I guess, if you ask you shall receive. Sometimes. So, I still have some friends and colleagues with whom I keep in touch with who are still in the music industry. This is always a good thing when you are looking for an advance copy of a record. I have been anticipating this new Flaming Lips record since their last record came out in 2002 and was mildly disappointed. Yes, the songs were good on Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, but the sonics were lacking and that is, a lot of the time, 50% of it for me. I was hoping for a re-birth again from this innovative and ground breaking rock band.
But to tell you the truth, after just one listen of At War With The Mystics there’s maybe one song I can actually listen through the whole way. It all just sounds like a half-assed throwback to 70s classic rock (a la Bowie circa 1975, Sweet & a tad bit of Zappa from the early 70s – yeah, no shit.) with that stereotypical indie feel and a drop of cheap acid on the tongue. It’s just a shame that they went backwards to the same vibe they had with Yoshimi. Maybe I need to wait one more record for them to reinvent themselves again. Maybe I need to give it another try. It’s not to say this record is crap, they’ve just done it before. And I expected more from a band like the Flaming Lips. And better. And different. I do have to say that the cut Free Radicals sounds just like Wayne listened to Prince’s first two records and regurgitated them in to a song. It might be worth it to some people simply for that.
I do still have the records I love from them and nothing will ever change that.
Oh yeah, and Happy Valentine’s Day. Smooches for everyone.
Records that changed my life, in one way or another (1999 – ?) | Part IV :
The Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin / Zaireeka – Sure they were released in 1999 and 1997 respectively, but I still jumble them together as a similar era – and in the genre of rock. Especially for groundbreaking music production in popular music. I use the word popular very loosely. The first time I heard The Soft Bulletin I couldn’t stand it. Honest truth. I thought it was a total indie cliche. And in some ways, it still kind of is – but of course does not make it bad music. I was also going through this anti-music period where if the music had a key signature I couldn’t listen to it and it would grate on my ears. Yeah, I know. Weird phase. But then again The Flaming Lips on 90210 was weird, too. So anyways. I heard this record and wasn’t blow away. Then I heard this 4-disc set called Zaireeka. Wait. 4-discs at once. On different CD players! This idea was amazing to me. It got my full attention. I had never heard of something like this. It totally fascinated me and I found out it was an extension of Wayne (the singer/guitarist) performing a similar idea with car stereos and cassette tapes in a parking garage. Totally revolutionary and put 5.1 and 7.1 sound to shame. I never did get 5.1 and all that surround sound for music. It just doesn’t make sense to me. But that’s another story. Zaireeeka: 4 CDs. Similar production to The Soft Bulletin. Crazy lyrics and vagina and planes and suicide. Kind of symphonic with the strings via Roland keyboard. Music beyond emotion. DRUMS DRUMS DRUMS. And likewise with The Soft Bulletin. The Soft Bulletin was a little more cohesive of a record and in my eyes “less concept” – but I am sure others would disagree. Dave Fridmann is truly an engineer of audio. He placed the sounds on this record impeccably. The vocals and lyrics will make an asshole cry. Seriously heartfelt regardless if they happened to Wayne or not. It was a reality. Someone’s and it worked. And the lack of guitars on every cut (in other words not ever track has guitar in it) is inspiring for rock bands across the world. Rock with out guitars is not such an amazing thought. But at the time it was for me. Waiting For A Superman still gets me choked up. Those ghost notes on the snare are mesmerizing. And the Gash. Jesus Christ. Talk about pure sinister. And the gong. One can never get over the gong. Wayne loves his gong. To not be moved by this record might prove one to be lifeless and/or dead. But what do I know.
Godspeed You Black Emperor!’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (2000) – I bought this in 2000. In NJ at a random record store that was selling a Pearl Jam record the day before it was supposed to be selling. Random, I know. But I remember these things and forget where I put my house keys. Anyways… I initially liked this record, a lot. I had not heard anything so emotional in a while at this point in my life. It was sincere heart searing instrumentals. Piercing emotions that anyone in the Western world should be able to relate so. Lots of ups and downs. The highs really high and the lows really low. It was symphonic with all the strings and mallets and rolling drums. There was seriously repetitive melodies. But it wasn’t until Emily and I were driving through a semi-worn-down area of Delaware. It was kind of baron and depressed. And the music completely fit in and clicked for me. The music already made sense to me, but it REALLY made sense to me. It was emotional and timely. There is nothing better than that. Oh yeah and there are no lyrics, so that’s always an added bonus for me.
