All Tomorrow's Parties 3.1
You may remember Matt Groening as the creator of comic strip
"Life Is Hell" and a frequent contributor to the FOX network's "The
Tracy Ullman Show". What may surprise you is that prior to those
short-lived efforts and a moderately funny TV series called "Futurama",
Groening was responsible for some caustic L.A. Reader
rockcrit. Sample snark: "The bigger the locale the band is named
after, the more lame the band will be." See, I always forget it
wasn't Asia who did "The Final Countdown".
Leaving overseas imbroglios aside, the stateside arm of the All
Tomorrow's Parties festival tapped Groening to select the lineup for
its 2003 event. (Other curators have included Slint, Modest Mouse,
Pavement, Mogwai, Tortoise, Shellac, Autechre, and Sonic Youth.) As
evidenced on this belated compilation, Groening's choices, far from
suitable for Grand Funk-worshiping fatties and metal-headed
busdrivers, instead exhibit the cranky connoisseurship of a comic
book guy-- or a Pitchfork reviewer.
All Tomorrow's Parties 3.1 washes away indie guilt like a
revitalizing tonic-- the disc's 13 tracks present aspiring
rock-and/or-roll geeks with a lineage of gloriously creative noise
linking ATP's Velvet namesakes to the comp's libidinous proto-punk,
contempo indie pop, and proudly sideshow avant-garde. Much of this
rock snob's anthology is appropriately devoted to the dissonant, if
not always the arcane. Sonic Youth's opening "Simpsons Theme", a
46-second instrumental as familiar as a chalkboard maxim, is both,
having previously appeared on the 1996 compilation Go Simpsonic
With the Simpsons. It's not quite as fun as Yo La Tengo's 1998
psychedelic version, but why split thinning hairs? At the opposite
side of the disc, Jackie-O Motherfucker turns in a previously
unreleased nine-and-a-half-minute freakout of "Revolution 9"
muttering, R2D2 squiggles, and abstract guitars that make more sense
than a "Family Guy" plot.
Also in the collections of proper obsessives, like Roger
Moore-signed Sean Connery photos and rare suicide editions of
Mary Worth, the Stooges' "Fun House" remains a reckless,
writhing classic, despite its generally ignored similarities to
"Break on Through". The Magic Band bizarrizes "You Really Got Me"
riffs on "Dropout Boogie", belching lyrical matter befitting a
Dennis the Menace-like character. Daniel Johnston's love song "Syrup
of Tears" resonates with simple, sincere devotion-- like lord help
me a just-not-that-bright beer-guzzler for his beautiful wife-- that
wholly redeems its "Jump"-like synths. Deerhoof's "Desaparecer"? Ay
Then there's the strain of indie whose late-night thrashings have
since accidentally birthed Newsweek articles on "yupsters."
Elliott Smith, originally slated to play at 2003's ATP, is
represented by his mordant, underrated "Pictures of Me", from 1997
high point Either/Or. With its casual, even jaunty
description of "dying just to get the disease," the song prompts the
question of whether the folk-punk anti-hero would loathe the
underground's O.C.-ization-- or perversely embrace it. Course
the Shins appear, squeezing through twisting melodic chutes on the
still-revelatory "Young Pilgrims". Modest Mouse waxes disjointedly
misanthropic on "Bukowski", a weirder moment from 2004's still-Good
News, and Spoon's gruff stranger-dance'n'yarr swordfight "The
Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine" sounds even better apart from its
excellent surroundings on last year's Gimme Fiction. By
comparison, American Analog Set's whispery, emotional deathcab-wish
and Electrelane's popular-music-befouled-bass-goes-gospel pale in
their hot-diggity-damn good-enoughness.
Not the worst. compilation. ever.
January 20, 2006