The Weekly Jive

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Posted December 3, 2008 in Music

The Stephane Wrembel Trio (with special guest David Grisman)—Gypsy Rumble (Amoeba Records)

In the body of music, gypsy jazz is sort of a tickle in the gut; ever since the 1940s when the very literal gypsy Django Reinhardt plucked with nervous glee at the banjo and high-up on the neck of a flamenco, the manouche has become one of the suavist of bastardizations. The Stephane Wrembel Trio keeps with it in Gypsy Rumble, a rollicking 15-track album that sends the mandolin into the hive (courtesy of the newgrass legend David Grisman, the pioneer of dawg music) with Wrembel’s own squee-picking so Arabian and taut that you can almost see the campfire lighting his face. Wrembel, who was born and raised in Fontainebleau, France but is now a New Yorker who pens jazz guitar instruction books, remains one of the world’s greatest hobosmen, and this disc is a fine testament to his prowess. Standouts on Rumble are “Big Brother,” a classic Latin romp where Grisman’s mandolin flitters like sparks around Wrembel’s acoustic story-telling; “Milko,” a chuffing ditty that never catches its breath; and “Swing De Bellevue,” which just sort of drags the nomad out of the wine, so to speak. This reissue of the Wrembel/Grisman pairing comes on the heels of “Big Brother” appearing in Woody Allen’s movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona; which is justice, because, as far as acoustic swing goes, this little pressure-cooker of an album is much too beautiful to go so quietly into that good night. (Braxton Leeds)

Pavement—Brighten the Corners: Nicene Creedence Edition. (Matador)

Yessirree, fact-checkin’ cuzzes and overfriendly concierges, yet another reissue brightens the Pavement legacy. Some consider BTC past the Sacto band’s peak, but it could arguably be lyricist Stephen Malkmus’ finest moment. “Embrace the senile genius/Watch him reinvent the wheel,” he sings on “Old to Begin,” and no matter how ironic that was intended, that’s precisely what Pavement was up to. The original dozen cuts show them absolutely confident in their own fractured “I’m of several minds” aesthetic: the hop-along pop of “Shady Lane” evaporating into early Floyd space-out, folk recorder bookending Sonic Youth feedback in “Transport Is Arranged,” the Byrds-meet-Dinosaur Jr. guitar work-out of “Date w/IKEA,” and on and on. What makes these Pavement reissues really memorable are the voluminous extras, and this fourth set is a treasure trove. For instance: Scott Kanneberg’s “Winner of the . . . ,” the recast revved-up twang of “Slowly Typed,” the Thin Lizzy-like “Roll With the Wind,” the sublime cover of Echo & the Bunnymen’s “Killing Moon,” etcetera. Disc One includes six B-sides and two previously unreleased outtakes, and Disc Two’s 24 tracks features 15 (!) previously unreleased in-studio sessions songs, compilation cuts, and outtakes. Not everything is essential, but even B-list Pavement surpasses most artists’ A-lists. (John Schacht)

The Damned— So, Who’s Paranoid? (English Channel)

Talk about bizarre. “Dr. Woofenstein,” an ultra dramatic tune about a mad scientist type who “hatches shadowy schemes” arrives a quarter way through So, Who’s Paranoid?—the first Damned studio album in seven years. That’s not the strange part though. It’s the Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus, which adds a spiritual vibe. Confounding expectations is nothing new for this pioneering London punk band. Few people would have pegged The Damned to outlast nearly all of its contemporaries amid a 32-year career with multiple lineup changes and several brief splits. The Sex Pistols always get credit as the trailblazer of British punk’s initial wave, but The Damned actually beat them to the punch by releasing a full-length debut (1977’s classic Damned Damned Damned) and touring America first. With original vocalist Dave Vanian and guitarist Captain Sensible still leading the charge, Paranoid is easily the strongest effort since 1985’s goth-leaning Phantasmagoria. Longtime fans should revel in ’60s garage-styled opener “A Nation Fit for Heroes,” with Sensible’s wicked wah-wah work and Monty Oxymoron’s organ swells. Vanian applies his trademark baritone croon in fine fashion on a haunting “Under the Wheels” and dramatic “Since I Met You.” The latter is a love song parody with subtle piano and humorous lyrics about lyrics which “reflect how I feel/even the stupid ones.” The Sensible sung “Dark Asteroid,” a 14-minute psychedelic epic, caps it all off. (George A. Paul)


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