Sunday, August 31, 2008

Everything but the Girl: The only way up is down

Everything But the Girl are one of those rare bands that keep coming back to haunt us with their infectious dance club sounds. How much longer do we have to wait for a new album? It's almost been ten years since 1999's "Tempremental".

EBTG originally started off as an acoustic-based duo. When they released their 'Amplified Heart' album in 1994, Todd Terry remixed the track "Missing", and it was this song that propelled them into dance music.

When EBTG released the remix as a single, it became a huge international hit. It hit the top of nearly every chart around the world, and charted in the U.S., a feat that had previously eluded the band. The track reached number two and stayed in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for well over a year.

The success of that track, along with a collaboration Thorn did with the bands Massive Attack and Deep Dish, saw EBTG move into a more electronic sound.

Having completed contractual obligations to WEA, they were free to shop their recordings and had full ownership of their future recorded works. They signed licensing deals with Virgin Records for the United Kingdom and Europe, and Atlantic Records for the United States and Canada.

Their subsequent albums "Walking Wounded" and "Temperamental", showed the band's musical progress as well as established Ben Watt as a cutting edge dance music producer. In 2007 Tracey Thorn released her second solo album "Out Of The Woods".

It's surprising to think it will be ten years since the "Tempremental" album was first released. The opening track, "Five Fathoms" brings back the memories of partying in London's Soho at night.

"Five Fathoms"
by Everything But The Girl (from the 1999 album 'Temperamental')

I walk the city late at night.
Does everyone here do the same?
I want to be the things I see,
Give every face and place my name.
I cross the street, take a right,
Pick up the pace, pass a fight.
Did I grow up just to stay home?
I'm not immune - I love this tune.

I wanna love more.
I just wanna love more.

I drag the city late at night.
It's in my mouth, it's in my hair.
The people fill the city because
The city fills the people, oh yeah.
I cross the street, avoid the freeze -
A city's warmer by a couple degrees.
The smell of food. The smell of rain.
I'm not immune - I love this tune.

I wanna love more.
There's a river in my head.
I just wanna love more.
There's a river in my head.

The only way out is down.
The only way up is down.

The days roll by like thunder
Like a storm that's never breaking,
All my time and space compressed
In the low pressure of the proceedings,
And they beat against the sides of my life,
Like fists against the sides of my life,
And the roads all lead behind me,
So I wrap the wheel around me
and I go out.

There's a river in my head.
I'll take you home and make it easy.
Love more.

Copyright (c) 1999 Everything But The Girl

Katy Perry kisses a girl and the USA goes crazy

Here comes the most hyped song of 2008 in America; "I Kissed A Girl" by Katy Perry. Currently making it's way to Europe, there's probably no telling how many times this song will get played on radio until the general public gets sick to death of it.

The song's already topped the US singles chart for seven weeks. If you check out the comments on YouTube, people are either love or hate it. For me, Katy looks like some deranged actress from The OC or One Tree Hill. It's way too early to say that I am convinced.

Live, Katy Perry is another thing. Her live performance on US television leave a lot to be desired. Vocally, the song seems to display a lot of studio trickery to make Katy sound better than she actually is.

Hell, singing out of tune never seemed to be a problem for Madonna.

'I Kissed A Girl' could be the only song that Katy Perry will ever be remembered for, and like most one hit wonders, this could have dramatic impact on her future recordings. But something tells me there's more to Perry than this one particular killer teenage anthem.

For the moment, Katy seems to display a certai amount of fun and sexiness in her videos, and I guess us Americans have been missing out on some commerical rauch for some time now. This is like the Brady Bunch and a porn wet dream in one.

What's next, I kissed an German Shepherd?

In the 70s, Cyndi Lauper was singing "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", but now Katy Perry's singing about kissing girls. Some things never change.

Or do they?

This is pop music at it's most risque, even though the music is calculated formula supermarket pop. The perfect comeback single for Britney, but this time the brunettes are taking over - and it's about time!

Even more entertaining is Katy's video for her other song "Ur So Gay" which is a play on Todd Haynes' film about the late Karen Carpenter (the first film to tell the story of the rise and fall of Karen Carpenter re-enacted by Barbie Dolls).

The first line in "Ur So Gay" is classic deviant pop at its best. Katy sings, "I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf, jacking off while listening to Mozart."

Katy Perry - "I Kissed A Girl"

Katy Perry - "Ur So Gay"

Warren Zevon; the Excitable Boy lives on

Sometimes in this crazy world of rock and roll, certain rock stars need to rob the grave to get a hit single. Case in point is Kid Rock with his infectious song "All Summer Long", taken from his current album "Rock N Roll Jesus".

