August 2007

August mix
1. THE POGUES — Dingle Regatta
This band from North London (not Ireland!) is made up of big-hearted dudes with a penchant for traditional “oy oy oy” Irish punk. The line-up changed a lot (including a time in the early 90s when Joe Strummer was the front man) and the problem with being such “fuck the industry, we don’t need your fame” kind of band means that their career was a turbulent one and they really didn’t take advantage of the notoriety they had…they could’ve been a much bigger band had they seized the opportunities that were thrown their way (like, for example, not refusing for quite some time to record another album after the first); they might’ve had a different kind of success. There don’t seem to be any regrets with the way things went, though, with band and fans alike. Off of “Red Roses For Me”, this is just one of my favorite songs off of my favorite Pogues album.

LINK WRAY — Streets of Chicago
A dirty Link Wray instrumental, off of “Missing Links Vol. 4: Streets of Chicago”. The true opener of this mix! It should be noted that since Wray lost a lung to tuberculosis in the Korean War, to hear his singing voice is a rarity and therefore many of his tracks are instrumentals. This one is a perfect example of American guitarist Wray…he was the first to introduce power chords as the driving melody of a song, and also was one of the first to start using the electric guitar as a tool of distortion. Things like overdrive and fuzz were unheard of before him…apparently guitars were mainly used for jazz and “clean” sounds. He took music to a whole new level; started something huge in the world of rock n’ roll! While this track is no “Rumble” — it’s still a fine example of early rock and is almost a glimpse into the future of what was to come. Fun fact: In Maryland, January 15th is Link Wray Day.

THE DAMNED — 1 of the 2
So apparently, I am a fan of the debut albums, because once again I chose a song off of one. This one is off of 1977’s “Damned, Damned, Damned”. Influenced by legends like Screaming Lord Sutch and MC5, The Damned is an example of one of those “rock n’ roll family” bands — they had a ton of collaborators and a ton of different members over the years (singer Dave Vanian is the only one to remain as a core member), and members went on to form their own projects (The Pretenders and The Clash, for example). Also — and I was the one to update Wikipedia to reflect this fact (*toot toooot*, what’s that? Oh, it’s my own horn, right) — the band had scheduled two auditions for lead singer: Vanian and Sid Vicious. Because Vanian is the only one who showed up, he got the job. Neat, neat, neat — right (okay, that was bad, but at least appropriately-timed)? The band is known for their gothic appearance and stage antics. Certainly considered a U.K. punk staple — they were the first English band to release a punk single, put out a punk record and the first to tour the U.S. — you must own this if you do not already. YOU MUST.

MS. JOHN SODA — Go Check
Lovely, intense German electro-pop! And again off of a first record! ” Go Check” was the first of 4 songs on the demo “Drop=Scene”. It’s interesting, the way that Stefanie Bohm and Micha Acher (The Notwist) compile their songs, as if they are battling it out with themselves: are we man or are we machine? It’s like a robot is creating havoc and is somehow managing to produce beautiful, sometimes-dissonant music in all the chaos. Stefanie’s voice is the only real control. It’s fucking cool. Also cool is how in a live show they manage to better articulate what it is they’re trying to do or trying to convey — the audience gets a sense of closeness that’s hard to pick up in their mastered tracks…seems like while playing this band is far, far away…completely lost in what they’re doing. I’ve always thought this quote about the band, from the Iceland Airwaves music festival, is pretty right-on: “…you want to protect the record from the bad world, but at the same time (it’s) so self-contained and strong, that the record never needs that protection.” And I’ll leave you with that.

TO LIVE AND SHAVE IN L.A. — Travelogue One
I’ll start by letting you know that there are 6 of these travelogues in total, off of 2002’s “The Wigmaker (in Eighteenth Century Williamsburg)”. I will be displaying all of them over the course of 2 mixes (this one and next month’s). This will be the only area of explanation, though. That said, there’s not much to really explain. These travelogues are, simply put, 30-ish seconds each of noise and layering. The Miami band (named for a Ron Jeremy porno parody of the movie, To Live and Die In L.A.) includes many members, but most notably Tom Smith, Rat Bastard and Andrew W.K. They prefer to fly by the seat of their pants — not [necessarily] be classified and not spend too much time thinking about what they’re doing [meaning, acting with the gut vs. doing things traditionally and “the norm” — meticulous and complementary, messy perfectionists they are; not suggesting they breeze through this process whatsoever]. They’ve gained popularity through their MySpace site, as well with audiophiles like myself through respect for the fact that one day out of the studio (Sonic Youth’s Think Tank), they completely re-recorded their album “The Cortege” in a session for NJ freeform radio station WFMU [– a project involving 16 contributing musicians]. I’ll tell you right now, these are not at all pretty little sounds. You may even hate them and want to skip past them. I ask that you really listen to the work of these noise masterminds, though. I put this on the disc(s) so that you might really learn to respect the art form of noise that is so commonly underrated and overlooked, [or at least open your mind a bit and appreciate it for what it is and can be].

