September 10, 2011

Playlist Week Of 9-10-11

Boston Spaceships - Let It Beard

* Telemann: The Complete Tafelmusik (Freiburger Barockorchester) (d.3-4) (Harmonia Mundi 4CD)
* Vasks: Pater Noster (Latvian Radio Choir/Sinfonietta Riga/Kjava) (Ondine CD)
* Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Complete Columbia Recordings (Columbia/Legacy 6CD)
* John Coltrane: Giant Steps (Atlantic/Rhino LP)
* John Coltrane: Coltrane Jazz (Atlantic/Rhino LP)
* John Coltrane: My Favorite Things (Atlantic/Rhino LP)
* John Coltrane: The Complete Africa Brass Sessions (Impulse! 2CD)
* Sun Ra: Civic Center, Santa Cruz, CA 12-11-74 (AUD 2CDR)
* Sun Ra: Smiling Dog Saloon, Cleveland, OH 1-30-75 (FM CDR)
* Anthony Braxton: Solo (Allentown) 1991 (New Braxton House FLAC>2CDR)
* Anthony Braxton: Compositions 284 & 285 (Antwerp) (2000) (New Braxton House FLAC>2CDR)
* David S. Ware/Cooper-Moore/William Parker/Muhammad Ali: Planetary Unknown (AUM Fidelity CD)
* Pat Metheny Group: American Garage (ECM LP)
* Pat Metheny & Lyle Mays: As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls (ECM LP)
* Pat Metheny Group: Offramp (ECM LP)
* Arcana (Derek Bailey/Bill Laswell/Tony Williams): The Last Wave (DIW CD)
* Arcana (Bailey/Laswell/DeJohnnette/DJ Disk): Frankfurt 6-07-97 (FM CDR)
* Praxis: Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis) (Axiom/Island CD)†
* V/A: The Doo Wop Box (d.1) (Rhino 4CD)†/‡
* Stevie Wonder: Songs In The Key Of Life (Tamla/Motown 2LP+7”)
* Rolling Stones: Tattoo You (Rolling Stones/Warner Bros. LP)
* Grateful Dead: Road Trips Vol.3 No.4: Penn State/Cornell ’80 (selections) (GDP/Rhino 3CD)
* Grateful Dead: Berkeley Community Theatre, Berkeley, CA 4-19-86 (SBD 2CDR)
* Mickey Hart: At The Edge (Rykodisc CD)
* Alexander (“Skip”) Spence: Oar (Columbia/Sundazed CD)
* Yes: The Yes: Album (Atlantic/Mobile Fidelity CD)†
* Yes: Fragile (Atlantic/Mobile Fidelity CD)†
* Yes: Close To The Edge (Atlantic/Rhino CD)†
* Genesis: Abacab (Atlantic LP)
* Genesis: Three Sides Live (Atlantic 2LP)
* Genesis: Invisible Touch (Atlantic LP)
* Phil Collins: Face Value (Atlantic/Audio Fidelity CD)
* The Golden Palominos: Drunk With Passion (Restless CD)†/‡
* Sonic Youth: Washing Machine (Geffen 2LP)
* Thurston Moore: Trees Outside The Academy (Ecstatic Peace CD)†
* Thurston Moore: Demolished Thoughts (Matador CD)†
* Yo La Tengo: “Autumn Sweater” (Matador CDEP)
* Boredoms: Vision Creation Newsun (Birdman CD)†
* Beck: Modern Guilt (Geffen CD)
* Stereolab: Sound-Dust (Elektra CD)
* Stereolab: “Captain Easychord" (Elektra CDEP)
* Tortoise: A Lazarus Taxon (Thrill Jockey 3CD+DVD) †/‡
* Boston Spaceships: Let It Beard (GBV, Inc. 2LP)
* Hands Off Cuba: Hands Off Cuba (Hands Off Cuba CDEP)
* Hands Off Cuba: Volumes Of Sobering Liquids (Sebastian Speaks EP)



Yes, it’s another Robert Pollard record. But hold on a second, folks! Before you click your mouse, bear with me. I know I’m an unrepentant fan and so my opinion may seem unreliable. Yet I need to bear witness to what is Pollard’s best record in years—maybe ever! The long-awaited (and, as it turns out, final) Boston Spaceships record (cheekily titled, Let It Beard) is just stunningly good. The sprawling, 26-song, 75-minute double-LP is Pollard’s magnum opus, brimming with the sort of clever wordplay, elliptical song structures, soaring melodies and catchy hooks that define his singularly variegated style—and it rocks like a motherfucker! Pollard has described it as “a subconscious concept album about the sorry state of rock and roll” but Let It Beard restores my faith in rock’s transcendent power—and the value of maturity.

