Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Countdown #7 - roll away the spikes

(Broadcast Jan-21-2012 -
podcast available here).   All comments are from Philip Random's notes.  The full countdown list (so far) can be found here.  Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings that got played on-air, but we tried.  

Tupelo Chain Sex - the dream
It's a Sunday night, sometime in 1985. Tupelo Chain Sex, a band virtually nobody's heard of (let alone heard) are playing at the Luv Affair.  Which kind of sucks.  Sunday shows are always low energy, everybody too spent from the weekend.  But I go anyway, having heard a few cuts on the radio (CITR, of course – who else who would play them?) and seen the album cover. The live show kills – sort of punk meets old fashioned rock and roll, by way of ska and jazz, if that makes any sense.  English mohawk guy on vocals, big middleaged guy on BIG saxophone, crazy even older black guy called Sugar Cane on electrified fiddle.  Word spread fast.  Best band ever that nobody's heard of.  The promoter quickly books them for another show.  Next night, the club's packed.  Fights break out courtesy of big football morons who don't grasp the subtleties of mosh pit etiquette (same as it ever was).  It all spills into the street before it's over – riot on a Monday night.  I just hang out in the alley with my friend James and get high.  

Clash - street parade
If London Calling was the greatest rock and roll album of the 80s (even if it was released at the dead end of 1979), then Sandinista was simply (and significantly) bigger.  Not just three slabs of long playing vinyl to London Calling's two, but MUCH MORE SOUND – more tangents, more explorations, dubs, re-dubs, versions, visions.  As if these four guys (and their various studio compadres) somehow managed to digest the whole world – not World Music so much as what the world actually sounded like.  The arrival on the local scene of some genuinely strong and clean LSD definitely helped in allowing one to see things in this regard.  Someday I should write a book about it. 

Captain Beefheart - sugar + spikes
If you haven't heard the four sides of Trout Mask Replica, you need to.  The 60s were winding down.  The revolution wasn't coming any time soon.  The war was still raging in Vietnam.  Somebody had to try something entirely different.  Enter the Captain and his producer, one Frank Zappa.  The result is, as I once heard it put, music to listen to when you don't really want to hear music.  Sugar + Spikes is as close as any of gets to what one might have called a single.  

Boo Radleys - the finest kiss
It's hard to find a date on this one so call it 1992, the year the Boos achieved escape velocity – at least they did in my heart and soul.  Take the noise of My Bloody Valentine, the raw guitar epiphanies of Dinosaur Jr and fuse them to a sweet little pop song about that girl with the finest kiss going.  The resulting force of nature mixed nicely with all the feel good drugs that were proliferating at the time.  Not that you put on the Boos while you were flying on E – no, you saved them to help fill those gaps in between when your serotonin was depleted and you genuinely needed a reason to carry on … until the next time.  My liver still gives me shit about all that.

Yes - Remembering The Ancient [randoEDIT]
At the risk of opening up a very deep can of worms, I can't help but credit Yes's most difficult album, Tales From Topographic Oceans, with allowing me to set things straight with the Alien when it mattered most.  That is, when put the question of "what is this thing you keep calling reality?", I found myself reflecting on the album's liner notes wherein all aspects of human experience were reduced to four basic themes (like the four winds, the four seasons).  1. reality's the stuff that our senses reveal to us as we pass through day to day life.  2. reality's also the stuff we remember, not just our own memories, but all recorded history.  3. reality's also the ancient stuff that precedes all that memory but lives on in us regardless.  4. reality is all those rituals we enact to make sense of it all, bring it all together, give it communicable form.  I was pretty fucking sharp that night – might've just saved all of humanity. 

