Known Johnson

September 26, 2006

Overlooked Alternatives: Nels Cline, Depeche Mode, Isis, Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood, Sparklehorse, Paul Westerberg

Filed under: Music,Overlooked Alternatives — Tom @ 10:22 am

Another week, another surprising amount of intriging stuff . . .

Nels Cline – New Monastery: Some may only know guitarist Cline as the newest addition to the Wilco lineup, but fans of skronky jazz guitar will undoubtedly know him as one of the leaders of the avant garde and improv scenes. Here, Cline reportedly plays slightly more restrained in tribute to one of his favorite artists and composers, Andrew Hill, from whose repertoire all the music is drawn. From the bits I have heard, if one was looking for a way into Cline’s sometimes difficult work, this might be the most welcoming avenue.

Depeche Mode – Touring The Angel (CD and DVD): As I’ve pointed out in the past couple of weeks, Christmas is approaching and the labels are going to be preparing things that are perfect for gift-giving. Here is one such item – Depeche Mode caught on tour for last year’s fantastic return to form, Playing the Angel. Includes a short 8-track CD of audio (come on, why not a full CD?) from the full-length DVD as well as another DVD of additional material.

Isis – Clearing The Eye (DVD): There’s not a whole lot of information out there on what this is, but what I gather is that it’s a pretty simple gathering of live footage – several different cuts and one full show from Sydney, Australia, and then a video for “In Fiction.” I don’t picture Isis being a particularly exciting band to watch live – their music is very intense, but slow, dark, and it requires a particular mood for me to really get into. I’d complain about them not releasing live CDs, but they actually do that – in extremely limited numbers through their website and at their shows. How limited are they? Ask me how many of the 4 that they’ve released so far that I own. ZERO – and I keep tabs on this stuff. So I’ll get the DVD and rip the audio to listen to instead. It’s not as elegant, but it works in the end.

Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood – Out Louder: Maybe I was the only one, but I found guitarist John Scofield’s 1997 album with Medeski, Martin, & Wood, A Go Go, to be extremely disappointing. It seemed to compromise at every turn – it wasn’t either “Scofieldy” enough to work as his album nor was it “MMWy” enough to work as their album. It just felt flat, felt too much like the group didn’t know who was supposed to be the primary leader (Scofield or MMW) and it resulted in boring me on all fronts.

I found myself very skeptical, then, when I saw that Out Louder would pair the band again with Scofield – but I also noted that Scofield was included in the band name, rather than them being simply his backing band. And while they were only 30 second clips, Amazon’s wise decision to put them up a week early led me to conclude that the “new” name meant that a more balanced and nuanced set of music would emerge. Consider me curious enough to give them a second shot.

Sparklehorse – Dreamt For Lightyears In The Belly Of A Mountain: There’s something about Sparklehorse’s music that evokes images of being lost, but not the panic-stricken moments when you don’t know where you are. I mean the moment when you simply have to stop worrying about where you are, or, more accurately, where you are not. It’s in those moments where a kind of calm sweeps over you, when you simply give up and give in, even if only temporarily, to being lost. That Mark Linkous seems to shun society and live off in the woods where he creates his music only adds to my belief that he intends his music to invoke exactly these sentiments, and he does it well.

Paul Westerberg – Open Season (Original Soundtrack): There’s something really worrisome when you hear that any highly regarded artist is doing the soundtrack for a kid’s movie. It conjures images of Sting and Phil Collins destroying their careers and what little credibility they had left. But, you know, Paul Westerberg. I mean, come on. The Replacements? How could he ever sink to those levels? Surely a soundtrack crafted by him couldn’t possibly be that bad, not Sting-bad or Phil Collins-bad, right? But seeing a title like “The Right To Arm Bears” doesn’t help much. However, Alissa, the Replacements/Westerberg fan, reports that it’s actually not bad and doesn’t stray too far from Westerberg’s typical solo sound, so there you go. And fellow ex-Replacement Tommy Stinson pairs up with Paul on a couple of tracks. Also features Pete Yorn on vocals on one Westerberg track as well as two Deathray songs and one Talking Heads song.



    Comment by jordan — September 8, 2007 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks man, I’ll continue doing just that.

    (I might like to add that you’re also guilty of loser-ness because you can’t take one person not absolutely loving an album you love, not to mention that you seem to find the very concept of “opinion” threatening, but I’m above acting like a dense, closed-minded shithead.)

    Comment by Tom — September 12, 2007 @ 10:43 am | Reply

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