Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Indecision 2008

I am working on a list or two of my favorites from 2008, but there are a number of records that I still want to hear. I'll start by recommending MOST of an album. I really love five of the eight songs on Parts + Labor's Receivers. That's about 60%, but I can give that 60% a 100% endorsement. Isn't the album an arbitrary construct anyway?

Parts + Labor understand that melody and noise (like pleasure and pain) are not polar opposites. Harmony can bleed into dissonance, and discord can resolve into d'accord. "Satellites", the first track on Receivers, opens with a brief wash of ambient noise. An organ chord is answered by a squiggle of synth. Chord, squiggle, chord, squiggle. A drumbeat starts. Bass and guitar begin a steady pulse. A voice sings, "Sometimes I get the feeling that this really never was my home." At 1:40, the rhythm section locks into gear, and the song begins a propulsive drive. There's a key change at 2:48, followed by a chorus about rain and snow. Then the rhythm builds again. More rain and snow at 4:00. A brief lull follows, but at 4:27 the singer urgently cries, "See the satellites! See the satellites!" The song ascends like a rollercoaster to yet another peak at 5:00, as "our eyes roll back into our heads". The last two minutes are ecstatic, with drum rolls, voices and fireworks.

The drumbeat segues into the second song, "Nowheres Nigh", which is just as good as "Satellites". I'm not enamored of the three songs that follow. I want to like them, and I respect the band for trying different things. I guess you can't have ecstasy all the time. But ecstasy returns with the anthemic march of "Wedding in a Wasteland". "Prefix Free" reminds me of the Jai Alai Savant, and Receivers' ends on another high note with "Solemn Show World".

There is a gospel vibe to the churchlike organ and the massed choruses of these songs. Harmony and noise joyfully coexist within them, like the sacred and the profane. The songs remind me of Deep Purple's "Hush", as well as two other great songs from 1968 that were parodies of psychedelic rock, but were compelling rock songs in themselves, driven by organ riffs, insistent drumbeats, and transcendent choral voices.

Fugs: Crystal Liaison (I posted a live version of this song once. This is the version from the LP It Crawled into My Hand, Honest, which is OOP but was made available by my pal Nathan at Nothin Sez Somethin.)

Bonzo Dog Band: We Are Normal (I edited out the lengthy intro, but I love the part where a lady says, "They are nice people and I like their food." I also love the way the drummer goes WHACK WHACK WHACK WHACK WHACK WHACK every time the title is sung.)

Parts + Labor: Satellites (buy Receivers here.)

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