Saturday, 28 November 2009

Chris Bell - 'I Am the Cosmos' (Rykodisc)

I am the Cosmos is such a hippie title, isn't it? And the song has wedged itself into my brain over the years, being the only real memorable bit on this collection besides 'You and Your Sister'. I'm not sure if This Mortal Coil is the reason I know these tunes so well or if it's because there are two versions of 'Cosmos' and three of 'Sister' on here - so by pure repetition they stick, whereas I can't hum a single bit of the other ten tunes here. Death was kind to Chris Bell's career, being that he would be pretty much a footnote if he had lived into the 90s making forgettable pop-rock records. That's not to be rude or suggest that he's without talent. Actually, I love these wimpy songs, like 'Speed of Sound'. Everything on this collection feels drained of energy, like the musicans are all knee-deep in molasses, coagulated blood or some other viscous fluid - even on the faster riff-based rockers, like 'Make a Scene'. Despite the super-accessible goals, it can't help but feel retarded (in the meaning of slowed down). I Am the Cosmos is a CD equivalent of a big bottle of 'ludes and maybe a few beers. 'I Got Kinda Lost' probably sums it up the best - even though it's a fast song, those drum fills feel like they're under autopsy. Or listen to 'Look Up', where the title isn't so much sung as moaned from the back of a dark haze. Bell's chimey acoustic guitars and thickly-recorded vocal harmonies aren't much of a progression from the plaintive, wistful tunes on #1 Record. Funny that his best contribution to Radio City is 'O My Soul', which has more energy than anything else he ever wrote. Among the dusty bubblegum there are hints of Southern sunrise (but not the whole Skynryd sound, thankfully). I wonder what Carducci has to say about Big Star - rock or pop? The riffs are just as great here as on those first two Big Star albums, but maybe it's too wimpy for him, yet 'pop narcotic' certainly would apply here. I'll look them up before I get to the Big Star records in this project. The aforementioned bonus tracks - alternate versions of 'Sister' and a 'slow' version of 'I Am the Cosmos' (even though it's only six seconds shorter than the original) should probably be skipped, or maybe you can program your CD player to replace the original 'Sister' with the Country version, my favorite. Does anyone actually program their CD player anymore?

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