Update 12/07:
After some back-n’-forth with Tom Smith, and in the process of getting to understand him and this incredible project that much better, I definitely felt the need to update my blurb a little to represent this (and him) that much better. Says he:
“…you’ve included the travelogue bridging pieces from the Wigmaker on your August mix – they were derived from actual reel tapes we found at a yard sale about a year after we began recording the album. “Mildred and I” were indeed tourists who dutifully trudged through historic Williamsburg’s analgesic tableaux. Apart from running one of the tape segments through a ring modulator (the reprise of “travelogue three” at the beginning of the second disc), we added nothing to the sounds originally recorded by the couple. The ‘noise and layering’ were already extant, doubtless engendered by degradation of the tape oxides over decades of improper storage.
Regarding your explanatory text: it’s inaccurate to suggest that we ‘fly by the seat of our pants,’ when in fact we sail on the hemline of Soo Catwoman’s improvised mini-skirt.
Seriously, we are rigorous in our work ethic, and we work slowly. Projects are pursued in parallel, and each set of compositions is thus informed by aesthetic proximity. Adjustments are always being made, and everything is in flux.
We abjure genre – in a recent email to a journalist at the German magazine Persona Non Grata, I wrote:
“I sincerely believe that the obsession with taxonomy, with category, with identification with genre, leads ultimately to a catastrophic deadening of spirit, a diminution of mystery, and the rape of awe.”
It’s not that we don’t want to be classified – we can’t do a damned thing about the opinions and predilections of others – but that we are committed to unknowing, to an exploration of all the things we aren’t, or are wholly ignorant of. It’s far better to be insecure, to be baffled, to walk down dodgy side streets, than emblazon oneself with a parking decal for a gated community….”

“I support Creative Commons precepts, filesharing, shareblog distribution, etc., and thus I’m pleased that you thought enough of the album to include those found sound portions of it with your August mix. Many thanks! I’m always interested in hatching crazed audio schemes, so please stay in touch! I’m certain we could arrive at some sort of demented collaboration.
Re driving blind: I found your site earlier today, but to be honest, I’ve already forgotten the navigation history! I was looking for something “Wigmaker”-related, because I was interpolating very brief fragments of the album’s first disc into a mashup I was creating for our MySpace page… But, basically, I just ended up there.

And, I’m glad I did.

THE CRAMPS — Goo Goo Muck
Definitely one of the cooler, more theatrical acts to come out of the early New York City CBGB’s days. I got a lot of mail about this song, particularly to say, “Where did you find this?” — well, I actually don’t know. With 10,000-15,000 songs in all forms of media it’s tough for me to remember exactly where one song comes from. I can tell you, though, that you can find it on the Cramps 1983 U.K. compilation “Off The Bone” — if you can get that in your hot little hands, you totally should. You’d be surprised what you can find in dingy little record stores if you look, kiddies. Those record stores are my favorites and tend to not be as picked through. Go on, don’t be shy. Anyway, back to The Cramps. The interesting
thing, to me, about this track is that you can’t really hear Poison Ivy on it at all. In fact, before I was in my 20s and a diehard fan, I wasn’t even sure there was a girl in this band — nevermind, at times, more than one. It’s bluesy psychobilly (apparently they may have even coined the phrase), sleazeball Americana at its finest. Reminiscent of shitty horror films, dead surfer punks and B movies, it’s hard not to love this band!

MAGAZINE — About The Weather
This is my attempt at cleaning up the mix, ha. While lead singer Howard Devoto (Buzzcocks) is certainly not at all the poster child for clean, the happy piano (reminds me of some sort of 80s TV show opener — maybe Peanuts?), the consistent beat and the perky soprano backups are helping me out here! This song is the first track on their fourth and final album, 1981’s “Magic, Murder and the Weather”. The band is definitely classified in more than one place as being “punk” — but it seems pretty clear to me that this English band is much more a post-punk and new wave band. Their avant-garde style has been emulated by and has influenced many artists, including Radiohead, Ministry and Morrissey — though the band themselves didn’t get that much press.

