Sunday, March 10, 2013

Countdown #50 - gimme some truth

Broadcast February-23-2013 - 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.

Devo - Satisfaction
1978.  Another lost Saturday night.  If it wasn’t lost, why was at home watching Saturday Night Live?  Devo were the musical guests.  I'd heard them already, the whole first album, and didn't hate it, but I wasn't exactly blown away either.  But then they did their version of the Stones' Satisfaction and it was a Ballad-of-a-Thin-Man moment for me (that Bob Dylan song where he sneers at straight old normal Mr. Jones and says, "Something is happening, but you don't know what it is, do you?")  And yeah, I was Mr. Jones, not even twenty years old but already getting swept aside by some brand new thing I didn't get.  Except I wasn't that far gone.  Because I did like it.  I just didn't know what to do with it.  Later, I'd realize that this was the whole point.  This was my confusion asserting itself, beautiful and uniquely mine.  The trick was to love it, not fight it, but that would take a serious season in hell to figure out.

Yello - bimbo
There's a lot of stupid out there in the music marketing biz.  But labelling Yello a synth-pop band rates particularly high.  True they had synths and even a few shit-hot pop songs, but put on their first album (the aptly named Solid Pleasure) and a different picture gets painted.  Sambas, ambience, outright strangeness, and yeah, in the case of Bimbo, a nifty bit of synth pop, albeit with Swiss tongue deep in cheek.  Dedicated to a guy I used to know (I forget his name now) who told me his idea of a perfect night was to stay home, drink beer, play Solid Pleasure on from beginning to end and bash away to it on his drums.  Last I saw him, he was drunk, passed out on a couch.  I don't remember what music was playing.  

Replacements - Alex Chilton
The Replacements were exactly what you needed in around 1987 if you were desperate for something/anything genuine in the realm of booze-soaked-truth-telling-poetry-infused rock and roll.  Which I wasn't.  I was deep into noise and psychedelics and other higher, more quantum concerns at the time.  But five years later I was drinking again and finding it very easy to fall in love with Alex Chilton (the song not the man), me and children by the millions.  But all love to the man to for inspiring a song that could inspire such love, Alex Chilton being the guy from Big Star, still maybe the greatest band that hardly anybody's heard (there's none on this list because I've never found any affordable vinyl).  And before Big Star (way before, when Alex was still a teenager) there was a group called the Box Tops, who had a big hit called The Letter.  Love that song.  

Pointed Sicks - the real thing
Local Vancouver  band hits the eternal pop gold standard with the kind of three minute pop rocker that the whole world should know, but it doesn't.  Which puts a big loud BULLSHIT to that argument I've heard over the years from some I know in the music biz that, despite all its corruption, ugliness, waste, criminality and stupidity, the truly good stuff always rises, gets its due.  Yeah, right.  

Magazine - song from under the floorboards
It's all in the opening line.  I am angry, I am ill, and I'm as ugly as sin.  Welcome to Magazine, a band that was definitely not Fleetwood Mac or The Eagles or Van Halen or Boston or any of the other outfits of the day that kept on selling bullshit fantasy (and millions of albums).  Nah, this was the truth finally, bitter and beautiful.  And what a hot band!  All the bile and eviscerating energy of punk, but not afraid to be a little sophisticated.  Hell, you could even dance to it.  

Sonic Youth - teenage riot
Thurston Moore gets political, makes his demands explicit as to what it's going to take to get him the fuck out of bed and deliver the goods.  A full-on teenage riot, which is to say a certain pure wild energy that may be inappropriate, wrong even, but fuck is it fun to tear up Main Street, smash all the windows!  Which by the end of Teenage Riot is exactly what's going on – Mr. Moore and Lee Renaldo crossing frequencies with their magical guitars, smashing everything, setting all humanity free for a while.  The rhythm section's not half bad either.

Yes - sound chaser
Summer 1975, Pacific Coliseum.  I see Yes for the first time.  They open the show with a
song I haven't heard before.  Something to do with sound itself, and tempos that will continue, and the look in your eyes.  And the scariest cha-cha-cha's this side of a fever dream.  I'll eventually discover it's called Sound Chaser.  Actually, the show opened with some Stravinsky, a recording of the finale of the Firebird Suite.  Curtains rise, the stage is like something out of Middle Earth, a great Elven Hall, all these mushroom-like globuals of light shimmering in time.  Call that whole concert a revelation.  God him(or her)self imposing on my affairs.  Ecstatically so.  Heaven suddenly had a texture, a sound, and a helluva cool light show.  But don't be fooled.  The lights and such were just tricks to keep my attention.  The sound was the thing, and these musicians, these wizards weren't exactly making it, they were chasing it, but not trying to catch it or cage it, just get closer to it, revel in its whispers and its roars.  I'd get the same feeling maybe twelve years later the first time I caught Sonic Youth live – that the music that really matters isn't made, it's already here, and so those responsible are not so much makers as channellers, like little kids playing in a sandbox, barely able to contain all the mad stuff erupting from their imaginations.  

