Someday everyone will understand that this record is one of the peaks of 20th-century English-speaking culture... this, actually, is the new reissue, with 15 more tracks on it, justified singlehandedly by the inclusion of two more versions of "It's Alright." Plus their louche, savage remake of Brecht/Weill's "What Keeps Mankind Alive"? But the album itself--impeccable. Even the weird little house/rap interpolation in the Willie-via-Elvis cover is wonderful. Not a bad turn.
September 25th, 2001
Actually a full-length album, more or less (there are some useless "found sounds" filling it out)--it's just that he gave up on the track listing after track 8. The more I listen to any Steward project (or anything by his previous and still-occasional band Boyracer), the more I realize his genius for writing chorusless, verseless, nearly riffless songs: the old Wire template of compact, repeat-free statements.
Hmm, I thought as I opened this, the band name sounds like something David Berman would come up with. Then the press release noted that David Berman came up with their name. Then I remembered that he'd already sort of made that joke with "Actual Air." Then I listened to it, liked the first 30 seconds of the first song, lost my focus on it, and realized 20 minutes later that it was basically just sixth-rate Ben Folds Five wannabe-ness.
Not as immediately grabby as their live show--not many things are (I mean, they tore it up in my radio station's sound room)--but satisfying and more subdued than I'd have guessed. And deeper, and I love the way they integrate little bits of electronics that work the same way the tape loops in Mission of Burma did, and Travis's voice is warming and complexifying where it could've simply Shudder to Think-ified, and... I think, on a first listening, I really like this.
Yet another tribute album. There are lots of things you can do with Hank's songs (cf. those Trikont HW cover collections), but they don't do much more than sing them in, say, Bob Dylan's or Johnny Cash's voice. Which only goes so far.