The Books Albums
I really do understand the concept of this band, which is very experimental in nature. Music by nature is just organized sound and the two songwriters in The Books Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong just take that to its most minimal and random point by sampling either guitar licks or naturally occurring noises (elevator dings, someone talking about unemployment, car horns, etc.). The point would then to turn it into music, which by its nature is some form of entertainment. How to make music into art is a controversial subject and this band succeeds at creating weird music, but even the most abstract thing can be interesting or successful. I believe The Books are true musical pioneers, and the way they lampoon our culture through digital means was far ahead of its time.
Nick Zammuto – Guitar, Vocals
Paul De Jong – Cello, Samples
Anne Doerner’s – Vocals
Lemon of Pink
Aphex Twin, Roxy Music, The Fugs, Authechre, Nick Drake, The Eels
Thought for Food – (4 / 5)
When they are good, I believe this band may be on to something with their unique brand of collage. “Read Eat Sleep” and “Getting the Done Job” are songs from a fractured state of mind, songs that are meant to be absorbed over time and almost serve as a form of ambient music. They flow along harmlessly, but there is a rock music base somewhere underneath. The genius moments such as “All Bad Ends All” and “All Your Base are Belong to Them” show off style of rock music that has never been achieved before, laid back but disturbing, threatening but heartwarming. There is a sense of humor that is present throughout, shown off gracefully in the intro to “Motherless Bastard” with a sample of a man telling a lost kid he is not her father and not to ouch him in public, followed by some form of bluegrass soloing.
Music such as this may well be the future of rock music, but The Books need an entire album worth of material to make their form of college / sample / juxtaposition of styles work. Songs such as “Excess Stousses”, “Contempt”, and “Thank You Branch” fail to achieve cohesion on a solid level. “Mickey Bass” while featuring some good bass playing, is pure filler. The last two tracks on the record are entertaining enough for the minute length they maintain, especially the aptly named “a Dead Fish Gains the Power of Observation”. The Books will hopefully prove to take their sound to the next level with an even longer record in the future.
Greatest Songs: All your Base Are Belong to Them, Getting the Done Job, All Bad Ends Well, Motherless Bastard
Lemon of Pink – (5 / 5)
On their second record, the duo of The Books creates something truly powerful. Like few bands before them, they have created something unique within the realm of rock music, emphasis on the word “music”. The collage / free form style on display her does not only mix genres, it dissects sounds into a sort of glue that holds together but is hardly recognizable. There are also straight forward samples layered thought out the songs to make them more entertaining, rooting the entire program in reality. Backward vocals are abundant (“S is for Evrysing”), the percussive nature of rock music is alive and well (“The Future Wouldn’t That Be Nice”, “There is no There”), and the group creates some memorable melodies (“Take Time”). The album is structured in an entertaining way, slowly bringing the listener in with openers “The Lemon of Pink One and Two” featuring vocalist Anne Doerner’s country music swoon, while then baffling them with the pure absurdity of “Tokyo”, a song that starts and stops at random intervals and displays ample guitar virtuosity.
A lot of the samples on record I recognize as vocal warm ups or teaching exercises, as maybe the group is mocking the concept of singing itself. Still, the more melodic approach of the record works wonders, as “Don’t Even Sing About it Comes off” sounds like a futuristic version of an Eels song. Great samples used include “with your eyes closed close your eyes / something unknown is doing I don’t know what” and these serve as lyrics to the ominous background of elegant cello and digital blips in “A True Story of True Love” which is De Jong’s masterpiece of sampling prowess. Short tunes such as “PS” and “!” highlight the satirical nature of making music in general and mixed with these strong tunes the album is the band’s masterpiece. It is comparable to Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden or Slint’s Spiderland in terms of an album that takes music in a new direction.
Greatest Songs: There is no There, A True Story of Love, Take Time, Lemon of Pink One
Lost and Safe – (3.5 / 5)
The Books return after two years with a more thought out, melodic album; in other words, songs they can play while on tour. The opening “A Little Longing Goes Away” is off-putting at first though emblematic of this new style, but most of the album does feel like a continuation of the previous album Lemon of Pink. Simplifying their approach, the gleeful sound of “Be Good to them Always” and “Smells Like Content” will definitely attract new fans. It’s funny for a while I always wanted The Books to sound more accessible, but now that they do I find myself craving the complexity of their earlier records. Many songs in the middle of the record fail to leave a lasting impression. Still, there is no arguing with the effectiveness of the dour mood of “None but Shining Hours”, or the effect ridden “If Not Now, Whenever”. Best of all, “An Owl with Knees” is a touching ballad that serves as a culmination of everything the band has done so far, showing off a knack for blending in with many artists in the 2000’s have started to copy their laptop / sample heavy style.
Greatest Songs: An Owl With Knees, Vogt Dig for Kloppervok, None but Shining Hours, Be Good to Them Always