OK, despite the efforts of two world leaders, men who both seem to be inadequately qualified for their jobs, Earth has made it to the end of September 2017. It’s been a month when my football team have remained undefeated, winning their last 3 games in fine style. At a time when, after 5 miserable seasons, we finally have a coach who has some idea of what he is doing & a team who at least appear to care what happens when Saturday comes. It would be just Aston Villa’s luck to have our mini-revival abruptly ended by a bloody nuclear holocaust. Here’s some other good stuff from the past 4 weeks.
In July 1976 Neil Young sent a telegram to his co-star in the Stills-Young Band notifying Stephen that he would not be completing their tour in support of the “Long May You Run” LP. A 1974 stadium tour by their group, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, an avalanche of hype, drugs & ego had strained relationships to breaking point & now he was walking away from a musical partnership that had lasted a decade. Neil had shown the same cussed restlessness when solo LPs “After the Goldrush” & “Harvest” had been very successful in the singer-songwriter/Soft Rock troubadour boom of the early 1970s. His subsequent recordings, some of the most imaginative & challenging of his long & varied career, failed to reach that audience which hoped for more songs like “Heart of Gold” (you know that one). Always prolific, Neil could still do that stuff as well as anyone. On one night in August 1976 he took his acoustic guitar into a Malibu studio & recorded 10 new songs. It is only now that we finally get to hear the results of that night.
Listening to “Hitchhiker” is a delight. 8 of the 10 songs made it on to his records but this doesn’t sound like a bunch of demos & it’s not the nostalgia of hearing old songs. The lack of other instrumentation matched to Neil’s individual shaky delivery, high & human, sounds like an LP that was ready to go. I’m by no means a Neil Young obsessive & I know what I like. Albums like “Hawks & Doves” & “Greendale” still get a regular airing round here while others remain at the back of the stack. The high quality of some of his archival releases, the monumental Crazy Horse set at the Fillmore East in 1970 & this stoned snapshot of his mid-Seventies creativity are essential documents of one of US Rock’s great artists.
Well, this will not wait. There’s a new Kurt & Courtney in town when on October 13th Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile release their LP “Lotta Sea Lice”. The 2 pre-release tracks, the shimmering “Over Everything” & the sweet “Continental Breakfast” confirm that the album will be one to listen out for. Aussie Courtney stormed it with her debut LP “Sometimes I Sit & Think & Sometimes I Just Sit”, refreshingly honest & sharply amusing lyrics backed by punchy Indie Guitar Rock. “Sometimes…” deservedly found an audience & Courtney ended up with a nomination for Best New Artist at the 2016 Grammys. As much a shock to us that the best music should be acknowledged as I’m sure it was to her.
I don’t know much about Kurt Vile’s solo work or with his band The War On Drugs. If he’s good enough for Courtney, these 2 tracks display a natural compatibility, then he’s good enough for further investigation. So much music so little time. September can’t be done & dusted without marking the loss of Walter Becker & Grant Hart, both so essential to the outstanding music made by their respective groups Steely Dan & Husker Du.
Obviously the movie of the month was “Wolf Mother”, writer/director Erik Peter Carlson’s first film since his ambitious 2014 indie epic “The Toy Soldiers” & another confident piece of film-making. The film is not at all helped by its trailer, Carlson has got it going on & capably pushes the limits of taste further than say Linklater or P T Anderson who have covered similar ground with bigger budgets. Look, I have recommended violent, twisted, amoral tales of low-life losers before & some people have not been too impressed with my choice. So “Wolf Mother”, you didn’t hear about it from me right !
Playing over the opening credits of David Simon’s new TV series “The Deuce” is Curtis Mayfield’s incendiary “If There’s A Hell Below We’re All Going To Go”. Set on the mean streets around New York’s Times Square in the early 1970s these wise guys, superfly sporting men & their ladies will need more than a great Funk soundtrack to rival all those classic movies with a similar urban setting. Simon has hit the spot before, “The Wire” & “Generation Kill” remain particular favourites. His collaborator George Pelecanos is responsible for some of the best recent US crime fiction. I’ve only seen the pilot, James Franco (not a big favourite, too many Judd Apatow films) plays 2 brothers & the very lovely Maggie Gyllenhaal is er…very lovely. I saw enough of interest to ensure that I will be hanging around for the rest of the series (series 2 is already confirmed) & trusting that the 2 creators will introduce a wider social context for the excellent cast to hang their rather fetching street threads & “everything is everything” patter on.