Saturday, January 19, 2013

Countdown #45 - silence + entertainment

Broadcast January-12-2013 - 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.

Depeche Mode - enjoy the silence [quad-final-mix]
The surest bet in 1981/82 was that Depeche Mode were going nowhere, a squad of way too pretty boys with annoying haircuts who could barely muster the musicality to program a drum machine, let alone actually play an instrument, and none of them could sing worth shit.  And yet, there they were better part of a decade later, still in the game, and in the case of Enjoy The Silence, rewriting a few key rules.  Yeah, you've probably heard the original radio single, or the mix that backed the video, but have you heard The Quad: Final Mix, the one that seamlessly mixes four separate Silences into one big, epic, beautiful monster? What did 1990 sound like, you may ask?  Some of the silences were amazing.

Gun Club - for the love of Ivey
All dressed up like Elvis from hell.  Has there ever been a better line?  And it's not as if the rest of the song doesn't deliver either – the Gun Club kicking out the sort of murky, raw, dangerous LOUD-quiet-LOUD that would have shifted bucketloads of units to the checked shirt hordes if they'd only released it ten years later than they did.  But in 1981, the world just wasn't ready.  Not the nimrods who programmed radio anyway, ran the major record labels, shifted the units.  Which in the end has got to be a good thing, because the Gun Club are still fresh, still beautiful in their ugliness, at least as scary as Elvis from hell.

Pogues - sick bed of old Cuchulainn
From that mid-80s Irish folk revival moment that none of us realized we needed until we heard it.  And then, holy shit, how had we ever lived without it?  The Pogues were from London actually, though they all had ample Guinness and Jameson's in their blood.  Not to mention all manner of other substances, particularly the front man, Shane McGowan.  But he made it all work, found the raw punk heart of all those jigs and reels and shanties and faerie songs, set them on fire.  

Jam - that's entertainment
One of those songs that pre-dated my taking of punk/new wave seriously and thus, once I finally did finally commit, it was already there, and always had been, a necessary part of the situation – that scene in the movie where the sort of mod punk new wave guy put down the electric guitar, grabbed his acoustic and just strummed hard, spat out his disgust at all the ugliness getting passed off as beauty, all the villains getting sold as heroes, all the nightmares with laugh tracks.  Just call it all entertainment, folks, smile, don't mind the rotating knives. 

Public Image Ltd. - swan lake (death disco)
There's no shortage of rage in Johnny Rotten's discography, but nowhere else does so much sorrow force itself in as Swan Lake (aka Death Disco), a song apparently about the death of his mother, and recorded immediately afterward.  It actually hurts to listen to it, but in a good way.  The punk is revealed as utterly human, just in case there was any doubt.

Rolling Stones - have you see your mother, baby, standing in the shadows
In which the Stones make it clear.  They've been messing with the lysergic and listening to their Dylan, and figuring a way to make it all their own – dirty, punk and true.  The Summer of Love may be pending, but beware those shadows, long and deep.  And your mother.  Not just a little Freudian. 

Mothers of Invention - plastic people
I discovered this toward the end of the high school, the perfect ditty for all those transparent, incomplete, pre-fab zombies I used to think of as friends.  But now, they were just hard-wired for boredom, insistent on becoming just like their parents, only worse.  But it is in fact about everyone, the good people of Los Angeles circa 1967 in particular, even the hippies, all plastic where their souls should have been.  It was just that kind of town, I guess.  Still is, from what I hear.

Roky Erickson - burn the flames
More evidence that the mid-80s were actually one of the coolest times ever on planet earth.  It just didn't make the papers much.  You had to do a little digging, listen to the right radio stations, go the right movies.  And few movies have ever got it more right than
Return of the Living Dead – the one that doesn't take anything seriously and ends up being fiercer, wilder, more world endingly apocalyptic than pretty much every other zombie movie ever made put together.  Split dogs anyone?  And then there's the soundtrack.  Where else but in the deepest, darkest, bloodiest Hollywood b-movie do you find Roky Erickson, certifiably mad, fresh out of some Texas insane asylum, luxuriating in the very flames of hell.  

Alice Cooper - dead babies
I'm twelve years old.  It's early 1972 and I'm starting to hear stuff about this guy named Alice Cooper, who's some kind of reincarnated witch that murders chickens on stage and hacks baby dolls to pieces with an axe, and later on gets hanged from his neck.  But he worships the devil, so he never really dies.  But what was truly amazing was finally hearing an Alice Cooper album and realizing just how good it was.  Not trashy, ugly, noise like you'd expect from a crazed, murdering maniac, but actually kind of nice in places, melodic even, which made the evil stuff that much more frightening, twisted, and yeah, funny.  The album in question was Killer and now some decades later, it's still song-for-song one of the best ever, by anyone, regardless of their allegiances or intentions.

Donovan - legend of a girl child Linda
More proof that when it came to a certain kind of elegiac, sunlit psychedelic splendour (which was only ever achieved by anybody in and around 1966-67) the man named Donovan Leitch had no peer.  Yeah, Dylan accorded him little respect, and for whatever reason, the historians seem to overlook him whenever the topic of the Summer of Love comes up.  But the proof is in a song like Legend of a Girl Child Linda, like slowly waking from a very good dream to a beautiful morning in the first few hours of summer.  

Stranglers - nice + sleazy
Strange thing about punk, though I didn't really notice it at the time, was how progressive its sexual politics were – certainly for the late 70s.  Women had real power in the various scenes and bands.  And if you were gay, you were just another weirdo, as welcome in the moshpit as anyone else.  But then a band like the Stranglers would confuse things.  Rude, crude, total throwbacks.  Except they were so damned good, and in the case of Nice and Sleazy, just telling the truth.  Good, honest rock and roll has always been as sleazy as it needed to be.

T-Rex - ride a white swan
If you're British, you've likely heard this.  But over here in the Americas, Ride A White Swan still retains the kind of freshness that turns heads, gets people smiling, wondering, "Who is this?" And that's a good thing, I think, still so many quality gems buried in that slag pile known as the 20th Century, awaiting discovery.

Can - halleluwah
It's 1971, Koln, West Germany, and a certain Communist-Anarchist-Nihilist combo known as Can are deep into a pretty much infinite groove, laying down the foundation for a very cool future.  Halleluwah it's called, and yeah, Jaki Leibezeit is the best drummer ever.  No doubt.  Beats and howls and passing rips of noise that still sound fresh and strong and way ahead of time even now, decades later.   

Neil Young - tired eyes
The album Tonight's the Night is all about death.  Stark cover, mostly black.  Stark songs, pulling no punches about various dead friends, and in the case of Tired Eyes, a friend who killed.  The sad tale of a guy who got into the drug thing too deep, found himself dealing with some heavy company, so he armed himself accordingly.  And then one shitty night, push came to shove and that weaponry got used.  Except it's not a TV show, not some action movie, it's lives forever changed, for killer and killed.  The damage done.

Neil Young - barstool blues
Sometimes you've just got to sit all night and drink, reconcile all the stupid shit you've perpetrated, and it's fallout, and how it all got you here, sitting, drinking, reconciling all your stupid shit, doing the barstool blues. 

Elton John - love song
It's 1970 and Elton John still isn’t a superstar.  Which doesn't mean he hasn't already recorded the best album of his career.  It's called Tumbleweed Connection and yeah, it's a slightly silly concept thing about the old west, but it all works.  Love Song stands out for its understated, almost ambient lushness, and soulful yearning.  Almost too beautiful.  

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