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The Breakdown: ELP, Jesu, Bob Mould, Robert Pollard, Robert Wyatt

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It's a week of Bobs, apparently. Roberts Mould, Pollard, and Wyatt all have new releases (in one case, two) along with a mixed bag of genres that should keep most well-settled heads spinning.

Emerson, Lake, and Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery Deluxe/Remaster: The music of this prog-rock classic is legendary and seemingly timeless. Who doesn't know "Karn Evil 9"? I will fight them that claim not to know it! The artwork has always been a favorite of music fans – myself included – and this remaster puts it back in a format that duplicates, in smaller form, of course, the intricate and beautiful design of the original vinyl release. HR Giger's stunning, weird artwork is featured in a diecut, folding package with a mini-poster inside, along with an extensive 24 page book with rare photos and an essay. But that's not all – for the first time ever, instrumental outtakes of "Jerusalem" and the full "Karn Evil 9" suite are appended to the album. Pretty cool deal even for casual fans.

Jesu – Lifeline EP: Where Godflesh drifted only minimally, or maybe laterally within their little niche of grinding, pounding metal, Justin Broadrick seems to have seen Jesu as a vehicle for ascending through other genres, release by release. With the release earlier this year of Conqueror, Jesu successfully mixed his roots in Godflesh with his love of shoegaze, with an unexpectedly beautiful and mature result. The four song Lifeline EP will probably be another step forward, if maybe less dramatic than Conqueror and its predecessor, the Silver EP.

Also of note for Broadrick fans is Pale Sketches, 46 minutes of unreleased Jesu material from the past 7 years. It will be limited to 2000 copies and once it's gone, it's gone, so get yourself over to Avalanche, the only place to buy one, and order a copy right now.

Bob Mould – Circle of Friends – Live at 9:30: Bob Mould turns out a very cool looking lineup of songs on this, his first live DVD, backed by a band featuring Brendan Canty on drums, and showcasing a great selection of songs from throughout his entire solo career, Sugar, and a few Hüsker Dü songs as well.

Robert Pollard – Coast to Coast Carpet of Love and Standard Gargoyle Decisions: Oh, uncle Bob. I'm beginning to fear burnout, honestly. Even though I'm a relatively new fan, I love your music as if it's been a part of my life since high school. Guided By Voices' odd penchant for beautiful, but warped melodies are forever stamped upon my brain. I will never look at spam again without thinking "Could this make for a great song title or what?"

But I do feel like maybe releasing so much music, so often is kind of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, some of your greatest twists of phrase and riffs come out of those quickly tossed-together ditties. On the other hand, there are so many that it's hard to keep up. Last year you put out seven albums and EPs. This year it's going to be a little lighter – "only" five after today (the others are the Silverfish Trivia EP — which he put out under his own name; The Takeovers' Bad Football; and Circus Devils' Sgt. Disco). And that's not counting the mail-order 7" vinyl club-thing you've started, which has album tracks paired with one non-album each – one a month for a year. And what's more, I know, all of your fans know, that there are tons more songs where those come from. As you famously said, and I paraphrase, "I go take a shit and think of five new songs. And three of them are good." And that's the thing – there are tons of great songs in this vast catalog of Guided By Voices, Robert Pollard, and a bunch of other pseudonyms.

But there are SO many of them. And you keep adding to them! How do I find the time to sort through them? And here comes two more albums, Gargoyle being the slightly pricklier of the two, Coast to Coast having more shades of Guided By Voices, from the reports. I suppose I'll quickly be making time on my shelf, if not necessarily time in my life, to fully digest these two albums.

Robert Wyatt – Comicopera: There's a kind of absurdist, dream-like beauty to 1997's Shleep that I fell in love with, which I don't find so much of in 2003's complex, jazz-inflected Cuckooland. Looking deeper, past the unusual instrumentation and song structure, not to mention Wyatt's wavering, jovial voice, there are startling revelations being made within the lyrics – statements many artists make, about the world today, about relationships between man and wife, and how confusing it all can be when we have to deal with it all at the same time. But Wyatt delivers it with a kind of subversive flair few others can manage – his view of the world is filled equally with razor-sharp wit as it is with wide-eyed wonder. Wyatt, and all his usual elements return with an album that fulfills the title's promise. It is a three-act opera which appears to steer, subject matter-wise, toward Cuckooland, while employing the slightly more conventional stylings of Shleep and earlier material. Wyatt's take on events of the past four years should be quite intriguing, and it's my pick of the week, for sure.

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About Tom Johnson

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    So have you heard anything about a new Porcupine Tree EP? I just heard something about this and it sounds pretty interesting — theres supposedly a twenty minute song on there featuring Robert Fripp.

    Good stuff as always here, Tom, and I didn’t mean to change the subject of your column but I figured you might be the guy to ask.

    -Glen

  • http://www.lookoutforhope.com Tom Johnson

    Yep, I’ve have it and I’ve heard it – in fact, I’ve got it up on my site via the MediaMaster player if you want to hear it. I’ve been hoping to do a short write up soon (in fact, I probably should do that now that you ask) but fans will need this simply for “Normal” alone – it carries on the “Trains” theme that Fear‘s “Sentimental” started. I’m not sure what’s going on with these songs, why they’re all tied together, but it’s clearly not a case of accidentally reusing a motif. And, yes, PT fans NEED this EP – it’s essential stuff.