Friday, January 7, 2011

I Came To Play

I have never shied away from the side of show business that is competitive and cut throat. I have little compassion for people who go into this field expecting things to turn out the way they wanted and then turn bitter when the opposite happens. I grew up obsessed with sports, with winning, with the very act of competition. It is invigorating to me.

Of course, I am not immune to that kind of bitterness. It is something that ate away at the fabric of my life for a long time. The external reality of my career did not match my sense of my own talent. This juxtaposition, like a fractured bone, caused me to become off-kilter, out of balance, and less capable of action when necessary.

A few things allowed me to heal (or, I should say, continue to heal because some injuries are permanent and cannot ever be allowed to fester). First and foremost, the love of Melody and my family was like a constant salt water wash, attacking that infected area. Without those people I wouldn't care if I were successful or not. With them I can bear anything.

But right behind those people, in a close second, comes The Workshop With Jeffrey Tambor. I came to this class just as these things that plagued me were coming to a head. My father was on his way out of this world, I was angrier than I'd ever been which is saying a lot, and I was not in control of my own creative destiny.

Tambor changed all that with one pointed finger.

I brought a Shakespeare monologue in for my first time going up onstage. I did a capable job with Edmund from King Lear. Mr. Tambor then asked me a few pointed questions. He then got up on stage and asked me to do the monologue again.

As I did so, he literally poked me in the back, pushing me forward. I had to keep moving to adjust. It also immediately tapped into the well of anger that I was being crushed by but somehow pretending to ignore. Within a few seconds I was snarling the gnarled phrases and spitting them out as if they were bones inside a still-living carcass that I was devouring.

After prodding me on to this explosion, he looked out at the class and asked them what the difference was in the two performances. Uniformly what people noticed was that one was cerebral and well-executed but the second was unpredictable and impassioned. In short, MORE DRAMATIC.

This transformation was not the arrival for me, maybe there isn't an actual arrival, it was merely the jumping off point. I still had many months ahead of me where I refused to address my own attitudes. I was still exhibiting many of the same behaviors that were keeping me (Mr. Tambor's phrase, as in 'What's Keeping You?') trapped in the same old spot.

At this point I am not even concerned with how this affects any career I wish to have. What started that day for me was a slow dawning realization that I wasn't enjoying my life and it was my own damn fault. I don't know from God but even any theoretical divinity would insist upon some sense of gratitude and joy being at the center of your life.

So now that I've dispensed with my bullshit, now that I've agreed to keep shoveling it out of my way every single time I catch myself letting it pile up, now that I've embraced myself...

I came to play (a phrase I borrowed from my buddy Ben Barnes, another member of The Workshop). Thanks, Mr. Tambor. I owe you one.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Timothy's Car

While Cousin Timothy aka Pimp Fu aka Poppa Foxtrot aka Jack Chassis aka Warp Speed-O is on the East Coast I will be driving his sick wheels. Which means that my iPod use will be limited to the gym on a daily basis. I may let these accumulate for a while and cover other topics in the meantime. We shall see.

Today's list covers my gym visit yesterday and the bus ride home.

330. Alalakay - Mamadou Diabate from 'Famous Shovels In Twain'

I'm all for listening to music from all over the world. But not this.

331. Ramp - Ms. Dynamite from 'A Little Deeper'

Good thing you can rhyme 'sex' with 'respect' and 'wreck' and 'check' or else Ms. Dynamite wouldn't have anything to say. This falls in a specific category of music that I do not relate to. The 'uplifting moral cheerleader' song. Basically, Ms. Dynamite is trying to convince all her female sisters that they do not have to settle for one night stands, that they deserve better, but if they do want to have one night stands, then at least respect themselves enough to use a condom and if the guy refuses to use a condom think about having AIDS and dying or getting chlamydia (yes, she uses the word in the song).

All of these sentiments are quite valid and hard to take issue with. But they just don't make for dramatic listening. Dr. Phil is interesting but I don't want to hear him rap.

332. Feeling Good - Nina Simone from 'Verve Unmixed'

Here we go. Nina shows Ms. Dynamite how it is done. When Nina sings it is as if she is opening a viewing door into her heart. There might be troublesome things in there (something Ms. Dynamite would exclude so as to have more clout as a self-help therapist) but she doesn't hide it. Her emotional presence is so vivid that it is almost uncomfortable, even if she is singing about feeling good. There is something unsettling about someone having a private moment so publicly. That is brave artistry, as opposed to Ms. Dynamite's pat sloganeering.

One of the all-time greats.

333. Lusty Scripps - Fugazi from 'Instrument Soundtrack'

I have yet to see this documentary, something I intend to remedy as soon as possible. Somehow the idea of being an accompaniment has freed Fugazi up to make some of the most playful music of their career. This song has no lyrics and it is funny. Not sure how they pull that off and if any of you are familiar with the Fugazi canon, humor does not play a large role in their aesthetic. This song makes me yearn for them to reunite and somehow embrace a wider audience in a reunion tour a la Pixies in 2004. I know it won't happen because they would never deal with the corporate entities necessary to pull off a tour of that scale but I think they should be in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame even though they would bitch-slap me for even putting them in the same sentence.

