Saturday, February 16, 2013

Countdown #48 - never enough

Broadcast February-9-2013 - 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.

King Crimson - elephant talk
It's 1981 and Robert Fripp has decided to reboot King Crimson after five plus years' hiatus.  The new album's called Discipline and it's pretty clear by about fifteen seconds into the opening track Elephant Talk that it's all for good – tight as the album title suggests, but also dangerous and beautiful in a primal, wild animal sort of way.  And then there's new guy Adrian Belew's vocals.  He's not rapping exactly, not singing either.  Just putting it all out – arguments, agreements, babble, banter, brouhaha, ballyhoo, chatter, chit-chat, diatribe, doubletalk … and so on.  Which is exactly what the world sounded like in those days.  Still does.  

Wall of Voodoo - back in flesh
Wall of Voodoo were one of the first uniquely 1980s bands I ever threw in with – tight, a little nasty, full of film noir shadows and surprises, even some humour.  And they could deliver live.  Which is what happened in Luv Affair, early 1982, one of the great shows of that or any year.  They started with a monster cover of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire.  Somewhere toward the end of their set, it all peaked with Back In Flesh, a song about what happens when your alarm clock gets smashed and your salary gets cut and the corporation's boiling over and … I've been listening to this over twenty years now and I still have no idea what it's about.

Donovan - Barabajagal (love is hot)
The 60s are on the wane but the sunshine superman is still more hippie than not (making Barabajagal a not particularly great album).  But what a hot title track! Love is hot, truth is molten – indeed.  Donovan puts down the patchouli for a while, plugs in with the Jeff Beck Group and pretty much invents the sort of hard hippie rocker that T-Rex would ride to POP-ascendency a couple of years later.  But I still have no idea who or what a Barabajagal is.   

Nick Cave - all tomorrow's parties
Where the fuck is all the Nick Cave on this list?  This from my neighbour, Motron.  The easy answer is, whatever Nick Cave and/or Birthday Party vinyl I had disappeared in the great robbery of '88.  The more difficult answer has to do with certain issues I had with the guy for a while, extolling the virtues of cooler than death junkiedom, or so it seemed.  But I was wrong on that.  A man's music is often as not the best thing we'll ever get from him, and thus should never be shrugged off or denied.  So yeah, here's to Mr. Cave, bad seed all the way.  I was wrong.  And holy shit, your take on the Velvet Underground's All Tomorrow's Parties still causes small earthquakes.   

Joy Division - she's lost control
Like so much stuff from the late 70s, early 80s (particularly if it had any edge), I was a slow in getting to Joy Division.  But I had heard of them before the big deal suicide – I just hadn't heard them.  And meanwhile, I was dealing with my own big deal suicide, ex-friend James.  So I was clear on one thing:  suicide wasn't cool, wasn't romantic, wasn't meaningful, wasn't anything but a dire, miserable fact.  In James's case, the fact was a cement pillar, underside of a bridge, impacted with his grandfather's car at over 80 miles per hour.  But we knew it was suicide because he left a note.  I'm pretty sure James had heard Joy Division, and equally sure he didn't like them.  Too one note, he'd have said, too dire and bleak.  He favoured more colourful, hopeful and progressive stuff.  Fat lot of good it did him.

Billy Cobham - stratus
I first heard the big groove from Stratus via the main sample from Massive Attack's 1991 single Safe From Harm.  But the 1972 original track takes things in a whole other direction, and blisteringly so.  The rocking guitar comes care of a guy named Tommy Bolin who was supposed to be the saviour of the instrument in the early-mid-70s, but instead he hooked up with Deep Purple and OD'ed on heroin, died.  As for Mr. Cobham, well as a friend once put it, if he was a good enough drummer for Miles Davis, he was good enough for all humanity.

T-Rex - cosmic dancer
Unlike many T-Rex songs, Cosmic Dancer seems to actually be about something, which is that certain something we've all been doing since the moment we exited the womb, certainly since we were twelve.  Not just breathing, crying, shitting, eating … but dancing, and cosmically so.  Noted as yet another T-Rex gem that I'm guilty of not hearing until at least the mid-80s, but therein lies the real magic of their sound, I think, particularly the golden stuff from 1971-73.  It's the definition of timeless.  

Talking Heads - don't worry about the government
It continues to amaze me that this was 1977, the year punk truly broke, tore the firmament asunder, tossed multi-dimensional hand grenades up and down the corridors of power and complacency.  And Talking Heads were very much part of it.  Except Don't Worry About the Government is such a nice little song about clouds and pine trees and peaches and civil servants and friends, and loved ones.  Nothing to worry about at all.

