February 2008

liner notes — February 2008

He didn’t care about me the same as I cared about him.  Classic story.  Too bad for me that this one happened to be a cheater, a fake and a liar, to boot.  Eeesh.  I’m better off, I know. Doesn’t mean I haven’t missed him a lot this past year.

Some people keep T-shirts or ticket stubs, I keep songs. All those songs of “ours” I’d been coveting have now been thrown out into the world in the form of a mix CD I ended up sending to 400 traders & subscribers in the month of February. I know you’ll enjoy now, even if you weren’t on the mailing list for February. Some are classics, some are newer, but they are all special to me and now they belong to you, too.

A soundtrack for the heart, both happy and sad.

1. THE MONKS — I Hate You
“Brain meltin’, free rockin’, sky crushin’ garage punk boogie from Mars.” In the mid-60s, 5 American GIs stationed in West Germany were messing around on traditional rock instruments. They had no idea they were about to change the history of rock n’ roll and become a forerunner for punk rock, inspiring such legends as Henry Rollins and Jello Biafra. The “anti-Beatles”, around the time of this album’s release (1966’s “Black Monk Time”) decided to trade in a guitar for a banjo and then sang hard, controversial lyrics in wailing tones, wearing black clothing and nooses around their necks. Their audiences had mixed reactions (one showgoer tried to strangle lead Gary Burger during a performance) and the band didn’t care. They pressed on, experimenting, shunning traditional rock and moving on to becoming a more primal, insane Dadaist outfit. The five-piece completely mutilated this two-chord piece until it was unrecognizable as a simple rock tune — beat it until it was writhing in agony, bleeding and frantic. This was just the way they wanted it. With paranoid lyrics about love and a droning chant of backing vocals, The Monks and their sick solos kick the shit out of what was this song’s potential cliche.

2. VANILLA FUDGE — You Keep Me Hangin’ On
This is one hell of a Supremes cover, I’ll tell you that much, and one of the biggest hits for this brilliant cover band. The drums, the drums, the drummmmms! The first single for the white man’s soul band, it was recorded in one take in 1967 and went to #6 on the Hot 100 chart, just two years after the Supremes came out with it in the first place. A totally different take on the same song…powerfully psychedelic; a style The Supremes never could’ve pulled off with their signature Motown style. Loud and heavy, this track is nearly perfect — the organ, the lead guitar, the vocals and backing vocals. It’s packs a real punch — definitely leaves you breathless. The Long Island-based Vanilla Fudge (once The Electric Pigeons, then just The Pigeons) were unfortunately lumped in with so many other similarly-styled bands of the era — many people aren’t aware of them or their talent as a result. DADA DADA DADA DADA DA DA DADA DADA DADA DADA DA DAAAA…

Not the same version on the disc — that version was 3:27 but the band was known to stretch it to 5-7 minutes live. This is a true art performance, oooh baby, yes.

3. WENDY RENE — (After Laughter) Comes Tears
Stax separated Wendy Rene (born Mary Frierson) from the Memphis soul band The Drapels in 1964, encouraging her to go solo. Prior to the separation, she recorded 2 singles with the band, one being this track. When it came out in August, the label credited Rene solely, and following the insult The Drapels broke up almost immediately. Rene’s voice is silky, strong, savory soul — this track brings me to tears every time. It’s like slow-dancing with nobody. The lyrics are so heavy, so appropriate for any era: “…my friends all say, don’t try to hold it in /but I can’t let that guy know how I feel”…it’s that horrible ache that we’ve all felt, that helps us to know we’re alive, as much as it makes you never want to get out of bed again. I melt with you, Wendy Rene. You make me so sad. I totally get you, and you get me.

Fun fact: Booker T. Jones is on keyboards in this recording.
Fun fact: Alive and well, Mary Frierson continues to live in Memphis with her family and performs in a gospel choir there.

