Saturday, October 10, 2020

Live Peace In Toronto 1969 - The Plastic Ono Band



Live Peace in Toronto 1969
The Plastic Ono Band
Apple Records SW-3362
1969

My longtime hero, John Lennon, would have turned 80 yesterday if he had not been murdered 40 years ago.  I find that staggering and a little depressing as well.  I like to imagine what he might be like if he were still with us.  I hope he would still be making music, but I'm pretty sure it would not sound anything like this record which I think is unquestionably the hardest rocking album he released outside of the Beatles and that includes his album actually titled "Rock 'N' Roll."  The album was recorded under chaotic circumstances at a rock festival in Toronto by an ad hoc band with little rehearsal time.  The record begins with Lennon announcing that they are only going to play songs they know because they have never played together before.  It gets off to a roaring start with Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes" which features a sizzling guitar solo from Eric Clapton.  I enjoy Lennon's enthusiastic vocal.  It is followed by an extremely heavy version of "Money."  I like the power of the new version but the vocal is much weaker than the version Lennon sang with the Beatles.  Lennon does better with "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" which is also heavier that the Beatles version but retains the intensity and charisma of that version.  The band tackles an original Beatles song with "Yer Blues" off of the "White Album."  Lennon and Clapton had performed the song together previously on the Rolling Stones' television show "Rock and Roll Circus."  The arrangement is similar to the Beatles' version although the song does benefit from the heaviness of the Plastic Ono Band sound and Clapton offers up another smoking guitar solo.  The next song is Lennon's solo single "Cold Turkey" which had yet to be released at the time of the concert.  Yoko Ono makes her presence felt with banshee wails and bleats in the background.  I prefer the studio version, this sounds a little sloppy which is hardly surprising since Lennon says they have never performed it before.  Side one concludes with a lumbering version of  Lennon's first solo single "Give Peace a Chance."  It is messy and Lennon apparently couldn't remember the words to the verses but it gets the job done.  Side two features Yoko doing "her thing all over you" as Lennon puts it.  Like many Beatlemaniacs I loathed Ono's music when I was younger and almost never played side two of this record.  I grew to like her music however as I got older and now play the second side as well.  The opening track "Don't Worry Kyoko" is my favorite Ono song although I prefer the studio version.  Ono howls away over a plodding riff from the band that I think ought to be taken at a little faster tempo.  I still find it compelling though, especially compared to the next song "John, John (Let's Hope For Peace)" which had been introduced in the "Amsterdam" segment of John and Yoko's "Wedding Album."  It features Ono running through her throat shredding bag of tricks over drones of guitar feedback.  If I am not in the right mood it sounds interminable and torturous and even if I am in the right mood it can be kind of grueling but it offers an inspired performance from Ono that impresses me.  She and the band exit the stage but leave their instruments on emitting a prolonged cycle of ringing feedback to conclude the song.  This is definitely a young man's album - loud, heavy, confrontational and experimental.  It is hard to believe that the same two artists were responsible for the cozy domestic bliss of "Double Fantasy" a mere 11 years later.  I assume that if Lennon were still around making music it would be a lot more like "Double Fantasy" than this which would be fine, I'd be thrilled to have any kind of music from him.  But this album represents many of the qualities I most admire in Lennon including his fearlessness, his honesty, his brashness and his sincerity.  Listening to it 80 years after his birth I'm reminded of how much I miss him and how much he has meant to me throughout my life.  Recommended to Kabuki theater fans who dig rock and roll.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Teach Me Tiger! - April Stevens



