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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Numbers 70 - 61, "Lived in Bars"

70.We Both Go Down Together - The Decemberists
Picaresque (2005)
There was some Christian weirdo in the US running round prime time TV saying this was the most evil song ever written for a while. With a zealot's usual sophistication, we were treated to the censor's natural desire to look at uncomfortable works of art, and completely ignore all the discomfort. Anything an artist depicts, the artist wholeheartedly supports. Which is why Shakespeare is an antisemite for killing off Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Ergh. Anyway, yes it's about rape and abusive relationships, it's also in no way uncritical, and is art at its uneasy best.

69.Lived In Bars - Cat Power
The Greatest (2006)
Well she certainly has. In fact, few contemporary performers have done the Keith Richards act so wholeheartedly. Once famous for her train wreck shows as she slid into alcoholism, it's this sublime album that probably rescued her career, if not her life. And of course, this the centerpiece is impossible to read outside of those battles. She was sober for three days recording the album, but was unable initially to tour in support of it, going through various stages of hospitalisation, what must have at one  point seemed like a terminal millstone has been turned into resurrection. The new Cat Power who plays entire shows, doesn't abuse her audience or begin talking to squirrels mid-song is a mighty thing to behold.

68.99 Problems - Jay-Z
Hot Joints 2 (2004)
Little introduction required here. A true hip-hop monster track, you were hard pressed to spend a night on the town on any scene mid-decade and manage to avoid this thundering forth at some point in the evening.

67.We Have A Map Of The Piano - Múm
Finally We Are No One (2002)
Well the Icelanders certainly had an interesting decade or so. But this was fully six years before the GFC. This nation has always punched above its per capita weight musically (what the hell else is there to do in three months of perpetual darkness but play music?), and this band have long been somewhere near the forefront of that scene.

It's a little bit indietronica, somewhere roundabouts understated post-rock, but listen CAREFULLY ... there's also elements of GLITCH in there, but the minimal vocals take it somewhere quite unique just outside of ALL those genres.

66.Out Of Time - Blur
Think Tank (2003)
There are a few acts to come who all seem to sit outside their own element in this list. Properly NINETIES acts whose careers burst the boundaries of the decade. Most of them are twilight offerings, final last hurrahs. Some, like The Cure's were intended as such, and work well. Others, like this one see Blur still sounding vital, still with something to say.

In fact, Think Tank charted an interesting direction for how Blur might have gone into their dotage, an interesting multi-layered, swirling largely atmospheric direction, but always as here grounded in Damon's ability to write an arresting melody which manages to sound both unrefined AND original.

65.Rock Bottom Riser - Smog
A River Ain't Too Much To Love (2005)
Ah Smog. A supreme pleasure live if you ever get the chance.

Nobody has the essentials of songwriting more down pat. Simple, almost naive yet still eloquent, underwhelming vignettes are the lyrical and musical building blocks, and the architecture is rarely short of sublime.

64.Silver Screen - Shower Scene - Felix Da Housecat
Club Rotation Vol.16 (2001)
Seeing house acts live is generally a hit and miss experience. And I did catch Felix doing his thing off Glenferrie Rd at some indeterminant point during the decade.

And I remember basically standing round with a bunch of people who could have been listening to anyone spinning anything for all they seemed to actually engage. Until he played this. And the joint went crazy for ONE SONG. During which my recollection is we pretty much got the radio rotation single version. And I could have stood there and done that for twenty bucks a head, thankyou very much. And this is why I no longer pay to see dance acts.

Nonethelesss, this is a CRACKING single. The bassline/rhythm flips repeatedly from stomping kickdrum to driven semi-industrial before you properly have time to orient yourself, and it's that tension that creates the entire edifice.

63.Don't Call Me Red - Ry Cooder
Chávez Ravine (2005)
For this reviewer, this was one of the decade's standout albums. On certain days, I'm happy to declare it the BEST ALBUM OF THE DECADE. It is irrespective a hugely important HISTORICAL document, and that in itself about warrants inclusion. Who else is sick to death of music and musicians that have no sense of history?

Chávez Ravine was a concept album telling the story of the eponymous former LA suburb, home to a large Mexican-American housing community, expelled from their homes in order to build a social housing project that never eventuated. Eventually the LA Dodgers built a stadium on the site. Cooder mixes traditional songs in with his own original work, to create one of the decade's most towering, mighty, self-contained and self-worthy albums. It oozes leftist politics without a even hint of the tokenism or bombast we're used to when scruffy musos get political, and this track is probably most exemplary.

62.Pop Crimes - Rowland S. Howard
Pop Crimes (2009)
RIP, you great junkie misanthrope. He lived downstairs from my mate's place in East St. Kilda. Kept entirely to himself, didn't want to communicate with you. And that was just fine too, because I've learned that knowing your idols too well is so often a mistake.

His final album was probably his finest moment, and arguably the best Australian release for the decade. A guitarist's guitarist, but a grounded one. My favourite interview with Rowland has him speaking with barely disguised contempt for fellow guitarists who turn up to gigs with racks crammed full of showy guitars "usually in inverse proportion to their ability to actually play them". Rowland had ONE guitar - a 60s original Fender Jaguar, from which he could wring sounds I've not met ANY living being capable of properly replicating. But more from Rowland in a bit ...

61.Destroy Everything You Touch - Ladytron
Witching Hour (2005)
I never actually knew much about this band, so researching this has been interesting. They do know how to write an absolutely killer single. This is a tad rockier than their standard fare, which sits a little more at the ethereal end of the spectrum, a little bit elelctro, a little bit shoegazey at times, they're also extremely accomplished remix artists.

This is easily their best work, this song just about pummels you all but to death.