Another one of the all-time greats.

334. OK Song - Orson from 'Bright Idea'

Whenever these guys pop up on my iPod I wonder why they aren't bigger. They seem like a glam/Brit version of OK Go mixed with Robbie Williams or something. Just great songs which are produced extremely well, very creative arrangements and superb execution. I dig 'em.

335. Hang On To Your Ego - Frank Black from 'Frank Black'

Frank Black recorded this song before the Beach Boys retrospective came out and this version of the song was more a bootleg. It is a great cover. Every time I hear a Beach Boys cover I understand a little bit more about why they are and were The Beach Boys. I am not a huge fan. I enjoy their music but came of age just in time to hear 'Kokomo' on the radio and they just seemed like a joke. I've never been able to quite shake that perception even though I know intellectually that they are far more than that.

This song helps me appreciate the original more and that is, I think, the true test of a great cover.

336. There's A Place - The Beatles from 'Please Please Me'

I will scream with the teenagers of yore for these four lads.

337. Play The Game - Queen from 'Greatest Hits'

The other day in the car Cashel and I were listening to this album. Cashel said something to the effect that you wouldn't say Queen was deep because their music is so catchy to sing along to that you don't even notice if the subject matter is sad or troublesome. This song is a perfect example of that.

338. Jack The Ripper - Link Wray from 'Rumble! The Best Of Link Wray'

Link Wray invented distortion when he jammed a pencil into his speaker and liked the way the buzz sounded. Or something like that. I once played this to wake up Justin and his fiancee while they were sleeping and they reacted like Britain politicians did to the original Sex Pistols tour. This is not music for the faint of heart. It is raw and unadulterated. It sounds, in fact, like a rumble.

339. You Can't Always Get What You Want - The Rolling Stones from 'Hot Rocks, 1964-1971 (Disc 2)'

Listening to this song and trying to separate it from itself is impossible. I know that if I could erase its cultural cache from my brain I would probably be floored by it. But somehow it's like there was never a time when I didn't know it by heart. So its impact is somehow dulled. But, c'mon. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir??? And how the Stones just sort of creep up on you as those little blond boys sing??? Colossally creepy and moving. This song's reputation precedes itself and that is a shame.

340. Reconsider Baby - Eric Clapton from 'From The Cradle'

I have taken to bashing Eric Clapton here from time to time. Part of this comes from hearing Cream songs on a regular basis. I hate Cream. They stink. Bad singing, stupid lyrics, muddy production, they stink. And as I've improved (barely) as a guitar player, I am less impressed with Clapton as a player. Whereas the more I improve the MORE I'm impressed by Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, etc.

But I have to admit that this album has a very special place in my heart. I spent one last summer on the couch at my parents house. I was trying to get from Providence to New York and I'd stalled forty minutes down I-95 on familiar territory. I was working at the group homes and disintegrating following the break up with Maria.

I fell in with a few old high school friends who were also around and it felt strange to be hanging out in an apartment over Main Street right down the street from the high school. Two girls were sharing the apartment and I began dating one of them but was in such bad shape that I did not have much to offer. It was a very chaste union and went a long way towards healing some of the wounds that I'd been licking.

This was the summer that Jeff Buckley's 'Grace' came out and the four of us (the other girl was dating an old high school chum) would sit and sip wine, smoke pot, and listen to that album and Eric Clapton's 'From The Cradle'.

It had none of the flash of Clapton's 1970's stuff which I abhorred and was gritty and down to earth. To date it is the only Clapton album that I can really listen to and most of it has to do with the way the light hit the hardwood floor of that apartment. And with the sweet girl who was more a friend than anything else and turned an otherwise unbearable summer into a gentle adventure.

341. Things - Paul Westerberg from '14 Songs'

In this song he talks of things he can say, won't say, doesn't want to say, never will say. I'm going to paraphrase one of them. He admits one thing he will never tell her - that somewhere down the line she'll be a song he sings, a thing he gives away.


342. I'm Ready To Go Home - The Louvin Brothers from 'Satan Is Real'

Man these guys are killers. Killers. A fascinating story these two.

343. Leaving - Gregory Isaacs from 'Trojan Dub Box Set (Disc 3)'

Hot dub. Hot dub time machine.

344. Help Me I'm Hungry (Radio Appearance) - Nirvana from 'With The Lights Out (Disc 1)'

Not impressed with this one. I saw a photo of Courtney Love on her most recent tour and she looks like a reality show about plastic surgery. It made me angry with him for choosing her, for choosing hard drugs, for putting forth this image that was all about integrity and purity and then allowing himself to be co-opted by an attention whore media junkie. Imagine if he weren't dead. Would he be standing by her side supporting her latest breast implants? The dead fish Botox look? No. And that is the great shame. If he'd hooked up with some quiet wallflower who loved good books and hot tea on cold days he'd be cranking out masterpiece after masterpiece. Instead she hopped on like a fame leech and sucked him dry in front of our eyes. I hate her. But I love that Hole album with 'Malibu' on it so what can you do?