Teach Me Tiger!
April Stevens
Imperial LP-12055
1960

Even though I have records by Donna Summer, Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Julie London and Brigitte Bardot, I think this is the sexiest record in my collection.  I was surprised and even a little embarrassed when I first played it.  I bought it because I am a fan of the albums Stevens recorded with her brother Nino Tempo in the 1960s.  On those records she comes across like a sweet girl next door.  On this album she seductively croons sultry ballads in a breathy voice that borders on a cartoonish interpretation of female sexuality.  In the liner notes she disingenuously asserts that she does not understand why people comment on the sexiness of her singing claiming that this is her natural voice and she has been singing like this since she was seven.  Sure.  I often see this record selling for a relatively high price, much more than the Nino and April records tend to sell for, even though I think the Nino and April albums are better.  I assume the difference is due to the album's sexy quality.  The album consists largely of pop standards delivered at a languorous pace with subdued and tasteful accompaniment that places all the focus on Stevens' vocals.  Among the standout tracks are George Gershwin and Buddy De Sylva's old chestnut "Do It Again" which she sings in a alluring manner similar to Marilyn Monroe's interpretation of the song.  It definitely gets me a little hot and bothered when I spin it.  "When My Baby Smiles At Me" is an even older song dating back to 1920.  The song is given an uptempo almost jazzy arrangement with more silky vocals from Stevens that makes it sound almost modern (for 1960 anyway.)  Bart Howard's "In Other Words" is well-known from Frank Sinatra's swinging version under the title "Fly Me to the Moon."  Stevens gives the song a more yearning and exotic quality that I find very compelling.  The arrangement of "I Get Ideas" evokes the songs origins as an Argentine tango although Steven's vocals are pure torch song.  I slightly prefer Peggy Lee's perkier version, but this one is very worthwhile.  Cole Porter's "I'm in Love Again" was published back in 1924 but sounds contemporary when Stevens amorously whispers and sighs her way through the lyrics.  Kim Gannon and Max Steiner's "It Can't Be Wrong" dates back to the early 1940s when Steiner composed it for the film "Now Voyager."  It is one of the most energetic songs on the album and Steven's insistent and sensuous vocal is tremendously appealing.  There are three new songs on the record.  "I'll Wait for Your Love" was written by Jeffrey, Joseph and Marilyn Hooven.  It is a pedestrian song but benefits from an atmospheric arrangement that evokes exotica and a steamy vocal from Stevens that makes it enticing.  Brother Nino contributes two songs that I consider the best tracks on the album.  In "I Want a Lip" Stevens seductively describes her desire for her lover supported by a hypnotic torch song arrangement.  I find it to be the sexiest track on the album.  "Teach Me Tiger" is the most memorable song on the record.  It should have been a hit single but apparently was too sexy for the airwaves.  Stevens coos and moans her way through lyrics that invite her lover to teach her the ways of physical love.  It is a stunning song but so over the top that I find it a little embarrassing though still lots of fun.  If you dig torch songs, this is definitely your album.  Stevens excels at conveying smoldering passion and desire.  Her voice is warm and expressive and if I listen to this record in the proper mood and setting, Stevens absolutely slays me.  The kids might find it corny or dull, but I think you older folks might want to try giving it a spin next time you are having a romantic evening and see what happens.  Recommended to fans of Marilyn Monroe.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

The Holiday Inn Tapes - Roky Erickson


The Holiday Inn Tapes
Roky Erickson
Vinyl Lovers 901028
2010

This is my belated tribute to the great Roky Erickson who died last year in May.  I regret that it has taken me more than a year to get around to this, it is more a reflection of my laziness than a lack of respect for Erickson who I have greatly admired since I was a teenager when I first heard Erickson singing "You're Gonna Miss Me" with the 13th Floor Elevators on the "Nuggets" compilation.  I worshiped the Elevators when I was in college and they remain one of my favorite bands.  I think the best records for a tribute to Erickson would be the first two albums by the Elevators: "The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators" and "Easter Everywhere."  I already wrote about those two masterpieces however so I have opted for this more humble solo record.  It was recorded by Patrick Mathé of France's New Rose Records in a hotel room in Austin in 1986.  Erickson stopped by with his acoustic guitar to serenade Mathé with 10 songs which he recorded for posterity.  Mathé issued the recording on a record in 1987.  For this reissue those ten tracks have been supplemented with the "Mine Mine Mind" EP which was issued by Sponge Records in 1977.  I imagine many Erickson fans would illustrate his solo career with some of the highly charged horror-inspired tracks he performed on records like "The Evil One."  I would not dispute that, I admire that music too.  I find those songs exciting and compelling, but they do not really speak to me the way this record does.  This album emphasizes the more sensitive and romantic side of Erickson which was expressed back in his Elevator days on the songs he wrote with Clementine Hall like "Splash 1" and "I Had To Tell You."  There are exceptions to this on this recording most notably the opening track "The Singing Grandfather" which describes a homicidal maniac in lurid detail that belies the jaunty folk melody and Erickson's mellow crooning.  Erickson reprises the song at the end of the recording.  "The Times I've Had" is a hard-travelin' type folk song enlivened by Erickson's lively guitar playing.  "That's My Song" is a similar sounding track.  It is basically a song fragment notable for its optimism and Erickson's perseverance in the face of adversity.  "Mighty Is Our Love" is a pretty song but unfortunately the lyrics are monotonous and banal.  "I Look At the Moon" is one of my favorite tracks.  Erickson sings about how the moon inspires him and supports the song with kinetic fret work.  Most of these tracks are obscure and as far as I am aware were never recorded in a studio.  The two exceptions are "Don't Slander Me" which he recorded in a rocked up version in 1982 and "May the Circle Remain Unbroken" which appeared in a haunting psychedelic version on the 13th Floor Elevators album "Bull of the Woods" back in 1969.  The original tracks are definitive but I enjoy the intimacy of these acoustic versions especially "May the Circle Remain Unbroken" which I find very moving.  Roky also does a pair of Buddy Holly covers, "True Love Ways" and "Peggy Sue Got Married."  I find his earnestness very charming on these tracks and it does not surprise me that this Texas boy admired Holly whose influence I think I can hear in his work (on this album it is most noticeable on "Don't Slander Me.")  The four songs from the EP were recorded in a studio and feature a full band on three tracks.  They are all terrific.  "Two-Headed Dog" and "Click Your Fingers Applauding the Play" are among his best known songs.  They are driven by noisy hard rock riffs and feature Erickson bellowing out horror-themed bizarre lyrics.  "Mine Mine Mind" is more power pop in its sound, but it plows through similar lyrical darkness with its description of demonic possession.  "I Have Always Been Here Before" is a solo acoustic performance by Roky.  In it he sings about the devil in a surrealistic and poetic manner.  I am very fond of this record although it is essentially a bootleg.  Erickson was performing informally for a friend obviously not intending the music to end up on a record.  I doubt it would have bothered him though and the performance is so delightful and unusual that I am glad that Mathé put it out.  If you wanted to introduce someone to Erickson's work this is definitely not the place to start, but I think most fans will dig it.  I listened to it a lot following Erickson's passing and it reaffirmed my devotion to his work.  Recommended to people who prefer Erickson's cover of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" with the Elevators over "Bloody Hammer."

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Beau Brummels 66 - The Beau Brummels


Beau Brummels 66
The Beau Brummels
Warner Bros. Records W1644
1966

This is a mono pressing of the disastrous third album by the Beau Brummels.  The band had previously recorded two very fine albums for the independent San Francisco record label Autumn Records, "Introducing the Beau Brummels" and "The Beau Brummels, Volume 2," which had established them as one of the best new bands in America.  They were in the process of recording a third album for Autumn (which has appeared on archival releases by Sundazed) when Warner Bros. Records acquired the Autumn roster.  Based on those archival releases I think the third album might have been the Brummels' best and certainly would have solidified the band's artistic standing.  Warner Bros., exhibiting the typical taste and insight of corporate record companies, chose to shelve that album (supposedly over publishing conflicts.)  Instead they forced the Brummels to record this album of covers apparently attempting to turn them into Dino, Desi and Billy.  This might have destroyed a lesser band, but they were too talented to be denied and recovered to produce the excellent "Triangle" and "Bradley's Barn."  For a long time I resisted buying this product of record company greed, but I love the Brummels so much that eventually I succumbed to curiosity and a desire to hear Sal Valentino sing a song I had not heard before.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the album enjoyable for the most part although I still bitterly resent that it was ever recorded.  Given that the band's original sound was a mixture of British Invasion and folk-rock, it is no surprise that 8 of the 12 tracks fit into those two categories.  They do extremely well with the two Beatles covers.  "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" is right in their wheel house and they knock it out of the park.  Valentino's vocal is fabulous and I find the song exhilarating, almost as good as the original.  Valentino also provides a wonderful vocal for "Yesterday" which the band performs with an appealing mixture of folk-rock and chamber pop.  Paul McCartney's song for Peter and Gordon, "Woman," is given a subdued performance but Valentino's resonant vocal makes me prefer it to the sappiness of the original version.  The Rolling Stones' "Play with Fire" seems like a great fit and it sounds wonderful aside from Ron Meagher's vocal which is too weak and mannered.  I wish Valentino had sung it.  I assume that Valentino had too much dignity to go anywhere near Herman's Hermits' "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter" which Meagher sings with a fake British accent.  The band lethargically copies the original arrangement.  It is easily the worst track on the record.  The best folk-rock song is their version of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" which of course was a hit for the Byrds.  It is jangly like the Byrds version but a little less rocked up although it picks up energy as it rolls along.  It features a strong Valentino vocal and includes the verses the Byrds omitted from the song so it has value to me even though it does not approach the kinetic thrills and beauty of the Byrds' hit version.  The Brummels deliver a quiet and introspective version of the Mamas and the Papas' "Monday, Monday."  Valentino's vocal is very sincere and engaging.  I expected more from their cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound" but it is largely uninspired.  The four commercial pop tracks that make up the rest of album are a mixed bag.  Their version of Sonny and Cher's vapid "Bang Bang" is the biggest surprise and one of the best tracks on the record.  The song is given a dramatic chamber pop arrangement and Valentino sings the song with genuine feeling.  I love it.  The album is worth picking up for this song alone.  The Brummels' cover of the McCoys' "Hang On Sloopy" is also solid with a robust vocal from Valentino, a compelling bass riff and a frenzied guitar solo.  Meagher sings lead on "Louie Louie" which suits his vocal limitations and the band delivers a perfunctory performance that reveals their lack of interest in the song.  I prefer the version they cut for Autumn which appeared on the Vault Records compilation "Vol. 44."  Meagher provides an amateurish vocal for Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walking" which is unfortunate because I dig the band's rollicking backing track although it is a lot less distinctive than the arrangement on the hit version.  Even though I despise the crass record company motivations that led to this album's existence, I have to admit that with more sympathetic handling this could have been a pretty good album.  As a former bar band, these guys could play just about anything and Sal Valentino is one of my favorite singers, I'd listen to him sing anything he wants to sing.  The problem is that I doubt he wanted to sing most of these songs.  If this was a cover album of songs that he and the band liked, it would have more value.  As it is I enjoy about half of it and the remainder is mostly painless.  It was a mistake, but the Brummels were talented enough to still make it work.  Recommended to Beau Brummels completists and fans of mid-1960s top 40 radio looking for fresh takes on songs they've heard too many times.

