28 April 2006

"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Your Gree-vee-ance."

I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT BASEBALL. Why? Because my favorite team sucks dick right now. That's why.

So I decided to mention some music I've been listening to.

Most of the shit I listen to now is at the gym, so that's the jumping off point. Recently I'd been sick enough to be on the fence most days about getting there, and with Passover happening at the same time (my gym is a YMHA), their being closed put it over the top for me. So, at the start of this week, getting back after some time off, I needed a kick in the pants.

I didn't want all adrenaline songs- you need an ebb and flow. A playlist is an art. I started it with the Ultimate Warrior entrance music- some Papelbon mojo to get going with, but it segued right into "Ace of Spades" by Motorhead real quick, because that's inarguably the most enthralling music ever written. As an ancillary, the guy who sings it had arguably the single greatest quote in pop music history- "we wanted to be the band where, if we moved next door to you, your grass would die."

After that, I dialed it back a bit with "Ooh La La" by Goldfrapp. Kind of like disco on heroin instead of cocaine; ie, better. Lays a nice groove on you. I'd been thinking a bit about music for a closer to enter to recently, what with Papelbon making a huge error in picking some nu metal band right off the bat (later going with the aforementioned UW intro song), and seeing Billy Wagner trot in to "Enter Sandman" earlier in the month. My first pick was always "Ace of Spades," but just behind it was "Battery" by Metallica. So that song followed Goldfrapp. I can't imagine playing that music live and not literally coming out of your skin. As bad as Metallica is now, they had a tremendous run of some great rock records in their prime.

Back to some groove- "I Turn My Camera On" by Spoon came next, and where I didn't go with adrenaline, I went with rhythm on this playlist. This song is tremendous- one of those buildup songs that sort of succeeds in never "paying off," giving an itchy, scattered vibe. Has a bit of Afghan Whigs circa 1965 in it, which is to say- a Prince/ James Brown groove from an indie rock band.

Next came "R.A.G.U." by Ghostface, which is a solid track from his new record, and pushed real well right into the live version of "Hip Hop" by Dead Prez from Dave Chappelle's Block Party. That song, more than any other, really got me moving. I was flying on the elliptical and it felt like I was doing nothing- that spare, up and down beat with the loping bassline and the flicking drum track. It sets a really fierce, driving tone, builds rapidly with a live crowd, adds a guitar, and then rides a high wave of a jam on the chords to "Rock Box" with wailing backup singing, and some keyboard work in the background. Dead Prez are great MCs, too- tremendous, tremendous song.

Finally, I topped off with my absolute favorite Jimi Hendrix song- one of my favorite songs ever, period: "Bold as Love" from Axis: Bold as Love. "Bold as Love" is one of the most beautiful, complex, aural pieces of popular music I've ever heard; a piece that could stand up alongside literally anything the Beatles, Stones or Dylan ever recorded. It starts off in a lazy shuffle, with some of Hendrix's normal relationships-through-drugs lyrics. Jimi was an extraordinarily underrated singer, and this I think is one of his best performances on that line- sounding disappointed but assured, angry but hopeful. The verses move into a refrain that's one of those hymn-like guitar echoes that Hendrix would construct, and what is so rewarding about the song on multiple listens is not just how expansive it is, but also how it suggests only on a small level the grander scope of the same tone that eventually develops later. Eventually, after the normal structure of the song plays out, the climax comes, and it's glorious- like a swirling, spiritual synaesthesia, the guitars start to hover around a central progression, building, almost moving and suggesting colors and smell at the same time- tans and oranges and reds and marijuana, sweat, humidity. Hendrix was like the Joyce of guitar players- reference, dexterity, expansiveness, personal, ethnicity. It's staggering- especially if you've ever picked up a guitar.

For an especially non-religious person like myself, "Bold as Love" is almost like my Walden pond- a connection to everything around you, a way to feel more and to do so callous-free. Jimi Hendrix, and "Bold as Love," are surely gifts from God; pure, honest and tremendously affecting. Truly, truly inspiring music.

Then, I ended the playlist with "I Am a Real American" by Hulk Hogan. HULKAMANIA!!

