Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vinyl Vednesday 11/17/2010

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. E-mail pelonej1@gmail.com with your own big finds!]

Records: Baroness’ Red Album (2007) on red and white, The Measure [SA]’s Art of the Underground Single Series Volume: 37 seven-inch (2009) on black, and Nico’s The End (1974) on black.

Place of Purchase: Baroness and Nico were purchased through eBay. I picked up the Measure single when I saw them live at the Fire.

Thoughts: I bought the Red Album on CD earlier this year after reading a great article about the Savannah, Ga. metal scene by David Peisner for Spin. The rest of the band’s discography quickly entered my collection as well. I have this stupid habit of doubling up on my favorite albums, as in purchasing them on CD and vinyl. I’m trying to knock it off because it’s a pretty expensive habit… but Red Album came in some nifty colors. I was surprised to see Relapse Records selling it through their eBay store, since the record has been out of print for a while. Turns out they were surprised too – according to their inventory, they were cleaned out. Just as the label was about to refund my money, though, they found two copies in like a supply closet or something. They let me choose my color. I went with red ‘n’ white, because look at it, it looks cool. Then they gave me some extra merch for my troubles, which was awfully nice of them. This is starting to sound like a commercial, but seriously, I love Relapse. I’ve had trouble with ordering from labels before, but they really went out of their way to help me out. And look at those colors! The colors!

Usually, calling a group a “singles band” is meant to be an insult because it implies their records lack substance beyond a few songs. Not so for The Measure [SA]. These guys (and gal) crap out great songs every couple months. While I was let down by their live show earlier this month, I perked right back up after listening to their entry in Art of the Underground’s “Single Series.” “We’ve Upped Our Standards, Now Up Yours” packs a wallop of a hook, as does B-side “The Five Chimes.” Is it time for another singles collection yet?

I used to make fun of drone music a lot, mostly because when done wrong it comes off as formless, pretentious, and boring. But I took a chance on one of the genre’s progenitors, Nico, and so far it’s paid off well. My most recent purchase, The End, is my favorite Nico record so far. The experimental atmosphere she worked with on The Marble Index is better fleshed out (She worked with John Cale AND Brian Eno here. How many people can boast that?), creating a record that feels threatening and dark and proto-goth. It’s mostly spoken word on the originals, which adds a nice layer of theatricality.

It’s the two covers at that record’s end that leave the biggest impression, however. First up is The Doors’ “The End.” Now, I respect The Doors as an influence on West coast punk. And they even wrote a handful of good songs. But frontman Jim Morrison was full of crap, and his lyrics are among the worst in mainstream rock ‘n’ roll. Nico’s deliberate interpretation of the song forces everything Morrison tried to say to the forefront. Everything that worked (The “father/son” bit, the intro), everything that didn’t (That whole section about California being totally awesome or whatever) is exposed. It’s so over-the-top that I have to assume Nico knew she was turning “The End” into a camp classic, even though they were lovers and “You Forgot to Answer” was about missing him. Yet she does the exact opposite with “Das Lied Der Deutschen,” turning it into a chilling, riveting piece. It’s the German national anthem, written in 1922, a decade or so before the rise of Nazi Germany, but if you know your history, you know that anything associated with that period is controversial by default. It lends the song extra gravity as it bathes the song in vocals and harmonium.

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Play Audio: Sprinter - Vurdalak (Dark Psytrance)