Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"I Got a Problem"

Talk about getting blindsided by history. Is this really what 1986 sounded like? I think back on that year as being Life’s Rich Pageant and True Stories. I think of Husker Du and U2 – big sounds. Even for Neil Young completists, Landing On Water is often overlooked. It was his next-to-last record on Geffen, the one between the country-ish Old Ways and the wrong-headed Life. Listening to it now, it seems to have split the difference between the rock of Reactor and the retardo-futuristic kraut-disco robotics of Trans. But on Landing On Water the drums are turbo charged, man-made, with Steve Jordan bashing away on trashy toms. (It’s only Neil, Jordan and co-producer Danny Kortchmar, on guitars and synths). I’ve sometimes found Jordan’s playing, admirably stripped down as it is, to still be over-energetic. It’s that same hopped-up vibe that makes this interesting.
It was in 1986, in fact, that I spent a weekend at a Zen monastery in Japan, for a school project (I was in high school there at the time.) I remember thinking that maybe, instead of actually writing a paper on Zen and my experience, I might simply turn in a blank page to demonstrate how much I’d learned. It was a bad idea and I’m glad I didn’t do it. I almost succumbed to the same specious logic here, figuring that I needn’t say anything on a post of Neil’s "I Got a Problem." It speaks for itself. It’s music that has a problem. Every time I hear this song, I think of "A Love Supreme," a bonehead version as rendered by Bob the Builder.
I interviewed the frontman of French Kicks earlier this year. We started talking about what he’d been listening to, and he said that he’d been particularly into Landing On Water and that he found the production and overall aesthetic to be similar to the French Kicks approach. A lot of people got problems.

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