September 2007

September mix

1. BADFINGER — Come and Get It
Well, it’s pretty obvious to me that this is a McCartney-written tune, is it to you? It was written by Paul in 1969 as a complaint about Apple’s finances, and for the soundtrack to The Magic Christian (which, unsurprisingly, was a B movie starring Ringo Starr), presented to the band when they were still called The Iveys. These guys, a 1960s/70s Welsh outfit, are known as one of the earliest examples of power-pop. They had a close working relationship with the Beatles, and were on the Apple label, helping to instill in fans the idea that they were going to be “the next Beatles” — but it was the explosion on the U.K. scene (4 hit singles) and then the band’s eventual sordid end (the hanging suicides of Pete Ham and Tom Evans as well as bankruptcy by 1975) that solidified their place in rock history. It kind of makes me ill to hear this in whatever car commercial it is that’s using it. Couldn’t they just as easily have used some crappy modern pop artist to help hawk their shit? Anyway, I put this on the mix because it makes me happy to hear it, helps me to think of the band’s happier days — before all the strife and the ugliness with Stan Polley (controlling New York manager who ultimately pleaded no contest to having embezzled from them) and everything else that they and their music family endured.

2. ALAIN GORAGUER — Le Bracelet
Found on the soundtrack for the cult 70s animated film La Planete Sauvage (recommend! recommend!!!), French jazz pianist and composer Alain Goraguer presents yet another sophisticated piece. He’s probably best known for his work as Serge Gainsbourg’s arranger, but certainly has a respectable music career of his own! He hit his peak in the 1960s and 70s, though, putting out at least 5 film scores and several albums under the name Laura Fontaine. This song seems like it should accompany a spy being covert and malevolent; gives a sense of foreboding. Madlib is reported to have been hugely influenced by Goraguer, even sampling some of his stuff for the first Quasimoto album.

3. MARK LANEGAN — Ugly Sunday

*content removed by request*

4. TO LIVE AND SHAVE IN L.A. — Travelogue Four
(see #5 of August’s mix)

5. EMF — I Believe
Epsom Mad Funkers (also known as “Every Mother’s Favourite,” “Eat My Fetus,” “Ever Music Forever,” “Eat More Fruit”, “Easy Mother Fuckers”, “English Mother Fuckers,” and “Ecstasy Mother Fuckers”) are probably best-known for the early 90s hit song “Unbelievable” featuring Andrew Dice Clay, but this song this proves that they have even more talent than ever given credit for. Influenced by Jesus Jones, this U.K. band is considered a part of the Madchester scene (Manchester, England in the late 80s/early 90s — other bands associated with this sub-genre are The Stone Roses, James and Happy Mondays — this phenomena is also affected by the arrival of ecstasy to England, and the popularization of specifically indie-dance clubs), combining simple techno with indie dance beats. This is one of the three singles off of 1991’s “Schubert Dip” on the EMI label (I know, EMF/EMI…a little confusing, bear with me). You’re pretty much guaranteed to like it — it’s such a tight little song. I find I always have to listen to it at least twice to really get the ya-yas out of my system! And I like the authenticity of this track — yelling at keyboardist Derry in the beginning for not keeping with time.

6. THE RAINCOATS — No One’s Little Girl
This 1982 single from the (since 1978) all-girl post-punk band is so eerie and off-kilter. It showcases Vicky Aspinall’s violin skills, and front woman Ana da Silva’s lyrical talents. It’s feminine and feminist, rebellious, fragile and crazy. Catchy and emphatic, indeed. You can find it on the 4-track self-titled EP, or a live version as the first track on 1983’s “The Kitchen Tapes” (recorded at New York City’s The Kitchen venue in late 1982). Just a word of warning, though — if this is your first introduction to The Raincoats, start with their 1979 debut album (also self-titled, but full-length. Not the one with the lemon on the cover, that’s the EP). That, to me, is the true Raincoats (as much as I heart this song). How did I find these gals? Well, we can all thank the late, great Kurt Cobain. He talks extensively about the band, and specifically meeting Ana da Silva, in the liner notes of Nirvana’s “Insecticide”.

