Friday, October 31, 2014

The Rock Song of J. Alfred Pruflove: The Sisters of Mercy

The Sisters of Mercy: Floodland

Then: I think it was around 10th grade that I started abandoning Tool and Korn and all that crap, and for about a year I really got into 80s goth type stuff, mostly through my previous association with Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson. I picked up all the essentials: Disintegration, Violator, and of course Floodland. It was never my favorite of the group (I was a big Depeche Mode guy) but 'Lucretia My Reflection' was a stalwart on the mixtapes I had in my car when i first got my license.

Now: Listening to the album after a long time away, it really rides so strongly on the good graces of its three singles: 'This Corrosion', 'Dominion/Mother Russia', and the aforementioned 'Lucretia My Reflection'. All three songs remain astounding, and show that Andrew Eldritch could write a killer hook when he wanted to (to say nothing of Jim Steinman's production, which is bombastic, ridiculous, and totally awesome). Sadly, he doesn't show the same panache for the rest of the album as he does for its singles, and honestly the rest of Floodland is actually kind of boring, which is always the most egregious offense when you're creating art. Still, if you could cut Floodland down to the singles, it would be a nifty little EP (and a fairly beefy one too, considering that two of the singles cracked 7 minutes).

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Rock Song of J. Alfred Pruflove: The Fiery Furnaces

The Fiery Furnaces: Blueberry Boat

Then: Another album I was absolutely blown away by in 2004. I had the Furnaces' first album, which was a rad but inessential collection of White Stripes-style stripped down rock, and when I first heard Blueberry Boat's 10-minute long, elliptical opener, "Quay Cur," I really thought I had picked up the wrong disc. The feeling got even stronger when I saw them live, a show where they distilled down both their albums into a single 45-minute long song. This was my absolute favorite album for years.

Now: Damn if Blueberry Boat isn't just as solid and essential as it was 10 years ago. The Furnaces' songwriter/lyricist/musical kaleidoscope Matthew Friedberger strikes that rare balance between melodic and experimental, and he does it in such a way that the album's several 8-minute-plus songs never wear out their welcome. Friedberger has to be one of the cleverest musicians around, as well, which makes his apparent disappearance since 2008 or so a tragedy. His lyrics are absolutely sharp, an extension of Pete Townshend's rock opera work, and the music is a melange of The Residents' Not Available, early Psychic TV, and the Friedberger siblings' own, strange take on pop music. Blueberry Boat is no longer on my favorite albums list, but it's most certainly an album everybody should hear at least once.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Rock Song of J. Alfred Pruflove: Animal Collective

Animal Collective: Sung Tongs

Then: This was absolutely mind-blowing around 2004. I had never heard anything quite like Animal Collective's Sung Tongs, which was sort of experimental folk music, lots of weird droning acoustic guitars and bizarre vocal affectations. I was absolutely blown away and tried repeatedly to make an album that was basically a big ol' rip-off of it (I think we were going to call is NUJV). I remember going to see them live and describing them to a guy in line who was only there for the headliner (Black Dice, I think?) as "Can with acoustic guitars." The rest of their records sounded absolutely nothing like this one, and for the most part I gave up on the Collective after about 2005, but there was a year or so when this was my life.

Now: Ehh...Sung Tongs is okay, but nowhere near as good as I remember. Maybe it's just because I've discovered Comus and The Incredible String Band since, but their 'unsettling acoustic' schtick doesn't feel nearly as fresh as it did at the time...hell, singer Avey Tare even sounds like the dude from Comus. Speaking of which, Jesus Christ, the lyrics on this album are straight-up awful, some of the most mind-numbing poetry I've ever heard. If you ever needed proof that doing drugs makes you an absolutely atrocious poet, give a couple tracks from Sung Tongs a spin (or, as always, Kemialliset Ystävät, which is so bad that I have to believe is intentional). The last couple A Screaming Comes Across the Sky albums were fairly psychedelic folk influenced, so Sung Tongs remains an album that affected my music, but these days I look at it more like a record that got me to find records from OTHER bands that are, for lack of a better word, much better.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Rock Song of J. Alfred Pruflove: The Shins

The Shins: Chutes too Narrow

Then: I initially discovered The Shins after seeing them headlining a show The Fiery Furnaces opened soon after this record came out. I dug Chutes too Narrow but I don't think I paid any mind to their first album, which I've completely forgotten the name to. I remember being very impressed that I could fit both albums on a single CD, though.

Now: Not bad! The album is really stripped down, acoustic guitar-based, catchy pop music, and James Mercer's singing voice doesn't fall into the insufferably cutesy trap a lot of 'indie' singers fall prey too. It has an impressive string of really good songs in a row, from the first to the eighth, and considering the album is only ten songs long, that's not bad at all. If you want some harmless, Beatle-influenced pop music, you could do a lot worse. They weren't that good live though, sadly.