Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Grant Lee Phillips' New Album
Friday, August 11th The North Shore News published my album review for Grant-Lee Phillips.
Here are the specs and that review:
Album: nineteeneighties (Zoe Records 2006)
Artist: Grant-Lee Phillips
Rated: 8 out of 10
Written by: Stephanie Kiernan
As I approach my twenty-year grad reunion date this coming September, I can’t help but connect my memories to the music we listened to in those times. I have a certain soft spot for the music of the 80’s and its unique power it had to infiltrate our lives.
Today when I listen to New Order, The Smiths, or Elvis Costello, I wonder whether the New Wave Genre of the 1980's was the final installment of a true musical movement. So it is with warm regard that I receive Grant-Lee Phillips’ endearing tribute album “nineteeneighties”.
Prior to initiating a solo career in 2000, Los Angeles based Grant-Lee Phillips was lead singer-songwriter and guitarist of the 1990's trio, Grant Lee Buffalo, and even previous to that, the neo-psychedelic Shiva Burlesque.
As Underground music streamed from the vital hubs of London, Manchester and Los Angeles, the pop conventional began to splinter and crack. Grant-Lee Phillips himself describes the time perfectly, saying "For every hokey hair band there was once an alternative - a parallel universe, existing just below the conservative, pastel surface."
With nineteeneighties, Grant-Lee Phillips is paying homage rather than playing cover. The song selection is wonderfully curious and somewhat unassuming. If you're a GLP fan, then you'll understand and appreciate the nostalgia of this songbook. If not, you may be disappointed. He hasn’t attempted to modernize them; he's genuinely and respectfully matured them. At times, these departures can simply be described as sublime.
Phillip’s has an intelligence and precision in his approach to these songs. Spinning the hard edges of The Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation” with slow, bluesy restraint, he then smoothly translates new folk incarnations of New Order’s “Age of Consent” and Joy Division's, "The Eternal". My personal favourite early 80’s tune, Love My Way, from the Psychedelic Furs’ 1982 “Forever Now” album, is also skillfully transformed and easily appreciated anew – secured by crisp acoustic guitar and violin. It’s as if these songs were live entities that have aged, and through the perception of Grant-Lee Phillips, they have matured and mellowed some twenty-plus years on.
Another excellent example of this style is “The Killing Moon” by Echo and the Bunnymen; which runs entirely self-sufficiently, independent of Ian McColoch's brilliant original. Under the Milky Way by The Church, also continues to be haunting in its newly honed, unsaturated form.
The lapse for me was perhaps the over-burdening of “South Central Rain (Sorry)” which frankly wilts from REM’s primary vibrant form. The Smith’s “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me”, lacking it’s interlude, limps along without crooning inspiration. Maybe we’re not ready to age these ones just yet.
As a whole the album is tremendously unique and special. With the backdrop of the eighties quietly fading to black, a quiet recollection of that eager new music remains and we recall that precedence with even more admiration.