Giant Sand’s Official Bootleg Series and front man How Gelb’s Down Home series of releases swing open the gates to the junkyard in back- the doll heads, hub caps, and plastic chairs, all the things from the woodshop not smooth enough to sell; you know, where the gold is. These records are the dusty trunks with a little new magic happening inside. Though even Giant Sand’s proper albums, especially recently, have resembled a languid, Sunday musical cookout, their latest three make the informality official.
Infiltration of Dreams: Official Bootleg Series Vol. 4 – This is a live recording, until now, only available on an Italian imprint. It features two French-Indian ladies I first saw perform locally over a year ago. Both sat in the middle of stage, one occasionally playing the violin, both looking quite perplexed, singing only when they appeared to recognize a bit of song. I thought this was only because they were both new, but now it sounds unlikely. Their curiously offhand stage presence is still there, the entire concert’s mood equally and wonderfully loose-fitting. A great record for when you wish you had a bunch of friends who rehearsed great music in the garage beneath your apartment (If your friends are drones and it’s been years since you’ve had your own apartment, all the better).
Too Many Spare Parts in the Yard too Close at Hand: Official Bootleg Series Vol. 5. – As the title implies, this is an odds-n-ends collection, but the only thing that really differentiates it from a normal release are the old songs that bubble up with a new, gnarly clatter. That, and the lazy song names like “Goldfrapp Tribute” and “Tom Waits Tribute”. Still, the finished product may be their best in a few years, definitely more rousing than the last covers record.
Down Home 2002 – Howe Gelb has been playing his pianos a lot more, lately. Most of these songs, for instance, sound he like he’s just crawled out of a bed and sat down to pound out whatever’s left of last night’s dreams. Then, maybe, he goes into the kitchen to make some coffee and look for things that will double as instruments for some extra tracks. The lyrics, as usual, are a strange jumble of alliteration, half-meanings, and dry jokes. This post-modern garage-jazz can be trying at times, but still rewarding, especially the opening re-examination of one of Sand’s best tunes, “Spun”.
On a scale of junk shop discoveries, where a broken cassette player is a 1, and your grandmother’s long thought lost jewelry box is a 10… Infiltration of Dreams rates a pair of amazingly comfortable but mismatched rocking chairs, the numerical equivalent of a 8.1… Too Many Spare Parts in the Yard too Close at Hand rates a life size, ceramic Elvis, the numerical equivalent of a 7.5… and Down Home 2002 rates a kitschy, yellow lamp, the numerical equivalent of a 6.9.