Fluxblog 458: the SHEP PETTIBONE sound
Plus new songs from The Last Dinner Party, Liquid Mike, and Unessential Oils
This week’s playlist is THE SHEP PETTIBONE SOUND, a collection of 30 selections produced or remixed by the master of pop house at his pinnacle in the late 80s and early 90s. This one is built to be sorta like a 3-CD compilation, so you if you like you can pretend you just got picked it up at Tower or the Virgin Megastore. As you can see below, this features at least 11 of the most gloriously perfect pop songs of all time. It’s a very good time! [Spotify | Apple | YouTube]
The Last Dinner Party sound as though they’ve somehow never heard music besides indie-aligned records from the United Kingdom, like they were bred from childhood to take their place in a lineage of clever, somewhat stuffy bands including The Smiths, Pulp, The Charlatans, Catatonia, Camera Obscura, The Long Blondes, The Pipettes, Florence and the Machine, and so on. They have enough craft and charm to fit into that RIYL list, but thus far I’m having trouble locating something specific to them in their songs. They execute tropes rather well, the lyrics are fairly sharp, and they’re capable of writing a genuinely strong hook like the fluttery ascending melody in the chorus of “The Feminine Urge.” This can be enough, and lord knows plenty of bands working in the same milieu can’t pull any of that off. But I’d like to feel like this band can do more than just effectively reassemble the ideas of other bands.
Buy it from Amazon.
Liquid Mike’s new record sounds like a musical stew made from ingredients exclusively sourced from a CD bin marked “$4 used alternative,” but the element of their style that grabbed me is how much of the vocal and lead guitar melodies remind me specifically of Matthew Sweet. But you know, if Matthew Sweet was more of a dirtbag delinquent? I have no idea whether or not the members of this band even listen to Sweet, but that Sweet-ness is a touch of harmonic polish that levels up the more straight ahead pop-punk aspects of a song like “Small Giants.” It suits the lyrics well too, amping up the golden sunny nostalgia of a song that romanticizes being a young loser.
Buy it from Bandcamp.
I didn’t really notice there was singing on “Distrust the Magician” until I’d heard it a few times, mainly because it’s so easy to zone out and get lost in the song’s groove and heavy vibe that a lot of the details and structure gets blurry. That’s sort of the point, though closer attention to individual components of the arrangement is rewarded, particularly if you’re focusing in on the lead guitar or the pulsing keyboard drone filling in the background. The performance feels lose and at least partially improvised but the palette is very considered and precise – guitar tones that sound light and lovely but also gritty and grey, percussion with just the right level of dry crispiness, a mix that feels spacious but allows the guitar parts to overlap into a lattice with a very tasteful density.
Buy it from Secret City Records.
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• Abigail Covington on seeing U2 in Las Vegas and loving their wonderful, odd, and very prescient Zooropa deep cut “Babyface.” (Today that song would be about having a parasocial relationship with a girl on Onlyfans.)
• If Anthony Miccio is correct about his Madonna/Taylor Swift parallel theory it’s going to be a very very rough year for the Swifties.
• Here’s Carl Wilson’s sharp critique of Kyle Chayka’s new book about recommendation algorithms, which I personally find to be fairly vapid in its scaremongering. Carl is a nicer person about these things than I am, though.
• Max Tani has a great piece in Semafor about Conde Nast’s series of terrible decisions in managing Pitchfork. I do find it extremely weird that Tani insists on calling Pitchfork a “blog” when it’s been a full-on web magazine with lots of contributors since the late 1990s.