May’s sleevenotes. It’s thirteen years old now, but one of the great music books remains David Cavanagh’s My Magpie Eyes are Hungry for the Prize, The Creation Records Story; a vast, sprawling doorstop which, if memory serves, devotes as much ink to the Loft and the Jasmine Minks as it does to Oasis, who memorably don’t appear until 400 pages in. It’s pleasing then, to see Jesse Jarnow has adopted a similar approach with Big Day Coming, subtitled Yo La Tengo and the Rise of Indie Rock. Jarnow is writing about a band rather than a label, of course, but there’s a pleasingly digressive limbering up that takes in pretty much the first half of the book, and features the roots of baseball in New Jersey, the original Elysian Fields; the story of Maxwell’s, Hoboken’s Roxy/Sausage Machine/100 Club rolled into one; and the nearby Maxwell House coffee plant which leant the bar/venue its name and used to pump coffee-roast fumes into the skies above Hoboken and the Hudson River every Monday morning; Ira Kaplan’s early days as music writer in Manhattan (Jonathan Richman at CBGB’s, etc); Georgia Hubley’s parents’ battles with the mainstream as avant-garde filmmakers in sixties and seventies New York; James McNew’s days as a car-park attendant in Charlottesville listening to Hardcore records; all-night college radio shows; and the birth and early days of Matador records. Great bands and legends wander in and out — Superchunk, Pavement, Alex Chilton, various Flying Nun bands, Kurt Wagner and Lester Bangs — and, really, I needed three hours to get it all in. So, sadly, the Kinks, Superchunk, Peter Buck, Charles Mingus, Run On, Eleventh Day Dream and Sun Ra all ended up on the cutting-room floor. Ah well, another month. I also somehow failed to get to Yo La Tengo’s new album Fade, a record that never fails to lift the mood (even after my son has proclaimed, ‘Oh, Jesus, not again.’); so click here for some nice animation
; and click here for terrific, hot-off-the-press new track from the forthcoming Eluvium album featuring Ira Kaplan.
Really sad to hear about Jason Molina. I saw Songs: Ohio play one Saturday lunchtime in the old Rough Trade shop in Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, with my better half and an old friend who left for a new life on the west coast of America. It must have been 1997; we were young, but Jason Molina looked like he’d just left high school. His lyrics, though, have always been those of an older, wiser and sadder man. We saw him again, a handful of times, including one terrific Magnolia Electric Company gig, where he employed a series of country & western hand gestures throughout, alongside an entertaining between-song patter of simple decency and humility that stuck long in the mind. That classic run of albums — The Magnolia Electric co.; What Comes After the Blues; Fading Trails — sound every bit as fantastic as they did the best part of a decade ago.
nb: apologies: Joshua Abrams’ track from his excellent album Represencing is called ‘Sungazer’ (and not ‘Sunglazer’); and I was not trying to rap over the Hiss Golden Messenger track — something must have just slipped in the audacity file!