Thursday, August 7, 2008

Icarus Licorice

So I swore off the shuffle model yesterday and today I go back on my word. And it is all thanks to John Cameron Mitchell, or to be more specific, Hedwig.

To the uninitiated, Hedwig And The Angry Inch is a musical that tells the story of a German boy who undergoes a sex change operation at the request of an Army Sergeant stationed in Berlin. The operation doesn't fully 'take' however and Hedwig winds up neither here nor there and is plopped down into Middle America the ultimate outcast.

I won't go on too long, I'll only say that the iPod chose 'Midnight Radio' to open things off for me this morning and to say I love that song is to reach a pinnacle of understatement.

1. 'Midnight Radio' by John Cameron Mitchell from 'Hedwig And The Angry Inch'

I am one of the lucky hordes who can say they saw John Cameron Mitchell perform this most post-modern of musicals. My cousin Mike was going to be in New York City for a weekend very near his birthday. He knew it was unlikely that he could see everyone he wanted to see in the limited time he had. So he buys 30 or so tickets to see 'Hedwig' and invites everyone he wants to see. Selfish, I know, but we accept these minor faults in those we love.

The buzz had been building to a massive crescendo and the possibility of an anticlimactic response seemed probable. But just the opposite occurred. What I'd heard could never have prepared me for the emotional impact this evening of entertainment delivered. I remember laughing until my spleen came out of my nose and then instantly being wrenched into a sob.

This song serves as the cigarette lighter waving impetus to end the fictional concert we've just witnessed. Who dares to write an epic rock and roll song to bring a real crowd to the point of worship at the feet of a fictional star? The gall!

The word 'genius' gets thrown around quite a bit these days. Occasionally it applies.

2. 'Gary's Got A Boner' by The Replacements from 'Let It Be'


People, I can't stress enough how quickly you need to own this album. At first listen you'll probably wonder what I'm going on about.

Imagine you are driving down a deserted highway. All of a sudden you come across cars on opposite sides of the road. One has crashed and a man sits cross-legged weeping. The other has a couple in the back seat humping. Which one do you look at?

3. 'Sale Or Return' by Bis from 'Social Dancing'

I've got to go through my iPod and delete some stuff is all I'm saying.

4. 'Fatman' by G. Love & Special Sauce from 'G. Love & Special Sauce'

Having seen G. Love in person before ANYONE knew who he was, I have to say I thought I'd still be obsessed with him at this point. There is something disappointing about him and I'm not sure what it is.

5. 'Popemobile To Paraguay' by The Fatima Mansions from 'Lost In The Former West'

The Catholic Church secretly aided members of the NAZI party in their escape to South America. Hence this song.

6. 'Ash And Earth' by Velvet Crush from 'In The Presence Of Greatness'

Sometimes it looks and sounds like a rat but it ISN'T a rat, you know what I'm saying? Something is off here and I'm not sure what it is. Every note is in place but the sum is less than the whole of its parts.

7. 'Only Son' by Liz Phair from 'Whitechocolatespaceegg'

This song kills me. This album began the whole 'Liz Phair' sells out bullshit that started to plague her. For some reason her supposed 'fans' wanted her to remain the same chick who recorded 'Exile In Guyville'. Whenever I hear ANYONE talk about an artist selling out I want to strangle them. People who TRY to sell out fail. Liz Phair has chased her muse. Period.

8. 'The Interview' by Lenny Bruce from 'The Lenny Bruce Originals - Volume 1'

I have no idea what this is about and it made me laugh.

9. 'I Love You Because (Alternate # 3)' by Elvis Presley from 'The Sun Sessions CD'

To hear this guy fucking around in the studio when NOBODY is listening is the way to hear him.

10. 'Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy' by Queen from 'Greatest Hits'

If Queen were what surrounded Eskimos they'd need thousands of words for 'awesome'.

11. 'No More No More' by Aerosmith from 'Toys In The Attic'

This might be my favorite Aerosmith song. Yep, it is.

12. 'Anything Goes' by Frank Sinatra from 'Sings The Select Cole Porter'

Perfect arrangements, perfect singing, perfect songs, perfect album.

13. 'Mood For Moderns' by Elvis Costello & The Attractions from 'Armed Forces'

More perfect pop condensed.

14. 'Boogie Boy' by Iggy Pop from 'American Caesar'


15. 'By Design' by Rites of Spring from 'End On End'

There is something a bit too fuzzy about the songs here, as if Guy Picciotto's passion were so deep that it affected the actual recording to the point that the edges were lost. It would take Fugazi's precision to truly demonstrate the scope of his writing.

