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Baker's Dozen

Stewart Lee Selects His Favourite 13 Albums
Simon Jablonski , May 25th, 2011 10:15

Comedian Stewart Lee talks to Simon Jablonski about his thirteen albums of all time, including The Fall (obviously), Ted Chippington, Guided By Voices, REM (who are a disappointment) and why Miles Davis and jazz are like stand-up

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Dave Graney 'n' the Coral Snakes - Night Of The Wolverwine
Dave Graney's an Australian bloke. He used to be in a band called The Moodists in the 80s who were rather over shadowed by Nick Cave and the Birthday Party, but were equally good. He had a freak out in London in the late 80s when he was fed up of being over here and trying to make it and being broke. So he went back to Australia and decided to dress as a 19th century American frontiersman, like Buffalo Bill or something, and became a country and western singer. Ever since then he has adopted these various personas through which he writes, and his best album is Night Of The Wolverine.

He's another person with absolutely fantastic phrasing. He's not got a huge range as a singer, but how he chooses to say words is just superb. It's really funny. I love him as an artist in as much as he doesn't tend to do interviews where he gives much away about himself; he's an inscrutable sort of character. This is another thing we've forgotten about is that with Mark E. Smith and Dave Graney, you buy into all the things that they're saying or their point of view can shift. Are you being addressed by them as a person, are they in character? You don't really know enough about them to assume anything. So it actually means they can do anything.

Whereas if you live your life through Twitter and blogging everyone assumes that what you write is an extension of making yourself public, one of the things about writers and musicians historically is that we project onto them, or we choose to take different things away from them. But it's increasingly hard to do that because everyone's living like a Philip Dick novel where they're supposed to have an online presence as themselves. What's great about David Graney is that he can be all these sorts of different characters.

He's just written a fantastic book called 1001 Australian Nights: An Aesthetic Memoir, which is about how he feels when he goes on stage and what sort of person he's being that night. Another fantastic thing he did was that, as he approached the age where you're not supposed to be a rock star, he started appearing in a custom made red zip up jumpsuit all the time, which is so ridiculous that it sort of defeats criticism. You can try and not put on weight and you can try and have a nice haircut or whatever, or you can actually go the other way. He's like an amazing shaman clown figure. He can't be defeated. People might go, 'You're like a really weird golfer playing punk rock.' And he'd get golf trousers, grow a moustache and get a little brown beret. He absorbs the criticism and makes that into a persona, and that's something I've thought about – to do that more.

The other thing about that album is that it's not ironic. It's absolutely beautiful. The way he sings, he'll try and do vibrato, yodelly things and sustained notes… it's all a little bit beyond him sometimes, but the balls with which he goes for it means that you're carried along by it.


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