The songs also samples Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" (which has a similar chord progression).

When it comes to the original,you can't top Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London". With the line, "Better stay away from him, he'll rip your lungs out, Jim - I'd like to meet his tailor," you know Zevon was up to something way beyond the confines of conservative American music.

'Werewolves of London' was taken from Zevon's 'Excitable Boy' (1978), an album that's right up there with any early Steely Dan album. Essential.

Similar in many ways to his fellow Southern California outcast counterpart Randy Newman, during his early career Zevon achieved moderate fame, but as time progressed, instead of writing songs on par with the likes of Dan Fogelberg and Jackson Browne, he opted for tunes about getting your lungs ripped out. The general public could relate.

Obsessed with corrupt anti-heroes, Zevon penned songs with the trademark of a down and out pulp fiction writer who created stories about mutilated mercenaries ("Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner"), mereciless city boys who will do anything to get ahead ("Lawyers, Guns and Money"), cowardly deviants ("Excitable Boy"), and, of course, losers with appetites for beef chow mein ("Werewolves of London").

Excitable Boy's 1976 predecessor (Warren Zevon) may be a stronger album, but this is the one that put Zevon on the map, and still holds a pop hook in the world's consciousness. Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" is a perfect exmaple.

"Werewolves of London"
by Warren Zevon

I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain
He was looking for a place called Lee Ho Fook's
Going to get himself a big dish of beef chow mein
Werewolves of London

If you hear him howling around your kitchen door
Better not let him in
Little old lady got mutilated late last night
Werewolves of London again
Werewolves of London

He's the hairy-handed gent who ran amuck in Kent
Lately he's been overheard in Mayfair
Better stay away from him
He'll rip your lungs out, Jim
I'd like to meet his tailor
Werewolves of London

Well, I saw Lon Chaney walking with the Queen
Doing the
I saw Lon Chaney, Jr. walking with the Queen
Doing the
I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's
His hair was perfect
Werewolves of London
Draw blood

(c) 1978 Warren Zevon, from the album "Excitable Boy"

Patti Smith's original album review of Todd Rundgren's 'A Wizard, A True Star'

In 1973, the then rock journalist and poet, Patti Smith, reviewed albums and interviewed rock stars for the legendary CREEM magazine (aka Boy Howdy).

CREEM was no ordinary monthly music magazine for the uninitiated. It also gave the world the literary prose of Lester Bangs (the No.1 Iggy Pop and Lou Reed rock critic immortalized in Cameron Crowe's movie 'Almost Famous').

CREEM was home to Iggy Pop, Todd Rundgren, the New York Dolls, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Mott the Hoople, Kiss, Roxy Music, The Runaways, Cheap Trick and beyond. If you wanted to find out what was happening in the world of glam rock, CREEM was the bible of corruptable pop salvation.

CREEM effortlessly bridged the gap between 16 magazine and Rolling Stone. It's foray into glam rock was pre-punk. CREEM was 10 years ahead of its time. It made Blender and Spin seem like cheap immitations.

Who could ever forget that pull out poster of a wacked-out, bleached-blonde Iggy Pop burning a pile of vinyl albums with lighter fluid?

The following editorial is a reprint of Patti Smith's original review of Todd Rundgren's ground-breaking 1973 album 'A Wizard, A True Star'.

Six years after Patti reviewed A Wizard, A True Star, Rundgren produced her 1979 album 'Wave' that featured the hit single Frederick, and the song Dancing Barefoot, plus So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star, a rock song originally written by Jim McGuinn and Chris Hillman, and first recorded by The Byrds for their 1967 album Younger Than Yesterday.

by Patti Smith
[from Creem, April 1973]

A Wizard, A True Star
Todd Rundgren

Ya know where Greaser's Palace ends? That solar burst. The zoot suit Jesus returns to light. Physical atomic end. Well that's where Todd's record begins. Side one is pure brain rocket. Rock and roll for the skull. Todd Rundgren's season in hell.

Put the record on. Internal voyage is not burnt out. Thank the stars for that. Now you got your system of brain travel, Todd got the plane. You're gonna zoom but beware. What he does is very tricky. Mildly sinister. But I give you the satisfaction that all pain on his ticket is well spent. It beings glowing enough. Like a sacred drug. "International Feel." Very Baudelaire. Very godhead. And when he moves to "I Know I Know" you know. For one ecstatic moment you've gone beyond the point of pain into the realm of pure intellect.

