Thursday, July 27, 2006

Reissues, Reunions, Retrospectives

I was invited to contribute to a post on the Atlanta-based music blog Cable & Tweed. Rich invited opinions from Southern musicians and tastemakers (and me) about the best new music released so far in 2006. My contribution was too long and didn't directly address the question. Typical for me. I decided to publish my full text on my own goddam blog. Here 'tis:

I don't listen to a lot of new bands. I prefer to wait until after they break up, when their recorded legacy is completed and safely tucked away. Then I can bemoan the fact that they were unappreciated during their creative lifetime. When I (and Influential Others) have whined long and loudly enough, someone will issue a handy retrospective that collects all those messy b-sides that I didn't bother to listen to when the band was together. And maybe they will reunite for a brief tour, and then I can complain that they're not as good as they used to be. See how nicely that works?

2005 was a great year for reissues and reunions, and 2006 is shaping up to be even better. The surviving members of the Replacements recorded several songs, two of which were released on their newest career retrospective. Legendary Aussie punk band Radio Birdman reunited and recorded an album of new material which will be released in August, and they will tour North America for the first time ever. Dance punk pioneers ESG and the Slits have also recorded new material. Scritti Politti is back (at least in the person of Green Gartside), the surviving New York Dolls have a new record, Eno will record with Roxy Music, and Redd Kross and the British band TV21 are playing live gigs. So is the Bonzo Dog Band (go away, Death Cab fans. Nothing to see here.)

One reunion that I didn't think got enough attention in the US was that of the Belgian band dEUS, who emerged from a ten year hIATUS with a new album, Pocket Revolution. It isn't as good as their first album, or even their last one, but the single "Seven Days, Seven Weeks" is a silky smooth, dark and bittersweet Belgian confection. Flat Pack Philosophy, this year's record by the reunited Buzzcocks, contains the perfect single, "Wish I Never Loved You", in which Pete Shelley puts every other punk-pop songwriter to shame with the spiraling melody of the chorus. Shelley has ensured himself a corner office in the tower of song.

As far as reissues and retrospectives this year, I highly recommend Mcluskyism (get the three CD version, which should only cost you $15) and the Au Pairs' Stepping out of Line, a 2 CD set that includes both of their studio albums plus lots of bonus material. Mclusky was a Welsh trio whose rabidly aggressive music should make fans of the Pixies and the Jesus Lizard delirious with joy. The Au Pairs were feminist post-punk contemporaries of the Gang of Four and Mekons. AllMusic's Andy Kellman said of the Au Pairs, "No one could possibly give this band's music too much attention." The members of Wire have remastered and reissued their first three classic albums, plus two discs of live material, under the title 1977-1979. I know that this year's retrospective of the British experimental group This Heat has been long anticipated, but Out of Cold Storage retails for about $100, and I can't pretend I've heard it.

Last but not least, I have it on good authority that later this year one of my favorite US 80's/90's alt-rock bands, Hypnolovewheel, will release a compilation of rare material from their seven year recording career. Hypnolovewheel guitarists Stephen Hunking and Dave Ramirez have started a label, Geodesic Recordings. Stephen and Dave each have solo albums available there. Could a reunion be in the offing? And what is an offing?

I'll finish this mid-year wrap-up with two predictions: first, Sufjan will abandon the 50 states project. (Shocka!) Second, a Syd Barrett tribute album is being planned somewhere, by someone, right now.


At 7/27/2006 4:32 PM , Blogger 2fs said...

What you forgot to mention about Mclusky: they're fucking hilarious. Just their song titles alone are worth the price of the set.

At 7/27/2006 4:49 PM , Blogger jon manyjars said...

Agreed. And the between song comments during the live set on disc three are incredibly hostile and wickedly clever. Can't wait for Falco's new band to make a record (and I don't mean der Kommissar, alles klar?).

At 7/31/2006 3:14 PM , Anonymous Paula said...

I thought I commented on this post already but I see I didn't: I enjoyed reading this. And I shall check out Mclusky.

I'm glad someone likes the Au Pairs, so that I don't have to--they seem(ed) like an admirable group, but I always thought their music was a little snoozy.

At 8/01/2006 11:12 AM , Blogger jon manyjars said...

Snoozy, like boring? Or did you mean snooty? I can imagine someone thinking their music and politics too strident, but they seem anything but boring to my ears.

At 8/01/2006 12:34 PM , Anonymous Paula said...

No, I meant "snoozy."


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