Random Access Memories

by John Holbo on May 26, 2013

Quiet around here! How do you like the new Daft Punk album, “Random Access Memories”?
Speaking of which, I was suffering from horrific ‘file not found’ syndrome until I finally found it. “Instant Crush” is basically a discofied version of Midlake’s “Roscoe” – which has been discofied before, in a mellow sort of way.

And here’s another funny musical experience you can have: you are listening to a band that is known for a certain sound, and you realize that one of their songs – which isn’t really a paradigm of their sound – is sort of a paradigm of a different sound paradigm that came later … if you get me. For example, the Police’s 1978 tune “The Truth Hits Everybody”, which was not a hit, doesn’t sound like their signature rock reggae post-prog-compacted-into-punk power trio sound. It does sound the Foo Fighters – it’s that chorus. And I can’t really think of anything else from 1978 that sounds like the Foo Fighters. (Here you can hear the Police trying to turn “Truth” into a Police song, but it doesn’t quite work. It just sounds like Sting trying to cover a Foo Fighters song.)

In other musical news, I’ve been listening to a lot of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Kurt Vile and Foxygen. Their new albums. It’s all such … erudite and manneristic but really great stoner rock. Foxygen takes it to extremes. It’s all Mick Jagger Satanic Majesty (“On Blue Mountain”) one moment, Velvet Underground with Dylan guitars the next (“No Destruction”), Syd Barrett (“In The Darkness”), then some more California Kinks-Meets-Jefferson-Airplane thing (“San Francisco”). I can’t figure out whether “Shuggie” is a Shuggie Otis reference. It sounds a bit like it, but then the chorus? Something else. Can’t put my finger on it.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra is this great, heavy kind of post-psychedelic pre-heavy metal thing. “From The Sun” is the best T-Rex song since “Telegram Sam”, for example. And “Little Blu House”, from their first album, has a hilarious video. Smoke and drop of vaseline on the kaleidoscope lens flare hippie chick pearls and a kind of earth-tone “Penthouse” 1973 color palette.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra went on tour – with Foxygen opening – and you can get the audio from NPR if you click the links. Good quality concert recording. Great shows.

Kurt Vile seems to be more comfortable with showcasing his talents as a guitarist on 9 minute tracks like “Wakin On A Pretty Daze”.

The new Vampire Weekend album is great, too.

{ 31 comments }

1

nick s 05.26.13 at 5:50 am

It is a mashup of your parents’ record collection, if you are of a certain age, and had parents of certain tastes.

2

nick s 05.26.13 at 5:59 am

And the funny thing about “Instant Crush” is that it makes Julian Casablancas sound not unlike Imogen Heap.

The album, itself? It’s endearing, though I still think I’m more excited about Boards of Canada next month.

3

b9n10nt 05.26.13 at 6:46 am

Unknown Mortal Orchestra does ecstatic Can while the cocktail glasses clink and the small talk gains momentum. As the set begins we hear a confident assessment from an enthusiastic audience member: “I like the front-lighting”. The whole scene sounds only slightly less ridiculous than 500 people dressed up, sitting still and quiet while Mahler objectifies the Psyche, and then clapping (clapping!) before a quiet drive home, commenting on the wine pairing..

Art makes fools of us all. Thank god for home stereos, where my foolishness is kept private. I don’t think I could survive having to purchase my Transcendence in galleries or stage theatres.

4

Agog 05.26.13 at 10:27 am

‘. . . purchase my Transcendence in galleries. . .’

Hey, if I’m a fool already there’s need to worry about being made into one.

And so, this Wednesday at the Red Gallery, Bo Ningen and Savages playing simultaneously. Somehow I expect this will involve more rupture than rapture.

5

Agog 05.26.13 at 10:28 am

Pfft. ‘No need’ obviously.

6

Anders Widebrant 05.26.13 at 11:18 am

I could only get as analytical as “is that the hook from Layla?” about Instant Crush before getting overpowered by what a great pop song it is in its own right.

I’ve also been mixing that with mainly rock – I think I’m coming around to thinking that the new self-titled from Survival is a pretty amazing album. Red Fang’s two latest on Spotify are good, too.

7

b9n10nt 05.26.13 at 12:34 pm

I’m pretty sure the guy that did the video for “Diane Young” is the same dude who did that Survival “Tragedy of the Mind” shoot.

