Saturday, 7 December 2013

Extra Glenns - 'Martial Arts Weekend' (Absolutely Kosher)

Guess what? I'm a massive Mountain Goats fan, but since it's gonna be 2021 before I ever reach the M's I'll just tell you now: from The Hound Chronicles on, I'm enraptured, up to and through Full Force Galesburg which is the apotheosis of some unobtainable magic that is uniquely tied to my own adolescence and development of an understanding of art, language, and expression. I should also tell you that Galesburg came out when I was 17, and his post-Galesburg records I still enjoy, occasionally love, but something has been missing for me. It's me that's changed, not him; nothing but love and respect for the big D himself here from Cinderblock HQ and I'll save my gushing for, well, 2021. Anyway, amongst that era of perfection lies the Infidelity 7", a rare example of a supergroup that truly is, or whatever clich├ęs come to mind. This full-length didn't appear til almost a decade later and I scooped it up fervently, even though by 2001 my obsessive Mountain Goats collecting phase had, I guess, waned. I never thought we'd hear anything from the Extra Glenns after that 7" so this was quite a surprise - but if a new Extra Glenns release comes out next month, I won't be shocked. The once-per-decade release rate is a good way to be. Martial Arts Weekend occupies a really strange, almost forgotten corner of my Darnielle pantheon. It's a completely solid album; I can't pick it apart for any reason except my general criticism of later Mountain Goats (or what now is probably mid-period to current Mountain Goats), which I already stated above: I changed. These songs just came at a time when they didn't resonate with me as much as the first few hundred Darnielle songs I consumed. As on the 7" Franklin Bruno takes a backseat but not too much of one; his contributions are enough to distinguish this from the Mountain Goats recordings of that era, even though the songwriting is almost all Darnielle. But for some reason, I always forget that this record exists. There's wonderful tracks - 'Ultra Violet', 'Sombody Else's Parking Lot in Sebastopol' - but they never attain the personal highs of, say, any song on Zopilote Machine. We get a rather straight, piano driven cover of 'Memories', from my favourite Leonard Cohen record, which somehow replaces the leering swagger of Cohen with that earnest bi-fi sound. 'Malevolent Seascape Y' follows the X of 1993 and is just as malevolent; 'The River Song' is pastoral, genteel, and resigned at the same time. Bruno is an artist whose work I always liked but never got WAY into; Nothing Painted Blue were just a bit too far away from anything I could latch onto, though maybe I just didn't try hard enough. I think this might be the last recorded occurence of 'Going to...' songs but I'm too lazy to pull out other CDs and check dates. I'm glad for this project because it reminded me of the existence of this album, which over a decade later reveals some forgotten pleasures.

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