Talk Talk LAUGHING STOCK 3CD Singles

Let me just admit, I’ve been jealous of my excellent friend, Kevin McCormick (and fellow progarchy editor), for years.  He’s been the proud owner of an original edition of Talk Talk’s special box set of b-sides from LAUGHING STOCK for some time.  The set goes under a variety of names including LAUGHING STOCK CD SINGLES as well as AFTER THE FLOOD set.  I’m guessing that Verve wanted it to be somewhat mysterious.

The cool thing–and remember, CDs were pretty new when this thing first came out 27 ago–is that the three CDs form a complete James Marsh picture.

Continue reading “Talk Talk LAUGHING STOCK 3CD Singles”

Mark Hollis, Part II: Aching for Grace

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Ironic or sincere?  1988’s Spirit of Eden.

Yesterday, I had the grand fortune of spending a serious amount of time listening to and writing about Talk Talk.  There are few subjects in the world that give me so much pleasure as does TT. For years, one of my closest friends (and a friend since the fall of 1986), Kevin McCormick (a fellow progarchist and progarchy editor) and I have talked about writing a full-length book on Talk Talk.  We even have a rather strong and detailed outline.  The publishing venues, sadly, are not as easy to find as one might imagine. While Talk Talk has a loyal following, it is a small one.  A few years ago, we submitted a proposal—which, from my biased perspective was really good—to 33 1/3 Books (Bloomsbury).  Sadly, they not only felt no enthuasiam for our project, they deemed it unworthy, even of comment.  Just a simple “no thanks.”  But, Kevin and I are nothing if nothing if not persistent and enthusiastic.  Indeed, some might even say “obnoxious!”

So, if there’s anyone in the reading audience who would like to publish a roughly 60,000 word manuscript on the significance and influence of Talk Talk, please let us know!  We could have a completed book to you within a year or less.

Continue reading “Mark Hollis, Part II: Aching for Grace”

Second Spring #4: “April 5” by Talk Talk

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One of the all-time great album covers.  This one, of course, by James Marsh.

I suppose one could accuse me of being just a bit too obvious regarding this fourth installment of Second Spring.  After all, it is April 5.  I even contemplated using another Talk Talk track for this fourth part.  Then, I put “April 5” on, and I realized immediately how right it is for today.  After all, it’s following yesterday’s Big Big Train track, “The Permanent Way.”

Big Big Train is as close to perfect as the world will allow.  Still, Mark Hollis joining BBT would make the band just a bit more perfect. . . .

Continue reading “Second Spring #4: “April 5” by Talk Talk”

Second Spring #1: Kevin McCormick’s “Storm Front.”

Inspired by Craig Breaden’s brilliant 104-part Soundstream, I’ve decided to post music that reveals that rock and jazz (and some other forms of music) are not the end of western civilization, but the culmination of western civilization up to this point in time.

A second spring, if you will.

For our first entry, from our own cherished progarchist, Kevin McCormick.  This from his 1999 album, SQUALL.  “Storm Front.”

Immerse yourself.

Progarchy Radio, October 2016 Edition

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Autumnal prog bliss, 2016

Welcome to another edition of Progarchy Radio, Autumnal Inspirations!  Featuring music from Stranger Things, Glass Hammer, Fire Garden, Marillion, Kevin McCormick, Cosmograf, King Bathmat, Frost*, Oceansize, and The Fierce and the Dead.

Over two hours of pure Autumnal prog love.

SAND No. 2: The Unadulterated Excellence of Sam Healy

A review of SAND (Sam Healy), A SLEEPER, JUST AWAKE (forthcoming, September 30, 2016).  9 tracks.

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SAND, A SLEEPER JUST AWAKE (forthcoming, September 30, 2016)

As much as I’d like to start with something artsy (the album deserves it), I’ll just be really, utterly, completely, and totally blunt.  This album is extraordinary.  After a summer of horrors and violence (not personally, but around the world), this album seems like the necessary art to calm the savage soul.  I think this is, quite possibly, Healy’s best.

