Monday, July 19, 2010

album of the day: Tim Buckley

Okay, so, obviously enough I suppose, I found my way to Tim Buckley by investigating his batshit crazy son Jeff. Tim Buckley's musical career, some nine albums from 1966 to 1974, went from accessible, vaguely psychedelia-tinged, oddly mod folk-rock, to more and more experimental, inaccessible, and, I have to say, ultimately unlistenable idiosyncracy.

Today's album is his debut on Elektra, who signed him on the spectacular beauty and power of his voice, and the reasonable chops of these not overly impressive songs, described by Buckley's one-time co-writer and guitar sidekick Larry Beckett as "high school love songs." Well, I never wrote songs like that in high school. And I sure as hell couldn't perform them with the emotional maturity and force Buckley does.

That's not to say there aren't some pretty twee moments, utterly unnecessary chimes, thoroughly pointless backing orchestration, and so forth. But on balance, there's way more to recommend it. For instance: the driving rhythmic force of "I Can't See You" or of "Aren't You The Girl." There are also some strong lyrics in a few of the songs, for instance, probably my favorite on the album after "I Can't See You," this slightly impressionistic, and interesting synaesthetic bit, from "Strange Street Affair Under Blue":

You'd be touched if you would touch
But you only reach and taunt
Will my taste stay grey and blue
If I try to turn from you

The whole record was meant to be commercial, and although it wasn't as commercially successful as Buckley's second album, Goodbye and Hello, nor as adventurous in some respects, I think it scores over Goodbye and Hello for that very reason. Sometimes commercially savvy singer-songwriter pop with catchy tunes is really satisfying, when it's done well, conceived well, and especially sung well.

Like father, like son, I think. Both batshit crazy, tremendously talented singers and songwriters, both met tragically early ends.

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