345. 20 Flight Rock - Backbeat Band from 'Backbeat Original Soundtrack'

I've written about this album before...a collection of punk and alternative superstar session players re-creating the meth frenzy and stripper ambiance that fueled The Beatles during their time in Hamburg, before they got Ringo, before they changed the world, when they were just four guys playing in seedy foreign bars for up to six hours at a time.

It was a stroke of genius to use punk players to catch this vibe. I highly recommend checking this album out. You will feel like a German businessman who stumbles into a strip club to see some titties in tassels and ends up seeing the future instead.

346. Good Day Sunshine - The Beatles from 'Revolver'

And now for the real thing! 'Revolver' finds The Beatles saying, "Um, hey, we can do ANYTHING WE WANT." Somehow it seems to me that this revelation had never before occurred to anyone in quite this way. And it was their grasp of that idea that makes them who they are. Their willingness to do anything. Rules? What rules?

347. Lick The Hare - Pimp Fu from 'Shocker'

Speaking of willing to do anything, Cousin Timothy, currently lending me his car, has put together one of the most good-spirited filthy albums ever. Someday you will hear it and know what I mean. Just look at the title of the song, folks. It's absurd.

348. For You - Prince from 'For You'

So this seventeen year old black kid from Minneapolis puts out an album in which he plays every single note. And on this song he uses only his voice in a strange a cappella cascade. Beautiful and weird, almost embarrassing, as if it is a diary entry or something.

349. Sinner's Prayer - Eric Clapton from 'From The Cradle'

See above.

350. Dreaming From The Waist - The Who from 'Who By Numbers'

Killer epic from The Who. Great lyrics, great playing, great all around. I don't have much use for 'Quadrophenia' or 'Tommy'. Whenever anyone tells me something is IMPORTANT or EPIC I tend to think they are unsure of whether or not the work is actually those things. But if they are content to let ME decide? Then they got me.

351. Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See - Busta Rhymes from 'Heavy Turbulence - Music From Elektra'

Okay, Busta. I will. Good song.

352. Meanest Man - Billy Bragg & Wilco from 'Mermaid Avenue, Vol. 2'

It is a hoot to think of Woody Guthrie writing these hard boiled lyrics. It adds a dimension to him that is much appreciated. Sainthood is boring.

353. London Bye Ta Ta - David Bowie from 'Bowie At The Beeb (Disc 1)'

Hey David, I have an idea. Why don't you totally transform yourself and your songwriting and give up bullshit like this and really leave your mark on history? Can you do that? Because this is a pile of crap.

Thanks for the ride, Pimp.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


My father taught me that the apostrophe and capital M in my name was sacred. Especially considering that my initials would be 'B.O.' without them. Computers have really put a crimp in this belief as I've had to acquiesce to various multinational conglomerates knowing me only as Brendan Omalley or OMalley or even God forbid Brendan O Malley, as if my middle name were Oscar or some other dumb shit.

On the bus this morning I was confronted with the real thing. The tendency is to blame the person sitting next to you. However, the little Mexican lady was impeccable. A goth hipster across the aisle seemed well groomed. There's the culprit...

On the raised platform sat the offending party. If you are homeless I don't hold your smell against you. But if you look like you came out of an apartment that BY LAW has to have a shower or bath then, come on, Stinky! Get it together.

Luckily I had a coffee so I kept my nose pressed up against the Starbucks cup and greedily inhaled the odor as if it were coke and I was in a 1980's Bret Easton Elis novel. Dude reeked.

Because one of my senses was being assaulted, I delved deeper into the music with my ears. Maybe if I really got into the tunes my nose wouldn't hurt so much.

287. I Can't Get Next To You - Al Green from 'Al Green - Greatest Hits'

I'll say I can't get next to you. You stink. So far the music isn't working.

288. Hurricane - Bob Dylan from 'The Essential Bob Dylan (Disc 2)'

This is not a good song. I know, they made a movie out of it, it's true, blah blah blah. But real life is NOT great art. When Bob Dylan is making shit up he is more interesting than the fact that cops in Paterson, NJ are racist.

289. When You're Smiling - Louis Armstrong from 'All-Time Greatest Hits'

Whenever Louis Armstrong comes on, I have a brief moment of impatience, like what happens when the remote breaks and you're stuck watching an old episode of 'The Jackie Gleason Show'. But about thirty seconds in, you ain't changing the channel and you're laughing your ass off.

290. La La Love You - Pixies from 'Doolittle'

Up there with the greats this album is.

291. Speak Low - Tony Bennett from 'Unplugged'

Tony nails this audience to the wall.

292. The Back Door To Heaven - Aztec Camera from 'Knife'

I'm looking for the front door out of the club to get away from Aztec Camera.

