Amoeblog

On Invention: Frank Zappa vs. Baby Boomer Favorites

Posted by Charles Reece, November 13, 2011 10:16am | Post a Comment

Mojo's collector's edition dedicated to Frank Zappa is a year old, but I chanced across it the other day at my local newsstand. Having found myself in more than one geeky debate over whether Zappa has tended to receive short shrift in evaluations of pop innovation and importance relative to The Beatles (e.g.: "In June 1968, Newsweek declared him second only to John Lennon as pop's 'leading creative talent.'" -- p. 27) or The Beach Boys (Leonard Bernstein called Brian Wilson one of the 20th century's greatest composers) or even The Grateful Dead (recall the days of coverage of Jerry Garcia's death versus the brief blurb accorded to Zappa's), this bit from British writer Miles' remembrance ("Inside Dr. Zircon's Secret Lab") proved satisfying:  

At the London press launch of Absolutely Free Frank told me he wanted to meet The Beatles to get their permission to parody the Sgt. Pepper ... sleeve on his next album, We're Only In It For The Money. I had been seeing a lot of Paul McCartney who was involved with IT [International Times, a British underground magazine that Miles co-founded] and my bookshop, Indica, so I went to a back room and called him. Paul liked Freak Out! very much, and in fact, just before The Beatles began recording Sgt. Pepper ... he told me, "we're going to do our own Freak Out!, but not like Zappa's of course." -- p. 40-1

Regarding Absolutely Free's sound collages, critic Mark Paytress ("Hungry Freaks") has it right:

Light years ahead of The Beatles' Revolver and The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, only the inscrutable complexity and rich textures of The Beach Boys' autumn hit, Good Vibrations, could compare. But, born of Zappa's gnarly nature and recorded in the immediate aftermath of the teenage riots on Sunset Strip, Absolutely Free was the antithesis of Brian Wilson's sun-kissed bliss. -- p. 25-6

But, just to keep it all in perspective, former Mother keyboardist Don Preston sums up Zappa's musical legacy:

Frank's a strange phenomenon. Some people regard him as one of the new, innovative classical composers, but I think his work suffers in comparison to, say, Xenakis or Takemitsu. -- p. 29

And while the British Invasion was listening to American Blues, here's a shot of Zappa's high school-era band:


It's a good issue, so check it out if you can still find a copy.

(In which we continue paying tribute, expensive though it may be.)

Posted by Job O Brother, April 18, 2011 01:36pm | Post a Comment
Last week I shed some dark on the subject of beloved counter-culture cutie Tiny Tim, with promises to continue.


The look of love

Having proved once and for all that Tiny Tim was not responsible for the Hindenburg tragedy, I’d like to explore his adolescent years and early success as an adult. Limited as I am by your computer, I will be forced to convey this with words and pictures, and without my shadow puppets and ice sculpture gardens – an unfortunate task, yes, but not insurmountable.

Tiny Tim dabbled in a few musical instruments before finally focusing on the ukulele, after failing to perceive the sarcasm of a pretty girl who told him:

“Oh yeah, ukuleles are totally the sexiest instrument. I would date any guy who played one.” This high school crush of Tiny Tim’s would, if true, grow up to be none other than America’s sweetheart, Sylvia Plath, famous for her girl-next-door beauty and charm, her sparkling wit, and culinary skill with an oven. (Rumor has it she wrote books as well, though this is probably just factual.) While Tiny Tim never managed to secure a date with Plath, the two would grow to become lifelong people, and continue living on the same planet for the remainder of their lives – sometimes close enough to call each other on the telephone whenever they wanted. (It’s an eerie coincidence that Plath would go on to give birth to two children, Frieda and Nicolas, and Tiny Tim was himself born a child.)

Continue reading...

Easy does it.

Posted by Job O Brother, February 7, 2011 06:14pm | Post a Comment

One of the most rewarding and confounding things about being an Earthling who loves music is watching my tastes change with time, or better said, watching them grow – I don’t think there’s very much music I once loved I no longer do. My first favorite acts (at age 3) were The Beatles, Linda Ronstadt, and The Chipmunks, and I still adore them all today.

More surprising to me is how much I’ve come to cherish music I would have once loathed. 2010 became the year I “discovered” easy listening, both light music (which can be found in Amoeba Music's classical section) and lounge music (which can be found in the coincidentally-named Lounge section).

It all started with a bandleader named Robert Farnon. I was drawn in by his album covers, which evoked lush, darkly romantic landscapes and liaisons reminiscent of a Douglas Sirk film.

Perhaps it was city living that led me to lust for light listening – a kind of escapism from the constant soundscape of waves of traffic, the bling and bursts of cell-phones, and the startling pitch of people’s dreams breaking into billions of bits. For whatever reason, impulsively, I gave an album of Robert Farnon’s a spin while I worked, and found myself enveloped in ease – my imagination drifted into sweet scenes as each suite seemed to sweep me off my feet – I was a fourteen year old girl writing of new, naïve love in her totally boring diary.

(In which we write this.)

Posted by Job O Brother, September 6, 2010 01:39pm | Post a Comment

I love everything.

