Friday, July 20, 2012

Mercy Street

The blockbuster 'So' from 1986 remains veteran pop-music luminary Peter Gabriel's commercial and critical highpoint, effortlessly achieving coveted multi-platinum status and spawning a host of instantly memorable and chart-climbing hit singles like 'Sledgehammer', 'Big Time' and 'In Your Eyes'. However, 'So' also contained a more exploratory facet that showcased Gabriel's penchant for crafting adventurous art-rock pieces, a trait that he has been steadily cultivating ever since the release of his debut album in 1977. One of the more noteworthy sonic experiments on 'So' is the magnificently moody tone poem 'Mercy Street', a hushed, yet insistent composition that constitutes Gabriel's oblique tribute to cult poet and writer Anne Sexton. Built from an impressive instrumental foundation of processed percussion, thoughtful bass lines, gentle washes of Fairlight synth tones and a sympathetic vocal from Gabriel, 'Mercy Street' is the indisputable emotional core of 'So', still highly resonant after all these years. Check out the starkly simple promo clip by Matt Mahurin, a startling collection of compatible visual images that transcends the boundaries of the conventional rock video through its inherent restraint and simplicity.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Flaming Lips

One of the most notable modern-day purveyors of that wonderfully loopy and deliciously weird sub-genre known as psychedelic rock is Oklahoma mainstays the Flaming Lips, led by the incomparably mercurial Wayne Coyne. Starting off as fringe-dwelling muso weirdoes in the early 1980s, the Lips slowly metamorphosed, through the course of a dozen mind-expanding studio works (including the virtually unclassifiable, crazily anarchic 'Zaireeka' from 1997), to become veritable elder statesmen of alternative rock, winning the hearts and minds of adventurous listeners everywhere. The group's long, strange trip through the kaleidoscopic nether regions of popular music has seen them taking in and mixing up a myriad of diverse influences, from obvious ones like classic prog-rock and angular post-punk, to less apparent and more revolutionary things like psych-metal, worldbeat, cow-punk and acid bubble-gum, and even conservative forms like bluegrass, surf-rock and modern classical. Incorporating all this into a singular, recognisable sound might seem like a Herculean task and something that only a highly stoned musical mad scientist can pull off, but the group's inventive values, instinctive songwriting and sheer musicianship make it all work like a charm. Check out the Lips' unique aesthetic at work in this joyfully nutty and studiously experimental video of one of their better-known singles, 'Race for the Prize'.