Known Johnson

April 2, 2007

The Listening Post submission: Rush – “How It Is”

Filed under: Music,Reviews,The Listening Room submissions — Tom @ 7:37 pm

I’ve been too busy the past couple of weeks to catch the Listening Post train, but caught the caboose this week.

In reading Rush drummer Neil Peart’s Ghost Rider, I’ve developed a new respect for this song, so often overlooked and dismissed by fans as one of the lesser Vapor Trails offerings. Here, as in the book, we get a more humble, simpler Peart, a man facing a change in his life and opting to, for once, simply surrender instead of struggle.

Peart, having lost both his wife and his daughter in the span of a year’s time, was a man who desperately needed to let go of his past, and this song is more than just a simple ode to the struggles we all face with the difference between what we plan and how things turn out. It’s about turning the corner from spending every day dragging the past behind you as a weight, to making the past a part of your life and letting it help carry you forward. “How It Is” might not be one of Rush’s more popular songs, but it’s one of Peart’s more heartfelt lyrics.

March 12, 2007

Listening Room submission: “Hyperballad” – Wasilewski/Kurkiewicz/Miski

Filed under: Music,Reviews,The Listening Room submissions — Tom @ 10:35 pm

“Hyperballad” from Trio by Wasilewski/Kurkiewicz/Miski

Having installed some new speakers in my truck, and having spent far too much time doing so, I needed to take a drive to both pick up dinner and test out the speakers. Frustrated and tired, I also just needed to get out and not think about anything for a little while.

Choosing just the right music with which to try out those new speakers isn’t easy, but after a few songs, I settled on just the right one, a cover of Bjork’s “Hyperballad” by this nearly unpronouncable Polish trio.

Freed of vocals, the tune here allows the band to emphasize the underlying melodic beauty while maintaining some room for them to explore. Of course, for my needs at the time, it sounded gorgeous, but most of all, it simply soothed my tool- and stress-weary nerves.

March 5, 2007

The Listening Room submission: “Here” – Adrian Belew

Filed under: Music,Reviews,The Listening Room submissions — Tom @ 9:33 pm

This week’s Listening Room submission, with further entries and discussion here:

“I See You” from Here by Adrian Belew

A coworker of mine has a band that has set out with a specific goal: to avoid the influence of the Beatles. Obviously, he can’t be the first musician to attempt such a thing, but it’s a noble effort. I just wonder if it really matters.

It doesn’t matter to my daughter, that’s for sure. Driving along one day, with Adrian Belew’s 1994 masterpiece, Here playing, I looked in mirror to find her gently swaying to this oh-so-Beatlesesque tune. In her big car seat, she rocked from side to side while gazing out the rear windows to the sound of Adrian and his spot-on Lennon imitation.

So, no, I’m not convinced it matters if a band is obviously copping from the Beatles – and, in fact, sometimes the world just needs more of that.

February 19, 2007

The Listening Room submission: “Augmatic Disport” – Autechre

Filed under: Music,Reviews,The Listening Room submissions — Tom @ 9:59 pm

This week’s Listening Room submission is one of my more unusual musical interests, the oblique, electronic blitz of Autechre.

“Augmatic Disport,” from Untilted by Autechre

It’s the abstract rhythms in the electronic chaos that Autechre creates that draws me in. The beat lurches back and forth, fighting with itself, as if two drum machines are dueling over time. This is impossible dance music – no sane person could find a beat to center themselves around here, or, if they did, it would make for something humorous.

There are stabs of synth here and there, but the focus is on time and how it competes with itself for the little sensible space our minds can allow. The listener’s payoff comes when bits of rhythmic predictability set in, little by little – chaos resolving slowly to order, layers of fragmenting drums giving way to a steady pulse. Left with a simple beat for what seems like an eternity, it’s something oddly soothing and predictable from a group who so rarely offers anything of the sort.

February 12, 2007

The Listening Room submission: Guided By Voices – Don’t Stop Now

Filed under: Music,Reviews,The Listening Room submissions — Tom @ 12:45 pm

(This is my first post to a continuing series on Blogcritics called The Listening Room, the brainchild of DJRadiohead, one of my favorite BC writers. It’s basically a piece about earworms, those songs that wind up stuck on seemingly infinite loop in your head, or maybe just those extra special songs that merit some deeper exploration. When I make a submission, I may be posting slightly longer versions here on my site, and, sometimes, like today, with a special little bonus like the bootleg recording of the song in question.)

“Don’t Stop Now” from Under The Bushes, Under The Stars, by Guided By Voices

Among dozens of equally powerful, tight songs under Bob Pollard’s belt, it could be the immediacy of that simple guitar hook that starts this song that grabs listeners, but really it’s more that there’s a rare vulnerability in Pollard’s voice in this particularly simple tune.

Pollard confronts “Big Daddy,” a local rooster with whom he holds a long-standing grudge, strutting nonchalantly around with a six-pack ring around his neck, but it’s really about the band transitioning from local indie act to focus of national attention. GBV becomes, in a sense, Big Daddy in an industry that cares little about anything but the bottom line. Pollard’s six-pack ring: get his songs to more people while keeping the GBV identity strong. This is his anthem – “Don’t Stop Now,” a rallying cry for more. And there was – a lot more.

In 1996, Guided By Voices was on the verge of being lifted out of a life of obscurity in Dayton, Ohio. It’s easy to hear in the lyrics and his voice the sound of a man possibly leaving behind a life he was comfortable with. He’d quit his job as a school teacher to go on the road to rock – his dream job – but with it came a fear of the unknown. More than 10 years on, it’s obvious that Pollard has done just fine as an ex-teacher.

Guided By Voices is now a memory as he continues his solo career, but thanks to a fan-friendly taping/trading policy, we have this live take of the song in question to cherish forever.

Guided By Voices: Don’t Stop Now – Jan. 22, 2000, Athens, GA (3.21 mb)

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