Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody (2017)

the-flaming-lips-oczy-mlodyAre the Flaming Lips now so devoid of credibility that I can enjoyably listen to them again?  The short answer is: no.  The long answer is: maybe.

The last few records did next to nothing for me.   I cringed every time I saw photos of Wayne Coyne in his Hamsterball in mainstream magazines.  But I will shamefully admit  I occasionally find myself enjoying Oczy Mlody as it weaves further inwards with smooth electronic keyboards as if to channel Steely Dan , or at worst to coldly parody synthpop of Still Corners or Alison Wonderland.  The Reggie Watts spoken word segment is abysmal but forgivable, but the record tanks at the wanky bass solo near the end of side one.   Things pick up again on side two, with the Soft Bulletin formulaic piece “the Castle”  but when that record already exists, what’s the point of more?

The prominence of synths and drum machines on this record is an interesting development but a predictable one.  Keyboards showed their rise on darker albums like on the John Carpenter-isms found within the Terror (2013), or on the rough around the edges Silver Apples vibe from the often brilliant Embryonic (2009), but now with Oczy Mlody we are left with few blatant references, just low end thump and the empty pop of Miley Cyrus as a reference point.  There is a cold childishness that defines this record – but it lacks any exuberance; kind of like when you take more Ecstasy not because you have any serotonin left inside you, but just cuz there is nothing better to do this weekend.

And so Oczy Mlody combined with its fake live album companion Onboard The International Space Station Concert For Peace, suggests something in the band is about to break.  Hopefully badly.   There are so many reasons to hate the Flaming Lips these days:  infidelity controversies, a racist drummer, festival overexposure, a desperate christmas record, a confetti crowd surfing excuses for performance,  a failed out-takes LP disguised as the Electric Werms,  a waste of time movie, but the most disturbing of all is the ongoing heroin-on-a-stick dangled in front of their highly functioning musical addict Steven Drozd.

But I cannot help but hope if their popularity could only wane far enough, perhaps a glorious rebirth will occur.  I fear not though, as they probably have their investment portfolios all in order and they will never be hungry enough to be relevant again.





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Boutique Record Stores

As part of this decade’s vinyl renaissance, we have seen the rise of a new breed of shop: the boutique record store.  Generally these are popping up in odd urban spaces often low rent, soon to be gentrified neighbourhoods, featuring small inventories of overpriced records of varying quality.   A strange byproduct of this boutique record shop phenomenon is the general rise in value of what were once common thrift store records, elevating prices of  the Miami Vice soundtrack to Steely Dan levels.

Don’t confuse these boutiques with your regular independent record store, as I did on a uncomfortable experience at one such un-named shop.   I hesitate on writing a less than flattering post about a subculture I love, but my experience was so confusingly compelling on that day when I tried to trade in some records for store credit; trading in records is an inevitable situation most music nerds find themselves in, eventually your collection gets too big, and there is stuff you haven’t listen to for years, so you trade in a bunch in for store credit, but ultimately end up spending more money and having evermore too many records.   Mostly I visit a couple record stores to deal with owners I trust, but every once in a while I try to branch out my searches at new stores.

Rewind back to last week, when I stopped into a little boutique record store that had been recommended to me.   It is closed on Mondays and also seems to shut early on the random days.   I don’t go into the big city very often,  but one day I happened to see it: OPEN!   BUY SELL AND TRADE! Great, I had about 15 minutes to look around and I picked out a kind of beat up, ex-library Bollywood record for $30 – I chatted to the owner about Polish free jazz, scarcity of Fall pressings, and prog rock, & I asked if he would be interested in seeing any of the records I had in the car for a trade – he takes a look at the pile and picks out 2 records (Fela Kuti and Husker Du) and offers me $20 in trade.  (Sure – sounds fine, the rest of the stuff is indie rock and not really what he stocks… the Fela Kuti record still has the shrink and “new” price sticker on it for $24.99).   Decent enough transaction, despite the Bollywood record being overpriced for the iffy condition but great thanks, bye!  At best, these little record stores can help nurture a community, and herein I thought perhaps was such a place.

