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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


OP8 - Slush
Giant Sand was an Arizona country rock band, but they did noise rock and all sorts of things. And it was run by a guy named Howard Gelb from the early 80s. Calexico were the rhythm section and they got better and better, then in the late 90s they were starting to do their own records - they basically took all the stuff that was a mess out of Giant Sands and came out of it with all that was exciting and messy and confrontational and confusing, and with this rather streamline, borderline dessert rock. And that album was made under the name OP8 just as they were separating. The Calexico blokes, the Giant Sand guy and Lisa Germano… it was like they were trying to outdo each other, almost. They really get the best out of each other. I really love Howe Gelb, the guy from Giant Sand. He just seems to get on with his own thing irrespective of whether it's going to work out or not. About 10 years ago he made quite a mainstream country rock album that was supposed to be coming out on Virgin, and one of the songs got used on a Coke Cola advert. When he came to tour here, he'd been written about as the godfather of alternative country, and he opened at the Spitz in front of all these people that had never seen him before with a 20 minute lecture about the economics of being in a touring rock band with flip charts whilst playing snatches of sounds from tape recorders. Then those people drifted away and he was left with the people he felt he wanted to play to. Anyway, OP8's Slush is one of his best records really, I think, because he was in conflict with people around him and it brought the best out of him.

When Virgin dropped his record Chore Of Enchantment, he really thought about chucking it in and he canvassed opinion from people who had written about him as to what he should do. I got into a very long email dialogue with him, because it was at the same time I had been doing a show for BBC 2 with Richard Herring, and we used to come out of touring losing money, and I didn't really know how to carry on. We ended up talking each other into carrying on some level by trying to work out the economics of it. So it's not just one of my favourite records, it's also about a period where I was trying to work out what to do.

Slush is like a country record, but it's got all these smoggy, swampy, dense textures over it. I know it's a cliché, but it feels like being in a dream. Joey Burns plays stand-up bass like a cocktail lounge, then Gelb's pianos are all like Thelonious Monk, but there's all this scrappy electric guitar noise in it as well. So it's a great record.