Alternative music reviews

November 8, 2006

Why I Hate…Pink Floyd

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I don’t want this to be a piece in praise of Syd Barrett, but I have to say that Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is one of the most startling albums of a startling decade. But Syd didn’t last, and he handed on the Psychedelic baton to his former colleagues. What did they do with it?

I did own copies of Atom Heart Mother, Obscured By Clouds, Meddle, and Ummagumma in the distant past and they were quite good. Not particularly inspired but good explorations of sound and mood. I was happy to think of Pink Floyd as still an serious ‘underground’ band.

But then it all went terribly wrong. Even though Dark Side Of The Moon is one of the most popular albums ever made and loved by millions I just find it leaden in the extreme. In part this can be explained by my over-exposure to the album (even though physical restraint has been involved in keeping me within listening distance). The same lack of dynamics and stodginess infects everything they have done since.

It’s as if a load of mechanics have been left in charge of the workshop. They can construct a well-built vehicle but just lack that spark of originality that can turn a Vauxhall Vectra into a Ferrari. They are fine craftsmen of sound, but they know nothing of the Pixie dust that can be scattered in music to make it surprising and original. For me, they are just plain dull.

September 25, 2006

Why I Hate…Ryan Adams

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Ryan AdamsI had a tape in the car of a compilation of alt-country tracks. There were a few tracks I loved to distraction and needed to hear every day or two. Problem was that the fast-forward to the next track function didn’t work for this particular tape and meant I had to listen to everything on it. On it was Oh My Sweet Carolina by Ryan Adams and I grew to hate the song so much. Despite featuring Emmylou Harris, it just bored me with its slowness and refusal to go anywhere. Every second it droned on, it kept me from relishing in the glorious tale Resplendent by Bill Malonee. My journey to work was an hour long high speed dash through country lanes at the time and I took to holding down the fast forward button even though I really needed both hands on the wheel.

So, someone doesn’t like alt-country? Wrong, I love alt-country and this is one of the most countrified of Ryan Adams’ solo works. Add to this the fact that I love Whiskeytown and I love their lead singer’s voice and their songwriting. I love Pawn Shop Ain’t No Place For A Wedding Ring and Angels Are Messengers From God from Rural Free Delivery and they are just as slow-paced as Carolina. As I listen again to Whiskeytown’s Strangers Almanac I can regard Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight as a track that I can really relate to – it just about describes my adolescence, as well as just being a great song. Even the less country songs such as 16 Days and the magical Not Home Anymore are etched in my heart.

I remember buying his first solo album, Heartbreaker, in great excitement and listening again and again and finding nothing I liked there except the vestige of a voice. Eventually, the goodwill from all of the earlier songs in his previous incarnation wore off and I realised that I just found the whole record devoid of inspiration. Someone did buy me Rock N Roll as a Christmas present in the mistaken belief that I liked him and I did try again but I failed miserably with what sounded to me like a rock/pop album of studied mediocrity.

I just don’t get it. I am not so precious about alt-country as to get upset when someone changes direction towards Rock/Pop. But I seriously only hear a pale, vacuous imitation of his former self. At least when the story is written of how Aliens came to earth and replaced Ryan Adams with a Simulacrum, I will be able to say “I told you so”.