November 1, 2009

Don't be a fool...

...stay in school.

Pay attention, class... school is still in session. Here we are with the third and final installment of Spacerock School before we break for the winter solstice holidays. I hope you've been studying!

Quiz #1: What the heck is this?!?!?

Quiz #2: What do spacerock and the musical genre known as americana have in common? Trick question? Nothing, you say? Wrong! Despite the inherent earthiness or implied groundedness of americana, as it were, many of its practitioners over the years have dabbled in the spacey and psychedelic sides (outer space and inner space, respectively) of rock music, and this set should illustrate that beyond dispute.

Starting off with a bang of a Neil Youngian stomp from MV & EE (aka Matt Valentine & Erika Elder) in one of their many incarnations (here with The Golden Road - see Tower Recordings below) and leading into the neotraditional 'Merican southern gothic ravings of Nick Cave, on his first solo album from back in '85, and the beloved Gun Club (RIP Jeffrey Lee Pierce) and you should be getting an inkling of where this journey's headed. Next up a triple dose of the defunct but influential "Paisley Underground" scene of mid-80s Los Angeles where many of the loosely affiliated bands also had a cowpunk edge (see also The Long Ryders, Rank & File, The Knitters, et al.), here represented by the inimitable first draft of The Dream Syndicate (well, second if you count a bass player change), their frequent stagemates Green On Red (bandleaders Steve Wynn and Dan Stuart even collaborated on the barroom bluster one-off effort as Danny & Dusty), and Davis, CA's mighty True West (sadly I have no Thin White Rope, their hometown brethren, to offer you at this time, although they would fit nicely). *

Next up, Memphis' gritty Grifters showcase the explicit connection between these genres with one of their many space-twang epics, and New Jersey's Velvets-via-southern folk originators The Feelies take us to a space rodeo. Things take a turn for the truly psychedelic with two of Portland, OR's most enigmatic experimental ensembles (and there are many, make no mistake - what's in the water in Portland?), the currently prolific Jackie-O Motherfucker with a nod to the traditional side of their "music", and the manic hippie bluegrass of 60s-era absurdists The Holy Modal Rounders. Dropping off the cliff into somnolent valleys are kinfolk Brightblack Morning Light and Sleepy Sun, before we are jolted back to "reality". Can it get even weirder? Any regular Spacerock Continuum subscriber knows the answer to that. Howzabout a Kiwi guitar mangler known only as Pumice? A Belgian faux-Appalachian bloozist who takes his name from a cartoon cat named Ignatz? Or the peyote-saturated wisdom of Arizona postpunkers The Meat Puppets?

Many a hand
Began to scan
Around for the next plateau
Some said it was Greenland
And some said Mexico

Others decided
It was nowhere
'Cept for where they stood
But those were all just guesses
Wouldn't help you if they could

The vast vista of the western horizon is audible in the wide-open expanse of the music of circus sideshow snakeoil salesmen Spindrift, transcendent brother 'n' sister-led SF rockers Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound, LA surf cowboy harmonizers Beachwood Sparks, and desert-fried heavy minimalists Earth. Then we're a-goin' folky with Ben Chasney's Six Organs of Admittance, Matt Valentine (aka MV)'s Tower Recordings and the godfather of experimental acoustic guitar John Fahey. Vancouver, BC weighs in with The Sadies' twist-n-twang, the enigmatic psych-rock traveling commune Akron/Family drops another lengthy epic, and a band I never thought would grace this podcast, The Grateful Dead, illustrates the direct lineage between American traditional music and free-space jams.

A quintessential example of the genre of americana, Wilco, is also at times one of it's most avant-garde explorationists (especially since inviting spazzjazz guitar hero Nels Cline into the fold), here bringing a krautrock noise drone to the mix. Avant-folk refugees from the Chicago post rock scene Califone see fit to take us on a 16-minute trance-inducing ramble through the brambles. Sardonic indierock stalwarts Pavement start off with an epic twang-guitar workout and devolve into a nightmarish motorik hellride up the canyon. And to lighten the load just in time, everyone's favorite space cowboys (aren't you glad I didn't include the Steve Miller Band?) The Byrds, of "Eight Miles High" fame, here jangle their way through a sprightly ditty requesting a ride on a UFO. And honestly, who wouldn't want that?

* UPDATE: Since having come across some digital manifestations of the aforementioned Thin White Rope it was impossible for me not to include a track from them, and I chose one that couldn't be more aptly named to illustrate our point. In the process I have also decided to undo a couple glaring omissions in the form of southern-fried spacerockers My Morning Jacket and desert atmospheric spaghetti-westerners Calexico, which I have peppered throughout the original set below. Enjoy!

The following tracks should appear in the player below:

Susquehannah (Sole Art Trample) - MV & EE And the Golden Road - Gettin' Gone
Tupelo - Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - The Firstborn Is Dead
Watermelon Man - The Gun Club - Miami
The Medicine Show - The Dream Syndicate - The Medicine Show
Abigail's Ghost - Green On Red - Gravity Talks
It's About Time - True West - Hollywood Holiday
Americana - Thin White Rope - Sack Full Of Silver
Get Outta That Spaceship And Fight Like A Man - The Grifters - Crappin' You Negative
The Last Round Up - The Feelies - The Good Earth
Rockaway - Jackie-O Motherfucker - Flags Of The Sacred Heart
Mobile Line - The Holy Modal Rounders - The Moray Eels Eat The Holy Modal Rounders
Hologram Buffalo - Brightblack Morning Light - Motion To Rejoin
Sleepy Sun - Sleepy Son - Embrace
The Radiant Sheen - Ignatz - II
Eyebath - Pumice - Pebbles
Plateau - The Meat Puppets - Meat Puppets II
The Wind - Spindrift - The West
Run Thru - My Morning Jacket - It Still Moves
Kolob Canyon - Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound - When Sweet Sleep Returned
Once We Were Trees - Beachwood Sparks - Once We Were Trees
Rise To Glory - Earth - The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull
Shelter From The Ash - Six Organs Of Admittance - Shelter From The Ash
Other Kinds Run - Tower Recordings - The Galaxies' Incredibly Sensual Transmission Field Of The Tower Recordings
Portland Cement Company At Monolith, CA - John Fahey - Days Have Gone By
Translucent Sparrow - The Sadies - Favourite Colours
Mid-Town - Calexico - Hot Rail
There's So Many Colors - Akron/Family - Love Is Simple
Cosmic Charlie - The Grateful Dead - Aoxomoxoa
Spiders (Kidsmoke) - Wilco - A Ghost Is Born
Heron King Blues - Califone - Heron King Blues
Half A Canyon - Pavement - Wowee Zowee
Mr. Spaceman - The Byrds - Fifth Dimesnion