I giggle giddily at this song. I know, I know, it’s so annoying. It’s awesome. It was a total smash hit when it first came out, for probably the same reasons that I added this to the mix. Putting this on the mix, I knew that your opinion of me would go one way or the other and I was willing to take that risk. So, what’d you really think? I learned about this song while reading Chuck Klosterman’s Killing Yourself To Live…he made a very brief mention of it and naturally I wrote it down (I keep a notebook of bands and songs to check out). This track is off of 1998’s “Dirt Track Date” — the self-described “toe-sucking geek rock — kinda weird, but it feels good when you’re doing it” band from Chapel Hill, NC is an outfit of swampy, steamy “countrypolitan”, surf and rockabilly. They’ve been at it for over twenty years. And — have you seen what they look like?!
Yeah, you almost have to work to not like them and/or be intrigued as all hell.

CRUSHED BUTLER — High School Dropout
The best way to describe this old U.K. band is to quote someone else’s review. It’s the reason I bought the disc and I couldn’t possibly do a better job than this unless I was completely plagiarizing it. You can find this song on “Uncrushed”, a compilation of sorts that spans their music from 1969-1971.
“Crushed Butler is wild. Yes, wild. Fucking-around-the-world-in-a-day-bloody-missing-link-between-punk-rock-and-psychedelia-wild. They existed in a weird time space, five years ahead of their time in 1971 when Jesse Hector, Alan Butler and Darryl Read got it together to scare the progressive boys and introduce the teenage girls to the street-tuff punk rock…this ain’t for the poor, but for the violent, a fuck-you-rage against the boredom of a life set out for Crushed Butler. Its just something that you need to run through and listen to, over and over again. Nobody summed up working class rage then Hector as he two-fingered his future and dived into no future with this ultimate protest song against drudgery….Unfortunately, the world wasn’t ready for revolution. That would come five years later with the surging freak-outs of Sex Pistols and the Clash. Ignore this album at your peril! Why? Because you’ll wonder how the fuck you did without it for so long.”

LAURA NYRO — Poverty Train
This song is close to my heart. I’m not so sure I ever would’ve known it was out there if not for my father (1951-2004) putting it on a mix that he made for me, the summer before he passed away. I’ve learned since that Nyro had a tough time of it, trying to make it as an artist while at the same time trying to avoid abusive then-boyfriend Jimi Hendrix’s punches and also trying to reconcile a growing discomfort for being in the spotlight. Tall, trying order. She had two major public appearances, the first being at the famed “hungry i” coffeehouse in San Francisco and the second being at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 (some say it was a horrible performance and she was booed off the stage, but this is the performance in which she debuted this song, and video footage contradicts the negative rumors). The album that this song comes from, “Eli and the Thirteenth Confession” came out on the Columbia label in 1968 and was considered one of the summer’s biggest underground successes. Her style is a mix of early R&B, jazz and New York pop, and this tune in particular is gritty, bluesy and rhythmic. She died of ovarian cancer in 1997, leaving behind this album as her biggest legacy.

DUANE EDDY — The Trembler
Co-written by Ravi Shankar, this song is taken straight from the Natural Born Killers soundtrack. It’s the song you hear during the movie when bad shit is going down in the desert and there’s a thunderstorm going on…if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you ought to see the movie, I’m being cryptic on purpose as not to ruin anything (not like it’s new, but still). It’s perfect for this scene — this instrumental is a mysterious, troubling minute or so of uncertainty and grime. Not unlike Link Wray in many ways, he is known for not only his instrumental pieces but also for his roots as a guitar pioneer. He was one of the first to use the bending of the low strings, echo and vibrato (as well as tremolo) to create a signature sound. Another movie moment in which to hear Duane Eddy: in Forrest Gump when Forrest is being chased by the jerks in the pick-up truck (“Rebel Rouser”).

THE PRETENDERS — Hollywood Perfume
Chrissy Hynde is definite in her poetry in this song…the lyrics completely rock my world….I mean, “neon sex and gloom / of your Hollywood perfume”? That’s fucking beautiful. I consider this song to certainly be one I wish I’d written myself. It’s hot, raw and sexual; feminine and masculine at once. The band itself went through a lot of changes prior to this album, both stylistically and in terms of band members. The opening track for 1994’s “Last of the Independents” (I am pretty sure this is the first new album I ever went out and bought with my own money), it fails to even let on that the band had been in existence for nearly 20 years prior (burst on to the U.K. scene in 1978, at the very end of the punk movement) and had lost two of the original members to drug-related overdoses…I feel, though, that the history and tragedy combines to give this album, and particularly its opener (though it never was a single) strength and depth.