For whatever reason, I am suffering from a rare case of writer’s block. This is my second attempt at writing an Amoeblog today, the first being a page-long history of the adoption of our second cat, Maybe. By the time it had devolved into a story about how she had murdered my family, I finally put a stop to it. I hate cute stories about cats – psychotic or otherwise.

But it leaves me at square one, which is totally my least favorite square. Square eight is the place to be. It’s the one with lemonade.


Here's a picture of lemonade to look at with your eyes. (You're welcome.)

Even though I have no idea what to write about today, since this is the Amoeblog, I know I must introduce music, film or TV into the subject matter, so let’s start with these things:

Yes, that is Phylicia Rashad, (then Phylicia Allen) singing a song from her album, Josephine Superstar, a disco-concept-album merging the music of Josephine Baker with dance beats. I don't actually have an opinion on this one way or the other, but I thought you were old enough to know about it.

But here is something I really love:

Continue reading...

out this week 9/8 & 9/15...xx...kid cudi...muse...the feelies...health...

Posted by Brad Schelden, September 17, 2009 04:41pm | Post a Comment

From the moment I first heard the single "Crystalized" by the XX, I have been eagerly anticipating the release of the album. That song just got deep down inside of me. It is such a fantastic song and is the kind of song that really affects you emotionally. It made me cry I think the first time I heard it, and yet I keep going back to it and can't get it out of my head. It is like the best day of your life that is now only a memory. It becomes tinged with sadness since you know you will never experience that day again and it will only be a memory. I love being nostalgic and I often put experiences too quickly into my memory. Sometimes I make them into memories as they are still happening. When I am having a really great day or experiencing a really magical part of life, I immediately start thinking about how I will remember this moment before it is even over. I know that we often make our memories better than the actual event so I try to reflect on the moment as it is happening to make sure my memory is more accurate. I don't know if all this makes sense, but I am basically comparing this song, this band and this whole album to the greatest memories of the greatest experiences that you have in your life. They are fantastic memories but also have a hint of sadness and tragedy because they are just memories.

The new self titled album by the XX is as good as the single. There is not a bad song on the album. It is XX by XXactually a pretty simple album. There is really not a lot of stuff going on here. The songs are structured simply and most have male and female vocals trading back and forth. It just comes together beautifully somehow. I have always loved R&B and the darker side of New Wave music, but rarely do the two genres meet. They often couldn't be more different. But XX manages to somehow combine the genres into one magical style of music. I would never call the XX a Goth band but they might appeal to fans of Goth music. They will for sure appeal to anybody who likes Dark Wave or Dream Pop. Fans of Mazzy Star, Cocteau Twins, Piano Magic, & For Against will not be disappointed. The music often sounds like The Cure or Joy Division. Maybe like Blonde Redhead's version of Joy Division. But the songs also have the feeling of a really good R&B ballad. Imagine R. Kelly or Aaliyah singing along to a Joy Division song. They totally make it work and I totally have fallen in love with this band. But beware! These songs are not going to make you get up and dance. I doubt they will put a smile on your face. The album is on the dark side. XX is made up of four friends from South West London who are all in their very early 20s, but they seem to have already experienced the whole range of emotions that most of us will ever go through. The album is released on the label Young Turks which has quietly been putting out albums and singles for the last couple of years. This might be the best record it has put out so far.

You really need to experience the XX yourself to properly make up your mind about them. I have not had the chance to see them live yet but I will be going to see them as soon as I can. The album has 11 tracks and it is really hard to pick my favorite song. They all sort of blend into each other to make up one simply perfect album. I probably love "Crystalized" more than anything, but "Heart Skipped A Beat" and "VCR" are also fantastic. "Shelter" and "Night Time" are also two of the better songs on the album. They are for sure two of the darker songs on an album full of darkness. I know I keep saying it, but all the songs are amazing! "Shelter" could easily be a song by Portishead. I always love the contrast of the male and female voice. Some bands just get it perfect. The contrasting voices on this album are often not so contrasting. They are both dark and on the deeper side, but it still works. I am gonna go back and listen to some more XX right now. I can usually only take the album about once a day. It is sort of like the Carpenters...I love them more than anything but their music can sometimes get me down and I can really only handle that about once a day. But don't let that scare you away from listening to this album. The best things in life often come with a bit of heartache, and what is the point of life without the risk of some heartache? This album is for sure worth it. I love it.

here is the video for "Crystalized" by the XX...



and here is the video for "Basic Space" by the XX...




also out this 9/8..






After Robots by Blk Jks











The Good Earth (Reissue) by The Feelies










Crazy Rhythms (Reissue) by The Feelies











Friendly Fires (Deluxe Edition) by Friendly Fires











Get Color by Health











Visitor by Jim O'Rourke











In Prism by Polvo






out 9/9...





The Beatles Reissues (Rubber Soul/Abbey Road/Let It Be/Etc...)







also out 9/15...






Central Market by Tyondai Braxton











Keep In Mind Frankenstein by Grand Archives











Man on the Moon by Kid Cudi











Journal For Plague Lovers by Manic Street Preachers











Resistance by Muse











Skinny Jeanz & A Mic by New Boyz











Kamaal the Abstract by the Q-Tip











Temporary Pleasure by Simian Mobile Disco











Ashes Grammar by A Sunny Day In Glasgow











Diary and LP2 by Sunny Day Real Estate (reissues)











Manafon by David Sylvian




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