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Various Artists - KCRW: Sounds Eclectic 3 Print E-mail
Tuesday, 11 January 2005

Various Artists

KCRW: Sounds Eclectic 3
format: 16-Bit Stereo CD
label: Palm Pictures
release year: 2005
performance: 9
sound 8
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

ImageIf you live in Southern California, you’re spoiled rotten. Just face it. That’s because you can flip on KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” every morning while driving (crawling?) in your car. Sure, you can also listen to this show’s streamed performances over the Internet. But there’s just something extra special about hearing live music on the radio -- especially since contemporary radio has become so limited and predictable. It’d be easy to find snooty fault with this third collection of KCRW radio performances. One could rightly point out, for instance, that very few of these artists are truly new, underground, or independent. And for some, hip edginess is what public radio is (or should be) all about. But from a music fan’s perspective alone, and with all prejudices set aside, this latest set of live takes is just plain good. So simply take in the wide variety of sounds contained within this disc, and I guarantee you’ll come away satisfied.

This latest KCRW installment opens with one of today’s kookiest musical guilty pleasures, The Polyphonic Spree. If you haven’t heard this act yet, it might best be described as a little bit like Teletubbies put to music. But that’s only approximating this unique outfit’s style, since there’s truly nothing else like it. There is a distinct childlikeness (not childishness, however) about its included track, “It’s The Sun.” This group has so many members -- numbering somewhere in the teens -- it must look closer to a traveling religious cult to some, rather than a band. It’s not strictly a rock band, however, as its sound includes the orchestration of horns, harp, and multiple vocals. Believe me, it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before. The CD closes with one of country/folk troubadour Steve Earle’s best songs, “Jerusalem.” Equipped with just his acoustic guitar, harmonica and road-worn raspy voice, Earle sends out a hopeful note that if peace can be found in this pivotal Israeli city, it can likely happen anywhere. In between these two diverse musical bookends, “Sounds Eclectic 3” contains 11 other fascinating, eclectic samples.

Some of these “live in-studio” tracks come off almost exactly like the originals, exemplified by Franz Ferdinand’s Xerox of its “Take Me Out” single.” However, the true fun comes with this set’s reinterpretations, such as The Flaming Lips’ geared-down, acoustic piano-based version of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1.” (Note: When I said The Polyphonic Spree is like nothing you’ve ever heard before, I should have mentioned that The Flaming Lips sometimes approximate what The Spree does. That’s because singer Wayne Coyne has the whole childlike thing going on big-time).

KCRW isn’t kidding, by the way, about how it is eclectic. It’d be rare to find many (any?) other CDs that contain modern-day Southern rock, such as is represented by My Morning Jacket’s “One Big Holiday,” next to something as vulnerable as Damien Rice’s ballad “The Blower’s Daughter.” But here these two strange bedfellows are, in all their diverse glory. Modern rock fans will immediately gravitate to Radiohead’s “Go to Sleep,” as well as Interpol’s “Untitled.” But artists like Iron & Wine and Jem, which aren’t exactly radio staples yet, are also included herein. It’s obvious that these tracks were chosen because somebody loved them, instead of being based upon their demographic appeal alone.

My advice to all you out-of-state-ers is to rob a bank, buy a SoCal house, and begin listening to Morning Becomes Eclectic every day. But if you can’t do that because, say, you don’t look good in a ski mask or your mom once told you it’s wrong to steal, then just buy this CD and wish you were here.

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