Ezra Furman – Transformer

lou reed

Unlike a lot of people my first Lou Reed song was actually Perfect Day, thanks to the Trainspotting soundtrack, from then onwards, bar The Velvet Underground I heard Lou Reed’s solo career in bits and pieces until I bought Transformer in 2001 and then after I invested in Reed’s other albums, Coney Island Baby being my personal favourite.

Although I do like Transformer and revisit it, I do understand that it is a flawed album, mostly due to some weak lyrics. Funnily enough while reading Furman’s book about Transformer, who by the way, is the perfect person to write this book, I agreed with a lot of things said.

Furman presents a fair look at Reed’s work, praising some lyrics while denouncing others as racist not to mention that during the Transformer period he was beating his fiancee while trying to get off drugs and some of these aspects occur in the album, which Furman is conscious of.

As a book, it is well researched as Furman dissects all the tracks on the record and I learnt a good number of new things, especially Perfect Day. There is clearly a love/hate relationship with this album but as I said, Furman is a fair critic.

Definitely one of the essential volumes of the series.

Ronen Givony – 24 Hour Revenge Therapy

24 hour revenge

Jawbreaker’s third album is a pop punk masterpiece, full of catchy hooks and choruses and yet there’s a rough and tumble feel about the songs which adds to the fun.

Givony’s book of this seminal album is exhaustive but in the best way possible. Jabreaker were always an interesting band due to the fact that they were literate punks who had strokes of good and bad luck in equal measures. One such example is that they supported Nirvana but then they lost their fanbase after signing to DCG records and then lost more fans when they recorded a polished fourth record. Also the band broke up twice during their ten year career. Givony documents Jaw Breaker’s history and how 24 Hour Revenge Therapy plays a part in the group’s development as it was the album that helped them become a name in the punk circuit.

24 Hour Revenge Therapy (the book) is thorough study that lovingly details everything, from recording techniques to the LA punk scene in the mid 90’s plus there’s a couple of photos from that era. This is not simply a love letter to an album but a reading experience in itself.

Joe Gross – In on the Kill Taker

Fugazi

 

Fugazi’s third record, In on the Kill Taker is a great great album! Here Fugazi managed to replicate their raw punk sound AND experiment with different genres, thus escaping the emo tag they are known for, still saying that the political edge that comes attached to the band is still there and in full force. ..Kill Taker also has a bit of a back story as it was originally recorded by Steve Albini but both band and producer didn’t like the end result.

Joe Gross take on this album is more or less the traditional 33 1/3 treatment. He gives some backstory of the band including the founding of Dischord records, the actual genesis of the album and then a track by track analysis and then what the band members are doing now (as of 2018 Fugazi have entered their 15th year of being in a hiatus)

A good, solid read that will please the long time Fugazi fans and attract some new ones

Emily Mackay – Homogenic

Homogenic

 

I have a small confession

I have never heard Homogenic, until yesterday (April 5th)

Now don’t get me wrong. I have all of Bjork’s main albums and listened to them many times (Medulla is my fave, Biophilia is the least) but I have never been able to find a copy of Homogenic and for some weird reason Spotify and my computer do not get along.

But it exists out there and as a first listen, it was an excellent one. The stand out track being Alarm Call.

Anyways Homogenic is an important album in Bjork’s mighty discography as it was the first album she had 100% control on, had a heavy emphasis on electronic music, is the first proper homage to her native Iceland and in the process convinced the media that she just wasn’t some kooky elfin oddity. I also see it as the bridge to the more experimental work she would pursue later on. Also it is worth noting that she experienced some traumatic events in the year she was recording this album and that mood fed itself into the record.

Emily MacKay’s volume displays her adoration for Bjork and there’s a lot of detail but despite all the information, this book is not one huge trivia dump, it is a serious exploration of Bjork’s heritage, the influences behind Homogenic and what Bjork was going through while recording it. Also there’s interpretations of the Homogenic promo videosand how Bjork embraced the nascent World Wide Web. There’s also interviews with people who were involved such as Eno collaborator Markus Dravs and Guy Sigisworth, who give some interesting information about the recording techniques. Not to mention other people such as author Sjon (who wrote the lyrics to bachelorette) Bjork’s nanny and even the famous Joga who all had their part in this album.

This volume is a joy to read. I had a lot of fun reading about this essential album and is an immersive experience.

So far Homogenic the last one in the 33 1/3 series for now (four new volumes are coming out in April) so it’s ending on a high (pitched) note.

Jenn Pelly – The Raincoats

Raincoats

Back in 2001 I bought the Rough Trade Shops 25 year anniversary boxset – which exposed me to a ton of music which influences me to this day. Anyway on disc 2 there was a track which consisted of yelpy raw vocals, furious drumming, primal guitars/bass and a scratchy violin. It was AMAZING.

That was my first exposure to the Raincoats.