293. Reconsider Me - Warren Zevon from 'Genius: The Best Of Warren Zevon'

This is a heartbreak of a song. A man pleading for a second chance, the boy who cried wolf, the abuser who wishes he could stop hitting her, the user who blushes with shame as the needle pierces the skin. Harrowing.

294. Headache - Liz Phair from 'Whitechocolatespaceegg'

Oh Liz. Melody rolls her eyes and laughs at me whenever Liz Phair comes up because she knows I have a crush on her. I feel like I am in 8th grade every time a song of hers comes on.

295. This Is How I Do It - Pimp Fu from 'Raw Fushi...t'

Yes it is, Pimp. It is how you do it. He poses an interesting question here..."Do you think it's easy to manipulate the beats like this? Livin' on the edge?' I for one do NOT think it's easy.

296. Being Alone Together - David & David from 'Boomtown'

For a short second this sounds like it is going to be a sexy song. And you get the feeling that they wanted to write a make-out song. But then their darker impulses can't help but take over and instead it's a break-up song.

297. Ballad Of A Teenage Queen - Johnny Cash from 'The Sun Years'

The bullshit background singers are like a bow tie on a pit bull. They sound absurd next to Johnny's baritone.

298. Mincer Ray - Guided By Voices from 'Bee Thousand'

More weirdness from the boys from Dayton.

299. Brendan # 1 - Fugazi from 'Repeater + 3 Songs'

Instrumental punk/funk/crunk with my name on it. What's not to like?

300. Not Behind The Fighter Jet - Guided By Voices from 'Mag Earwhig!'

This is right up there for me in terms of favorites from this band. The sentiment is matched perfectly with the music (a massive military cacophony as an ode to a babe) and somehow very touching in the midst of all the noise is his declaration: "I'm not behind the fighter jet/I'd much rather back a simple girl".

Also some pre-apocalyptic fear to get the juices flowing.

301. Humiliate Me - The Fatima Mansions from 'Lost In The Former West'

When The Mansions come to town you'd better lock your doors or you'll be licking their bootheels as they hold you down and enumerate your many faults in front of their own personal tribune.

302. Earth Song - Michael Jackson from 'HIStory (Disc 2)'

Somehow he can make you forget all the bullshit. Even with this stupid green anthem. It's an obvious ploy to get us to focus on something other than the ruined face and the little boys. Like Cheney pimping a charity for kids with cancer. Who could argue? But when Jackson wails his voice is like a perfectly successful propaganda campaign. In the face of it all atrocity is forgotten. That's power. And powerlessness as well.

303. Russian Dance - Tom Waits from 'The Black Rider'

I make fun of ol' Tom for seeming to be more interested in creating a song out of two tin cans, a busted microwave oven, bacon fat sizzling on a pan, and three dogs fighting over a pile of broken glass. But occasionally his thirst for quirk creates strange beautiful vistas. This is one of them. You almost expect Anton Chekhov to pipe in with a verse about his tomato garden.

304. Fire Of Unknown Origin (Bonus Track - Original Version) - Blue Oyster Cult from 'Agents Of Fortune (Remaster)'

Oh, this is a bonus track? God, you guys SUCK.

305. You Made Me Love You - Screamin' Jay Hawkins from 'Voodoo Jive: The Best Of Screamin' Jay Hawkins'

Dude is crazy. Seriously. Do yourself a favor and go out and buy a greatest hits collection from Screamin' Jay Hawkins. It is not to be believed.

306. So Sorry - Runner & The Thermodynamics from 'Marlboro: The 2nd Sessions'

Whenever songs come up from these compilations I usually lose patience real quick. But this is actually quite a good song. Thumbs up.

307. Swanee River Rock (live) - Ray Charles from 'Ray Charles Live'

I love air. I am glad air keeps me alive. I like Ray Charles more than air.

308. Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock & Roll) - Elton John from 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road'

Hey Elton, you are trying too hard. All I can think when I hear his old stuff is the music bouncing off the walls of the closet he is singing from inside of.

309. Big Boys - Elvis Costello & The Attractions from 'This Year's Model'

Streamlined killer pop punk.

310. I'll Follow The Sun - The Beatles from 'Beatles For Sale'

Hey World, beat this! Oh, you can't? Didn't think so!

311. 24 Mo' Hours - Ice Cube from 'War & Peace, Vol. 2 (The Peace Disc)'

I wish Ice Cube could get twenty four more hours from dealing with these killers and these cowards. He doesn't want to lose, all he wants to do is win, he fucked up today, can he try it again?

312. Gotta Say - Low Light Supercharger from 'Umpg Presents Res Freq Recordings'

Another surprise enjoyment of a middling hard rock song on a random sampler. Dig it.

313. I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby - Dolly Parton from 'Little Sparrow'

There is a sessions player in Nashville who grabbed his acoustic guitar and tore this song to pieces. I don't know his name but Hendrix, Page, Clapton, Van Halen...all those guys couldn't carry his jock.

314. Allure - Jay-Z from 'The Black Album'

I can't wait for him to own part of a Brooklyn basketball team. This New Jersey Net bullshit has got to end.

315. Pride And Joy - Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble from 'Greatest Hits'

Stevie Ray Vaughan could give Dolly's acoustic guitar hero a run for his money. If I were down at the crossroads with Robert Johnson and offering my soul to the Devil and he said, "Well, okay, but who do you want to be able to play like?" it would be SRV. Hands down.

316. Time To Get Ill - The Beastie Boys from 'Licensed To Ill'

Rap has come a long way. Hip hop has come even further. This song must make The Beasties cringe.

317. Shove - L7 from 'Tank Girl'

I remember the hype machine trying to shove L7 down every one's throat. They just ain't that good.

318. For Once In My Life - Stevie Wonder from 'For Once In My Life/Uptight'

More perfection from this guy who is somehow still underrated.

319. Big Egos - Dr. Dre from '2001 (Instrumental)'

This music is terrifying. When you strip the braggadocio vocals away, what you are left with is a soundtrack to an imaginary movie. The sounds contain sun, sand, weed, shiny rims, and lurking around every corner is danger. He layers in helicopters in the background. Gunshots break the mood. Screams ring out. Then it all drops away and you are left with nothing but the beat. And then you feel what it might mean to grow up in that atmosphere and have nothing to count on except the music you love.

320. Maxwell's Silver Hammer - The Beatles from 'Abbey Road'

These guys are okay. They might amount to something.

321. P Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up) - Parliament from 'Parliament's Greatest Hits'

So a little bit of funk goes a long way. This is seven minutes and five don't matter. But it's still fun. Someone recently claimed George Clinton was from Detroit and I think he's from Minneapolis. Gonna Google and come right back...

Both wrong. The 'P' in 'P-Funk' originally referred to 'Plainfield' as in 'Plainfield, New Jersey'. Which must have morphed into Parliament...

322. Speedway Baby - Velvet Crush from 'In The Presence Of Greatness'

These guys hail from Providence, RI and kick ass.

323. God Is In The Radio - Queens Of The Stone Age from 'Songs For The Deaf'

Talk about kicking ass. If this were the 1970's these guys would be on posters on every wall of every white kid in America. Seeing as they came up in the 1990's they are cult stars at best. Would be household names.

324. The Tourniquet Blues - Brendan O'Malley from 'Rhode Island Red'

I like this song. Before I typed 'I like this song' I typed 'cringe-worthy'. So I am conflicted. I can't play it anymore and I wouldn't if I could because it isn't good enough but I was actually a bit surprised at how good my guitar playing was back in 1993. I don't know that I've improved all that much.

325. Stray Cat Blues - The Rolling Stones from 'Beggars Banquet'

I love every cut on this album and count it as my favorite Stones album. I know it isn't the best, but it is my favorite.

326. Cashing In - Minor Threat from 'Minor Threat: Complete Discography'

At some time in the future there will be some way to quantify how important this band was to the alternative music explosion that occurred in the early 1990's. The entire grunge anti-corporate ethos is lifted verbatim from these D.C. egghead brawlers and most of the licks and fuzz and bombast is stolen too. Without them there is no Pearl Jam, no Green Day, no System Of A Down, hell, there isn't even a Fall Out Boy, which, who cares, but the bottom line remains...Minor Threat might just be the most important and influential rock band in American history. And about 1000,000 people know it.

327. Get Crunk, Get Buck - Al Kapone from 'Hustle & Flow'

Thanks, Al, I will. I will get crunk. I will get buck. How could I refrain from getting crunk and buck when you have created such a killer crunk 'n buck track?

328. Looks - Mike Doughty from 'Skittish'

This is one of the weaker tracks on this album and it is still perfect.

329. Whores - Janes Addiction from 'Kettle Whistle'

It's at times like these that I long for a good slow jam from Luther Vandross. Or Lawrence Welk. Or anyone for that matter. Just get this shit off my iPod.

I am now about a week into a new way of eating. Only salad, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and meat. Slimmin' down, look out America! Look the fuck out for me!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Slow Learner

I am reading 'Slow Learner', the collection of short stories by Thomas Pynchon. Pynchon has become something of an obsession for me, one that Melody indulged by getting me this book for Christmas. My plan is to read all of his books in chronological order. This collection of stories were mostly written before he published 'V.' in 1963 so I am starting here. Once I finish this, it is on to 'V.' which I'll be reading alongside a study guide to make sure I understand it as fully as possible. Then I'll get the study guide for his next and so on until his latest, 'Inherent Vice'.

The idea of being a slow learner hits close to home. Today I feel like I'm in the back of the classroom, not paying attention at the critical moment, missing the crucial information being provided to me, lost in some daydream that is an impassable barrier between my inner life and what I want.

268. Dry - PJ Harvey from 'Rid Of Me'

There are so many entendres in this song I barely know where to begin. Suffice it to say that if PJ Harvey were breaking up with me, I wouldn't want her to be sneering at me and repeating over and over that I leave her dry. Because even though it implies that I'm leaving her, I can't help but suspect it is the other way around. I wish I'd left you wet, PJ.

269. Prove Yourself - Radiohead from 'Pablo Honey'

This album is like 'Omoo' or 'Typee' by Herman Melville. 'Moby Dick' is right around the corner so you don't really have to pay attention.

270. Arroz Con Pollo - Maxwell from 'Embrya'

I have gone through several different Maxwell phases. Right now I am all ears. His is that rare voice that is at once classic and idiosyncratic. Of course, this is an instrumental track, but the slinkiness and sexiness are there just the same. Hearing this today makes me want to go pick up the latest thing he put out. All I know is he cut his hair and was wearing a tux with the bowtie unclipped. This seems like a good career move.

271. When It Started - The Strokes from 'Is This It?'

I cannot extricate my feelings about this band from my feelings about New York City. Terribly painful memories that are beautiful to behold. So linked to a specific time and place that it is as if these songs are a time capsule. Not in a time capsule representative of an era, but a time capsule themselves, containing anything and everything from the era itself.

272. The Fight - Cornelius from 'The Powerpuff Girls: Heroes & Villains'

The Powerpuff Girls are awesome and this song rules.

273. Root Down - The Beastie Boys from 'Ill Communication'

Okay, I will.

274. The Man Who Sold The World - Nirvana from 'MTV: Unplugged In New York'

Right after this song ends, while the audience erupts, Kurt Cobain mutters, "That's a David Bowie song". It is a telling moment. He deliberately chose a more obscure Bowie number, one he must love. He doesn't want the audience thinking he WROTE that song. He thinks they are only clapping for him and that they think he wrote it. Which many of them probably did. But he also didn't say beforehand, "I love this David Bowie track. Maybe you never heard it but here is my take on it." There is something weirdly passive aggressive going on there, judgmental and angry. He has contempt for that crowd. And that, more than anything, is what makes him so fascinating. The simultaneous beckoning and rejecting of a massive wave of adulation that he asked for.

275. Penny (Previously Unreleased) - Terry Reid from 'Superlungs ('69)'

Oh Terry. If only you'd had a great band. Like, say, Led Zeppelin.

276. Complicated Shadows - Elvis Costello from 'All This Useless Beauty'

Odd that Elvis will forever be linked with Tony Soprano through this song. This album consists of songs meant to be sung by someone else. But no one else could have nailed this quite so perfectly.

277. Broken Home, Broken Heart - Husker Du from 'Zen Arcade'

It's hard being a punk rock hardcore gay guitar hero in the early 1980's in Minneapolis.

278. Czar - Frank Black from 'Frank Black'

The songs on this album seem like tiny bits of coal right on the verge of transforming into diamonds. The grit is giving way to flash and beauty but it's all happening at once.

279. Mr Ynioshi - Oranj Symphonette from 'Plays Mancini'

I want this band to play at my wedding.

280. The Finest Joke Is Upon Us - Guided By Voices from 'Mag Earwhig!'

Fitting that I began today's post talking about Pynchon because if there is anyone in music who has taken up that kind of mantle, it would be Robert Pollard. Those two need to get together and demolish some beers and old-fashioned ways of thinking.

281. Alberta - Leadbelly from 'Alabama Bound'

The first rock star.

282. Johnny Sunshine - Liz Phair from 'Exile In Guyville'

The liner notes of this album look like a Facebook page. Pictures that cut off right at the edge of her tits, fake blow-job face, slutty come-on that is sexy because it isn't for anyone else but herself. Slowly coming to believe that she towers over everyone else.

283. Bamboo (Interlude) - Big Boi from 'Speakerboxxx'

Big Boi teaches his son to rap. So cute.

284. Sometimes - My Bloody Valentine from 'Lost In Translation'

These guys are like the Holy Grail of rock, only they are easy to find.

285. Truth Or Dare (feat. Kelis & Pusha T) - N*E*R*D from 'In Search Of...'

I had such high hopes for N*E*R*D, which supposedly stands for 'No-one Ever Really Dies'. No-one who can afford serious bling and bitches anyway.

286. Superhero - Ani DiFranco from 'Dilate'

See the above post about Liz Phair. Ani has all the attributes that Liz does not. She can really play guitar. She takes herself seriously. She can make stuff sound pristine on her self-produced albums. In short, she's like the teacher's pet. Everything is in place but she ISN'T ANY GOD DAMN FUN.

I'll be seeing you in all the old familiar faces.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Paul Westerberg was born on the last day of the 1950's. So it is fitting that today the iPod repeatedly dips into the canon. And it is a canon, make no mistake, one that often adds the extra 'n' and blows just about anything out of the water.

235. Radiation - Apples In Stereo from 'New Magnetic Wonder'

This band crackles. They always sound fresh and in spite of the intricate production value, live. You can hear the sweat and the brain power at work. I never immediately say, "Oh, that's Apples In Stereo" which might be why they are not more well known but I also always immediately like what I hear.

