Friday, June 27, 2008


My little black machine! Occasionally I remember how insane it is that I can sit by while a piece of technology sifts through every song I've ever purchased and chooses them at random. If I were in high school I'd be holding a clunky Walkman and lugging around 20 cassette tapes that I'd meticulously created IN REAL TIME. Put tape in, press record, play album, listen to song, press pause when song is over, lift needle, take album off turntable, put away, pull out next album, put on turntable, unpress pause to continue recording, place needle on selected track, etc.


And this little machine does that all on its own.

1. 'The Return of Sathington Willoughby' by Primus from 'Brown Album'

Here's what I picture in my head...Les Claypool has been reading '1984' or watching 'Brazil' or reading the news. He is also stoned. He starts noodling on his bass and improvises a Big Brother type speech that accompanies the music. He presses record and does it again. He brings in the other members of Primus and they blow the song out to its logical conclusion. When the music is done, he lays down his vocal track, approximating the improvs he's been doing all along.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for any political statement that rails against fascist rhetoric, program, society, etc. But there is something lazy about it, as if you were hedging your bet a bit. How can you DISLIKE a song that denounces evil? I don't dislike the song, but I am a bit bored by it. The reason '1984' is still around isn't because of the politics it contains but because of the art of its execution.

2. 'Cater 2 U' by Destiny's Child from 'Destiny Fulfilled'

Ah, the crazy iPod! From a tuneless bluster about totalitarian regime propaganda to Beyonce asking me if she can give me a manicure. By the end of this song, she's put on my doo-rag, fed me, promised to keep rockin' the sexy outfits, and reassured me that she wants to serve.

Funny, but this is high art.

3. 'Roll All Day' by Ice Cube from 'War & Peace, Vol. 2 (The Peace Disc)'

Poor Ice. All he wants to do is get busy in the back of his switch laden pimp mobile. She seems good to go until they clash and she steals his car. He needs a Beyonce to reconfirm his faith in womankind.

4. 'Complicated Shadows' by Elvis Costello and the Attractions from 'All This Useless Beauty'

This song is famous now because of The Sopranos. This is one of my favorite Costello albums, partly because it seems tossed off, spontaneous.

5. 'And In Every Home' by Elvis Costello and the Attractions from 'Imperial Bedroom'

Really? 2 in a row? When something like this happens I remember why I stopped listening to Elvis on a regular basis. 2 songs in a row seems like an ETERNITY.

6. 'Pacific Theme' by Broken Social Scene from 'You Forgot It In People'

This instrumental track had been rolling along for about 3 minutes before I pulled the iPod out of my pocket to see who it was. I had thought it was a Bossa Nova Rolling Stones number but when no singing kicked in I had to check. I'm not overly familiar with Broken Social buddy Jon configured the iPod for me and gave this album to me. It's quite good.

7. 'Damage, Inc.' by Metallica from 'Master of Puppets'

Ha! These guys are out of their minds. This song is so fast, so precise, so brutal. As a musician I truly don't know how they do it. The funny thing is that they are SO serious...I'm listening and I know I'm supposed to be all swept away by the darkenss but the music is so outrageous that it makes me laugh.

8. 'Better Version of Me' by Fiona Apple from 'Extraordinary Machine'

She really knocked it out of the park on this album. On her previous efforts, if you stripped her voice away you would be bored silly. Here? The music stands on its own. That's the mark of a true artist.

9. 'Start' by The Jam from 'Greatest Hits'


10. 'This Song Has No Title' by Elton John from 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road'

You can't get away with shit like this anymore. This song was buried on side one or two and they hoped he'd be done recording his next hit by the time it had to be played on the radio. No title? No purpose is more like it. Never heard it before, don't know why it's on the iPod, don't need to ever hear it again.

11. 'Stay Free' by The Clash from 'Story of the Clash, Vol. 1, Disc 2'

Ah, that's better. All is forgiven lil' iPod. If I have to even expend one ounce of breath telling you why The Clash were so great, you haven't done enough homework on your own.

12. 'Within Your Reach' by The Replacements from 'Hootenanny'

How did The Replacements NOT become mega stars? Seriously. 'Say Anything' came out in 1989 and this song is on the soundtrack. Huh? How does that happen? Or how does that not happen?

Never seen no mountain
Never swam no sea
City got me drowning
I guess it's up to me
I could live without so much
Die without a dream
Live without your touch
Die within your reach

I can't believe this song in that movie didn't catapult them to mega fame. I'll never understand that.

13. 'Are We The Waiting' by Green Day from 'American Idiot'

This is the weakest song on this album. By far. And it is still great. I'm still flummoxed by this album, by the creative leap this band made almost 20 years into its existence. That kind of thing just doesn't really happen. I thought they'd start to fade away. And then they come out with an album that renders all of their previous releases irrelevent. Amazing.

14. 'Conrad' by Jets to Brazil from 'Orange Rhyming Dictionary'

These guys are a treasure but I can't quite say why. There is something mathematical about their sound, something so measured that it loses all restraint, something so dry and unmannered that only the purest emotional resonance remains. This is not the best song on this album, the only album I have of theirs...the one that will forever slay me is 'Sweet Avenue' which is one of the greatest yearning love songs in all of rock history.

And that my friends is that. Another edition of iPod mania. I'll be going on hiatus for the next couple of public transit so no iPod shuffle. But we'll have some more fun after the 14th!

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