16. 'Sex In The Summer' by Prince from 'Emancipation (Disc 2)'

We're not talking sticky uncomfortable either, we're talking perfect bikini, sweat at the end of the act and not before, and no sand in your underpants.

17. 'Groove Holmes' by The Beastie Boys from 'Check Your Head'

Instrumental goodness.

18. 'Going Mobile' by The Who from 'Who's Next'

When The Who really get going they are unstoppable. I'll never forget my friend Joe telling me he thought The Who were his favorite band. This was in the mid '80's when it wasn't cool to like The Who among punk aficionados. But Joe couldn't help himself. His ardor interested me and I picked up a copy of 'Who's Next'. It is now in my 'Top Whatever' of 'Best Albums'.

So once again I am back at work having sampled a cross-section of my record collection. I still don't know what this blog will morph into but I'll let you know when I know.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Bored Room

Yesterday my iPod bored me to such an extent that I did not write a post. It repeated several songs it recently played, the songs it chose were not sufficiently interesting to spark my discourse, and David Mamet's 'Bambi Vs. Godzilla' overrode any musical connection those songs could attempt.

Today wasn't much better but until I figure out a new way to approach this space I am going to give it a go.

1. 'I Love A Piano' by Tony Bennett from 'Unplugged'

A promising start as Tony sings the shit out of this standard. He lives right near Columbus Circle and I almost knocked him over one day while I was working at The Hub writing my Urban Legends column as Legs Urbano. What an odd time. The internet boom in action. Corporations throwing money around like it was free bagels. Weirdos on deadline almost bumping into American legends on the streets.

2. 'Smile' by Michael Jackson from 'HIStory (Disc 2)'

Oh man. The packaging for this greatest hits schmaltztravaganza is almost too bizarre to describe. It comes across as if it is Exhibit A in some movie courtroom drama in which Michael defends himself with a speech so impassioned that world peace spontaneously occurs while his accusers rip up the incriminating evidence they have of him. Remember in 'Star Wars' when the Death Star explodes and Leia, Han, and Luke celebrate back at the Rebel base and how that should have been the end? And then there is a wordless ceremony in which Leia puts medals on Han and Luke? And Harrison Ford can barely contain his disdain? That's this whole thing in a nutshell.

3. 'Leaving' by Gregory isaacs from 'Trojan Dub Box Set (Disc 3)'

My cousin Liam recommended this compilation of dub music. I pass the recommendation on. Not being a big reggae fan, I am surprised at my reaction to dub music, mostly because these tracks are mainly instrumental. That allows them to be more surreal to me and they hit harder.

4. 'Gatorville & Points East' by John Cale from 'Walking On Locusts'

If you want to fall asleep on public transportation I suggest you listen to John Cale.

5. 'Operaman' by Adam Sandler from 'The Concert For New York City (Disc 1)'

Leave it to Sandler to rouse me from my Cale-induced coma and bring me to tears. The rest of this concert can inspire me to cynicism and a kneejerk anti-jingoism but Sandler makes me proud to be an American and proud to declare that my homeland was brutally attacked by the worst kind of scoundrel.

6. 'Cool' by Gwen Stefani from 'Love, Angel, Music, Baby'

If I were Gavin Rossdale I'd be like, 'Hey, can you stop writing songs about the bass player already?'

7. 'Lola' by The Kinks from 'The Ultimate Collection (Disc 1)'

I never liked The Kinks. I was wrong. They seem to be the most unfamous famous band of all time. Strange strange music.

8. 'I Just Can't Stop Loving You' by Michael Jackson from 'HIStory (Disc 1)'

I don't even want to know who he's talking about.

9. 'Monsters In The Parasol' by Queens Of The Stone Age from 'Rated R'

If you are unfamiliar with this album you are really missing out. Any band that can take something as patently absurd as the combination of 'monster' and 'parasol' and turn it into a great rock song is to be commended and encouraged. Also I sort of want to be Josh Homme.

10. 'Speedo' by The Cadillacs from 'Goodfellas (Soundtrack)'

This vocal figure ('Now you all can call me Speedo, etc.') just might be the combination of notes that I have hummed to myself most often out of all the songs ever written. I can't say it is my favorite or anything, just that I quite regularly find myself in the process of recreating it.

11. 'Stop Talking' by The Walkmen from 'Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone'

I almost loved this band when this album came out. Today I am more interested in what David Mamet has to say about the Ashkenazy Jew and the fact that the titans who created Hollywood all originate from a 200 mile radius in Poland.

