DADDY YANKEE – Mundial (2010)

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Jaime Vargas Sánchez

I keep trying to get Spotify to play this record but all I hear is the playlist to which Fanta runs its brand promotion tied to the world cup series on a beach party. See, this reggaeton thing was for some reason as hugely popular as europop (another genre that revolves hugely around aggressively beating you over the head with simplistic repetitive beats and annoying vocal hooks for the duration of the song) but really the only context I see for a music like that nowadays is to mindlessly blast it through the speakers of the bungee jumping machine at the beach under the hot summer sun. It is not even fit to be the background music they play between the X-factor auditions! Like who listens to this stuff? How did it end up in the charts? Can anyone even relate emotionally to this? I know I stopped paying attention after the first track because this repetitive plateau of high after high after high all at the same volume and intensity, it cannot captivate your attention, let alone move your soul. Furthermore, you have read, I presume, how songwriting committees have evaluated that radio-friendly songs nowadays have to hit a new high every 6 seconds in order to keep the attention of the ever station-switching listener in his car. Yeah, but how can you top high after high after high, if you never relax the tension? Tension and relaxation until an eventual resolution, that’s the secret to a great many awesome songs in the pop canon!!
No, that was actually my first listen impression and it is totally not fair to the record. In fact, even on my first listen I noticed the attitude in the opening track “El Mejor De Todos Los Tiempos” and recognised its relative uniqueness in the bailando & vuvuzela context, and after a second listen I can confirm that the first two tracks here are actually legitimately cool. Most of the following tracks on the record are also not without their merits — even occasionally triggering my nostalgia for the times most simple that have long since passed (even if this record did actually come out as late as 2010) and making me admire the Spanish language and the Latin beats that really have their own logic and effect on the body and mind. That said, there are still some tracks (“La Despedida” to quote one) that can only fall under the generic bailando noise category. There is even the obligatory FIFA song (“Grito Mundial”, not eventually used for the 2010 World Cup series for reasons explained properly in Wikipedia) – I mean, the album is called Mundial… But after a thorough and dedicated listen I end up wondering if Daddy Yankee isn’t kinda my daddy now because this record certainly has a lot to recommend it… yeah…

THE DEL FUEGOS – The Longest Day (1984)

Review by: Syd Spence
Album assigned by: Charly Saenz

There is this phenomenon I’ve noticed in both in myself and others. I like to call it the local band hyperbole. It’s when a band that is close to you by proximity, and thus you will exaggerate their abilities to everyone in earshot. I know i’ve done this with bands my friends were a part of and I know i’ve see this happen in others as well. You’ll gloss over all the problems and start waxing poetic about their not ready for prime time actuality. My guess is that by their proximity, you put a little more attachment to their sound then say, the recent mega band from a sea over. 

And that brings me to this little record, The Longest Day by The Del Fuegos. Even though this album is what? 30 years old and from the semi major city of Boston, It’s making me want to boast and brag like the Del Fuegos were born from my very loins… This though is an illusion.. This record is rough around the edges slice of retro rock done in the 80s. The fact that the Del Fuegos didn’t appear on the Rhino box set Children of Nuggets, is a crime. All of these songs would fit there nicely, with their “ I want to be in the ‘60s, but my production says I’m horribly stuck in the ‘80s”. In fact this record reminds me of a band featured on the children of Nuggets box set, The La’s. The La’s debut was filled with rough and tumble garage rocky songs. All of them were okay, but not great, except for their one big hit, “There She Goes”. The Del Fuegos’ debut is exactly like that except for a few differences. One they replace the jangle with light country influence, two, the La’s have a more polished production whereas, Del Fuegos sound like ‘80s indie production (it’s not as bad as Black Flag demos, but it’s not exactly REM either). Oh, and there is one major difference, there isn’t a masterstroke like “There She Goes” 

But gosh darnit, these guys sound so sincere, and authentic, and I’m sure they would have rocked local talent night at their nearest bar, but, but, but, let’s get real, The Replacements do everything these guys do, and better. So If Children of Nuggets is your favorite Rhino Box set, GET THIS NOW. Everyone else get a Replacements record.

ZEZÉ DI CAMARGO & LUCIANO – Zezé Di Camargo & Luciano (1991)

Review by: Mark Maria Ahsmann
Album assigned by: Francelino Prazeres de Azevedo Filho

Oh, I’ve heard beautiful things: the first four notes of Zezé & co’s version of “And I Love Her”, “Eu te amo” performed by deep and low strings bring the hidden melancholia of this song to the surface so that instead of a contemplative and happy love song it turns into a contemplative wistful and sad love song. I could easily imagine a band like the Tindersticks using that as a template for an autumnal version.

