I’m not going to pretend I know very much about this man. So I hope I don’t deeply offend any Cohen fans out there. I really haven’t given him the time he is due. Here’s what I do know:
* He looks a bit like Leonard Nimoy, and the first name thing confused me for a while as kid.
* He usually looks cool despite the point above.
* Like a billion other people, I love Jeff Buckely’s version of Hallelujah, and my first real exposure to Cohen. That’s one pretty song.
* I caught the clip for First We Take Manhattan on Rage once and it’s gorgeous and scary and a bit like Seventh Seal.
* Ween parodied the cover of his Greatest Hits
* He worked with Phil Spector
* I don’t think I’ve heard more good things about a single show in my life than Came So Far For Beauty, the tribute to Cohen that was put on by the Sydney Festival two years back.
* I’ve just been thinking about getting a nylon string acoustic guitar and someone recommended I revisit old Leonard.
So this morning I’m treated to news of this movie and the trailer. It features footage from the Came So Far For Beauty shows, with Beth Orton, Jarvis Cocker, Antony, and other performances by U2 and others. So maybe now it’s my chance with Leonard. I’m such a doco junkie.
I can’t really recommend a place to start with Cohen with much authority, but I love Suzanne and it’s a pretty important song for him so there you go.
SITE: Trailer for Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man
SITE: Leonard Cohen.com
MP3: Leonard Cohen – Suzanne
– From Greatest Hits (Columbia, 1975)
Let’s talk Robert Altman
Let’s talk David Bowie
Let’s talk The Original Series
You get to a certain age I think, and you just have to get some sort of punk era singles compilation. For me, it was EMI’s Best Punk Album In the World Ever, a 2CD set I still own and it’s cover was roughly modeled on the Sex Pistol’s Never Mind the Bollocks. And it is out of this world. It exposed me to some of the best songs I’ve ever heard – Teenage Kicks, Ever Fallen In Love…, Marquee Moon. And some guys named the Ramones and some guy named Elvis Costello (but where is the Clash?).
But the best song on it, the one on CONSTANT (and I mean constant) repeat was Another Girl, Another Planet by the Only Ones. To this day, it is still the greatest song ever. If pressed by a stranger who seems to have a little bit of music knowledge about what my favourite song is, I would choose this (and Better Be Home Soon if it’s just at a dinner party or something). Look, it has the greatest guitars, great singing, great lyrics, sing-along bits, it’s short, sharp, funny, heart breaking, achingly romantic and even a little science fiction and lesbianism thrown in. To summarise: it rules.
And you know, I’ve still never seen the film clip to this song. Apparently it’s great. Further investigation and rummaging through friends records I discovered the song is on an album called Special View. It had a great cover. The band looked great on it. I nabbed a CD copy and to this day I’m still looking for it on vinyl.
The band was fronted by Peter Perrett – “the junkie Oscar Wilde” – who looked just like how I wanted a rock star to look. I hopeless romantic, a voice that screamed ‘I don’t care’. Before Another Girl, Another Planet, the band released a fantastic single on their own label called Lovers Of Today. But they were more than punk, as showcased on the first track of their debut album, the lovely ballad The Whole Of the Law. I loved AGAP the song, but The Whole Of the Law won me over with the band. Obviously, these guys went on to inspire bands like the Replacements, as opposed to the Living End. I will argue til I’m blue in the face that there is more to this band than one song.
There have been efforts to revive their critical standing over the years. The latest angle is that Perrett’s kids are in the Babyshambles. But their 3 albums bombed pretty badly, their catalogue is in disarray, and Perrett is not about to promote himself. Still, bands cover Another Girl, Another Planet to this day. It even appeared on the last Blink 182 Greatest Hits. Find the original on your closest Punk era compilation. Or check out Special View, their best album (and yes I know it’s not really an album) and if you’re still sticking with me here grab Why Don’t You Kill Yourself? The Complete CBS Recordings, which is everything over 2 discs with a horrid cover but great liner notes, and then come around to my house and we’ll air guitar to some vinyl only bootleg stuff.
I finally watched PT Anderson’s wonderful movie Boogie Nights (1997). Anderson is almost famous for Magnolia (1999) and Punch Drunk Love (2002), two movies I love very much. The music in Anderson’s movies are always fantastic, and for the last two, it’s in a large part due to Mr Jon Brion.
For those who might don’t know, Jon Brion is a pop extraordinaire. In fact, he just hit pay dirt with Kanye West, the hottest musician on the planet, as Brion produced a majority of his new album Late Registration. Other productions include the Finn Brothers, Aimee Mann, Beck, Evan Dando, Elliott Smith, Badly Drawn Boy, Rhett Miller, Fiona Apple and more. He’s also a performer in his own right – he’s been going strong for I think almost ten years, a Friday night residency at the LA club Largo.
It seems last, but not least, is Brion’s own solo work. He has one independant solo album to date – Meaningless – which was recorded for a major label but rejected. Most of the soundtracks he works on has at least one original composition. There’s talk of a second solo album, but it’s mainly talk.
Brion comes to mind today not only because Meaningless has been getting continous play ’round these parts for the last week, but it turens out that in the scene in Boogie Nights where Dirk Diggler accepts his prizes during the Adult Film Awards, it’s Jon Brion fronting the band that is supplying the music.
Meaningless is somewhat hard to get. But well worth it. It will go down in history as something like the first Emitt Rhodes album. A classic lost pop record. As for his soundtrack stuff – none is more beautiful than the song he wrote for Punch Drunk Love, Here We Go.
SITE: Jon Brion’s Official Site
MP3: Jon Brion – I Believe She’s Lying
– From the album Meaningless (independent, 2000)
MP3: Jon Brion – Here We Go
– From the original motion picture soundtrack Punch Drunk Love (Nonesuch, 2002)
Your racist cat
And your alcoholic friends
Live life like you chose it!
The big brother figures you have
Compromise your confrontaions
Put yourself in her shoes
And no one ever calls
And no one ever explains
So maybe it’s your parents
Or the jokes you play on your brother
I’m going to close the door
To let out your racist cat
Hawksley Workman perforrmed at the Vanguard in Newtown on 24/05/06.
Now, Hawksley Workman is someone I knew barely anything about. I heard good things from a few people. And he was fantastic.
The closest comparison I can make for the Canadian singer is Tom Waits. But with a Jeff Buckley voice (cliche I know). Great storyteller, great rainy, lonely songs. And a great guitar player. He really looked like he crawled out of New Orleans.
No music yet, but I’ll track some down very soon. There are some videos on his site
SITE: Hawksley Workman Official Site
Stardust Five performed on 22/04/06 at the Annandale Hotel in Sydney. It’s the new side project fronted by Paul Kelly, with Pete and Dan Luscombe, Bill McDonald and Dan Kelly, all along for the ride.
This line-up was the band behind possibly my favourite Paul Kelly album – Ways & Means. But this album is very different. It’s a monkier for their sonic experiments and soundtrack ideas. Really, these guys should be old enough to know better! Paul Kelly is right up there with Elvis Costello when it comes to a thirts for creating, and for something new.
So is it any good? Well, it’s not bad. Some of the songs on the self titled Stardust Five album sound great, but very few actual songs. It’s not something I imagine I will return to often. Live, the show was another beast. The complexity of the songs, the performances, all came through. I’ll admit, I wavered there for a bit, but watching the Luscombes go at it was pretty amazing. They also performed some material intended for the new Paul Kelly album, and a Dan Kelly sung version of the Magnetic Fields I Don’t Want To Get Over You – one of my favourite Magnetic Fields songs.
If you haven’t heard Ways & Means, then rush out and get it. It’s a double record, and it’s floating around for cheap at the moment. It’s like the best Mermaid Avenue album. Soulful and playful, a bunch of musicians on fire singing what Kelly described as “Love Gone Right” songs. I can’t wait to hear this band tackle a new bunch of ‘proper’ Paul Kelly songs.
SITE: Stardust Five – official site
SITE: Dumb Things – Official Website of Paul Kelly
MP3: Stardust Five – Things We Said In the Dark
– From the album Stardust Five (Capitol, 2006)
MP3: Paul Kelly – You Broke A Beautiful Thing
– From the double album Ways & Means (Capitol, 2003)
Darren Hanlon is performed on 21/04/06 at the terribly named @Newtown venue. For those unfamiliar, Hanlon is a Sydney songwriter, roughly from the same school as artists like Jonathan Richman, who first came to prominence with a couple of quirky pop songs. A witty man, a performing natural, and, as I discussed on the weekend, there is a magical shine on his first EP (Early Days) and first album (Hello Stranger).
Then came Little Chills from a couple of years ago. For a man who once said he would bring a new song to every tour, it was a long time coming, and it must be said, slim pickings on first listen. It lacked the energy of his earlier works. It was sombre. It was SERIOUS. And after a good year of still seeing shows and coming back to the record, it’s also fantastic. It’s not, say, Room On Fire.
I am a big fan, and after seeing him so many shows, it’s the Little Chills songs. Unfortunately, he only does a handful of them now. The best of the lot – I Wish I Was Beautiful For You – always gets an airing though. A beautiful paean to physical insecurites, but love anyway.
Most importantly, there was a handful of new songs performed. A song about living on people’s couches, and full band versions of two tracks on the latest Candle Records Sampler, Hamper (out now) – Happiness Is A Chemical and My Life A Blur. The album is apparently finished and will be out later this year. I also keep forgetting to purchase the Candle Records DVD with a live gig of Darren’s. It’s going straight to the want list.
SITE: Darren Hanlon – official site
SITE: Candle Records
MP3: Darren Hanlon – Beta Losers
– Original version from the compilation Banter (Candle Records, 1999)
MP3: Darren Hanlon – I Wish I Was Beautiful For You
– From the album Little Chills (Candle Records, 2004)
Sometimes I get stuck in my own shell
So I hope that you are doing well
I finally think I might live a long life
Beth Orton performed last night (20/04/06) at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney. She came on with a great, smooth, slow version of Absinthe, a track from her new album, Comfort Of Strangers, and it was all uphill from there.
Comfort Of Strangers is an odd sounding album. It sounds like Jim O’Rourke’s solo stuff, there’s a hypnotic steaduness, or maybe it’s just mastered badly. Butlive, the new songs pumped with energy.
I kept thinking the bassplayer looked familiar and it finally hit me a few songs in – it was Leroy Bach, formerly of Wilco.
The title track of her new album was a definite highlight. Classics like Stolen Car and Somebody’s Daughter still sounded sweet. And she was still a gorgeous human being in all senses.
SITE: Beth Orton – official site
SITE: Beth Orton @ Astralwerks
MP3: Beth Orton – Couldn’t Cause Me Any Harm
– From the album Central Reservations (Heavenly, 1999)
MP3: Beth Orton – Heartland Truckstop
– From the album Comfort of Strangers (Astralwerks, 2006)