By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
David Bowie used to say that Time takes a cigarette and puts it in your mouth — but now you can stick an exploding cigar in Time’s mouth and laugh till you, uh, die. Can’t change the past? Can too! The present? Doesn’t exist, or always exists (same thing, useless). The future? Sold! You can buy it back, but it’ll cost ya.
Some music from 2003 proves this:
Aretha Franklin, So Damn Happy (Arista). Bowie also used to whine that there wasn’t one damn song that could make him break down and cry. Nearly 30 years later, when Aretha Franklin wrote such a song (“You Are My Joy”), she loved it so much that she did two different versions on the same fine album. I cry every single time I hear her sing it. I even cry thinking about it.
David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, the Motion Picture DVD (Virgin). Funny how quaint this shtick seems after three decades. And on his new Reality, Bowie talks about there being no history. There is; he just hasn’t learned how to restructure it.
Led Zeppelin, How the West Was Won CD, DVD (Atlantic). These five discs constitute an ineluctable puddle of shame. Through clever selection, Jimmy Page tries to make it seem that every other live rock band in the history of the world must leap over his (at first) critically despised outfit before amounting to squat.
And he succeeds.
Judas Priest, Electric Eye DVD (Columbia Legacy). As I remembered ’80s MTV videos, they all sucked. Electric Eye proves me wrong: Judas Priest’s were frequently laugh riots, with Rob Halford playing up his leather fantasies to a mob who didn’t know he was gay. (Giggle, for instance, at the bit where a skeleton “bites the bone.”) J.P. were great live metalmen, too, as a 1986 concert and a bunch of BBC clips attest. Halford has now rejoined after a long sulk, and new classic Priest is projected for 2004.
Marilyn Manson, Doppelherz DVD (Nothing). There’s a reason (other than his split with songwriting partner Twiggy Ramirez) that Manson’s recent music seems mired in the ’90s — he’s obsessed with film now. And if you don’t take his auteur aspirations seriously, you don’t know him. On the DVD included with his Weimar-revival CD, The Golden Age of Grotesque, he does things with words, mood and lighting that can mess with your head.
ZZ Top, Mescalero (RCA). Never dudes to quail in the face of change, ZZ Top seize digital recording methods, grind their boogie sound into a saw-toothed rasp and pump it louder than fuck. Then Billy Gibbons croaks “As Time Goes By.” The fundamental things apply.
Metallica, St. Anger (Elektra). Digitals, fundamentals — same applies here. Strong songcraft. Passionate motivation. A blastoff studio sound highlighted by Lars Ulrich’s roach-killing drums. And no guitar solos, so the fans, nostalgic for ancient twiddle, largely passed on it. Great record.
Sleep, Dopesmoker (Tee Pee). The first cut is 63 minutes of monumental sludge. The second is nine minutes of same. Dopesmoker is an expanded version of these NoCal sluggards’ 1998 Jerusalem; it also expands inside your head, and your head expands until it encompasses everything in the universe except thought. Wonderful.
Drunk Horse, Adult Situations (Tee Pee). These young Oaklanders have taken an Aerosmith/ Skynyrd engine block and hot-rodded it into something that flies. The more you listen, the better it gets.
Henry Grimes at World Stage, March 21. The great avant-garde bassist poked his head out of 30-year obscurity and brought 1965 back, just like that. Now he’s split for New York to recapture the torch. Blessings be upon him.
The Blue Series Continuum Featuring the Music of Matthew Shipp, The Sorcerer Sessions (Thirsty Ear). Shipp, William Parker, FLAM and N.Y. friends flash back to 1920 Vienna for their compositional juice, while draping the proceedings in a web of 2003 electronic incorporeality. And dammit, it’s mysteriously lovely/weird.
DJ Spooky featuring Mad Professor and Lee “Scratch” Perry, Dubtometry (Thirsty Ear); DJ Spooky vs. Twilight Circus Dub Sound System, Riddim Clash (Play). These are both primarily Spooky albums, so the wiggy slosh factor dominates the dub factor, but he’s always been faithful to the spirit rather than the letter of ’70s Jamaican instrumental deconstruction. And it’s the spirit that counts.
One Love: Life With Bob Marley and the Wailers, words and photographs by Lee Jaffe, introduction and interview by Roger Steffens (W.W. Norton). All-around artist Jaffe lived with Marley in Jah’s country during the early bust-out days of reggae. Took a slew of vibrational photos, too.
This Is Rebel Music: The Harvey Kubernik InnerViews (University of New Mexico Press). If you didn’t know that Mick Jagger played basketball or what Kim Fowley thinks about Berry Gordy, Kubernik’s the guy to tell ya, via interviews with Keith Richards, Grace Slick, Marianne Faithfull, Ray Manzarek, Jack Nitzsche, Ravi Shankar and so on. He also interviews himself quite a bit, hence the subtitle.