Thursday, August 12, 2021


 Obscure Alternatives - Japan (Ariola)

apan, from Great Britain, sounds like a forced marriage between Mott the Hoople and Booker T and the MG's, and they look like holdouts from the glitter rock movement. They don't impress me too much, though I suspect that their attempt to revive various teenage wasteland cliches will make many listeners think of The Who at their best (Who's Next). The smart ones will realize that they've heard this jive before and done better at that. Rock and roll at this volume and swagger is all posturing jive, guitars, and chest hairs front and center, all of which means that its driving force is stupidity, the resolute confidence of the hard-macho dunce plunging ahead into grotty behavior with cliches and erections as the sum total of a world view. But even here there are those bands that do it better and who seem to back their skewed morality with some reading, D.H. Lawrence to Ayn Rand. I say that with the need to believe that some of our dumb rock stars can at least read.

No Escape
- The Marc Tanner
Band (Elektra)
Simpering love-lorn rock and roll mannerisms aimed straight at the heartstrings. Marc Tanner has one of those whispering, overly sensitive crooning voices that send an annoying shiver down your spine, a voice coated in self-pity, fake piety, and hallow insight. Tanner reminds one of the kinds of "liberated male" ·who, though willing to "deal" with his feelings more openly than his more hard-shelled comrades, remains an unchanging pit of preconceived notions of how he wants his social relations to go. I suspect that Tanner may have attended some male "consciousness-raising" groups not to grow as a human being but to secure a new batch of sure lire pick-up lines. In other words, I rarely trust singer-songwriters who are this nakedly "open," The reason I'll put up with Paul Simon or James Taylor is that they hold back. I respect anyone who'll tell me that there are matters that are none of my business. Tanner bears all because he's on the make. If you must buy
this, keep a box of tissue at hand to blow the poor boy's nose.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

A brief on Metheney's noise machines

The video shows guitarist Pat Metheney performing a four-plus minute improvisation with a completely mechanized, computer-programmed musical ensemble. Termed The Orchestration Project, the goal seems to simulate a "human feel" into these digitally calculated grooves and responses.  This fills me with dread and furthers my frustration with Metheney. He is an original and striking musician, a resourceful improviser with an impressive line of PM Group releases, and works as a support player on the albums of other bandleaders. His fascination with effects, foot pedals, phase shifters, all things digital, leaves me cold, however, and has rarely struck me as especially musical. An earlier post mentioning Metheney reminds me of a finicky musician trying out every effect they have in a Guitar Center. 

 I saw him three years ago with his group, a brilliant array of players. I was relieved that a relatively small portion of a two-hour show was dedicated to Metheney's honking electronic Farago's. Those long lines of bleating squawks, squeaks, and echolated distortion left me wondering how beautiful those notes, forming spontaneous melodies, might have been hadn't been mugged by angry static on their way to the audience's ears.

Angry electronics have their place in jazz, I'll say in a spirit of compromise, and I will admit that sometimes gives us a more fitting and rousing context. 1986's Song X, a collaboration with Harmolodic logician and "out" playing genius Ornette Coleman, is a perfect context for extemporizing an argumentative contrast to drums, basses, and saxophones that overlap, clash, blur and scream at different pitches. Knowing when to start and when to cease production is the key.