7. ZEN GUERILLA — Fingers
“…like a dentist’s drill on a concrete sled speedin’ down a luge track”, says one reviewer. I would have to agree! This album, “Positronic Raygun” came out in 1998, the third album for the American band (Delaware to Philly to San Francisco). It was released to ridiculously good reviews, but still, since it was so underground (though compared often to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) it would never really be accepted as a hit album — though a ton of touring and excellent live performances helped spread the word about them. This song (and the album, too, really) is best described as Chuck Berry meets The Cramps meets Marvin Gaye. Yeah! It’s soulful and sad and still hopeful; weighty even though you can’t really understand the mush-mouth lyrics. One couple I know used this as their wedding dance…

8. THE DEAD C. — The Glass Pit
This noise rock trio from New Zealand is nothing new. Formed in the mid-1980s, they’ve had tons of side projects but have still managed to keep The Dead C. their main focus. Known for simplistic rock experimentation (not unlike the Velvet Underground) and improvisational techniques, the band takes each of their songs in a wholly new direction — can either be uplifting and build into a wall of sound or can fade away as if it was never there. This track sounds like an old spoken word recording, layered over the hiss of old tape, with some random guitar in there and a backbeat added a few seconds in. Oh man, I can’t get enough of this minute+ track, and I’m not even the biggest noise fan.

9. BEAT HAPPENING — Redhead Walking
Though probably some of Calvin Johnson’s most humorous and inspired lyrics, this song was not exactly the standout on 1991’s “Dreamy”. In fact, it was the closing track, a dark song that doesn’t exactly explain how Beat Happening ended up in the genre of “American twee”. Highly revered (and sometimes rebuffed) underground heroes, this trio ended up on Sub-Pop Records, which at the time was mainly a grunge label. Radically innovative, the band was simple in its presentation (voice, guitar, drums) and many a band has been influenced by their “unique brand of two-chord tin-can pop noise”. Also good to know: Johnson founded K Records in 1982.

10. OHSEES — The Gilded Cunt
You might remember me mentioning John Dwyer in last month’s Lowdown, since I’d put a Coachwhips song on there and he’s in that group as well. This, though, is his baby. The Ohsees (formerly OCS — Orinoka Crash Suite) started out as an individual project for Dwyer, to be able to present to the world his at-home recordings of himself musically messing around. It evolved into a 4-person, female-fronted, San Francisco-based project that has put out 5 records and has added to several compilations — and is surprisingly not better-known! This song is off of “The Cool Death of Island Raiders”, an album that was engineered by TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek. Something about this song that a lot of people might not pick up on (aside from its ephemeral and lo-fi qualities) is that Dwyer and lead singer Brigid Dawson are singing at the same time, in the same range. The song is dusty and pretty, simple and nonsensical. Are you into it?

11. TAPES N’ TAPES — Cowbell
These guys are a relatively new band, formed in 2003 in Minneapolis. This track can be found on the album “The Loon”, which first came out in 2005 (the band recorded it themselves, apparently in a cabin in Wisconsin in the middle of winter) — and then was re-released in 2006 after the guys were signed to XL Recordings. Oh, and uh, so apparently these guys were at Lollapalooza, and even debuted something like 6 new songs from their upcoming album, but I had no idea and missed it. Whoops!

12. I MONSTER — Daydream In Blue
This is a song originally recorded and released by a Belgian band, The Wallace Collection, in 1968. When it first came out, it was a pretty little hippie affair that was pretty obscure, and would’ve been more so if not for two facts 1) the melody comes from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” and 2) without it, Bristol trip-hop (U.K. reference, symbolizing music that uses a variety of sounds and beats to make one feel as if he/she is tripping) wouldn’t exist. Though it’s been covered several times, by artists such as Pharcyde and Lupe Fiasco/Jill Scott, this is by far the most popular modern version. I Monster is a British electronic music duo, who put out their first album “These Are Our Children” to varying reviews, mostly lackluster (relative to the album’s quality). This was their biggest single to date, a remix of the Gunter Kallman Choir’s version of the original, replacing the lead vocals.