Monday, August 10, 2020

The End of the Game - Peter Green


The End of the Game
Peter Green
Reprise 6346
1970 

I was very sorry to see that Peter Green had died.  He was one of my favorite guitarists in rock.  My admiration was entirely based on his work with the band he founded, Fleetwood Mac.  I have a few of his solo albums (mostly on CD) which are fine but uninspired for the most part.  This is my favorite of his solo records.  It was his first solo album and sounds little like his recordings with Fleetwood Mac.  I was extremely disappointed when I first bought it but I've since come to admire it.  I was expecting more of blues/hard rock sound like his previous work, but the album consists of a series of jazzy instrumental jams with a dash of funk.  It reminds me of late period Jimi Hendrix and I would not be surprised if that was an influence on Green's approach to the record.  The record gets off to a strong start with "Bottoms Up" which is my favorite track.  Supported by a heavy bass riff from Alex Dmochowski, Greens cuts loose with smoking hot guitar runs.  The jam lacks direction but it is full of energy and I find it extremely stimulating.  The track goes on for slightly over nine minutes but I still think it fades out too soon.  "Timeless Time" is far more subdued.  Green's solo is lovely although it sounds tentative.  Side one concludes with "Descending Scale" which sounds like jazz fusion.  The song opens with Dmochowski laying down staccato bass riffs while Zoot Money delivers bursts of kinetic piano riffs as Green unleashes a noisy almost discordant guitar frenzy, before the song slows down for an extended interlude of interwoven bass and guitar noodling reminiscent of the Grateful Dead that is moderately engaging to me if I am in the right mood.  The song picks up steam near the end as the piano rejoins the action before the jam is clumsily cut off to end the side.  Side two opens with "Burnt Foot" which starts promisingly with a compelling riff from Dmochowski which unfortunately evolves into a drum solo from Godfrey MacLean that I find as tedious as most drum solos.  The song comes back to life with the rest of the band rejoining for some heavy riffing that produces some of the most satisfying music on the album for rock fans.  "Hidden Depth" is a meandering return to jazz fusion with lyrical guitar runs from Green that display his characteristic grace and fluidity.  Side two concludes with the title track which offers up more jazz fusion.  It opens with the most frenetic and chaotic musical passages on the record with noisy, yet majestic guitar work from Green before settling into a languorous quiet jam that drifts aimlessly before being abruptly cut off to the conclude the album.  If I wanted to demonstrate to someone the brilliance of Peter Green, this would certainly not be the album to start with (I would pick the live recordings of Fleetwood Mac at the Boston Tea Party from 1970.)  However when I heard that Green had died, this was the album I reached for.  I am generally not a big fan of recorded rock jam sessions (aside from Jimi Hendrix), I think they are more appropriate for concerts.  However this one appeals to me for a variety of reasons.  Mostly I am drawn to it because Green's playing is so vibrant and dynamic, it is often a very exciting record despite the unstructured format.  Also as much as I love the early Fleetwood Mac, it is interesting to hear Green in a different context playing with more jazz oriented musicians.  Also I find the record has an immediacy and intimacy that I don't find on his more commercial records.  Finally I think it represents the final flowering of Green's genius.  He recorded it on the verge of his descent into debilitating mental illness.  I have only heard a few of his post-illness albums but none of them even approach the inspired playing on this record.  It has a poignancy and wistfulness to it because it makes me wonder what he might have achieved if he had not been damaged by drugs and mental illness.  It was this poignancy that drew me to this record when I learned that he had died.  Like his contemporary Jimi Hendrix, Green's recorded output of essential recordings was rather small but they burn all the more brightly because of the intensity of the relatively brief period that their creators flourished.  Recommended to fans of Jeff Beck's "Blow By Blow."