I know, here is where I got caught. Not prepared for a transition like "Neverland." Brutally nostalgic. I got that era under my belt. All about toyland. Once you leave no turning back. Well, why did Todd pull us back? The terror of beauty makes one momentarily bitter. First star to the right and straight on till morning. "Neverland" permanently poisons and sweetens. Gives a subconscious aftertaste. Tinges the whole record with Walt Disney. Also torments and slides you into journey a little weak above the belt. As side one progresses you age. There's hair on your fingers.

Tic tic. Like the crocodile alarm that pleasantly ticked away Captain Hook's lifeline, goodie good is wearing off. The move is maniac. Screeching monotone which eliminates mouth, limb and crotch but exalts in brain power. MIT science fiction. The next religion.

Even more ear-itating is "Rock'n'Roll Pussy." Autobiographic as a brainiac. "I'm in the Clique" comes back as "Shove it up your ass, I'm the clique myself." Sexual power is moving up the spine into the skull. It's manic it's magnificent.

Am I getting abstract? It doesn't matter. Music is pure mathematics. And what is more abstract than trigonometry? Todd is further mystery than Greek. You can't plot out his journey so easy. Marco Polo was a natural. Electric exploitation is never predictable.

But beauty is just that. The flamingos that wave you into "Zen Archer" leave you breathless. Happy death. And "Zen Archer" is full of wonder. Beautiful. I'm almost embarrassed to get so worked up over its brilliance. An elegy. Very German. Who did kill Cock Robin? An expression of his guilt? It makes one dizzy. Uncomfortable. He exhibits certain powers, certain confusions. Naked emotion is very frightening. It's extended by Dave Sanborn's saxophone. Elegant and moving as a high and spiraling tombstone.

His language is getting more sophisticated as is his humor and anger. Moving in a very valiant poetry.

The blessings of the turtles/ the eggs lay on the lawn.

Obscure images in "Da Da Dali." Very painterly. Also very Rodgers and Hart. Oh Jesus where are we on this journey; All adolescence out the window. Fags, fag hags, weaklings, minor visionaries and paranoids caught in the cyclone. For the chosen ones there is one last splash in drug soup and up the yellow brick road to Utopia.

That's how it hit me. Sound you can't describe, only experience. Side one is double dose. It takes the bull by the brain. Another point to be examined. He's always been eclectic. Why didn't he care? The evidence is here. Something very magical is happening. The man is magi chef. His influences are homogenizings. Like a coat of many colors. May be someone else's paintbox but the coat is all his. A Gershwin tone some Mr. Kite solid Motown early Rundgren. Several other colors. Telescoping sounds. All manipulated by a higher force. Production itself a form to be reckoned with. The conductor is often more blessed than the orchestra.

There are two sides to every record. Excluding Second Winter. So turn over. This is de soul side. White boys got it you know. Especially ones from Philadelphia. "Sometimes I Don't Know What to Feel" is eighty per cent spade. It touches. I hope Motown grabs it and pumps it Top 40. "I Don't Want to Tie You Down" touches too. "The balance of our minds together/ The perfect give and take." Girl and boy move to man and woman.

Todd does a soul medley. The way he does "Ooo Baby Baby." I know he's no Smokey but I'm addicted to his throat. Cracks and all. I find Todd's voice very sexy; it makes me feel teen-age. Less than perfect but a bit boozier than last shots. The way he does "Cool Jerk" is genius. Real cartoon. Goofy and Daffy Duck are there. Roller skates, Coney Island laughter, the mad bomber. Jesus, sometimes I think he's crazy. Certainly not an earthling. The way he transforms mundane to miracle.

The motherfucker is "Is It My Name?" All the animal energy is in this one. A song that self-destructs. Dirty joke...flaming guitar...the cunt...the man to kick in your brains. It's all there. I love it. Never has he seemed more like a son of a bitch. In fact that's another move on this album. Not only is the quality of his intellect heightened but his emotions. This is the least predictable. The one closest to sainthood and hatchet murder.

My voice goes so high
You would think I was gay
But I play my guitar in such
a mancock way
You only love me for my machine...
"Is It My Name"

Moving into "Just One Victory." A Rundgren classic. Very much a single. Though I would die to hear "International Feel" on the radio. To cruise at suicidal speed down the great highway with "I.F." at full blast:

International feel
And there's more
Interstellar appeal
Still there's more
Universal ideal...

Each album he vomits like a diary. Each page closer to the stars. Process is the point. A kaleidoscoping view. Blasphemy even the gods smile on. Rock and roll for the skull. A very noble concept. Past present and tomorrow in one glance. Understanding through musical sensation. Todd Rundgren is preparing us for a generation of frenzied children who will dream in animation.

Copyright © Patti Smith 1973 / CREEM magazine