Known Johnson

October 9, 2007

The Breakdown: ELP, Jesu, Bob Mould, Robert Pollard, Robert Wyatt

Filed under: Music,News,The Breakdown — Tom @ 6:23 am

It’s a week of Bobs, apparently. Roberts Mould, Pollard, and Wyatt all have new releases (in one case, two) along with a mixed bag of genres that should keep most well-settled heads spinning.

Emerson, Lake, and Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery Deluxe/Remaster: The music of this prog-rock classic is legendary and seemingly timeless. Who doesn’t know “Karn Evil 9”? I will fight them that claim not to know it! The artwork has always been a favorite of music fans – me included – and this remaster puts it back in a format that duplicates, in smaller form, of course, the intricate and beautiful design of the original vinyl release. HR Giger’s stunning, weird artwork is featured in a diecut, folding package with a mini-poster inside, along with an extensive 24 page book with rare photos and an essay. But that’s not all – for the first time ever, instrumental outtakes of “Jerusalem” and the full “Karn Evil 9” suite are appended to the album. Pretty cool deal even for casual fans.

Jesu – Lifeline EP: Where Godflesh drifted only minimally, or maybe laterally within their little niche of grinding, pounding metal, Justin Broadrick seems to have seen Jesu as a vehicle for ascending through other genres, release by release. With the release earlier this year of Conqueror, Jesu successfully mixed his roots in Godflesh with his love of shoegaze with an unexpectedly beautiful and mature result. The four song Lifeline EP will probably be another step forward, if maybe less dramatic than Conqueror and its predecessor, the Silver EP.

Also of note for Broadrick fans is Pale Sketches, 46 minutes of unreleased Jesu material from the past 7 years. It will be limited to 2000 copies and once it’s gone, it’s gone, so get yourself over to Avalanche, the only place to buy one, and order a copy right now.

Bob Mould – Circle of Friends – Live at 9:30: Bob Mould turns out a very cool looking lineup of songs on this, his first live DVD, backed by a band featuring Brendan Canty on drums, and showcasing a great selection of songs from throughout his entire solo career, Sugar, and a few Hüsker Dü songs as well.

Robert Pollard – Coast to Coast Carpet of Love and Standard Gargoyle Decisions: Oh, uncle Bob. I’m beginning to fear burnout, honestly. Even though I’m a relatively new fan, I love your music as if it’s been a part of my life since high school. Guided By Voices’ odd penchant for beautiful, but warped melodies are forever stamped upon my brain. I will never look at spam without thinking “Could this make for a great song title or what?” But I do feel like maybe releasing so much music, so often is kind of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, some of your greatest twists of phrase and riffs come out of those quickly tossed-together ditties. On the other hand, there are so many that it’s hard to keep up. Last year you put out seven albums and EPs. This year it’s going to be a little lighter – “only” five after today (the others are the Silverfish Trivia EP (under his own name,) The Takeovers’ Bad Football, and Circus Devils’ Sgt. Disco.) And that’s not counting a mail-order 7″ vinyl club-thing you’ve started, which has album tracks paired with one non-album each – one a month for a year. And what’s more, I know, all of your fans know, that there are tons more songs where those come from. As you famously said, and I paraphrase, “I go take a shit and think of five new songs. And three of them are good.” And that’s the thing – there are tons of great songs in this vast catalog of Guided By Voices, Robert Pollard, and a bunch of other pseudonyms, but there are SO many of them. And you keep adding to them! How do I find the time to sort through them? And here comes two more albums, Gargoyle being the slightly pricklier of the two, Coast to Coast having more shades of Guided By Voices, from the reports. I suppose I’ll quickly be making time on my shelf, if not necessarily time in my life to fully digest, these two albums.

Robert Wyatt – Comicopera: There’s a kind of absurdist, dream-like beauty to 1997’s Shleep that I fell in love with, which I don’t find so much of in 2003’s complex, jazz-inflected Cuckooland. Looking deeper, past the unusual instrumentation and song structure, not to mention Wyatt’s wavering, jovial voice, and there are startling revelations being made within the lyrics – statements many artists make, about the world today, about relationships between man and wife, and how confusing it all can be when we have to deal with it all at the same time, but Wyatt delivers it with a kind of subversive flair few others can manage – his view of the world is filled equally with razor-sharp wit as it is with wide-eyed wonder. Wyatt, and all his usual elements return with an album that fulfills the title’s promise – it is a three-act opera which appears to steer, subject matter-wise, toward Cuckooland, while employing the slightly more conventional stylings of Shleep and earlier material. Wyatt’s take on events of the past four years should be quite intriguing.



  1. I had the Bob Mould DVD in my hands over the weekend as I was prepping this week’s new releases at Borders. I definitely want this, but I’m declaring a CD/DVD purchasing moratorium until after the wedding. We’ll see how it goes.

    “Brain Salad Surgery” was part of my musical DNA as far back as grade school, thanks to my older siblings. I’m turned off by a good chunk of ELP’s stuff (a bit too bloated for my tastes), but BSS still holds up pretty well, in my opinion. I bought a reissue a couple of years ago that has extended liner notes and a short “audio documentary,” so I’ll probably pass on this latest reissue.

    Comment by Chris — October 9, 2007 @ 9:40 am | Reply

  2. I’ve got a cool two-disc “best of” called The Atlantic Years and it pretty much covers all the territory that anyone but a hard core would need. I’m going to seek out BSS mainly for the packaging, because it is so cool, but I may just pick up the newest two-disc best of that Rhino put out when this series was launched (it’s a slightly different lineup of songs, however.) I hear the sound quality on these remasters is pretty much the best we’ve gotten so far.

    Comment by Tom — October 9, 2007 @ 10:34 pm | Reply

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