Sunday, 29 November 2020

Safe As Milk - Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band


Provenance: My Dad is a big Zappa fan, so as a consequence had a couple of Beefheart releases that included some degree of Zappa participation - the joint Zappa/Beefheart album Bongo Fury and the Zappa-produced Beefheart release Trout Mask Replica.

Nevertheless, I came to Beefheart fairly late, and mostly through reading about him. I think I needed this primer, because the one time I put Trout Mask Replica on as a teenager, I was left utterly flummoxed. Granted, I didn't have the most adventurous taste in music, and even now I am not sure as to whether I would derive much enjoyment from listening to it; TMR just seemed too wilfully weird.

Having read about it, I now think I'd get some appreciation at what was being attempted, and possibly its execution. But a few albums really caught my eye - Bat Chain Puller (Shiny Beast), Clear Spot and this, their debut - Safe As Milk. So now I own all three.

Review: On one level, and at least if you were only paying attention to the first three or four songs, you might be tempted to file it alongside the slew of other blues-rock bands emerging from both sides of the Atlantic during the mid-1960s; certainly, at the chewier end of the spectrum, but not a million miles from either the Pretty Things, Rising Sons or Canned Heat. 

Yet it's there from the very first moments; there's a slightly manic edge to the voice intoning "I was born in the desert / Came on up from New Orleans / Came upon a tornado / Sunlight in the sky." Those lyrics! They both hang together, and yet don't make much sense at all. And once the slide guitar gives way to the full band in clattering form, there's both a precision to the playing and a shiftiness where rhythm is concerned that sets it apart. 'Sure 'Nuff 'N Yes I Do' both sounds like the archetypal sixties bloozer and an observation of the genre through the proverbial looking glass.

There follows five more tracks of excellent, if twisted, takes on blues and pop in the period mould. Sometimes, such as on 'Dropout Boogie', the fuzz guitar and Beefheart's hyper-guttural vocal grant the music an air of snarling menace; on others, such as 'Zigzag Wanderer', the jingle-jangle of the Byrds is played with more swing and abandon than McGuinn, Hillman et al could ever muster. Then follows a trio of tracks so extraordinary that I don't think such a sequence was matched on any other release from 1967, and possibly thereafter.

First up is the electric jugband stomp of 'Electricity', Beefheart's strained, strangulated vocals stretching out atop the futuristic bore of a theremin. The theremin is both a perfect instrument to take the lead in a song titled 'Electricity', and also utterly incongruent with the hoedown jigging along behind it. It's mad, it shouldn't work, and of course it comes together.

Next is 'Yellow Brick Road', so saccharine you'd take pause before playing it to a diabetic, with cloying lyrics like "Bag of tricks and candy sticks / Peppermint kite for my toy." I vividly recall the first time I heard the chorus come crashing in, with the force and seeming heaviness of death metal, Beefheart's voice transformed from twee songster to the cavernous roar of an explosion in a mine shaft, "Yellow brick, black on black / Keep on walking and don't look back". Underneath, a roll of toms rumbles like thunder; at once, the tone is ominous, fearful and uncomfortable.  

Finally, the piece de resistance - 'Abba Zaba'. This one short track seems to contain all the music one could ever wish to hear. The lyrics seem to come from the Marc Bolan "hubcap diamond star halo" school of writing, yet conceptually come together to make more sense on an imagistic level than anything T.Rex ever accomplished. Simply put, 'Abba Zaba' sounds nothing like anything else going on at the time; the percussion alone, courtesy of John French, makes you wonder whether his DNA was spliced with octopus. I believe it was French who once described Ry Cooder's guitar over the third verse as "taking off like a bird, just floating over the melody", and it's spot on. All this whilst guitars whirr and crash, Beefheart and co. chanting about 'Babette Baboon'. 

Who else could've done this?

The rest of Safe As Milk contains stellar performances; the gritty, harmonica-driven 'Plastic Factory' sounding like a blueprint for Tom Waits' gnarlier moments and 'Grown So Ugly' turning the blues into math-rock. Yet none of this possesses the difficulty - and seeming obscurantism - of Trout Mask Replica. It's perfectly accessible pop music, if one accepts that a steady beat and tonal consistency don't have to be part and parcel of the deal. But Safe As Milk is much more than that - for me, it remains one of the most essential releases of the era, entirely identifiable with the experimentation of late 1960s acid rock and psychedelia yet almost a goad to other bands, as if to say "see? You can take it further and still make music people can sorta groove to." Tip top entertainment.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

OMG! Dein Body Ist So Heiß - Loona featuring Ko & Ko


It was six hours ago, but I've already forgotten. Six hours ago, I stared into the inky blackness of the Spotify interface, and the abyss stared back.

This is the abyss - 'OMG! Dein Body Ist So Heiß', by Loona ft. Ko & Ko.

Yes, it had really come to this. The darkly gnomic utterances of Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz buzzed in my mind as my finger hovered.

Six hours ago, I did not have this grim knowledge. And even now, I cannot tell you how this came to be, save that I was chasing a thread through Wikipedia and ended up being confronted with a discography containing a single glorying in the name of 'OMG! Dein Body Ist So Heiß'.

Come on now, I hear you say, it's a rum business mangling up Nietzsche and Apocalypse Now! to cheap effect. It's nicht so schlecht, surely? And yeah, in one sense it's just one piece of music from a digital jukebox that I can switch off in the blink of an eye. Furthermore, it's gotta be just some throwaway Euro-pap, one bopper amongst many that you hear as you sip your watered-down margarita poolside. A mote of dust, drifting in a Balearic morning sky.

Here's the deal; it's not as bad as going up the Mekong to terminate a rogue officer with extreme prejudice, but nor can this be written off as mere sub-Vengaboys pabulum. It's bad, very bad. Aggressively, offensively bad. I'm not entirely convinced that this isn't the stray product of a top secret psy-op loosened unwittingly into the world. The bleakest corners of the MKUltra project didn't harbour such crimes as this.

So what do Loona (for it is she) and this pair of ridiculous middle-aged popinjays conjure up? Well, I've been lucky enough to experience a wedding in Romania and a boat cruise in North Macedonia, and the common factor between them was turbo-folk. In a world where electro-swing exists, turbo-folk still reigns supreme as the single shittiest genre of music ever devised. The late Barry White farting into a bathtub is more appealing. 

Turbo-folk is the unholy alliance of what is typically upbeat or lively folk melody with electronic, often synthesised instrumentation, with a club-friendly BPM pumped underneath it all. This is even more wretched than that, being some mutant version - turbo-polka or turbo-oompah, maybe. I speak the most rudimentary German imaginable, but even if I was beaten half to death with a weißwurst my two functioning brain cells would still be able to parse the idiotic lyric, blatted out here by Loona in a vocal drenched in robotic autotune. Ko & Ko's role is obscure, save for the odd vocal interpolation - one wonders which brother pressed play on the Casio demo function to excrete this tune?

At best, I can say that 'OMG! Dein Body Ist So Heiß' resembles music inasmuch as the sounds are fashioned into a recognisable song structure. That's your lot. I'm off now to listen to something far less depressing, like Suicide's 'Frankie Teardrop'. Tschüß!

Sunday, 15 November 2020

La Futura - ZZ Top


Provenance: By the time I wound up getting this album I was already a hardcore ZZ Top fan. Big into the albums and a few years away from being thoroughly disappointed by a lacklustre live performance at Wembley Arena.

(The Wembley gig, which I attended with my friend Sandy, sucked. The Arena a bit of a pain to get to on public transport, isn't it? Once there, I went through a screening process more rigorous than at most international airports and then spent £14 on two beers.

Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel was the support act, and although his ragged bellowing was fun for a while, he failed to do 'Seven Days', his best solo track. ZZ Top were worse; Billy Gibbons can move about but can't sing, whilst Dusty Hill can sing but can barely move.

After little over an hour, including covers of 'Sixteen Tons' and 'Jailhouse Rock' - a song that nobody ever needs to cover, ever again - the Top shuffled off stage and the lights came on. Sandy hoped that the second half would be better, but it was clear to me that they'd stuck a fork in it. Sixty-five, seventy minutes at a push? Eye-watering ticket prices and untold hassle? Cheers guys. Frustrated, we headed to the much-missed Big Red bar, saw a cracking metal act for free, and were able to get a pint under a fiver.)

Review: I don't know what everybody else was expecting from ZZ Top in 2012 but kicking off La Futura with a cover of a 1989 Houston hip-hop track possibly wasn't one of them. Yet ZZ Top have never been afraid to go off-piste, from individual oddities such as 'Manic Mechanic' from Deguello right the way through to fusing synthesizers and drum machines with southern boogie, practically inventing their own genre with Eliminator. So repurposing DJ DMD and the Inner Soul Clique's '25 Lighters' into 'I Gotsa Get Paid' - a nice nod to 'Just Got Paid', no? - shouldn't really set any eyebrows heading north. 

In fact, if one wasn't aware of its background, you'd just think it was another great raging slab of ZZ Top's smoke 'n' chrome hard rock that's been their hallmark since Rhythmeen. Crucially, both 'I Gotsa Get Paid' and the chugging blueser 'Chartreuse', tracks uno y dos, are simply better than anything from previous album Mescalero; an album that had its charms, not least the preponderance of Spanglish in the lyrics, but was ultimately too sprawling, flabby and unfocused for its own good.

Here, though, ZZ Top have enlisted Rick Rubin, which means two things - no excess, and a back-to-basics sound. So, aside from a few guitar overdubs, what one hears on La Futura is the basic rock combo formula of guitar, bass, drums and voice. There's the odd extra flourish here and there - the rather ponderous ballad 'Over You' fleshes out its sound with a much needed keyboard, for example - but insofar as these elements are used sparingly, it's a strikingly similar setup to that of ZZ Top's best album, Tres Hombres.

Accommodations have been made for time passed, however. Billy Gibbons, one of the more instantly recognisable guitarists out there, plays with gusto in that choppy, greasy style that makes ZZ Top records so goddamn fun, but he's quite obviously close-mic'd to allow for deficiencies in the voice department. But it's good! In fact, the additional sandpaper to a voice already coloured with road rash makes everything sound ten percent meaner and sleazier than would otherwise be the case. Sticking with performances, my only real bugbear is that Frank Beard still demonstrates some tasty stick work but it's nowhere near as creative as the rhythms he was banging out before Eliminator. Go back and give those old platters a spin and you'll hear some chewy, fiddly drum figures. Beard was (is?) a superb drummer with a great pocket feel. On La Futura the latter is in evidence, but it lacks finesse.

(I remember playing 'Just Got Paid' with my former band, and easily the most taxing aspect of recreating the feel of the original was getting the drum pattern right. Fortunately, that's nothing to do with me, guv!)

If one or two numbers can be a bit samey - just how many times can you chop and change the blues? - it's alright, there's enough variety elsewhere to maintain interest, and at a hair under forty minutes La Futura is well-paced. I was surprised a couple of times - 'Flying' High' had an almost power-pop feel to it, and the best track was a little unexpected. I've often been underwhelmed when ZZ Top slow things down, yet the molasses-crawl of 'It's Too Easy Manana' possesses an authoritative, anthemic quality and one of the more characterful vocal deliveries on the joint. Mescalero was rotten with these songs, which, when coupled with its hour plus run time, dragged the thing into a swamp. Here, the two strollers act as welcome interludes.

All things said and done, La Futura isn't going to cause ships to capsize, but it's a very good addition to the ZZ Top canon. Stripping back their sound exposes the dirty innards of the engine, and they sound all the better for doing so; I don't think there's a skeevier intro around than the sound of Gibbons' guitar revving up on 'I Don't Wanna Lose, Lose You'. A triumph, then - and certainly more rewarding than the live experience. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Hourglass special edition


As we're back into lockdown (not that I was ever going to do anything spectacular on a Wednesday night anyway), I thought I'd try something a little different. I hope you like it, and if so, I might repeat the trick until it becomes boring for both myself and you, dear reader.

Thanks to science, we now know that popular music has existed since at least 1967, and possibly even further back than that. What we do know is that, since then, we as a species have made up for lost time by banging drums, twanging guitars and hollering into microphones to try to please each other with cool sounds and pleasant vibes. 

Another imperative that humanity follows is a yen for organising; the biggest, the quickest, the longest - and the best. As a seasoned music listener of many years standing, I feel there are few people on this planet better placed than myself to make the final judgement on 'best song ever'. My friends, it is my honour and privilege to inform you that the greatest piece of music to flow from the hands and minds of this race is...

'Hourglass' by Squeeze.

And yet, despite Squeeze being the definitive authors and performers of a song called 'Hourglass', Spotify reveals oodles of contenders, all with their own 'Hourglass' song. Thusly, I have decided to review the top ten 'Hourglass' tracks on Spotify, and in a Swinetunes first, actually score out of ten. Here goes!

Artist: Squeeze
Song: 'Hourglass'
Not only the best song about possibly drowning a puppy, but it narrowly edges out Boney M's 'Rasputin' as the apogee of musical genius. This is what Phil Collins wished he wrote when he came up with second-rate pabulum 'In The Air Tonight', which is of course about watching a man drown and doing nothing to help. 10/10

Artist: Catfish and the Bottlemen
Song: 'Hourglass'
More heavy breathing and out-of-tune acoustic guitar than I'd ideally like. The dude singing sounds like a real dweeb and this is boring as fuck. Cold, mushy baby food music. Too much bleating about missing someone, quite frankly, and zero references to potentially drowning a puppy or a man. 2/10

Artist: Lamb of God
Song: 'Hourglass'
Holy shit, I remember these guys absolutely tearing it up at my student union. This one's from 2004, so there's every chance that I brang the ruckus in the pit to this particular 'Hourglass'. Much better than the simpering Catfish et al., because this is full of slamming riffs and head-snapping tempo changes. Frontman Randy Blythe also killed a guy by accident, which is one-up on Phil Collins, who simply watched a man drown. 8/10

Artist: S U R V I V E
Song: 'Hourglass'
No, I'm definitely not typing that name out again. This is a (mostly) instrumental synthwave track with a tense, nervy undertone to it. Great music if you're sweating over Nikkei movements on your pager or whatever people got up to back in the day. Actually pretty cool, drop this in between Skinny Puppy and Killing Miranda at your local goth night, grim good times guaranteed. 7/10

Artist: A Perfect Circle
Song: 'Hourglass'
I have dim memories of listening to A Perfect Circle back in the day - I guess it's the band you whacked on if TooL were proving a bit too intense? Anyway, this sounds terrible. It's just fundamentally shit in so many ways, like the worst bits of Depeche Mode, Clutch and Porcupine Tree being played through the speaker of a 56k dial-up modem. 3/10

Artist: Mammal Hands
Song: 'Hourglass'
Initially comes across like the soundtrack to a British Airways business class lounge advert, it at least has the good grace to transform into a more interesting piece of music about two minutes in. It just isn't unhinged enough for my palate; one is just waiting for the saxophonist to go full-King Crimson, but even at its flightiest there's still too much taste and restraint. I'd watch these guys at Love Supreme, though. 5/10

Artist: Disclosure, LION BABE
Song: 'Hourglass'
Deep house really isn't my thing, but as far as I can tell this is a pretty good R&B-influenced joint. This would be a lot of fun whomping out of a bass sub in your car boot whilst you cruise around the shitty market town you've called home your entire worthless life. 5/10

Artist: Rodrigo Amarante
Song: 'Hourglass'
Do you remember that song 'Your Woman' by White Room? That's what this 'Hourglass' reminds me of, except it substitutes that nice vintage horn hook for a wonky old synth sound. Regardless, I'm rather taken with this, it packs in a whole host on neat musical tricks and your man sounds like the singer of the Narcos theme song. 8/10 [Edit: it is the guy who sings 'Tuyo' from Narcos!]

Artist: Motionless In White
Song: 'Hourglass'
This is metalcore, aye? Fine. Production wise, I can only assume whomever helmed the desk just loathes music with a passion, as there's simply no excuse for this sonic hodgepodge. There are more effects slathered on the vocals than on David Lee Roth's 'Skyscraper'. Any pretence towards aggression are undercut by the chucklehead keyboards that sound like they were surgically grafted from the Damned when they thought they were goths. 2/10

Artist: Set It Off
Song: 'Hourglass'
"Is-tan-bul - Con-stan-tin-ople!" Ballsy move to start off a track with that melody - in this economy. What a strange duck this track is; it's got a giddy, queasy feeling to it in places, coming on like a cyberpunk Ricky Martin. Trust me, that's good! It's just a shame that the big chorus hook aims for, and almost achieves, the bland catchiness of a mid-90s boy band banger. Ah well - an attempt was made. 6/10

And there you have it. The most listened to 'Hourglass' on Spotify, that of Squeeze fame, is, perhaps not coincidentally, also the best. It easily crushes its opposition through its jubilant horn riffs, cod-funk guitars and chanted, percussive choruses. My advice to any musician looking to write a tune called 'Hourglass' is this - don't. You'll only draw negative attention to yourself on blogs like this, read by tens of people (hi Mum!).

