Formatting

Is it just me, or are other people having weird formatting problems with Blogger lately? Looks like they’ve changed the “compose” template to make it more WYSIWYG, but the problem is that What I See Is Not What I Want. Instead, I Want What I Used to Get, Not What I See Now.

I wish technically helpful websites would leave well enough alone when they’ve got things working well . . .

Big on the Pig, Part Two

I got my shipment of Piggly Wiggly shirts today. Stylish. Elegant. Classic Southern Fare and Wear. Order yours today. Based on the high volume of mail that I received from my first Pig post, there’s a lot of you out there who are also . . . Big on the Pig. Go team, fight, rah. (Note on the pictures: Katelin took them, so if it looks like I’m looming over you, it’s because I really do loom over Katelin).

Shrieks

I recently purchased three new related CDs: the mini-EP Having a Moment by Shriekback (on which two cuts feature the classic line-up of Barry Andrews, Dave Allen, Carl Marsh and Martyn Barker), Stic Basin (a solo electronic album by Barry Andrews), and Haunted Box of Switches (another Andrews project, this one with just Barry sitting at the grand piano, singing some new songs, singing a couple of numbers off of Having a Moment, and singing a couple of classic Shriekback tunes as well).

My preconceived notion, before listening to them, would have been that I would have liked the Shriekback one the most, then the electronic Andrews, then the acoustic Andrews, just because I so deeply liked Shriekback’s classic ganky, gunky dance music way back when. Interestingly, though, after a few days worth of listening, I find that I end up just the opposite of where I would have expected: I like the piano record the most, then the Stic Basin one, then the Shriekback one.

The Shriekback one, somehow, sounds far less Shrieky than the Stic Basin one does. The hard-to-find Naked Apes and Pond Life from a few years back (which does not include Marsh or Allen) actually sounds closer to the vintage soupy weirdness of the band’s ’80s sounds. This new EP feels slight, and the contributions from Allen and Marsh don’t really stand out much, whereas they used to be quite prominent in the mix and sound. The songs are a bit more rock-flavored than anything else in the Shriekback canon, too, more straightforward and “normal” sounding than their best stuff was. It’s probably telling that a chunk of latter-day Shriekback went on to perform as the Blokes, backing Billy Bragg, since this record sounds closer to Bragg’s caustic/cerebral post-folk music than it does to anything from Shriekback’s Y Records days.

The Stic Basin album, on the other hand, certainly has some of the creeping menance of Shriekback’s glory days, wrapped up in a nice and shiny 21st Century electronica sheen. Good stuff, if a little antisceptic at times. Haunted Box of Switches, on the other other hand, sounds nothing like Shriekback (except for Andrews’ distinctive voice, that is), but is a glorious, wonderful record, filled with great songs, delivered clean and simple like, so you appreciate the very, very clever wordplay and excellently skewed melodic structures. I’ve always loved the Shriekback song “Faded Flowers” (which contains this deliciously succinct couplet on relationships gone wrong: “We had some good machines, but they don’t work no more/I loved you once, don’t love you anymore”), and it positively glimmers in the skeletal reading it’s given on Haunted Box. Gorgeous stuff, all of it.

Toss one of the best album cover photos I’ve seen in ages into the mix and you’ve got a record well worth hunting down and buying, with or without any advanced expectations. Check it (and the other two records) out here.

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