Today at work I listened to the first Streets album, Original Pirate Material, Sonic Youth's Goo and Mclusky's Mclusky Do Dallas. The Streets is a record that sort of deepens every time you hear it- I think it's still the best Streets record, too. "Turn the Page" never fails to hook me into that record.

I don't mind calling Daydream Nation my favorite Sonic Youth album- I know it's the most accessible, but I think that's for a reason; it's just the best one. Those songs are incredible. That said, the fight for the second spot's a tough one. Sister, EVOL, Murray Street and Goo are all in the running. I like Dirty too, but I don't think it's in the same league with the rest of the ones mentioned. Sister and EVOL are fairly similar, the predecessors to Daydream. Sister has "Catholic Block," EVOL has "Shadow of a Doubt." Tough call. Murray Street is another one, their late masterpiece, and one I listened to constantly when working down on St. Mark's at a record store in the summer of 2002. It sounds a bit like Sonic Youth's take on Fugazi's The Argument- totally underrated, too, as I don't remember it getting a lot of ink when it came out, though that might be fair considering the quality of the records SY had put out in years previous to that.

That leaves Goo. Gun to my head, I'd pick Sister number two, but I hadn't listened to Goo in a long time, and I really got into it. "Mote" is such an absolutely unbelievable song- I'm a huge fan of the epic, sprawling Sonic Youth song, and that's a great example. I often refer to "Mildred Pierce" as "Mildred FIERCE" in my head, because it is fierce. If you've last this long reading this entry- kudos to you, and you get that fabulous joke.

I'm still pissed Mclusky broke up. "That Man Will Not Hang" from The Difference Between Me and Youn Is that I'm Not on Fire is a perfect rock and roll song. Dallas is the better album, but either way, that was a great band. Thank God they teamed up with Albini too, as he was perfect for their sound. Those heavy drums and thick bass are perfect on, again, "That Man Will Not Hang." Plus, "our last singer is/ a sex cri-mi-nal..."

Today, I was listening as well to Daniel Johnston's Welcome to My World (sorry, I can't afford to collect all 500 of Daniel's underground 80's tapes, so I went the greatest hits route). When I first started listening to Johnston, I was wary- I really dislike that patronizing thing where we listen to the retarded guy and marvel at his "indomitable spirit" even though his songs are absolutely ridiculous, boring, and just not that great. In other words, Wesley Willis. Nothing against Wesley, but that whole thing felt exploitative to me, and I'm sorry, I'm just not going to pretend to like a mentally handicapped person's music to appear to be "enlightened." That music was awful.

Daniel's different though. First of all- Daniel isn't really mentally handicapped, per se (maybe Willis wasn't either, I don't really know specifically)- he had severe emotional and chemical imbalances, but so did Kurt Cobain, as an example. Anyway, Daniel's music is truly, truly incredible and truly, truly inspiring. Just like this lone, perfect voice trying to find a channel. Unbelievable. "Peek A Boo," for instance, is purely amazing songwriting- Brian Wilson type stuff. Appreciating lo-fi recordings is a weird thing to me, sometimes- honestly, I'd prefer hear a band like the Germs record their first album with about two more weeks and say, $1,000 more dollars to work with. I don't buy the maxim that it "purifies" the music, though it can sort of excuse a lesser band in a lot of instances (it's cool sometimes, too- Pavement finessed it to an art on Slanted and Enchanted). But for Johnston, the way he recorded this music, especially if you know the story of his life at the time (see The Devil and Daniel Johnston, by the way), it gives it a really mythical and inspiring quality. They sound like field recordings, like a brilliant, confused person documented at the absolute bare elements of their brilliance- and it still shines through bright. An analogy to a Delta bluesman is a really strong one, I think.

Easily the greatest part of Johnston in this part of his life is that he had no money, and after working at McDonalds during the day in Austin, TX, he would field requests for his tapes, and because he had no means of dubbing them- he'd sit down and re-record the whole thing again live. Amazing. The way his life progressed is really, really truly sad, but at least, as of the filming of the movie, he appeared to be happy and getting himself to a better place. Those scenes of Johnston in NYC with Sonic Youth were pretty disturbing.

Also- not really impressed with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs album on first listen. For what it's worth.

______________________________ |