12. 'Blood' by El-P from 'Fantastic Damage'

The antithesis of gangsta rap. This is not pleasant music. It is disconcerting to listen to, frightening to contemplate, and hard to digest. Funky as hell, as in funky as the place where bad people go to suffer forever.

13. 'Only The Strong' by Midnight Oil from '10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1'

People forget about Midnight Oil. I do too and then my iPod reminds me not to. Love this song. Love this band.

14. 'Old Brown Shoe' by The Beatles 'Past Masters Volume 2'

John, Paul, George, Ringo. Bingo.

15. 'Senior Service' by Elvis Costello & The Attractions from 'Armed Forces'

Compact pop absurdity.

16. 'Who Are Parents' by The Shaggs from 'Philosophy Of The World'

Google 'The Shaggs'. I can't explain it in any meaningful way.

17. 'Bad Show' by Soul Side from 'Soon-Come-Happy'

DC hardcore interesting because members of this band went on to form Rites of Spring and Fugazi. Not too interesting on its own.

18. 'Willing And Able' by Prince & The New Power Generation from 'Diamonds And Pearls'

Prince hit some kind of high point with this album. When I think of this album I think 'relaxation'. It might be the only time in his entire body of work that he is relaxed.

19. 'This Protector' by The White Stripes from 'White Blood Cells'

Gonna have to work harder than that, Jack.

20. 'House Where Nobody Lives' by Tom Waits from 'Mule Variations'

How sad. An empty house. I might cry. Or press fast forward.

21. 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' by Nirvana from 'From The Muddy Bands Of The Wishkah'

Nirvana live and twice as fast as the song you've heard a gazillion times on the radio. I can't help but layer the detachment Cobain must have felt deep within, the disdain he directed towards himself for winning a popularity contest. It drains the song of its energy and leaves it sounding like the kid who is still screaming and crying even though his mother has caved in and given him the candy he thought he wanted.

I've had it with this format. I may be back here or it may be time to close up shop and move on to something else. We shall see. We shall see.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Declaration Of In

Last night Melody and I meandered up the PCH and got some fish and chips at Neptune's Net. The sun was huge and orange, the bikers let their bikes glint and gleam while sipping beer and eating beer-battered fish, and everything affirmed that, in spite of our flaws as a country, some good decisions have been made.

1. 'D'Yer Mak'er' by Led Zeppelin from 'Houses Of The Holy'

I first succumbed to Led Zeppelin in my fifth year of college, a year I spent abroad in France. My friends and I had access to a small studio in Paris that we could crash in while having adventures in The City of Lights. Let me be start by saying that I never visited Jim Morrison's grave and that the only classic rock conversion I underwent was due to the fact that the studio only had one set of CD's...the newly remastered Led Zeppelin catalog.

The owner of the studio traveled a great deal and had brought back from South America a giant jug of homemade rum. In this rum the moonshiners had deposited various local fruits. By the time I imbibed from the potent brew the fruit was gray. This didn't stop me. I think today it would stop me, and that is why youth is so perfectly not wasted on the young.

2. 'Hey Foxymophandlemama, That's Me' by Pearl Jam from 'Vitalogy'

This song disturbed me greatly while it played and I didn't know who it was. Eddie Vedder doesn't sing on the track; it is a collage of spoken word by what is either a little child or an adult voice modified to sound like a child. Due to my ambivalence about Eddie Vedder's voice, you'd think this might up my enjoyment factor. But I just wanted it to be over. Thankfully it isn't too long. By the way, the title is completely non-sequitous which is a shortcut that many mainstream artists use when they want to seem more experimental than they actually are. Pearl Jam will always be closer to Stone Temple Pilots than Captain Beefheart and that would be fine except they don't seem to think so.

3. 'Nice New Outfit' by Fugazi from 'Steady Diet Of Nothing'

In Fugazi-land this album is not considered to be a high point. Much like Foo Fighter's 'The Colour And The Shape'. But I am in the minority. I think it is their finest moment. The first Iraq war was raging and naturally Fugazi commented.

This song took on a different meaning for me last year when I performed it as part of a tribute to Fugazi. The evening was organized by a friend, a great actress/singer. She and I geeked out over Fugazi whenever we got the chance and she is really the only other fanatic that I know personally. I know they're out there but I don't know any of them personally.

My cousin Timothy and I did a wacky hip-hop version of this song which we performed. In the midst of all the hardcore sturm und drang volume our funky karaoke was, thankfully, highly appreciated. It marked our debut in live performance.

