Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are Floating In Space

This weekend I had the pleasure of seeing Spike Jonez’s film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s children story “Where the Wild Things Are.” The film did a fantastic job of reminding me of the simpler times of being a pre-adolescent child – digging igloos in the snow, turning pieces of furniture into forts with blankets, and using imagination to take oneself away from the world around them. It got me thinking about the ways we replace these creative outlets of escapism once talking to fences and chasing dogs in animal costumes becomes socially unacceptable. Some people use hobbies, such as working on a car or engulfing oneself in a book, to get away from the hectic world around them. Others will resort to alcohol or drugs to escape. For me, nothing does a better job of clearing my mind and taking me away from everything than listening to music. Once I put my oversized Seinheiser headphones over my ears, press play, and the music begins to play, I feel just like Max felt when playing in the magical world with the Wild Things.

The first album that came to mind when I was pondering this was Spiritualized’s 1997 album – “Ladies and Gentlemen, We’re Floating In Space.” Starting with Kate Radley’s opening pronouncement of “Ladies and Gentlemen, We’re Floating in Space” and ending with the chaotic combination of distortion and horns on “Cop Shoot Cop,” the album’s powerful blend of rock, blues, gospel, free jazz, and punk influences takes the listener on a musical journey. This kaleidoscope of musical styles, paired with Jason Pierce’s hypnotic vocals, allows the listener lose themselves in the complex production  of each song – whether it be the haunting melancholy of the strings on “Broken Heart” or the breakneck speed which the drums and fuzz and distortion drenched guitar hits a listener on “Electricity.”

Spiritualized is celebrating the 12th year anniversary of the release of “Ladies and Gentlemen…” (I know, who celebrates a 12th year anniversary?) with a series of shows in which the band performs the album in its entirety, from start to finish.  The first performances were on Oct. 12th and 13th at London’s Royal Festival Hall. From the reviews written, these shows were an artistic success, but you can be the judge of it yourself – I have included a link to a blog which has posted the  October 12th performance for download.  The band will perform the album four additional times in December.

For those of us who don’t have the luxury of witnessing these performances, there is a consolation prize. There will be an expanded re-issue of “Ladies and Gentlemen…” on November 16th. The album will be available in three different formats – a single CD (which replaces the opening track most have known with  the original version of the song “Ladies and Gentlemen We’re Floating In Space” which includes lyrics from “I Can’t Help Falling In Love,” as the band originally intended), a 3-disc set (which includes two full discs of demos and alternate versions ), and also a collectors edition, which will have each of the 12 songs on individual 3” discs, in a pill package design, as well as the 2 bonus discs.

I cannot recommend this album highly enough. It is one of the best albums of our generation, and a much more socially acceptable way for adults to escape than dressing in a full-body cat suit and chasing the family dog (but equally enjoyable).  Do you have a favorite album that takes you away? Share yours in the comment section!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The One Where The Beatles Beg For Oral Sex - or - Why does Ringo "talk about boys"

Welcome to Part One of The Beatles remasters series. Since I am predominately a linear thinker, Medicinal Music will be covering The Beatles remasters chronologically (with the exception of the Past Masters singles compilation, which will follow Let It Be).

A lot of music listeners in my generation, when they think of The Beatles, tend to bypass their earlier work. On the surface, this makes sense - their first albums were basically boy-meets-girl, bubble gum pop - a far cry from their dope smoking, acid tripping, innovative albums that were to follow. And on the surface - it's totally understandable. Shit, when you have members of boy bands citing The Beatles as "the original boy band", that's gotta deter people from delving into their earlier work. (For the record, this comparison is utter bullshit for a litany of reasons that I care not to get into right now, but it should be noted that anyone making this comparison should be shot on sight). Please Please Me is a fantastic album debut album that does its best to recapture the raw energy from their legendary early live shows at the Cavern Club and in Hamburg, Germany. In addition to being a great album, when put in context with the cultural norms at the time, Please Please Me is actually quite a subversive album, regardless of its bubble gum pop appearance.

