Thursday, March 28, 2013

One last Fiona Apple (and John Lennon) comment

One last Fiona Apple comment here before I move onto other musical interests (whether or not I end up blogging about them).  I earlier offered Carole King as my 1960s-era comp for her, and that seemed logical enough at the time, but now I think that in some ways a better comp is John Lennon's classic 1970 Plastic Ono Band album.  This and Fiona's work have in common a certain rawness, tone, and personal set of topics often focused on bad things from the past, sometimes even extending to the sound, e.g., use of the piano (and I gather that she has called Lennon a major musical influence).

That said, Fiona's work is more musical and varied, and clearly (for my money) better overall than the Plastic Ono Band album, which reaches some great heights but also is plodding and dull at times.  While I have a high estimate of Lennon's musical gifts, they were actually more limited than hers for this genre.

And don't even get me started (as I seem to be transitioning here from a Fiona post to a John post) on Lennon's later solo work.  Take the song Imagine, which still stands today, more than 40 years after its release, as a true pinnacle of vapid soppiness.  Interesting to put that song on the same album as one that denounced McCartney for writing "Muzak to my ears."  And I more generally get the sense that Lennon must have vowed, when the Beatles broke up, that he would never again play with any good musicians, and that if perchance he did (since he was friends with several), he would make sure they didn't play well for him.  Even when he wanted to layer on a candy topping for his later work, extending through Double Fantasy, which at times he did, he seems to have lacked any particular flair for making it interesting.

It's clear in retrospect that his Beatles work heavily relied on the musicality that McCartney, Harrison, and George Martin were able to layer on top of it (although Lennon was a remarkably great guitarist despite his technical limitations).  But of course he contributed the core of intermingled candor, obliqueness, absurdism, and free-floating vitriol that still make his best Beatles songs seem like they were dropped in from another planet, even though they have been played endlessly for decades.

OK, back to Fiona Apple.  I look forward to her next album, perhaps in 2018 or so, and we will see whether she starts losing it with age as so many others have.

The main thing that I am eagerly awaiting at the moment is the Wrens' projected follow-up to their 2003 classic, The Meadowlands.

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