Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sound Track Mind

Day 2 of the iPod chronicles with today's playlist accompanied by a few pages of George Orwell's '1984'. Nothing like a little totalitarian nightmare to get you ready for a day at work.

Another fascinating collection of songs...

1. 'Criminal' by Eminem from 'The Marshall Mathers LP'

The first time I heard of Eminem I was living in Brooklyn with my cousin Timothy, aka Pimp Fu. I hadn't heard the music but I'd read of his supposed anti-gay lyrics. The homophobia bothered me and I vowed to write some sort of a come-on song, you know, 'Eminem can melt in my mouth' that sort of baloney. I'm glad I never did this. I came to view his charged lyrics as the ultimate pressure valve. I sense a great moral compass in his work, which might seem like a contradiction but don't forget the guy who recommended we take care of poverty by eating the poor. Mr. Swift and Eminem would get along famously.

2. 'Milk' by Kings of Leon from 'Aha Shake Heartbreak'

These dirtbag revivalist heathens get the dirtiest groove you've ever heard rolling on this album and don't seem interested in backing off from it, seeming to demand conversion and sin simultaneously.

3. 'Avenue C'd' by Siobhan O'Malley from 'Alibi Bye'

I don't know how many of you have a wildly talented sibling who writes songs. I do. So I have to describe this song in two a brother and as a listener. I know the story behind this epic croon of lament and desperation so I am affected. I almost think, however, that an unrelated ear would be almost unable to withstand the insight creeping along the city streets of this song. Finely wrought, each carved word she utters disintegrates in the wake of the story she tells. This song is a killer.

4. 'Sha La La' by Al Green from 'Greatest Hits'

The iPod must have known that I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown because here comes Al Green laughing and singing nonsense songs and trying to get into some pants.

5. 'Sticks & Stones' by The Divine Comedy from 'Absent Friends'

Another sister turned me on to The Divine Comedy. This guy has the balls to appropriate DANTE??? Not reference it, use it as inspiration, quote it, no. HE IS THE DIVINE COMEDY. If the first line of this song doesn't stab your heart at its weakest point then you've never been in love.

'You and I/Go together/Like the molar/And the drill'

His velvet tone smooths over the insistent violin behind him, as if he's ignoring the very song he's written.

6. 'Mass Hysteria' by The Mahoneys from 'Live From the 20th Century'

Ah, another track from my band The Mahoneys! This one has our secret weapon Danilo Torres on it. Yesterday was 'Hollow Moon', a recording session he couldn't get to. Neal we called him, a Fillipino Buddha of a man, and one of the best guitar players you've never heard of. I wrote the following lyrics in 1989...

'Tylenol with Cyanide/What a lovely treat/Ralph Nader sweeping cigarettes into my hot dog meat/Mass hysteria'.

7. 'Waiting Song (Unlisted)' by Pat McCurdy from 'Showtunes'

This instrumental track ends one of the strangest most compelling albums I've ever heard. I don't think Pat McCurdy can be described in any appropriate way. Not even gonna try. Just do a little digging and listen.

8. 'Going to Graceland' by The Dead Milkmen from 'Bucky Fellini'

When I was 15 The Dead Milkmen were hilarious. I am now 38.

9. 'You and Me Song' by The Wannadies from 'Romeo & Juliet'

I am writing this at 9:53. I heard this song at about 8:30. I can't remember it.

10. 'In a Little While' by U2 from 'All That You Can't Leave Behind'

I can't pinpoint the moment when I stopped being a fan of U2. So even though Bono's singing on this song is extraordinary, even though the texture that the band creates is dense and powerful, even though each part is perfect in its own way, the sum total leaves me cold. Maybe I would care if Bono ever took those fucking sunglasses off. So over the sunglasses. And if he doesn't look out, he's going to wake up one day and Robin Williams is going to be playing him in a movie.

11. 'The Lamb's Book of Life' by Sinead O'Connor from 'Faith and Courage'

Another Irish propagandist who now bores me silly. I'm a nun. I'm a rasta. I'm a lesbian. I love cock. I love my babies. I hate my mother. I have big eyes. I am Britney Spears for the intelligentsia. I am a sleeping pill!

12. 'Complete Control' by The Clash from 'Live: From Here to Eternity'

The Clash live. Their sound is larger, more difficult to contain than their recorded work. The melody AND bombast both are amplified. They also did cool things like having Screamin' Jay Hawkins open up for them, or Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. They weren't interested in giving their audience an easy ride. Rap music at a punk concert in the late '70's??? Everyone gives Aerosmith/Run DMC credit for that connection but these guys were way ahead of that curve. Ahead of every curve.

13. 'Banditos' by The Refreshments from 'Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy'

This whole album is perfect. PERFECT. PERFECT. a guitar player it's like having ice cream at the beach. As a lyricist it's the scrape of the pen lifting off of the last word. As a singer it's the trill coming back off the tile through the pulse of the shower. BUY THIS ALBUM.

14. 'A Season' by Emmet Swimming from 'Wake'

Emmet Swimming are the reason I met Melody Garren. So even though they sound a bit like a fat kid imitating The Cure via REM I love them.

15. 'L'Ame Slave' by Jacques Higelin from 'Boris Vian et Ses Interpretes'

There is something inherently ridiculous about French music. The language itself is so musical and florid that putting it to music is redundant and vulgar. I know that is a giant generalization but it is truly how I feel. I lived in France and have explored the music as much as I can take which isn't much. Even Edith Piaf sounds like an 8th grade production of 'Fatal Attraction'.

But Boris Vian cuts through my prejudice. Google the guy. He died at 39 years old but had the output of someone twice that age. He wrote novels, plays, screenplays, articles, essays, poems, reviews and songs. He was an actor. He was a director. He invented things. He translated American and English novels into French. He was incredibly prolific. His most famous song was 'Le Deserteur' which tells of a soldier refusing to fight in a letter to the President.

I bought this album while living in France. A 2 CD set, the first disc is Vian's versions of his own songs and the second his 'interpreters'. I prefer the first because it is raw and unpolished, his singing stinks, and the recordings are scratchy and compromised. When big stars get their hands on his stuff they flatten it out into the heinous dreck that passes for popular French music.

I am as anti-xenophobic as they come except when it comes to French music. It is awful.

16. 'You Can't Take It With You' by Paul Kelly & the Messengers from 'So Much Water So Close To Home'

The title of this album comes from a Raymond Carver short story which Robert Altman filmed in 'Short Cuts'. A trio of friends go fishing way up in the mountains and discover the body of a dead girl. Instead of cancelling their trip and immediately reporting her death, they fish for three days before coming back down out of the mountains and letting the authorities know. They've agreed to make it seem as if they found her on the last day but the wife knows her husband is lying. All connection with her man is lost. The title track takes the story and shoves it into a four minute country lament. 'You Can't Take It With You' is a catchy reminder that life is short and material things don't matter. But it is the title song that sticks and hurts.

The sun is shining and Los Angeles rushes around me. My iPod reminds me where I come from, what I've been through, and ultimately that I can't take it with me. Also that I have it right now.

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