RIDE — Leave Them All Behind
Now this, ladies and gents, is the way indie rock was intended to be. None of this sniveling bullshit that wavers on the line of emo. No! Ride embodies what it was and what it should be with this 8+-minute epic triumph of musical genius. Obviously produced by Alan Moulder (Lush, My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and Mary Chain), it’s also a really good example of the era of the shoegazers and early indie. When this song came out, on 1992’s “Going Blank Again” (the British band’s third out of 4 full-length albums), the band’s unique combination of melody and disharmony, along with wah-wah rhythm guitar pedals (dual) gave them that real, authentic wall-of-sound that so many others try so hard to perfect and ultimately fall short — it almost bridges the gap between indie/shoegazer and grunge if one listens closely enough.

TO LIVE AND SHAVE IN L.A. — Travelogue Two
(see #5)

VICIOUS WHITE KIDS — I’m Not Your Stepping Stone
The coolest thing about this wicked-ass punk band is that they really weren’t a band at all. The group (Sid Vicious, Glen Matlock, Steve New, Rat Scabies) needed some quick cash, so they got together for one infamous show at London’s Electric Ballroom on August 15, 1978. This song is a particularly shitty recording of the cover of the Monkees’ hit (though it was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, and Paul Revere and the Raiders covered it first). But I love it. The fact that the recording is so bad and crackly just makes the punk all that much more authentic. Fun fact: I read recently that Sid’s Nancy was slated to be backup vox for the performance, but after hearing her in rehearsals, Matlock unplugged her mic on the night of the show!

HOWLIN’ WOLF — Moaning For My Baby
While Howlin’ Wolf (Chester Burnett) was born in Mississippi, his troubled childhood brought him to Chicago, where he ultimately settled and grew to fame. The legendary blues musician (1910-1976) is best known for his 1951 recordings, when he found himself signed to two labels at the same time (Modern Records and Chess Records). And, his raspy booming voice is well-known as a completely unique quality. You hear his music and you know who you’re hearing! This track — not to be confused with “Howlin’ For My Baby” — can be found on the second disc of the 3-disc Chess box set. So many artists have paid tribute by covering his songs, including The Doors (“Back Door Man”), Clutch (“Who’s Been Talking”) and Iron & Wine (“Smokestack Lightning”). Also, little-known perhaps-fact, Eric Clapton purchased Howlin’ Wolf’s gravestone — though, that may be just a rumor.

This whole album will forever remind me of my former roommate, who was the biggest hip-hop poser princess ever. At least she had decent taste in music ;) This record, The Low End Theory, came out in the fall of 1991. It’s not their first album, or their last, and isn’t the one that had the most hits on it — but the general, pensive feeling of this album makes it my favorite. And, in terms of trying to give an example of what I mean, I give you “Buggin’ Out”. Anyone else remember the video, where they have costume bug-out eyes? Haha, this song is one way to talk about being stressed, right? An endearing quality of Tribe Called Quest is that they were not (are not? They reunited in 2006, right?) the most popular band in their particular cul-de-sac of the genre. Part of the Native Tongues Posse (a group of bands in the late 80s that focused primarily on positive Afrocentric lyrics), their friends and competition were the Jungle Brothers and De La Soul, who were certainly more popular at the time. That said, their biggest supporters may have been the reason they weren’t as big as they could’ve been.

Ever since visiting Iceland in 2006, I’ve been fascinated with the culture there and particularly the music. Funny story: I was soaking in a geothermic spa and asked one of the locals, “Hey, what’s your biggest export here?” He laughed and answered, “Bjork”. This group, fronted by Bjork herself, was active from 1986-1992, putting out 3 major albums. This song is the second track off of the third and final album, “Stick Around For Joy”, and was also released as a single in both record and disc formats. While I am admittedly not the biggest pop fan or Bjork fan (though she has her moments), I do like the Sugarcubes, which embodies both of those things. It’s oddly pleasing to hear the normally-broodtastic and fierce Bjork most likely bopping around in the studio, feeding the public lyrics like “A small story which always happens / I said ouch! This really hurts…”. Given Bjork’s oddity of a solo career, it’s almost silly to hear a young, perhaps idealistic Bjork say what she means, and Einar Orn Benediktsson’s hip-hoppy breakdown around 1:56 makes me smile, as his accent is prominent. Another neat thing about this band is that their breakup was amicable. They all realized at similar times that they had different ambitions, and remain friends. While they did reunite for one benefit show in 2006, they have made the public statement that they do not plan to do it again.

