DXMachina (dxmachina) wrote,

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The Life Pursuit

Stopped into Newbury's last night for the first time in months. I was looking for material for the current Buffista Frankenmix, and wound up taking home five albums:

Bursting at the Seams -- the Strawbs
Probably the best album they ever did. I have it on vinyl, and about half the tracks are on a compilation CD I've got, but there were a couple more songs I really wanted, like "Stormy Down." An old favorite of mine.

Black Sheets of Rain -- Bob Mould
The only thing I'd heard by Mould is a cut on a Sixths album that I like a lot, but this was only five bucks in the used bins, so what the hey. It's not bad, good old fashioned rock, very unlike the song he sang for the Sixths. Nothing has really grabbed me yet, but I'll listen again.

Discovered Covered -- the Late Great Daniel Johnston
Fater sent me a stack of CDs awhile back, one of which was a tribute album to Daniel Johnston by Kathy McCarty which was absolutely great. Johnston is sort of a legendary figure around Austin, a man who suffers from debilitating mental illness who's managed to write some wonderful songs in his better times. Discovered Covered is another tribute collection, this time by many different artists. The gimmick here is that a second CD is included of Johnston's original versions of the songs, most of which are pretty rare, in the same order as the cover disk. There's a lot of good stuff here, even if the quality of some of the originals is sketchy. (Johnston recorded his early stuff on a boombox.)

Push Barman to Open Old Wounds -- Belle and Sebastian
The Life Pursuit -- Belle and Sebastian

The entire stock of B&S was on sale, so I wound up picking up both of these. Old Wounds is a two-disk compilation of their numerous EPs. Haven't had a chance to listen to any of it yet.

The Life Pursuit is their latest album, and it's really, really good. One quibble I had with their earlier albums is that much as I loved the lyrics, there tended to be a sameness to the sound of a lot of their tracks. It's a distinctive sound, and I like it, but it gets repetitious after a while. I think that one reason I can listen to "Piazza, New York Catcher" over and over is that is that it doesn't sound like their usual style, just the single folk guitar instead of the usual poppy arrangement.

The first track released from the Life Pursuit, "Funny Little Frog," is another great lyric with the usual pop backing, so I was expecting more of the same from the rest of the album. The thing is, the rest of the album? Not so much. None of these songs sound alike. For one thing the sound is fuller. That was the first thing I noticed about the opening track, "Act of the Apostle." The sound isn't soft and spare. For another, there are a lot of different styles here grafted onto the band's own style. It began to remind me of the old Turtles album, the Battle of the Bands, where the band did each song in the style of the various fictional bands (the Crossfires, the Quad City Ramblers, etc.) they portrayed on the album cover. A lot of songs here seem vaguely familiar, and you find yourself trying to identify the band behind the style. Is that the Pretenders there in "Another Sunny Day," or 10cc on "White Collar Boy"? "The Blues Are Still Blue" is the Kinks doing T.Rex (Stuart Murdoch occasionally sounds uncannily like Ray Davies), and "Song for Sunshine" is pure Stevie Wonder. It's great stuff.

The music is fun to listen to, and the lyrics are just... neat.

Another sunny day, I met you up in the garden
You were digging plants, I dug you, beg your pardon
I took a photograph of you in the herbaceous border
It broke the heart of men and flowers and girls and trees
-- "Another Sunny Day"

On top of everything else, the liner notes are hilarious, consisting of various answers to fan questions such as who'd win a fight between Batman and a lion.

Highly recommended.
Tags: music

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