The Weekly Jive

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Posted October 22, 2008 in Music

The Gonzo Tapes: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
(Shout Factory)
Listening to somebody think is strictly for fetishists, and there are plenty of those left in Hunter S. Thompson’s wake. The godfather of gonzo journalism carried around a little tape recorder and spoke in his inimitable mumbling bursts about everything from being a pariah among the Hells Angels (who can be heard howling in the background), testing Sigmund Freud’s theories (the effects of cocaine) to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (looking for drugs from the Flamingo). The year’s between 1965-1975 make up the five-disc set, mostly in limbo moments, between drinks, between bouts of psychedelic boundary-pushing. Alex Gibney’s documentary under the same title took its essential manna from these recordings, in which Thompson runs an internal dialogue about missed deadlines, mind-altering drugs (such as coffee and aspirin) and John Dos Passos—“who was weird and still is.” It’s easy to imagine Johnny Depp studying that voice and trying to emulate the cadences and nuances, but Thompson’s mind is one-of-a-kind, and he knew it. Why else would he make these recordings and save them? One of the highlights occurs when Thompson returns home to Woody Creek, Colorado, having come from the Bay Area after his stint with the Hells Angels. In the midst of a heavy snow he takes inventory of his surroundings, like the “cradle of erotica,” his .44 magnum that he has “to fend off the Turks,” old photos and books. He runs across his own Hells Angels book next to Mark Twain, and he wonders why anybody would stick an S. in a name “that long and that disorganized and hard to deal with in the first place,” before concluding “that’s a question for the ages.” And that’s where these recordings belong, too—the ages. (Chuck Mindenhall)

The Cure
4:13 Dream
(Suretone/Geffen)
The Cure’s 30-year, compromise-free career has few peers and, with the return of guitarist Porl Thompson, they’ve never been a more compelling live act. Yet this much-delayed 13th album documents a frustrating identity crisis. Mainman Robert Smith hasn’t mislaid his songwriting magic—opener “Underneath The Stars” is a gorgeous, embroidered escape that’s up there with anything from 1989’s moody masterpiece Disintegration—but he tries too hard to shake off his “gloomy goth” tag with some irritating pop ditties, over-indulges familiar Cure musical motifs, and makes borderline embarrassing stabs at fresh vocal inflexions. Angst-ridden expressions like “Siren Song” are melodic, disquieting and instantly atmospheric, but the more flippant tunes can be cringy-cute and drip déjà vu (“The Only One” revisits radio-fave “Friday I’m In Love”; “Sleep When I’m Dead” echoes 1982’s “Let’s Go To Bed”). We’re talking in relative terms here—4:13 Dream still shames most albums released this year and is worth it for “Underneath The Stars” alone—but this isn’t consistently classic Cure. (Paul Rogers)


Grails
Doomsayer’s Holiday
(Temporary Residence)
Portland, Oregon’s Grails aren’t the first name in instrumental rock—but maybe they should be. Building on the quartet’s increasingly diverse catalog, Doomsayer’s Holiday throws together some previous styles—sludgy stoner rock riffs, Middle Eastern exotica, late-night soundtrack noir, synth-powered space-rock—into one ominous beast, impressive for its nuanced power. Whereas the songs on last year’s excellent Burning Off Impurities highlighted Grails’ exotic Silk Road vibe (one song bore that title), here those East-meets-West flavors are buffeted by near-metal squalls, or drift off into drone-y spacescapes. Opening with the title track’s Sabbath-sludge riffs and Emil Amos’ (Holy Sons, Om) thunderous percussion, the cuts often bleed into each other so that the duration times play with our preconceptions. The electrified sitar lines and mizmar-like double-reed on “Reincarnation Blues” read like the fevered malaria-dream in Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky, and the intertwined guitars and synths of “Acid Rain” recall the gorgeous melodies of Obscured by Clouds-era Pink Floyd. The spell is so well-weaved that when a disembodied voice breaks in matter-of-factly—“you can always go back to being weak-willed and undisciplined”—it’s like getting sucker-punched: Breathtaking, like the record. (John Schacht)


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