Mott the Hoople - roll away the stone
The lyrics have something to do with Jesus, I think.  The old rise from your alleged death trick – roll away the stone, exit your tomb and embrace life everlasting, set all humanity free forever and ever, amen, then party, rejoice, shake a leg, maybe dance some rockabilly.  Not bad for a little 3 minute pop song.
Three Dog Night - family of man
Because there had to be at least one Three Dog Night song on this list.  And also because of whatzizname – quiet kid in Grade 8 or 9 English with long black hair that was always in his eyes.  We were supposed to choose a poem we liked and illustrate its meaning with some kind of drawing or collage.  He chose Family of Man, which was apparently about how humanity was destroying the planet.  He didn't say much, just planted his collage of ecological ruin on the rim of the blackboard (oil spills, smokestacks, millions of dead fish), then played the 45 on the tinny little record player he'd checked out of the Resource Centre.  I'm pretty sure he got an A.   

Mark Stewart + Maffia - liberty city
It was a bad period – late 1988, the Winter of Hate in full effect.  I was broke, working hard long hours because I had mouths to feed.  Mark Stewart's Liberty City pretty much said it all.  "Trying to pay the rent, the main worry's job security.  The busier you are, the less you see."  I've never felt less free.  And yet there was good herb to be had, BC Bud really starting to prove itself, which went damned well with these dubbed out dirges of struggle and resilience.  "Be strong," they said.  "Resist."

My Bloody Valentine - when you sleep
The problem with any My Bloody Valentine record is, inspired as it might be, it doesn't exist in the same universe of astonishing sonic WONDER as the My Bloody Valentine live experience.  Case in point – When You Sleep from Loveless, a richly textured, nicely driving pop song, with a strong, dreamy edge … on record.  Whereas live, in the Commodore, 1992, it was a gauntlet thrown down by the gods.  Swoon in our psychedelic complexity, they demanded.  And maybe half the crowd did.  The other half were gone before show's end.  Those are the ones who all have mortgages now. 

David Bowie - speed of life
To clarify.  You know that big ass DRUM sound that came to define the 1980s, which everybody says Phil Collins and/or Peter Gabriel invented in around 1980?  Well, everybody's wrong, because here it is in 1977 on the first of David Bowie's post cocaine psychosis Berlin albums.  One side was mostly ambient, the other had the beats, big and otherwise.  Speed Of Life stands out because it's instrumental with even Mr. Bowie standing back in awe, realizing that this is what it sounds like:  that unique moment when the future comes crashing into play, loud and clear.

Einsturzende Neubauten - sand
Speaking of Berlin, when Einsturzende Neubauten recorded Sand, the wall was still up and seemed like it would be forever, a fact of geo-political nature.  And thus the pressure wasn't just tense but unrelenting.  Of course, I had no idea it was a Lee Hazelwood cover until a certain backyard BBQ maybe a decade later.  The wall was gone by then and you could feel it even eight thousand miles away –  croquet, powerful marijuana, way too much tequila.  At some point, I was lying in a hammock and there was Nancy Sinatra doing an Einsturzende cover.  It made perfect sense.  More evidence that the Alien had messed with the space-time continuum.

African Head Charge - depth charge
African Head Charge weren't exactly dub.  They were too weird (and wired) for that, too deep into the pure sounds that Adrian Sherwood's mixboard meddlings were conjuring.  "It's like Africa on acid," said a friend one night, on acid, but at least ten thousand miles from Africa. As for Mr. Sherwood himself, he just said he was having fun, experimenting with frequencies, noise, rhythm and razor blades.

Collectors - what love suite
The Collectors came from Chilliwack (the town) and eventually, they became Chilliwack (the band).  Listen to side A of their debut album you hear a band doing a pretty damned good job of pulling off a Mamas + Papas vibe.  But put on Side B and shit gets way more serious and intense.  It's all one big suite called What Love? and what it is, is an epic eruption of quietLOUDquietLOUD musings and rants on love's many colours, some of them quite strange and violent indeed.  A pompous, overblown Doors rip off?  Maybe.  But I didn't hear it until almost thirty years after the fact and even then it kind of freaked me out.  Love has always torn us apart.

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