13. HARD-FI — Tied Up Too Tight
Signed to Necessary Records, this U.K. band (a few miles outside of London) is one of my recent favorites. And I use the term “recent” loosely, since I’ve been quietly following lead singer Richard Archer’s career since he was in the former project Contempo…so, I guess, not recent at all! Hard-Fi has been described as post-punk, indie and punk — but I definitely hear more straight-up rock (with a touch of reggae here and there). The album that this track comes from, “Stars of CCTV”, is one of those discs that lives in my stereo — I play it over and over and over again. The loud, crunching
guitar, the hard drums and the absolutely gorgeous piano lines are suitable for most occasions. Are you excited yet? There are so many good tracks by this band (their second album, “Once Upon A Time In The West” came out recently) that it was hard to pick just one — but I went with this one for the lyrics that are in true Hard-Fi style (about suburbia and the drudgery of work and life and hometown) and for the fact that I can’t control the urge to dance when this is on.

14. FREUR — Doot Doot
I once dated a guy who would make me mixes without liner notes, since his brother would make mixes for him and not include liner notes…so we’d listen together and enjoy whatever song was on without having real knowledge of what it was, just that it was. It was quite romantic in the moment, but of course as soon as he’d leave I’d be frantically Googling lyrics ;) The day we broke up, I heard this song on the radio, after never having heard it before his mix. So, Jamie, years later — this one still makes me think of you (and no I’m not pining, no he’s not dead, and yes, we’re still friends). Freur, an extraordinary talent for their time, included this as the opener for their 1983 record “Doot Doot”. It’s lyrically literary and visceral and reminds me of simpler times.

15. TO LIVE AND SHAVE IN L.A. — Travelogue Five
(see #4)

16. THEMSELVES — Poison Pit (Why? Remix)
Electronic hip-hop! It took me a long time to put this on a mix because I was committed to placing it in a way that it would really stand out. I knew I couldn’t put it directly after a similarly-monster song like “Doot Doot” — whoooo for Travelogues, ha. The original to this song is old hip-hop, without a doubt. Put the original next to this remix by Why? and you realize quickly that you’re dealing with two very different animals. You almost can’t even recognize the original in this track, found on the Anticon release, “The No Music of AIFFs”. It was meant to be a follow-up to Doseone and Jel’s
2003 “The No Music” release — they remixed all the tracks and re-released them as the new album. A little-known fact about them is that in 2004 they combined talents with the German band The Notwist to form 13 & God, also an exceptional project in its own right.

17. 10CC — I’m Not In Love
My first introduction to this song when I was 10 and a bossa nova version was the demo on my keyboard!
This U.K. band enjoyed modest success from the time of their formation in 1972, leading up to this smash hit in 1975 (on”The Original Soundtrack”, which also contained the other hit single, “Life Is A Minestrone”). Apparently they’d had some songs rejected by Apple Records, since Apple didn’t feel the songs would have enough commercial success, but Mercury Records freaked out over this song and based on it alone offered the band a $1M deal.
Fun fact: the band utilized the new technology of the time to create the female back-up voices themselves! Not bad for a band that named themselves 10cc because that would be a volume of sperm that would only be ejaculated by a very potent male. :-/

Do a Google search for Rik L Rik and you’ll find pages of tributes and “R.I.P.”s for the man who passed away from cancer in 2000 (not even 40 years old). His passing is a real loss, as he was one of the original L.A.punk kids, fronting the F-Word and later Negative Trend. For Posh Boy Records, he recorded under his own name for awhile — and this track, off of the compilation “Fistful of Rock N’ Roll Vol. 5” (yes, little learning punkers, buy this and all of them), is just one example of what this fella — who reportedly used to literally hang from the rafters at Bags shows in the late 70s — was capable of. Just another tribute from another fan (one who has included his work on mixes for years). “Whoa, I’m so lucky / Whoa, I’m so grateful / ‘Cuz now I know what it’s like to be free / ‘Cuz now I know what it’s like to be free…”

19. THE’S — Teenage Cleopatra
This Japanese girl group has been out there for over 20 years, though you wouldn’t assume so, with their tinny teenage voices and simplistic lyrics. It’s true they were defunct for awhile, but inclusion in the soundtrack for Kill Bill: Vol 1 (Rock-A-Teens cover of “Woo Hoo”) as well as a performance of several songs in the film, brought them renewed fame and they toured in 2004. The trio chose their band name since their music (classified mostly as American surf and garage) is most representative of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s (get it?). They mostly cover American rock n’ roll, and mostly sing
in Japanese, so this English-sung original (off of their self-titled 1994 import) is a bit of a rarity.

