From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah
In this disc's liner notes, bassist Krist Novoselic writes, "Let all the analysis fall away like yellow, aged newsprint. Crank this record up and realize the bliss, power...and passion...TOTAL NIRVANA!" Novoselic's tone, which recalls the prose style favored by teens who write letters to Teen Beat, serves as an appropriate introduction to Wishkah, a recording whose compilers apparently intend it to do nothing more than rock out. The tracks are arranged in a seemingly random manner that should prevent all but the most rabid amateur psychologists from using chronology in an attempt to trace the late Kurt Cobain's decline. Moreover, the seventeen cuts here focus on Cobain and company at their heaviest; for instance, there are no outtakes of Kurt playing "In Bloom" by himself on an acoustic guitar and sobbing quietly between lines. Some listeners may feel that the disc exhibits a thrown-together quality, and there's something to that: "Polly" and "Breed," recorded during a pre-stardom visit to London's Astoria Theatre in 1989, are as muffled-sounding as your average two-track demo, and a version of "Spank Thru" that dates from a 1991 date in Rome is pretty much a goof. But frankly, this energetic yet shaggy package has a lot more appeal for yours truly than would a wallow in sentimentality. Nirvana, simply put, was a damn good band, and it's nice to hear it sans too much additional baggage. Despite the platter's rough edges, it's ever so much more enjoyable than the efforts of those groups still churning out Nirvana imitations after all these years. Besides, future posthumous releases will no doubt be worse. Aren't they always?
Toots & the Maytals
Time Tough: The Anthology
Reggae has long owed a debt of gratitude to rhythm and blues. Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and countless other reggae icons point to New Orleans R&B stations as major influences on their own music, and Frederick "Toots" Hibbert pays homage to the genre so frequently that he's been called the Otis Redding of Jamaica. The nickname is appropriate: With his rough, soulful vocals and love of bass-heavy, rock-steady grooves, Hibbert forges a vital link between Kingston and the American South. Time Tough, the singer's new double-CD anthology, demonstrates his mastery with a well-chosen selection of 41 fine tunes, recorded both with and without the support of his longtime collaborators, the Maytals. The songs span the spectrum of Toots's career, from 1963's "Six and Seven Books of Moses" to "Freedom Train," off his 1988 album Toots in Memphis, but the essential stuff falls between these dates. Particularly emphasized on disc one of Time is Hibbert's late Sixties/early Seventies peak--a period that produced such classics as the harmony laden "Pressure Drop" (from the soundtrack to The Harder They Come); "Funky Kingston," the title track to the Maytals' breakthrough American release; an unexpectedly terrific version of John Denver's "Country Roads"; and "Reggae Got Soul," the seminal reggae/R&B crossover cut. Equally impressive are covers of Redding's "Hard to Handle" and "Dreams to Remember." The set documents Toots's many transitions--from ska to reggae to so-called Jamerican fusion--in a manner that will impress longtime fans and reggae novices alike.
Gorky's Zygotic Mynci
Introducing Gorky's Zygotic Mynci
Todd Rundgren and Jeff Lynn must hate bands like Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. After all, these aging rockers have spent most of their adult lives laboring over string arrangements and odd musical instrumentation in an attempt to capture the magical moods exemplifed by Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper's, with results that have been mixed at best. By contrast, the members of Gorky's toss off neopsychedelic masterpieces more easily than Julia Child made last night's dinner--and they do it with a lot more style and imagination, to boot. But what must really get the goats of rock dinosaurs is the fact that these punky Wales natives are barely out of their teens. You'd never know it by listening to these twelve tracks, though: Surreal delights such as "If Fingers Were Xylophones" and "Y Fford Oren" (a song whose lyrics, like many others on Introducing, are in Welsh) belie the players' years. The decision to cover Soft Machine's ultracool, ultra-obscure "Why Are We Sleeping?" further demonstrates that these kids are nothing less than rock-and-roll savants. Best of all, they know how to have fun--something that seemed to slip by Rundgren and Lynn during
all those late nights in front of the mixing board. At one point during "Merched Ya Neud Gwallt Eu Gilydd (Girls Doing Each Other's Hair)," vocalist Steve Childs declares, "There's no need to worry." "Why is that, Stevie?" inquires another bandmember. "Because there's no school tomorrow!" replies Childs just before breaking into the song's sublime chorus. With exuberance like that, how can you not make a great pop record?
Adamson, whose credits include stints with Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and Howard Devoto's Magazine (as well as contributions to soundtracks for films such as director Alison Anders's unjustly overlooked Gas, Food, Lodging), is clearly an extremely disturbed bloke--and fortunately, he's decided to share his problems with the rest of us. The multi-instrumentalist and conceptual prankster describes Oedipus Schmoedipus as the score to an imaginary flick about a mother-son relationship taken a wee bit too far. But aside from "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Pelvis," a lyrically specific ditty featuring the lead vocals of Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, Adamson prefers subtlety over specificity. His best pieces are instrumentals in which he slams together rock, funk and various movie-music references in order to achieve a melange that's as cheeky as it is catchy. The juxtaposition of darkness and smarm gives these offerings an undeniable charge. Mom wouldn't approve, but you will.
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