only one more day until new Portishead!

It seems futile to attempt to parse this state­ment out any fur­ther. Such an exer­cise would only serve to high­light the inad­e­qua­cy of mere words to address the mag­ni­tude of this event: the first album of new mate­r­i­al from this group in eleven very long years.

Of course, it is hor­ri­bly like­ly that such antic­i­pa­tion will end in dis­ap­point­ment; what col­lec­tion of tracks, after all, can stand in the same room with their 1994 debut Dum­my, or even with the less stag­ger­ing but still aston­ish­ing Por­tishead (1997)? But no mat­ter the length against the odds of Third deliv­er­ing the same degree of excel­lence as its pre­de­ces­sors in the Por­tishead cat­a­logue, this is with­out rival the musi­cal event of the year.

Beat me with your lyric stick

Garbage is beau­ti­ful; we all know that. While I com­plete­ly missed their 2001 release Beau­ti­ful Garbage I am sure that it lived up to the title, espe­cial­ly if there was a pic­ture of Shirley Man­son any­where in the book­let. I nev­er tire of either their epony­mous 1995 debut album, nor the 1998 sopho­more dynamo Ver­sion 2.0. So I was thrilled to hap­pen across their newest effort at the pub­lic library a few weeks ago.

Bleed Like Me is a dis­til­la­tion of every­thing that makes Garbage, well, Garbage. This is slick, dri­ven rock, each track care­ful­ly pol­ished with­in an inch of its life to be as glossy and hyp­not­ic as a lin­gerie super­mod­el’s improb­a­ble breasts. Fair enough; this is what we have come to expect from this par­tic­u­lar super­group. But this time around Shirley and the boys have either run short of words, or they real­ly want­ed to make sure that we could sing along on the cho­rus­es.

For exam­ple, the cho­rus to the fan­tas­ti­cal­ly-catchy “Why Do You Love Me”:

Why do you love me?
Why do you love me?
Why do you love me?
It’s dri­ving me crazy
Why do you love me?
Why do you love me?
Why do you love me?
It’s dri­ving me crazy
Why do you love me?
Why do you love me?
Why do you love me?
It’s dri­ving me crazy
Why do you love me?
Why do you love me?

Why indeed? Or the cho­rus to “Why Don’t You Come Over”:

So why don’t you come over
Oh why don’t you come over
So why don’t you come over
Oh why don’t you come over
So why don’t you come over
Oh why don’t you come over
So why don’t you come over
Oh why don’t you come over
And walk in my shoes

And by the end of the album even this econ­o­my of words evi­dent­ly grows exces­sive; the cho­rus of “Hap­py Home” is a near-ecsta­t­ic cou­plet of melod­ic vocal­i­sa­tion:

ah-ah-ah-uh
ah-ah-ah-uh
ah-ah-ah-uh-ah
ah-ah-ah-uh
ah-ah-ah-uh
ah-ah-ah-uh-ah

I have been lis­ten­ing very care­ful­ly to their first two albums and I do not find any exam­ple of this lyri­cal blud­geon­ing. Their pre­vi­ous out­put is always sleek, pol­ished, and usu­al­ly catchy as hell, but there are always plen­ty of lyrics to go around. This is not a com­plaint; Bleed Like Me is a fine album with a lot of catchy tunes. I just have to loosen up my neck mus­cles and get ready to sing along.

I Think I’m In Love”

I have nev­er been what you could call a Beck fan. (As for Beck­’s, well, that would be a dif­fer­ent mat­ter.) Ever since the day in my fresh­man year at col­lege when a fel­low stu­dent told me that I looked like Beck (whom I had not pre­vi­ous­ly even heard of) I have a bit of a jaun­diced atti­tude toward the fel­low. And it is igno­rance rather than antipa­thy that most char­ac­teris­es my response to his musi­cal out­put; beyond the clas­sic “Los­er” and the admirable title track from 2005’s Guero, I would be hard pressed indeed to name or even recog­nise a song of his.