Fast forward to today, I had the day off and thought “Ok, now that I know what his store specializes in, I will bring in some relevant (African, Post-Punk, Avant Garde, and Prog) records to trade.   So pack up a bunch of records and head on down to his shop… he takes a quick look and see his eyes light up: “Master Drummers of Dagbon, I have this at home!  I love this record!”   “Bridgette Fontaine, and a Japanese pressing… cool! …I just sold one of her records to a friend and he was really happy with it.”  “The Fall! great… I..ummm…”  Pause.  At this point I don’t think he had meant to lose his composure, as he suddenly gets a very serious tone and furrows his brow: “Oh….whatever…. I stocked their original records but nobody ever seems to buy the ones I have.”   Having heard the opposite story last time, I knowingly glance away and try to joke that while the Fall may have like 30+ records but only 20-25 of them are totally essential.

I look around the shop’s Rare Groove sections for a bit as he scrambles to price everything out using Discogs on his smartphone (btw, he also sells records in his online store  – we will get to that later…), when I noticed him looking up prices I was smiling a little inside because I knew there was a couple African records in that pile that were so rare that they had no discogs entry – I was curious to know how he would handle that.   The store was hot and he was sweating profusely as I awaited his calculations while casually browsing.  He was clearly struggling, time dragged on, and to show some compassion I suggested I would leave, go get some lunch and come back in a couple hours to shop more.  Relieved he said “Yes, come back later and I will have a total for you.”

When I returned a couple hours later he started to complain of an inner ear issue.   I asked if he was okay and needed anything, he said he didn’t… Okay.

“So, I am prepared to offer you…40 dollars.”

I imagine I looked bewildered, because he then turned red and looked embarrassed.    “$40? ” I said. “That seems a little low.”   I looked at the pile of ten records I had brought in behind his counter and thought I would be better off keeping them at if they are only fetching 4 dollars a piece.

“I think I have offended you. Let me recalculate”.

While I waited for him to re-calculate I flipped through the new arrivals and found the same Fela Kuti reissue I had traded in last week – I purposefully pulled it out knowing that he-knew-that-I-knew what is was:  he had put a “new” price tag on it for $29.99!  Huh?  I had bought it new for $24.99 – had traded it in with the shrink wrap and original price sticker still on it… he had taken that old sticker off and was now selling it for a higher price!   Oh my,  I thought to myself, this is going to be interesting.

“This Fall record is worth nothing”  he grumbles.


“It’s like only worth 4 dollars at best”

“Oh.  You mean you’d sell it for $4 in your store?”  casting my eyes over to the $100 David Bowie bootleg on the wall.

“Oh, but I’d never sell it for that price!”

Confused, I continued flipping through the new arrivals bin, noticing the lowest priced items he had in there were thrift store type Exotica records for $7.99, while Neil Young ‘s Harvest was priced at $29.99. Whoa.

His next target was a rare Stockhausen record I brought in: with a scowl he says “So this Stockhausen, but it isn’t even like Electronic music?”

For the record, though he has vast discography Stockhausen only has a few “electronic” records, but I reply respectfully “Much of his early stuff was for just piano and orchestra”.   I initially thought he was interested in the subject, so I mentioned some more early Stockhausen trivia to no response…  but I realize later this was a veiled attempt to put down the record and make me feel like it was a worthless piece of plastic.

It didn’t clue in to me because I knew the record’s value – despite him roughly putting it onto his in-store turntable and yelling “No-one will buy this!  It sounds like is like nothing on it!” then repeatedly dropping the needle in random places of quiet abstract piano passages.    I think to myself “Is that how he treats records he hasn’t paid for yet?”    But I felt confident in the quality of these records and resigned to forgivingly ignore his crass negotiation tactics.

At his point I was cringing as he appeared to be on the verge of destroying my record, I suggested maybe I should keep both the Stockhausen and Fall record and let me know what kind of trade I could get for the rest.   I extend my hand and he says: “Wait a sec, wait.”

His next target is the New Phonic Art record, where he promptly insults with:  “I bet this is this one of those records by people who can play instruments really well, but all they do is make farting noises!”

I uncomfortably smile and reply: “Yes, I think they call that Improv.”

I really thought he was kidding (spying a used Sun Ra Nubians of Plutonia reissue on the wall selling for $25 – I assumed his non-joke was funny because he overly values jazz records), but later realized he was trying to insult the record so I would give it to him for next to nothing (see argument #1 below).   Don’t get me wrong, I know times are tough economically and stores have rent to pay, so I am willing to forgive a little hustle in the process of making a deal, but this just felt abusive.