When you look at archived footage of Beatlemania, you've gotta ask yourself - what the hell has got all of these teenage girls screaming like absolute maniacs? It was the the sexual energy that oozes from these songs - similarly to Elvis Presley's hip gyrations almost a decade earlier. Today, when you've got songs with lyrics like "wait til you see my dick", you may think the songs on Please Please Me are pretty tame, but lets take a look at the facts:

Right out the gate, you've got the first line of "I Saw Her Standing There" -

"She was just seventeen/you know what I mean/and the way she looked/was way beyond compare"

Jesus Christ, fellas - no wonder parents were freaking out about their daughters listening to The Beatles. I don't even think that nowadays an artist could get away with such a blatant endorsement of statutory rape on the radio. Fox News would be up in arms if someone like Usher or John Mayer tried to pull that shit. So, kudos gentlemen!

Later in the album, you've got The Beatles ode to oral sex (or, at least their female counterparts not reciprocating oral sex) - "Please Please Me". I know what you're thinking - "Dr. Moshe, you sick fuck. That's not what 'Please Please Me' is about. Get your mind out of the gutter". Ok, that's fine, but lets just look take a look at the lyrics:

Last night I said these words to my girl
I know you never even try, girl
C'mon C'mon C'mon C'mon
Please please me like I please you
You don't need me to show the way, love
Why do I always have to say, love
C'mon C'mon C'mon C'mon
Please please me like I please you
I don't want to sound complaining
But you know there's always rain in my heart
I do all the pleasing with you
It's so hard to reason with you
Oh yeah, why do you make me blue
Last night I said these words to my girl
I know you never even try, girl
C'mon C'mon C'mon C'mon
Please please me like I please you

So am I really that out of line? To me, that sounds a lot like a guy complaining that his girl won't go down on him. Or, maybe I'm wrong.

But enough about those pervy lads from Liverpool (I'll skip over my wondering about lyrics like 'my baby's got me locked up in chains' or why Ringo is so enthusiastically singing about 'boys'), and lets talk about these remasters. As mentioned in my previous post, Please Please Me is available both in the original mono mix and a stereo mix. Regardless of the version you listen to, you will be impressed with improved sound quality, but the original mono mix is the way to go for Please Please Me.

The mono mix has a much fuller sound, which does a better job of achieving the recreation of their the energy and excitement of their live performances. You'll be blown away Lennon's vocals and Ringo's drumming on "Twist and Shout". The remasters also give new life to McCartney's bass playing. Whether a fast bassline, like on "I Saw Her Standing There", or a more melodic bassline, like on "Do You Want To Know A Secret", these remasters resurrect the low-end on these recordings, providing a pretty serious punch that was lacking on the lifeless 1987 CDs.

That being said, the stereo mixes are pretty interesting in its own right. While the sound separation gives the songs a more sparse sound (which is especially noticeable when listening with headphones), the stereo mix allows listeners to focus on specific instrumentation. It gives you a little more of an appreciation of the individual contributions by the band members and how each part works as a whole. The stereo separation isn't as noticeable when listening on a home stereo or a car, but you'll definitely hear the difference with headphones on.

To wrap up this post (which I will do with each of these posts), below are some of the highlights from these remasters - mostly specific sound clarity improvements:

File Under: Where The Fuck Did That Come From?

- Paul's bass on "I Saw Her Standing There"

- The echo effect on the opening lines of "Misery" sounds amazing

- Being able to actually hear anything beyond John's blistering vocals and Ringo's drumming on "Twist and Shout"

- Paul's melodic bass on "Do You Want To Know A Secret" (Paul's bass is going to be a reoccurring theme throughout all of these entries - these remasters really do his playing justice)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Mono vs Stereo

As mentioned in my previous post, we will be restarting Medicinal Music - The Blog by covering the remastered Beatles discography that comes out tomorrow. This is the first time since the cds were originally issued in 1987 that they were remastered to improve the sound quality. You've got two options with these remasters - the original mono mix or the stereo mix. Both mixes sound light years ahead of the 1987 cds, but there are some distinct difference.

For Beatles purists and audiophiles - the mono mixes are the way to go. In England during the early 1960s mono mixes were the standard. The band worked closely with the engineers to make sure the mono mix was true to their musical vision. Across the sea in the United States, engineers and record company pushed stereo mixes to targeting listeners who owned high-end record players. For The Beatles early records (actually everything up to The White Album), the stereo mixes were more of an afterthought, with the band not participating in the mixing sessions and (in some cases) had strong words against the studio mixes.