4. THE ROMANTICS — Talking In Your Sleep
Appropriate for this mix for several reasons (boy was a sleep-talker, his apparent honesty-outlet of choice), but also because the band formed in Detroit on Valentine’s Day in 1977 — hence the band name, kids. These bouffant-rocking, leather suit-wearing icons are best known for their melodic use of three chords, embracing the punk invasion of that time but also admitting that the majority of their inspiration came from the late 60s British greats like MC5, The Kinks and The Hollies. Other bands of that era and area (like Iggy Pop and the Ramones, other Detroit 70s greats) are considered power pop, and The Romantics would be too if not for their image and also the fact that their career didn’t really take off until the early 80s — they are considered more “new wave” for this reason. This song was the second single for the band (the first being “What I Like About You” in 1980), in 1983 it hit #2 on the charts — this year gave them their best commercial success to date. MTV repeatedly playing the video for this song definitely helped, too! You can check it out below. The look, the sound — directly after Wendy Rene (yes, it works) it’ll make you smile, you know, as if it wouldn’t anyway. Plus, half-naked chicks! Soooo edgyyy. Ha! Oh, and the ever-so-thlight lithp ith a little thilly, especially when you are watching his mouth move. That’s a lot of “s”s for a dude with a lisp, poor thing.

“If you don’t know the Marine Girls, you’re fucking useless”. It’s twee, everyone. TWEE. Have we discussed twee on this site yet? I can’t remember. The whole genre is so freaking adorable you are completely missing out if you have no idea what I’m talking about, or think I’m trying to make a bird sound or something instead of talking about this 80s UK movement. Since this is a post about Marine Girls and not twee, go here to read all about it. Then come back and let’s talk about these gals. Formed in 1980 by Tracey Thorn (best-known for her newer band Everything But The Girl) and Gina Hartman, the band by the end included only Tracey and also the Fox sisters, Alice and Jane (later-known as Grab Grab The Haddock). They wrote dreamy songs about life, the sea and young, reckless love — being a 17 year-old girl and not giving a shit about anything else. These are vocal snapshots of easier times. These are sugar-spun, introvertedly optimistic, pre-shoegaze makeout songs. Minimalist and do-it yourself, the Marine Girls recorded and released their first album themselves — alongside other huge outfits of the time and region like The Raincoats and Young Marble Giants — and then were signed to the legendary Cherry Red Records for this album, a compilation disc of two full-length LP’s, another move that followed contemporaries in the same genre. “The Marine Girls don’t seem to give a shit about mastering their instruments, complicating their music, or even using drums — beats are claps, stomps or any two objects hitting against each other. The Marine Girls are about girls writing in their journals under a tree, or drinking lemonade on hammocks, gossiping about boys. They were the girls in high school who were smarter, sadder and cooler than anyone else.” One of the handful of bands who make me happy in a very simple, melancholy way, the Marine Girls flirt with my ears with this track, cooing and feeding them sweets…

Fun fact: Kurt Cobain put the Marine Girls on his top 50 albums list, a fact noted when his journals were published in 2002.

7. SHUGGIE OTIS — Aht Uh Mi Hed
A musical visionary from the 70s, Shuggie Otis has been playing clubs since he was 12 — disguising himself with mustaches and dark glasses to be able to get in. When I listen to his music, it’s as if he is reinventing blues, funk, jazz and pop rock all over again, though reinventing in a way that makes it its own genre; a genre of Shuggie Otis, like that should be a household name as-is. Why more people don’t discuss Otis as the prodigy he was or the great talent that he is, is beyond me. This track isn’t the best known off of 1974’s “Inspiration Information” — it was “Strawberry Letter 23” that really took off as the album’s single, and unfortunately even more so once The Brothers Johnson covered it. I wonder what the result would’ve been had the “elegant funk” of this track in particular, and the album behind it, had been properly promoted? Shuggie Otis is just recently enjoying the success he should’ve had so many years ago. Music reviewer John Ballon explains it better than I ever could:

“Imagine how it must have felt. Three years of your life spent obsessively working your ideas out, stretching and revising and perfecting them until finally you’re ready to set them down. In the studio you experience the magic of complete artistic control, handling almost all of the instrumentation, production and arrangements, fully realizing every bit of your uniquely inspired musical vision. It comes out exactly like it sounded in your head. Your record hits the streets–an album of nine songs–and you think to yourself that one of them might even be a hit. Then you wait…and wait…and nothing happens. Your record label drops you, and you wake up to find that your once promising musical career is dead at the age of 21. Then one day, 27 years later, you receive a phone call from some small record label intent on reissuing your long forgotten work. ‘Why not,’ you think. What else have you got to lose? The album is given a contemporary-retro repackaging makeover, and released with a nice media push. A sticker on the reissue features none other than David Byrne boldly declaring your music to be ‘…equal to Marvin’s and Curtis’,’ and the critics buy it all the way. Rolling Stone, who originally ignored your release in 1974, now sings its praises, claiming that your record ‘reveals an expansive creativity that appeared unlimited – maybe even a Prince-size talent in the making.’ Your records are selling. You turn on the radio and hear your songs. You’re invited to perform on David Letterman. Hip New York audiences turn out in droves to see you headline one of your first shows in decades, enthusiastically bringing you back on stage with an encore.
Imagine how it must have felt.”

Fun fact: Shuggie Otis most recently played guitar on Mos Def’s “The New Danger” album.

7. MODEST MOUSE — Life Like Weeds
I can still see him in my mind’s eye, mouthing the words in the dim light of my bedroom’s side table lamp: “All this talking all the time and the air fills up, up, up/Until there’s nothing left to breathe/And you think you feel most everything/And we know that our hearts are just made out of strings/To be pulled, strings to be pulled/So you think you’ve figured out everything/But we know that our minds are just made out of strings/To be pulled, strings to be pulled/All this talking all the time and the air fills up, up, up/Until there’s nothing left to breathe/Up until there’s nothing left to speak/Up until the better parts of space…” I will never forget that, as long as I live. It was a moment I fell in love. And as I sit here a year later and drink a beer alone in my Portland, Oregon apartment, I still remember feeling so warm and happy and blissfully young in my Cambridge, Massachusetts bed. Modest Mouse, the band themselves, unknowingly played a role in our faux relationship’s demise…and I know that as I remember him and I listen to this — but I will always take with me that moment, that mind’s eye glimpse, no matter how much the circumstances have changed. As angry as I am at how it all turned out, I did love him once.

This song, off of 2004’s “The Moon and Antarctica” begins so unassumingly upbeat and slowly winds down, until the weight of it smacks you directly in the face right around 3:48. Everything starts to slow, the beat lags and becomes painfully obvious, and my heart quickens. Even before this guy, that used to happen to me with this song, though my involvement with him made it all that much more heavy; it’s…so…heavy. I start to freak out. The Washington group managed to make an entire album that is surreal, raw and very faraway. Listening to the whole album is an experience: you start with your feet on the ground and by the time you come to you’re floating in space and the album is over and you’re left screaming, “WHAT DO I DO NOW” into the black, with no response. Oh, and did I mention you’re low on oxygen? What a way to go.

Found in the last third of the album, this track is absolutely exquisite, deep in one of the three “moods” of the disc: the compassionate, selfless one. “Isaac Brock screaming ‘I could have told you all that I love you’ has never been more affecting. It’s done with such an uncommon lack of manipulation or fake sentimentality, one beings to treasure such an empathetic, real meditation on our potential love of others and our most dearest, heartfelt selves.”

Beautiful and complex, this slow and jazzy rendition of The Cure’s “Close To Me” is so stunning. Her phrasing alone is to be admired, nevermind the gentle way she switches ranges. It’s all so pleasing and calm; breathes new, different life into the old hit. One can really understand the words and the New York-based Threadgill has managed to introduce an older generation to this music; a generation that Robert Smith couldn’t reach. For someone rather new to the popular music scene, this is a feat. This is her second album, after first paying tribute to the “Grandfather of Rock and Roll” by covering a handful of dusty Robert Johnson tunes, 2005’s “Of The Air”. The daughter of jazz composer Henry Threadgill, she is known in jazz circles but prefers to label her style “progressive pop”. She says: “I’m just trying to bring jazz in all of its branches back to a popular position, which is where it originated. People who listen to straight ahead Jazz may not listen to the more avant garde improvisation or mainstream pop and if someone is listening to my music they wind up hearing influences from all of the above. That’s when I feel I am succeeding as an artist.” Pyeng Threadgill is a contemporary artist on the up-and-up. Buy three copies of this album: one for yourself, one for your parents and one to pass along to a friend who will recognize and appreciate the gold he/she is holding.

