While I was on vacation, my friend Anaïs was killing it over at One Week//One Band. She couldn’t make me a fan of Rilo Kiley (I doubt anything could), but she sure made me an even bigger fan of her writing.
I’ve been watching Unwound clips on youtube and this pro-shot one the band put up of their last show is mighty fine.
When I was eighteen, I plowed part of a Chick-fil-A paycheck into two pairs of All-Stars. I put one pair on a closet shelf, the other pair I wrote on. Names and dates. Musicians’ names, specifically, and their years of birth and death. If you’d asked me why I bought Chucks – and I’m positive no one did – I would’ve said something about paying tribute to bygone basketball players. Really, I bought them because that’s what so many first-wave hardcore acts wore. My brother started bands; I copped canvas shoes on sale. (And, obviously, they were ass for hoops. It’s a wonder my ankles weren’t permaswollen.)
The first name was Joey Ramone. He was followed by John Lee Hooker, George Harrison, Chuck Schuldiner, Waylon Jennings, Layne Staley, Dee Dee Ramone, John Entwistle, Jam Master Jay, Joe Strummer, and Maurice Gibb. To a guy reliant on used-CDs and the Rolling Stone Album Guide, it felt like a well-rounded assemblage. (It didn’t occur to me that Aaliyah should be “honored”.) The shoes lasted into college; they were gone before Elliott Smith was.
Sweet Jesus. Brad took this places I didn’t expect and wouldn’t have ever asked about and back again through brambles and rambles over paths and through the brush and fuckin’ A what a great piece of writing.
I put this on the other day and thought, once again, how criminally overlooked this was in most “best of 2012” discussions. I know live albums get short shrift in general, but I was surprised in a year when Blur were roundly celebrated, when they released a box set of such staggering magnitude that I still haven’t played the DVDs, that their capstone on the whole shebang wouldn’t have greater importance.
But enough of my whining about fabulously rich blokes not getting a civil nod for a good night’s work. Parklive, the document of their “final” show at Hyde Park the night the London Olympics drew to a close, isn’t just a good Blur record, but a cracking live show. It’s a career retrospective, not just a set of hits; old b-sides, deep album cuts, and a couple of left field studio creations like “Trimm Trabb” and “Caramel” get a rare live workout.
“Caramel” is an odd track for the boys in Blur to dig out. A weird semi-ambient track with a noise blowout ending, it isn’t a guaranteed charmer for a crowd of 80,000. But trimmed of it’s pretensions it becomes an odd little pop song. This live reworking makes the guitar louder and clearer, with wonderfully ringing reverb. The vocals are softly spoken, more murmured melodically that forcibly sung. It ends with a tasteful bit of guitar noise, the frustrations of the original sublimated and distilled. It’s a great performance. It’s still a major bummer about lost love, but time has made the pain less uncomfortable to share. Maybe it takes 13 years and the adoration of tens of thousands of fans to excise the heartbreak.
That said, there is one niggling thing I feel the need to mention. Now, I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but this rendition of “Caramel” reminds me of another song, by a band I’ve never seen mentioned in any writing about Blur. This is a song the earnest twelve-year-old I was had great love for, and it still can tug on my heartstrings. But it’s a song no other should ever aspire to emulate in any manner.
On Parklive, “Caramel” sounds like a slightly less tasteful “Brothers In Arms” by Dire Straits.
My first review for PopMatters was posted today. If you don’t want to read it, I basically say that Yamantaka // Sonic Titan made an album I like.
The Legendary Guitar Amp Tapes bootleg. It’s the Lou Reed guitar karaoke version of a smoking Velvet’s show.
Lou Reed may be Schrödinger’s Cat at the moment, but if it gets me to post some favorite Velvet’s tunes that’s okay.
Here’s all 40 minutes of “Sweet Sister Ray”.