Same process with the other records as he manhandled them on his turntable, now making me realize why would I ever buy records from a guy who treats not only his own record stock, but other people’s records so roughly?

He then tells me that the guy that owned a record store on Salt Spring Island record sold his business, but secretly took all the Jazz records without the new owners knowing, and then had sold them to him… “And you bought them knowing this?”  I wondered, thus cementing his reputation with me.

I managed to collect the “worthless” Fall record from his counter but he was still holding all the rest back.  He comes back again with a surprising new total for store credit (now minus the Fall record)… $40!   Huh?

BUT now he has two more arguments:

Argument #1:

“Most people bring in a box of stuff and there are only like 2 records I can really use.” He is holding up my Fela Kuti record and a strange Japanese press of an African record, he stated he had listened to this during the two hours I was away from his shop, all the while  flipping it over and over again, examining it carefully and holding back a smile.

He looks at me and says: “You know most people just give me the rest of the box and I sell their junk in the bargain bin or take it straight to the thrift store for them.”

“So then do you want to pick out the ones you can really use then?” I ask.

“Well, I can only use this one.”

“So, how much for just that one record then?”

(Ignoring me) “…but then there is this one, and this thing, and then this one… such interesting stuff, but I could never sell them in here.”

“So how much?”  I think he wanted all those records for the price of one.  He had obviously looked up all their online value and wasn’t giving up by giving any back… which leads us into his…

Argument #2:

“I could never sell these sorts of records around here, they are sorta worthless here.  If it was in Vancouver no problem!”

I earnestly reply: “Really? I should take these into Vancouver?  That is probably a good idea!  Like maybe Red Cat or … ”

Note: I was actually being sincere here, but in hindsight I doubt it came across this way  as he shots me a grumpy scowl.   When I get home later I learn, while it may be true that he has a hard time selling interesting records in that little shop,  he does actively sell tonnes of prog, jazz, world, avant-garde and rock records online through Discogs under a different name than his storefront (he charges in American funds, and adds Canadian taxes –  even an extra and mysterious 5%”tax” on all international orders!), so really that “worthless around here” argument was totally an attempt to swindle me.    Not cool.

A few times I say “I am probably better off just keeping these” and extend my hand to get them back, but he just won’t let them go.

“I. am. going. to. pack. these. up. and. go. now.” and just reach across the counter to start packing my records up –  I am trying not to say anything in response to his continued insulting hustle.  As I go out the door, he hollers back: “You probably won’t, but I hope you will come back one day.”   Huh? Creepy.

Epilogue part 1 : Dear record store owner, For the sake of this post,  I went home and priced out the records I brought to you in that day on Discogs (conservatively graded and based on the previous sales and omitting the 2 rare LPs with no entries) and those online sales would have totalled between $180.00 to $392.00 ( Bear in mind that is in American funds, so if you converted the $40 in Canadian currency you had offered me in your store credit, it would equal $30.79 US. meaning for stuff he “couldn’t sell here” but if sold online would have cleared a profit between $149.21 to $361.21 US.)


Epilogue part 2:  My favorite part of the story comes in the form of this text three hours later: “Stephen, it’s ______ from _______.     Scott____ passed me your #.  Please accept my apologies, I really low balled you on those LPs.   Trade value should have been much higher, perhaps even double.   I have a fever from this inner ear infection, it must be affecting me today.   Anyhow again, I’m sorry about that.”

Whoa stalker! Your integrity should have been much higher, perhaps even double.    So he remembered I mentioned last week that my out of town friend had recommended his shop, so this week he calls some other dude named Scott, who then gets my phone number from our mutual friend, so he can then text me this sweet apology/medical explanation.  How do you even respond to this?


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10 favorite things of 2017

Last year I rambled on about year-end lists and/or hating music, so much so that I swore I would not write another such list for a blog that almost nobody reads.  But having said that, I really did enjoy a few things this year:

#10 “Velo” by Four Winds brewery was the best drink of the summer and the best thing in cans.   You would be correct to think a salted lemony beer is a horrible idea, but it wasn’t.   It made those tedious days sitting outside in the sun barely tolerable.

