Thursday, May 19, 2005

Army of She

I've never been the hugest of Bjork fans. From as far back as her days with the Sugarcubes, I admired what she did and thought most of what I heard was pretty catchy, but I never got too excited about any of it.

Then a couple of weeks ago I came across all four volumes of her (fairly) recent collection of live albums, released individually and as a boxed set in 2003, each of which documents a tour linked to a specific studio album. (I keep meaning to write an entire entry about that phenomenon--which also includes the Brazilian tendency to follow up a studio album with a live CD of the same material, and of course the song-for-song live-album version of Pet Sounds--but that particular mini-essay will have to wait.) There's also a surprisingly thoughtful and detailed booklet-length interview (the same booklet in each disc if you buy them separately) which provides some revealing insight into Bjork's creative process, both in the studio and in concert. I had every intention of quoting some of those insights here, then ended up returning the discs to my local library before I could do it. Bad blogger! Shame, shame!

Most of the songs feature radically different arrangements than you find on the studio albums--they're richer, fuller, more surprising. Plus I really like the duo Matmos, who show up as part of the backing band on the later discs. Best of all, the CDs feel fresher than most live albums; they really stand up on their own.

I've been thinking a lot lately about live performance of older work, since that's pretty much what I'm striving to do in my current spoken-word shows (insert self-promotional reference here), and both the interview and the concert recordings have been a great source of inspiration--not that I have the resources, skill, or interest to do anything close to what Bjork pulls off, but at least I like where she's coming from.

Consider me a convert, I guess.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Under cover of the night

Travis singing "Wichita Lineman." Pete Townsend doing the English Beat's "Save it fer Later." Bomb the Bass taking on "I Say A Little Prayer for You." And so on, and so on, and so on...

If you have not yet experienced the addictive charms of Coverville, get your ass over to the site, pronto. Brian Ibbott's half-hour podcast of sometimes silly, sometimes sublime cover versions of songs is too much fun to miss. God only knows how this man finds the time to assemble and record brand-new shows on such a regular basis--it's all I can do to type out 50 words here every three weeks or so. Hell, I'm even too lazy to try and track down who did that amazing version of "A Day in the Life" as it would have sounded if Buddy Holly had recorded it in his signature style--it was on episode, oh, I don't know--I have a backlog of about 25 episodes waiting for me at any given moment. (Note: if you're not into the podcasting lifestyle yet, you can just go to the website and download individual shows, each of which has an accompanying playlist online.)

The premise and execution remind me of various late-night CBC radio programs of years past ("Brave New Waves," anyone?), but mixed in with the staggering range of music he covers (oops, wrong word), there's this ultra-casual home-grown quality that I really enjoy, as when Brian has to ask his 8-year-old son to be quiet while daddy is recording. (Moments earlier, he's just played Cake's version of a Muppets song in honor of the kid's birthday.)

The theme shows are especially cool: 3 versions of the same song in a row, 6 covers of songs about Las Vegas, a night of Irish bands doing non-Irish songs (plus the Cardigans covering Thin Lizzy), "double double cover covers" (ie, covers of two songs at once, like Soft Cell doing their "Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go" medley), etc. Looks like Mr. Ibbott has done 84 shows as of mid-May, and I'm incredibly tempted to check out each and every one.

Monday, May 09, 2005


The self-promotion never stops these days, folks. Actually, this one's not really about me at all, but it's certainly about music, and no shortage of obsession. This Thursday, May 12 at 8:30 p.m., there will be a party at the Sphere nightclub in Buffalo, NY to celebrate the May/June issue of the magazine I work for, Buffalo Spree--the first-ever Music Issue. We needed a party because the staff and freelance writers spent about four months working on this one. We'll have two deejays (my buddies Karl Scheitheir, aka "SkaBear," and Paul Szp, aka "Paul Szp," who played in one of my fave Buffalo bands from the 80s, Paper Faces) playing Buffalo-born music from the era of Harold Arlen to the present day. Details on the party are here. Hope you can come!

There is much I could say about the issue, and about music in my adopted hometown, but it'll have to wait. I'm--irony of ironies--late for work.