Thursday, July 31, 2008

Car Crashes In My Dreams

I woke after a stunning series of collisions. In one a bus sat across several lanes of LA freeway having skidded to a stop with one end in the fast lane and the other in the slow lane. A Porsche or some such stupidity smashed directly through the bus at 140MPH and continued along. The bus shattered and lay in pieces. I could only hope that no one had been inside of it but from my vantage point (the height of a traffic helicopter) I truly couldn't tell.

Needless to say, this made my bus ride this morning very interesting.

1. 'Danny Boy' by Rufus Wainwright from 'Rufus Wainwright'

It didn't help that I was near tears by the time I left my apartment. The opening strains of this song are enough to disintegrate my personality entirely. The genius of a heartbreak song sung man to man using the title of perhaps the most famous song about death is just one tiny fraction of the power of this song. His voice drips with ache. Occasionally when I hear songs about break-ups I can't help but think the person is better off, that whatever pain they're trying to sell me is hooey. Not so here.

I first heard this song in Melody's car as she drove me to the airport to send me back to the life I had to change in order to be with her. I can still see the sky, the waving trees, the burning sun hotter than seemed usual for the season...the scope of the landscape obliterated by Rufus and his heartbreak. And so forever this song sends me mine.

2. 'Sultans Of Swing' by Dire Straits from 'Money For Nothing'

I feel cobblestones beneath my feet at the opening salvo of this perfectly etched sketch of musicianship. Mark Knopfler doesn't use a guitar pick for the most part, he makes his trips up and down the neck using skin only. And it shows, for there is something smooth and softer than plastic in his playing, something human hidden in the explicit virtuosity. And was there ever a more unlikely huge MTV star than Dire Straits?

3. 'Burning Down The House' by Talking Heads from 'Stop Making Sense'

This live cut really showcases the opposing forces that somehow cohere into a vastly unsettling party. You dance, you sing along, but you also must overlook a nagging sense of fear, the vague thought that you are being condescended to, and the general idea that you've completely missed the point.

4. 'Walt Whitman's Niece' by Billy Bragg & Wilco from 'Mermaid Avenue'

This was Cashel's favorite album right around the time he learned to walk. So whenever the bouncy strains of this or any other of the songs on this great album start, all I can see is his little diapered butt bouncing up and down dancing the only way he knew how. I have video of him on all fours perking up the instant it comes on.

5. 'You Got It And I Want It' by Andre Williams from 'The Black Godfather'

See previous entry 'The Black Godfather In Amsterdam' from January 29, 2008.

6. 'Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby' by Dinah Washington from 'Verve Unmixed'

There is something to be said for the notion that this era of music achieved a level of sophistication that is unparalleled in the history of popular song. The technical advancements of the rap era are close but to hear an orchestra of human beings articulate a song to the Nth degree while Dinah Freaking Washington purrs it to death is an apex of some sort don't you forget it.

7. 'Hot Wit U' by Prince from 'Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic'

At first glance this song is just another hot little Prince number. Guitars lick the edges of keyboard trills, his voice dances around like a stripper trying to get that dollar out of your hand and into her thong, drums rear up and down as if they are cartoon horses chafing at the bit.

So just another day at the Prince office, right? Well, yes and no. Because out of nowhere Missy Elliott comes and spanks little Prince right out of his normal mode. She transforms the song and does what I'm sure countless women have wanted to do over the years (I know Melody has)...put Prince in his place. Like, yeah, you are ALL talk MOFO. You are 2 feet tall and ugly. I am in charge. Otherwise you wouldn't have asked me to sing on your song. I am Missy Elliott. In a way, it is the bravest thing Prince could do. He lets her upstage him.

8. 'T'Ain't No Sin' by Tom Waits from 'The Black Rider'

I'm sure William S. Burroughs completists cream in their crusty pen-filled jeans over this piece of garbage but I have once again had it with Mr. Waits. W.S.B. repeats a boring few lines over some mellotron filtered through a jug of iced tea or some such nonsense. Good lord this is tiresome bullshit.

9. 'Legoland' by The Fatima Mansions from 'Viva Dead Ponies'

30 seconds of instrumental weirdness. I know this album so well that the song that follows on the heels of this interlude was battering my brain in absentia.

10. 'Shake 'n' Stomp' by Dick Dale from 'King Of The Surf Guitar: The Best of Dick Dale'

Don't you wish you could honestly declare yourself the King of ANYTHING unselfconsciously and have pretty much everyone nod and say, 'Yeah, they are the King, no doubt about it.'

I bet that's fun for Dick Dale. What is even more fun is the INSANITY he slings.

11. 'I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man' by Eric Clapton (featuring Buddy Guy) from 'The Concert For New York City'

There is something Al Jolson/Blackface/Jazz Singer about the faux blues growl that Eric Clapton adopts here. Sorry, but it's offensive. And when Buddy Guy's voice comes through the microphone he puts Eric Clapton and his bullshit to shame.

12. 'If You Were To Wake Up' by Lyle Lovett from 'Lyle Lovett And His Large Band'

So you are dating this quirky girl. She's not conventionally attractive but she has a very distinct personal style. She wears flapper hats and pearl necklaces. Her purses scream Zelda Fitzgerald. She makes her mole work like a beauty mark. The patchouli she now wishes she never wore still hangs around like the Ghost of Perfume Past, layered over with something vanilla instead of the lavender she really likes. You've gone to cocktail parties instead of bars, art house films instead of blockbusters, concertos instead of concerts.

And then you snap out of it, break up with her, eat a box of doughnuts, drink a couple of beers and go see a cover band in flip flops. God, the effort of all that quirk.

13. 'Hard Row' by The Black Keys from 'thickfreakness'

Oh these boys have grown on me something fierce. The first time Melody and I listened a couple of years ago we said, 'ok, fine' and moved on without a second thought. But the iPod, combined with a live appearance on KCRW's 'Morning Becomes Eclectic' has won me over for good.

They rock, plain and simple. A nice antidote to the Lovett schmaltzquirk.

14. 'Sea of Secrets' by Joe Jackson from 'Night Music'

This music is gorgeous. But I don't know what it means.

15. 'Night Rally' by Elvis Costello and The Attractions from 'This Year's Model'

He could churn out the 2 minute pop song by the barrel back in the day. I don't think I'd heard this song in 15 years and I was singing along right quick. I'm starting to open up to Elvis again after years of holding him at arm's length.

Please don't let me down, Elvis.

16. 'For You' by Prince from 'For You'

A-Capella 19 part harmony from a skinny 17 year old Minnesota black midget. Wow. Weird doesn't even begin to describe it.

17. '111 Archer Avenue' by Mark Mothersbaugh from 'The Royal Tennenbaums'

This soundtrack works as a whole but split up it loses most of its appeal. The movie made me cry. I will go see anything Wes Anderson does first weekend and then buy it and watch it over and over again. Even if I'm not sure how much I like it.

18. '(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle' by Hank Williams from 'Lonesome Blues'

How can a 20 something man sound so weary and old? You see pictures of Hank Williams near the end of his life and he seems 69 not 29. What a shame.

19. 'Aneurysm' by Nirvana from 'With The Lights Out (Disc 2)'

This song holds a special place in my Nirvana heart seeing as it was the 'B' side of the 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' CD single I bought in the Orleans, France FNAC store. The album was sold out so I bought the single and while I loved 'Smells' this song rocks just as hard and doesn't let you off the hook with the giant easy sing-along.

And so I got to work without a Porsche disintegrating the public transportation I hope not to have to ride some day.

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