#9 Nino Nardini: ‎“Musique Pour Le Futur” (WRWTFWW 2017).  a reissue of the almost unavailable 1970 experimental French record.    It has a glow in the dark silk screened cover from my favorite Swiss record label whose beauty was matched only by the spacey electronic musique concrete pressed into the grooves – if I had watched the eclipse earlier this year I would have chosen this as the soundtrack.

#8 Ennio Morricone‘s Un Uomo Da Rispettare (Superior Viaduct reissue 2017) the updated cover design pictures Kirk Douglas looking like molten aluminum, and the soundtracks runs through a bunch of dark jazzy suspense themes.   Tense but beautiful, kind of like a cab ride through a dystopian urban future.

#7 Fieldhouse brewing “Dark Saison” (subtitled Sour Fennel and Hyssop Farmhouse) the best thing I drank all year.  Complex, fruity, sour.   I have tried a number of the Fieldhouse products since and none of them are even half as good as this was.

#6 Advance Wars (2001), for the Game Boy advance – when you move out of your house and put everything into storage and then live in an old abandoned house on your girlfriend’s parent’s property, you are grateful for any obsolete, battery powered, non-wifi electronic distraction –  also playing Dr Mario, Rampage Puzzle Attack and Bookworm on the gameboy were how I spent those four months in limbo, but this game was the best of the bunch.

#5 New Kingdom – Paradise don’t come cheap, (Gee Street 1996).   My favorite hip-hop record of all time was not re-issued, but 21 years later I finally found myself an original vinyl copy.   If you don’t know it, think Cypress Hill meets Killdozer at 16 RPM.  One day the future world dwellers will discover how brilliant this hazy piece of non-ganster, golden age hip hop is. ( https://youtu.be/JhaqZEfbHGs )

#4, #3, #2  Lee Hazlewood: Forty, Cowboy and the Lady, and Requiem for an almost Lady (2017).  Those three Lee Hazlewood reissues on Light in the Attic are all so great.  Why anyone ever dissed the Ann Margaret collaboration is beyond me?  Sure, Nancy Sinatra was an irreplaceable fox, but Ann Margaret is pretty great in her own right.   I love Lee’s grand showbiz/showtune aspiring songs delivered with a tight budgeted rock fervor.  I imagine this is what old fat Elvis would have sounded like if he worked with old fat Rick Rubin.  I might have reserved a 3,4, or 5 spot for (or at least given honorable mention) to other reissues like Lucio Battisti or those Califone LPs, but they all turn to meh in Lee’s shadow.

#1 Alice Coltrane : The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda (Luaka Bop 2017), not quite a reissue, unless it really did get released on a new age cassette in the 80’s, regardless this music is phenomenal.  Electronic spiritual trance jazz.   I am a huge fan of all her work, but tend to be disappointed by anything after her 1971 Journey into Satchidananda LP, so this “unreleased” gem came as a total surprise, it might be my second or third favorite of her entire discography.  I love David Byrne more than ever now.


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Yoko Ono – Fly, 1971 (reissue 2017)

There was a pile of recently reissued Yoko Ono albums released on Secretly Canadian this year, which were received with a mix of  joy and apprehension.    I had been searching in vain for a copy of Fly for about 15 years, after I reluctantly passed up on a copy at a little used record store.   I only had so much money that sad day and I thought I needed to buy some underground hip-hop records that would go out of print – whether in hindsight this was a blessing or a mistake remained unresolved until a reissue of Fly appeared in the new bins at my local shop three weeks ago.

First scanning the back to make sure it wasn’t a dodgy “4 Men with Beards” product – I snapped it up without a consideration to the price.   It features a nice gatefold sleeve, poster and white vinyl pressing with a defiantly grapefruit label design.  Great package.

I’ve been slowly playing one side of this record per day for about three weeks now.  So much so my partner told me this morning that she could put up with 6 months of only listening to the Fall, but will not put up with 6 months of Yoko:  Then she said: “I like her as a visual artist, but her…”

(Interrupted mid-disclaimer)


(a strange yodel shriek leapt from the speaker)

“Oh, Come on! See what I mean?”

And while I agree somewhat with her statement/review, there is actually a lot to enjoy on this record.  Each side presents a different side of “Yoko the musician” – from her John Lennon associated rock and roll on side A (interestingly much of the record was recorded simultaneously to Imagine and features Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman, etc.),* to the avant garde tracks composed on custom Fluxus instruments (bringing to mind Harry Partch)then almost proto electronic ambient music (the aptly named track “Fly” is just that, a buzzing fly vocally interpolated by Yoko for about 22 minutes).  As a whole, it is a strange but occasionally very listenable record, one that lands somewhere between Can‘s Tago Mago and the No-Neck Blues Band‘s Intonomancy.  