As I’ve written a number of times before when writing about Healy (solo) and about North Atlantic Oscillation, he does three things with unadulterated excellence.

Continue reading “SAND No. 2: The Unadulterated Excellence of Sam Healy”

Progarchy Radio Episode Six

prog radio.001Ok, I think I’m finally starting to get a little more comfortable with the mic.  At least, I’m hoping. . . .

Lots of great tracks today.  Music from [Headspace], Mike Kershaw, Kinetic Element, Third Voice, Notice Grace, Cosmograf, Glass Hammer, Yes, Signal to Noise Ratio, Kevin McCormick, Tears for Fears, Sixpence None the Richer, Theaudience.

Progarchy Radio Episode 2

Getting far more comfortable with this, though I still have a relatively steep learning curve.  A huge thanks to my somewhat co-host, Veronica Rose Birzer (age 4).

Playlist: Neal Morse Band, Lifesigns, Love Spit Love, Mew

Galahad [transition between these two songs could’ve been smoother!], Frost*, Matt Stevens

Steve Hackett (x2), Kevin McCormick

Enjoy!

 

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The World Didn’t End on December 31, 1989: The Best Music of 1990

A few days ago, I felt absolutely snarky and thought, “why not write down exactly what I think of music from the 1980s.”  In some ways, I feel I have the right to do this in a manner I could never do for any other decade.

After all, I was in seventh grade when a very disturbed fanboy tried to kill the fortieth president, and I was a first-semester senior in college when the Berlin Wall came down.

Yes, I’m very much a man of the 1980s.  Reagan, Rush, Blade Runner. . . how I remember the 1980s.  I came of age in that rather incredible decade.

Life continued after 1989, however, though I wasn’t so sure at the time that it would.

1990 proved to be one of the most interesting years in my personal life when it came to career choices as well as to music.

The chances are quite good that you’re not reading this post because you want to know my career choices or why I made them.  So, I’ll confine myself to the music that I loved that year.

I owe almost all of my good fortune to three very great guys, Ron Strayer (now, a high up with Microsoft), Kevin McCormick (now, justly, a progarchy editor), and Craig Breaden (now, happily, one of progarchy’s editors).  Ron introduced me to what would very soon be called “alternative” but was then being called “college rock” or “modern rock.”  Kevin sent me recommendations, including the rather insistent demand to purchase cds by World Party and The Sundays.  And, finally, Craig introduced me not only to neo-psychedelia but also to psychedelia from its original age.  It was Craig who introduced me to Van Morrison, Spooky Tooth, Procol Harum, and Traffic.

I’d loved prog and New Wave all of my 22 years at that point, but my vision was pretty limited to only these genres by the end of 1989.  Well, this isn’t quite accurate.  I also knew classical and jazz fairly well.

With the help of three friends, 1990 opened up huge musical vistas for me in the non-jazz, non-classic genres.

FFKT, 1990.
FFKT, 1990.

Richard Thompson, as a part of French Frith Kaiser Thompson, wrote two of the best songs I’ve ever: “Peppermint Rock” and “The Killing Jar.”  Folk acid psychedelia by guys who had been there before there was a need for a revival.

Her third album.  Folk-pop perfection.
Her third album. Folk-pop perfection.

Suzanne Vega’s third album, DAYS OF OPEN HAND, came out that year, and it’s still one of my favorite albums.  Vega has always produced gorgeous pop and folk in the vein of XTC and others.  If this is pop, it’s very high pop.  Importantly, she never became political like so many of her counterparts.  Rather, she gracefully let the music and lyrics remain art.  Her breathy vocals–weird and yet captivating–only add to her appeal.

Yes, Ian is AWOL, but that doesn't mean this isn't a wonderful album.
Yes, Ian is AWOL, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a wonderful album.

