nedjelja, 3. kolovoza 2014.

OP8 - Slush (1998)

Jedan od najboljih albuma ikada. Lisa Germano + Calexico + Howe Gelb.

The cover reads "OP8 featuring the ilk of Lisa Germano," and on the surface, Slush is simply a collaboration between Arizona's Giant Sand (aka OP8) and L.A.-based singer/songwriter (and part-time Eel) Germano. More than just a mostly successful merging of musical minds, the album also serves as a convenient -- and accessible -- introduction to the sometimes-more-difficult/darker work these artists have done elsewhere, as Giant Sand, Calexico, Howe Gelb solo, and of course, Germano solo. The concept works best when Gelb and Germano, both fine and distinctive singers in their own right, take over the vocal duties. When the more understated Joey Burns (Calexico) sings, however, as on "Lost in Space," the momentum falters a bit. Fortunately, such instances are rare. Germano's "If I Think of Love," for instance, is an especially pretty pop song (and considerably more upbeat than her usual neo-gothic fare), whereas the delirious cover of "Sand," which opens the recording, is so exquisite as to make up for the occasional dull or listless patch. Germano and Gelb are -- or were, at any rate -- the ideal postmodern Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. The dreamy version of Neil Young's "Round and Round," which brings things to a close, is also worthy of note. Sadly, Slush turned out to be a one-off project, much like Polly Jean Harvey and John Parish's Dance Hall at Louse Point, which was released the previous year. And that isn't as random a comparison as it may seem, since all of these artists (Gelb, Harvey, et al.) have collaborated with each other at one time or another. Well, one can always hope for a reunion of at least some of them.- -

Giant Sand was an Arizona country rock band, but they did noise rock and all sorts of things. And it was run by a guy named Howard Gelb from the early 80s. Calexico were the rhythm section and they got better and better, then in the late 90s they were starting to do their own records - they basically took all the stuff that was a mess out of Giant Sands and came out of it with all that was exciting and messy and confrontational and confusing, and with this rather streamline, borderline dessert rock. And that album was made under the name OP8 just as they were separating. The Calexico blokes, the Giant Sand guy and Lisa Germano… it was like they were trying to outdo each other, almost. They really get the best out of each other. I really love Howe Gelb, the guy from Giant Sand. He just seems to get on with his own thing irrespective of whether it's going to work out or not. About 10 years ago he made quite a mainstream country rock album that was supposed to be coming out on Virgin, and one of the songs got used on a Coke Cola advert. When he came to tour here, he'd been written about as the godfather of alternative country, and he opened at the Spitz in front of all these people that had never seen him before with a 20 minute lecture about the economics of being in a touring rock band with flip charts whilst playing snatches of sounds from tape recorders. Then those people drifted away and he was left with the people he felt he wanted to play to. Anyway, OP8's Slush is one of his best records really, I think, because he was in conflict with people around him and it brought the best out of him.
When Virgin dropped his record Chore Of Enchantment, he really thought about chucking it in and he canvassed opinion from people who had written about him as to what he should do. I got into a very long email dialogue with him, because it was at the same time I had been doing a show for BBC 2 with Richard Herring, and we used to come out of touring losing money, and I didn't really know how to carry on. We ended up talking each other into carrying on some level by trying to work out the economics of it. So it's not just one of my favourite records, it's also about a period where I was trying to work out what to do.
Slush is like a country record, but it's got all these smoggy, swampy, dense textures over it. I know it's a cliché, but it feels like being in a dream. Joey Burns plays stand-up bass like a cocktail lounge, then Gelb's pianos are all like Thelonious Monk, but there's all this scrappy electric guitar noise in it as well. So it's a great record.- Stewart Lee

