Wednesday, October 24, 2007



Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Super Clearing House

Have REM been around long enough now to be back in vogue a third time? Maybe, maybe not - but it had me searching through the storage bins.

I never saw Backbeat, mostly because (i) it was generally slaughtered in the reviews, and (ii) I'm not really that captivated by the Beatles mythology, but my ears did perk up when it came to the soundtrack. You had Mike Mills, Thurston Moore, Dave Grohl, Dave Pirner, Greg Dulli and Don Fleming doing their best Hamburg-era Beatles. At the time, the product didn't quite seem to measure up to its components, but after thirteen years, I've kinda warmed up to it.

the Backbeat Band - "Long Tall Sally": I'm not particularly fond of this song as a general matter (Lord help me if I have to hear the Commitments soundtrack again), but this version has some teeth.

the Backbeat Band - "Please, Mr. Postman": This song makes a lot more sense now that we've seen the latter part of the Afghan Whigs' career and the Twillight Singers (unless I'm way out to lunch and that's Pirner singing, in which case I've probably grossly underestimated Soul Asylum)

the Backbeat Band - "Carol": At the time, the Backbeat Band seemed overly glossy to me; now, it just seems better executed.

Out of the various Stipe guest appearances, the Golden Palominos is probably the most forgotten of the bunch. The group, overseen by Anton Fier, saw a rotating cast though its years, including Stipe, Bill Laswell, Arto Lindsay, Bernie Worrell, John Zorn, Syd Straw, Matthew Sweet, Bob Mould, Jack Bruce, T-Bone Burnett, etc etc etc. Midway through the 90s, the first few Palomino albums were compiled into 'sampler' discs, each featuring two or so albums. These tracks are from one of the re-issues, compiled from the first two albums.

the Golden Palominos - "the Cookout": Out of the tracks from the first album, "the Cookout" is easily the most listenable, the rest being mostly sub-par NYC No Wave that hasn't aged well (it's certainly a God-send that Arto Lindsay has generally favoured singing over yelping through the years). Features some good 80s drum machine programming by Fier and turntable work from Laswell (keep in mind this track would've appeared in the same year as Afrika Bambaataa's "Renegades of Funk" and Herbie Hancock's "Rockit", thus meaning that Laswell/Fier must've had their ear to the ground)

the Golden Palominos - "Omaha": the least whiny of the Stipe tracks. The second Palominos album is a lot more accessible than the first, and probably a bit more thought-out. This is a cover of the Skip Spence song.

the Golden Palominos - "the Animal Speaks": I've had the benefit of the last 30 years to know what a douche-bag John Lydon generally is (I saw him show up on an episode of Judge Judy for punching out a roadie, for Christ's sake), but I will admit that this is probably the track that aged the best from that album.