Much credit is due to ex-GBV bassist Chris Slusarenko, whose tasteful production touches, including the occasional horns and strings, help to make each song (however weirdly constructed) into a fully realized masterpiece. And he managed to lasso a bunch of prestigious guest musicians to flesh out the arrangements, including heroic guitar solos from Dinosaur Jr.’s J. Mascis on “Tourist U.F.O.”, Wire’s Colin Newman on “You Just Can’t Tell” and The Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn on “I Took On The London Guys.” From the opening multi-part “Blind 20-20” to the concluding rave-up, “Inspiration Points,” the album builds a steady momentum, carrying you on a journey through "The Four P’s of Rock: Pop, Psych, Prog and Punk.” There’s not a dud track on the whole thing—a remarkable achievement given the album's length and breadth—and it’s over before you know it, leaving you wanting more.

But it is Pollard’s exuberant singing that is really impressive. In the post-GBV era, EP-sized LPs and sometimes lackadaisical vocals have been something of the norm, but here Pollard sings with youthful vigor, going for the high notes, enunciating each vowel sound with the cocky confidence worthy of a rock star and reminiscent of his (our) glory days. At 53, I wasn’t sure he still had it in him—and that was OK with me—hey, time takes its toll. But Let It Beard shows he’s still got it and gives me hope for my own senescence. Pollard’s longevity and potency is testimony to rock’s redemptive powers—it keeps you young.

It’s too bad, though, that Boston Spaceships has come to an end. Slusarenko and John Moen (of The Decemberists) make for a supple, slinky rhythm section and the four previous LPs and various EPs have been consistently fun. They even toured briefly back in 2008 (documented on the “official” bootleg, Licking Stamps And Drinking Shitty Coffee) but, really, they were always just another among Pollard’s many side-projects. Well, at least they are going out with a bang: Let It Beard is not just a good Boston Spaceships record, it’s a great album—period. Rumor has it the re-united “classic lineup” GBV is going to make a record and make it official: the “reunion tour” has become a reformation. That sounds good to me, but it would be a shame if this record gets lost in the deluge. Fans of Pollard already know, but if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, Let It Beard is a great place to start.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Thanks for the tip on this...I really enjoyed "Cubehouse" and am looking forward to checking this out.

Here's my lists for last week:

Playlist 2011-09-12:

*Ravi Shankar: Three Ragas
*Billie Holiday: Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia 1933–1944 (disc 5)
*Paul Lytton/Nate Wooley: 2011-03-02 The Stone, NYC (CDR)
*Wayne Shorter: The All-Seeing Eye
*Sun Ra & His Arkestra: 1974-12-11 Santa Cruz CA (CDR)
*Sun Ra & His Planet Saturn Love Adventurer Arkestra: 1988-09-03 Grant Park, Chicago (CDR)
*Henry Threadgill's Very Very Circus: 1990-08-30 Willisau, Switzerland (CDR)
*Trio What +1: 2011-09-11 Action T-Shirts, Richmond VA (CDR)
*Weather Report: Black Market
*High Llamas: Gideon Gaye
*High Llamas: Snowbug
*High Llamas: Buzzle Bee
*Panda Bear: Person Pitch
*Prince: The Undertaker (boot CDR)
*Tad Thaddock: Narg Brats
*Time: Ice Cream Castle

Reading List 2011-09-12:

*The Horror! The Horror! ed. Jim Trombetta (started)
*Joyce, James. Ulysses (reread/finished)
*Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights (transl. Malcolm C. Lyons) Vol. 2 (in progress)
*Bradbury, Ray: The Illustrated Man (reread/in progress)
*Wallace, David Foster. The Pale King (in progress)