9. ROBERTA FLACK — The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
One of the greatest love songs of all time, I think. Many artists agree, the ones that have covered this 1957 Ewan McColl folk song (written for his wife, Patty Seeger) include Celine Dion, George Michael and of course the incredible Roberta Flack. There are several Flack versions to this song: radio-edits and sped-up live performance pieces, but this one is the hauntingly slow rendition off of her debut 1969 album “First Take”. The album, recorded in ten hours on the Atlantic label (thanks to an audition arranged by Les McCann), didn’t do so well at first. Then in 1971, Clint Eastwood used the album version of the track for a romantic montage in his directorial debut, the psychological thriller “Play Misty For Me”.

Atlantic Records cut it down to 4 minutes long and released it again as a radio-edit single in 1972. It went to #1 in the U.S. and stayed there for six weeks and finally, three years later, the Virginia-born Roberta Flack began getting the fame and attention she deserved in the first place.

Her voice is a rainy Sunday afternoon, a ghostly elitism that sweeps and lifts. Music to cherish. She sticks to your ribs.

Fun fact: Flack resides at the famous “Dakota” apartment house in New York City, home to John Lennon at the time of his death in 1981.

10. COMMON — Aquarius
This album, 2002’s “Electric Circus” is a tour-de-force from the Chicago-born rapper, Common. Ambitious and eclectic, the smooth lyrics over the electronic music and electric rock background was a departure from previous (better-selling) album, but was still met with mostly praise. A member of the loosely-formed, mostly-Aquarian collective of hip-hoppers and rappers known as The Soulquarians, Common had help from other members (like Erykah Badu, his girlfriend at the time) in producing this album. This track, and this album, has been criticized for not being as accessible to fans as his previous records — as well as noting his less-than-lead role in production — but the talent part of things remains unchallenged. The abstract “Aquarius”, while perhaps different, reached a new audience — that’s not a bad thing. Common reached me with this album, while I wasn’t a fan before. “Official reviews…were mostly positive. ‘Pushing past the accepted boundaries of contemporary black pop’ is how Pop Matters described the album. Likewise, Play Louder agreed calling it ‘a brilliant, visionary album’, as did Rolling Stone who saw it as ‘breaking hip-hop rules with a freewheeling fearlessness’. Ink Blot Magazine’s Matt Cibula called it his ‘favorite record of 2002’.” It’s all enough to make one ponder how this album would’ve been received if not directly following the highly-successful “Like Water for Chocolate” — seen by many as Common’s very best work.

11. LOVE — Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale
A much-overlooked rock masterpiece from the highly-praised 1967-68 relic “Forever Changes”. The band were in peril at the time that this album came out. None of the band members were getting along, nevermind wanted to learn their parts. People joked that the band should’ve been called “Hate”. And yet they managed to produce this beautiful, scary masterpiece of an album. Fronted by the late Arthur Lee, Love was one of the first racially-mixed bands, hailing from Los Angeles at the time of bands like The Doors and The Byrds and bringing all their various diverse influences to the table. One of the most unacclaimed geniuses of their time. This project was a preaching trip of acid wisdom, a tribute to LA’s “The Whisky” (A Go Go) venue. And this song wasn’t even one of the singles. It just grabs me. One of my all-time favorite songs. We used to put it on repeat and sing along. He brought it in from the car, on a mix CD that wasn’t for me but I pretended it was anyway, made him play along and burned it for myself anyway. He didn’t want me to have it, I could tell. HA!

