I haven’t written that much about music recently. I think part of that is because, whenever I have the time to listen to something, it’s more likely to be something from the RPG Music Fanatics Facebook community or an episode of Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanaugh’s old podcast about snacks. But there are a few albums I’ve gotten in the past few months, and here are my thoughts on a few of them:
Robyn Hitchcock, Moss Elixir/Mossy Liquor – I have to say, while I’ve been delving quite a bit into Robyn’s back catalog in the past few years, I’m not really sure of the timeline of his work. After a few solo albums, he formed the Egyptians in 1984, and they disbanded in 1993, not long after the death of Robyn’s father. This one was the first post-Egyptians album he released after a bit of a dry spell. It’s a mostly acoustic record, with Deni Bonet playing violin on many of the songs. His father’s death is mentioned explicitly in “You and Oblivion.” “Devil’s Radio” is one of my favorites on here, with its catchy chorus and the weird rhyming pattern in the verses: “Darling, you don’t have to call me Stalin, or even Mao Tse-tung, ’cause I’m far too young. My rising sign in Capricorn, is that surprising?” “Heliotrope” is a quieter, prettier song about a sun worshipper. “De Chirico Street” is another favorite of mine, with the title referencing the metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico, a major influence on surrealism. I’m not sure any of the things mentioned in the song’s lyrics are things he actually painted, but they’re the right sort of things.
Beyond the reference, it seems to be about trying to get over an old lover, and as such it kind of makes me think of They Might Be Giants’ “32 Footsteps.” Mossy Liquor, which was originally released separately a few weeks before Elixir, but the CD versions are packaged together, is mostly demos for the Moss Elixir songs, but there are a few that are unique to it. “Trilobite,” a goofy song made up of short rhyming lines, is one he did the last time I saw him live. It’s about how we give extinct animals names that they obviously wouldn’t have known, and how this might well continue when people in the future discover us. The demos are pretty similar to their finished versions, but lack some of the touches like the horns on “De Chirico Street.” Oh, and the version of “Alright, Yeah” is in Swedish.
Video Games Live, Level 2 – Beth and I saw this show some years ago, and I bought the first album, which was largely music from games I didn’t know. Really, I think a lot of the stuff on this second volume is more first-release material, although that could just be due to my own experiences in video gaming. There are medleys of music from the Zelda series, Chrono Trigger and Cross, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man, Final Fantasy, and Mario. The Video Game Pianist, who is known for playing video game themes on the piano while blindfolded, was at the show we saw and also appears here doing a medley of Super Mario Bros. music. What’s weird is that the next track is an orchestral medley of Mario music, including some of the same tunes. I have to suspect it might have been better to separate them a little more, but whatever. The FF medley is also played on solo piano. One good piece that I didn’t know before was “Baba Yetu,” an African-styled number sung in Swahili from Civilization IV. The whole thing ends with a rock version of “One Winged Angel” from Final Fantasy VII.
Neil Innes, Recollections: Le Duck’s Box Set – I bought this and had it autographed when I saw Neil live back in March, and I’m finally writing about it now. Actually, I’ve had scattered thoughts about it noted down for some time, but I’m now working them into what I hope is a coherent review. These songs are mostly ones Neil wrote in the seventies, with many of them featured on the television show Innes Book of Records. Overall, I think a lot of these are more subtle in their humor than Neil’s work with the Bonzo Dog Band, the Rutles, or Monty Python. There’s definitely a good bit of parody and absurdity involved here, though. “Godfrey Daniel” is an Elton John knock-off that Neil performed wearing martini glasses on his eyes on Rutland Weekend Television.
The title is apparently a G-rated way of saying “God damn” that was popularized by W.C. Fields. The simply-titled “Protest Song,” one of the more popular numbers on here, is a Bob Dylan spoof with bad harmonica. I guess I already knew from “Canyons of Your Mind” that Neil is good at playing intentionally badly. “Take It Away” is a cha-cha piece about ordering at a restaurant, and “Front Loader” a song of sexual attraction to a washing machine. I’m actually a little surprised the latter is from the seventies, since it reminds me of eighties Peter Gabriel, but they might have just been working from the same sources. “Imagination” is a fun Caribbean-sounding tune with lyrics about the dangers of passive media consumption, a favorite topic of Neil’s.
“Love Is Getting Deeper” is a folk number sung in a silly French accent, also including donkey noises. And “Slaves of Freedom” is full of absurd metaphors, like “the shampoo of perfection in the bathroom of your dreams.” There’s also a DVD with clips from Innes Book of Records, including a few things that aren’t on the other discs, like a bit with Michael Palin as a weirdly paranoid policeman. Some of these are definitely better with the visuals, like the gag-filled “Spaghetti Western.” I will say that the imaginary commercial “Cat Meat Conga” has a kind of creepy video, though. There seem to be a fair number of Innes Book of Records clips on YouTube, including ones that aren’t on this DVD, but otherwise information on the show seems scant. I have to wonder if some of the songs on here that don’t seem to have much of a point are better in context.
Speaking of Neil, I understand Andy Partridge (formerly of XTC) has covered “Humanoid Boogie,” although it’s currently only available on vinyl. That’s certainly something I’d like to hear. That’s another song that seems a little ahead of its time; it’s from 1968 but it kind of predicts New Wave. Speaking of which, here’s a totally different take on that song by Neil himself, dressed as…Scottish Frankenstein?