Thursday, November 29, 2012

Countdown #42 - gravity's pull

Broadcast November-24-2012 - podcast available here.  All comments are from Philip Random's notes (with some editorial diligence).  Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings we played on-air (but we tried).  Nor is every record represented here.  To hear them all, you've got to actually listen to the podcast.

Kraftwerk - numbers + computer world [part 2]
Michael, I think his name was.  Sort of slimy guy that we used to buy dope from back in the late 70s, early 80s.  He lived in a high rise near English Bay, always had the stereo on loud, usually playing shitty pop-disco or whatever.  Except this one time, a beautiful spring day, sun glowing in off the bay – it was this crazy sort of machine music.  Kraftwerk, I would've guessed, except Kraftwerk weren't around anymore, were they?  A couple of gimmicky records in the mid-70s and then back to Germany.  I was right.  It was Kraftwerk, their new album called Computer World.  I was wrong.  They were anything but a gimmick.  They'd never stopped cranking out the future.  Clearly, I had a pile of exploring to do.  I'm still at it.

Last Poets - wake up niggers
Performance (the movie) needs to be seen.  It's the one where Mick Jagger plays a sort of Satanic rockstar who's messing with the mind of gangster who's on the lamb.  Mainly out of boredom, it seems.  But that sells it way short.  Look no further than the soundtrack and a song like Wake Up Niggers by the Last Poets.  It has no particular reason to be in the movie.  Other than to be that cool, that on the mark of what was going down in 1970, the whiff of violent revolution still very much in the air. 

Kool + the Gang - funky stuff + more
One of those bands that had to change for the worst before they'd really rule the charts, which sucks, because their pre-disco stuff is James Brown level KOOL.  Which remains my major dig against disco (the initial surge 1975-76) – it just swept so much great stuff aside, all these incredible bands doing deep, weird, wonderfully funky stuff.  Suddenly it all had to be 4-4, boomp-boomp-boomp, with cheesy strings in the mix … and the clubs were full of assholes.

Tuxedomoon - incubus [blue suit]
I never really dove in and listened to these guys.  Maybe the records were just too hard to find.  Incubus found me via BEST OF RALPH, a compilation that went a long way toward turning essential parts of my brain and soul inside-out and sideways, all in the interest of driving home the point that the world wasn't just stranger than I imagined, it was stranger than I could even begin to imagine.  And this is a good thing.

Sonic Youth - silver rocket
This may be the perfect Sonic Youth nugget.  On one level, it's a ripping cool pop song.  On another, it's a metaphysical hand grenade that blows a gaping hole through the reality barrier into the next nineteen dimensions.  And it does it all in barely three minutes. 

Wire - map reference 41-N 93-W
I looked it up.  The map reference.  It's a placed called Centerville, Iowa, for no reason I can grasp … other than being the absolute center of Absolute Middle America (speaking of the psychic topography here).  But it's the sound that matters here anyway.  Cool hard power pop, all angles and fierce light.  The future c/o 1979 … and they got it mostly right.

Bob Dylan - tombstone blues
Lately it's been the geometry of innocent flesh on the bone causing Galileo's math book to get thrown.  But maybe six months ago, it was the king of the Philistines, his soldiers to save, putting jawbones on their tombstones and flattering their graves.  Back in 1993, I remember it being John the Baptist (after torturing a thief) looking up at his hero the Commander-in-Chief, saying, "Tell me great hero, but please make it brief.  Is there a hole for me to get sick in ?"  In other words, it's Tombstone Blues, the Dylan dada-machine, roaring down Highway 61 mercurial, eternal even.  Particularly if you're driving long haul, gobbling No-dose, smoothing the edges with cheap red wine, aim west and just go-go-go, hit the Pacific at sunset, northern California somewhere, take some pictures but for some reason all you've got is black + white film.  So the moment is captured in shades and grains, the ocean pure white, an atomic bomb.  Yes that's right.  The world ended in June 1989, just south of Oregon, and I have pictures to prove it.

