3, Third, but mostly the first one

Record reviews, stale and staler.  One album some months old, one some decades, but it’s just a bit of surface mildew. Really, it’s just fine; just scrape it off and bon appetit.

A overenthralled Soft Machine fan, I found myself uncontrollably compelled to purchase eBraam’s 3 once I heard it was inspired by and/or working off of Soft Machine’s Third.   I then found myself a bit disappointed and empty-feeling about it.  It’s not bad-natured, but still pretty dry: workmanline etudes with retro stylings. What is it about Soft Machine that just hits me so hard in comparison? And while I gather Third is, in fact, the critical favorite, I have to confess an especially keen fondness for the first, self-titled, album,  although the critical consensus that favors Third finds the first album sort of thin, thinks the musicianship is lousy.  But even supposing I just don’t know better, the reasons I favor it go beyond presence/absence of tidy execution.  The biggest reason I favor it so much is that I find it the most compelling, startling concept album ever.  Listening to most of it, I warm up more and more to this odd worldview it presents, Wyatt’s odd voice, the sweet but strange sentiments that match the sweet but strange music that keeps melting in and out of pop appeal, the stupid jokes, the, of course, specious feeling that they’re trying to write a normal song but can’t help ending up with this odd business bursting out.  And it’s like that until the very last track, when we get a new vocalist (Ayers’s gravely detached intoning), new sentiments, and no room left at all for a return to the earlier sphere.  “Hope for happiness” (the title of the first track) goes to “begins with a blessing, ends in a curse…” (listen to “Why are we Sleeping” below) and it’s not just another guy, another point of view: it’s the truth and it’s shocking and heartbreaking and I think no one else has ever done it quite like this.

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2 comments on “3, Third, but mostly the first one
  1. sonatano1 says:

    All too often I think the debut album get ignored or brushed off as the band just getting their start. Sometimes good first albums are overlooked because of it. I really like Van der Graaf Generator’s first album, even though they made it before they got “big” (big being relative, of course.)

    • jinpr says:

      People get stuck on a general narrative for performers that may not apply, or may not be the main thing going on: dumb, raw energy; growing sophistication; alienation from youth/new trends; aesthetic bankruptcy; cynical, geezery nostalgia cash-in.

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