UB40 - Madame Medusa
This is UB40 before they lightened up, tightened up and went all annoyingly pop on us.  This is UB40 when they were still serious contenders, exploring all those dub nether-regions of the late 70s, early 80s, not afraid of what lurked in the shadows, dark and delicious.  In the case of Madame Medusa, that meant twelve odd minutes of serious hard grooving (and Maggie Thatcher dissing) that would continue to rock dance floors well into the 90s – at least it did whenever I had a say.  

Minutemen - price of paradise
Being a necessary missive from D. Boon, a young man of that so-called lucky generation of young Americans who didn't have to fight in Vietnam, but had older brothers who did, and so saw close at hand the damage done.  But then a pointless tour van accident can get you any time, as it did D. Boon in December 1985, somewhere in the great American desert.  Rest in peace, man.  We miss you still.

Clash - bankrobber + dub
I first discovered Bankrobber via Black Market Clash, a compilation of various singles, b-sides, non-album cuts that "the only band that mattered" released in around 1980, proving one more time that no other outfit in the world was more prolific, relevant, GOOD.  Consider the evidence.  In just two years, 1979 and 1980, the Clash release London Calling (a two record set), Sandinista (a three record set) and Black Market Clash which, as subsequent CD reissues would prove, was itself just a tip of the iceberg in terms of unreleased stuff.  And it was often as not brilliant as Bankrobber aptly proves.  Hell, I know one guy who was actually seriously considering going into a life of crime based on its simple logic.  Steal money from bankers, don't hurt anybody.  But then he sobered up.   

Shriekback - my spine is the bassline
I remember getting into a massive argument with a fellow DJ at the end of 1983 who insisted that Shriekback's Care was the album of the year.  It wasn't then, still isn't now.  Which doesn't mean Care isn't a damned fine album, underrated, overlooked, and heavy with all manner of dark and compelling moods and grooves, and poetry even, because it's true, sometimes the spine really is a bassline.   

Bob Dylan - Senor (tales of Yankee power)
It's 1978 and I like to think of this as Mr. Dylan's last great pre-Christian moment, though it's entirely arguable he's already opened the good book.  Either way, he seems to be at a crossroads in the middle of some wasteland.  Off in the distance, there's smoke rising from distant shattered settlements, but is it the Lincoln County road or Armageddon?  And seriously, what's the difference anyway?  

Jimi Hendrix - like a rolling stone
The full album didn't actually come out until 1986 but this is 1967 all the way, even if I was only seven at the time, and about four thousand miles away – I heard it anyway.  Jimi Hendrix hits the stage at the Monterrey Pop Festival and makes the kind of noise that all mankind hears, because it cracks the speed of light, slips outside of time, acid soaked and superlative – a performance that includes a loose, yet powerful wander through Bob Dylan's still very fresh masterpiece, Like A Rolling Stone.  Mr. Hendrix drops a verse or two, mumbles a few dada throwaways but he owns it anyway, always and forever.  A few songs later, he'd be setting his guitar on fire.  But that's another story.

Echo + the Bunnymen - do it clean [live]
Wherein the Bunnypeople make it clear that live on stage in 1983, they really had no peer, except for maybe those Christers from Dublin.  But Echo were far cooler than U2 – all the angles and edge of Joy Division, but psychedelicized somewhat, not so much hopeful as surfing the powerful surges of despair that were all the rage at the time, letting it take them places where gravity held no sway.  Which in the case of Do It Clean meant yeah, why not throw in some Beatles, some James Brown, some Nat King Cole and Boney Maroni!  Because once a certain velocity is achieved, there are no borders anymore, no barricades, no dividing lines of any kind – it's all just one song.   

Cure - never enough [extended]
This extended guitar rock 12-inch single version of Never Enough is notable for A. how bloody hard it was for me to find, B. the degree to which its kick ass sonics pretty much defined the SOUND of 90s pop-rock (yes, lovers of U2's Achtung Baby which came out a good year later – I'm talking to you).  And it’s a dynamite evidence that nobody could match Robert Smith when it came to obsessive, lyrical pop genius.  

Electric Light Orchestra - one summer dream
ELO were an early fave of mine – big melodies, bigger production, like the Beatles by way of 1930s Hollywood musicals … except unlike most of those musicals, everything was always in colour in ELO-Land.  Of course, over the years, a lot of this pomp and electricity started to feel a little silly, especially through the darker parts of the 80s, Cold War getting utterly frigid, minutes to midnight on the Doomsday Clock, not much room anymore for cheap fantasy.  But then a funny thing started happening in the early 90s, right around the time that Bill Clinton took the Whitehouse and grunge got taken way too seriously.  ELO were fun again, cool even.  Who cared if they were silly?  And a song like One Summer Dream from 1975's Face The Music – well that was never silly anyway.  Just beautiful, melancholy, rich as a summer afternoon with great birds floating on by.  You're sixteen years old and this is going to last forever.  


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