Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Continuing the obsessive nutter theme...

(And a bit of a rant)

After last Friday's post and yesterday's anti-Bangs-esque critique (which frankly makes anything that NME has ever published in their rag look like a Shakespearean sonnet by comparison) I am still absolutely enthralled with PJ Harvey's latest release. It has virtually played non-stop on the stereo at home for the last six days (well... except when I'm asleep, or when I'm taking care of the goats. And, no, that last one is not a euphemism!). Consequently though, this has thrown a bit of a wrench in my recording productivity lately... which, strangely enough, might be a good thing. That, and I probably need help.

This album is a "game-changer" for me, one of just a handful that has made me reevaluate my views on what music could be. Sure, there is nothing that revolutionary or different about the structure and theme of Let England Shake compared to most albums. In my opinion (obviously) what sets it apart from most albums is Harvey's flawless pairing of music and words. These respective parts carry an enormous amount of emotional weight, and their combination leaves me feeling breathless after each listen.

I know. What a big Jessy...

This is what I imagined the perfect album to be. It does leave me feeling somewhat ambivalent in regards to my own capabilities, though. On one hand, it inspires me. On the other, it leaves me with the feeling that I will never create something as masterful or even a fraction as good as Let England Shake. Regardless though, I am glad that this album exists.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Expand and elaborate

I had unfortunately "lost the thread" to Polly Jean Harvey a couple times over the years, which has obviously been my loss. The first time was shortly after the release of her third studio album, To Bring You My Love (1995). The second time I committed this unforgivable act was not too long after she reemerged upon my consciousness via the long defunct PBS live music show, Sessions at West 54th, in 1999 performing tunes from her then current release, Is This Desire?, with longtime friend/band mate John Parish.

There is no viable excuse. Everything I've heard by Miss Harvey is brilliant. The only feeble defense I can put forth is that I am a poor multitasker. When I become occupied with a particular group, musician, and/or genre I tend to neglect all others. PJ Harvey is the metaphorical child left forgotten in a vehicle and I am the negligent father. Hyperbole? A bit, maybe...

The tables have now turned, though. She has created an album which has made me forsake any other recording that has ever existed (now, THAT is hyperbole!). The truth is that I have listened to nothing else since hearing the stellar title track to Let England Shake on Radio 6 this past Friday. Not only is it the best album to come out this year (so far... to be fair, since there are six months left) but it could be PJ Harvey's best, which is saying a lot. It's also possibly one of my favorite albums of all time... which is probably not be saying a lot.

Yes, I am a wee bit late to the party. Let England Shake was released on 14 February and it has garnered quite a bit of well-deserved critical acclaim (surprisingly most of the reviews seemed to be pretty spot-on for the album). Harvey has always had a knack for writing great lyrics that grab your emotions, and she writes what I believe her best for Let England Shake. Her proses of the mortal fear and losses suffered during the First World War ("All and Everyone", "On Battleship Hill", "Hanging in the Wire", "The Colour of the Earth") are integral to the album's overall theme of England's past bloody imperial glories and self-destruction, and with the nation's current psyche of still trying come to terms with its consequences. The most poignant song to me is "England", which Harvey articulates her ambivalence towards her homeland with such a raw and pure honesty as to make my heart break each time I hear it:

Most albums seem to have at least one element that isn't up to par, whether it's the lyrics or the music. That is not the case on Let England Shake. The music itself is equally as fantastic as the lyrics, and share the latter's dichotomy of simplicity and depth. The album feels personal and intimate. There isn't one wasted moment on any of the tracks. It should considered the standard of efficient effort by which all other albums should be measured. More hyperbole? Well, yes but hopefully you get my point.

If you haven't already gathered from this post, Let England Shake is a absolutely stellar album, me thinks. I'm sure that I deserve a good slap for the audacity to forget about PJ Harvey, and I believe that I owe it to myself to obtain the rest of her catalogue.

Here are the rest of the wonderful short films by Seamus Murphy which accompany Let England Shake:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Here and now

After a somewhat hectic morning I can now sit back and listen to Let England Shake (2011) by the always brilliant PJ Harvey:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mixed bag

Been ill off and on for over a week; recorded a couple new tunes in the last couple of days; continued to be accompanied by my old companion insomnia; had a pretty good chinwag with a cousin which I haven't seen in nearly seven years; was a pallbearer at a funeral once again.

The Good, the Bad & the Queen (2007)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

End of the journey

The last of my grandparents passed away in her sleep Friday afternoon at the age of ninety-one. Thoughts now turn to the coming storm ahead...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

Spanner and hammer

Managed to do some DIY work this evening without losing life or limb... surprisingly. Fixed a leaky kitchen faucet and installed a new thermostat control for the central heating and a/c. The latter project was particularly nerve-wracking, as my history with electrical wiring has been hit-and-(very) miss. Luckily, it went without incident and seems to be working. Hopefully there won't be a need to tinker with the home electrical system again soon. Never again would be ideal, though...

And now: some vids. I used to love watching Ed Feldman and Joe L'Erario's DIY programs (Furniture on the Mend, Furniture to Go, and Men in Tool Belts) when they aired on PBS and TLC in the early to mid-Nineties. Absurdist humour and offbeat banter paired with the format of the shows was just fantastic, me thinks.

From Furniture to Go (most of the episodes below are from the 1996 series):

Well, you get the idea... if you actually watched these.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Getting Cozy... again

I've been on a bit of a Cozy Powell "kick" ever since his cameo in a dream I had last Thursday (he played a cat box and pencil sharpener with HIO during a gig in the cafeteria at the elementary school I attended). Sooo... here be some vids with the late, great drummer in action:

B/W "Mistral" (1974)

Promo film recorded at Music Hall in Houston, 10 July 1976

"Killer" and "The Loner" from the album, Over the Top (1979)

Friday, June 3, 2011


The HIO trio went to Denton this past Thursday to participate in a dance and sounds session at TWU with Contact Improvisation Jams of Denton, TX. Before the event we met up with Sarah Gamblin for dins and discussion regarding our collaboration for the Houston Fringe Festival in August, which we're quite looking forward to (TARDIS, anyone?).

The jam with the dancers and other musos was great. The visual aspect provided by the dancers seems to be keeping us on our toes (not literally, though. Any attempt made by me to play en pointe would most likely result with an extended stay in hospital), adding another element in which to take "cues" from. Getting to work with this talented lot from Denton has been a blast and I hope our partnership, to paraphrase Spock, is long and prosperous.

Speaking of Spock (and careening totally off-subject)...

Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy (1968)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Waddle ya play?

This, thank you very much:

Beat Rhythm News (Waddle Ya Play?) (1979)