Can Fly on My Aeroplane (Numero Group)
Patchouli, marijuana and much harder stuff permeate You
Can Fly on My Aeroplane, the sole, and distinctively
expressive, effort of Norman Whiteside, a Columbus, Ohio,
man as known for brushes with the law as his musical talent.
Whiteside, who remains in jail in Chillicothe, used the ever-morphing
group Wee to purvey his dreamy lyricism. Unearthed by Chicago-based
soul sleuths Numero Group after a release of only one thousand
31 years ago, Aeroplane is a fabulous cache of soul
tropes distinguished by Whiteside’s yearning tenor, sparkling,
keyboard-dominated arrangements and deep fealty to the then-fresh
legacy of Stevie Wonder and Sly and the Family Stone. If you
like Eddie Kendricks-era Temptations, the Stylistics, the
Delfonics and other buttery soul groups, Aeroplane
is for you. Its murky provenance—word is, prostitution proceeds
helped finance it—only adds to its otherworldly allure.
What’s striking about this long, leisurely album, in addition
to Whiteside’s refinement of contemporary soul styles, is
its modernism. Interpolations on tunes like “I Don’t Know
About You” and the title track presage rap, and “Put It in
Real Good” is jam-band-like in its sprawl and sonic depth.
Most tunes are mid-tempo and focus on despair, sex and desire;
the keyboard figures and Whiteside’s unbridled, almost childish
joy distinguish “I Luv You” as much as its bright tempo.
Originally released on the obscure Owl label, Aeroplane
was designed to bring Whiteside to the attention of national
imprints. Why a slab of vinyl packing such lovely tunes as
the debonair “Try Me” (a local single), the sparkling “We
Could Get It Together” and the sweet “I Don’t Know About You”
didn’t spark greater interest again attests to the capriciousness
of the music business.
Songs of Great Enduring Strength and Beauty (Cooking Vinyl)
When “Take the Skinheads Bowling” first drew attention to
Camper Van Beethoven, the catchy song hardly alluded to the
resonant quarter century that would follow. Celebrating that
anniversary, Popular Songs of Great Enduring Strength and
Beauty takes a tour through the band’s output, showcasing
all of their inclinations, from tongue-in-cheek punkishness
to Middle Eastern modal workouts. David Lowery’s vocals mix
offhand casualness with subtle charisma and flair. Lyrically,
the songs move easily from self referential and locally-based
observations to global commentary (their 2004 album, New
Roman Times, was fully devoted to such concerns). CVB’s
stint on a major label in the late ‘80s means that ownership
of two of their well known albums (Our Beloved Revolutionary
Sweetheart and Key Lime Pie) is out of their control,
necessitating the re-recording of songs from those releases.
Purists may quibble, but given it was the only option, Camper
Van Beethoven have successfully created a complete and alluring
Bloc Party have always been a band conflicted between big
beats and post-punk indie riffs; intimate, confessional lyrics,
and bold anthems about politics and social issues. And on
the surprise-Internet-release Intimacy (a physical
release follows in October), these conflicts are not resolved.
Instead they are escalated.
Half produced by Paul Epworth, producer of the band’s debut
Silent Alarm, and half by Jackknife Lee, producer
of follow-up A Weekend in the City, Intimacy
is front-loaded with ultra-fast techno-ravers and clanging
guitar rock that finally gives way to quieter, regret-tinged
This is the brashest the band has ever been, with lead singer
Kele Okereke backed by a shouting choir, announcing on album-opener
“Ares”: “Get out of the way! Or get fucked up!” To make things
more confusing, Okereke has said that this is his “breakup”
album. This must have been one hell of a breakup.
and “Trojan Horse” are two of the best straight-ahead rock
songs Bloc Party have ever recorded, right above Silent
Alarm’s “Price of Gas.” And throughout the album Okereke’s
voice is used like an instrument—sometimes his choruses are
chopped up and spit out again, other times he is his own backup;
elsewhere, his voice swells up, replacing the backing track
and functioning as an entire choir.
The ballads found towards the close of Intimacy do
not fumble and stutter like those on A Weekend in the City.
Instead they shine with a confidence and catchiness that warrant
repeated listening, not a quick flick of the “skip” button.
Some critics have compared Intimacy with U2’s failed
experimentation with techno on Pop, but that
comparison is just about as far off as you can get. Bloc Party
has always been about big beats. As much as they have a serious
side, they’re all about the dance floor. And on Intimacy
the band have firmly declared they don’t plan to cede ground
on either side of things.