Over thirty years later, a record as jarringly fresh now -- maybe more so now -- than it was when it first undermined everyone's expectations.
The first time I heard about Talk Talk, it was by way of a friend, in what amounted to an insult. "They have a singer, Mark Hollis, whose voice is so nasal he sounds like he's singing through his forehead. You can't make out a word. So they have the lyrics on the album sleeve, in his handwriting. You can't read his handwriting either." He laughed, but I didn't: what all that told me was the words weren't what really mattered, and those things were Hollis's way of telegraphing all that. I have always been more charitable to a fellow artist than I have any right to be. I can't say I have ever regretted it. I certainly don't regret it when it comes to Talk Talk or The Spirit Of Eden, even if I didn't actually hear the album until almost thirty years after that discussion.
Alan Vega is dead, and that means there will never be another Suicide album. But it also means there will never be another Alan Vega album, and that matters at least as much to me.
Alan Vega is dead, and that means there will never be another Suicide album. But it also means there will never be another Alan Vega album, and the man's solo career has come to mean as much to me as his partnership with Martin Rev did.
In truth his "solo" work simply meant anything he did outside of his partnership with Rev; since 1990 or so anything sporting his name only has been him and his wife Liz Lamere. She'd provide a herky-jerk wall of computer-generated throb and rasp, and he'd provide that snarling, hollering, whooping, crooning voice, the "Iggy-cum-Elvis psychobilly attack", as someone else once put it.
NPR commentator, author, and sardonic voice of the disgusted put some of his best material to wax in this collection that is regrettably out of print.
The words "NPR commentator" fill some people with dread and loathing, and the reaction is not entirely undeserved. Andrei Codrescu is not among those who deserves such a brush-off, though -- he comes equipped with the kind of grim, cutting wit that only seems possible for a direct-line descendant of H.L. Mencken -- or, in his case, a Romanian emigre who's disgusted enough for any three lifetimes but somehow retains enough wonder for a dozen of them. No Tacos For Saddam compiles a number of monologues and essays from his NPR days, many of which were featured in print in his book Zombification, and the best praise I have for it is that while it inspired a lot of laughter, it was all with him and not at him, and some of it was more that I might not cry.
Bonus beats for a world that lives technology rather than just using it.
I once read an interview with experimental percussionist Z'ev about the problem of making music with technology that's critical of the world that produced said technology -- "you're like, stuck!" he quipped. The very act of trying to critique what's around you ends up glorifying it, making it seem cool -- the same problem François Truffaut had with war films. But every now and then someone cuts through the crap: Oliver Stone made Platoon, and as Roger Ebert pointed out, it did not make war seem like fun. And drummer Keith Leblanc, of the original Sugar Hill Gang and its spinoffs, including the industrial-funk machine Tackhead, made the drum-machine and sampler workout Major Malfunction, and it manages the neat trick of being a product of the very technology it's designed to critique without seeming hypocritical about it.
Until we get a Tackhead box set, these two discs will have to do as a source for anthologizing most of the band's best sampler-drum-machine-and-funk moments.
Tackhead's career has been so diverse and difficult to document properly that I'm not surprised one has to hunt and peck so much. There's the albums, but they're scattered across a number of different labels, sometimes sporting varying credits -- "Gary Clail's Tackhead Sound System" or individual members like Keith Leblanc -- rather than Tackhead proper. There's the early 12" singles, but they too are scarce, and also sometimes sport an entirely different name ("Fats Comet"). It's like using tweezer to pick sand grains off the ocean floor.
For a good long time, the Power Inc. anthologies came about as close as could be expected to picking up the pieces that mattered. There's still a lot missing from these two collections of tracks from across the best parts of Tackhead's career. But they touch on some of the most crucial moments, and if you combine this with Tackhead Tape Time and Keith Leblanc's Major Malfunction, you can assemble a good composite picture of one of the best bands to come out of the multi-way collision between funk, industrial, dub, and reggae that took place in the late Eighties.
The first of a series of records by Edition Omega Point that explores the undeservedly unheard Japanese avant-garde.
I'm drawn to specific record labels the way some people are drawn to specific cuisines or specific neighborhoods. If you say the words "Stax" or "Motown", you can communicate with those single words a whole flavor of music. Japan's long been a hotbed of indie labels catering to amazingly specific and narrow tastes -- e.g., Hideo Ike'ezumi's P.S.F. label, immortal forever for having brought us the likes of Keiji Haino and Fushitsusha.
Now I'm delving -- slowly -- into the treasure trove that is Edition Omega Point, a label all but unknown in the West but deserving of wider appreciation thanks to its mission: to document the amazing electronic, experimental, and avant-garde music found in Japan's underground and academic circles. Catnip for an ecletic like me; the sheer unheard-ness of this music automatically makes it an object of fascination. Like many tiny labels, EOP presses few copies of each title -- often no more than a few hundred -- but that still makes those discs easier to track down than the original issues of that music. Assuming there was ever one to begin with, that is.
Somewhere between Herbie Hancock's electronic pop-jazz of the 1980s and the more omnivorous, open-ended experimentalism of artists like David Byrne or Brian Eno.
How ashamed I always feel when I encounter, for the first time, an artist who has been making his mark for decades just out of the reach of my senses. I knew nothing of trumpeter and keyboardist Jon Hassell before hearing about this three-disc, expanded reissue of his widely lauded 1991 album, and now I have an irrepressible curiosity about his work, much as how reading a single Philip K. Dick novel triggered in me a thirst for everything else he'd done.
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