CSS — Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex
I would’ve had the opportunity to potentially meet/work with this band at Lollapalooza earlier this month (I have worked the festival for the last few years), but their United flight was delayed in New York and they missed the gig! So, bummer. CSS, also known as Cansei de Ser Sexy (translation from Portuguese: “tired of being sexy”), is a band from Sao Paolo, Brazil that essentially got their start on the internet. Trama Virtual, which is basically Brazil’s MySpace, promoted the hell out of them after their “fotoblog” started getting a lot of hits. Through a series of lucky, unlikely events (YouTube videos featuring this song, Latin American TV shows picking up other songs featuring their primarily pop culture-oriented lyrics) as well as some really smart marketing ideas (in a limited edition of their album they enclosed a CD-R for folks to burn it and give it to someone else), they became huge really fast. I’d say 2007 has been their year for sure! Anyway, this song grabbed my attention long before they were big (as I got the sneak peek at the Lolla schedule and saw them on there; checked them out) — the adorable lyrics, catchy riffs and dance beat make a recipe for success.

STUDIO — Origin (Shake You Down By The River)
Swedish duo (Dan Lissvik and Rasmus Hagg) that I admit I don’t know much more about than that. Internet research gives me a standard MySpace page and a sparse website and nothing more! Aw, can anyone fill me in? This song was on the “West Coast” LP — limited to 500 copies and available on the UK label Information’s website. Its indie electropop vibe, combined with some elements of experimental hiphop, make it completely addictive to me. It’s laidback and…it’s not…all at once. I know that these guys DJ here and there…I wonder what a live show is like? It all seems so studio-perfect (uh, for lack of better word), I can’t even imagine.

BLUE OYSTER CULT — Veteran of the Psychic Wars
These guys played the valley fair in my little hometown this summer…definitely not what you’d expect from a familiar band that you know has been active and touring for 40 (!) years. This track isn’t one of their better-known ones, but I found it on the 1981 soundtrack for Heavy Metal. I felt it does them justice — it’s stylistically airy and yet hard-hitting as usual. Certainly helps them live up to their reputation as “heavy metal pioneers”, and knowing that the band often uses sci-fi and occult allegory helps, since the song certainly gives a warm feeling of fantasy. It presents itself as grandiose and is overall just fun to listen to! I liked to listen to it while walking to work (entering battle) and walking home from work (returning back to base, weary yet wired). And no, it doesn’t need more cowbell, ha.

TO LIVE AND SHAVE IN L.A. — Travelogue Three
(see #5)

KID KOALA — Skanky Panky
Also known as Eric San, this Montreal-based turntablist and DJ likes to put out songs that are totally mysterious in terms of the samples he uses. Some might call his style “weird” or “out-of-place” but I actually find it really grounded and at times, comical. He uses samples of people reading in foreign languages (one example is a Cantonese menu), cartoons, sneezes, and other very unusual turntable techniques…for example, he uses/drags the needle of his record player to mimic instruments like the trumpet. “Skanky Panky” is off of his second album, the 2003 Ninja Tune release “Some of My Best Friends are DJs”. He’s an artist who designs his own liner notes and covers and also, oddly enough, went to McGill for Early Childhood Ed.

More Icelandic goodness! This guy is so super-talented, it still amazes me that he’s not better-known. A composer by trade, he still manages to keep his music modern and majestic, through indie-electronic methods. This instrumental can be found on the 15-track soundtrack for the film Dis, an Icelandic production of the same name. About it, Johannson says:
“For the film and album, Dís, I wanted to write a purely electric music, removed from the string and orchestral based music I had been writing recently. I resolved to use only instruments I had in my studio and whatever trashy things my friends would bring to the sessions. I wanted a loose, toy-like feel, I was trying to create a strange sort of melancholy, almost naïve bubble-gum pop, seen through a mechanical, motorik prism. Much like I believe the film captures quite well the zeitgeist of early 21st century Reykjavik, I tried to do the same with my music.”
He’s currently working on a new album…due out this spring.

ALICE IN CHAINS — Whale & Wasp
Just one of my favorites off of the magnificent grunge masterpiece, “Jar of Flies”. Anyone who knows me knows that Alice In Chains has been one of my all-time, top 5 favorite bands for over 15 years now! While not Alice In Chain’s most defining disc (that would be “Dirt”), it’s certainly a triumph for the genre; an expression of where they all were in their lives and careers (in 1994). “Whale & Wasp” is smack-dab in the middle of the disc, jolting listeners into a reverie. Since next month’s disc will almost piggyback on this one (what with the Travelogues and all, had originally intended it to be a double-disc for subscribers as well as for another mix group I’d orchestrated), and the next one has a more chill vibe to it, I thought that this would be the perfect ending for disc one, that would really set up the listener for some more subdued tracks. It’s dissonant and mournful, and guitarist Jerry Cantrell outdoes himself with this arrangement.
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