Archive for the ‘Brilliance on the B-side’ Category

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I don’t want to know no more.

August 5, 2009

A couple years ago at this blog’s old space, I did a week-long review of Paul McCartney’s Off the Ground album and the singles and B-sides that came out in its wake.

Nowadays, that album gets slated (along with many of his) as a lesser effort, another case of “pizza and fairy tales” — if you will — that may have produced a few nice tunes, but was ultimately unmemorable. That always irks me because I was just starting to appreciate music when that album came out, as well as submerging myself in absolute Beatledom, so anytime someone speaks ill of that album or era, I come out barking like a goddamn Doberman.

But watching Macca sing “Sing the Changes” a couple weeks ago on David Letterman, I couldn’t help but think, “What a fantastically pedestrian and unremarkable song.” It’s not bad — few McCartney songs truly are — but that doesn’t mean it’s particularly good.

Then it kind of hit me. I’m older now. I’m a bit more jaded. I’ve a bit sharper tooth when it comes to music these days. I wonder what I would’ve thought if I was 11 years old and first falling in love with the Beatles and heard that? I probably would’ve thought it was f*cking awesome. And there probably is some 11 year old out there who does.

And there was probably an 11 year old in 2005 that thought Chaos and Creation in the Backyard was the dog’s bollocks, and an 11 year old in 2001 that thought Driving Rain was pretty damn amazing. Meanwhile I’m sitting here spitting as much bile at those album as I hear people give Off the Ground.

But the thing about it all is that even though I don’t like Driving Rain on the whole, I love “Your Loving Flame.” Even though I don’t like Chaos and Creation on the whole (at ALL), I love “Jenny Wren.” Even though the Fireman album already isn’t aging too well, I’ll still have a good bounce around to “Light From Your Lighthouse.” Macca always gives you one or two all-time keepers.

So I’m glad he’s not retiring.

But for anyone who still wants to argue that the “Off the Ground” period was generally fruitless, I once again point this song out. Arguably the most regal ballad Macca’s ever written — an obvious golden-era Brian Wilson pastiche to be sure — but in his own canon, right up there with “Maybe I’m Amazed” or “Mull of Kintyre” for my money. And what’s more, it’s a sad, pained song — something you don’t often get from Mr. Thumbs Aloft.

The real kicker, of course, is that barely anyone outside hardcore McCartney fans know it, because he buried it on the B-side of a single that only reached #18 in his native country. Seriously, do yourself a favor and check this out. Play it loudly and then think again about slating McCartney.

Paul McCartney – Kicked Around No More

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Love, this ain’t my time.

June 1, 2009

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a huge fan of absolutely brilliant B-sides. I’ve already created series on this blog celebrating the hidden treasures, be it in “The Fantastic 45’s” or “ComBlete,” but I still find myself with songs that don’t fit into either category — perhaps because I don’t like the A-side or perhaps because on a CD single with 2 or 3 B-sides, there was only one really brilliant track.

So I says to myself, I says, “Why not just start a series that celebrates those brilliant gems that are worth the price of the single alone?”

Good idea.

Brilliance on the B-side
“Don’t Take Me In” by Richard Ashcroft
B-side of “Buy it in Bottles”

The first song I want to highlight in this series is one I’ve been sitting on for years, because I never could figure out a good format to post the track in. Doesn’t really fit on any mixes, it’s on an overall crappy single, and I couldn’t think of anything that brilliant to write about it.

Which, maybe, is just as well. Sometimes music should speak for itself, and this song — which just repeats one simple line over and over and over, kind of defies any in depth explanation.

Richard Ashcroft’s 2002 album Human Conditions has looked increasingly worse as more time has passed since its release, and maybe for that reason alone it’s due for a reassessment on this blog, but I also found a lot of faults with the record when I first picked it up.

For one, almost every song on the album seemed like a half-finished idea that hoped to get by on a groove (which, in some cases, pushed beyond 8 minutes) and even when he was hitting you up with that straight-up Ashcroft passion, it never seemed quite right. I still think “Science of Silence” is one of his finest moments, but every time I hear someone else talk about it or read about it, it’s always getting slated. I don’t know, it’s a song that’s a pure musical expression of love. Maybe critics are a little too jaded for their own good.

Regardless, the fact that the album’s third single was the absolutely deplorable “Buy it in Bottles” should have said a lot about just how strong the whole affair really was. That is, it wasn’t at all.

Yet, hidden on the overlooked single’s flip side (and by overlooked, I mean, I don’t even think Richard Ashcroft FANS took time to notice he’d released “Bottles” as a single) was an incredible little 4-minute loop called “Don’t Take Me In.”

It just goes around and around, and I reckon it would be rather annoying if it weren’t so goddamn hypnotic. And for particularly good measure, Ashcroft put a little of his own overarching emotion to the song, humming/mumbling along with the chords in an almost trance-like state (listen at the 2:03 mark) before falling back into the repetitive loop.

I actually picked up this single in 2004, the same day Morrissey’s You Are the Quarry came out. I remember talking to one of my friends about the Mozzer album — we were both pretty excited, this was his first record in 7 years, but after my first listen to the album, I put in this single. When “Don’t Take Me In” came on, I thought, “Sh*t, I like that loop exponentially better than anything on the Morrissey album.”

I also like it just as much as I like anything Ashcroft’s done with the Verve or solo.

I don’t know what it says about Human Conditions that this wipes the floor with it.

Richard Ashcroft – Don’t Take Me In

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