Sunday, September 10, 2006

Musical Reconsideration

Like most people who really love music and have an extensive, continued connection with music and the good fortune to have the opportunity for receiving new recordings that writing creates for me, you get to hear a lot of music, by choice, assignment and having it sent in from bands and promoters, often unsolicited.
While I try to listen to everything I acquire by choice as much as possible before forming an opinion about it, too frequently I listen to this music less than I would otherwise chose because of assignments and trying to listen to the other music I receive. Not counting about 10-15 newly received CDs and about 5-10 Buffalo/Western New York CDs I received in the last year, I have accumulated about 30 CDs in the last year or two I would in some way like to review or address (freelance or web site, Buffaloroots). Finally, there are all of the CDs I have received as gifts or bought/obtained in some way, and there are also the songs and CDs I have acquired through iTunes. None of this counts the music Val receives that falls outside all of these categories.
I am describing this to help set up some second thoughts I am having on some releases I previously formed opinions about; part of the reason I listened to these recordings again is because they are by two of my favorite music acts and I had the inclination to give them second chances, so to speak.
The two recordings in question are "Real Gone" by Tom Waits and "Murray Street" by Sonic Youth; I started listening to Tom Waits and Sonic Youth more than 25 years ago. I liked both of these recordings when they came out, but neither one entertained me enough to rise anywhere near the top of my favorite works by either act. I believe that Tom Waits' best work can be heard on "Frank's Wild Years," "Small Change," "Swordfishtrombones," "Closing Time" and, to round out a top 5, "Mule Variations." "Real Gone" uses some parts/influences of each, from dissonance to angry/confused words, battered arrangements and scraped-up blues and jazz, and while I like it more now than before, it offers nothing really new or better than his previous work.
"Murray Street" by Sonic Youth finds itself, to my ears, in some of the same situations as "Real Gone." The CD uses some of Sonic Youth's noise/art/punk rock with a little bit of the classic "pig fuck" sound and dissonance, feedback and even some skronk, but adds more melody and song structure, an approach Sonic Youth has used more in recent years but started appearing clearly on "Daydream Nation," one of the band's best recordings, along with "Bad Moon Rising," "Confusion Is Sex/Kill Yr. Idols" and "A Thousand Leaves." Again, it is good, and I like it more now than before (the melodic/noise counterpoint works), and it certainly is better than "Sonic Nurse," but it won't enter the Sonic Youth pantheon.
I've definitely progressed from when I as a child and wondered why anyone would own and actually listen to more than one album by a band; indeed, the new Sonic Youth CD, "Rather Ripped," will probably be on my birthday gift list next month.
Phew; when I first thought of this topic, this was supposed to be a two-paragraph entry.


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