Monday, December 19, 2005

Babyshambles - Down in Albion (Rough Trade, 2005) After bottoming out with drugs and legal troubles and being kicked out of The Libertines, I was worried that Pete Doherty's brand of melodic and poetic punk rock would be lost forever. But despite his troubles, he's put together a new band called Babyshambles, and continues to make music against the odds, culminating in this Mick Jones produced first album. The album actually shows a quite pronounced Ray Davies influence, which didn't appear in his Libertines era music. The track "Albion" echoes late 1960's music by the Kinks in the gentle melodies and the lyrics that discuss some of the problems that are affecting England in a very provincial manner. The first single from the album however, takes an old Libertines trick of controversial attention grabbing with the title "F*** Forever," Who could ignore that? It's a scalding piece of old-school punk with a level of devil may care narcissism that Johnny Rotten would admire. The album isn't perfect, it lurches and staggers to the finish line, but despite the trials of its creation, the music spreads a rough-hewn glow which can hopefully be capitalized on by Doherty and crew, because goodness knows he has the talent.

Sun Ra - On Jupiter (Art Yard, 2005) The British re-issue label Art Yard continues their wonderful series of mid 1970's obscure Sun Ra re-releases with the funky and downright strange (even for Ra!) 1979 LP On Jupiter. What makes this album so unique is that Ra and the band embrace disco (!) with light funky soul beats, synth and chanted vocals on "U.F.O." Of course, the lyrics are about as far from disco as possible with the band chanting about wanting to be taken away "beyond the farthest star" on an alien spacecraft, which is probably why this didn't catch on in the discotheques. "On Jupiter" is more traditional Ra with a sidelong improvisation featuring Fender Rhodes electric piano, percussion and a funky horn session. This was probably as close to easy-listening as the Sun Ra Arkestra ever got, and as such it makes for a great introduction to the band's interesting mid-70's period. The Art Yard release is only on record for now, but it's done right with heavy grade vinyl and some interesting liner notes and photographs.

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