8

Uncle Kvetch 05.26.13 at 12:59 pm

I haven’t heard the Daft Punk album in its entirety, but given that the first single is a pitch-perfect Kool & the Gang retread, I have to wonder if the whole thing isn’t some kind of colossal in-joke. All the way to the bank, suckers.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Kurt Vile and Foxygen

John, you should check out Marc Riley’s show on BBC6 — sounds like he’s right up your alley.

UMO is simply terrific.

As for Foxygen…clever, but way too enamored of their own cleverness. I can see the little hipster-ironic air quotes surrounding every lyric. Smirkcore.

Mr. Riley’s introduced me to plenty of other promising young things: Django Django, Younghusband, Hounds Tooth, Mac Demarco, Mikal Cronin, etc. Nevertheless, Wire’s latest, Change Becomes Us, is the best album I’ve heard in the past year, maybe longer.

9

P O'Neill 05.26.13 at 1:02 pm

2 points in the context on the ingenious marketing campaign for RAM via Get Lucky. The song is of course incredibly catchy … but then I read a complaint somewhere that the real genius of it is to expertly appeal to aging music journalists who will then write constantly about Daft Punk so I’m trying to decide if that detracts from the appeal of the song.

Also regarding that song, while Daft Punk have their thing, is it obvious that the song is different from what you’d get if you put just Pharrell and Nile Rodgers in a studio for a few days? Along those lines, something like N.E.R.D.’s She Wants to Move is more interesting in terms of musical development.

10

Phil 05.26.13 at 1:54 pm

I can’t really think of anything else from 1978 that sounds like the Foo Fighters.

To me it sounds like very bog-standard pub-rock-goes-punk, a thriving genre from 1976-7 (Eddie and the Hot Rods, the Motors, early Squeeze, that kind of thing). The chord changes on the chorus are classy, though.

11

Phil 05.26.13 at 2:02 pm

listening to a band that is known for a certain sound

Meant to add, the Police were unknown once – they certainly weren’t known for that sound until they’d got it nailed, which wasn’t till about a year later (circa “Message in a Bottle”).

12

John Holbo 05.26.13 at 2:10 pm

“The chord changes on the chorus are classy, though.”

Yes, it’s the chorus chord changes that sound so Foo-ish. It’s simple. I should just check what it is.

“As for Foxygen…clever, but way too enamored of their own cleverness. “

Yes, I agree that UMO is much better. I was rather surprised that Pitchfork rated Foxygen’s latest higher than UMO’s. I thought they would have been graded down for their smirkcore, as you say.

13

Uncle Kvetch 05.26.13 at 2:15 pm

OTOH, Foxygen gets bonus points for “There’s no need to be an asshole/You’re not in Brooklyn anymore,” which is my favorite lyric ever.

14

Ronan(rf) 05.26.13 at 6:58 pm

I’m stuck on this version of Down by the river by Buddy Miles that I found on yout*be recently. Its pretty amazing tbh. Never even heard of Buddy Miles before, and now I dont want to look too much deeper into his back catalogue in case it ruins it for me..
I never really loved Daft Punk but this album actually appears to be half decent..

15

rm 05.26.13 at 7:53 pm

Buddy Miles’s most famous work was in Jimi Hendrix’s band.

16

Salient 05.26.13 at 8:02 pm

Looking forward to the next Kanye West ripoff/spinoff, Random Access Me Me Me.

17

xaaronx 05.26.13 at 9:12 pm

I definitely hear that Foo Fighters thing in the chorus, but it also sounds a lot like some Buzzcocks stuff to me, though played more cleanly. Those chord changes wouldn’t quite fit with them though, and they wouldn’t start the song with the chorus.

An example that occurs to me is the Ramones’ sounds a lot like Against Me! I was walking across campus with earbuds in when it came on a few years ago and remember saying to myself “Tommy Gabel I’m on to you” to no one in particular.

18

floopmeister 05.27.13 at 12:33 am

The Buddy Miles and Santana live album is pretty incendiary (“Freeform Funkafide Filth’) indeed.

In terms of orchestras… check out Hidden Orchestra:

19

floopmeister 05.27.13 at 12:38 am

Oh, and my favourite track:

20

Dave Maier 05.27.13 at 1:22 am

Actually what’s been running through my head for the past week is this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZcRU0Op5P4

21

js. 05.27.13 at 3:07 am

Wire’s latest, Change Becomes Us, is the best album I’ve heard in the past year, maybe longer.

This sounds promising! Does it sound much like Object 47? A liked that one quite a bit.

