Jumbled in the Yooralla box: part 1 of a series maybe

Tuesday 24 August 2004

A few years back, just before Christmas, I found a cardboard box full of LPs on the pavement in front of a Yooralla shop, so I took it home. Don’t get all snippy and send me nasty emails about how I’m going to hell for nicking stuff from a charity: this box was in the middle of the pavement beside a pile of discarded crap right underneath a big sign in the Yooralla window saying “This shop will reopen in February so don’t just dump your crap on the pavement, dumbass!” This box was not a charity donation, it was some girl getting even with her boyfriend after a yuletide tiff and if I hadn’t rescued it some drunken tosser wd have kicked it all the way down the street into the path of a truck.
Nevertheless, to assuage any residual pangs of guilt, and because anyone with a website is compelled by law to post bits of their record collection on it, I shall share with you a small and random sampling of the box’s bounty. If anyone can deduce a profile of the box’s previous owner from its contents I wd like to hear your theories. NOTE: The Thurston Potential, besides being my favourite Robert Ludlum novel, is the likelihood that sometime in the next five years the album will be “re-evaluated” (i.e. wildly overpraised) by wankerous fanboys after Thurston Moore* inexplicably professes a liking for it.

Everything You Always Wanted to Hear on the Moog (but were afraid to ask for)
Dig the hip and slightly ribald Woody Allen reference! Yes, it’s just one of many attempts to cash in on the success of Switched On Bach. Back in the late 60s a bunch of musical nerds fell into league with clueless but evil record company executives and churned out platter after platter of this gash, flogging one of the most important developments in electronic music until the word ‘Moog’ turned permanently into a musical term only slightly less respectable than ‘accordion’. The album is credited to “The Mighty Moog, semi-conducted [ha! ha! ha!] by Andrew Kazdin and Thomas Z. Whogivesashit”. Thanks to the miracle of vinyl, side 2 of this puppy is taken up entirely with a Moogified Ravel’s Bolero (insert your own Bo Derek joke here), complete with synthetic applause at the end – a feat of painstaking skill and complete worthlessness to rival synchronised swimming. Total length: a generous 12 minutes. Weren’t LPs wonderful?
Sleeve quote:We think that what you wanted to hear was an album of your favourite works”. The emphasis is theirs, a reminder of the glorious days when naked corporate paternalism was still believed to be an effective sales pitch.
Thurston Potential: 60 to 1. It will be hard to make earnest claims for this stuff so soon after its kitsch value has peaked (remember kids, Switched On Bach ripoff: cool; Switched On Bach itself: not cool) and without seeming like belated logrolling for that Groovebox compilation Grand Royal put out a while back.

The Residents, 13th Anniversary Show – Live in Japan
This is probably the best score in the box because I like The Residents just enough to listen to one of their records but not enough to pay for it. Also it has one of those intricately detailed cover drawings that you really need to have in the 12-inch version to fully appreciate, and because I can’t get wildly excited about the music I don’t mind that it’s on crummy lousy horrid awful vinyl. So it’s a winner on all counts.
Sleeve quote: “Featuring Snakefinger”. Hey, he’s dead now!
Thurston Potential: 120 to 1. Still too famous for being obscure, and in need of rehabilitation after stooping to feed off Silverchair for free publicity.

Ronnie Ronalde, The Yodelling Whistler
An album equalled only by Polka Disco for having the most repellent title ever. It prompts one to speculate on the existence somewhere of an LP called A Very Bagpipe Christmas. Apart from the singing and yodelling, the sleeve notes make a big deal out of his whistling, referring to him with the French title of siffleur (their emphasis) and generally beating up putting your lips together and blowing into some rarefied talent on a level with the Tuvan throat singers. The resulting music (with orchestra conducted by Arturo Steffani) is of a quality that makes you anticipate each song to be followed by a score out of fifty and constructive criticism from Bernard King. At the time of writing there are only four surviving people in Australia who can remember when entertainers cd build a career out of yodelling and whistling.
Sleeve quote: “‘Look out Bing and Frankie’, wrote one enthusiastic American critic, ‘A real singer has come to town, so don’t forget the name.’” Sadly Ronalde’s fame was soon eclipsed by that of the Beatles, a group that cd sing, yodel, whistle, and play the spoons.
Thurston Potential: 40 to 1. There’s an outside chance the Breton nationalists will become flavour of the month soon, but this is more likely to result in every café and bookshop playing some Les Mystères des Siffleurs Vol.II CD than genuine interest in this siffleur manqué.
* Thom Yorke if you’re under 25.

No Go the F-Lo

Monday 23 August 2004

For years now I’ve been bugged by people asking me what I thought of Francisco Lopez’s gig last time he was in Melbourne, and then having them yammer on for half an hour or so about what an amazing performance I missed. So I jumped at the chance to catch him this time at Fortyfive Downstairs. Last time he was playing inside a giant empty sewage backup tank somewhere under Hawthorn; I suspect many of the punters there that night were overwhelmed more by the atmosphere than the music.
Lopez likes performing in total darkness, something about the purity of sonic essence unsullied by extrinsic perturburances or somesuch yaffle. This cd be pretty effective inside an unlit, resonant, subterranean tank, but is less so when you’re sitting in a plastic chair on a creaky wooden floor, and asked to wear a piece of cut-up pantyhose over your eyes so you’re not distracted by the EXIT signs over the doors. He had a four-speaker surround sound set-up, with us sitting around the room in a circle, facing away from him in the centre. The size and shape of the room meant that no-one, except maybe Lopez himself, had the benefit of any spatial design in the sound: everyone was either facing into a speaker directly in front of them, or facing a wall and having to settle for the sound bouncing off it.
The trouble with these spatialised gigs is that it’s so often like going to an Imax movie: impressive technology scratching around for a reason to exist. Inevitably for any piece of electronic music with high production values these days, the majority of it sounded like it was recorded inside a well, with lotsa reverb and profound bass rumblings. I’m not sure if this was meant to impress us of its seriousness and importance, or if what with the dark and everything we were supposed to feel like we really were in a well. A very noisy well, filled with lots of clanking machinery that served no apparent purpose. Occasionally there was the mandatory sound suddenly rushing across the room to remind you there were more than two speakers in the room.
There was one section which did a nice job of creating the impression of sitting in a grassy glade on a hot summer day, but you’d have much more fun doing that for real if you like that sort of thing, and – considering I spent the entirety of last summer holed up in the back bar of a darkened pub knocking back G&Ts until I was insensate – I don’t. Then it was back into the gloom of the techhead’s aural lingua franca, the sonic equivalent, in interest and ubiquity, of sewers in computer games. Really, you can’t win with this stuff: it either sounds like real life only not as interesting, or like the sound design of all those straight-to-video action movies made in the 1980s with a “futuristic” theme, every single one of which has a set with that big fucking industrial fan slowly rotating with a light behind it like in Blade Runner.
The August Drag was again present in the form of benign punters yawning and smiling wanly while thinking fond thoughts of their nice warm beds back home.
Beer: Hahn Premium stubbies, $6.

Exciting performance shot of Lopez in concert.