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flag Mare Smythii - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 15 - 01/12/98

1997 Flashback
Pingo Picks To Play

There were particularly two LPs released last year that really impressed me. The one on the top of my list would have to be the hauntingly beautiful and highly acclaimed Shleep by Robert Wyatt, his first full-length record since 1991. As usual, only a few people dared to listen, and as far as I know, the record is still not released in the States! Another comeback that surprised me, not by it's quality, but by the fact that the record was released at all, was The Blake Project: Spring by Norwegian Finn Coren. It did next-to-nothing sales-wise, but, as with Shleep, it is a record that never stops growing on you, from a man that just is too good for this country, it seems.

Talking about comebacks (and lack of interest from record companies and record-buying audiences), I have to mention both Nick Kelly's Between Trapezes and The Tables' Holiday At Wobbledef Grunch. Kelly has had some of the people that used to buy records by his previous band, The Fat Lady Sings, to fund his release because of no recording contract, while The Tables strikes back from a little cottage in the woods where they recorded their second album. Rather splendid records they made too.

From the kitchen sinks of Trondheim, Norway and Dayton, Ohio, came Dipsomaniacs and Guided By Voices respectively (well, GBV did visit a real studio this time) with their best albums to date. Yo La Tengo never fail to deliver the goods, and with I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, they prove to be one of the strongest band of the 90's. Their concert at So What (in Oslo - No, I couldn't go...aaaaaaah! Don't you never ever remind me of that again! - editor's note) this fall did not spoil that impression, either. Other live gigs worth mentioning from last year would have to be Matthew Sweet at Rockefeller (Oslo as well) and the playful and funny Swedish band Samla Mammas Manna, who did their first Norwegian concert in 24 years at Chateau Neuf (Oslo) this December. And they are not a prog-rock band! Meringue is not prog-rock either, but their wonderfully weird Music From The Green Mint Nest would not fail to please some followers of said genre. Probably the most intriguing record that visited my turntable last year.

Quite a few other Norwegians have to be mentioned too; newer artists like Stuntbike, Bronson Comet Lighter, King Midas, Palace Of Pleasure, Slowburn, Want and Chairs will also be remembered for their output during the year.

There were some disappointments last year though, and Too Many Days Without Thinking by Swell was the biggest one. With the exception of a couple of tracks, they now sound like a standard rock'n'roll band. Another let-down was Stereolab and their Dots And Loops. Try the sympathetic compilation Work And Non Work by the charming Broadcast instead - music to drink dry Martinis to. The latest Sea & Cake album, Fawn, did not fare too well on my turntable either, but thanks to their guitarist Archer Prewitt, who made his first solo album, In The Sun, last year, we can still enjoy lounge rock/pop not far from the music by this Chicago outfit. Watch this space for a review next moon.

1997 will for me be the year that I discovered the wonderful world of Elephant 6, a record label that has given me lots of pleasure during the year. Other "finds" during the year have been Cardinal's only album (one time member Eric Matthews' new record will probably be reviewed here at the Kafé next moon), The Bags first record (Monster Magnet - eat your hearts out), Swollen Monkeys' After Birth Of The Cool (a little disappointment, I must confess, after all these years of hunting), the first EP by Love Camp 7, and last, but not least, Lindisfarne's classic Nicely Out Of Tune in mint condition. Re-release of the year for me was Monster by David Thomas, a collection of the records he made when Pere Ubu had their six year break. I remembered them less accessible than they turned out to be today, some 10 years + - after their release. We've all grown then, haven't we ?

Last year saw the tragic death of two of my old heroes as well as one of my new. Jeff Buckley proved to be a worse swimmer than singer/songwriter/guitarist/human being in Memphis in the evening of May 29th of 1997, just a couple of days before he was to start working on a new album. Bearing in mind the fact that his sole album Grace, probably is the 90's most promising debut, the tragic death of this enormously gifted musician came as a shock to many of us.

One time Small Faces bass player Ronnie Lane died peacefully at his home at June 4th after 20 years of battle with MS, and founder and guitar player of Spirit, Randy California, drowned on January 2 in an attempt to save his son from an undertow at the island of Molokai, Hawaii. Both Lane and California were musicians in two sadly underrated bands, and I have to quote Waldemar Hepstein, who sardonically comments that this world is unfair "when people like Ronnie Lane has to die, when Keith Richards, Cliff Richard and Bob Dylan is still alive and making records".

All real rock critics is supposed to make their own C-60 tape of 1997's music, but as I am no real rock critic, I won't do that. Anyway, I would prefer a C-60+6 tapes as the silver and black BASF's I used to buy in the late 70's (by the way, I found one of these curiosities recently, and it contained Eagles, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Al DiMeola and Graeme Edge Band. Those were the grim days of adolescence.) (That explains why you recently were observed dancing and singing with your walkman turned to 11 then, pingo ... - editor's note)

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