The mariachi-like trumpet, the simple melodic lyrics, the commentary on both the light and dark sides of the era — brilliance in an epic form. Packaged as a bright song with a catchy hook, this song is completely dark…reportedly Arthur Lee’s last words, as the band was falling apart and Lee believed he was going to die soon. I can relate in so many ways; most people can. ” What is happening and how have you been /Gotta go but I’ll see you again /And oh, the music is so loud /And then I fade into the…(acoustic guitar) DA DA, DA DA…” “Love is so hip it hurts. Arthur Lee’s beautiful, mosaic-like songs are always somehow cracked by a wilfull odd-ball-ness that makes Steely Dan look like Dr. Hook. Jim Morrison borrowed much of his acid-shaman schtick from Arthur Lee’s stage presence, just as the Doors stole huge chunks of Love’s musical synthesis to create ‘their’ sound (try playing ‘Spanish Caravan’ and ‘The Castle’ back to back). But Morrison knew how to sell it to the little girls, and make like a puppy dog when it counted. However weird he acted, Morrison was always just your bad-ass big brother, drunk and high. Arthur Lee was weird wierd. Morrison was also white of course, and Lee did push the 1960s Weirdo-Meter by being a freak and black. But the same combo worked pretty well for Jimi Hendrix, another of Arthur Lee’s friends, who also borrowed from the original black tripper’s immaculate sense of style.Was it a black thing that held Arthur Lee back from the stardom Jim & Jimi grabbed in 1967? Was it a salesmanship thing? Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison copped out-there poses but they knew how to package them so as not to exclude the teen-buyer who wanted a poster god who would frighten the parents but was also cute. Cute like, misunderstood, lonesome, sad, deep, dark, but whose favorite color was blue and loved milk-shakes, a mix of big-guy-playground-protector and pussy-cat under all the leather and hair. Wrap ‘Foxy Lady’ around ‘Third Stone From the Sun’, sugar-coat ‘Horse Latitudes’ with a little ‘Light My Fire’, put some leather pants on it and set your guitar on fire. Jimi and Jim knew how to Barnum & Bailey that ‘psychedelic trip’. Arthur Lee knew too. He just didn’t try, perhaps for the same reason that he didn’t tour, do publicity stunts, give interviews, or do any of that ‘bullshit’ that seems to help sell records. Was Arthur Lee a loser? A brilliant, messed-up, super-slacker without even the commercial sense to OD? Will Love’s music always float in its own lush limbo: too good to be forgotten, too cool to be popular?”

12. MC SOLAAR — La Belle et le Bad Boy
The Senegalese, Dakar-born superstar (born Claude M’Barali) is arguably France’s most influential and best-known hip-hop/rap artist. The Euro style, fresh beats and infectious rhymes make him much-loved by the music community as a whole, he is one of the few foreign rappers able to infiltrate the American market without even knowing the English language, and his first album (1991’s “Qui Seme le Vent Recolte le Tempo”) was a fresh breakthrough for the French African/Caribbean community. In 2001 he released this album, “Cinquieme As”, which was met with critical acclaim. This track has enjoyed particular success, both from appearing on the final episode of “Sex and the City” (not necessarily a “fun fact” as this is pretty common knowledge at this point) , as well as being based on the old story of Beauty and the Beast — though with a twist. “La Belle et la Bad Boy” chronicles a young woman being pulled into the life of crime by her bad boyfriend, and being killed in the end. It is obvious when listening that most of his material is a result of reading French literature. His idols are all poets, thinkers and anti-totalitarians, and when listening one really understands this musician’s fiercely relaxed commentaries on such relevant issues like racism and the frightening advance of technology. MC Solaar brings emotion to rap, something severely lacking in the American mainstream. His career continues to evolve, his mind continues to race, and we can surely expect even greater things from this artist. “What I write today should have meaning in 2090. And what else can he do, or would he do? Music. That’s all. I cannot be a banker, he says in all seriousness. Music, I can do that, peacefully. Hollywood? No, not all that sitting around and drinking coffee. Yes, he writes other texts that are perhaps too complex for rap, for now, that would not please his audience or his producers, but perhaps later, perhaps later, he will. A novel? Oh la la, that would take too long.
His is not a rap of exclusion, he has said, but a rap of opening, and inclusion. Not a rap that excludes women and girls. He sees no interest. When I write, it is to make myself understood. I have no desire to say we’re 10, 20, 100, 100,000 but this is only ours. I wish to share with no matter whom. Someone aged 24 today has a right to know rap. Some other, a law student has a right to listen to rap. I make rap for the 94, the 91, the 16, for everyone. That is my style. Underground and popular as the metro, he has said, I am a man of openness.”

