I put on the headphones and started towards my living room door. Then my heart leaped into my chest at the first selection the iPod made.
1. 'Sweet Avenue' by Jets To Brazil from 'Orange Rhyming Dictionary'
I could talk about the inexorable romance of this slow angular rock ballad, I could talk about the impossibly fine lyrics which feel like diamonds spilled from velvet boxes onto marble floors, I could talk about how this is honey to the Splenda that usually passes for love songs.
But how do you explain that the opening chords to a song lift you out of a bus in Los Angeles and wrench you back eight years in time, back before 9/11, back when the girl you had just fallen in love with could accompany you right up to the gate, back to the moment you held her and knew you had to let her go, back to the kiss that doomed you both to a world of pain until you left your wife which you should have done long ago?
How do you explain that?
2. 'Poison Years' by Bob Mould from 'Workbook'
This was Bob Mould's first solo album after the horrible implosion of Husker Du. (Quick side note: there was a copy of the board game Husker Du at the house we just rented on Lake Sunapee, I'd never actually seen it!) I wish this album had been a clarion call, a flag on the surface of the moon, the mission statement. But it seems to have been an aberration instead. I don't mean that Mould should have kept making this album over and over. But the writing on this album is exculpatory. It's painful. I don't think he ever dug that deep again. This is the Jimi Hendrix of American hardcore, by the way. This album perfectly showcases the emotional breadth of his lead guitar voice.
3. 'Cadillac Ranch' by Bruce Springsteen from 'The River'
Fans of The Boss won't be happy about this, but I think 'The River' stinks. I am almost all alone in this opinion. People talk about 'The River' in hushed tones, as if they were in church. I DON'T GET IT. It sounds thin and forced. He is trying too hard. The drums sound as if they were trapped inside a stove. He reminds me of the guy at the party who keeps flattening beer cans on his forehead as if it were an ironic comment on frat boys who do those types of things at those types of parties when really he'd feel more at home with a bunch of frat boys actually flattening beer cans on their foreheads for fun. His next record was 'Nebraska' so I wouldn't be surprised if Bruce felt the same way as I do.
4. 'Lucifer' by Jay-Z from 'The Black Album'
Two days in a row with some Hov. Legend has it that he doesn't ever write lyrics down, he simply formulates what he wants to say until he's ready and then he records it. He's not free styling but he's also not reading off of a paper. While I don't entirely believe this, he does continually sound as if he's discovering what he's about to say as he says it. That's great acting. And he dates Beyonce and owns an NBA franchise. Like a zealot I'm jealous of Z, see?
5. 'The Story of Jazz' by Yo La Tengo from 'Prisoners of Love'
I broke a little rule while listening to this song. Normally if I don't know who is singing I force myself to listen to the song without knowing who it is. But I kept hearing an old disc that I know isn't on my iPod. It's a band called Eleventh Dream Day, who were not as good as they seemed. But this seemed better than that. So I needed to look. There is a real power to this band, there was a screaming lead halfway through that would be great on Guitar Hero. How does something that rocks so hard remain unassuming?
6. 'Too High' by Stevie Wonder from 'Innervisions'
If you only know Stevie as the 'Sunshine of My Life' sticky sweet 'Ebony and Ivory' icon, you're doing yourself a disservice. When I first converted over to CD back in the late '80's, I joined every one of those music clubs out there. 11 CD's for 99 cents! I'd recently read something about this album that had piqued my interest. Apparently, Stevie was frustrated at Motown because he wanted to write and record his own stuff and they wanted him to be Little Stevie Wonder his whole life. So he left and recorded this album. He plays every instrument. This is literally the music that he hears in his head. It is devastating. My ex wife said he was an alien, that this was superhuman music.
7. 'The Inspector Clouseau theme' by Oranj Symphonette from 'Oranj Symphonette Plays Mancini'
This music is crazy. Had no idea what it was until I got to work and looked at the list. I spent the first half of it hoping that Tom Waits didn't start singing and ruin the mood. Slowly I realized that it was an instrumental and I didn't have to worry about it. I laughed three or four times during the song. Laughing at music. Once I saw Clouseau in the title I understood. Or should I say understewd?
8. '103' by Soul Side from 'Soon-Come-Happy'
I bought this CD because members of this band went on to be in Fugazi. Although I like the album, this song in particular is nothing special.
9. 'Walkin' After Midnight' by Patsy Cline from '12 Greatest Hits'
I know I'm supposed to love her. I just don't. She sounds like a detergent commercial. No, that's not right. She sounds like someone kidnapped Rosemary Clooney and forced her to turn 'City Slickers' into a gritty Western.
10. 'Space Rock' by Weezer from 'Maladroit'
There was a moment there when I loved this band. 'Hash Pipe' is killer. Now? I have too many things to think about. Sometimes I am too compassionate to kill a spider...other days I step on them without a second thought. Today Weezer is stuck to the bottom of my shoe.
11. 'Friend Like Me' by Robin Williams from 'Aladdin'
Holy cow does Robin Williams knock this out of the park. How did they write a song that came directly from the genie portion of his frontal lobe?
12. 'Love-Building On Fire' by Talking Heads from 'Sand In The Vaseline'
I resist Talking Heads for some reason. There is something antagonistic in there, some malevolence masquerading as acuity, something I rebel against. The attitude is exclusive, as if your appreciation is tolerated, but scorned due to your shallow understanding of the material. Don't get me wrong...I love this song. But I don't think they want my love.
13 & 14. 'Hold On' and 'Love Is' by Amy Correia from 'Lakeville'
This is a first. Same artist same album two songs in a row. It's telling that I am more interested in the binary permutations responsible for this anomaly than I am in the songs themselves. Why did the iPod do this? Was it a glitch? Was it so bored by the first song that it thought to give Amy another chance? Do iPod's have emotional responses to songs? Could Will Smith defeat my iPod in a battle if it ever went bonkers and tried to rid the world of humans?
15. 'I'd Be A Fool Right Now' by Stevie Wonder from 'For Once In My Life/Uptight'
This song is a perfect example. Stevie Wonder had 'Innervisions' and instead he's blaring out this crap. I mean, crap is a strong word and it is only appropriate in comparison, but come on! He had an ocean liner in his backyard and they wanted him to ride a tricycle.
16. 'Mind On The Matter' by Harry Connick, Jr. from 'Star Turtle'
Damn this album is hot. Two days in a row with a little jolt from Harry. He was also great as the Beatnik in 'Iron Giant'. If you haven't seen it and you like animation, give it a try. Vastly underrated as is Mr. Connick, Jr.
17. 'The Hum' by Pimp Fu from 'Raw Fushi...t'
Timothy would sit in our basement apartment while I was out and about and he would experiment with the 4-track recorder all day. This is a collage of his voice attempting to figure out how to match the levels on different tracks. It is hilarious. When T left Brooklyn I kept all the tapes with all the songs he did. I later digitized them and put them on CD and called them 'Raw Fushi...t'. He hates the production value because all I did was turn everything up and let it play. He'd have been slicing and dicing and icing the cake. But fuck him, he left. And the shit is awesome any which way you c-c-c-c-cut it up.
18. 'Far Away Eyes' by The Rolling Stones from 'Some Girls'
When Mick does that hillbilly accent I'm both offended and annoyed. Why does he keep doing country music if he has such contempt for Southern White America? Oh, right, because he's in The Rolling Stones and they do whatever the fuck they want. This album is like the dirty one night stand that you are ashamed of the next day but 5 years later you realize was actually kind of hot and fuck that moralizing White angel on your shoulder.
And here I am back at my computer, unwilling to face the rest of this day. Sweet Avenue my ass.