Wainwright Dynasty Archives

May 21, 2004

Two political songs, for your enjoyment

FCC Song all fucks by Eric Idle.
President's Day by Loudon Wainwright III.

I saw Loudon in concert in Groningen yesterday, and the response then was pretty much the same as at the in-store performance at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California where this recording was made.

Commentary by Loudon:

Due to its particular timeliness with regard to our nation's impending electoral decision in November, I have made the rather unusual (for me) decision to cast it into the ether of cyberspace, there to be had gratis(*), absolutely free of charge for citizens armed with an MP3 player and a taste for broadside material. It is my sincere hope that those of you who like the song and approve of my plan will assist me in spreading the word about "Presidents' Day" in order to inform and/or inflame any swing voters out there who remain at all ambivalent or apathetic about the current administration and its reckless, dreadful policies.

(*) Indeed, Loudon has made his opinion about MP3 downloading known in the song "Something for Nothing", off the So Damn Happy album he is currently promoting. If you can still see him on his tour, don't miss him.

September 30, 2004

I buy far too many CDs!

My one vice, the one bad habit that will one day be the ruin of me, is buying much much more music than I can afford. One day, I'll go too far, and end up homeless, or crushed under the weight of a falling cupboard full of CDs... or worse, I could end up a musicblogger. I've noticed that quite a few people who write about music in weblogs are desperately unhappy, and although music can help people remain sane, writing about it often allows writers to wallow in whatever their problem was in the first place.

For now, though, I can buy CDs and vinyl and pay for them out of my tax refund, which was a big'un this year. It's irresponsible, but it won't actually bankrupt me... yet.

I have some time to spare right now, so here and in the next few posts will be a roundup of stuff I bought in the past couple of months weeks.

Today, I got Want One by Rufus Wainwright, now marked down at the record store. Rufus is the son of Loudon Wainwright III, one of my favorite singer/songwriters.While he does have some of his dad's melodic sensibility, the music on Want One sounds more like a cross between Muse and Jellyfish, with traces of Roy Harper. The lyrics are less anecdotal and poignant than dad's, and more existential. Not sure if I like the lyrics, and his voice can grate a bit after a while, but the tunes are strong and the big production is just gorgeous. The layered instrumental work keeps it interesting. One to play a few more times before I can tell if it has any staying power. Update: after three listenings, I can say that the answer is no. Rufus's vocal mannerisms annoy me and the orchestrations get in the way of the songs.

I also got Smoke and Strong Whiskey by Christy Moore. Moore is the older brother of singer-songwriter Luka Bloom, and the similarity is clear in his voice and songwriting approach. I was very much immersed in coloring Friday's comic while I listened to this for the first time, so I can't say too much about it, other than that it was rockier than I expected it to be. It's very much an Irish record, but a folk-rock one instead of the folk that I expected. Soft folk-rock, mind. It has electric guitars and hammond organs, but doesn't get very loud, mostly because Moore's voice is very quiet. Smoke and Strong Whiskey is pleasant enough, but nothing stuck out. There's a cover of the Pogues' "Fairytale of New York" on the album, but while it's better played than the original, it lacks the original's energy and the cattiness that you got from the duet between Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl. Moore's own songwriting is pretty good though, and I'll probably end up loving it when I've heard the record more often. Update: on repeated listening, I like about half the songs. "Scapegoats" is a particularly good one. It's odd to think that 14 years on, there is once again a need for songs like that.

Continue reading "I buy far too many CDs!" »

November 11, 2004

Singer-Songwriter roundup

Rented from the public library (because I can't afford to buy as many CDs right now as I've done in the past few months):

Genius by Warren Zevon. I'm a bit disappointed by this one, to be honest. Zevon has an excellent reputation as a songwriter, but on the basis of this nearly career-spanning retrospective, I don't think he lived up to it. There are some good songs on there, especially 1988's "Boom Boom Mancini" with its bluesy touches, 1991's carnivalesque "Mr. Bad Example" and 1978's "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" but like the Bruce Cockburn retrospective I rented a year or so ago, many of the songs are marred by sugary arrangements and the limitations of Zevon's voice. I'll explore his work a little further by listening to the albums that the best songs on this record came from but I don't expect to discover another artist of Richard Thompson's caliber.
Little Ship by Loudon Wainwright III. I'm a huge Loudon fan already so I was bound to like it. It's not his best: both the album's predecessor Grown man and the recent Last Man on Earth are stronger overall. The songs repeat themes Wainwright has visited time and again without adding much in the way of new ideas, and the arrangements are at times a little too clever for their own good. Indeed the two songs from Little Ship that made it to the live album So Damn Happy, "So Damn Happy" and "Primrose Hill", sound much better in the stripped-down, guitar-and-vocal version offered there. Nevertheless, Little Ship is well-crafted, pleasing to the ear and recommended for anyone who likes Wainwright's other stuff. And "What Are Families For" is a great, great song.

July 9, 2007

Your musical reading for today

Vanity Fair has a lovely eight-page article called Songs in the Key of Lacerating on the sprawling and very talented Wainwright/McGarricle clan. Read it. (Via)

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