Sunday, February 3, 2013

Countdown #47 - sidewalking

Broadcast January-19-2013 - 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.

Brian Eno + David Byrne - America is waiting
The gods must have had me in mind with this album.  Tribal beats, all manner of weird noises, disembodied voices, and in America Is Waiting, the voices are calling down the venal soullessness of Ronald Reagan's America perfectly.  It went well with all the powerful LSD that was bubbling around at the time.  But that wore off eventually, of course.  My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts didn't.  Others may have used samples before its release, merged noise and rhythm and all manner of exotic tangents and textures.  But once Misters Eno and Byrne had done their bit, this kind of stuff was emphatically here to stay, part of the firmament.

Roxy Music - remake-remodel
The first song from the first Roxy Music Album makes it abundantly clear.  This is not a band concerned with the past.  This is not a rock + roll soaked in blues and authenticity.  This is dissonance, angularity and cool high fashion, which no doubt must have felt like a hostile alien invasion if you were a certain kind of hippie in 1972.  Hell, I didn't even hear Remake/Remodel until at least 1979 and I just assumed it was some up and coming New Wave outfit, except they were more interesting than most.  And I suspect the same would be true today.  Still more about what's to come than what has been.   

The Normal - warm leatherette
The Normal must have released more music than just Warm Leatherette and its b-side, but I've never heard any of it.  Which makes them pretty much the perfect bit player in the ongoing pop Apocalypse.  One hundred percent on the money and way ahead of their time with a catchy bit of machine driven coolness about the car crash set, sado-masochism, other hip transgressions.   

The Jesus + Mary Chain - sidewalking
The Jesus + Mary Chain's were never going to top their first album Psycho Candy, certainly not in terms of zeitgeist grinding superlative noise.  And yet they stuck around for a good while, always good for some dark, menacing pop thrills, like Sidewalking, a single from 1988.  Which is the same year Public Enemy unleashed Bring The Noise on us.  So make no mistake about it.  The late 80s were that kind of time.  The good guys weren't wearing white, they didn't smile much and they had no qualms about disturbing the peace.

The The - giant
I'm scared of God and I'm scared of hell, and I'm caving in upon myself.  We've all been there if we're worth our blood, if we've taken chances, pushed envelopes, stayed awake way too long, fallen in love and got torn apart for our troubles.  It's true.  The young man (or woman) who is not confused is not on the path.  The The's Giant seems to be about all of this, and yeah, it's as big as its name.

Cramps - surfin' dead
Wherein I apologize profusely for not including any other Cramps on this list.  I guess, for me, they were a live thing first and foremost, an ongoing mayhem of deep swamp blues and whatever atrocities Lux Interior felt compelled to commit on any given night.  And so I never got around to owning any of their albums.  In fact, I only have Surfin Dead because it shows up on the soundtrack for Return of the Living Dead.  But damn if it doesn't sound solid, fun, worthy.  So yeah, this whole list is rendered suspect, incomplete, a charade.  I recommend you compile your own.  

Swans - new mind
New Mind is the lead track from the Swans 1987 album Children of God, and thus the first real evidence that they weren't just heavier than God and/or Lucifer as their earlier, resolutely dirgy stuff had proven, but probably better too – musically speaking.  Because holy shit, what a soul smasher!  What a sledgehammer!  What a piledriver!  What an amazing band!  As for New Mind, I'm not sure I want to know what it's about, except to say that it feels like the work of some angry god on a rampage, or maybe one of those Japanese movie monsters that tears an entire city to pieces due to some unexplained grievance.  Or maybe it's just the sex in our souls damning us to hell, which doesn't seem fair.  

Swans - love will tear us apart
Just to make sure that we were clear on the point that 1988 was indeed the bleak peak of the Winter of Hate, the Swans gave us two versions of Love Will Tear Us Apart, both actually quite nice, fragile even.  Jarboe's version gets the nod here, because she's just got the nicer voice.  And you really do need a little nice when you're dealing with the most suicidally depressing love song ever.  As a friend pointed out long ago, note the certainty of it.  Not love MIGHT tear us apart.  It WILL.  And it did.  But that's another story. 

Bob Dylan - it's all over now, Baby Blue
Technically, I shouldn't be including this song as I'm pretty sure it precedes the Like A Rolling Stone snare shot
that gave impetus for the Apocalypse we're not just observing here, but continuing to participate in.  But such is the nature of such ruptures in the space-time continuum, there's always an implosion-like suck that pulls key details of the recent past forward, mixes them up with the various smithereens floating around.  Thus, we have yonder orphan with his gun crying like a fire in the sun.  It makes perfect sense if you've got the right kind of eyes, and ears.

Queen - tenement funster + flick of the wrist + lily of the valley
They all flow nicely together, but take a look at the lyrics and there seems to be three distinctly different things going on here.  Tenement Funster's a raw piece of kitchen sink glam.  Flick of the Wrist is a bitchy bit of spite (with operatic moments and not just a little malevolence).  And Lily of the Valley's a lovely bit of epic love.  Thus we are reminded one more time of how Queen always had more ideas and angles going than any nine other bands, and the chops to do everything full justice.  When this stuff landed in the various teenage rec-rooms of suburbia circa 1974/75, let's just say a great hunger was sated – one we weren't even fully aware we had.  Something to do with passion and fun, and raunch that was always under control.

David Bowie - five years
At first I wasn't even going to include any Ziggy Stardust on this list.  It just seemed inconceivable that there was anybody who hadn't already heard it all.  But then, just last month Five Years pops up on an old mix tape and young Tracy (who isn't even that young) says, is this John Lennon?  Five Years being the 1972 song that accurately predicted the end of the world in 1977.  Which I realize is a confusing FACT to lay down, particularly to those born since 1977.  Just trust me, it's true.  This is not the same world as before.  Something very weird happened in 1977 and we've all been spinning in weird gravity ever since.

Melanie - Mr. Tambourine Man
I guess Melanie was always suspect, a little too emotive, maudlin, skin deep – even for the 60s.  But man, if she didn't find something in Dylan's Tambourine Man that nobody else has.  Particularly the part about dancing beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free - Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands - With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves.  Yeah, it's chewing a bit of scenery, but it's also freedom itself, captured in sorrow, as in a snapshot, at sunset somewhere, a great storm passing safely in the far distance … for now. 

Talk Talk - the rainbow Eden + desire
It's Spring, 1989, the year I ended up in London somehow.  Actually, it's a long story that makes perfect sense if you know all the details, experienced as drama, later realized to be a sort of absurdist romantic comedy.  Which is only connected to Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden, because I bought the cassette while I was in London, very low on cash, a lovely day when I had nothing to do but hang around and wonder what the hell I was doing there in that dirty old town.  Anyway, I was wandering through the big HMV and there it was, remaindered.  Dead cheap.  So what the hell, I bought it.  What I knew of Talk Talk was that they were a better than average synth-pop outfit.  What I wasn't expecting was the deep and moody and ultimately gobsmackingly epic first side – three titles (The Rainbow, Eden + Desire) but all one song to my ears.  Exactly what I needed to get my thinking straight and buy the first ticket out of town.  Needless to say, I picked up the vinyl as soon as I returned to the Terminal City.  

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