Listeners ought be skeptical when faced with any “definitive” collection of an artist’s efforts, unless perhaps that collection is also unabridged. This is particularly true for Talking Heads, a band of such diversity over its illustrious career than no one release could wholly encapsulate its body of work. That said, the new Talking Heads box set, Once in a Lifetime, comes closer than any other Talking Heads package so far.
Herein lie three discs of Talking Heads splendor abutted by a DVD of the band’s MTV videos from the early dawn of music television. For the Talking Heads fan who already owns all the albums, there are some rarities, such as the outtake “In Asking Land” and alternate versions of favorites such as “Cities” and “Drugs.” As for the liner notes, let’s just say you’ll learn infinitely more about one of the most elusive bands of the last several decades by reading these than you will by watching Stop Making Sense, True Stories or that bizarre TV segment where David Byrne interviews himself. The $50 price tag may be off-putting, but for any Talking Heads junky whose copy of Fear of Music skips on half the songs, this is the ideal way to burn that holiday money you were thinking of putting toward food. (Mike Keefe-Feldman)Various Artists
MOJO Presents 18 Tracks from the Year’s Best Albums
This CD comes with the December issue of MOJO magazine, so depending on how you look at it, you either get a bonus magazine with your purchase of a CD priced cheap like a label sampler, or a free CD with a very worth-it $8 music magazine. Either way, the package is a bargain at twice the price.
The British magazine is authoritative in shedding light on some of the dustier corners of pop music history (the December issue includes features on the Beatles/Bob Dylan Basement Tapes and a 1969 musical schism you might never have considered), and rather less convincing when it tries to get in on the ground-floor hype behind newer bands, which it’s been doing annoyingly often lately.
One things’s for sure, though: The MOJO bros have solid taste in music, and the CD runs the gamut from the Animals and the Flying Burrito Brothers to Calexico and the Black Keys. A handy primer for things you might have missed last year.
(Andy Smetanka)Various Artists
Hot Women: Women Singers from the Torrid Regions of the World
Kein & Aber Records
Robert Crumb, that icon of the underground comic scene—and godfather of all things non-commercial— compiled this album from the old 78 rpm records he’s collected throughout his life. The music begins in Louisiana in 1934 with Cleoma Falcon’s Cajun-soul “Blues Negres” and continues south of the border with Lydia Mendoza and her family singing “Mexico en una Laguna”—about a life of poverty in ’30s Mexico. Toña La Negre and Leona Gabriel endow the CD with early Afro-Cuban and French Caribbean sounds, respectively.
Across the ocean in Spain, La Niña del los Peines, considered one of the finest Flamenco singers of all time, performs a live version of “Sevillanas Number 2” followed by the Sicilian Rosina Trubia Gioiosa, whose “Lu Fistinu di Palermo,” recorded in 1927, is as fervent and passionate as Crumb himself. The compilation includes a total of 24 tracks from locales including Algeria, Madagascar, India, Brazil, Vietnam and Tahiti. The music is ardent, harrowing and vigorous—just like the women singers and the places they’re from—capable of making the listener both weep and rejoice. In the booklet, Crumb admits he has no idea what the women are singing about, but it’s the music, a “buried treasure,” that “surprises and thrills the ear, and the soul!” (Diego Bejarano)Japanther
Dump the Body in Rikki Lake
Menlo Park Recordings
Brooklyn’s Japanther might hold the record for live shows by a single visiting band in Missoula (it helps that drummer-vocalist Ian Vanek’s brother lives here), but I’m guessing that Dump the Body in Rikki Lake will surprise even the people who have seen them all seven or eight times they’ve played here.
Live, Japanther puts on a pretty strident and straightforward show, with kitchen-sink gear like a pay-phone receiver repurposed as a microphone adding to the already strong but playful DIY vibe. On this record, though, Japanther reveals itself as a band with more hidden textures, or at least strata of sound, than you’d guess from the live hootenanny.
Not that that’s going to send them to the top of the pops. The vocals are buried deep on this recording, like they were recorded over a tin-can phone, the focus more on dope beats, samples and Lightning Bolt-style bass eruptions, with a jubilant bass-and-keyboard-driven anthem here and there. Dump the Body is a resolutely DIY document that relatively few people (and no one who thinks of Good Charlotte as down-n-dirty streetpunk) will even know what to do with, but the fun shines through the crazy-ass mix.
Japanther plays in Missoula again on Saturday, Jan. 10 at Aerea 5.