These four notes are the only things that are truly outstanding on this album. The rest of it is a dime a dozen sun, sea and beach & bikinis pop music.

This kind of music is sort of timeless and sort of locationless. They’ve been producing it all over the world since at least the late 1960’s.

I find it not too repulsive though obviously it is not “good”. It is not meant to be.

In my country there’s a TV program called Music Party On The Square. Dutch versions of Zezé & Luciano lip sync their latest hits before a mildly enthusiastic crowd. Spectators always start to dance spontaneously when they notice that one of the TV camera’s picks them up. I’ve always wondered what it would be like at such a party.

This album is very suitable for cafeteria’s and half price pizzeria’s.

My colleague says Zezé and Luciano are actually Ron and Russell Mael in disguise. And she would like to add that Russell’s mullet was fabulous in 1991.

PETE TOWNSHEND – Psychoderelict (1993)

Review by: Francelino Prazeres de Azevedo Filho
Album assigned by: Graham Warnken

So, for our “pan round”, I was assigned Pete Townshend’s last solo album, a rock opera concept album about himself as a decadent rock star. A sure recipe for something awful, isn’t it? Well, yes, but I had to at least give the record a chance, for fairness’ sake. So I braced myself, tried to rid my mind of my prejudices, and played this thing. By the first listen, the situation wasn’t very auspicious, as the first track, “English Boy”, was supposed to be one of the few highlights here, and I found it bland. Thankfully, considering only the music aspect, the rest is pretty much on the same level, which left me wondering why that particular song got praised. I guess people somehow enjoyed / pretended to enjoy it more than the rest because it tries to recapture the Who’s rocking aesthetics, but it does so without real force and without a strong melody behind it.

During “English Boy”, I would come across what is the main nemesis of this album, the thing that makes an otherwise mediocre release bad: the dialogues. You see, that old school Quadrophenia style of having the story felt only by the songs wasn’t enough for Pete. He had to have voice actors saying bullshit throughout the whole disk, and some of the tracks are nothing but dialogues that go on for over a minute. This killed the album to me. Another album that has problems with dialogues, in my opinion, is Aquemini, which is an album I otherwise love. After every track, it has some skits that, while entertaining, ruin the flow of the music. Psychoderelict is much much worse on this aspect, because the dialogues try to tell an uninteresting story starred by awful characters.

In Psychoderelict’s defence, I must say there was a music-only version. However, it is pretty clear that one is meant to be a “lightweight” version for weaklings, and the true version is the one with the dialogues. Still, I was tempted to listen to that. The point of this round was to listen to awful stuff, though, and if I dared to inflict Zezé di Camargo & Luciano upon someone, then it would be dishonourable not to listen to the piece of garbage in its full form.
Back to music, let me stress that this album is mostly uninspired, it isn’t completely bad. Pete tries to be diverse here, which is a plus. There’s three “Meher Baba” instrumental tracks that taste like microwaved yesterday’s pizza. The third one, strangely numbered “M5”, is the best of them, the only one that managed to get me on a “vibe”. “Don’t Try to Make Me Real” has a good refrain. “Now and Then” has a cool bassline and a weird vocal delivery that works to its favour. That’s it for highlights though. The rest of the disk entered my brain through one ear and left through the other.

What was really unforgettable here was the story. In a very bad way. I don’t know what exactly made Pete think we would be interested in those dialogues, but they’re everywhere! They come before or after the songs in their tracks, they sometimes have their own, dialogue-only, tracks, and in some songs, they even come interspersed with the verses and choruses, so as to give the listener no respite. You’re going to listen to this insipid excuse for a plot, and you’re going to listen to this all the fucking time! And not only the story is extremely badly written, the characters are completely unlikeable assholes, that I hated the first time I heard their voices. I’ll save you the details, because the contents here are incredibly shallow, but I’ll point to two lines that grabbed my attention:

“Dear Lily, thank you for your pictures” WINK WONK

“Rose, you didn’t get, didn’t you. I knew it all the time.” YES THAT IS A LINE THE MAIN CHARACTER SAYS

In a fitting note, the album ends with a dialogue. “What happened to that loving hippy shit?” Fuck you Pete! If you’re daring to diss hippy shit, you fucking better have something better than it to show! Instead, you come up with this, and, really, fuck you!

MUSIC IN BOOKS: MARCUS O’DAIR – Different Every Time: The Authorized Biography of Robert Wyatt (2014, Profile Books Ltd.)