In honor of the 15th anniversary of the death of Serge Gainsbourg, a handful of artists got together to pay tribute to the late Gainsbourg by covering a handful of his songs (“Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited”). Marianne Faithfull does a sultry, low reggae version of the Gainsbourg tune “Lola Rastaquouere”, Gainsbourg’s ode to sex with a mysterious minor. I almost prefer her voice like this, permanently altered after cocaine addiction and severe laryngitis. Catch Faithfull, an accomplished songstress in her own right (as well as actress, Mick Jagger’s former girlfriend, and muse for Leonard Cohen’s “So Long, Marianne”) in the film Irina Palm, in a role as an aging woman forced to be a sex worker to pay for her grandson’s healthcare. For this she is up for a European Film Award.

21. BATMOBILE — Mystery Street
Mainly influenced by Elvis (and later, artists like Link Wray, Gary Glitter and The Ramones), this Dutch psychobilly band from the early 80s spaz out for the love of music. The instruments (guitar, drums, slap bass) are played with ridiculous enthusiasm — part of the band’s early success came from the fact that they were able to play revved-up versions of old songs without losing control or focus. The real “Batmo-sound” was honed in this process, while also creating originals. In 1988, the “Bail Was Set at $6,000,000” album was released (this is the one that includes “Mystery Street” as track 4) — but lead singer Jeroen Haamers doesn’t think that the true Batmobile sound came out until the next record. The band started to call their style “rocka-psycho-batmobilly”, and after their tenth album (“Bail…” was #4, I believe) they abandoned the upright bass in favor of electric — now they are being described as “the Motorhead of psychobilly” – haha.

22. FERN JONES — Strange Things Happening Every Day
Straight off the “Weeds: Vol. 2” soundtrack, I give you Fern Jones. An Arkansas preacher’s wife (and, I believe, an ordained Pentecostal minister herself), her voice is compared a lot to Patsy Cline’s, and is one of those “shoulda-been” legends. Had she made the transition to non-religious recordings, she might’ve earned the “legend” title, as the music she was putting out was just as good as some of the stuff of the boys over at Sun City Records. “A complete unknown now, the late Fern Jones sang in more than 2000 tents and churches between 1940 and 1960”, but only released 2 albums. This track, originally written by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, is a rockabilly gospel tune that is usually only known by collectors, and the albums are usually only found at auction. The re-release of her “The Glory Road”, as well as the release of the “Weeds” soundtrack has put it back into the mainstream, and aren’t we grateful!? Praise the lord!

23. KENNA — Out of Control
Author Malcolm Gladwell devoted an entire chapter of his book, “Blink” to Ethiopian-born (American-raised) Kenna. He speaks of “The Kenna Dilemma”, using “The Pepsi Challenge” as an example: while Coke is a more popular drink, the sweetness of Pepsi works better for “sip tests” (when it comes to finishing a whole can, Coke is the favorite). And that example translates to Kenna. His music is unique (a mix of hip-hop, house and new wave), not exactly radio-friendly and was test-marketed in snippets vs. the public having the ability to listen to the whole songs. Fans loved Kenna live, but the label’s aforementioned poor marketing of his debut album (“New Sacred Cow”, 2003) certainly explains why Kenna wasn’t right away a smash hit. Ironically, though, buzz from the book is giving Kenna some much-needed publicity for his new album (this year’s “Make Sure They See My Face”, where this track is #2)…and sites like iTunes and MySpace are helping, too.