22

David 05.27.13 at 4:16 am

It’s a bit of a stretch to call Buddy Miles’ best work being with Jimi Hendrix. I don’t even think of him in connection with Hendrix. In any case, Ronan(rf) should check out the back catalogue.

23

b9n10nt 05.27.13 at 8:54 am

Ok Ok there’s some good tunes on Daft Punk’s and Vampire Weekend’s new albums, disrepectfully. I mean, here’s the thing: Gotye, Passion Pit, James Mercer, new Jim James retro-techno, Grizzly Bear, Phoenix, Atlas Sound, Animal Collective: these days great art-pop is feminizing. Again with Daft Punk and probably with VW, the best tracks by all these artists gender-bend: warm-falsetto-y-hook-y-essentially-up-tempo-catch-y-in-a-way that would be a Madonna, Culture Club, Michael Jackson hit if tackled by the mainstream. Back in the day, Prince’s “I Want Your Kiss” kept Bowie’s vision of a bisexual consummation of self alive as art pop bliss, but the power of U2, R.E.M. (I know I know but the feminizing hits were the exception), and Radiohead kept the masculine ascendent as art pop struggled for new identities to eroticize.

And here’s the disrespect: Daft Punk’s and Vampire Weekend’s new tunes (excepting a few) & studio vision aren’t exceptional. I’m comfortable with affording it the same praise as Jim James’ new one. Concept albums, I guess, that really lean on the feminizing trend. & that’s okay, that’s what I want. & that’s my point.

Again, my argument is modest and simplifiying: just comparing the quintessential singer/band/songwriter/studio pop music I’d like in the 60′s 80′s and 90′s with the stuff I like in the 70s and 2000+s. Meanwhile, the masculinizing forms of art-pop sound increasingly like the inventive and earnest creations of cover bands. The energy is definitely flowing in a certain direction.

24

Uncle Kvetch 05.27.13 at 2:17 pm

This sounds promising! Does it sound much like Object 47? A liked that one quite a bit.

Yes, it’s in the same vein as Object 47 and the subsequent Red Barked Tree, but it also harkens back to the “classic” period of the first 3 albums (especially the 2nd and 3rd) pretty explicitly, but somehow without sounding like a retread. Which isn’t surprising, since a lot of the songs on the new album were based on various odds & ends that were left in an unfinished state when they first split in 1981. First-rate songs, production and playing across the board.

25

John Holbo 05.27.13 at 4:24 pm

I saw Wire in concert in Portland, Oregon in … 1988? Gosh.

26

John Holbo 05.27.13 at 4:26 pm

Must have been 1989. I remember “A Bell is A Cup Until It’s Struck” was their new album back then. I really haven’t listened to them for years.

27

rm 05.27.13 at 7:48 pm

I didn’t say best, I said most famous.

28

Lee A. Arnold 05.28.13 at 1:23 am

You may enjoy Yeti Lane, this one is about a year old, but a great surging psychedelic sound:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_LwSU1s5ww&list=PLCFBFB6FB9BF5C301&index=6

Speaking of psychedelic, Chubby Checker (“The Twist”) went to Europe and did a psychedelic (!) album that had limited European release and has been long lost. This track is good (via Metafilter):

29

krogerfoot 05.28.13 at 11:04 am

” . . . given that the first single is a pitch-perfect Kool & the Gang retread, I have to wonder if the whole thing isn’t some kind of colossal in-joke. All the way to the bank, suckers.”
Sure, and what could be easier than creating a Kool & the Gang song from whole cloth? K&tG did it a few times; a lot of others made careers off that pattern, but no one came up with anything nearly as good as “Get Lucky.”
Obviously, this kind of comment makes me cranky. Hard work and serious skillz* are what made that song so catchy.
* Much of which is attributable to Nile Rodgers, who could be a Living National Treasure, if the US ever sets up a Japanese-style program like that.

30

Uncle Kvetch 05.28.13 at 12:06 pm

Sure, and what could be easier than creating a Kool & the Gang song from whole cloth?

Fair enough — I didn’t mean to imply that it was an easy thing to do. I just found it uninspired.

31

Trader Joe 05.28.13 at 3:25 pm

Uncle @8
“As for Foxygen…clever, but way too enamored of their own cleverness. I can see the little hipster-ironic air quotes surrounding every lyric. Smirkcore.”

That’s the best summary I’ve seen of them yet (and I agree). Don’t tell them though or they’ll incorporate “little hipster-ironic air quotes” in a future lyric.

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