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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds -- Kicking Against the Pricks

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This cover album (NOT album cover!) and its significance are pretty ease to describe. These covers are all serviceable. At times they are full of menace, but the menace never has a payoff. This isn't always a bad thing. The constant tension without release in "Hey Joe," for instance.

It's okay that the gun never goes off in one song, but an entire album with little in the way of catharsis is a little hard to stomach. The minimalistic instrumentation (particularly in the vein of Blixa Bargeld's "I'll play when I feel like it" guitar-style) just doesn't allow for much in the way of payoff, at least not the way Cave and his crew are employing it in 1986. So the album is enjoyable only to the degree that it brings a little joy. It does, however, reveal the fact that Nick Cave can actually sing, and it also introduces Thomas Wydler on drums, complementing the bass to give the band an honest to God rhythm section (no more ghoulish banging). So Kicking Against the Pricks: decent album, named after a Bible verse, far from Nick Cave's best work, portends a bright future, makes for a short review.
Back in the day, when I was attempting to fill out my Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds collection, the otherwise reliable Compact Disc Store on Jefferson never had the Nick Cave albums I wanted--but, they ALWAYS had Kicking Against the Pricks. R.I.P. Compact Disc Store.

1986 Mute Records
1. Muddy Water 5:15 (originally by Phil Rosenthal)
2. I'm Gonna Kill That Woman 3:44 (originally by John Lee Hooker cover)
3. Sleeping Annaleah 3:18 (originally by Mickey Newbury, Dan Folger)
4. Long Black Veil 3:46 (originally by Danny Dill, Marijohn Wilkin)
5. Hey Joe 3:56 (originally by Billy Roberts)
6. The Singer (a.k.a. The Folksinger) 3:09 (originally by Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels)
7. All Tomorrow's Parties 5:52 (originally by Lou Reed)
8. By the Time I Get to Phoenix 3:39 (originally by Jimmy Webb)
9. The Hammer Song 3:50 (originally by Alex Harvey)
10. Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart 3:44 (originally by Roger Greenaway, Roger Cook)
11. Jesus Met the Woman at the Well 2:00 (Traditional)
12. The Carnival Is Over 3:16 (originally by Tom Springfield)

Monday, February 08, 2016

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds -- The Firstborn Is Dead

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Nick Cave's second album starts with a tale of the dark, thunderous night  Elvis Presley was born on the heels of his stillborn older twin. The Firstborn Is Dead. After such a rumbling, percussive start, The Firstborn Is Dead is a little bit...dead. After all the manic energy and chaotic glee of From Her to Eternity, The Firstborn Is Dead seems a bit tired and rote. It's not bad by any means, it is certainly listenable, but there is a noticeable lack of momentum. If Cave was trying to put his first album behind him with the title of this one, he only served to highlight Eternity's far livelier mood. So what you get here is musically similar to the debut: minimalist guitar played by a guy who approaches the guitar like an alien artifact. Mostly driving, pounding drums. A liberal amount of piano and unusual sounds. Strong bass-playing. Cave sometimes singing, and sometimes shouting like a gremlin. It's all enjoyable enough, yet the whole affair is strangely...muted. Get it? Mute Records? Get it? Ugh.

1985 Mute Records
1. Tupelo 7:17
2. Say Goodbye to the Little Girl Tree 5:10
3. Train Long-Suffering 3:49
4. Black Crow King 5:05
5. Knockin' on Joe 7:38
6. Wanted Man (Bob Dylan and Johhny Cash cover) 5:27
7. Blind Lemon Jefferson 6:10

Friday, February 05, 2016

R.I.P. Jon Bunch (1970-2016)

Jon, you took a band I  loved musically, but could find little connection with lyrically, and turned them into something I can not only connect to, but be sustained by in the worst of times. Your boundlessly hopeful lyricism and the optimism brimming from your beautiful voice will never die. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds -- From Her to Eternity

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Here is what Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' first album, From Her to Eternity, sounds like:
You are climbing ancient, mysterious mountains, surrounded by forest, as far as the eye can see. A storm approaches, and before you know it, you are blinded and drenched, tumbling down into some unseen hole. You tumble and tumble, deeper into the mountain's hollowed insides, until you land in a strange cave of total darkness. You hear something, many things, charging toward you, feet on rock and dust, and before you know it, you are surrounded by a gang of angry goblins.
Do these goblins want to kill you? Maybe, but before it comes to that, they want to play forty-three minutes worth of songs for you. One of the goblins, a rangy, demented sounding one, does something akin to singing, though his voice snarls, sneers, and bellows far more than flirts with melody. Another goblin is steadily banging on some kind of percussion, all skin, goblin glass, and tumbling stones. There's one who plays a piano of skeletal fingers, and there are others, creating sounds from things you know not and don't even want to imagine. Also, there's one other human down there with you, a professional bass player, some poor soul kidnapped one lonely night from his dingy club attic bedroom, eyes put out, and forced to live below ground with the goblins. That is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds first album.
Amidst this orcish cacophony, Nick Cave plants the seeds of what's to come, from the pitch-black storytelling of "Saint Huck," to the sparse, doomed finale of "A Box for Black Paul." While (the on this album, almost impossibly aptly named) Cave would travel far from these sounds and back again, one can already hear the talented genius that marks the breadth of his work.

