The Letting Go
Something has happened to Billy, he's not so depressing anymore. During 'Lay and Love' he eulogises about a woman. 'From what I've seen, you're magnificent, you fight evil with all you do
From what I hear you're generous. You make sunshine and glory too. When you walk in things go luminous.' What's going on? What happened to the Billy that made me feel my life is so much better having heard how tough his life is? Is she the one he's in love with? But then why not? For someone with such poetic sensitivity, he's bound to find love.
I really could preach about Bonnie Prince Billy forever, how special and rare his talent is etc. I love the way he peppers biblical references in his previous albums. The thing about Bonnie Prince Billy is whenever I listen to his songs I get lulled into a false sense that I'm listening to something very pretty and sweet, only to be stunned he's actually singing about the very opposite of that - sometimes dirty sexual encounters, at others times kinky affairs. 'No Bad News' is a fine example of this, a very melodic song about someone bearing bad news by far the best song here, and the most accessible. His melodies don't always immediately hit you, they take time. But once they do you really do feel like you've worked for it and you feel an ownership to it. "The Letting Go" in some ways has lost that edge, as it is more accessible, but that edge has been replaced giving us a fuller, meatier album. This is a fantastic album with beautifully crafted songs.
'The Letting Go' has a female vocal to complement Will Oldham's coarse voice - vocal harmony of the highest order. At times these songs feel like duets. There are drum beats too we're talking electronic beats - but having said all this we're still talking about Bonnie Prince Billy and even when he attempts more accessible songs they still have something no singer can get near. His lyrics are like little Raymond Carveresque stories, full of poignancy and wonderment.
An MOD report on ufos has concluded it's all freaky weather phenomena. maybe this is some black ops story to counter this one about a hacker who broke into the US military system (running on windows) to look for UFO files…
A Ghost Is Born
The other day during a particularly busy period at work I embarked on a best of Wilco playlist and found that every track bar one off their most recent offering had to feature. Except for the 15 minutes of amp hummmmm on track 11 this is a perfect album. The reader may have just taken a sharp intake of breath at that controversial word perfect that I just threw in there but I dont care, I stand by that word.
When I first encountered Wilco they were way out in front on the ever-expanding alt-country scene and were making simple yet great songs. This style seemed to be changing with the release of 2002s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and now with A Ghost Is Born Jeff Tweedy has taken his band into the realms of experimental rock genius. Largely due to the production, courtesy of the mighty Jim ORourke, this record sees Wilco turn a very important and difficult corner. From the outset you can see that the agenda has changed here. At Least Thats What You Said is one of the greatest and bravest ways to open an album, its soft bitter-sweet vocal intro turns in to 4 minute crunching guitar solo that leaves you breathless and exhausted and the album has only just begun. And if, during Hell Is Chrome, you found yourself relaxing into comfortable Wilco territory Spiders(Kidsmoke) soon jolts you to your feet throwing the alt-country rule book so far out the window you wonder if they ever read it, let alone wrote it. Clocking in at over 10 minutes and with a fantastic electronic beat for a backbone this song sounds more like early Roxy Music than our beloved Wilco with its occasional vocals and screeching, stabbing and totally freeform guitar solos. Then youve got Muzzle of Bees, Hummingbird, Handshake Drugs, the list goes on and on and the standard set in the first track is upheld right up to the very last note.
This is the album that convinced me to call my first born child Wilco, boy or girl. Im just glad Im not obsessed with Pink Martini.
number 5 in rough trade's counter culture series is out: £9.99 for 2cds w 50 tracks from the fall, clap your hands, herbert, king creosote, the pipettes etc etc
Brixton Academy, London
It was a tough call seeing this or Jeff Tweedy tonight. One, a bonifide legend who might not be back, the other a mini-legend, who will almost certainly be back - with and without Wilco. That made the decision easier, and the huge queue snaking all the way round the Brixton Academy at 7.30 certainly added to the excitement.
Everyone got in pretty quickly, and at about 7.40 the lights went down for an ice hockey style introduction for the "legend of the 60's counter culture, duke of spook... etc". The crowd went crazy when Dylan shuffled on, and kicked things off with Maggie's Farm. We also got Positively 4th Street, Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine), Girl Of The North Country and Highway 61 Revisited. The Band (I wish) were certainly good, but no one really moved off piste without a nod from the commandant, and certainly no one broke into a sweat. Dylan himself was captivating to watch, but mainly due to the fact that you were in the presence of a living legend... rather than what he was doing (not playing the guitar, occasionally playing the harmonica. The older geeks in the crowd (some with binoculars, many taking notes) seemed determined to like every single move or shuffle, and every song started with a race to be the first to recognize it.
The band shuffled off after a brief bow, but nothing was said to the crowd. They predictably shuffled back on for an encore with Like A Rolling Stone, which was the first time the crowd actually had a chance to sing along. As the chorus came up the crowd swelled up - but then after one line, Dylan's different delivery (Like a ROLL-ing stONE!) just caught everyone off guard and put an end to it.
All Along The Watchtower wasn't bad, but all in all it was a bit like seeing a really good jazz band (or even Steely Dan) on a Cross Channel Ferry doing Dylan covers. In the club style.
Should have seen Tweedy.
Had my first great meal experience of the holiday tonight, cooked and served up at the counterside hotplate. I realised that this was in fact one of the #THINGSIKNOWABOUTJAPAN, I think mainly from one of the Police Academy movies, where Commandant Lassard's fish get boiled on the counter...
The meal itself was a seafood noodle dish, sandwiched between two pancakes, plus a kind of omlette on the outside. It was delicious, and all seemed relatively authentic, until I realised all the locals were eating theirs off a plate.