Sunday, March 25, 2007

Arnold Schoenberg- Pierrot Lunaire

Along the lines of my Mussorgsky post a few months back, here is one of the most unsettling, frightening recordings I've ever heard: Expressionist Arnold Schoenberg's musical travelogue of the hallucinations of an insane clown!!!!

Yes, the "lyrics" (sung in "sprechstimme" style-- a half-sung, half-spoken hybrid far scarier than anything Dr. Moreau could conceive) are all about a sinister clown's journey through various nightmarescapes. I find it very Lovecraftian, and the finest example of Schoenberg's "ugly" works (while Schoenberg's post-Wagnerian period repertoire is peerless, Serialism has yet to "do it" for me).

Once you hear it, you'll recognize its influence in countless horror movie soundtracks. But, it has thankfully remained hidden from mass recognition. Even though Bjork performed the entire cycle at the 1996 Verbiere Festival (contact me with info about bootlegs, please), it still remains a paradoxical underground work, as appreciated by classically-trained, PhD. Musicologists as it is by the latest crop of web-savvy DJs.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Roky Erickson & The Aliens- The Evil One

Roky of rock & roll's craziest stories. He started out as the stellar lead singer of the world's first psychedelic band, The 13th Floor Elevators, emitting screams and yowls that would make both Robert Plant and Ian Gillan run and hide. After being busted for a misdemeanor drug possession, he inexplicably pleaded insanity to the charge and spent the next few years getting his brain further fried by electroshock therapy.

Ever since, he's shown varying levels of lucidity, at times keeping it together long enough for an Elevators reunion album, at other times retreating for years on end into his Texas home, playing a half-dozen stereos and TVs simultaneously in order to drown out the demon voices in his head.

"The Evil One" is Erickson at his most anxious & paranoid, with sci-fi themes spilling over into the philosophical/biblical realms ("Sputnik" and "Creature with the Atom Brain"), and plenty of Satan-praising ("The Wind and More"). What separates Erickson from such devil-worshipping dilettantes as Danzig and Black Sabbath is his hesitant, yet almost defeatist attitude toward Satan's supremacy, as if he's witnessed The Power of Evil firsthand and is coming to grips with the fact that resistance is futile.

It's times like this Lucifer, I see you're infinite:

The Freeze

One of the better bands from the Taang! label. As far as I know, this was their only release of any significance, but boy, what a release! The Freeze had a great sound that was halfway between Hanoi Rocks, The Ramones, and Ratt (indeed, the singer's resemblance to Stephen Pearcy's growl is uncanny). This album managed to accomplish the task that G&R's "The Spaghetti Incident?" failed so miserably: a perfect reconciliation of punk's iconoclasm with rock & roll's hegemenous cock-worship.

I caught myself in little white lies, powder, rock, and pills:

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Golden Palominos- Visions of Excess

A recently-acquired cassette from the 80s' premier alt-rock collective. This is the GoPals 2nd album, and features some really outstanding vocal work from, of all people, Michael Stipe. Songs like "Omaha" and "Boy (Go)" almost make up for all the whining horseshit REM put out in the early 90's. There's also some excellent work from Jack Bruce and John Lydon, but the tracks from Syd Straw are really the centerpieces. "Buenos Aires" in particular showcases the driving rhythmic machine & female vocals that would define later masterpiece GoPals albums like "Pure" or "This is How it Feels".

She got a letter postmarked from Argentina: