Meat Puppets’ Sad Songs

There are some singers and songwriters that seem to have a sadness that runs under their music no matter how bright and poppy and bright their melodies are. Evan Dando is one, J. Mascis is another and so is Jackson Brown. But for me, the Meat Puppet’s Curt Kirkwood has always been the master of this elusive feeling. He has a resignation and weariness in his delivery that just leaves my heart feeling buoyant and flattened at the same time.

Mirage is from the album of the same name. It’s one of the first Meat Puppet’s records to benefit from real studio production. The instruments are crystal clean and the harmonies are spot on.

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The New Bryan Ferry sounds like the Old Bryan Ferry. This is a good thing.

Bryan Ferry has been on a bit of a retro tear as of late. His last album, 2008’s Olympia, opened with a sound that was more than a little reminiscent of those last vibrating bars that close out True to Life, the final track on Roxy Music’s Avalon. The effect was to create a sense of continuity between Roxy’s last album and the first track on Olympia, as though the record had somehow emerged from a time warp nearly 30 years later.

Unfortunately, Olympia – despite the glam Kate Moss album cover and retro keyboard sounds – was not quite the companion piece to Avalon that we all would have liked. The production was a bit too loose. The songs, unrefined. But then, Avalon is truly one of the greatest albums of all time. A work I would probably but in my top twenty if not top ten.

The best sequels to Avalon were the two Solo album’s Ferry released immediately after Roxy Music disbanded: 1985’s Boys and Girls ( which according to wikipedia is often called Avalon II) and 1987’s Bête Noire. With production help by Rhett Davies and Patrick Leonard respectively, these albums delivered intense, exotic sophistication. Jazz, funk, and ethereal, distinctly eighties electronic sounds melding together to create a  dark night of blue-eyed soul.

As Ferry’s catalogue developed, he gradually moved away from the the subtle, hyper-detailed ambience of these eighties landmarks. 1993’s Taxi was still interesting but with each successive album Ferry has become more and more of the traditional crooner he has so long been modeling his image after. This transformation probably reached its zenith with 1999’s As Time Goes By, a collection of jazz standards, along with 2007’s Dylanesque.

With Avonmore, Ferry has finally returned to the promise shown in his two Eighties works. Rhett Davies is working once more in the producer’s chair and the album is chock full of interesting performers including Niles Rogers, Flea, Johnny Marr, Maceo Parker and Ronnie Specter.

All of these ingredients create a work that is satisfying on a lot of levels.  Most of all because it’s so great to a see an artist who has explored so many different avenues of musical expression return to what they do best and truly deliver.

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Was Alex P. Keaton an asshole? I mean, preppy, success-obsessed, uber-capitalist…he has all the ingredients for someone who ended up in jail later in life over a savings and loan scandal or wall street scam.

But no, I don’t think he was an asshole. Not inside. He was a good kid. And I bet, as he got older, and married Valerie, and had a family of his own, he came to see that it wasn’t all about worshipping at the altar of money and carry pictures of Nixon in your wallet.

I bet he turned out pretty cool.