Tuesday, February 15, 2005

R. Stevie Moore Is Worth It

R. Stevie Moore is what I would be if I had a goddamned lick of courage at all. I admire and covet his grit, oh yes I do.

It's been said of a certain kind of artist, from Captain Beefheart to Monty Python, that their work is an uncompromising exercise in not-giving-a-shit-what-you-think. R. Stevie is without a shadow of a flicker of a doubt a fully-paid-up member of that brass-balled club, and if this were the kind of world that rewarded artistic courage he would be richer than Sting.

Since the mid-Seventies he's self-released over 400 complete albums -- that's more than 15 a year, pretty damned sobering to this dilettante dabbler -- which he sells as hand-dubbed cassettes and CDs through his mail-order business. He also has released quite a few more "conventional" albums, which are distillations of his cassette-club albums.

So what do these things sound like? They are huge and varied, from traditionally-structured songs with middle eights, codas and instrumental passages, to musique-concrete tape soundscapes that wouldn't be out of place on Zappa's Lumpy Gravy. The arty stuff is accomplished enough, but it's when the boy sets out to write a melody -- that's when he can rip your heart out by the roots. Just listen to Play Myself Some Music from 1999's The Future Is Worse Than the Past, and tell me you made it through dry-eyed.

R. Stevie Moore: braver than I'll ever be. Damn his eyes.