Love + Rockets - no new tale to tell
Love + Rockets were definitely fresh when they first hit in 1985.  Ex-Bauhaus players laying down strong psychedelic pop at a time when pretty much nobody else was thinking that way.  But by the time their third album hit, Earth Sun Moon, I guess I was looking elsewhere, because I didn't really notice No New Tale To Tell until at least 1989.  A friend's car, bombing along the Coquilhalla at speed.  It was the flute solo that hooked me.  Not since Jethro Tull. 

Yes - perpetual change
As a friend once put it, Perpetual Change is the secret to everything that was great about Yes (up until 1975 anyway).  Because they were perpetual change.  Not just an ever evolving, ever changing sound, but often as not ever changing within the songs, which were, of course, ever-changing as this extended live version makes clear – taking a nine minute epic and pushing it even further, higher, deeper ... except for the drum solo.  Rave about 1970s live albums all you wish (I sure do) but the drum solos are pretty much all crap.  

Talking Heads - I Zimbra
The whole Fear of Music album's a killer, but I Zimbra stands out for the door it kicks open – the first solid hint of what would happen if the Talking Heads (and producer Brian Eno) were to maybe leave the whole punk/new wave thing behind, take a wild dive into the whole weird, wild world. 

Led Zeppelin - trampled underfoot
Funky Zeppelin.  Sort of.  It's still a bugger to dance to.  From Physical Graffiti, their last truly great album, which went a long way toward saving my life in 1988, thirteen years after it was released.

Roxy Music - bogus man
Brian Eno only did two albums with Roxy Music but that was enough to change everything forever, with Bogus Man as weird and funky as things ever got.  And weird is definitely the word for 1973 – the gutters still littered with confused hippies coming down from that long strange trip known as the 1960s.  And here were these glammed up sophistos strutting down Main Street, aiming for the future.  It must've made no sense at all.

Clash - Sandinista
The genius of the Clash circa 1980.  Take a line from Apocalypse Now, build a worldview around it, then tear it all apart.  Meanwhile, the music's just fine, easy even, interpolating helicopters and fever-visions.  I remember a friend telling me heard it on the radio while hanging out in a beach side bar in Jamaica.  It made so much sense, it didn't even register until a few hours later.  The Clash getting played on Jamaican radio?  Didn't they have enough of their own reggae in Jamaica?  They did invent the stuff.  Were the Clash really that good at it?  Apparently so.

REM - gravity's pull
It had to be 1984.  REM finally made it town and a sold out Commodore was waiting for them, no doubt including at least one member from every even half-cool band in town.  They opened with Radio Free Europe as I recall, which killed, but equally notable was Michael Stipe's hair.  It was long.  Not art-weird long.  Just long, uncut for at least a year, hippie long.  Which just wasn't done in those days.  Punk had accomplished that much, hadn't it?  Long hair and cool no longer belonged in the same sentence.  Jump a head a year to 1985 and REM were back, playing to another sold out Commodore, and now there was all manner of hair in the audience, hippie wild and free.  Except now Michael Stipe's had his cut short.  People were confused.  Until the band kicked into their first song, Gravity's Pull from the new album – strong, dark and heavy without being obvious about it.  People quickly forgot about the hair.

Pink Floyd - dogs
I almost didn't include this in the Countdown, post-1971 Pink Floyd being hardly unrepresented out there in the normal world.  But then I asked Motron and he said, go for it, Dogs is essential, Dogs is punk rock on bad acid and then slowed way down … but in a good way.  In other words, Dogs was the epic Pink Floyd track that you couldn't put on when you and your high school friends all got high.  You'd get maybe three minutes in and some idiot would say, "Ah, come on, let's hear Dark Side of the Moon instead.  It's so cool when all those clocks go off."  I came to HATE Dark Side of the Moon.  Still do (sort of), or maybe I'm just allergic to it – way too much exposure.  None of that kind trouble with Dogs and its withering 17 minute rip into all things corporate, capitalist, evil.  And the thing is, it found eighteen year old me a very pivotal moment, forced a consciousness that I'd been flirting with anyway.  Something to do with just saying NO to every greed and conformist based assumption I'd been fed by every parent, teacher, coach, priest, expert I'd ever encountered.  They're all wrong, it shouted.  Do what they say and you're already dead, dragged down by a stone.  

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