Tony Bennett, For the News Tribune
Time to once again get into the bite-sized morsels. This week, we're looking into quickies from former Duluthian Mary Bue and MR DR, which also features a former Duluthian by the name of Dave Mehling. Both Bue and Mehling are excellent songwriters who just know how to get down to business and be themselves and not fuss around too much, and they're both doing more of their relatively no-frills stuff on their new EPs.
By now, it's de rigueur for influential albums to get anniversary reissues. It's an easy way to force music fans into buying the same album again. All you need is a couple of bonus tracks to throw on there, and then you just check the mailbox for royalties.
When he was a young man, Ray Davies wrote like an old man. In his early 20s, he had already started penning odes to the way things were as the leader of The Kinks. "Where Have All the Good Times Gone," "The Last of the Steam-Powered Trains," "The Village Green Preservation Society" — these songs sat next to other ones about Queen Victoria and drinking tea and lost youth. It was as if Ray Davies had been born a wistful, sentimental codger.
It's been less than two years since we last heard from Glen's Neighbor in the form of their debut album, "Behind the Door." That record was one that was clearly indebted to the success of Trampled By Turtles, but it seemed to avoid the pitfalls of emulation, and the record succeeded on its own merits.
Around 1971, when Creedence Clearwater Revival was beginning their descent from one of the bands with the highest batting averages of all time into an ever-bickering permanent disaster and rock 'n' roll cautionary tale, John Fogerty decided to give up his mantle as the band's sole songwriter and invited (read: demanded) Doug Clifford and Stu Cook (his brother, Tom, had already quit by then) to share the workload of generating original material and singing it. The result? The final CCR album "Mardi Gras," widely regarded as one of the worst albums ever made by a once-great band.
Art doesn't have to challenge you, but it's at its best when it does. Often, art does its most important work on you while you're still deciding whether you like something or hate it, just before you suddenly realize this odd painting or song or film is actually something inspired and meaningful. Great albums are often like that — at first listen, they can inspire a double-you-tea-eff reaction that later morphs into an omigod-this-is-genius one.
If nothing else, the fact that Beaner's Central is this weekend releasing its 15th compilation album of live recordings that were made on the West Duluth coffee shop's stage in the 12 months preceding is a notable achievement unto itself. Sustaining an ongoing project like that over a decade and a half can't be easy.
In a lot of ways, it's tougher to be quiet than to be loud. When a band decides to unplug to whatever degree, all the dynamics change. You've got to rethink your approach. A guitarist who usually bashes away with his amp on 11 may not be able to adjust to acoustic strumming. A singer who depends on volume to break their voice up just right may suddenly sound completely different singing quietly.
In the basically perfect rock 'n' roll comedy film "This is Spinal Tap," characters David St. Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel decide at one point that there is a fine line between stupid and clever. It's a moment that has become famous and accepted as a truism. In the film, the band frequently crosses that line, and that's the source of a lot of the laughs.