Mother Earth Is Pregnant For The Third Time

This isn’t quite a Tracks post but the way it’s going it could well be. This is more of a “how the hell had I missed this?!” post.

My wife and I have been getting back to watching TV lately – well, more bingeing on box sets of Mad Men – after the haze of tiptoeing at night so as not to wake the little man. It gave me a desire to re-watch a bit of House again too and I was watching the episode “The Down Low” and, true to form with that show (there’s an awful lot of good music used there) the tune that played out over the conclusion was a belter. Only thing was I didn’t a) recall the episode or b) know the music – but I sat up in my chair, rewound it so that I could both get the name of the track and hear it again.

It was Maggot Brain by Funkadelic. Spotify was calling.

I mean; holy shit. This is just fucking awesome. I’m gob-smacked I’d not heard this before. To quote Wikipedia “The original recording of the song, over ten minutes long, features little more than a spoken introduction and a much-praised extended guitar solo by Eddie Hazel”. Just listening to it you can hear how many players it influenced, careers it started, bands that owe it their existence. I don’t think it would be a stretch to point to the George Clinton connection and say that the Red Hot Chili Peppers probably owe everything about their music that isn’t Kiedis finding a new rhyme for “Dope dick” to these 10 minutes.

Rolling Stone, in their entry for Eddie Hazel in their 100 Greatest Guitarists list said this:

Legend has it that funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain,” the 10-minute solo that turned the late Eddie Hazel into an instant guitar icon, was born when George Clinton told him to imagine hearing his mother just died – and then learning that she was, in fact, alive. Hazel, who died of liver failure in 1992 at age 42, brought a thrilling mix of lysergic vision and groove power to all of his work, inspiring followers like J Mascis, Mike McCready and Lenny Kravitz. “That solo – Lord have mercy!” says Kravitz of “Maggot Brain.” “He was absolutely stunning.”

Gotta be thankful for the ‘digital age’ of music here – otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to have heard the full thing by now (I watched that episode on Saturday) or found this version with Pearl Jam (and the RHCP’s Chad Smith on drums) seguing from Little Wing into Maggot Brain.

So… Right now, I’m stuck on this:

Watching The Corners

I’m aware that when I’ve muttered about new albums from ‘big’ names – referring, that is, to their importance in my music taste-range – I’ve been pretty negative. There have been more than a few albums released this year that I’ve loved (whether or not I’ll end up doing a Best of 2012 is another thing) so I thought I’d start mentioning a couple of those instead of just slamming new albums.

One of those bands that were always around but I never really acknowledged or paid attention to almost until it was too late, was Dinosaur Jr. By the time I got round to checking out one of their albums it was their comeback disc Beyond. It was being hailed as a ‘return to form’, and people were ecstatic as it was ‘as if they’d never been away’ – except to me they hadn’t really because this was the first time I was listening and knowing who was playing. I played the arse off that album. It absolutely slayed me. So much so that within a pretty short space of time I’d gotten the rest of their stock – my wife even managed to find the otherwise “bastard to locate at a decent price” Without A Sound for me in Paris. Suddenly the buzz around Beyond made sense. It was a phenomenal return to form after the lucklustre release J. had made during the 90’s with other musicians under the name of Dinosaur Jr. Which is odd because I really liked his two efforts with The Fog – so much better than, say, Hand It Over.

dinosaur jr

From that point I’ve been eagerly awaiting new Dino albums (or the recent J. Mascis solo record) and was not disappointed either with Farm or this year’s I Bet On Sky. It’s true that the three albums are all very much similar (even excusing the use of keyboards on opener Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know); 10 or 12 songs, the bulk of which are sung by J and contain either hurried or gently fuzzy rocking leading up to the point at which J can’t hold back any longer and lets loose the guitar solo that continues until the end of the track. And you know what? I bloody love it. The melodies are a world clearer than they were on the bands original trio before the lineup became a rotational club, J’s a lot more confident at the old singing game and his guitar tone is beatific. His phrasing and fluidity mean that when each song breaks it’s more like being wrapped up in a warm blanked of tone. Somehow each time he breaks it sounds different and he finds something new on that guitar neck.

After my wife and I recently dug back into the 90s I was flicking through a book she got me last Christmas. It’s the photo collection Grunge by Michael Lavine and with a bit of text from none other than Thurston Moore. There’s a bit of a love-in with Thurston and J – Thurston (along with his basement and daughter) were in the video for Dinosaur Jr’s Been There All The Time and J played some shit-hot lead on Thurston’s amazeballs solo lp Trees Outside The Academy. Anyway there’s photo of Dinosaur Jr in there and – at the back of the book – a summary of all the bands featured within. Thurston’s summary of Dinosaur Jr reads:

“Awesome heavy melodic power trio from Amhers, Massachusetts…. Gerard Cosloy convinced the band to record an LP fr his Homestead imprint and it, along with its successor, You’re Living All Over Me, released on SST, became indelible blueprints for a generation of extreme yet beautiful guitar love core”

I like that phrase “guitar love core”. While the original trilogy was certainly something and the years in between yielded a few gems too I think the most recent clutch of albums from the band a lot more of a guitar love in. Plus it game on a gorgeous slab of purple vinyl and nice, high-quality gate-fold too.