Anna Minard, our city hall reporter, claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we're forcing her to listen to all the records that music nerds consider important.


The Soft Machine


I hate albums that sound like band practice. There, I said it. The Soft Machine starts with some woozy rock-band intro, little drum trills, voices slow and soft and hazy, notes held for a long time. It sounds like the 1960s. Within 60 seconds, they start doing annoying stuff. You know how when someone's doing an impression of a stuck record, they can be either really good at it or really bad at it? This fellow is bad at it. Also, is he saying "jive man" or "chive man"? Or both? Those are two really different things. They're just screwing around here for about a minute.

Another 30 seconds later, they roll up on a song, like they sort of tripped over it while they were staring around the room slack-jawed, and once they pick it up, they rule. The vocals are super-awesome; voices sound hollow and sort of processed but still warm and interesting. They repeat the same words A LOT. Over and over. The music is fine, it just gets stuck on itself like folded gum. There's an awful lot of noodling.

For the record: I listened to this on nice speakers, multiple times. Slowly and carefully, in the living room, paying attention. It was annoying. I tried it as background music. Still pretty annoying.

I asked Dave Segal if it would sound a lot better if I was high. He smiled and said yes. Well, trick question, dude! HUGS NOT DRUGS. I'm not doing pot just to be cool! That, my friends, would be givin' in to peer pressure. I continued listening to this stone-cold sober. It was not very enjoyable.

The end of that first track (I'M STILL ON THE FIRST TRACK SOMEONE SAVE MEEEEEEE) is my least favorite music-dude fart: blonk bloonk blornk blernk of not-real chords that are just noise piles. Uuuuugh.

But still, sprinkled throughout all the accouterments is really fun music that grew on me. The silly, watery beginning guitar on "Joy of a Toy," almost every part of "Why Am I So Short?" (especially the lyrics and the bass), the sweetness in "A Certain Kind" (it sounds like love in a time-traveling Shakespearean forest clearing), these guys being the kind of bold people who use a lot of organ.

"Lullabye Letter" is also sweet. "I've got/Something to tell you," dude staccato screeches. "Hold on/I wanted to thrill you..." What is it? "Get ready/I'm going to lay it on you..." We're so excited, come ON!! WHAT IS IT??? The secret: "You're the sweetest thing I see/I'm telling you it's no lie." Aww. Consider me wooed. The good stuff is hidden, but you can find it!

Then they just say, "I did it again/I did it again" for 12 hours. The second-to-last song, "Why Are We Sleeping?," sounds like a fancy cake.

I give this a "blonk bloonk blornk blernk" out of 10. recommended