The Beach Boys – L.A. (Light Album)

L.A. (Light Album)

The Beach BoysL.A. (Light Album) Caribou JZ 35752 (1979)

A small improvement over M.I.U. Album.  The best stuff here, like “Good Timin’,” is actually not bad at all, but there is a very real danger that the Boys are going to soft rock you to sleep listening to this one.  Plus, there are some serious duds here that can only induce cringes, like “Shortenin’ Bread” and the stab at disco “Here Comes the Night.”

The Beach Boys – Surf’s Up

Surf's Up

The Beach BoysSurf’s Up Brother RS 6453 (1971)

Surf’s Up is an odd little album but one containing some amazing Brian Wilson songs. A dark melancholy pervades the disc. “Surf’s Up,” with lyrics by Van Dyke Parks, is a holdover from the Smile period. It is a thrown together mishmash, like the whole album, but it has the spark of incorruptible genius hovering about its ordinary and vital emotions. “Surf’s Up” is a lost but confident stroll through a dream for good in the world. Parks’ surrealist lyrics (like “Laughs come hard/ in Auld Lang Syne” and “Surf’s Up/ umm-mmm umm-mmm umm-mmm/ aboard a tidal wave/ come about hard and join/ the young and often spring you gave”) help make Brian’s “Surf’s Up” about the best song The Beach Boys ever did. “’Til I Die” is another classic with a slightly more uncertain feeling. Actually, just the Brian Wilson songs that close the album make Surf’s Up essential for fans. Despite one dud rocker song and some questionable keyboard effects, the mellow satisfied quality pervading the album serves as a nice lead-in to the album’s powerful finish. It takes some dedication to appreciate what this album is, but with sometimes-strong contributions from various band members (e.g., “Long Promised Road”) it is worth the effort to find Surf’s Up and go beyond the group’s Sixties material.

Alejandro Jodorowsky on Psychomagic

Alejandro Jodorowsky on “psychomagic”, from his book, The Dance of Reality: A Psychomagical Autobiography (2001):

“[M]ost of the problems we have, we want to have.  We are attached to our problems.  They form our identity.  We define ourselves through them.  It is no wonder, then, that some people try to distort the act and try to devise ways to sabotage it: getting free of problems involves radically changing our relationship with ourselves and with the past.  People want to stop suffering, but are not willing to pay the price — namely, to change, to not keep living as a function of their beloved problems.”  (p.313)

“The trainer has to teach [the subconscious] to obey.  This is difficult; in fact, people fall ill because they have a painful problem that they cannot solve or become conscious of.  They want to be treated — but not cured.  Although they ask for help, they then struggle to stop that help from being effective.”  (p. 281).

The most unusual aspect of “psychomagic” is the method of treatment, by “psychomagical acts” that “induce people to act in the midst of what they conceive[] as their reality” (p. 312):

“Once the subconscious decides that something should happen, it is impossible for the individual to inhibit or completely sublimate the impulse.  Once the arrow is launched, one cannot make it return to the bow.  The only way to free oneself from the impulse is to fulfill it…but this can be done metaphorically.” (p. 333).

“The patient must make peace with her subconscious, not becoming independent of it but making it an ally.” (p. 311).

“[T]he psychomagician presents himself only as a technical expert, as an instructor, and devotes himself to explaining to the patient the symbolic meaning and purpose of every act.  The client knows what he or she is doing.  All superstition has been eliminated.  However, as soon as one begins to perform the prescribed acts, reality begins dancing in a new way.” (p. 316).

If psychomagic were to be summarized, it would be important to note that it is mostly about taking ritual folk medicine and adapting it to appeal to educated urban-dwellers.  See also “interpassivity” (which distinguishes illusion from magic: “Magic thus presupposes that the magician does not take a symbolic act for real. In case that someone does that, if he takes a purely symbolic act for a real act, he succumbs to an illusion, but does not practice magic.”  In a way, psychomagic attempts to move a “patient” from illusion to magic to grant them conscious control).

Cara Lisa Berg Powers – “T” Is For The Troubling Changes On “Sesame Street”

Link to an article by Cara Lisa Berg Powers:

“‘T’ Is For The Troubling Changes On ‘Sesame Street'”

Selected Quote:

“So the real problem is that—like schools, transportation, prisons, and a laundry list of other things we used to believe should be our collective responsibility—Sesame Street has become another neo-liberal compromise.”

Bonus link: “Obey the Cookie Monster: Sesame Street and Social Control”

Mark Hollis – Mark Hollis

Mark Hollis

Mark HollisMark Hollis Polydor 537 688-2 (1998)

After the artistic triumphs (and commercial failures) of Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock, Talk Talk disbanded.  Many years later singer Mark Hollis released his first, and to date only, solo album, the self-titled Mark Hollis.  This picks up exactly where Talk Talk left off, and it almost sounds like a very high fidelity demo for an unrealized Talk Talk album (that isn’t meant as a put down, rather to say these are more stripped down recordings).  The songs are moody and nearly ambient.  Yet, they are slightly more like distinct songs than on the last Talk Talk albums.  More importantly, the performances are simpler, performed in a chamber setting with minimalist arrangements that give the impression of being performed live in the studio.  The last two Talk Talk albums instead had (obviously) layered sounds assembled in the studio from bits and pieces of expansive recording sessions.  And yet Hollis was quoted as saying, “This material isn’t suited to play live.”  The opening “The Colour of Spring” is so sparse that only one or two instruments play at an given time.  Hollis sings with his iconic delicate, high voice that almost seems frail and hollow if it didn’t also come across as so resilient and erudite.  Five of the songs were co-written by producer Warne Livesey, and Phil Ramacon and Dominic Miler co-wrote other songs.  Only one song was written solely by Hollis.  There are many nods to mid-century classic jazz and Euro-classical music, albeit merely outlined as impressionistic thumbnail sketches.  There is also a pervasive interest in perseverance and purity evinced by the songs.  The performances are melancholic, with a cautiously hopeful urban twist on pastoralism; though the music is much more optimistic and tranquil than Laughing Stock.  Anyone who fell in love with the late period Talk Talk recordings will definitely want to seek this out.  Hollis largely retired from music after this album, so it is likely to be the last of its kind.  That is too bad, really, because the world could use more music with this integrity.