So what does this exactly mean? Well, the best way to hear to these differences is to listen with headphones on. When listening to the mono mix, you will notice that the left and right channels are exatly the same.When listeningn to the stereo mix, you will notice some sound separation (for instance, the lead vocals and bass may be predominately in the left channel, while the drums and guitars in the right). The mono mixes tend to provide a fuller sound overall while the stereo mixes (because of the sound separation) allows you to further appreciate the sound clarity imrpovements, by being able to easily focus on a specific instrument. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal prefernece. I cannot imagine many people listening to one of the mixes and being disgusted with the mix - especially considering that the sound quality is leaps and bounds above the previously available 1987s discs.

Thats all for now. We will go a bit further in depth with these sound improvements tomorrow when we begin reviewing each of these albums - starting with The Beatles - Please Please Me

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Guess Who's Back?


It is with great elation and renewed enthusiasm  that I official announce the resurrection of Medicinal Music - The Blog. I can't believe that it has been almost four years since my last post and  I can promise it will not take another four years for my next post. There are a lot of exciting things going on in music and I would be remiss if I were to pass up on writing about it.

There will be some significant changes from the previous incarnation of Medicinal Music - The Blog. Most noticeably, the blog will not be exclusively about 1906s psychedelic, garage rock, and pre-punk. While this genre remains one of my favorites, the restrictions tied to writing about a finite era of music led to the demise of the original blog. Instead of just focusing on one genre of music, you will find posts about music news, reviews, concert photos, and opinion pieces on a wide variety of music. Whether it be classic rock, indie rock, hip hop, or smaller niche genres like pre-punk or (my new favorite) 1960s french pop, I will write about whatever has caught my ears at the moment.

You will also notice some minor aesthetic changes to the layout of the blog, as well as a new list of links and (since its 2009) a feed from my twitter account. Feel free to follow me @brianmoshe

With this being a holiday weekend, Im not sure whether the first official post will be tomorrow or Tuesday, but I will say that the first series of posts will relate to the to-be-released remasters of The Beatles catalog. For the first time since originally released on CD in 1987, The Beatles catalogs have received a much needed upgrade in sound quality. These albums will be released on Tuesday, available individually or as a complete boxset in stereo or, for the serious audiophile/Beatles purist, a boxset presenting their albums (from Please Please Me to The White Album) in their original mono mixes. I highly recommend purchasing these remasters - they sound fantastic and the sound quality changes are noticable to even the most novice ears.

Anyway, that's all for now. I hope everyone has a fun, safe Labor Day Weekend.

Time For A Restart!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Pink Stainless Tail

Alongside Thirteen Floor Elevators, Red Krayola were one of the most influential psychedelic acts coming out of Texas in the 1960s. Their debut album Parable of Arable Land, released in 1967, stands out as one of the most psychedelic albums ever released. From the trippy cover art to the avant garde "Free Form Freakouts" that appear between each song, Parable of Arable Land defines psychedelia.

Today's track, culled from Parable of Arable Land, is "Pink Stainless Tail." The song is bookended by, what is referred to on the tracklisting, as "Free Form Freakouts." These 'freakouts' consisted of Red Krayola and fifty of their closest friends performing with everything from typical musical instruments to bottles, rocks, motorcycles, and buzzsaws. These jams may not be for the average music listener, but fans of psychedelic rock are sure to enjoy it.

Although nearly overshadowed by the 'freakouts,' the actual song "Pink Stainless Tail" is quite an enjoyable piece of music. The song goes at a driving pace, with an onslaught of guitars and some very powerful drumming. A listener can get lost in song, especially during the guitar solo. And before you know, the song segues seamlessly into another free form freakout.

Parable of Arable Land is a must for any fan of psychedelic or avant garde rock, and, while I am posting one song from the album, one can't really do the album justice by judging it only on one song. Listening to "Pink Stainless Tail" will give you a taste, but only a full, uninterrupted listening of the album will allow the listener to truly appreciate what Red Krayola achieved with this album.

Red Krayola
"Pink Stainless Tail"