After last year’s Plumes compilation caught us up on what the Ginnels had been up to over the course of their previous three albums, they are back with album number four, A Country Life. Plumes was a sublimely excellent collection of songs separating the wheat from the chaff. A Country Life is a richly stalked silo of brand new songs that leads me to believe there never was any chaff in the Ginnels catalog.
A Country Life paints a bucolic scene with its psychedelic, hazy, jangling songs. Previously Ginnels records were mostly Mark Chester solo affairs, but on A Country life he’s got some help on drums and guitar making this more of a band effort. To tell the truth it isn’t vastly different from before, which is ok since before was quite good. Songs like Woodlands and Car’s Parked and Honestly and Not What You Think are upbeat jangling affairs that are inviting and fun. The quieter, gentler ones like the Great Escape and Settle Down and Ashton Memorial are perfect for kicking up your feet after a long day in fields, or in front of the computer.
The Ginnels fourth album is pretty little thing. Recommended to fans of Elliot Smith, Apples in Stereo, early Divine Comedy, the Feelies and Teenage Fanclub with a good appreciation for tricks of the light and other subtleties of the countryside.
What is St. Patrick’s day, but an excuse to tie one on? Being that we are repressed, puritanical Americans we need an excuse to drink, because if you just drink because it makes you feel good, well then you have a problem. Me, I don’t save up my drinking for Erin Go Bragh, I prefer to spread it out all year. As for these songs, I have been saving them up for just this occasion! You may notice the absence of any Pogues songs, it just seemed way too obvious.
Salad – Drink the Elixir – I’m not sure what exactly the elixir is that Marijne van der Vlugt is refering to, but I like to think it’s some kind of blue kamikaze concoction that you’ll be regretting the next morning. (from Drink Me)
Lucksmiths – Beer Nut – Out drinking with your friends, getting booted out of the pub, and then trying to get home. A typical night out put to music by the incomparable Lucksmiths. (from Happy Secret)
Los Lobos – I Got Loaded – Only if it were always like this, getting loaded and then the next morning feeling all right. Yeah, right. (from How Will the Wolf Survive?)
Rosco Gordon – Let’s Get High – Getting drunk with your significant other, this may or may not be a good idea, but back in the 50’s I guess it was de rigueur. (from Sun Records Collection)
Camper Van Beethoven – Wasted – Punks, Surfers, Skaters, Hippies, etc. everyone does it. The Camper’s take on this Black Flag song is classic funny from Lowery’s dude-like vocals to the Jonathon Segal drunk violin. (from Telephone Free Landslide Victory
Gene – Sick Sober and Sorry – Don’t you hate it when someone tells you that you’ve had enough? Poor Gene got a raw deal because they sounded like the Smiths a little too much. Who cares when you write good songs like this, one of my favorite Gene songs and one of my favorite drinking songs for that matter. (from To See the Lights)
Jack – I was Drunk in the Underworld – This songs gives me the feeling of wondering the streets after I’ve had a few too many, when everything feels just a little weird. (from Wintercomesummer)
The Triffids – Once a Day – This cover of the Bill Anderson classic is the highlight of the Triffids’ In the Pines. I guess you don’t have a problem if you only drink once a day. (from In the Pines)
Jazz Butcher – D.R.I.N.K. -Aahhhh, Max Eider can really play the guitar, and he’s a pretty darn good singer as well. This cocktail jazzy number makes you want to umm…. drink. (from Draining the Glass)
Divine Comedy – a Drinking Song – Neil Hannon’s early records were minimalist baroque bliss. This song is perfect for any drinking occasion, and will give it a little class. (from Promenade)
Mathew Sweet – The Alcohol Talking – With excellent guitar from Richard Lloyd, this song is about the ugly drunk. I didn’t want to give you the impression that getting loaded is always fun and glam. (from Earth)
Frank Sinatra – Drinking Again – There are so many reasons to drink, and of course the best reason is when you’re feeling sorry for yourself because some dame has left you. (from The Reprise Collection)
Tom Waits – The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) – When you’re drunk it’s always someone else’s fault, and there’s always someone that’s had more than you. I always thought it was a bit odd that this song was played at the end of the Jennifer Jason Leigh film Georgia. (from Small Change)
The Fall – White Lightning – This Big Bopper classic needs no introduction. I can totally see Mark E Smith runnin’ moonshine. (from Shift-Work)
It really hasn’t been that long since the last Eric Matthews album, but it has been a while since he’s released something that reaches the heights of It’s Heavy in Here or Lateness of the Hour. Back then he was proclaimed to be the second coming of the Zombies, Left Banke and Van Dyke Parks all in one. This was for very good reason, his work with Richard Davies in Cardinal put him on the map as an inventive arranger. When It’s Heavy in Here appeared on Sub Pop a year later in 1995, people were throwing around hyperbole like it was the “new pop”. It really wasn’t the ‘new pop’, it’s just that it came out in the midst of the grunge movement which meant that anything that had strings, trumpets, and clarinets was looked upon as totally different and groundbreaking. Add to this that it came out on Sub Pop, and you had a lot of people scratching their heads. It wasn’t only Matthews that was this producing kind of music at the time. A lot of people were tired of big burly guys with long hair, distorted guitars, and raged clothes. This new orchestral pop movement included Neil Hannon and his Divine Comedy, the Tindersticks, and Jeremy Enigk, dressing in suave clothes and making music to match their dress. Influenced by Scott Walker and Burt Bacharach this new movement was like a breath of fresh air, or at least something different.
It’s been a few years since Eric Mathews commandeered much press in the rock world, 10 or so to be exact. But, with The Imagination Stage, he’s certainly back to his old form. You can tell from the first warbly piano chords that quickly fade to a killer guitar riff, that this is gonna be a great album. This moody pop beauty, with Mathews smooth tenor croon not sounding at all like s o many years have passed since It’s Heavy In Here. When I first heard the album, I thought he was again being helped by Jason Falkner, who played on both Heavy in Here and Lateness of the Hour. Some of the backing vocals and guitar sounds a bit like Falkner, but it’s all Matthews. He recorded every instrument and voice and loop on this long player. It’s a welcome return and it seems like it may only be the tip of the ice burg. He has another project called Seinking Ships which is a collaboration with Christopher Seink, the album is due soon and promises the appearance of Miki Berenyi of Lush. And then there is the second Cardinal album that he is working on with Richard Davies. He really is back!