When Americans come to Ireland, they usually have one priority, to have a drink of the black stuff. US rock bands aren’t much different to their compatriots. When I met OP8 in Whelan’s before their first ever Irish gig, Joey Burns of Giant Sand (who make up three quarters of OP8) told me why he was eager to come here with the band.
"I’ve always wanted to come here, not only just to play and relate to everyone, but so that John (Convertino), the drummer could finally taste a real pint of Guinness, which Lisa’s doing right now without me. It’s almost sacrilege."
Which is exactly what Lisa Germano, 4AD songstress and former John Mellencamp fiddle-player (who makes up the final quarter of OP8) was doing. Her tiny frame dwarfed by the large pint in her hand. But then, this wasn’t her first trip to Ireland, she played here only a year and a half ago, so she’s familiar with the black stuff.
OP8 were formed out of a solo project Lisa was to do for 4AD. She called up her friends in Giant Sand and asked them if they would do it with her. Obviously they agreed and they recorded 3 songs in a day and a half. The 4AD project didn’t work out, but they enjoyed working together so much that they decided to see if they could get someone to finance a whole record. In stepped Richard Branson’s new label V2. While they didn’t get much money, they managed to record the rest of the album in 6 days. 4AD gave them the rights to the original recordings and "Slush" was created.
The eclectic mix of styles is due to the eclectic mix of people involved in the whole project. Ivo of 4AD wanted Lisa to do "Round and Round" as part of the original project. Then Giant Sand brought the idea of recording Lee Hazelwood’s "Sand", an old Nancy Sinatra track with them. They had wanted to record the track themselves, but the idea of Giant Sand recording "Sand" seemed "a little hokey". The third song in the original project was Lisa’s own, as it was her project.
When they decided to make the album, all four members brought songs to the melting pot and OP8 was born. One of the tracks the three members of GS brought with them was an instrumental track they had recorded a year before, "the OP8 theme."
According to Joey, they all had a really good time working together. "We always have a kinda daydream idea goin’ on. So, it just worked out in the best ways of timing and being a natural work together."
So what does "Slush", the name of the album mean to the different members of the band? An ironic statement on the non-slushy nature of the tracks or something else? To Lisa it’s just slush, while Joey claimed it’s shit melted, or is it?
"We live in Tucson, the record was recorded in Tucson and at the time the idea of the band name and the thing we were doing seemed like an opiate slush. Something that would cool the senses for a mass amount of people."
Lisa just thinks it works well - like a slushy ice-cream.
"It’s got all these different colours in it. So, it’s just kind of a mish-mash of stuff."
For Lisa the project was a nice break from doing her own stuff which is usually very personal. Joey was surprised by this.
"You like playing our songs?"
"I have to say yes, it’s on tape."
"Aw, shucks."
"I love it, it’s fun to distance yourself from certain things."
Another aspect of the project they particularly liked was that, at different points on the tour, they were playing to each other’s crowds. Giant Sand are particularly well-known in Germany, where they have played 8 times over the last 7 years, while Lisa is better known here and in Britain and, as they found out on the tour, in France and in Scandinavia. Joey enjoyed the change.
"It’s different, I like being able to play to different people that you normally wouldn’t play to."
While OP8 is more than just Lisa Germano with Giant Sand, the fact it was advertised as such didn’t annoy them. In fact they particularly liked the money-saving aspects of it, in that the ads for OP8 were also ads for the different members. Joey compared it to how the Wu-Tang Clan do things.
"Their idea is that when everyone does their solo projects, by the time everyone comes together to do the next Wu-Tang album, all the side projects have been advertising and promotion without even having to pay for anything. So, it’s great. It’s almost like tapping into this wealth of music that normally would be singular, is more plural."
That is a situation of which the members of GS regularly take advantage. OP8 isn’t their only side-project. Part of the reason for this is to be able to do things without being saddled with expectations of what GS should be doing. According to Joey, the other main reason is the input the various members have in different projects.
"Giant Sand has been a band since a long time before John or I were in it, Howe (Gelb) started it in the ‘80s. It really is his outlet for him to do his own thing. Calexico is more for John and Joe to do their own thing, and OP8 is more of a 4-way split between the 3 members, John, Joe and Howe, and the 4th member."
So, is there going to be a future for OP8? No definite plans have been made as yet.
Lisa was the fourth member this time, but "next time, maybe Clint Eastwood, or god knows who, maybe Lisa again. Or, maybe we’ll do something else with Lisa and we’ll call it something completely different."
At the moment, it seems like the popularity of OP8 is out-stripping that of Giant Sand and Lisa Germano put together. If it does, will they be able to ignore the inevitable calls to repeat the same formula? - Donnacha DeLong

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