I saw this new film last week with friends. None of us knew much about the film, it had just opened, but it was Nico, about whom good books have been written, and who sang three songs on the first Velvet Underground album (the banana one). We knew that Lou Reed hated her, that Andy Warhol added her to his house band perversely, and our favorite song of hers was a cover of Jackson Browne’s melancholy These Days. Rael thought the trailer was a stinker.
But the movie was very good. Most notably, Trine Dyrholm acts and sings as if she’s living the part of the mordant junkie who can’t help but talk about how she feels and why she lives. But the movie makes excellent narrative choices that pile up, like leading with Nico’s These Days, and then moving on to her much broader music made in an atmosphere of chaos and imprecision.
This review on Slate by Carl Wilson does a good job of explaining the film, and puts it into the context of many other movie bio pix that don’t follow the form of Ray and Walk the Line. Read that, see the movie, and I’ll leave you with this. Not a spoiler, but a game changer in the film’s narrative, surprisingly enough.
I think the first four Graham Parker albums are first rate. He made two monumental R+B elpees with the great Rumour, and Squeezing Out Sparks is tuff New Wave when that had to be the choice (if you wanted be heard).
The Real Macaw was the point of my departure. Not because the songs aren’t strong, but at some point a songwriter’s best stuff is used up.
But listening to this all these years later, this is an ambitiously universal song about love and how those you love will fuck you over. And you have to be brave if you want to have anything. Too long, for sure, but it eclipses all sorts of shorter tunes that ask much less of us.
I like it, but all I want to say is listen to Heat Treatment and Howlin’ Wind. Turn it up loud. It is rarely better.
Longtime friend of the Remnants, Michael Salfino tackles what turns out to be a more interesting question than it seemed on first hearing. How great was Paul McCartney’s solo career compared to the Beatles?
For my part, I think McCartney’s best solo song is Maybe I’m Amazed, but I also think Silly Love Songs is a brilliant bit of self-referential pop fluff (with a side of self referential sarcasm).
Michael doesn’t point out that Sir Paul is the only Beatle to record songs with Elvis Costello, Kanye West, and (the remains of) Nirvana. Constantly exploring, working, imploring, McCartney’s career has been admirable, even when the music is less successful. It’s hard to always write and perform great music.
Lucinda Williams made an album called Sweet Old World in 1992. It was the follow up to her fantastic debut album on Rough Trade, which was actually her third album. She’d had a previous career, 10 years previous, recording for Smithsonian. Exclamation mark.
Those first two albums, Ramblin’ and Happy Woman’s Blues, are great by the way.
In any case, after her terrific album Lucinda Williams, for Rough Trade, she got picky. It took a few years to finish Sweet Old World, which leads with an upbeat song about a street person who resonates.
It took her six more years to record Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, her masterpiece, but I think a lot of the earlier songwriting is better. But the guitars rock more on Car Wheels.
Subsequent events suggested she was unhappy with the sound of Sweet Old World, which is softer than her later albums. And last year her husband suggested Williams rerecord the whole album with a harder and more rockin’ edge. So she took her touring band into the studio and they redid it.
You know, it’s hard to dislodge what you like with something else, even if it’s better, but here’s the new version of Six Blocks Away, followed by the original. You be the judge.
I loved Bill Withers. Lean on Me is an amazing song. But when John Legend covered this song with the Roots some years back I was surprised because it was powerful and unforgettable and I didn’t know it. Thinking about politics and music making lately, I’m not sure there is much value in trying to change minds, but this tune is a testament to deep feelings that affected us all once upon a time. Beautifully.