1984 Mute Records
1. Avalanche (Leonard Cohen cover) 5:13
2. Cabin Fever! 6:11
3. Well of Misery 5:25
4. From Her to Eternity 5:33
5. Saint Huck 7:22
6. Wings Off Flies 4:06
7. A Box for Black Paul 9:42

Monday, February 01, 2016

It's Nick Cave Month at the Nicsperiment

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If you haven't noticed, I have reached my namesake artists. However, there is one who stands out above the rest (and the one after him is a standout, so that's saying something). I have been into Nick Cave and the Bad Seed's music since I realized that the awesome song from the movie Scream and the X-Files episode from season two where Scully gets abducted ("Ascension") is not actually a Doors is a song called "Red Right Hand" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Once I realized this, I realized that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds might have more songs than just "Red Right Hand," and indeed they do. In fact, up to this point in history, they have fifteen albums worth of more songs, and I am going to be reviewing all fifteen during the rather Nick Caveish month of February (he's got some live albums and other oddities, but I will be sticking to the LP's). So get ready for my opinions on some dark music from the depths of the soul of one of the greatest musical artists of the last 25 years because this is the Internet, and everyone's opinion is a gloriously ephemeral universe unto itself. Also, if by some miracle I can complete it, I am working on a critical film study in the vein of the one I did on Kubrick last year, though on a far different set of films. That might pop-up during this one-day extended month, as well. It is leap year, after all.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016

Nicholas Hooper -- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

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Nicholas Hooper sticks out like a sore thumb in the Harry Potter film composer rogues gallery, and the two scores Hooper composed for Harry Potter stick out like sore thumbs in his discography. Hooper's catalogue , excluding the two Potter soundtracks, is abundant with work for small and TV films, and nature documentaries. However his music does fit the Harry Potter films it soundtracks...but the soundtrack albums don't quite hit the mark.
His first, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix follows a confusing tracklist order, and lacks cohesion and drive. His second, for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, thankfully appears in mostly the order it does on film. However, rather unfortunately, this score is even less propulsive than the one Hooper wrote for Order of the Phoenix. This isn't Hooper's fault, though. By it's nature, Half-Blood Prince is meant to be a breather, a chance for Harry and Dumbledore to do a little detective work, and for the students to fall in and out of love. Hooper gets to illustrate his adoration for the harp and acoustic guitar in the film's more romantic moments, particularly in "Harry & Hermoine" and "When Harry Kissed Ginny." Unfortunately, most of the rest of the music here is incidental background music meant to back the characters as they talk and hang out...except when the film concerns itself with Dumbledore.
Order of the Phoenix's soundtrack proved that when called to the task, Nicholas Hooper can write some incredibly powerful music. During Half-Blood Prince's few scenes of dramatic intensity (By the way, I enjoy the film a lot, it is great at what it does, there just isn't a ton of action), Hooper shines. For a climactic scene that showcases Dumbledore's full strength, in an incredible, fiery rescue of a hopeless Harry, Hooper re-interprets his "Possession" theme from Order of the Phoenix as a stirring display of stunning power.
(Also, you should probably go see this movie if you haven't. It's pretty good.)
However, the film's most powerful moment, and Hooper's masterwork comes after "Inferi in the Firestorm." "Dumbledore's Farewell," an intensely moving string and choral piece is one of the most powerful pieces of music I have ever heard. It is so powerful, that in the eighth and final Harry Potter film, which features an excellent score by Alexandre Desplat, the producers entered a re-mixed version of Hooper's music in the place of Desplat's for the scene that is literally the crux of all eight films. That was a Harry Potter joke. Also, there are spoilers in this review...if you haven't seen the movies yet, what's is up with you? Are you a kid who wasn't alive when they were released? Do you hate joy?

So it's a familiar line to the review I just published for Order of the Phoenix's soundtrack. The standout cuts are incredible, heart-smashing pieces of music. The rest is enjoyable, but better suited for the background. The fact that the tracks are in film order is a boon to this soundtrack over Order of the Phoenix's, but the even more subdued tone is not. The end.

2009 New Line Records
1. Opening 2:53
2. In Noctem 2:00
3. The Story Begins 2:05
4. Ginny 1:30
5. Snape & the Unbreakable Vow 2:50
6. Wizard Wheezes 1:42
7. Dumbledore's Speech 1:31
8. Living Death 1:55
9. Into the Pensieve 1:45
10. The Book 1:44
11. Ron's Victory 1:44
12. Harry & Hermione 2:52
13. School! 1:05
14. Malfoy's Mission 2:53
15. The Slug Party 2:11
16. Into the Rushes 2:33
17. Farewell Aragog 2:08
18. Dumbledore's Foreboding 1:18
19. Of Love & War 1:17
20. When Ginny Kissed Harry 2:38
21. Slughorn's Confession 3:33
22. Journey to the Cave 3:08
23. The Drink of Despair 2:44
24. Inferi in the Firestorm 1:53
25. The Killing of Dumbledore 3:34
26. Dumbledore's Farewell 2:22
27. The Friends 2:00
28. The Weasley Stomp 2:51