And while those comparisons are two bands I adore, I am not sure it is anywhere near as good as either.   This record is certainly better than her later efforts like feeling the space or Double Fantasy… so when my partner is not home I am going to keep  listening to this record because I feel like there is still something wonderful waiting to be found.

end note:

*I still like to insist that Yoko broke up the Beatles, if only for the irony that Love might have destroyed them, especially in an age where baby boomers have proven time and time again that all you need is greed.


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Fela Kuti – the Knitting Factory reissues

In 2015, a series of Fela Kuti reissues began to appear from Knitting Factory records, and I picked up a bunch hoping to discover some strange anomalies within his vast catalogue of beasts unto their own; his LPs follow a stubborn template of side long tracks (or a single sprawling pieces divided across two album sides), a format employed by free jazz artists (from John Coltrane to Alan Silva), or psych-improv records Sunburned hand of the Man or NNCK;  but in the case of mid 70s Fela it is often more like 12″ EPs with only 12-15 minutes per side, so with some editing and the addition of a couple short songs, he could have transformed these sort of “one take” records into a something more, say like the earlier preferred the four song format of the Fela Kuti/Ginger Baker – Live! (1971) LP, but I get it… the subsequent template was mostly Fela’s smart marketing plan to sell more units.

Roforofo Fight (1972) – this oft praised release begins with rambling scat and builds to a quick groove, horn stabs, and a nice call and response section, but then more unwelcome scat and a crude organ that sounds exactly like a Mark E Smith one note drunken keyboard solo.    The best thing about this record is Felas’ amazing jumpsuit on the cover.   Side B’s  “Go Slow” starts out with a great, but too brief, overlay of minimalist horn patterns simulating a traffic jam, with organ and shaker sections added before the whole band jumps in for the next 17 minutes of uncharacteristically fun funk.  **** 4 stars (mostly for side B).

Na Poi (1971?) Listeners got something slightly different here, but sadly not interesting, unless you like smooth sexy sax.   This it the sort of record that a World Music enthusiast like Ian or Ray or whatever-the-hell-he-calls-himself from High Fidelity will put on to show his above average white dude savage side and tries to seduce you while he plies you with those take-out samosas he bought, pretending he made them from scratch.    *** 3 stars

Confusion (1974) – side one opens with a spacey organ synth solo then quickly drums, crash and rumble in  – a nice Sun Ra -esque dark beginning – then after 4 cosmic minutes an appropriately confused bass line attempts to locate a groove, eventually pulling in the organ and drums – soon the full afrobeat orchestra arrives – this is clearly one of his more interesting LPs.  The weirdness continues on Side 2, taking up the beat abruptly, and then adds a strange delay effect response to Fela’s chant, this echo is so delightful it makes him chortle despite the serious political subject matter – this is the sort of epic record I was looking to discover.   ********* 9.5 stars

Everything Scatter (1975) – is a point in his discography where the style and groove were all established, so now get a little cleaner production, adding some more keyboards and a sort of disco beat.  Side B’s “Who Know No Goes Know” continues the sound but at a mellower, hypnotic pace;  Fela’s deliberate use  of Nigerian pidgin English in his vocals and song titles is fascinating both for politically incorrectness and in it’s exotic-ness, so while nothing new, it solid.  ******* 7.5 stars

Alagbon Close (1975) – another nice keyboard intro, another great rhythm track… often times the drum beats are fairly monotonous and not unlike those ubiquitous 1970 Roland drum machines on the “Rhumba” setting with the tempo set too high.  The vocals succeed with a great urgency, whereas other records might otherwise tend to ramble.  B Side’s “I No get Eye for Back” is almost an instrumental piece with the standout feature of Tony Allen’s exquisitely chugging drumbeat.  ******** 8 stars