13. RIALTO — Monday Morning 5:19
All I ever did was wait for him, and so I give you this Rialto opener from the 1998 self-titled debut album. With its sweeping melodies and cinematic lyrics, the scene is set for a boy wondering and waiting for a girl — wondering if it’s over, wondering where she is.
Oft-compared to other Britpop bands of the time (Suede, Pulp, Oasis) the quartet had a bit of trouble getting this album out. After releasing some singles through their first label, Eastwest Records, the label dropped them before the album could come out. Some scrambling ensued, and China Records decided to pick up where Eastwest left off. Unfortunately, Warner Music Group was in the middle of taking over China Records, and by the time the album was out, Rialto found themselves back on the Warner-owned Eastwest label — who quickly dropped them again. This song is their most famous single off that album. The sexy driving drums, the elegant music video, the clean-cut normalcy of it all…the euphoric pain of “Monday Morning 5:19” waits for you.

Fun fact: guitarist Jonny Bull has most recently been co-writing songs with Lily Allen, the first being “Friday Night” off of her first album.

ps: does the weird minor-note piano jag from 2:52 to 3:22 remind anyone else of the theme song for that old Saturday night Nickelodeon show “Are You Afraid of the Dark”?

14. THE MODERN LOVERS — Hospital

love is a mix tape

When reading Rob Sheffield’s “Love Is A Mixtape” (my advance editor’s copy lost to that idiot fuck who probably never even read it) he mentions being a college DJ, and playing this song late at night in the booth when he knew just his girlfriend would be listening, and that’s the way I feel this song should always be heard. I seriously considered just burning and sending out this record, 1976’s self-titled album, instead of putting together this mix. I felt it was all or nothing — either I put out the whole thing or none of it at all. I settled for giving you my favorite song of all time, “Hospital”. While I know that other people know and love “Hospital”, I feel selfish about it. I want it to be my little secret. I want this song to be buried with my murdered past in some backyard somewhere. It reminds me every time why I do this project; why I love music, and why I continue to hope for love and for a better time of it all. It also reminds me of this guy. We bonded over our mutual love for “Hospital”. And when I told him that I absolutely live for time cues 2:44 to 2:52 (that little guitar strumming) he looked at me like he knew me inside-out and I felt at home. When I hear this song now, I stop dead in my tracks. Being busy is preferable, being not fucked up is preferable — I don’t cry under those conditions. Usually, though, I’m laying flat on my back on the floor, staring at the ceiling and letting it wash over me. This song to me is Boston, wrapped up in a cocoon of pain and nostalgia. Would I re-live it if I could? I would. Like I said, I’m over the guy, I swear. I think I could even seriously move on if the right guy came along, as much as I’d be wary. I’m just not over the situation. The Modern Lovers provided a soundtrack to a certain part of my life, much as I knew and listened before and continue to after. Their sound is frontman Jonathan Richman drunk on dirty water, the nasal navigation of snowy Massachusetts highways at night. I’m right there again when this song comes on. I’d like to say that there’s no way you’ll catch me listening to the whole album since it kills me a little bit more each time — but I do, to try and train myself out of the association, and because I love it so well. The Modern Lovers speak to me in minimalist rock and child-like whimsy. I wouldn’t trade my love for this band and for the way I feel when I hear “Hospital” for memories of some stupid hipster boy. I mean it!