A few years later a friend of mine copied their debut album and their equally good second album Odyshape and I wore them out. I admit the self-titled debut got more exposure.

Even today The Raincoats debut never ceases to amaze. It is a record full of melody and inventiveness. I still discover new sounds from it, not to mention the dadaist/personal lyrics. It really is a special record for me and unconsciously influences the way I make music. Thankfully not only does Jenn Pelly’s book do justice to the band and album but it is an AMAZING read and I learnt a ton of new things.

The main focus is the album but also Pelly goes into separate bios of each band member, the history of Rough Trade Shops, the state of Britain in the late 70’s, the musical climate and then an analysis of the album and its affect on cultural context. The book also mentions how the Raincoats influenced Beat Happening’s Calvin Johnson, the rriot grrl movement of the 90’s and Kurt Cobain’s obsession with the debut. To make things more authentic Pelly managed to interview all members of The Raincoats and glean never seen photos of the group and artwork which are scattered throughout the book.

What else can I say? – do yourself a favour. Listen to the debut and then read this.

Patrick Rivers and Will Fulton – Uptown Saturday Night

camp-lo-1

Although I am a fan of the boom bap style of rap, there’s no denying that Uptown Saturday Night was a game changer for hip hop, not only did Camp Lo eschew the normal types of beats and still incorporate jazz and soul samples but they were literate and even had their own language, which was influenced hip hop lyrics. Oh and Sparkle was famously used by Australian electronic group The Avalanches on their legendary debut Since I Left You.

This book is an excellent companion piece to the Pharcyde book I read last week as it also describes 90’s hip hop and there are some parallels, well Rivers goes deeper as Camp Lo were already in their late 20’s when they dropped their debut so they experienced the beginnings of hip hop.

There’s also the obligatory analysis of the album, which I liked but I will admit I gravitated more to the historical sections of the book. Since I am a bit of a completist I am hoping that more classic hip hop groups and artists get their own books as four in a 127 strong series is too little.

Walter Biggins and Daniel Crouch – Workbook

Workbook

Other than Husker Du my only other exposure to Bob Mould was his band Sugar. So upon hearing that his first solo album, Workbook was going to get the 33 1/3 treatment, I decided to give it a listen.

I didn’t like it very much (except See a Little Light, which is amazing), which means I was curious to see how Walter Biggins and Daniel Couch were going to tackle it and they do it in an innovative way; through letters. Technically this makes it the third book in the series to have an epistolary format ( the other two are Patti Smith’s Horses and Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality) however the previous two presented a criticism of the allbum as a work of fiction. This is more real.

Throughout the book. Biggins and Couch send each other letters speaking about the album, what it means to them and the cultural impact it had on music. The poignant bit in the book is how Couch writes about his experience of the album as a gay Afro American who like alternative rock. For those who don’t know Bob Mould was also gay and he hid it by shouting aggressive songs in Husker Du and then workbook displayed a more sensitive side.

Do not be fooled, the authors had interviewed Bob Mould extensively for this book but it is discreetly done and us readers only discover this towards the end.

On the whole it is a good book, as innovative as it is, I’m not sure that the format works in bringing out the album’s better qualities but it is ok and different than the usual 33 1/3 volumes.

Andrew Barker – Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde

Pharcyde

 

I’m huge fan of late 80’s/early 90’s hip hop: De la Soul, The Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets etc: basically I like big beats, funny rhymes and off kilter samples. Naturally The Pharcyde’s debut Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde falls into this category.┬áThe funny thing is that I don’t know too much about the band and this is where Barker’s book is handy.Barker starts by describing the background of the group’s members then the state of hip hop from the 80’s til the mid 90’s, the group’s formation and detailed descriptions of the recording of the debut and its influence on the older and younger generation of hip hop artists.
The last chapter is a bit of a downer as the group split acrimoniously and all members have had disappointing solo careers and still cannot get along, or in the case of their unofficial fifth member and producer, J-Swift, homeless in Spain. It’s a pity that an influential group had such an ending but at least their legacy lives on.

Paula Mejia – Psychocandy

Psychocandy

The Jesus and Mary Chain’s debut album, Psychocandy is a big fave of mine. Essentially JAMC wrote pop tunes but disguised it with ear splitting feedback. Everyone should listen to Psychocandy at least once in their life and discover how melody and distortion can work hand in hand.

Although I did not learn anything new with this volume, it still is a great read. Mejia documents the roots of JAMC, what inspired them to record Psychocandy, some meanings behind the lyrics and then the cultural role Psychocandy plays thirty years later.

If you are a fan of the band read this. Although not an official history, Mejia manages to interview Jim Reid, Douglas Hart and Bobby Gillespie plus some other people who played an important role in the Scottish indie scene, so this is almost like an official band bio. I suggest reading this while having the album in the background as it weirdly complements the book.