Friday, July 25, 2008

Lightning In A Bottle

Having fallen asleep before 9PM last night I was rather groggy as I made my way out of the apartment. I've lost my prescription sunglasses so the sun makes me blink and stagger. All in all I felt like a prisoner just out of solitary confinement, all herky jerky and unable to walk too well, still more used to talking to myself than to anyone else.

Thank God for The Clash.

1. 'Four Horsemen' by The Clash from 'London Calling'

I hadn't had coffee yet but by the time this song was over I was damn well awake. Has any band ever aimed higher? And hit their mark? I don't think so. The Beatles come to mind but they came along at a time when no one expected anything from young men with guitars...they had the element of surprise. The Clash? Saving the world with rock and roll? By the time they hit the scene, the business had calcified to the point that misbehavior was fine as long as you kept your hair long and stayed stoned. But to throw a giant middle finger up? To say the old ways are over ours are the new and you old fuckers better get used to it? And to have the songs to back all that up? Holy moly.

2. 'Cap In Hand' by The Proclaimers from 'Sunshine On Leith'

All anyone ever remembers of these guys is 'I Would Walk 500 Miles' which is fine but they are so much more than that. This is one of the bounciest, toe-tappiest, sing-alongiest songs of protest and revolt that you will ever hear. It is all the more frightening for how accommodating it is to the ear.

'I can't understand why we let someone else rule our land/Cap in hand'

Add the intense accent and 'land' and 'hand' rhyme. That's another great thing about these guys...they deliberately include their native accents in their singing.

3. 'Revolution' by The Beatles from 'Past Masters Volume 2'

Ah, the iPod is on a THEME kick! Three political pop songs in a row to set the morning off! I don't think I'll even bother to try to articulate anything about this song. Really, what else is there to say?

4. 'It Only Hurts When I Cry' by Dwight Yoakam from ''

He's okay folks, as long as he doesn't think about her, think about anything related to her, smell anything that reminds him of her, eat anything they used to eat together, hear a song they liked, see a chair she sat in at his house, look at the TV he had to buy after she threw a camera at him into the last one, watch the scratch on his arm slowly fade that she gave him as she stormed out, hear about the new guy she's seeing after he offered her everything, he's okay folks, as long as he doesn't think about her.

5. 'Utah' by John Linnell from 'State Songs'

To John Linnell, places are like people. You have relationships with them even if they are abstract ideas. 'Utah' he keeps in I forget 'you-tah'. The accordion pumps a tuneful ditty but he simply can't remember Utah.

6. 'Take This Longing' by Leonard Cohen from 'The Best Of'

Don't get me wrong, I love Leonard Cohen. I even like some of his recent stuff. But there is something slippery at the heart of what he does, perhaps something a bit untrue. It is such simple material that it would be boring without a little deception. I'm not sure what I'm driving at but I get the sense that Leonard is putting on an act. You hear all about how he's a cook for a Buddhist guru and lives in a room with only a cot and he doesn't even have a guitar up there but when you realize that he's married to a movie star and has a house in Malibu something else is going on. And like I said, thank God because if his acoustic warblings were only to be taken at face value none of us would even know who Leonard Cohen is.

7. 'Hide Nor Hair' by Ray Charles from 'His Greatest Hits, Vol.1'

Who are these stupid women who keep running off and leaving Ray Charles? Um, lady, you are dating RAY CHARLES. Stop leaving him without any warning or note or nothing. Would you have run out on Mozart with some doctor with fresh hands? I don't think so. Tighten your shit up and stay with Ray.

8. 'Vibrate' by Outkast from 'The Love Below'

Experimental is the best word to describe what these freaks do. I am a bit surprised that they've had such mainstream success because their music is BIZARRE. Like art student-did-too-many-drugs-and-got-it-together-just-in-time-for-the-thesis bizarre. Like God on the 8th day fucking around bizarre. That kind of bizarre.

9. 'Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)' by Arcade Fire from 'Funeral'

I think Henry James stinks. I have read 'The Turn Of The Screw' several times in order to be sure. Why would I read a book I dislike more than once? Well, because I am often WRONG. But I've now completely accepted the fact that Henry James is not for me. What author do you think I would compare Arcade Fire to?