24. TO LIVE AND SHAVE IN L.A. — Travelogue Six
(see #4)

While credited as the second solo McCartney album, it’s truly a collaborative effort with his beloved wife (now late wife, obviously, with all the Heather Mills bullshit in the news), Linda. Diehard fans will say things like that Linda’s billing as a singer/songwriter on this 1971 album was overrated, since she doesn’t obviously contribute more than backing vocals, and that it’s nothing more than a response to John & Yoko’s continued success as a couple. What I hear, though, is a fun, isolating and overlooked record that’s really a testament to their love. It all seems sugar-sweet and, ultimately, sad. The songs are campy and typical and another way to look at it, when questioning the art on the 12″ and some of the lyrical content, is to see that McCartney was probably responding to the breakup of the Beatles in the only way he knew how. Emotionally charged and easy to keep on repeat — pick up the vinyl version of “Ram” if you’re able, and settle for the CD otherwise. Ooh, and invest in high-quality headphones (I should really put that as one of the rules, ha) and some decent pot (if you’re into that) — songs like this one as well as “Monkberry Moon Delight” and “Dear Boy” are quite aurally pleasing and pleasantly confusing in terms of the mono/stereo switches.
Side note: this album will always remind me of Bonnaroo 2006, and my friends in Tennessee, since it was our soundtrack while getting ready for the festival and driving from Nashville to Manchester and back. Plus, there’s this, my friends Howard & Preston singing “Too Many People” (a song also on “Ram”):

26. ELECTRIC — Outro (Interlude)
Now, iTunes fucked this one up. This is NOT electric eels. Yet iTunes has this in there as so, fueling musical ignorance for n00bz everywhere and (I’m sure) frustration for fans everywhere. Why has this not been fixed?? Okay, having “submitted a review” I feel better. This is NOT electric eels (lowercase e’s as a nod to e.e. cummings, not a mistake
on my part), the early 70s Cleveland glam-punk fucks who feature(d) a swastika in the band name. This is Electric (or Electric Co.), the Boston hip-hop crew! The two couldn’t be more different (though admittedly, I do like both…but for different reasons). This album, “Life’s A Struggle” (2004), it’s produced by Insight, who is probably one of the more creative and think-outside-the-box hip-hop/rap producers out there. Some might even call him crazy, but at least he manages to be positive and progressive (while still remaining nostalgic and traditional, a feat), which is more than I can say for many of the crazy people I know.
Fun fact: this 14-track album clocks in at an impressively brief 29 minutes.

EE vs. E co

Off of a 1950 compilation (“Music Boxes, Carousels and Hand Organs”) from the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, this is just what it sounds like: a 19th century music box. I like it, I find it soothing. Also, I think to display some of America’s earliest, most simple mechanical music machines is appropriate on a mix, and this mix in particular because it’s meant to be a wind-down after last month’s disc (if you missed it before, this is essentially disc 2 of a 2-disc mix I’ve made). Wind-up box for wind-down mix? Make sense? Good. Anyway, do you find this as peaceful and precious as I do? It’s just long enough so that it doesn’t drag on and/or become skippable.

I give my friend, Howard, full credit for turning me on to this album. I’ve never been a huge Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young listener, so when I’ve seen the first solo Crosby album (“If I Could Only Remember My Name”, 1971) I’ve passed it by. Howard had an extra copy of the CD and gave it to me for the holidays last year saying, “If anyone can appreciate this album, it’s you”. And I listened, and was blown away. It is so weathered and yet pure, and David Crosby’s voice is perfect. The list of contributors reads like a Who’s Who of the era: Nash, Young, Jerry Garcia, Joni Mitchell and Grace Slick, to name a few. This traditional folk song’s lyrics are nothing more than names of French cathedrals (“Orleans / Beaugency / Notre Dame de Clery /Vendome / Vendome”), but Crosby’s harmonies (with Nash, I believe — natch) are ethereal and haunting. Each song works as a meditation if you want it to be. I can listen to this at bedtime or when I’m simply feeling introspective. You’ll want to hear it again and again. And speaking of again, I again recommend excellent headphones. And pot, though it’s entirely possible you might get a contact high from just holding this album.
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