OK, I don’t actually know what “iss de Hundin” means, but it’s a phrase that seems to come up a lot in Kobaian. At any rate, Magma is a legendary French prog rock/avant garde jazz band, led by drummer Christian Vander, who made up his own language for the band’s Coltrane-meets-Wagner post-apocalyptic jazz-rock-opera concept. (And now I’ve reached my per-post hyphen limit.) They beat Coheed and Cambria to it by three decades, and did it in an incomprehensible Germanic Esperanto to boot.
I used to have a Magma tribute website, back in the days before blogs and Wikipedia and YouTube. I took it down years ago, but fortunately the band has kept up playing. I saw them in Chicago in 1999 and it was a highlight of my musical life. They’re still going strong, as evidenced by this 2006 video. Check it out!
Of course, the truly indoctrinated will probably prefer this clip from 1970. Lip syncing on French TV, “American Bandstand”-style. “Stoah” of all things. Imagine the trauma of an unsuspecting viewer, just tuning in for the supersonic screeching at the beginning. The world’s collective tolerance for the bizarre was certainly much higher back then.
Things were just different back in 1971. And if you don’t believe me, consider this: a very successful rock album from that year was Fragile by Yes.
This album contained not only three tracks near or longer than eight minutes each, but five brief tracks that were the individual creations of each member of the band. Some members were not so enthusiastic about this approach, most notably drummer Bill Bruford, whose contribution was an awkward, 37-second noodlefest for drums, guitar, bass, and organ entitled “Five Per Cent for Nothing” [sic, although apparently that’s how they spell it in Britain].
Only 37 seconds, you say? Or more to the point, only five percent, you say? I have now attempted to rectify that shortcoming.
The piece as it originally appears consists of a complex rhythmic pattern, played through twice by the band. Well, if twice through constitutes five percent, simple arithmetic tells us that 40 times through will yield the full 100%. (It also clocks in at a pleasing 11:11.)
If you like/can tolerate this, I encourage you to consider purchasing the full album. (For what it’s worth, I myself have purchased it in one form or another no less than seven times.) It features some outstanding playing and great songs, including my favorite piece of music in the history of human civilization, “Heart of the Sunrise.”
But if you’re in the market for something a little more current… a little more seasonally-appropriate… a little more ridiculously titled, then I would steer you no further than to Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir, a drunken joke new Christmas album featuring Yes bassist Chris Squire, drummer Jeremy Stacey (formerly of Sheryl Crow’s touring band and more recently of the briefly-reformed-and-now-once-again-defunct lineup of Squire’s pre-Yes band, The Syn), and ’70s-era Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett.
Normally I would look at something like this and think, “Mannheim Steamroller, but somehow, incomprehensibly worse.” And yet, from the samples I checked out online, it’s surprisingly not complete shit! “Complete” being the operative word. When I emailed a friend about this album, with the subject line “Holy crap,” he replied “I think you have just come up with the perfect two word review for this album.”
If by any chance you do choose to purchase it, I would implore you to consider doing so via this link to the iTunes store, so they’ll know who recommended it! (OK, they won’t. But at least I’ll get a tiny piece of the action.)
Wow, I can’t believe this is already the fourth year I’ve been doing this. I am truly an old fart because the years really are flying by now. That’s what happens when you’ve made 34 trips around the sun. I’m just scared to think what it’ll feel like when I’m 60.
Well enough angst. Let’s talk music. And there’s a lot to talk about: 2007 has, for my tastes at least, been an unparalleled year for new music. I would have a hard time identifying a year that’s produced more great music without going all the way back to 1971. (And I wasn’t around to experience that firsthand.) So, without further ado, here we go.
I’ve been a Rush-head for over half my life now. A sad fact of a band this long-lived and prolific is watching the quality of their output deteriorate over time. The band’s last full-length album, 2002’s Vapor Trails, was surprisingly good musically, but suffered from some of the worst production in the last several decades. The band had been enthusiastically touting Snakes and Arrows for several months before its release, and with good reason. The album is phenomenal. Easily their best work since 1984’s Grace Under Pressure. Great, rocking music, with more dynamics and variety than we’ve heard from the boys in years; lyrics with surprisingly deep insight into the woes of early 21st century American society; first-rate production; and… well what can I say? Three instrumentals. It just doesn’t get much better in the Rush canon.