Sunday, 8 November 2020

License To Kill - Malice


Provenance: Another present, either birthday or Christmas (one arrives hot on the heels of the other, alas), but not anything out of the blue. I had included this on some list or another. Why, I'm not so sure, but it's called License To Kill and the band's name is Malice, all of which is suitably metal.

Having said that, what a bait 'n' switch it is to call yourself Poison, a very cool name, only to dribble out crap like 'Unskinny Bop'. Any other examples spring to mind? If you were going solely on the cover art, you'd expect Molly Hatchet to sound like Manowar instead of workaday southern boogie. Meat Loaf falls into this category a little, doesn't he? Quite metal album art, songs that sound like showtunes. 

Incidentally, if you're stuck with buying me a gift, an album or two always does the trick. Not hinting at anything, but yeah, just think about it.

Review: Thank fuck Malice don't sound like Poison.

Thank fuck, instead, that License To Kill sounds like a cross between Riot, Ratt, Y&T and especially Killing Machine era Judas Priest. In fact, on opener 'Sinister Double' I felt compelled to (sinister) double check the liner notes to make sure Priest main man Rob Halford didn't have a hand in any of the wailing. This is meant as nothing other than a compliment to actual vocalist James Neal (Halford is my favourite metal vocalist), and his performances throughout are consistently excellent.

More good news - License To Kill is fat free, coming in at a taut thirty-nine minutes-and-change; it's nine tracks of beefy heavy metal with nary an acoustic moment or prog flourish to be seen. It's a diesel-charged, palm-muted chuggathon with all the elements for a rollicking good time present and correct: sticky hooks, laser-cut guitar soloing and positively brobdingnagian power chords festoon the nine tracks on offer here.

If I could offer the most muon-sized criticism, it's that Malice, on the basis of License To Kill at least, sound so comfortable because they remind you of other bands you probably also like. I've already mentioned how close Neal cleaves to Halford in the screaming stakes; in addition, some of the guitar tones resemble those of Dokken's George Lynch; and there's a moment in the intro to 'Chain Gang Woman' where the whole package comes together to sound like vintage Motley Crue. (Incidentally, 'Chain Gang Woman' features backing vocals by Daves Mustaine and Ellefson of Megadeth fame, alongside Jaime St. James(!) and Jeff Warner(!!) from Black 'N' Blue(!!!!), and current Kiss guitarist / Easter Island head life model Tommy Thayer - wowza!).

The star of the show is the title track, 'License To Kill', which could have easily been one of the stronger cuts on Priest albums like Point of Entry or even Screaming For Vengeance. See what I mean? Even when praising them, I can't help but slip into comparisons with other, better known, acts. Failure to establish a distinct identity may have been what ultimately holed Malice below the waterline, because on the basis of License To Kill alone they should've been a force. Nonetheless, it's 2020 and here I am thoroughly enjoying the whip-crack riffage of 'Breathin' Down Your Neck', so by no means can we consider this enterprise a failure.

Frankly, any metalhead worth his, her or their salt should own a copy of License To Kill. It combines so many classic and recognisable aspects of what built the genre in the first place, and executes them with aplomb and no little flair. In addition, unlike many metal releases of the era, there's simply no filler to be found. Tight songwriting, good singing, good playing - what more could one want? Perhaps they could've upped the Black 'N' Blue quotient a little?

Lastly, I've just tweaked something in my neck nodding along to 'Breathin' Down Your Neck'. Irony aside, 'License To Kill' failed to injure me, so I'm declaring the former song to be the strongest joint on the album. That's how it works with metal - I don't make the rules! (But yes, 'Breathin...' is probably the better track thanks to its neat chorus and the fact that bits of it sound like a good UFO number.)

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Townes Van Zandt - Townes Van Zandt


Provenance: This is slightly odd, insofar as a half-remembered post on a music message board percolated away for more than a decade before breaking through into my consciousness.

Back in 2018 my partner was away for a few days, and I was idly lounging around on my bed trying to think of something new to tickle the tympanic membrane with. For some reason, the name 'Townes Van Zandt' floated to the surface, and as we own a couple of those accursed Amazon Echoes, I asked it to play me some of his music.

