In Praise of “Trespass”

More on the underappreciated albums front: Trespass by Genesis. Most Johnny- and Janey-Come-Lately Genesis fans miss this one, since it predates Phil Collins, the group’s primary magnet for the casual latter day follower. But Peter Gabriel’s on this one, as are Anthony Philips (guitars) and Peter Mayhew (drums), who certainly more than hold their own throughout the procedings. The songs are, for the most part, a bit more straighforward than the ones that define Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot, the two most-similar albums in the Genesis canon–but that’s not a bad thing, now, is it? Most folks who do know this album will focus on its closing song, “The Knife,” as the reason to own it, but I’m gonna lift up “Stagnation” instead–one of the most beautiful, powerful, evocative things this group ever produced, no lie.

Sauce

Few things make me happier than a big bowl of pasta with a brilliant tomato-based sauce on top. But few things make me angrier than going to a restaurant and ordering said dish–then having them bring me a plate with a one of these horrible, thin nouveau red sauces on top, big chunks of stewed tomato, some runny liquid (most likely pressed from the tomatoes), a couple of basil leaves and some monstrous hunks of garlic. And as bad as that is, it’s even worse when a restaurant does it on a pizza: the tomatoes bleed through the crust, the whole thing gets slimy, yuck, yuck, yuck. And being served garlic that way is flat out offensive: if you’re living or sleeping with someone, you’d better make darn sure you share the dish, or someone’s gonna be gassed out onto the couch come bedtime by the noxious garlic aroma oozing out of every pore and orifice as great, huge chunks of that hideous root sit, undisolved, in your loved one’s gut. So pay attention chefs: cut stuff up and then cook it for a while if you’re gonna call it a sauce. Because these warm, wet salads you’re passing of as sauce these days are really getting me down, man.

Gormenghast

Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy has long been one of my favorite works of literature, although it’s always been mildly embarrassing to admit that fact–since people who haven’t read the books tend to roll their eyes and lump you in with the sorts of folks who dress up as hobbits for Dungeons and Dragons tournaments when you do. So it was kind of nice when one of the members of Can (yet another personal favorite) crafted an avant garde opera from the first two books of the trilogy, offering some mild modicum of popular artistic respectability. And now, holy krow, even better: the BBC has created a new television version of Gormenghast. The still clips look magnificent . . . I just hope I can stand the wait before it finally airs in America.

Grrr-ching!

Just how in God’s name did Steve Albini actually manage to get that Big Black guitar sound? I mean, I’ve played with a lot of guitars, and I’ve played with a lot of pedal effects, and lots of other people have played with lots of both, but I don’t think that anyone’s ever come as close to reproducing the sonic sensation of a dental drill to the head in quite the same way that Albini did on Big Black’s last couple of records. “Kerosene,” in particular, makes my eyes water. And that’s a good thing.

Opening paragraph to a rediscovered story . . .

“Stars above, sand below, Amanda waded waist deep through warm waves, enjoying the solitude of the North Carolina beach by night. She was nearly six weeks into her summer sabbatical and had been slowly working her way southward since the spring semester had ended at the New England University where she lectured in comparative literature. Amanda’s summer itinerary had been intentionally amorphous from the start as she was less concerned with where she was going than with what she was leaving: a long-running, long-dysfunctional relationship with a colleague that had finally imploded; a nagging suspicion that she was beginning to treat her students poorly; a boredom with the great works of literature that had once so moved her; a sense of anomie that had become positively strangling as it spread insidiously to touch everything that in turn touched her.”

Finn

Listening to Say It Is So, the latest album by Tim Finn, founder and former front man of Split Enz. And, uh, no it’s not that Finn, the one that you’re thinking of is Neil Finn, Tim’s younger brother, who Tim invited to join Split Enz back in the ’70s, only to then watch his sibling pen his group’s first and only huge international hit (“I Got You”), then head off to form his own multi-platinum outfit, Crowded House. So that’s not Tim Finn. That’s Neil Finn.

Tim was the founder of Split Enz, see, but not that founder, the weird one with the funny voice, that’s the other founder you’re thinking of, Philip Judd, later of the Swingers (whose “Counting the Beat” is one of the best selling songs in Australian and New Zealand pop history) and Schnell Fenster, which also included the boss Split Enz rhythm section of Noel Crombie and Nigel Griggs. So that’s that not Tim Finn. That’s Philip Judd.

So who is Tim Finn, then? He was the founder of Split Enz and played on all of their albums save their last, hardly lamented one, See Ya Round. He joined Neil’s Crowded House for their best record, Woodface. He played with a group called ALT, and one called Finn, with Neil. He’s issued five solo albums, all of them gems, all of them woefully neglected, at least on this continent. His latest, Say It Is So, is his best to date, a beautiful, sweet, confident, perfect pop record, with just a smidgen of twang courtesy the Nashville recording studio where its key tracks were laid down.

So that’s Tim Finn. He’s alright, even if you’re not sure who he is. At least on this continent. (You can check out the Frenz site if you want to more, and methingks you do).