Monday, June 15, 2015

The Move - Split Ends

Boy, I've been really busy and haven't had any time for these kind of things.  I've had time to buy records and listen to music, but just no time to get in the mood to write anything down.  Plus, sometimes when I'm in the mood to write something, I decide to listen to a bunch of things I've already written about.  So I'd have to either rewrite something, or add to it.  Both are easy enough to do, but I like the fact that these are all just what I was thinking about while I was listening to an album and I don't want them to get dumped and overwritten.

I wasn't a big fan of The Move when I was younger, and I'm probably still not a real big fan.  I think it's Jeff Lynne.  When I was a teenager I found him to be interesting as hell with ELO, but the older I got the less I like his wall of sound production.  Then I keep getting older and reading about music and people I think generally like decent music seem to say, "Yeah, I like The Move.  Lynne was a good complement to Roy Wood."  Now, I hear that Roy Wood is a bonafide weirdo, so I'm intrigued.  I go out and buy some albums by The Move.  I really only have two and they're both some kinds of compilations and ya know what?  I don't think there's any overlap of songs one them.  So that's kind of a nod to their strangeness, I suppose.

I like this one.  It's not as big and busy as an ELO album, and I was already familiar with Do Ya.  I think I mentioned liking it on Utopia's Another Live, and in the liner notes on that album Todd Rundgren mentions that the song is by The Move, not ELO.  I don't dislike the version by ELO, but it just doesn't have any charm.  It's just a big slap in the ears.  The Move does the song with plenty of production values, but it just has a sense of fun that's missing from the later ELO version.  I think Utopia actually lives up to the spirit of the original better.

I think that's important.  I understand that sincerity and integrity are two words that almost have no place in Rock music writing, but every song isn't trying to sit at the top of the charts and every song isn't trying to be high art.  Some songs just need to get out and fall in between high art and chart success.  Some songs just get a better break from another band's point of view or promotional machine.  Kind of like Hanging on the Telephone by The Nerves.  It's not high art, and it's just a little too raw to sit at the top of the charts.  Blondie came along and didn't pretty it up much, but just enough, and they had the promotional machine to make it successful.  I don't think any integrity or sincerity is lost in either version, because I don't think either group was trying to make a statement for the ages.

That's what I think about The Move.  They could have probably competed with the Pink Floyd's and King Crimson's of the word if they wanted to, but I think they weren't interested in pushing whatever envelopes those bands were busy pushing at.  A song like Down on the Bay has a weird kind of choogle like CCR, and some swell Chuck Berry riffs to carry it all along and get things going.  It's the kind of thing that if they had played it straight, it might have made the charts.  As it is, it doesn't really sound anything like either CCR or Chuck Berry, but they're in there. The Move seems more interested in seeing if they can make it more interesting and screw the charts.

California Man is probably better known to most of us as a Cheap Trick song.  Those guys strip the song to its elements.  The elements Cheap Trick strips out would be the artistic choices, and all they're left with is the hit potential.  The charm of the song is gone.  I think Outkast managed to pretty much steal big chunks of The Move's version of California Man for their song Hey Ya, which means Roy Wood was like forty years ahead of his time, and if he didn't get a check from Outkast, he should consider asking for one, because there's no way they didn't steal parts of it.  I have no idea if this is a known thing or if I'm just not familiar enough with Outkast (guess what - I'm not going to try to get familiar with them, either!), but that's what it sounds like to me.

I think the songs on this album kind of seem like either Jeff Lynne songs or Roy Wood songs.  Lynne's are easy to spot, we're all familiar with what he does and you either like him or you don't.  He may be a little reined in here and that may be what kept The Move from being huge.  Then again maybe Roy Wood was a little reined in, and that's why the Pink Floyd/King Crimson adulation never came.  As my friend's mom used to say (sort of in this case), "Shit or get off the pot!"  The Move does kind of seem stuck like a cat that can't decide whether to go out or stay in,

I kind of wish I had known these guys when I was 14, because I think I'd have liked them back when I only had ten or fifteen albums and the ones I had I knew pretty much like my own skin.  There's a lot to listen to here.  Not all of it is good, but none of it is bad.  It's almost all at least a little weird.  Not like weird Prog Rock time signatures, but you can hear the influence of the fifties, the influence of a modern studio and maybe the influence of drugs.  Lynne never made me think he was wasted very often, he seems like a pretty driven guy to me, and I don't think he has the time to be wasted.  Wood seems more like he would find altered mind states more useful, but I really think a guy like that would have had a hard time working with Lynne, and from things I've read it seems like Wood thought Lynne's ELO idea was a great one, even if he wasn't a part of it, and that Lynne should certainly pursue it.  If I'm understanding that right, then I'd think the guy was a pretty damned good friend and wasted people don't usually make the best friends when it comes to making decisions that may affect them adversely.

So here's a band I kind of wish I had caught on to sooner.  They may have been the kind of band that changed the way I think about music if I had spent a lifetime with them.  As it is, I didn't do that.  I like them.  I don't love them.  I think The Move is the kind of band that starts to set a person's record collection apart from other people.  Most of us have our favorites, and a lot of those overlap with other people we meet.  A lot of people today just steal music or stream absolutely anything they want any time they want, and I'm not saying those people aren't discerning listeners (maybe I am a little), but when you start getting to the records people have that they don't often play, but have no plans of ever getting rid of, that's where you find the real common ground.  You don't even have to like these kinds of records in someone else' record collection, because they let you know that this person listens to music.  They don't play music because they want to paint the bathroom, they play music to keep themselves happy and sane.  So these are the kinds of records where we may not share that common ground, but our little islands are close enough together that we can see that there's someone on our side.  Someone that gets it, even if what they get isn't the same thing as us.