4. 'Do That Stuff' by Parliament from 'Parliament's Greatest Hits'

I know this must be a funky track but I got pretty into reading 'Bambi Vs. Godzilla', David Mamet's dissection of the film industry. But, listen, if you need me to tell you about Parliament you just aren't quite a good American yet.

Quick sideline. What the hell are they putting in the drinking water up in Minneapolis, MN? Bob Dylan, Prince, George Clinton, Garrison Keillor, The Replacements, Husker Du, Soul Asylum. Seriously. BOTTLE THAT SHIT AND SEND IT TO ME.

5. 'Red Light Fever' by Liz Phair from 'Liz Phair'

See 'Who Said Life Wasn't Phair?' from 2/25/08.

6. 'I Don't Wanna Grow Up' by Tom Waits from 'Bone Machine'

One of his best and that's saying a lot. It sounds like a 'Free To Be You And Me' song that has been dragged into a bar, force fed Pabst Blue Ribbon and pickled eggs, turned onto the joys of unfiltered Pall Malls, dropped onto a crosstown bus dressed in rags, and deposited back at elementary school with instructions to pretend none of it ever happened.

7. 'Tasted' by Brendan O'Malley from 'Rhode Island Red'

This song was actually co-written with my friend Danilo Torres who played guitar in The Mahoneys. I put words to a lick we'd played around with...he thought it should be called 'Tasted' so I wrote a song called 'Tasted'. This is months after the demise of that band, in the last summer I would spend in Rhode Island before moving to The Big Apple. I recorded some songs in the cabaret room at Theater-By-The-Sea for friends and family. They were very kind to come show their support.

All I remember from that summer is the heat and the feeling that my life was like the space in front of an air-conditioning duct that has been blocked. It ought to be cooler so you know something is wrong.

8. 'Whoa, Back Buck' by Leadbelly and The Golden Gate Jubilee from 'Alabama Bound'

Kurt Cobain introduced me to Leadbelly and I'll forever be grateful to that little asshole for that.

9. 'Last Exit' by Pearl Jam from 'Vitalogy'

See? The iPod knew it had fucked up. In revisiting the same album from Pearl Jam, it proves my point perfectly. This is a straightforward guitar cock-rock song. Pearl Jam chafes at the notion that it is as conventional as can be. But like PBJ and network television there is something comforting about the lowest common denominator. Don't fight it guys.

10. 'Mississippi' by Bob Dylan from 'Love & Theft'

When Bob Dylan says he stayed in Mississippi way too long you imagine centuries. Eons. By the end of the song you've spent that time there with him, wondering why you can't leave, what the hell is wrong with you, and why can't you find the gumption to pick your feet up.

11. 'My World Is Over' by Diane Dane from 'That Thing You Do!'

I love this movie.

12. 'Seen Your Video' by The Replacements from 'Let It Be'

Instrumental for the first half, the second half rails against MTV and phony rock and roll. Not their best song, not even the best song on the second side of this PERFECT album, but somehow this song could go into the time capsule and perfectly describe early '80's underground punk music. If you want mainstream go to Maine and find a stream.

13. 'Limp' by Fiona Apple from 'When The Pawn...'

Because one of the first things I ever heard about Fiona Apple was that she'd been raped at 12, I've never quite been able to acknowledge how sexy she is. In the spirit of the title of today's post, Fiona Apple is HOT. Triple hot. The lips, the hair, the skinny little on a stick and even the imposition of pure evil on her history can't tarnish it. Take that rapist. You failed.

14. 'Pinball Wizard' by The Who from 'My Generation - The Very Best Of The Who'

I just heard this song the other day and commented on how stupid I think it is. 'Tommy' in general I think is pretty over-rated. Give me 'Who's Next' over 'Tommy' EVERY day of EVERY week. If I were deaf dumb and blind I'd be offended. I'm not and I am.

15. 'I'm Ready To Go Home' by The Louvin Brothers from 'Satan Is Real'

Preach on brothers. The Pearly Gates will welcome you. Your belief is complete and therefore self-reflexive.

16. 'The Sprawl' by Sonic Youth from 'Daydream Nation'

Who knew the Converse and Fruit of the Loom generation had a 'Sgt. Pepper's' waiting for them? I didn't know I had a generation to be articulated until I heard this album. In one long dissonant swoop Sonic Youth killed my childhood and I reveled in the carnage.

And so we the people come to the end of our Declaration of In. See youz tomorruh.