I will have to spend some more time with The Infor­ma­tion to real­ly call myself of a fan of either the album or the artist. The few lis­tens I have made did­n’t result in an over­whelm­ing impres­sion of any sort. But the two sin­gles def­i­nite­ly leap out from the crowd, even if you weren’t expect­ing them (as I was). “Nau­sea” reach­es out and demands repeat­ed, even ser­i­al lis­ten­ing, and does so more com­pelling­ly and smart­ly than any song this side of Jude’s “Rick James” which did­n’t leave my play­er for near­ly three months back in 1999. And “I Think I’m In Love” is so lack­adaisi­cal­ly catchy that it has earned the hon­our of being the first song loaded to my new mp3 play­er, where it will prob­a­bly burn a hole in my head before I tire of its sim­ple pop per­fec­tion.

So I like what lit­tle I know of this Beck guy and I shall prob­a­bly make some fur­ther effort to hear more of him. There are cer­tain­ly many artists I would con­sid­er it worse to be told I look like.

Tears in my beer

I knew I was dan­ger­ous­ly short of sleep when I broke down weep­ing while read­ing an arti­cle about Leinenkugel Brew­ing’s newest prod­uct, a 8.9% ABV India Pale Ale. As excit­ing as it is that this ven­er­a­ble mid­dle-of-the-road brew­ery is ven­tur­ing into some more adven­tur­ous and high­er-qual­i­ty ter­ri­to­ry, it hard­ly mer­it­ed water­works.

When I was a boy I would always sing the old (I believe Hank Williams) song that goes “There’s a tear in my beer, ’cause I’m cry­ing for you, dear.” That was all I ever knew of the song — pre­sum­ably there are a few more lyrics — but it held a sig­nif­i­cant place in my imag­i­na­tion for many years. My grand­fa­ther would some­time sing his own ver­sion when we were work­ing togeth­er in his wood shop: “I’ve got tears in my ears, from lying on my back while I’m cry­ing for you, dear.”

Today’s life les­son: Cry into your beer. Don’t cry about your beer.

She’s My Cocaine

I am occa­sion­al­ly remind­ed more or less forcibly why I can nev­er be a crit­ic. I like things. I can be a fan, a gushy fan even. But I can’t quib­ble the way that seems to be the bread and but­ter of the crit­ic. I can only enthuse.

And now I must enthuse a bit. I have long con­sid­ered myself a fan of Tori Amos. I enjoy the pas­sion­ate hon­esty of her song­writ­ing, the near­ly-fey aban­don of her musi­cal­i­ty, the unfet­tered dra­ma of her voice. I con­fess my inter­est began to dwin­dle fol­low­ing her 2002 album Scar­let’s Walk. It is not a bad album, but even after five years’ of lis­ten­ing I have tremen­dous dif­fi­cul­ty in dis­tin­guish­ing one song from anoth­er on the disc; they are sim­ply all so sim­i­lar, so homoge­nous. I have not picked up any of her sub­se­quent releas­es, though I con­tin­ue to enjoy the ear­li­er albums in my col­lec­tion.

This week I checked out From The Choir­girl Hotel (1998) from the pub­lic library. To bor­row a phrase from one of my favourite blog­gers, this album is rock-pants awe­some. I have been spin­ning it non-stop for three days now, some­thing I have not felt com­pelled to do with an album for a long time now. There is only one ‘hit’ — “Spark” — which opens the album with the unfor­get­table line “She’s addict­ed to nico­tine patch­es.” But the thing just keeps explod­ing from there. By the time we get to tracks like “She’s Your Cocaine” and “North­ern Lad” I am exhaust­ed by the vis­cer­al musi­cal ener­gy, the pro­duc­tion val­ue, the sheer won­der of it all. I can’t believe I don’t own this album! I would write more, but I just have to keep lis­ten­ing to this disc…