Favourite “New” Music – August 2022

Yep, still here. I just paid for another year of this domain name, so I’m not going away just yet. Like all hobbies, writing a blog sometimes has to take a back seat to other things in life that need to be prioritised, or just going through periods where you need to step away to refresh. My paying gig is 90% reading and writing or talking about the things I’ve read/written or will read/write, and there are many days when writing for another hour – even something I enjoy as much as doing this blog – is the last thing I want to do. But I am back to pontificate some more.

I’ve been listening to a lot of 1950s rock lately, thanks to a playlist (prepared by someone with Job-level commitment) compiling the almost 150 hours of music referred to in Bob Stanley’s fantastic book “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé”, so naturally there was a good chunk dedicated to the works of Elvis Presley. It didn’t just stick to the 1950s, so the journey passed through the godawful low of “Yoga is as Yoga Does”. Elvis’ career in the 1960s was a series of bad movies with soundtracks that would have been even worse but for The King’s splendid instrument. “Yoga is as Yoga Does” fits the mould, coming from a 1967 film called “Easy Come, Easy Go”. Bonus points if you know it: the song is so obscure that the biggest Elvis fan I know had never heard of it. That obscurity is well-deserved.

The movies don’t get a lot of attention in Baz Luhrmann’s film “Elvis”, which strikes me as a better creative choice than Presley made in appearing in them. The film is both an indelible portrait of what made Elvis great, and a reminder of how often he failed to honour his prodigious talents. It does a great job of showing the force of nature that Elvis was at his peak. Those powers never went away, even when Elvis misused or abused them, and his fans somehow kept that idealised image in their heads, so that when he lifted himself out of the muck and gave the world art again in something like the 1968 television special, there was always a parched desert of believers eagerly waiting to drink. His career was an endless series of failures to be great, yet the highs are so powerful and the hits so unforgettable that he remained great in spite of making bad choice after worse choice.

That the film works is thanks to star Austin Butler, a Disney/Nickelodeon kid now grown up and kicking ass. (Next up: picking up (not literally, I hope) Sting’s codpiece for “Dune”.) Playing such an icon is a tall order, but if you don’t buy Butler as Presley, you didn’t see the same movie I saw. The film is cheesy and campy – it is a Baz Luhrmann film, after all – and a lot of fun until it isn’t. Tom Hanks is sort of over the top as Colonel Tom Parker, and other than the young fellow playing Little Richard and the Butler lookalike playing the juvenile Elvis, I barely remember the rest of the cast. But Butler makes it worth your time.

• • •

And now, to my favourite listens of August 2022.

  • The Ronettes – Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica (1964)
  • Fred Neil – Fred Neil (1966)
  • Muddy Waters – Electric Mud (1968) (Blues purists hate this album. It’s that lack of purity that I love.)
  • Fleetwood Mac – Mystery to Me (1973) (I was never much of a Mac fan, and definitely didn’t pay attention to the pre Nicks/Buckingham incarnations. This album comes from when Bob Welch was the dominant creative force, and the poppy brilliance that later gave the world “Ebony Eyes” and “Sentimental Lady” is on display, along with Christine McVie’s prodigious talents. So good, I played most of it back-to-back.)
  • AC/DC – Back in Black (1980)
  • The dB’s – Like This (1984)
  • Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction (1987) (These guys really were (are?) a significant cut above other hard rock bands of their time, weren’t they? (Of course, I had this same thought an hour later about “Back in Black” era AC/DC, so either (1) I’m an unaware hard rock fan or (2) I need to listen to more hard rock so I can actually develop a coherent opinion about this stuff before I make more such comments.))
  • Del the Funky Homosapien – I Wish My Brother George Was Here (1991) (Spotify claimed that my friends were listening to this. I must meet these “friends”.)
  • Kathy McCarty – Dead Dog’s Eyeball (1994)
  • The Jayhawks – Tomorrow the Green Grass (1995)
  • STRFKR – Vault Vol. 1 (2017)
  • Austin Jenckes – If You Grew Up Like I Did (2019)
  • Jeremy Ivey – Invisible Pictures (2022)
  • Flo Milli – You Still Here, Ho? (2022)
  • Maggie Rogers – Surrender (2022)
  • Megan Thee Stallion – Traumazine (2022)
  • Fireboy DML – Playboy (2022)
  • Horace Andy – Midnight Rocker (2022) (The search for reggae that I enjoy finds a place to land.)
  • Sun’s Signature – Sun’s Signature (2022) (If you’ve been missing Cocteau Twins, and assuming you’re a little less depressed now than you were from 1982 to 1996, this could be your new favourite band.)
  • Jeshi – Universal Credit (2022)