236. Knock It Right Out - Paul Westerberg from 'Mono'

When Paul Westerberg re-emerged from a three year hiatus it was as if he'd pulled a Robert Johnson in reverse. He seemed to have gone down to that dark meeting of infinite highway stretching in four directions and demanded that Ol' Scratch return his soul intact. And when Paul Westerberg is on top of his game, the Devil does what he says.

237. Love You Til Friday - The Replacements from 'Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash'

So what does the iPod do? It immediately leaps back in time to the moment that The Replacements roared out of a collection of basements in Minnesota with their debut album. The title of this album seems like a direct rebuke to the bogus political stances that most young punk bands were taking. Platitudes and slogans ruled the day. The Replacements? They cut through all of that with a title that said they still had to do what their mothers asked. They were bored, hyper, horny, restless, and excited. Politics? That was for eggheads with pretension. These guys didn't want to be The Clash, they wanted to be The Rolling Stones. And they almost were. But they were also a helluva lot more.

238. Heroes - David & David from 'Boomtown'

This song is a bit of a stretch, like they had written some anthemic elegiac songs and they needed to keep the mood going. I know from personal experience that when you try to write an anthem, you usually sag under the weight of your ambition. This song sags.

239. A Face In The Crowd - Tom Petty from 'Full Moon Fever'

In keeping with the Westerberg theme, the infamous Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers amphitheater tour in which The Replacements opened for them is a crucial moment in Replacements history. A classic example of something that seemed like a good idea but just wound up alienating whoever was in the crowd. The Replacements were ambivalent about playing to their die-hard fans. Imagine a fifteen thousand seat outdoor arena filled with Rebel flag decal gun enthusiasts who were waiting to see their hero! The Replacements famously dove towards their darkest tendencies and actively antagonized the crowd. I saw this show and The Replacements turned in a killer 45 minute set. This was at the beginning of the tour and fatigue hadn't set in yet. By the end of the tour they had stolen clothing from Tom Petty's wife and worn her dresses on stage. Petty later lifted the line 'rebel without a clue' that Westerberg wrote in his song 'I'll Be You'. He never acknowledged the connection to the Westerberg song and the whole episode seems to have left a bitter taste in everyone's mouth.

240. Anyway's All Right - Paul Westerberg from 'Folker'

Innnnteresting! Once Westerberg cut himself loose from the weird constraints of the traditional music business that had failed to do him justice, his work began to explode all over the map in wonderful ways. He plays every note. But it isn't the polished one-man band type effort that Dave Grohl for the original Foo Fighters record or the eclectic musicianship of, this album is the equivalent of a diary entry. Things are scribbled out, misspelled, dates are all wrong, entries are missing, they jump from what he had for dinner to a memory of a long lost love. If the world were just Rolling Stone would have put a cartoon caricature of Paul on their cover and asked, "Is Our Greatest Living Songwriter Losing His Mind? And If He Is, How Can We Make Sure He Doesn't Get The Help He Needs?"

241. Tangled Up In Blue - Bob Dylan from 'Blood On The Tracks'

This is just weird now because Westerberg and Dylan come from the same neck of the woods. And Dylan is no stranger to completely reinventing his career and befuddling critics and fans alike, both of whom years later find themselves weeping over a long criticized album and saying, "I just didn't get it at the time. I'm SORRY!"

242. Nevada - John Linnell from 'State Songs'

I cannot wait for John Linnell to start working on this series again. I had the impression that he was going to do all fifty states. This one album is simply not enough. The last five minutes of this song sounds like a fairground with a marching band playing somewhere off in the distance. Brilliant. Plus They Might Be Giants once recorded a tribute to The Replacements called 'We're The Replacements'. Genius.

243. High Voltage - AC/DC from 'If You Want Blood You've Got It (Live)'

I think it is safe to say that The Replacements were listening to AC/DC down in the basement between takes.

244. Polyester Bride - Liz Phair from 'Whitechocolatespaceegg'

There is very little connection between Liz Phair and Paul Westerberg except that if Paul Westerberg looked like Liz Phair I would like him a little bit more than I already do. And this is a killer song.

245. White And Lazy - The Replacements from 'Stink'

And Larry tries to tell me the iPod isn't alive. A harmonica blues stomp that promptly explodes into a hardcore freight train, all with Westerberg shouting, "I'm lazy! I'm white!" Light years ahead of everyone else. And no one was listening.

246. Drug Train - Social Distortion from 'Social Distortion'

Somehow Social Distortion have turned into this live juggernaut, playing New Year's Eve shows and festivals, simply honing their signature sound into something broader and catchier than the side of a barn. The Brian Setzer of punk bands.

247. Dawn Can't Decide - The Lemonheads from 'Come On Feel The Lemonheads'

Why does Evan Dando make me feel so sad? He reminds me of those body switching movies that Hollywood seems to love, only in this one, some little nerdy insecure songwriter gets his soul shoved into a cross between a pro quarterback and an Abercrombie & Fitch model. And all of a sudden no one is listening to his songs anymore, they're too busy looking at him.