ISBN: 978-1593766160 (paperback)
Review by: Andreas Georgi

I’ve been listening to Robert Wyatt’s work for several years now, and have become a big fan, so the release of his authorized biography is very timely for me. After just having finished it, I can strongly recommend it to anyone with an appreciation for this truly unique artist. For anyone interested in learning more about his work, this book also includes a highly comprehensive listing of all the recordings, videos, and print releases in his 50-plus year career.

From a biographical standpoint, he certainly has not had a boring life, from his bohemian upbringing, to pioneering work in psychedelic & progressive rock, touring the US with Hendrix, to the various collaborations, and of course his life-changing fall in 1973 that left him paraplegic and the challenges he overcame as a result, turning difficulties into opportunities.

The book does a good job in illuminating Wyatt as a highly complex, and often troubled, but ultimately highly likeable personality. Repeatedly he comes across as an extremely intelligent, socially conscious, empathetic and generous spirit. The book does a very good job at detailing how this empathy and generosity influenced his work. It’s a cliché, but in his case it is really true that he beats his own path forward. The book does not shy away from dealing with some of his darker moments of depression and abusive drinking, and how it affected his wife Alfie. Key to his story is the equally strong and creative character of Alfreda “Alfie” Benge, his wife, supporter and collaborator for over 40 years.

Last year, at age 70, Robert Wyatt announced his retirement from music. Fans like me hope of course that he changes his mind, but in any event he has left an amazing body of work. There is an accompanying double CD compilation of the same name. The first CD is a compilation of his releases with Soft Machine, Matching Mole, and his solo albums. The second CD is a collection of collaborative efforts, some quite rare. This collection would seem like a good place to jump into his work. I don’t have the CD, but it looks great. Two thumbs up for the book, however!

MUSIC IN BOOKS: BLAIR JACKSON – Garcia: An American Life (Penguin, 2000)

ISBN: 978-0-14-029199-5 (paperback)
Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn

The week between the anniversary of Jerry Garcia‘s birth (August 1, 1942) and his death (August 9, 1995) is called The Days Between by deadheads, after a latter day Grateful Dead song. For many music fans, it’s a bittersweet time, because Garcia was a good guitarist and songwriter, but allegedly also a lot more than that. For many people he was a cultural icon. He was like the epitome of love and peace, “being free and being true to oneself and a tremendously positive force. This is a time of year to celebrate him and his art”.
Yeah right. You wouldn’t know it from reading Garcia – An American Life by Blair Jackson. Blair knows the Dead inside out, having edited a fanzine for 10 years, having written several books about the Dead. And in the last few years he wrote several liner notes for releases from the Dead’s Vault. He’s a fan, a friend, very knowledgeable and a good writer.
The book is strictly chronological and devotes attention to Jerry’s personal life from his birth to his death, but also to new (Jerry) songs as they start to appear in the repertoire. An index and a discography (up to date until the original publication date, 1999) are provided as well. It’s an entertaining read, about Haight-Ashbury, the acid tests, the 60’s in San Francisco in general, the evolving Grateful Dead and its (unwilling) leader.
But, unfortunately, Jerry comes across as not necessarily very sympathetic and as being rather weak in business decisions as well as in his personal life. Whenever he wanted somebody out of the band (or out of his side band) he let others (band members or managers) do the dirty job. As a husband and father you cannot say he, unfortunately, failed, you’ll have to conclude he just did not try. Although he supported each and everyone of them financially, emotionally he treated his wifes and girlfriends terribly and he neglected his children, sometimes for years. Not because he was psychopathically antisocial, but because he took ‘freedom’ to its noncommittal extreme, and was afraid to take (responsibility for) decisions.
Does this take away from his musical achievements? (OK, such as they are, but I happen to be a HUGE fan of the Grateful Dead, having close to 350 official releases on cd). Of course not, but it does influence the way you see him as a person. Yes, he is a great guitar player, and in many ways still underrated, because many people can copy a David Gilmour lick or a Jimi Hendrix solo (yes, after they did it first), but not many people can improvise the way Jerry does (i.e. compose ‘on the spot’ and create a new solo just about every time you play that particular song), and do this with a feel for the song (blues, bluegrass, jazz, (hard) rock, prog, or whatever). And a nice enough singer (who doesn’t always memorize his lyrics properly…) and a good to great songwriter he may be, but his status as 60’s icon and all round great chap seems rather overrated.
In fact, I think this weakness ties in with his unwillingness to be considered and treated as band leader. Musically, yes, definitely, and immerse yourself in his music. But in all other aspects he preferred to stay on the fence, in the background, and let others take responsibility or action. 

Verdict: read this book if you like the Grateful Dead, the (late) 60’s, West coast pop culture or the origin of the jam band scene, but do not read it if Jerry Garcia is your personal hero or guru and you want to keep it that way.