15. SILIAN RAIL — It Couldn’t Help
Two friends who had grown up together in North Carolina accidentally bumped into eachother in the same California town. They delighted at the coincidence and decided to start a band. Eric K. plays drums (primarily, and glockenspiel, too), Robin L. plays guitar. Eric’s drumming style is, if you listen, very complex yet grounding. The father figure of this music. Robin brings youth to the project, strumming out more frantic and playful melodies. Together they produce intricately-woven instrumental tapestries, the exact likes of which I’ve never heard. Two people getting together and starting a band isn’t unusual. The way these two have come together, and the way they just bang out hard-hitting, purposeful progressive/indie rock without any sort of apparent romance getting in the way, is unusual and to be admired. Also, the way they seem to communicate while they’re playing — call it a communicative musical maze. It’s lovely, not distracting, technically very good while still remaining experimental and within reach. A part of the Thread Productions collective (with other bands like Birds & Batteries, featured on last month’s mix), these two have already put out their first album — a DIY effort completed in two days — and are working on their second. Also up for these two are some small tours as well as collaborations with video artists and other Thread performers. Their music seems to have their lives sewn in — a bit of the south, a bit of the west, a touch of angst and a myriad of other musical influences. It’s relatable. Listen up…and buy their album! Supporting their dreams in a way supports your own. They play music for the people.

* Portlanders — Silian Rail will be playing several dates in the area. Check out their MySpace for show info!

Fun fact: Eric K. makes some of the best mixes that The Mixtress Online’s exchange has ever heard! If this guy can create art out of other people’s music, imagine what he can do with his own?!

16. CATHERINE WHEEL — Eat My Dust, You Insensitive Fuck
Yeah? Well fuck you, too.

I love this song. Without being abrasive or loud, the band gets the point across that they are pissed off. They are pissed off in a big way! They are upset and want you to know about it. If the song were instrumental, though, you’d never know. Perhaps they’ve gotten to that point we’ve all reached at one point or another where they’re past pissed, they’re resigned. They’re letting go. They’re saying goodbye but…just one last “eat my dust, you insensitive fuck”…why not?

Off of 1995’s sarcastically-named album, “Happy Days”, this hazy shoegazer song burns slow. It’s 8 minutes and change long hard, crisp and beautiful. The wall of guitar sound, effects pedals out in full force, plays like bluesy harmonicas. It’s nasty and post-grunge, both passively and actively aggressive. It’s a metallic assault on our emotions, and for such a long song there’s not much more to say than that. It brings this album to a close with us not sure whether to look ahead or over our shoulders.

17. THE WALKMEN — All Hands & The Cook
And now, for yet another instance of stopping my heart, New York City’s The Walkmen. I put this on with the intent for it to sound like one of those unexpected “secret” or “Easter egg” songs. Nevermind the fact that a Walkmen show has meaning for us, when I made the last mix for the boy, I stuck this on there as a secret song purposefully to surprise him with this song he already knew and would be crushed by. He loves this band, is seemingly a little gay for lead singer Hamilton Leithauser, and to put this at the end was probably a little like that South Park episode. You know, the one where Cartman makes Scott Tenorman unknowingly eat his parents, and then Scott’s favorite band (Radiohead) shows up directly afterwards and calls him a pussy crybaby; rubs salt in the wound. The two mixes I made for him were so different, the first so hopeful, and the second — by that time I knew I was “the other woman” and that he’d been lying to me for months and that it would be the last mix from me he’d ever have. I knew I had nothing to lose. I wanted to vomit back everything we’d shared, wanted to rip out his heart like he’d ripped out mine. So I used The Walkmen’s “All Hands & The Cook” to end it with a close-range gunshot to the chest.

The electric guitars playing like dulcimers, the toms a palpitating heartbeat in the background, the pulsing bass and Hamilton’s barking snarls of unresolved anger “Stop talking to the neighbor’s dog! / I’ve got a temper and it’s late / Break all the windows in my car! / Burn down the room when I’m asleep / Break out the bottles when I go / I’ll dig a hole for all your friends!” — you can just see him bending over backwards to get that point across as he screams gutterally, using his whole body and wailing out of range, “If you don’t like it / won’t you tell meeeee!”. 2006’s “A Hundred Miles Off” changed my life. It exhausts me to even write about it now, as I take breaks to throw back shots of Jameson, to cry, to throw things and air-drum to the beat of the songs as I listen, twisting my own body in response, singing along and breathing shallowly and gritting my teeth as I bear my memories, so rife with reverb and punch.

Goodbye, Boston.

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