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Homosapien - Pete Shelley


Homosapien
Pete Shelley
Arista  AL 6602
1981 

Here is my belated tribute to Pete Shelley who passed away in late 2018.  His band the Buzzcocks were easily my favorite of the first wave of British punk bands after the Clash largely because they were just as much power-pop as they were punk and looked more like new wavers than punks not unlike the Jam (another big favorite of mine back then.)  I bought this album after hearing the title track on the radio.  I was surprised when I first played it because it sounded so unlike the Buzzcocks aside from Shelley's distinctive vocals.  It is basically dance-friendly synth-pop with a slight edge.  It lacks the intensity and energy of the classic Buzzcocks songs but after a few spins it grew on me and I like it even better now since I have developed an appetite for synth-pop that I totally lacked in my youth.  The record opens with "Homosapien" which is an extremely catchy ode to homosexual seduction.  It was provocative back in 1981 but seems tame to me today although the line "homo superior in my interior" is fabulous.  Shelley always had a gift for hooks and whenever I play this album this song is stuck in my head for days.  In "Yesterday's Not Here" Shelley looks back at the past with disdain and unhappiness.  The music throbs with a sensuous groove that I find enticing.  "Love in Vain" was not on the U.K. version of the album, it was the B-side on the "Homosapien" single.  In the song Shelley worries that his love is unrequited.  It has a soulful sound to it.  "Just One of Those Affairs" as you might guess is about sex - lots of it.  It sounds very poppy with a very pronounced beat and an enthusiastic vocal from Shelley that reminds me of Graham Parker.  Side one concludes with "Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça," which despite the title is mostly in English, in which Shelley wonders vaguely about life and relationships.  It is a highly propulsive track with a wall of synthesizer sound that gets me bopping.  It is one of my favorite cuts.  Side two opens with "I Don't Know What It Is" which is a banal song about how one experiences love.  The lyrics may be bland, but the music is exciting driven by an insistent staccato riff with waves of sound layered over it and a charged vocal from Shelley.  It reminds me of Berlin trilogy Bowie.  It is another one of my favorite tracks.  "Witness the Change" is another B-side that was not on the U.K. edition of the record.  It features a compelling melody driven by funky percussion and a powerful vocal from Shelley.   In the song Shelley expresses optimism about the potential of love despite bad experiences in the past.  "Guess I Must Have Been In Love With Myself" is a charming love song in which a self-centered guy changes when he finds love.  Unlike his punk peers Shelley was not bashful about being a romantic.  In keeping with the lyrics the music is highly melodic with a soaring chorus.  It is easily the prettiest song on the record.  In "I Generate a Feeling" Shelley uses his feelings of love to escape and find bliss.  The music is jerky with a taste of funk to it and Shelley's vocal has a drone like quality.  The album concludes with "In Love With Somebody Else" which was a single that was not on the British pressing of the album.  The song examines the duality between the ideals and realities of love.  It has a poppy ebullient melody that gives the album a joyful finish.  Unlike many records from this period, this album has aged extremely well.  It would probably make for a delightful party soundtrack with its relentlessly upbeat sound and insistent beat but I find it strong enough for concentrated listening as well.  It stands out with it intelligence and sweeping musical density.  Shelley was a very talented guy whose music has given me much pleasure through the years.  I am going to miss him.  Recommended to romantic Talking Heads fans.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Tigermilk - Belle and Sebastian