248. All Because Of You - U2 from 'How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb'

I admit it. U2 is a great band. But I cannot connect emotionally to them anymore. And I have a sneaking suspicion that I never really did.

249. Sofa King - Dangerdoom from 'The Mouse & The Mask'

This is what you get when you cross technology, talent, and casual drug use. And that is not a dig.

250. Remember The Time - Michael Jackson from 'HIStory (Disc 1)'

I don't want to, Michael. You remember.

251. Trumpet Clip - Paul Westerberg from 'Eventually'

This song is TERRIBLE. There is always a thread of humor in his music, from 'Gary's Got A Boner' to 'Right To Arm Bears'. The super serious nature of most of modern rock is boring and not at all indicative of what real life is like. Unfortunately, real life occasionally means someone you respect and love tells a five minute joke that is merely annoying and you cringe every time you remember them insisting that you listen.

252. I Get Ideas - Louis Armstrong from 'All-Time Greatest Hits'

What can you say about Louis Armstrong? He's Louis Fucking Armstrong. The worst moment on this whole album of twenty some odd songs comes when Bing Crosby sings. So that should tell you something right there.

253. Bennie And The Jets - Elton John from 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road'

In college I went through a phase where all I listened to was Elton John live with the Sydney Orchestra. I thought it was the best singing he'd ever done by far. Turns out he needed surgery for throat polyps. He doesn't like his singing on it but I do. And on this supposed classic song I get annoyed almost immediately. I don't care about Bennie. I don't care about The Jets. Who the fuck are these people?

254. Better Things - The Kinks from 'The Ultimate Collection (Disc 1)'

Pure gold.

255. Everything To Me - Liz Phair from 'Somebody's Miracle'

She breaks my heart EVERY SINGLE TIME.

256. Tonight I Will Retire - Damien Jurado from 'Ghost Of David'

Haunting and disturbing. I came across Jurado via my friend Jon Leahy (I think) and I was blown away by his prolific catalog, his deep lyrical content, and his unforgettable melodies. He is an original and cannot be compared to anyone. And virtually unknown.

257. Apple Tree - Erykah Badu from 'Baduizm'

Bitch is crazy. But awesome. So awesome. The fact that Erykah Badu is out there trying to decipher all the secret codes that the powers that be are using to try and knock her off her pedestal is a reassuring one, even though she is so crazy that she makes me start to believe that the powers that be are using secret codes to try and knock her off her pedestal.

258. God (Interlude) - Outkast from 'The Love Below'

Andre talks to God who turns out to be female and she agrees with him that 'head' isn't cheating. Hilarious.

259. P.S. I Love You - The Beatles from 'Please Please Me'

Um, P.S. you guys are about to take over the fucking world. So get ready.

260. Frenesi (live) - Ray Charles from 'Ray Charles Live'

I don't know what it means but I like to dance to it.

261. Doc & Dawg - Doc Watson & David Grisman from 'Doc & Dawg'

Virtuosity on such a grand scale that it stops feeling like music and feels more like watching Michelangelo dangling from a scaffold on his back with a paint brush between his teeth.

262. Lotta Love - Dinosaur Jr from 'The Bridge - A Tribute To Neil Young'

I love Dinosaur Jr but this juvenile take on a classic is obnoxious. It reminds me of the smart ass kid who is assigned 'Catcher In The Rye' to write a book report about and all they notice is the swear words when it's obvious that they are exactly like Holden Caulfield.

263. Only Son - Liz Phair from 'Whitechocolatespaceegg'

Oh Liz, you smelled so nice when you hugged me. And your songs kill me.

264. Velvet Snow - Kings Of Leon from 'Aha Shake Heartbreak'

I know these guys have become the sonic equivalent of an overplayed Super Bowl commercial but I refuse to allow myself to get all jaded about them. They are a sick rock and roll band. Unlike a slew of their competitors, I can actually imagine them playing a small club to a bunch of folks who have no idea who they are and IMMEDIATELY winning the crowd over.

265. They Hung Him On A Cross (Demo) - Nirvana from 'With The Lights Out (Disc 1)

Clearly Kurt had a Leadbelly obsession and I think Leadbelly would have been confused about why Kurt wanted to off himself. I mean, Leadbelly killed like three people and was so racked with guilt that he merely became rich and famous at a time when a black man with a guitar was more punk than punk ever was is or will ever be. He'd say, "Put that shotgun down, fool. Pick up your guitar. Or if you're gonna pick up the shotgun, at least shoot somebody else."

266. You Can't Take It With You - Paul Kelly & The Messengers from 'So Much Water So Close To Home'

A perfect album. A perfect song.

267. War & Peace - Ice Cube from 'War & Peace Volume 1 (The War Disc)'

There is not a bad song on this entire two disc album. Unheard of in rap circles, where every third song seems like an afterthought.

Happy Birthday Paul Westerberg, from me and the iPod!