The Soundtrack of SILVER BROWN

The New Jazz [Part III]: ZZ Top

That Little Ol’ Band from Texas! Okay, so not exactly “new” per se. They’ve been recording and touring since before I was freaking born. No lineup changes or anything. Same three guys, for half a century. Or tres hombres, if you will. Two of them famously bearded long before it became cool to be so, the third never having any use for a Beard because that’s already his name. A band I have always liked. They experienced their heyday during my formative years; I was about eight or nine years old when Eliminator came out, which wasn’t even their best album. Before I had even heard of prog or jazz fusion or Frank Zappa, or even before high school when I was heavily into Queen, I looked on ZZ Top as one of the greatest bands on the planet.

It was was more than just their wild and woolly mountain-man image, one that was lamentably underused and underrepresented in clean-cut Reaganite America’s rock output. It was those distinctive guitar lines. That tone! What timbre! Nobody else can make a Gibson sound the way Billy Gibbons can; the man truly has a masterful control over his instrument. Even when ZZ Top went through that weird phase in their career when they really started overdoing it with the synthesizers and drum machines, the guitar stylings of The Reverend Willie G have never failed to impress. He always makes his solos longer than they need to be, often throwing in two or three solos a song. He’s a student of the blues and that’s just the way he rolls.

Since we’ve all heard songs like “Legs”, “Tush” and “La Grange” a zillion times over on classic rock radio, I wanted to focus here on the more underrated and lesser-known musical gems on offer from this band. Like their ahead-of-its-time meditation on drunk driving…

…or a few of the countless tracks they’ve dropped over the years that would be considered politically incorrect by today’s standards but are still great…

…or this, which is probably the greatest song you’ve never heard. Even greater, it’s a live version…

Finally, I give you this. Remember that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine was dating that guy who froze into some kind of hypnotic trance whenever he heard the song “Desperado” by the Eagles? Well, whatever “Desperado” was to that guy is what this song is to me. Especially after a bong hit or two.

I am oft inspired to spontaneously tweet grandiose proclamations whenever this tune fills my eardrums. I leave you with a couple of my greatest hits…


The Soundtrack of SILVER BROWN

The Rock of the Irish

St. Patrick’s Day has always been one of my favourite holidays, even though these days I’m more inclined to smoke the green than drink it or wear it (I love stout, though – that shit’s the nectar of the gods). In a perfect world, the vast treasury of Irish drinking tunes would be as thoroughly burned into the public conscience as the holiday standards that Mariah Carey tortures us with every Christmas. This blog post probably won’t bring about that perfect world. But I guess it can’t hurt to try.

The Soundtrack of SILVER BROWN

The New Jazz [Part II]: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

My first exposure to Gizzard occurred a couple of years ago, on the way back from a therapy session. Interestingly and somewhat freakishly enough, it was by way of a radio station that isn’t usually known for playing anything cool, which for about half and hour exchanged souls in a manner suggestive of Freaky Friday with a way cooler station whose main broadcast antenna is located out in international waters somewhere. The impossible-to-forget moniker of this seven-man† Melbourne outfit was something I would learn after the fact; I was struck by the music first and foremost. It sounded highly reminiscent to me of the British space rock bands of the Seventies, like Pink Fairies or Hawkwind. But it was recent! Hot damn! Who says all new music sucks?

I swear there’s something in the water in Australia these days. First came Wolfmother, then Tame Impala, and now…

This band reminds me of the Red Hot Chili Peppers†† in their prime, in that every one of their albums has a different flavour to it. One album sounds heavily jazz-influenced, another is a driving psychedelic opus that could hypothetically be played on repeat and come across sounding like one continuous multifaceted piece that never ends, and yet another sounds like the soundtrack to some low fantasy spaghetti Western starring a resurrected Charles Bronson that never left development hell. They’ve even done a laid-back album that your mama would like, complete with a Sixties-tinged cover:

† Three guitarists, two drummers, a bassist and a keyboardist, with frontman Stu Mackenzie occasionally expanding the band’s musical palette by trading in his (usually custom-built) guitar for a flute, a zurna, or some utterly obscure instrument that rock n’ roll somehow hasn’t conquered yet.

†† Contrary to popular belief, Blood Sugar Sex Magik was not the Chilis’ first album, but their fifth. The three albums they did before that, which were graced by the spirit (if not the blatant guitar wizardry) of the late Hillel Slovak, easily rank among their best. It’s a crying shame more people don’t know they exist.

…and then there are those moments when Gizzard just isn’t in the mood for whatever particular flavour you’re expecting them to have, and just want to blow your mind clean off into a million little ectoplasmic rubber shards that will scatter everywhere in all dimensions. The end result would be something like this: