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12 May 2010

Tim Buckley (Elektra)

In my reality, the best crooners wear checked jackets and sport turtlenecks, white pants and a whitefro. You throw together Jack Nietzche, Van Dyke Parks and a 19-year old Tim Buckley and you're gonna get something at least interesting, if not earth-shattering. I know this Buckley record the least of his work, or at least as little as I know Goodbye and Hello (because I've never found a copy). But it's solid, though still in the whole 60's singer-songwriter style. About half of the songs are co-written with someone named Beckett (Samuel?) and they are given that warm, soulful production technique that always makes me think "mainstream". Plus, these liner notes are so awesome I'm gonna paste 'em verbatim:
Tim Buckley, an incredibly thin wire, just nineteen-years-old, is already a kind of quintessence of nouvelle, the sensitivity apparent in the very fineness of his features. The man is a study in fragile contrasts: yet everything is in key, precise. His songs are exquisitely controller: quiet, complex mosaics of powerful electric sound, they hold the magic of Japanese water colors. The voice - crisp, full of strength and character, can soar, yet remain tender and delicate. This is Tim Buckley.
This sums it up better than the Underbite could ever hope to say. There's little to jump out at me as this lacks the freedom of his later records, but the strings are dark and mournful and his voice has the sophistication that lends a gravitas to even creepy songs like 'Song Slowly Song' (though singing about a 16 year old girl ain't so bad if you're only 19 yourself, but how old was Beckett)? The melancholia that I love in Buckley is present, but buried a bit - or rather, as he hasn't really come into his own yet, it doesn't feel like his melancholia yet, but a generic sort. In some ways the blurb above feels more like a prediction of his future records than a description of this one - specifically the watercolour thing, which really comes to life once he shakes off steady rhythms and lets things roll. Van Dyke is pretty much just a session musician, though his harpsichord is pretty when you can hear it. Imagine how amazing a full-fledged songwriting collaboration would have been between these two? Move over Smile, cause the one thing I've always wanted from Tim Buckley was for him to be singing cryptic layered word-poems that gesticulate about American landscapes, political discontent and the fleeting inevitability of moments past. Or maybe a Samuel Beckett/VDP/Buckley collaboration would be an even greater rock music what-if jackoff. But yeah, I'm sad to say that this self-titled record gets filed back after this one listen because I'm just psyched to hear Blue Afternoon and Happy Sad again.

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