Beasts of No Nation (1989)  Fela of the 1980s is fairly dull musically but understandably given his prison stints, so the Knitting Factory reissues skip over a decade of titles until we get to an anomaly like Beasts of No Nation.    BONN’s crude drawings of a satanic Ronald McReagan and Margret Thatcher remind me of SNFU or TSOL cover art.  The slower than typical Fela sound (credited to the upgraded Egypt 80) is marred by a cheesy flamenco-ish guitar solo on Side A, but on the stronger Side 2, the mellower music contrasts with an increased political anger; the results are not bad, but clearly it is a “past the expiration date” release.  ***** 5.5 stars


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R D Burman – Sholay (1975)

Continuing on the list where you choose a favorite record for every year you are alive, my one year old selection might at first have been Parliament‘s Mothership Connection (1975), not because I am into funk, but because this record always puts me in a good mood; but if if you made me choose, I would end up picking RD Burman‘s  soundtrack to Sholay (1975).  For those not familiar with ths great and fascinating India film composer Rahul Dev Burman, he is Bollywood’s vague equivalent to Ennio Morricone, mostly not because they wear the same glasses.  RD Burman is a second generation composer, created soundtracks for over 330 films, and he combined conventional Indian music with emerging elements of rock and pop and then more importantly added the kitchen sink.   He is credited with pioneering Bollywood soundtrack elements of psych rock, free jazz, funk, noise, and disco.   He is masterful with love ballads, duets, re-interpreted folk songs, cabaret songs, and his highly sought after instrumentals.

Burman is most famous in the west for that ubiquitous Bollywood pop-psych hit “Dum Maro Dum” from Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971).    But music nerds would be shortsighted to stop there as the the quality and the quantity of his work over his career is astounding. Like Morricone was predictably inconsistent, his high points throughout the 1970’s were stellar.  As a quick primer to his work I would recommend: the earworms of Caravan (1971) or to ever so slightly lesser  Darling darling (1976), then possibly his best overall soundtrack Hum Kisise Kum Naheen(1977), or the Anglicized funk caper music of Shalimar (1978) (finish this list with the Kraftwerk inspired title track single from the Burning Train (1979) and I dare you not to be amazed).*  Once the 1980’s come along Burman lost his passion and direction, then dabbles with Disco to various degrees of success, and still manages a few gems here and there (like the James Bond flavored Shaan (1980) or Manzil Manzil (1984)).

Sholay is basically the Indian equivalent of Star Wars; not to say it is sci-fi, but it is THE definitive blockbuster 1970s adventure film.   RD Burman was infamous for saving his strongest material for what he figured were the best films and he did an  appropriately amazing work composing tracks for Sholay.  Like many Bollywood records that often the same songs are played in Happy or Sad mode on the same record it is remarkable how the opening track “Yeh Dosti (happy)” can move through upbeat guitar strumming and vivid vocals and quickly shift gears into in moog breaks, and then later ending with audio verite of train whistles that never seem totally out of place.   It is one of the most consistent Bollywood soundtracks I have ever heard -there are spaghetti western elements, fuzz guitar solos, beautiful duets, and an arabic rock number not unlike Erkin Koray. Magic happened here.


end note:

*Whenever I find myself indifferent with modern music and record collecting, I have only to turn to Bollywood records to re-ignite my passion for music again.  Bollywood records hold a special place in my heart and seem to provide endless fascination – thankfully there are thousands of soundtracks of such scarcity and exotic-ness that I will always feel I have only scratched the surface.   I don’t watch Bollywood movies, nor do I understand the language(s) – but I find myself permanently attracted to the music.

As a collector of Bollywood records, LPs usually fit into a few categories.

  1.  The Classics: there are a few classic records that are solid through and through.  Often called evergreen music, it is essentially the equivalent of classic rock albums: Bobby or Sholay.
  2. Standard fare: your typical Bollywood material, ballads with strings, traditional beats.   There are more of these than I could ever begin to imagine: Geet, Amar Prem.
  3. Anomalies: Late 1960’s and 1970s composers often tried to pull in rock and funk elements into their standard Bollywood formulas and sometimes the results were amazing.    The 1980’s had disco and electro elements, also amazing at times, but I would argue less often.  I would include something like definitive funk LP Muqaddar Ka Sik, or Shalimar.
  4. Some combination of the above:  There are very few records that are exclusively amazing, more often there are only one or two great tracks hidden within less interesting LPs.  It might be an experimental instrumental, or a fabulous moog intro, or a few seconds of a funk break that makes up for an entire LPs of standard material.  examples: Bond 303, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, or The Burning Train.



