Saturday, December 5, 2009

Let Us Discuss The Country Sad Ballad Man

One could argue all day about the effects of a band losing a member and whether what comes afterwards is really the same band (for example: the band currently calling themselves Alice in Chains, is not Alice in Chains), but I still gave Blur a shot when Graham Coxon left before their final album Think Tank. But what a tough album it was for me to warm to. I've come around to it, but it's one of the few albums in my life where I was stunned into silence after the first listen. Here was a band that were overflowing with ideas in their previous two albums, and now we had these rather more rudimentary and sometimes cloying songs.

But it wasn't until Graham left that I realized the brilliance of the third song on their self-titled album, "Country Sad Ballad Man." Yes it has a silly name and it's basically four British guys approximating country music, sort of, but it's one of best displays of guitar strangulation I've ever heard. After the tidal wave of sound in the song right before it on the album, "Song 2", "Ballad Man" opens with plinking guitar and bass, but after edging toward chaos in the last minute Coxon opened up a gaping sonic hole out of a charming little ditty. At one point he rips through a brief solo that's basically sans melody.

Here was a guy playing those lovely guitar leads for two of the more prim and proper of British rock albums, Parklife and the Great Escape, finally cutting lose properly. Coxon remains one of the most underrated guitarists of the last 20 years, and the proof is in this forgotten little tune that had the inauspicious position of being the next cut after the biggest hit the band ever had. (And for good measure, right after "Ballad Man" is the classic "M.O.R." another display of Coxon's guitar attack).


David Pratt said...

Posts like this are exactly why we should have separate sections for different topics.

Jstone said...

Why because they're concise?

David Pratt said...

Because the plethora of musical insight Max Nova provides the blog is easily lost amongst the inundation of unrelated topics posted by everybody else.

Jstone said...

So what you're saying is you think Max should go get his own music blog?

Jason Heat said...

David was offering some insight into a potential change in the format and layout of the blog, which may or may not take place. Max is one of our best and most consistent writers, and his value to the site is without question.

Lets focus this conversation on the content.

I had a similar, but different experience with regards to a tough album to warm up to, after buying my first Manic Street Preachers album back in High School. This was deep in the days of Napster and I had a selection of their songs I loved, but it created an incorrect context for the band in my head. Listening to that album was such a lonely, desolate experience that I almost felt betrayed by what the band was instead of what I thought it would be.

A few years later I went back and gave it a re-listen, having gone through some growth muyself and came to appreciate the album and band over again on their own terms. MSP is still one of my favorite bands now (though they're sound can feel a little dated on certain tracks).

Max Nova said...

I'm just glad that both of you are fighting for my affection.