The only reason I even knew of TVZ was due to a single poster on the forum, who during the mid-2000s would respond to every 'best songwriter', 'most underrated songwriter', 'most overlooked artist', etc., thread with the same answer: Townes Van Zandt. Going purely by a few detail-light posts sandwiched between threads on John Corabi and Bang Tango, I has assumed he was some sub-Neil Young Laurel Canyon folkster.

Ten minutes after commanding my personal surveillance device, I felt like punching myself. I'd heard what sounded like the strangest, most pungent, deep country music I'd ever encountered - the mighty, cinematic double-cross ballad 'Pancho and Lefty', the harrowing 'Waitin' Around To Die' and one of the most singular compositions ever, the ominous, apocalyptic two-chord blues 'Lungs'. I bought this album, which features the latter two, and The Late Great Townes Van Zandt, almost immediately.

Review: I like discussions about great songwriters - in fact, just last night my father-in-law and I were marvelling together at the prodigious output (and success) of the Brill Building stable of the 1960s and 1970s. A few nights previous, I was advancing to a group of friends that Ray Davies of the Kinks has to be considered in the same bracket as Lennon and McCartney, at least where British performers are concerned. There's no real answer, obviously, because what are you looking for in a song? Beautiful music? Storytelling? Mood creation? Nonetheless, if I were to put together a Mount Rushmore of American songwriters, Townes Van Zandt would be my first nomination.

Here, on his third album, is the most consistent and cohesive collection that TVZ put out in his career. For the most part it's three- or four-chord country music, with acoustic guitar to the fore, songs driven by Van Zandt's deceptively complex fingerpicking and swooning, keening Texan drawl. Although it's absolutely the kind of album to inspire me to dribble out inanities like 'timeless', there are signs of an era; hand drums on 'For the Sake of the Song' and a harpsichord to back that and subsequent track, the pure romance of 'Columbine', mark it as a product of the late 1960s.

These two are perfectly good compositions and would be standouts on any other singer-songwriter collection, but it's on 'Waitin' Around To Die' where things get interesting; an itchy, nervy drum tattoo and tubercular harmonica underscore a tale of almost grotesque woe, taking in abandonment, infidelity, criminality and drug dependence. Reflecting some of the bummer endings creeping into popular cinema at the time, this doozy ends on one of the grimmer twists in country. 

What's abundantly clear is that Townes Van Zandt is a testimony of an artist fully in command of his talent and his craft. In any other hands, 'Colorado Girl' would be pedestrian, perhaps even a little goofy. However, TVZ's ability to imbue his simple, homespun poetry with untold depths of feeling make this remarkable. When he steps outside his established metre to deliver the line "I got to kiss these lonesome Texas blues goodbye" it just about breaks your heart. If you're missing somebody in your life right now, perhaps save this one for later. A few tracks later, he's back to making you feel like utter dogshit again on the tender, consolatory 'I'll Be Here in the Morning'.

Betwixt and between moments where he's duffing your into an emotional wreck, something else remarkable happens - the ominous, hallucinatory 'Lungs', apparently written whilst in an illness induced delirium. Crossing the imagery of the Book of Revelations with the haunted Texas blues of Blind Lemon Jefferson, 'Lungs' feels like an entire dread universe has been called into being in the span of two and a half minutes. As mentioned previously, it's a whole two chords, with a needling guitar riff and some gunslinger slide playing added in to spice the recipe, but that doesn't tell half the story. Above it all is TVZ sounding both fearful and mighty, as if he knows the spell he is weaving possesses a rare and unpredictable power. Lightning in a bottle.

In just ten songs, and less than thirty-five minutes, Townes Van Zandt manages to do something peculiar. The palette of sounds Van Zandt works with is not particularly diverse, and nor does he ever demonstrate much vocal range (albeit, the singing is gorgeous). Nonetheless, this album takes in the ache of romance, existential horror, teary-eyed wistfulness and the depths of insanity. Both 'Lungs' and, say, the delicate country waltz of '(Quicksilver Dreams Of) Maria' are indelibly TVZ songs, yet in terms of sensibility couldn't be any further apart. This is one of the many reasons why I feel Townes Van Zandt ranks right up there: it's not just brilliant, it's also substantial, and maybe even important.