Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Vinyl Vednesday 3/17/10


[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it kinda is. This week’s entry features three Irish bands in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. I’m half-Irish and all-ignorant of my cultural identity. Have a Smithwick’s and e-mail pelonej1@gmail.com with your own big finds!]


Records: My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless (1991) on black, The Pogues’ Rum Sodomy & the Lash (1985) on black, and U2’s War (1983) on black.


Place of Purchase: Loveless came from Repo Records while Rum was a Siren find. War was the result of some crate-digging at the dearly departed Disc World in Conshohocken.


Thoughts: I tend to overrate Loveless when I talk about it, which some big dumb jerks don’t appreciate (SCREW YOU FOREVER WITH A BRICK, NATE ADAMS*), but it’s hard to talk about the album without hyperbole. It belongs to that rare lexicon of records that is often imitated, never improved upon. I love plenty of bands that capture elements of My Bloody Valentine’s sound – M83, Jesu, Pains of Being Pure at Heart – but ultimately it’s MBV’s Loveless that I turn to most frequently. It sounds great cranked up or turned down low, as wave after wave of synesthesia hits me. There is nothing like it. Loveless is an experimental record that somehow forges guitar noise into a dream pop setting. Some folks sneer at the band’s dependence on effects pedals over dexterity, but the truth is no one else has been able to balance so fine a blend of catchy chaos. Most groups end up either too formless or too mild.


The Pogues’ sound is a lot easier to copy. In fact, there’s a whole subgenre of punk dedicated to recreating their style. While I prefer Flogging Molly, I must pay Shane MacGowan and company their due for updating Irish folk for the punk rock set. I must also confess I was ignorant of the band’s catalog until after college, when I picked up Rum Sodomy & the Lash. I didn’t buy it because it was one of the band’s better reviewed albums, or because Elvis Costello produced it. Rather, I bought it because of Side Two, Track One: “Dirty Old Town.” I’ve loved this song since Ted Leo covered it back in 2003. I’ve seduced my girlfriend many a time by singing the lyrics softly to her in bars and bedrooms (thus creating the impression that I am much more cultured than I really am). For me, covering this standard is the ultimate test of one’s Irish roots. The Pogues came through, though, and their originals were up to snuff as well. It’s funny; on record at least, I don’t think the band strays that far from folk music. They just play it a little bit more enthusiastically, is all.


In true Irish fashion, two-thirds of this post is about bands people love to hate. In My Bloody Valentine’s case, that hate stems from hipsters who think they’re too cool for school. In U2’s case, well… shit. I’m going to say Paul Tsikitas and my dad are the only other people I know who like U2, and we all agree that Bono is kind of, every so slightly, maybe just a little wee bit of a douche bag. But hey, he’s done a ton to fight AIDS and world hunger. War has been my favorite U2 album since I purchased it in high school. Opener “Sunday Bloody Sunday” gets my adrenaline pumping thanks to intense vocals and Larry Mullen’s military drum beat. “Like a Song…” touches on the divide in Ireland. Bono once famously said “Fuck the revolution,” and “Like a Song…” distills rage over the pointlessness of the Protestant/Catholic conflict – aren’t they all Christian? War is passionate throughout, bitter and hopeful in alternate breaths, which is probably why it dominated my entry on U2 for Playlist.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day, drunk white people!


*I’m sorry, Nate. It’s the Orangina talking. I loves you, baby girl.

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