So, here's the REVIEWS section. Tape Op gets a lot of CDs, singles and (yuck) cassettes sent our way. Most of them are in a box behind my couch and are waiting to be traded in for Beatles CDs. Some of the rest are really good but I never can get a recording angle on them to use for a review. It seems that the music that I listen to the most is stuff I buy. It's just when I have to plunk down $15 on a new CD I feel like I better get my money's worth. Plus, although I'm fully mired in the "alternative" scene through recording, playing and the slant of this magazine, I'm darn sick of hearing "new" music that is devoid of tasty influences, interesting production, or (most importantly) good songs. I mean, c'mon! Haven't these artists and bands heard anything interesting to draw on other than fake cocktail culture, Nevermind, or the goddamned Pixies (Spoon is excluded here). I get bored real fast. Current favorites have been the few "reviewed" CDs, the Kinks, lots of Beatles, Robyn Hitchcock's Moss Elixir, Brian Eno & David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, all the Yo la Tengo reissues, and Elliott Smith's new CD, Either/Or (of course). I see no need to inundate my dear readers with glowing "reviews" of every new release in order to get my "free" piles of CDs from these crazy record labels. There are some awfully tasteful record companies out there, like Merge, WIN, Grand Royal, Bong Load, Road Cone and Matador, who also (sometimes) happen to take out ads in Tape Op. They are beyond reproach and deserve your patronage. Plus they put out records that are listenable and interesting. Really. Okay... Here's a few ideas about some stuff that's out there:
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND
Loaded: Fully Loaded Edition (Rhino)
Even though it's the worst VU album, there's still an interesting aura around Loaded. It was recorded without Maureen Tucker on drums, the first in a pile of mistakes, and many of the songs were tracked with Doug Yule on drums, Lou Reed playing guitar and "singing", and Sterling Morrison playing guitar or bass. They would then overdub more guitar, bass, vocals, piano and such. This deluxe, 2 CD, set has tons of outtakes, alternate versions, and alternate mixes. Listening to all this stuff gives one a picture of all the activity going on around the making of an album--different versions of songs being worked up in rehearsal/demo situations, rough basic tracks recorded but never overdubbed on, finished songs left off the final record, mixes that weren't used (some you can tell why!) and final editing horrors (like the "Sweet Jane" bridge they restored here). Loaded was a flawed album in many respects, and much of it should be attributed to Doug Yule's ridiculous guitar overdubs, always filling any space with a "solo" that could have never slipped out of Sterling or Lou's hands. This is all good warning to anyone trying to record. Remember the economy and "feel" of the other VU records and take heed. Great songs don't need unnecessary adornment and zealous playing — they're already great songs.
ATARI TEENAGE RIOT
Burn, Berlin, Burn! (Grand Royal)
This is revved up, angry techno-grind-punk. These kids are mad at the world and the music setting works with it perfectly... distorted drum tracks careening into feedback and audio clips. This is one of the few electronic-based recordings I've heard recently that has any new/good ideas going on, and it'll keep you on edge with all the tension going down. I keep imagining somebody at a mixing board with everything running through distortion pedals.
R & B Transmogrification (Up)
If you read about Quasi in Tape Op in issue #2 you need this disc! It was recorded on ½" 8 track in Sam's old basement and sounds great... crazy overdriven organ colliding with Janet's Ringo-on-speed drums in the most perfect way. Plus the songs are top-notch. And there's all sorts of interesting touches. Really. I listen to this a lot and you should too.
THE VEGAS BEAT
Self-Titled (Candy Ass)
The Vegas Beat reminds me of Versus, Scrawl and other bands I really like, and that's no mean feat. My pal Toni Gogin recorded this on her Tascam 388, one of those ¼" decks with a built in mixer. It sounds good, everything that needs to get across is there, all the drums come through fine, and obvious care was taken with overdubs. I think the whole record was recorded with Shure SM 57's and it was mixed on home stereo speakers. Next time someone tells you they need more gear you should slip a copy of this CD to them. Passion, patience and talent can make it work.
Can't Get to Memphis (Schizophonic)
Remember the interview with Brendan Bell in Tape Op # 3? This is one of the recording projects he talked about. Recorded on an 8 track in various rooms of their house, this is another fine example of sweat taking the place of fancy studios. The production reminds me of Badfinger, vocals a bit louder than I'd place them, some tasty double-tracking, hooky guitar parts and a clear, but not over trebly, pop sound. It's a good example of Brendan's recording prowess, and be on the lookout for more stuff he's worked on, including a mind-blowing CD by the Irving Claw Trio (Utek Pahtoo Mogoi on Road Cone).
GUIDED BY VOICES
Sunfish Holy Breakfast (Matador)
Since an album of GBV stuff seems like a ragtag collection of stuff it makes since that weird EPs and shit they toss out is just as good. One song is from the Kim Deal/Easley sessions, the rest being either some small studio or home recorded. Who cares, it all ends up sounding the same when you sing through Radio Shack mics and drink a lot of Bud.
Pyramid Landing (SpinArt)