Michael Brecker was at the pinnacle of the post-Coltrane jazz world for upwards of 30 years. Late last year he was diagnosed with terminal leukemia, and with less than 5 months to live, he put together a final farewell to those of us who’ve followed his brilliant music over the years. This album is full of moments of profound beauty and intense burning jazz as full of life as anything he’d ever done. Sadly he did not survive to see the album released, but it remains a fitting good-bye to this jazz legend.
I’ve enjoyed Wilco’s music since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and have been fascinated to hear the evolution of the band’s sound on each album. This is very much back-to-basics, and it works extraordinarily well. It’s simply not possible to listen to this music and not feel good. In a good way.
This is the album it seems everyone was talking about in October. It may still see a traditional release in stores in 2008, but so far it’s only available as a pay-what-you-want download from the band’s website. But that in no way means it’s inferior work. The band has covered some challenging musical ground in the past decade since the release of their masterpiece, OK Computer, and this album bookends that one nicely. (There’s plenty of speculation out there that the albums really were intended to integrate in Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon style, but I’ll leave that to the stoners to prove.) If you haven’t already, download it now. What are you waiting for? (I assume you are wondering what, if anything, I paid for it. Well, I sucked it up and bought the £40 deluxe package, which should be arriving next month.
I loved In Your Honor so I was eagerly awaiting the release of this album and it did not disappoint! From the lead single “The Pretender” straight on through, the band displays brilliant songwriting, impeccable chops (these guys can really play, and if you doubt that, be sure also to check out drummer Taylor Hawkins’ guest work on Coheed and Cambria’s No World for Tomorrow), and a wide stylistic and dynamic range. Dave Grohl’s voice matches the music perfectly, from a delicate whisper to a larynx-shredding scream. The best album of a great year of music.
As I said, it’s been a great year for music. It was hard to narrow the list down to 5. Here, in no particular order (OK, they’re alphabetical by artist), are some of the other great albums I enjoyed this year:
And there are a few others that just missed the cut, like The Dear Hunter and Portugal. The Man. (“Portugal. The Man.” is one band. You have to give them credit just for the audacity of that band name.)
Shockingly lame, mildly offensive (probably moreso if you’re Native American), yet hilariously ill-conceived and even more hilariously ill-executed, we have this music video for a disco-fied version of the oft-covered surf rock hit “Apache.”
I can’t make out the name of the band written on the bass drum head, and it doesn’t seem to match any listed here.
Although I will never recover the precious minutes of my life wasted watching this, and I may never even know the name of the band (so I can take care to avoid them in the future), at least one good thing came of this: my discovery of the Second Hand Songs site, which is actually a pretty cool idea!
Update (September 29, 2006): I guess I should’ve just checked Google Video… there, we have the song identified as the work of the Tommy Seebach Band.
Wow. For all my many years of waxing and waning Rush fandom, including having played several of their songs on the bass myself in a band a few years back, I never knew this about one of their oddest songs, the instrumental track “YYZ.”
Yes, of course I know YYZ is the code for the Toronto airport. But what I never realized, even as I was playing that rhythm, is that the opening of the song spells “YYZ” in Morse Code!
(I must admit I have some misgivings about saying I never realized it. I vaguely recall that as my bandmates and I were working the song out — from memory, not a recording — I was convinced that the last part of long beats was 5 and not 4, but the other guys might have used the Morse Code argument to prove me wrong. In fact, even tonight as I read about this and played the song in my head, I was still thinking it was 5, and, in my usual cocksure way, thinking “these websites have it wrong!” or “the band messed up the ‘Z’!” But then I actually listened to the song and realized it’s 4. Then I assumed the band I was in must have played it wrong, since I was so sure it was 5. So I listened to our recording of it and sure enough it was 4 there too! I guess the only thing that proves is that once again, it’s a bad idea for me to stay up too late on a Saturday night surfing the web.)
While I’m on the subject of Rush, I quickly googled (yes, it’s officially lowercase now, much to Google‘s chagrin) and was surprised to discover that, apparently, my high school friends and I are the only ones in the entire wired world who ever thought the band’s self-titled debut album cover looks more like it says RLISH than RUSH.