10. 'Pow' by The Beastie Boys from 'Check Your Head'

If you took someone who had never heard of The Beastie Boys and you played 'Fight For Your Right (To Party)' and then played them this instrumental track, I don't think they would in a million years say it was the same band. But it is. Liking The Beastie Boys is like raising an unruly wild child. You know that when he gets older he'll excel at something but until then you have to put up with the magic marker on the walls and the oatmeal in the toaster. That's just how it is. And, let's face it, it's fun to draw on the walls.

11. 'My Imaginary Friend' by The Divine Comedy from 'Absent Friends'

I have got to get more of The Divine Comedy. How this guy isn't a MAJOR star world wide I'll never know. Actually, let me guess...cerebral literate pop rock with theatrical tendencies and lush arrangements? Right, now I know why.

12. 'I'm Leavin' Now' by Johnny Cash from 'American III: Solitary Man'

That's only Merle Haggard singing harmony. That's just Johnny Cash on his deathbed. Well, ok, maybe not quite his deathbed but pretty close. If he was Mt. Rushmore as a kid he's Everest now.

13. 'Round And Round' by Aerosmith from 'Toys In The Attic'

It is easy to forget how good these guys can be. They turned into such a commodity and never had that unimpeded access to critical acclaim but they were a sick band in the 1970's. This song is RELENTLESS. AND tuneful. Not an easy mix. They are like Coldplay to Zeppelin's Radiohead. It isn't fair that they came around right at the same time but that's just the luck of the draw.

14. 'Cassavetes' by Fugazi from 'In On The Kill Taker'

This is as close to a dance track as Fugazi ever got. The fact that it is about the underground filmmaker who was determined to rip the mask off of the genial mask of the American personality only makes its danceability that much more extreme.

15. 'Who'll Stop The Rain' by Creedence Clearwater Revival from 'Chronicle, Vol. 1'

CCR makes me think of Swamp Thing. A monster from the depths come forth to seek revenge against the system that had wronged it, to pass judgment on the powers that be that banished it to the muck and mire. Oh, yeah, and to rock your socks off.

16. 'Right On Time' by Red Hot Chili Peppers from 'Californication'

This song seems like too much wiring stuffed into a tiny stereo blasting several punk songs at once. There aren't too many bands out there that you can identify right away and The Peppers are one of them. However on this song it takes a while, which I think is cool. They don't seem to be satisfied with themselves, they seem to be searching for the best possible expression of any particular idea.

17. 'Dirt In The Ground' by Tom Waits from 'Bone Machine'

As I've said before, this album vaults me back to a time when I wasn't fatigued instantly by the sound of Mr. Waits' voice. He was the darling of the music world this year and perhaps that is why he has spent the last 20 years delving farther and farther into the margins of his sound. I think the most revolutionary thing he could do at this point is something smack in the middle of the mainstream. He won't.

18. 'Waitress In The Sky' by The Replacements from 'Tim'

'A sign says 'Thank You Very Much For Not Smoking'/My own sign says 'I'm sorry I'm smokin''

This could be the epitaph on the gravestone of The Replacements. This mean-spirited little dollop of misogyny is REALLY fun to sing along with, and when taken with 'Little Mascara' ('All you ever wanted was someone to take care of ya/All you're ever losin' is a little mascara') gives you the two sides of the same worthless coin that these guys flipped into some bum's hat instead of laughing all the way to the bank.

19. 'Tombstone' by The Pogues from 'Peace and Love'

I've never been to Dublin as an adult. I don't drink pint after pint and I don't smoke cigarettes anymore. I break out in hives when I wear wool. I'm apolitical. When I hear The Pogues I'm ready for Guinness, Gauloises, an Irish knit sweater and a tidy little gun fight with the English.

20. 'Complainte du Progres' by Bernard Lavilliers from 'Boris Vian et ses interpretes'

Somehow this works even though I laugh at French music. This song doesn't expect you to do anything BUT giggle.

21. 'Life Is But A Dream' by The Harptones from 'GoodFellas (Soundtrack)'

I'm about to go to France. I've got Lyme's Disease. I'm pretty much confined to bed. I watch 'GoodFellas' and 'Crimes and Misdemeanors' over and over and over and over and over. It's a wonder my parents didn't have me committed. Which when they let me go to France they pretty much did.

It is Friday. I'll see you Monday morning.

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