Review by Rusty W. Spell
The cover is perfect ("You know those guitars that are like... double guitars?"). I'm glad Martin's head was cut off, otherwise I would have thought of Mike Nesmith every time I saw the album (he was wearing a knit hat that night).
The back is perfect, two ways of expressing immensity. I think I'm glad they opted for the 2CD package (one jewel box) instead of two seperate jewel boxes and especially (because they're sometimes annoying) the double-boxes.
Art and photographs: I like the CD art, which looks like either a bird or some creepy men, depending on whether you turn it upside-down or not. The pictures are great, plenty of action photos and other people than the band to enjoy. The running picture trio of Martin cracks me up, reminds me of a John Spencer Blues Explosion music video or something. Martin sleeping with double-neck is sweet.
Drawings and paintings are nice, especially the full version of The Prarie Grouper. We had to settle for the "formatted for your screen" version on Melville. Including lyrics not in other albums is nice. Now the music...
Their are lots of ways of going about making a live album (though I'm no expert, being as how this is my first live album to own; Rusty = studio freak, and I've only been to a handful of concerts in my life: R.E.M., The Magnetic Fields, Ben Lee, and Kenny Rogers, for the record), and I think the way they chose was nicely suited to the material. I'm glad they didn't just pick any ol' good night and say "This is it." I'm glad they banded together some songs and didn't band others, making little "chapters" in the discs. I'm glad there was a wide array of venues (little places, big places) making it--as Dave once wrote--like an art gallery consisting of anything from little sketches to huge canvases. The Rheos are big, small, and almost always good--so is Double Live.
When I talk about these songs, I'll sort of talk about them in relation to the studio albums. That is to say, do they add anything extra in hearing them in a live version, or might they just as well have stayed in their originally recorded versions. But first, I'd like to say that Gary Stokes (and whoever else was involved) did a wonderful job. This album sounds very rich.
"Saskatchewan" is a good example of this great sound. The extra musical section of this song was cool. "Down to the wire." I'm trying to decide which line I like better.
"Feed Yourself" was cool in that it was creepy, really helping the mood of the song (the echoes, etc.). There's always something magical--to me, for some reason--when the chorus is only played and not sung at some crucial moment. The "no more death" was very appropriate, especially leading into "Shaved Head," whose recording here is signifigant because--among other things--of the way Martin says "luuuv."
Okay, a highlight is this performance of "Claire." Tim rocks. The "mmmms" and "c'mons" are wonderful. Truly someone getting into a song. Concering "Legal Age Life," Tim told on CFN4 the story of "Cherry Pie," that he said it because someone in the audience kept requesting the "skraz rock" classic. Pretty funny. Of course, this is another highlight, with the 12-bar blues section featuring Tim Mech, making Tim and Tim "the Tims" and not "the Thaimes," the confusing misunderstanding I originally had.
I thought that "Dead Is the Drunkest That You Can Get" would be on The Blue Hysteria, so I was glad to see it here (though, you know, it's not too late to put it on a studio album). This has always been one of my favorite Rheos songs. It put me off here, the audience laughing, but I can picture how funny it must have been... Martin on piano with the three others sharing a mic going "ooooooh." Anyways, I must say that I prefer the old lyric "mean and wild, just like a child" to "stung up the spine"; because, you know, children are mean and wild and people don't think about it that way often, so to put it in a song is great and interesting and meaningful and... and there you go, I like it better.
Next in the unreleased songs is "Bees." Great stuff: the bee-sounding guitars, the childlikeness of it (I'm assuming originally intended for children's album?), even the cutesy lead-in to "Michael Jackson." (And I know we shouldn't send letters lamenting the exclusion of "The World Is Fluffy" or "Halowe'en Eyes," but I will lament the exclusion of "Fan Letter," just because I heard it was going to be a mix of all the various versions of the song done in concert. I guess they ran out of room or the mix was too hard to do or something, but I've heard some recordings of the song live, and it was always one of my favorite things to hear live. So, my one lament.)
Cool drums on "Dope Fiends and Boozehounds." Way to go, Donny. I'm not sure if I like the fact that it splits the ending (just because I'm not sure if the ending is worthy enough to constitute a whole track--even though it's cool-sounding), but I do like that it bands into "Song of Flight." (I was also glad for some of the Whale Music Soundtrack stuff.)
I like this verions of "Horses" a lot, and a lot better than the old version. I like the spookiness, of voices and instruments, the horsey sounds, all that. The drum part is probably better suited, too. A great number for a song that I never got into much before.
"Midwinter" is a good way to open part two. I tend to like this version a lot, even though it's not too much different. There's something about it; I'll have to do a deal where I play two CD players at a time or something.
I like "Joey 2," but I like "Joey 3" better. That's okay, I guess we gotta go in order, and--like I say--I like "Joey 2." Next song, "Introducing Happiness": the ending is nice, pretty.
"Stolen Car" (or "Dead") is my favorite of the previously unreleased songs on this album. Should be on anyone's Rheos Greatest Hits collection. "Good Canadian" is funny, and funny to me because I find myself singing it a lot, even though it's just a little adlibbed song.
"Peas and Rice" gets the Debi Seal of Giddiness. I always liked this song, too, and I like this version better than any I've heard, with the "doo doos" and "rice-ah!" and all.
I enjoy the sparce and funky version of "Wendel Clarke." I'm not sure why, but it cracks me up every time they scream "I am Canadian!" Oh, and I got a letter from Keith, the extra singer in the song. Keith was cool. It's always fun to embarrass yourself on permanent recordings. I do it all the time.
More unreleased songs that I've always liked: "Triangles" (what I used to call--cause I guess everyone else did--"The Drug Song") and "PROD."
Well, okay, so I never really liked "Fitzgerald," and I don't even like this version too much either even though it's different and maybe better, but that's okay. I can live with one track that I don't like much.
Finally, "Desert Island Discs." Translating an old cliche into song form is always a worthy thing to do, I'm serious. It was interesting to hear some of the choices, even if they weren't perhaps serious. What would I take? Right now I'd say The Magnetic Fields: The Wayward Bus/Distant Plastic Trees. Rheostatics: Introducing Happiness. They Might Be Giants: Then: The Early Years.
Once I did a favor for a band called The Disco Mofos by playing drums for them at a show. It was fun enough, but I decided not to stay on when they told me they might get us a gig opening for Blind Melon. Too creepy for me. I'll leave live-in' it up to the pros. Rock on, Rheos.
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