Eddie Vedder – Ukulele Songs (2011)

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With Lightning Bolt, the tenth studio album by Seattle band Pearl Jam coming out in just a few weeks, it’s just appropriate that I was asked to review the second solo album of the band’s lead singer, Mr. Eddie Vedder. However talented he might be, it’s curious to note how his creative effort has greatly been focused on his day job band. It wasn’t until Sean Penn asked him to help him with the soundtrack to the excellent 2007 movie Into the Wild, that he released an entire album without his mates behind him. Then came Backspacer, and in between that and Lightning Bolt, Vedder released yet another solo album.

And that’s how we come across Ukelele Songs, a very self-explicable name for an album, because that’s exactly what we find here, 16 tracks with not much else than Eddie covering old songs from the 30s-40s with nothing else than his voice and one of those little guitars used by Hawaiians. And therefore, we must not really judge Ukelele Songs as the work of a singer-songwriter, as the work of an artist who is getting bored and restricted by his day job band and wants a silent retreat. No, Eddie Vedder just had an idea in his mind, decided to take action and record it. And maybe what he initially intended was to simply share this set of songs among his closest friends, however, it’s great that he treats us fans just like that.

And no, this is no essential record to understand Pearl Jam or 90s music or the grunge scene. No, this is simply a treat given to us by this man, just like those Christmas singles bands are used to release; they’re far from essential, but it’s always a joy to see them around every year. No real song stands out from this collection, since most of them are less than 3 minutes long, and therefore, the most notable cases would be those guest appearances by the likes of Glen Hansard on Sleepless Nights and Cat Power on Tonight You Belong to Me. And if I had to choose one among them, I would have probably done the same as the band and chosen Sleeping by Myself, a track included on their upcoming album.

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Some Old Reviews: Can – Tago Mago

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Unfortunately, I have gone back to classes, and I’ve found myself with little to no time to keep writing on my blog. However, every once in a while I do feel like writing and I just need a little incentive to do so. Well, right now I have lacked that so-called incentive and therefore, in order to keep my blog alive and active, I’ve decided to share a pair of reviews I’ve written for another page. Sorry if the context is sometimes not very understandable, but feel free to join the rateyourmusic.com community in order to find out. They’ve just updated their image, and I’m still having trouble keeping up.

Well, here we go, the first review is about the German Krautrock pioneers Can and what is considered by many to be their Magnum Opus, 1971’s Tago Mago:

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The last I time I wrote a real review, exclusively for this site, Obama hadn’t been reelected. The last time I wrote a review, I still couldn’t rate individually each track on an album, nor did the album pages feature credits beyond the name of the band. Back then, movies’ titles were not in orange font, and back then, I used to rate every movie, the moment after watching it. Back in the day, I also use to own a paid RYM account, which I believe I had only paid for a month or so, but which was gifted to me, until recently, when I discovered my RYM pages change from black to the purple of the commoner.

What’s curious about this story, is that I really can’t pinpoint why I started to discontinue the use of this site. I could almost say it seems to be a thread in my generation of users. Maybe it’s a judgemental perception, based entirely on my personal experience. Site statistics could tell me if I’m wrong. Still, I had been wondering how to get back on board, and the best possible way I could think of, was simply to fulfill my Go Review that Album assignment, due over a year and a half ago. This seemed like a rope thrown out to me, drowning in open sea, however, this rope turned out to be barbed wire, covered in grease.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not about to question the legacy and classic status of this album, it’s just things would have been somewhat easier with a more accessible record. By now I’ve heard Tago Mago a decent amount of times, and it’s hard for me to recall a melody line, mainly though, because it seems to be more rythm oriented; better filled with grooves than with choruses. The first two songs work together for me, since I put the record on, and I always seem to have skipped track 2. Oh Yeah changes things a little bit, and it’s a psychodelic nightmare all trough the end. Inside this double album we can find the whole essence of that thing called Krautrock, and inside these 7 songs, we can hear how this band influenced numerous acts to come. I especially hear a lot what Radiohead is all about inside Tago Mago.

The record is long and dense, however after a couple of listenings, I was surprised to learn it was actually a double album, since you don’t normally think of 7 songs spread across four vinyl sides. B-side opener is the go-to song of the album. It obviously works better as a whole, but that’s a good representative in case you don’t have 73 minutes of free time. The following 2 songs, are commonly regarded as the shit in the caviar, almost thirty minutes of progressive wankery. That’s how many people see it, and I can understand their judgement, however, I don’t agree entirely, since I take it as part of the cake, and it maybe doesn’t affect me as much, since I always seem to be doing something else while listening to the album; like writing this review for instance.

And so, however hard this album might be to grasp, I feel it has been a rewarding experience, other Can records feel way more accessible, but Tago Mago seems to have been a good trigger for a newfound Prog Rock revival in my current life, although not such a good lifesaver to get back in the RYM boat. It’s been over a year, but I’m glad to say I’m back on board.