Echo and the Bunnymen’s almost totally forgotten and (when remembered) maligned album, REVERBERATION, is a slice of pop-rock perfection.  Yes, it’s missing Ian McCulloch, but this only lets Will Sergeant soar.  Frankly, their sound hit its height with OCEAN RAIN and fell flat on the follow-up album.  This one, REVERBERATION, reveals an effective rebirth of the band.  The new vocalist, while not possessing the cancerous gravel of McCulloch’s voice, captures the spirit of the lyrics perfectly.  Word play and cliché become clever and, indeed, addictive.  There’s not a dud song on the album, but the employment of psychedelic Indian musicians really works rather perfectly on “Enlighten Me” and on the Doorish “Flaming Red.”  The former  is one of the finest songs the band ever wrote.

California psychedelic shoegaze.
California psychedelic shoegaze.

Mazzy Star.  Hardly anyone remembers this California psychedelic folk and navel-gazing band that emerged from the underground band, Opal.  Too bad–as 1990’s SHE HANGS BRIGHTLY is a thing of disturbing beauty.  Walls of sound, clever lyrics, and earnest production make this album a masterpiece of the neo-psych revival.

Not a single misstep on this basement-made masterpiece.
Not a single misstep on this basement-made masterpiece.

“Is it too late, baby?”  World Party.  What to say about this about that hasn’t been said by a million others?  While Karl Wallinger continues to make interesting music (despite severe health problems), he really threw every thing his soul possessed into GOODBYE JUMBO.  From the crazy Beatle-sque cover to the basement production, this is a gem.  All of the songs work very well, though they rarely reach beyond simple Beatle’s pop.  Taken as a whole, however, this is a prog-pop album.  Not that the individual songs are prog.  They’re not even close.  But, imagine a really, really, really clever Paul McCartney reworking side 2 of Abbey Road.  Then, you’d have GOODBYE JUMBO.  Thank you, world, indeed.

Mischievous and flirtatious pop.
Mischievous and flirtatious pop.

The Sundays.  Ok, so the lead singer is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen.  This doesn’t hurt my opinion of the band.  But, really, it’s her voice.  That voice.  How to describe it?  There are no words, really, that could capture it.  She’s playful.  She’s earnest.  She’s flirtatious.  She’s so utterly sincere.  Oh, Harriet.  At one time, you were my Beatrice.  Her husband, David Gavurin, knows exactly how to write music to match his wife’s voice.  What a team.  And, they did the album merely for the fun of it, which makes it even more enjoyable.  If you don’t own this or if you’ve never heard of The Sundays, treat yourself.  You’ll never regret this purchase.  Promise.

It's the drums, the drums, the drums!
It’s the drums, the drums, the drums!

Charlatans UK.  SOME FRIENDLY.  I know next to nothing about this band, but I absolutely dug their sound when Ron introduced them to me.  I’d never quite heard drumming like this (though, The Cure would use the exact same style on their 1991 album, WISH).  The drums, the keyboards, and the bass make this one of the most interesting albums I’ve ever heard it.  While I wouldn’t place it up there with the previous albums I’ve mentioned in terms of outright excellence and staying power, it’s still really good.

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Album title? Not a clue.

House of Love.  Album title?  I’m not sure, as there’s none listed.  Just the band’s name with a butterfly.  Some of the album fails, but when it works, it works in a stellar fashion.  The album is worth owning for the first two tracks alone—”Hannah” and “Shine On”—which really blend into one continuous 10-minute track.  Great build up and perfect execution on these two songs.  From what little I know of the band, they were a bunch of really raucous and idiotic druggies.  Still, some amazing talent there.

heaven or las vegas
The best for last? Yes.

Cocteau Twins,  HEAVEN OR LAS VEGAS.  The best for last?  I’m not sure, but, sheesh, do I love this album.  Aside from LOVELESS by My Bloody Valentine, no album reaches as close to shoe-gaze perfection as does HEAVEN OR LAS VEGAS.  This album simply never ages.  It’s so weird and yet so continuously captivating.  I assume the artsts behind Cocteau Twins wield some special instrument to speed up or delay time, but I can’t verify this.  Listening to this album is NEVER a casual experience.  It demands full immersion, but you re-emerge not as one drowned but as one baptized.