Command Records/Terry Snyder & All Stars’ Persuasive Percussion II (Acquired in 2001 – Recorded in 1959) – This was a record given to me by a friend. I thought it was going to be simply all percussion. But it was not. It was sort of like easy listening big band music or “space age pop” as the critics call it. But the more and more I listened to it the more textures and layers and sounds I heard. Jesus Christ. This was music recorded in the 50s and 60s and it sounds like music coming out of the studios of today. It was fat and chunky and detailed and not muddy and washed out and flat like a lot of pop music from the 50s sounded like. They used stereo like George Martin started using 5+ years later. No one had ever really done such dramatic stereo panning at this time. It was a breath of fresh air for me and reassurance that there was interesting and breakthrough music happening in pop music and in recording techniques, best of all. After reading more and more about the label, I found out more about their recording techniques, like using 35mm film to record audio on to. Yeah, totally ZERO wow and flutter because the tape is sprocketed. I started picking up other Command Records records where ever I could find them. Strangely very few were ever transfered to CD. Rightfully so, as I am not sure how this music would translate to CD. If you still have no idea what this music sounds like, think Esquivel but seriously wider and deeper and bombastic. And if you ever see a Command Records LP in a bin somewhere pick it up and if you don’t like it, give it to me. I’ll give you a big kiss.
I’ve become pretty good at researching electronics. Especially good at researching audio electronics. This time around I wanted to upgrade my loudspeaker system. The one I have presently is great if not excellent, but I’ve had it for almost 10 years. My ears have grown with them, but they need more.
I remember getting my first store credit card at Best Buy with Kyle in Antioch (37013), because I simply did not have the $350 for them at the time. I think I also picked up that 1980-1990 U2 CD as well. Why I remember these things?! I remember paying it each month until it was paid off 6 months later. (Free 6 months financing cant be wrong!) Anyways… The time has come to move on. I have an incredibly nice amplifier and the Cerwin Vegas are doing nicely, but I know the amp can voice more articulately with seriously refined loudspeakers. The Cerwin Vegas were 3 way (of course) – but were always pretty bass heavy and a little tin foil sounding (bright) in the high end. I am looking for something more natural and even sounding. Not just booty bass. Over the years, I’ve discovered how less highs and lows play in the mix and where the mid range is really the serious made-it-or-break-it factor. I mean getting the mids in the correct placement are more troublesome and could almost be considered an art when done correctly. Whereas getting the highs and mids are pretty simple. Or perhaps it just me.
So this weekend I started looking at speakers. I had unofficially been looking for months. Funny how I started this. I talked with Emily about it to get her input and her only requirement was that it had to be a light wood. Like a beech or maple. I’ve honestly never done research this backwards before. Typically when buying something electronic one starts with basic specs. At first I definitely understood and completely agreed with this sentiment as it would compliment the rest of the decor in the room. Little did I know that you typically have to spend thousands of dollars on loudspeakers to get more than “ash” or “oak” veneers. So after a few days of research and a budget I came up with the Wharfedale Diamond 8.4 floor standing loudspeakers. In maple wood, of course. I also looked at B&W and Athena Technologies.
- Twin 6.5 inch Kevlar bass / midrange drive units
- 1 inch silk fabric dome tweeter, ferrofluid cooled with neodymium magnet
- Biamp/biwire capable (Yay!)
- 100 watt power rating (continuous RMS)
- Frequency response 34Hz – 20kHz
- Nominal impedance: 6 ohm
- Wired internally with premium Monster Cable XP
The wood keeps Emily happy. The innards (and reasonable price!) keep me happy. And the amp is happy (the speakers are also made in the UK – so they are neighbors too). And if only I owned a firearm, I could test out the Kevlar speakers. They are also a bit tighter in size than the Cerwin Vegas which is nice because they will nest next to the couch on each side pretty nicely. And the couch (to be refinished in the next week or two) will be moved under the two windows in the living room.
One sad factor was that I was unable to purchase from AudioAdvisor.com which is my favorite audio store. They didn’t have the maple wood. It was a shame. Maybe next time around.
UPDATE: Turns out the maple finish was also backordered from the place I purchased them from. So I canceled the order and ordered it from AudioAdvisor. I [heart] the AudioAdvisor.
UPDATE 2: Turns out when the couch came we decided the maple finish wouldn’t work. So we decided on the Athena Technologies F2.2 in black/gray finish. So yummy.