Soft Machine - we did it again
There's a pile of Soft Machine albums out there, but way too many of them are the wrong kind of sophisticated (some would say boring) jazz fusion or whatever.  But their first, 1968's Vol.1, that's just wild and delirious free form fun.  Though in the case of We Did It Again, a nifty sort of drone pop rises up that sounds as hip now as anything new I'm currently hearing on the planet.

we did it again

Public Image Ltd. - rise
Johnny Rotten hooks up with Bill Laswell, Ginger Baker, Stevie Vai etc, unleashes a monster on the world, maybe with ambitions of getting himself some of the same rarefied pop air as U2.  The crazy thing is, he almost pulls it off, and indeed should have with a single like Rise, about Apartheid I seem to recall hearing, but mainly about anger and how it is nothing if not an energy.  Like wind or electricity or the stuff of split atoms, the question quickly becomes not, should we have it (fact is, we do and it ain't going away), but what should we do with it?  Get drunk and wail on some guy down at the pub, or maybe get it organized, get it focused, turn it into the kind of human expression that destroys empires, frees slaves, saves children from lives of boredom and futility.  Not bad for a give-a-shit punk.

John Lennon - gimme some truth
So I'm twelve almost thirteen, smart enough to not believe in the God I'd had foisted on me my entire life, and thus scared to death of death – the fact that sometime somehow I would die (maybe in the next ten, maybe in a hundred years of old).  Either way, life would end, my heart cease pumping, my mind cease minding.  And then nothing.  Just blank.  Like a light getting clicked off.  Sorry, but twelve almost thirteen year old me couldn't accept this.  There had to be something, which is why I just couldn't buy John Lennon's Imagine, all that no heaven stuff – above us only sky.  There bloody well better be more than just sky.  And anyway, Imagine (the song) was kind of lame, a little too hippie, too la-la-la.  Gimme Some Truth on the other hand.  That I could chew on.  Way more than just sky.

John Cale - mercenaries
John Cale being the tall, brooding, avant-Welsh part of the Velvet Underground sound that changed everything forever – the guy who brought the white light to the white heat, did furious things with his cello.  But he was gone from the Velvets by 1970, pursuing a solo (and) producing career that seemed to get him wherever he felt like going.  In 1979, this meant a live album that was as hard as punk, but tougher, more seasoned, ready for war, greedy enough to want to kill for you, but not stupid enough to die for you.

Mott the Hoople - hymn for the dudes
Mott (the album) is the one Mott The Hoople album everyone should own (along with the Greatest Hits, of course).  Because here they're rocking their strongest, most shambolic, but also finding space for the kind of ballads that make grown men cry.  Hymn for the Dudes for instance, which is one of those bottle of red wine wonders.  Sip it down, close my eyes and remember all those lost friends that I used to party with, rage with, surf metaphorical tsunamis.  Where are they now?  Where the hell am I?

Dub Syndicate - stoned immaculate
Sample some Jim Morrison poetry about what it's like out there at the starless psychedelic edge, mix it up with some suitably strong and mysterious dub and voila! it must be summer 1991.  The Winter of Hate is over, something new and beautiful is being born.   

Current 93 - be locust or alone
Of course 1987 would be the Locust Summer, being the midpoint between the two winters, 1987 and 1988, that would come to represent the full de-flowering of the Winter of Hate, David Tibet 93 being its sort of patron saint and/or hell demon.  But seriously.  This stuff is sinister for damned sure, but also beautiful and heartfelt.  Just because a man is pointing into the maw of Moloch itself does not make him an agent of Moloch.  He's just the messenger.  And a reporter, filing yet another missive on the ongoing Apocalypse by way of wigged out folk music by way of deep and dark industrial sturm + drang, or as a friend put it late one psychedelic evening -- "That neo-Christian-pagan rigmarole I can't seem to get enough of."

Faust - it's a rainy day, sunshine girl
How cool am I to even own this album in perfect shape, Japanese pressing with the complete booklet.  And it cost less than ten bucks.  All apologies but every now and then, a man must brag, else why do all the bin-digging.  Which is bullshit.  The reason for the bin-digging is the sonic treasure you find.  In the case of Faust's So Far, that means an album of strange and extreme moods with It's A Rainy Day Sunshine Girl either a #1 pop hit in another, far cooler universe, or just a long brash walk along a certain edge – that very thin line where genius actually touches stupidity, but it never falls in.

Cocteau Twins - Pandora
"The Cocteau Twins are like new wave Kate Bush."  I can still see the idiot who said it to me, one of those music biz types who was still doing the feathered 70s hair thing well into  the 80s.  Not that there was anything wrong with Kate Bush.  It was the timing of it.  So-called New Wave had peaked in 1979, and it was never a sound anyway, just a way of referring to punk-like stuff that was easy enough on the ears to maybe sell to mainstream audiences.   Which gets us back to the Cocteau Twins who were certainly easy on the ears, but a million miles from punk in 1984 or any other year.  What they were, was a welcome shade of beauty and mystery at a time when everything just seemed to be getting more and more obvious, strident, aggressive.  Even the good stuff.  Pandora and the album it came from (the aptly named Treasure) gave us something to listen to when we got home from various gigs and warehouse situations.  Smoke a little dope, sip a little wine, get exquisitely, luxuriantly lost.

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