As a morbidly addicted guitar head, I’ve been loving Noisey’s excellent Guitar Moves series over on YouTube. Some are decent, some are frankly a bit poor (the one with Billy Gibbons and Kid Rock, where the ZZ Top legend is basically stumble-down drunk, is a fine example). This one with Dean Ween is a keeper though. I’m a longstanding Ween fan so of course it was going to appeal, but I don’t think you need to be to enjoy this particular episode. My favourite part is him saying that everything he plays is either drawing upon the Allman Brothers’ Blue Sky (for upbeat solos) and Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain (for introspective, moody solos). Its ace – take a watch:
I first discovered edIT when a friend of mine recommended I check out his first album Crying Over Pros For No Reason, which Planet Mu released in 2004. Pros was a staggering piece of work: whilst Glitch as a scene has long since worn itself out, edIT was always a class apart from the rest. His first album is almost devastatingly beautiful, delivering fragile, broken-hearted glitched electronica that was just utterly mesmerising. My good friend Laurent wrote a stunning piece over at FACT mag, explaining why its one of his favourite records of all time – take a read when you get a mo.
So why am I choosing edIT’s followup, Certified Air Raid Material over his debut? Because its pretty much where edIT took the gloves off and aimed squarely for your head with monstrous, tight production and a fairly nonstop flow of top-dollar belters. Its as if edIT sat there and thought “Oh you want it full-on? YOU GOT IT”. With the opening intro skit “I Slay Crowds” the man born Edward Ma sets out his stall – and when it leads into “Battling Go-Go Yubari In Downtown LA”, the intent is clear here: edIT’s come to blow your head off.
Mention The Band and the first thing people will mention is The Last Waltz, the now-legendary live performance involving not just The Band but a host of guests – and, evidently, no end of cocaine, with Neil Young’s infamous ‘white booger’ debacle now being as famous as the music itself.
Here’s the thing though: to me, The Last Waltz is nowhere near as good as most claim, and indeed over the years I think its become something of a case study in one member of a group (in this case Robbie Robertson) meddling with a release and attempting to rewrite history. Robertson allegedly insisted that he get preferential treatment in the edit of the film, leading one site to call it “The Robbie Robertson show, starring Robbie Robertson with music by Robbie Robertson”. Bottom line? It felt like the whole thing was fake; fixed and tweaked here and there to suit the frontman and no one else. To me its not the sound of a band locked in and playing their hearts out; its all a bit… staged.
So, where The Band are concerned my favourite album – live or otherwise – is without a doubt Rock of Ages. Sporting arguably the worst cover in the history of music, this record may just be the finest live album ever released. This was The Band in their prime: full of swagger and groove. Hell you only have to listen to their opening gambit of Don’t Do It to hear a perfect example.
Often in music, my journey – like most I suspect – is quite linear. You get into a particular genre or sound, then proceed to plough that furrow for some time as you soak up all you can. Around 1992 I was very much immersed in the US indie sound of the day – perhaps less around Sub Pop and more other labels like Amphetamine Reptile, Dischord, Touch & Go and Simple Machines among others. Whilst a majority of my friends were largely into Ride and other UK indie, I was all over Fugazi, Jawbox, Helmet, The Jesus Lizard, Girls Against Boys etc.
And yet, as we all know, just once in a long while something comes along that blows your mind. The best ones are never hyped or raved about in the press; they’re the verbal recommendations you got from someone like a secret password. In 1992, it was all about tapes and tape comps getting passed around between friends, where you’d stumble onto a song that stopped you in your tracks and left you thinking “I have GOT to find out more about this lot”.
Enter Swell, whom I stumbled upon in precisely this manner. A friend of a friend had done a stellar tape comp and, as befits the time, I soon wound up with a second or third generation copy. The original compiler of the tape had incredible taste and this comp pulled together all manner of unknown gems and artists that would go on to be recognised as legends. Amongst this though, Swell’s one song leapt out at me. It was called “Get High” and it was from the band’s first, self-titled, album.