Friday, August 1, 2008

Let It Alone

A friend forced my hand. She is presenting a night of her poetry and asked me to be the opening act...sing 4 or 5 songs and set the stage. I've been frustrated musically for quite a long time, longer than I care to admit. From 1995 through 2003 I wrote roughly an album worth of material each year, sometimes a bit more, never less. The last 5 years have seen that pace slow considerably and if it weren't for the arrival of Cousin Timothy on the scene I'd almost have nothing new to show. And my collaborations with him aren't stand-alone songs, they are soundscapes that I contribute to.

So the singer/songwriter train had long since retired to the yard. Unhappily, I might add.

The invitation from my friend meant a lot to me. Oh to hell with it, it's Fielding. I swore I'd write new material for this evening. And last night I took a big step towards meeting that goal. Nothing final yet but some very viable seeds. Left me excited to hear the tunes this morning.

1. 'The Only Answer' by Mike Doughty from 'Skittish'

I was in Rhode Island again, listening to WRIU late at night again, driving home from visiting Jean who was bar tending down at the greatest bar in the world, The Ocean Mist. A song came on that stopped me in my tracks, stunned me to my core. The only problem was the boneheaded college DJ never said who sang the damn thing. All I knew was it was a voice and a guitar and it referenced the F train and Park Slope. My Brooklyn heartbreak seemed to be scraped off the pavement and reconstituted in its entirety in the most modern folk song I'd ever heard. I desperately stayed awake as long as I could to hear the DJ say who sang it but he never did. I called the radio station the next day to find out what it was but they didn't really keep records like that. I did a mad Google search typing in every possible genre/lyric/etc. I could think of. Nothing came up. Months passed and I was back in LA. I remembered the song again and rededicated myself to the Google mission. Ultimately I found it...'Thank You Lord For Sending Me The F Train'. I bought the album. 'The Only Answer' is another devastating track from the mind of the man who reached out to me with his description of what had become my hometown, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY, USA.

2. 'STP' by Sublime from 'Robbin' The Hood'

I am not a big reggae fan and I am even less of a ska fan so I am puzzled by my infatuation with Sublime. They continually put me in a summer mood. They remind me of the hours I used to spend with sand between my toes and ocean salt all over my body, trying not to look too long at the girls on the blankets right nearby and dreaming of a day when I'd be on a blanket with them.

3. 'Ball And Chain' by Social Distortion from 'Social Distortion'

This is one of those songs that was here long before it was ever written. It lived in the Big House of Songs near 'Rock Island Line' and 'Erie Canal' and 'Red River Valley', it just never got asked to come out and play. Hundreds of years went by and finally this big lug named Mike Ness came to the Big House of Songs and saw it sitting there on the shelf. 'Hey you,' he cried. 'You and me might get along fine.' So 'Ball And Chain' said goodbye to 'She'll Be Riding Six White Horses' and exited the Big House of Songs blinking and excited to visit.

4. 'Low Side Of The Road' by Tom Waits from 'Mule Variations'

I was all ready to get my Waits hackles up, as they've been for several years now. But I found myself really liking this song in spite of how closely it hews to his i-have-no-formula formula. It's funky and weird and cool.

5. 'Downer' by Nirvana from 'Bleach'

This album was recorded for $600 but they sound like a million bucks.

6. 'Bed For The Scraping' by Fugazi from 'Red Medicine'

By this point Fugazi was like The Rolling Stones of the hardcore movement. They'd stood on the mountain top and no one even challenged them anymore. But obviously they challenged themselves. The funk is so hard, the lyrics are like ball bearings skittering around in hot grease, the unity is absolute. They have better songs, better albums, but they've never been more of a group.

7. 'Fireman Hurley' by Mike Watt from 'Contemplating The Engine Room'

A nice song about his buddy the drummer. The drummer came from a family of firemen and here Watt draws an interesting parallel between the combustible propulsion of Hurley's musicianship and his family history of putting out fires.

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

Heard it yesterday, skipped it today.

9. 'Windowstill' by Arcade Fire from 'Neon Bible'

Ugh. Shut up already.

10. 'Rock You' by The Roots from 'Phrenology'

I want to be in The Roots. I'll play the triangle, I'll be the guy who dances around and yells 'Put Your Hands In The Air!' I don't care. I want to be in The Roots.

11. 'Protection' by Graham Parker and The Rumour from 'Squeezing Out Sparks'

Odd, I listened to this album just last night as I cooked my tilapia. Then I listened to Graham Parker solo and heard this song in that version. A simply fantastic rock song. Legend has it that Graham Parker had a band before he put together The Rumour. That band had a harmonica player from The States who'd been backpacking around Europe and had settled in London and gotten mixed up in the burgeoning punk scene.

That harmonica player? Huey Lewis.

12. 'Winds of Morning' by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem from 'In Concert'

These guys bring me back to my childhood like no other artists. They are the best.

13. 'Everybody In This Town Is Drunk' by Pat McCurdy from 'Showtunes'

This live track demonstrates McCurdy's ability to engage a crowd which is almost wholly unique. If you are ever in Chicago or Milwaukee you'll probably want to see Wrigley Field, The Sears Tower, the breweries, etc. But McCurdy is as much of a landmark. Do not miss him.

14. 'The Ultimate Shit' by Pimp Fu from 'Raw Fushi...t'

Oh man he's good.

15. 'Perfect Hair' by Dangerdoom from 'The Mouse & The M...'

Head trip!

16. 'Boom Boom' by John Lee Hooker from 'Very Best Of'

This guy is a minimalist. Many of the beats are his toes tapping. You can hear the invention as it happens and that he'd never play the song the same way twice. There might be raw moments that could be improved upon but they wouldn't add up to the transcendence in the last verse. So he leaves the imperfection alone.

17. 'Cicatriz E.S.P.' by The Mars Volta from 'De-Loused In The Comatorium'

I try to resist, I swear I do. I try to be above it all, to look upon these freaks as self-indulgent deliberately obscure technophiles who are a whole lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. But ultimately I am swayed by the sheer audacity of their vision. To flout comprehension so willingly, to grate the ear with volume and shrillness, to stretch an idea twice past the limit of ingratiation...hats off.

18. 'Supa Star' by Floetry feat. Common from 'Umpg: Current And Upcoming Singles'

Supa yawn.

19. 'Cinderella's Big Score' by Sonic Youth from 'Goo'

'Goo' is in essence Sonic Youth's disco album. It never sits still, it sparkles, it leaves you likely to make bad choices in public places late at night, and it keeps pulling its skirt higher and higher and higher until...well, let's just say that when you bend down to put the glass slipper back on you get quite a show.

20. 'Pork Chop's Little Ditty' by Primus from 'Pork Soda'

Les Claypool got his hands on a banjo and PRESTO!

21. 'The Last Time' by The Rolling Stones from 'Out Of Our Heads (USA)'

Oh to be young and in The Rolling Stones! They sound like cavemen.

22. 'All Broadway Musicals Sound the Same, Especially The Baritones' by Lenny Bruce from 'The Lenny Bruce Originals - Volume 1'

A short interlude from the King.

23. 'Everlong' by Foo Fighters from 'The Colour And The Shape'

Foo fans don't seem to care for this album overmuch and I couldn't disagree more. I own no other Foo Fighters and don't care to, such is the perfection of this suite of songs.

24. 'Cleaning House' by Grandpaboy from 'Dead Man Shake'

The blues album Westerberg released as Grandpaboy is a kind of ragged perfection. Check him out.

And that is that for the day. Let it alone.

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