With ridiculous track titles like Placebo Headwound and The Abandoned Hospital Ship, The Flaming Lips have carved out a place for themselves where few dare tread. They are the circus parade of the surreal; a musical acid trip. And I absolutely love them. They’ve eschewed commercialism with their bizarre lyrics and unconventional song structure. And, while the music is extremely experimental in places, there is an underlying rock rhythm that carries the songs along expertly. Clouds Taste Metallic (released 1995) is a wonderful, cinematic surprise.
Before discovering Post-Rock I was (and remain) an ardent Indie music lover. I probably already mentioned that I’d grown bored with Classic and New-Wave rock and was searching for something new sonically. Brent Knopf’s first band, Menomena fit the bill. It was experimental, weird, and refreshing modern music. Brent’s vocal and guitar layers were always my favorite parts of their compositions and I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more of his raw guitar/subtle vocalization input on their records.
Ramona Falls was born with a pocketful of Brent’s unused songs from a Menomena album that was currently stalled in production and the Intuit LP was the initial result. The record is hauntingly beautiful with a copious amount of Brent’s “Kink like” fuzzy guitar, earnest vocals, and enough quirk to remind one that there is a subtle bit of humor going on here. I’m including two videos. The first is one of my favorite tracks on the LP, while the second is a fascinating “Ted Talk” appetizer on Brent’s writing process and his intentional incorporation of “beautiful” mistakes in the music.
An Awesome Wave was released in May 2012 and I’m kicking myself for waiting two years to get to know this work. Alt J has a unique sound that they attribute to their early days of playing in a college dorm and having to tone down the bass (no worries, as there is plenty of bass on this album). The band will be releasing a new LP this month and, judging from some of the pre released tracks, it should be a superb effort as well. Many of the tracks on this record have to do with film and literature (the band was originally called The Films). In an interview, songwriter and lead singer Joe Newman said that many of the songs have to do with endings or the “demise” of characters in movies and books. Founding member and bass player Gwil Sainsbury left the band following this record and I’m hoping that doesn’t affect the band’s sound too much, because Alt J Is “An Awesome Wave.”
The English Beat (aka: The Beat in the U.K.) released Special Beat Service in 2003. It was widely successful in the USA and less so in their Native U.K. The band had developed a Reggae beat and unusual time signature on these tracks which translated well with the dance set of the day. The LP could be considered a greatest hits release as it is chock full of some of the best Beat songs released. I Confess, Sole Salvation, and Save It For Later were among the singles from the album. The band broke up after Special Beat Service and band members formed General Public and Fine Young Cannibals after the break-up. This prophetic track is called End Of The Party.
Kid A was released in 2000 and was a turning point for Radiohead and an influence on many of the Alt/Indie groups that followed. It was more experimental than previous releases and incorporated a lot of unconventional sound, as well as conventional instrumentation used in unconventional ways. Kid A was itself influenced by Electronica, jazz, and Rap. Horns and strings were freely used and resulted in a sound that alienated some veteran fans.
Peter Gabriel: Radiohead have been one of my favourite bands for a long time – they’re brilliant and bold in their composition, experimentation and always seem drawn to new challenges.
Red Letter Days was released in 2002. The Alt/Indie music era, which ushered in a sound from many bands one wouldn’t normally hear from the big record companies, was in full swing. We saw Wilco and Broken Social and many others emerge at that time, and Post-Rock, started at least a decade prior, began to rear it’s head. While a commercial success Red Letter Days was criticized by some because it didn’t sound much different than the previous release (Breach). Who gives a shit!? Most consumers judge an album on it’s merits and not whether the music style changes on a timetable. Red Letter Days is a good record which includes everything from slow love songs to high energy heavy rock and roll.
The Crane Wife is the fourth album from The Decemberists, the band that (finally) brought us a song about killing babies (The Rake Song); I’m talking patricide, not abortion. I could plagiarize the crap out of Wikipedia, but rather you click here for the full story. The Decemberists are intelligent baroque/progressive rock. Their songs usually tell a story not usually familiar to westerners, The Crane Wife is a Japanese folk tale. This is further explored in their follow up LP “Hazards of Love.”
This track, O Valencia, is one of my favorites, and a pretty good mini-film featuring the whole band.
The American Analog Set is a Lo-Fi five piece out of Austin, Texas. Their music is simple and not highly engineered, resulting in an amazingly studio-like sound during live performances. Guitars, Drums, Keys, and subdued vocals make up the fabric of their tracks. They’ve released six LPs since 1995, the latest in 2005. This track is from the 2003 album Promise of Love entitled Come Home Julie Baby, Come Home.