where I would have to write about a performer for the fifth time — who cares if I had anything new to say — because everybody else is doing it and their latest release has really hot sales right now. I think it’s inevitable that fewer and fewer people will become passionately engage with music — there’s no adventure, no jolts, it’s boring.

Expert Witness Comment for the Week

On the exact same beam with Merritt/Magnetic box (which I have quite a history with already — still sorry it didn’t work out, Joe). With an ace full band and more variety in vocals, it would be a masterpiece for the ages. But terrific as it is. I enjoy the parade of musical styles, which catches you up more with each listen. The unexpected wowser is Merritt’s unconventional Boho childhood, which he reacted to by (thank Yod) not becoming a reactionary but by becoming a complex crank. And the song about the stepfather snapped my head around hard the second time I heard it. First time, I thought he was swatting away a particularly persistent asshole he worked for. Second time, with a flash it was plain this was, wow, about his Dad (or a stepdad).

I’ll settle on the excessive packaging of the five CDs because I think it’s among the graphic treats of the year. (That microscopic print, though …)

And after this latest re-listen, there’s no more doubt I need to go to the show both nights.

Your Basic Guy Clark

Yod bless Aussies and their supreme savvy about punk and C&W

Good news:

This is indeed where to start

Clark’s focus and flair for wham detail (words and music) remains unchanged for 20 years — even gets a bit more enchanting on the newer tracks

I’m very fond of Raven’s robust remastered sound — makes Bear Family sound a bit too pristine

Equally fond of the programming they seek out — this time by Peter Shillito and Keith Glass

Bad news:

Can’t deny it — after a half hour I get tired of Clark’s singing, both voice and cadence. And that’s why other people had the hits with the material. You thrill at the words, but not the way he’s reading them. Y’know — some of the top poets were terrible behind a microphone.