Saturday, 22 December 2007

Christmas - Low

I've never been one for Christmas songs myself. If I hear Noddy Holder screaming 'It's Christmaaaasss' I cover my ears and head for the hills. Unlike my fellow blogger Mondo I can fairly blaise about whacking on a Christmas compilation on the cd player in the weeks leading up to our favourite pagan ceremony. So when one of my all time favourite bands, Duluth, Minnesota's finest export Low released a Christmas album I was skeptical to say the least. Was this to be some half-arsed attempt to cover a load of famous Christmas songs that would taint my love of the band?

Well, no. It is a quite beautiful album and just right for Christmas morning whilst your peeling the spuds or even for playing during Christmas lunch. I know I've tried it on my family who usually cover their ears and beg for mercy when they hear most of my favourite records and my Mum at least loved it.

The most recognisable track on the album is a feedback driven version of 'Little Drummer Boy' that earned Low a few bob when it was used on a GAP tv advert. The wall of feedback is way down in the mix almost sounding like bagpipes. Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker's two part harmony is perfectly suited to this track. It is tradition with a twist. More straightforward is a beautiful low-fi acoustic version of Silent Night. It sounds like Mimi and Alan just jammed it sitting round the fire at home in Minnesota and its all the better for it. It's utterly gorgeous.

Low add their own Christmas songs to the album too. My favourite track is their own 'Long Way Round The Sea' which is features more of Low's two-part harmony and ultra slow delivery and in my opinion is one of their very best tracks. Mimi features on a straight, if slow and sparse version of 'Blue Christmas' and 'Taking Down The Tree' is reminiscent of Sparklehorse's later work. If you want something a bit different to listen too this Christmas lunchtime I'd strongly recommend this as it isn't just a great Christmas album, its a great album full stop.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Doolittle - The Pixies.

On the 17 April 1989 a wonderful thing happened. The Pixies released Doolittle. It blew me away then and it still blows me away today. From the opening track Debaser, Doolittle crashes, thrashes and tears its way through 15 tracks in a little under 39 minutes.
In his book 'Doolittle' Ben Sisario says: "Doolittle is, on the one hand among the most violent pop albums ever recorded,if not in body count then in the starkness of its calamities". How right he is. Charles Thompson (aka Black Francis, Frank Black) writes about rape, eyes being dissected (in homage to the great surrealist film 'Un Chien Andalou'), suffocation and vampirism to name but a few painful ways to die. Oh and neptune gets killed by "ten million tons of sludge..." Nice.
Thompson pushes his vocals towards mania on almost every track, whilst the grossly overlooked Joey Santiago rips the fuck out of his guitar until it screams for mercy. Kim Deal (later of the marvellous Breeders) pushes the whole thing along nicely with a thumping bass and David Lovering drumming is fantastic.
Any would be Indie kid worth their salt will own Doolittle. It is as seminal as Dark Side Of The Moon was for an earlier generation. Along with the aforementioned Debaser there are so many stand out tracks that it is difficult to pick any out for special mention. However, some of The Pixies best known songs come from this album. Monkey Gone To Heaven was the single that brought The Pixies to the attention of most of America (they already had a healthy fan base in the UK) as it was picked up by MTV and played extensively on the station for a while. Here Comes Your Man is the most accessible track on the album. It has a lovely 'Surf Guitar' lick that resembles early REM (when they were still good).
This album never fails to make me smile (despite its violent imagery). It is one of the very best albums from an era when there were bands how pushed the boundaries.There is talk of a new Pixies album following their recent reformation tour. In some ways I hope this doesn't happen as the heights of Doolittle were never quite reached on subsequent albums. Doolittle is a fine legacy to leave us. They were a great band and I'd like to remember them for being great.