The National: Alligator
The impulse when you come across something new is to try to hear something you’ve heard before. Your brain tries to put the pieces it finds into some understandable order. This recording is no exception. What do I want to compare this sound to? To the understatement and rhythm of Joy Division, to the repetitive prettiness of early Crooked Fingers. But there’s a new complexity, there are epic, open spaces in the music where shit just goes nuts- pianos, guitars, background singers mixing with the lead. There are instances of delicate guitar work that eschew the whole Joy Division esthetic. Vocals like Neil Diamond, Ian Curtis, and Elvis packed together with lyrics which are the chronicle of a weird normality, a quotidian gothic. It’s a recording that pulls you in to a new place, refracts you through a neglected facet of reality and makes you listen to accounts of things that simply refuse to rely on stock phraseology. Familiar words abut, and though the words are common enough, something in the arrangement requires all the power of your attention, like you’ve just walked in to a room where your best friend in the 4th grade is sitting there, unaging, in conversation with your grown children. Both are intimately familiar, but why HERE, why LIKE THIS?
What fury, what beauty. It’s good.
Vamplifier: Long Silent Longing
I’ve been humming a lot of these songs and singing them to myself for the past couple of years. Now, finally, the cd is out and other people can get ahold of this great album and get hooked on these songs of obsession and love noir. Bluesy, garagey, pained, exalted. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a great nod to both the femme fatale and Gary Numan. She Used to Be my Baby is frenzied in its remembrance of one who got away and took a chunk with her. Every time I hear the words “She used to be my baby, she loved me maybe”, I don’t know whether to smile in the solidarity of shared experience or sit back and wonder one more time what the hell that one WAS thinking, really. Stripped. Filthy. Tight. Smokey. Just listen to this record.