Tigermilk
Belle and Sebastian
Matador OLE-361-8
1996

This is the 1999 re-issue of the Belle and Sebastian debut album originally released on Electric Honey Records as a college student music project.  I recently read Stuart David's memoir of the formative years of Belle and Sebastian entitled "In the All-Night Café" which I loved.  He was the first person Stuart Murdoch recruited for the band and he provides an intimate account of the events leading up to this record (Murdoch's account of this in the album's liner notes is fiction.)  The book concludes with the record release party in which David describes fellow students taking their free copies of the album and using them as frisbees in the street which pains me greatly to envision.  It probably ought to pain them as well since original pressings of this album generally sell for hundreds of dollars.  Belle and Sebastian have long been one of my go-to bands when I am feeling down so during these painful times I have been listening to them often.  This is my second favorite of the band's albums (after "If You're Feeling Sinister.")  I think it is one of the great debut albums of all-time which is even more impressive considering the chaotic circumstances in which it was recorded - a true testament to Murdoch's artistic will and integrity.  The album opens with "The State I Am In" which is one of the quintessential early Belle and Sebastian songs.  With its clever and humorous vignettes describing youthful ennui and narcissism delivered by Murdoch in a low-key sensitive voice over a jangle pop/chamber pop music track that gradually builds in strength, it was the blueprint for their next three albums.  It floored me the first time I heard it and I still find it endlessly compelling.  "Expectations" continues in a similar vein, only more cutting and anguished.  It focuses on the suffering of an alienated female adolescent, when Murdoch writes in the third person he often chooses a feminine viewpoint.  Isobel Campbell on cello and Mick Cooke on trumpet expand the group's sound, giving it the chamber pop flavor that is a Belle and Sebastian trademark.  It reminds me of Love's "Forever Changes" which I consider high praise.  The jaunty "She's Losing It" likewise features a female protagonist and includes some lesbian references that are common with the early Murdoch.  Early Belle and Sebastian were often criticized as being "twee" but Murdoch can be pretty tough at times as demonstrated by "You're Just a Baby" which borders on being misogynistic.  It is the hardest rocking song on the record with a strong riff driven sound bolstered by Chris Geddes wailing on organ.  The side concludes with the uncharacteristic "Electronic Renaissance."  It has a disco beat and is driven by a synthesizer and organ with Murdoch's voice being electronically processed.  I always assumed Stuart David had something to do with the song since he pursued a similar sound with his solo project Looper, but in his book he says it was all Murdoch's idea.  Apparently synth-pop was a possible direction the band could have followed and which I am very glad they did not (although it has popped up on some of their recent albums.)   Side two gets off to a dynamic start with the propulsive "I Could Be Dreaming" which is driven by synthesizer and heavily reverberated electric guitar chords.  Murdoch shows his tough side again with numerous references to repressed violent impulses in his youthful protagonist.  The song concludes with a kinetic rocked up instrumental passage over which Campbell recites a passage from "Rip Van Winkle" by Washington Irving for reasons that escape me.  I wouldn't argue if you called that pretentious but I still like it.  The record shifts direction with the melancholy "We Rule the School" which features some lovely cello passages from Campbell supporting yet another portrait of feminine adolescent angst.  The introspective "My Wandering Days Are Over" is another classic Murdoch song with strong support from Campbell on cello and harmony vocal as well as Cooke on trumpet that foreshadows the sound of the next three albums by the group.  If I was a whole lot younger "I Don't Love Anyone" would have been my personal anthem as an adolescent/college student.  I wish there had been a band like Belle and Sebastian back when I was that age, I would have loved Murdoch like a brother.  Even though I was a lot older than the protagonist of the song, it still resonated greatly with me when I first heard it.  It remains one of my favorite Murdoch songs and I adore the jangle pop that drives it.  The record concludes with the chamber pop sound of "Mary Jo" which is yet another portrait of an alienated young woman.  The song name checks the imaginary novel "The State I Am In" mentioned in the opening track which has a nice bookending effect.  It is a lovely song enhanced by Campbell's breathy background vocals that gives the record a moving finish.  I consider this a flawless album aside from the disruption in its flow caused by "Electronic Renaissance" which is nonetheless a good song.  Murdoch's vision is clear and compelling and the band's sound is surprisingly robust for what was an ad hoc production by a band that was barely even a band.  The group coalesced during the recording of the record but listening to it you would think they had been together for years.  Belle and Sebastian is my favorite band after the Beatles and this record is a big part of my love for them.  I have been playing it regularly for 20 years and it still thrills me.  I'm not sure I have ever heard a songwriter who reaches me as well as Stuart Murdoch and the band's sound pushes all my buttons.  They have helped me a lot these past few weeks.  Recommended to Zombies fans who dig the Smiths.