From the Vinyl Vault - 5/31/19
Frankie - The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - Always Foreign (2017)
I’ve used this platform to talk about my undying love for The World Is A Beautiful Place twice before, and I guess third time’s the charm, because I’m here to tell you guys how much I still love TWIABP and their third full-length album Always Foreign. The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, the longwinded collection of musicians from New England, put out Always Foreign in 2017, and while their second album Harmlessness will always be my favorite of the three, this album still holds its own in fond memories and catchy choruses for me.
If I had to describe the tone of this third album, I would say it retains the post-emo roots it was born of, but the grand feelings of hopelessness they tried to grasp in previous albums seem to have a root in this more emotionally and politically driven album. As always, TWIABP members are masters at showcasing their insane musical skills; this album really shows how their once cacophonous sound has been harnessed into a more organized chaos, and all the ambient noise they are particularly good at generating has been imbued with intention to make a more well-rounded sounding album, and less like a recording of a live set.
Lyrically, TWIABP held tight to their politically driven theme, with sometimes-front man David Bello touching on his mixed heritage more than ever, especially in “Marine Tigers,” a song based on a book Bello’s father wrote about the hardships he faced moving from Puerto Rico to New York in the 1940’s. TWIABP, or whomever controls their twitter feed, is well known for their political banter and opinions on the social media site. They frequently still share clips of their song “January 10th, 2014” from their second album spliced over clips of white nationalist Richard Spencer being punched in the face by a bystander, particularly the lyrics “make evil afraid of evil’s shadow.” For them to eventually turn their anger and frustration about the political climate of the US, as well as their disgust at the blatant, unchecked inequality they see every day first hand and through their followers into a monumental album was no surprise to fans, and I think it’s something we all desperately wanted at the time.
I think Always Foreign is an incredibly important stepping stone for the band defining what they want to mean to the music industry. As calculated as they have become, we should all be looking out for what they do next. I picked up my copy of “Always Foreign” the same way I’ve picked up the rest: at a live show. I try to see TWIABP any time they come near me, but this particular time was a nostalgic show in Marietta, Ohio, basically where I grew up and just across the river from where Bello spent his youth as well. They played a tiny hometown organized music festival in a tiny theater space and it was one of the best shows I’ve seen them play. This copy is actually a European tour exclusive leftover, clear-blue with braun-green splatter, limited to 1,000 copies.
Michael - Robert Johnson - King of the Delta Blues Singers (1937)
If you were to ask me who the most singly influential musician has been in modern music, I would say Robert Johnson without hesitation. Robert Johnson is a man who's life has been somewhat shrouded in mystery and in that mystery, numerous tall tales have filled the space. Most common among them is that Johnson was but a novice guitar player initially in his life, who then went to the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil in order to become a master guitar player. Blues legend Son House has contributed somewhat to this legend with his recollection of a young Johnson as an "embarrassingly bad" guitar player that frequented juke joints looking to play, before he returned a year later and was a masterful player. In actuality, a dejected Johnson had sought out a mentor in Isaiah "Ike" Zimmerman and practiced in cemeteries at nighttime. However, whenever Johnson was asked about the rumors about his supposed deal with the devil, he did little to dispel them. In fact, one could argue he encouraged them with songs like "Cross Road Blues". Johnson's died at the age of 27, of causes unknown, some say he was poisoned by a jealous boyfriend of a lover he had taken, others suggest he died of syphilis. Not even the exact site of Johnson's tombstone is certain, as there are three tombstones that allegedly mark the spot.
So why would a blues musician whom so little is known about have such a profound impact on music? Well, he recorded approximately 29 songs. Some of which (17 to be exact) were assembled by John Hammond on this King of the Delta Blues Singers collection. The album was recorded in 1937 and released in 1961. While Johnson may have not had a profound impact outside of the Delta during his life, his reach after his death was limitless. He first influenced numerous other blues musicians such as Muddy Waters in their style and virtually revolutionized the genre. He also was a major influence for rock and roll as a genre, as he served as a major influence for Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan, and many more. Without Robert Johnson, many of the blues and rock musicians that have been so influential to alt, alt-rock, alt-country, and other genres would likely not exist in their present form.
I don't have a special story for how I acquired this record, I just have always wanted it for my blues collection. I ended up finding it on eBay from a record store. When it arrived I was surprised to discover it was a picture disc. It may be hard to believe, but this is actually the first picture disc in my gigantic record collection. I'm glad it's one that I finally have, because it's been on my list for a long while now.