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Various – Bombay Disco 2 (2014)

Bollywood music became sub-fashionable in the west during the late nineties, prompted by Dan the Automator‘s post-Dr. Octagon project Bombay the Hard Way(1998), as soon thereafter dozens of mediocre compilations followed.   As questionable as that compilation was, kudos to Motel records for introducing naive kids like myself to this pure joyful genre of music with it’s amazing bright melodies and fantastic beats, sadly only until then sampled into negative and violent rap tracks by medical imposters like Dre ; and so by 2002 Hip Hop crate digger culture propelled somewhat lame soundtracks like Bappi Lahiri‘s Jyoti to mega collectible status, and then mainstream pop music appropriated Bollywood songs into Top 40 hits like Toxic (2003) (wherein Ms. Spears makes cultural mis-inappropriation statements likening love to over-consumption of drugs), then finally culminating with a bunch of stale smelling Black Eyed Pee Pee hits that made us all hate music by 2005.   Adding to the pot, reissues of Ananda Shankar and kitchy records like Gabor Szabo’s Jazz Raga (1966) appeared, and later still Madlib came on board later to loop bass and drum samples with his Beat Conducta in India series (2007).

After harvesting psychedelic rock guitars and strip-mining funk breaks, Disco might be the latest and last chapter of Bollywood exploitation.  Interestingly Disco was never really rejected by India culture, amid the late 70’s political turmoil and social reforms there was little time for self righteous dudes in India to rent out Football stadiums for the sole purpose of blowing up a pile of Abba records, and so the genre continued to evolve through the 1980’s and find unique forms in pop and film music.  Even when I traveled to India in 2008, remnants of seventies disco fashion were staying alive.

Strangely 2014 saw the release of  three compilations: 1) a Rough Guide to Bollywood Disco, 2) Bombay Disco, and then 3)  Bombay Disco 2 which was curated by radio DJ Brother Cleve (whose past musical credits include the del Fuegos and Combustible Edison).  Irony prevails as the western world begins to explore ans exploit Bollywood Disco,  a genre where popular hits were based on liberally stolen Michael Jackson and Boney M riffs by the 1980’s rising new superstar/composer Bappi Lahiri.   Lahiri became celebrated as the King of Copy, and though criticized for his derivative music, he was incredibly popular; his soundtracks were huge hits and all the once great film composer teams from the 1970s like Laxmikant-Pyarelal or Sonik Omi, either unsuccessfully tried to emulate him or gave up working entirely.

Bombay Disco 2 predictably features a lot of Lahiri’s work along with a couple from my favorite Bollywood composer RD Burman (his tracks are remarkably good especially given he was openly disinterested in disco and described it as a passing fad
) However the standout track is Raamlaxman‘s Sweety Seventeen, a pure disco deeelight with its Rah Rah Rasputin breaks, slide whistle and chirpy surf guitar:  https://youtu.be/CqUf1okGjaQ (so good I immediately tracked down the original 1981 soundtrack Tumhaare Bina).

Regrettably, the compilation starts with Saat Sumundar Paar a slick, cheesy, sequencer based piece from the early 1990’s which sounds more suited to the Night at the Roxbury soundtrack*.  Let it be known Night at the Roxbury is one of my favorite films of all time, so this is not really a put-down, but rather identifying how out of place this track is; part of the appeal of Bollywood music is the rough-around-the-edges quickie production, tapping into an immediacy and authenticity not unlike early soul or late 1900s indie rock.   Thankfully, the remaining tracks (mysteriously mostly from the year 1982) successfully tread that super fine line between rough and lush that characterized the early eighties, wherein cheap 70’s funk met the increased production values.

Aside from the out of place first track and the rather horrible artwork/packaging, this record succeeds to pull together a solid trip.  Often Bollywood soundtracks have a couple tracks of note amid conventional ballads and filler to satisfy the film’s narrative, and so the strength of these comps is to sustain a musical theme over an entire LP.   And while these comps only tell part of the story… I do appreciate them for highlighting some of the best material that is otherwise buried in mass of too many releases or just near-impossible to locate due to geography and the stinky mists of time.

end note:

*Supposedly Saat Sumundar Paar lifts a melody/riff from a Pet Shop Boys song, and I have no idea if there are any PSB fans out there reading this that can confirm this by checking out the track here: https://youtu.be/2vqiWgEZZwo


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