Monday, April 22, 2013

Countdown #56 - everybody knows

Broadcast April-20-2013 - 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). 

Primal Scream - come together [Weatherall mix]
Because like The Reverend Jesse Jackson says in the sample (from long before he became ridiculous,) Rhythm and Blues and Jazz are just labels, to which I'd add Disco and Funk and Punk and Hip and Hop and Country And Western And Techno And Dub and Heavy and Metal and Glam and Goth and Rock and Roll and This and That and so on.  There really are only two kinds of music.  Good and Bad.  I like to think I've invested the best part of my life in digging for the good stuff, which in this case, gets us to Britain, 1991.  Ecstasy is rampant, all the toughest thugs are falling in love with all humanity, everybody cumming together in simultaneity.  A little messy perhaps (and chemically dependent) but brilliant nonetheless, transcendent even. 

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Enola Gay
Because it's dance floor ready earworm my-girlfriend-left-me pop of the highest attainment, except the Enola Gay in question is not just some wayward girl, she's the US air force bomber that dumped the BOMB on Hiroshima. Which is to say, history's exclamation point – all of mankind's progress and/or regress manifesting in a pivotal instant that, combined with what happened a few days later in Nagasaki, forced TOTAL change, triggered the apocalypse, immenatized the eschaton (and so on).  It's 8:15 in the AM, Japan time, August 6, 1945, always has been, always will be.  This is where we are. 

Stranglers - walk on by
Because it's true what my buddy Carl used to say back in his punk phase.  There are no bad songs, only bad performances.  Not that Walk On By was ever a bad song, just sort of buried in the EZ-muzak background of my growing up (whatever that godawful Toronto radio station was that my dad had on every morning, 1960s in full 1,001 string syrup overload).  But jump ahead a decade and things are different.  The song may still be saying the same thing, but the music isn't.  The music snarls, the heartbreak is dangerous, the Stranglers are soaring.  Even the punks are running scared.

Motorhead - eat the rich
Because it must be done.  It's the only way we're ever going to set all the children free.  The rich must be eaten.  And Eat The Rich (the movie) in all its punk, sloppy, inconsistent atonal elegance is god damned masterpiece.  How could it not be, with Lemmy as the communist insurgent's right hand man?  But he's no communist himself.  Nor anarchist, leftist, activist of any kind.  He's a bassist, which is its own justification, it seems.  Which is pretty much everything I could ever say about the monster that is/was/shall always be Motorhead.  Not the kind of music I've listened to a lot in my day to day life ... but every so often, fucking essential. 

Alan Price - O Lucky Man!
Because when you're fourteen and every bit as horny as you are existential, you need a movie like O Lucky Man to turn your world on its head, expose and eviscerate your every delusion as to how society really works, until the only thing left to laugh at is the fact that nothing's funny anymore.  It's god damned tragic.  And yet, like the song, O Lucky Man keeps saying, there is a big IF at the heart of it all, a level of attainment that can offer something akin to meaning IF you can just see through all the bullshit, and smile anyway.  IF being the middle part of Life anyway.  Did I mention I was stoned when I saw O Lucky Man for the first of at least nine times, just getting started really on that particular path:  self de-programming, art and drug induced. 

The The - perfect (extended)
Because there was a five year period (1983-through-88) where it seemed to be a given that I'd see the sun rise from the dog end of a long, often as not wasted day.  Except every now and then, if the previous days tripping had been sufficiently nutritious, it was a grand thing, like watching the gods invent the world anew ... seeing all the problems as THEY created them, fumbling their big plan.  Except of course, these fumbles were essential to their plan.  Because in the end, it's all somehow beautiful, thus perfect, thus justified, as the sun rises even as a wild wind kicks up from some distant war zone, sends bits of loose trash swirling ...

T-Rex - ballrooms of Mars
Because sometimes you've just got a waste a day, drink red wine so cheap the only way to make it palatable is to pour it over ice, maybe add a touch of something sweet.  And if you're timing's right, T-Rex is going to pop up on the mixtape you've got playing.  She sighs, says "I love this song," and all is good, fated even, even if it all falls apart maybe three months later with tears and property violence.  Love remains love, good for the sweetest scars.  Always worth the trouble, even if it kills you.

Sex Pistols - pretty vacant
Because it's arguably the greatest rock and roll band of all time at their most POP.  Pretty Vacant being the one you could put on a mixtape with the likes of Elvis Costello, The Who, The Doors, The Cars even, without offending anyone.  Certainly no one you didn't want to be offend.  

Flipper - sex bomb baby
Because sometimes the party really does have to go on all night long, even if there aren't chemicals in your blood or boomf boomf boomf dance tracks.  It's just alcohol and marijuana and sloppy stupid eruptions of fun, dis-focus, glory even ... as we throw in, do our part to keep the mad old world in some at least loose connection with its axis.  I do recall thinking this, some punk party, mid-80s, in the basement of the place we called the Sewer View.  A few bands had played, maybe even the Engimas, but now it was just some guy's party tape, saving the Universe.

The Cure - cold
Because sometimes passion isn't hot at all, it's cold, freezing even, and no one's ever caught this as epically as The Cure did on 1982's Pornography (now there's a name for a pop album).  Which popped up just in time to find me stepping back from the edge of a prolonged season of alienation.  I guess these days, they'd just say I was depressed.  But nah, it was leagues deeper than that, colder, all that time peering into the abyss, knowing I could just step off any old time, yet ultimately choosing not to.   Like that Robert Frost poem about the winter's night.  Miles to go before I'd sleep.  And there on the soundtrack of the movie I was only beginning to realize I was in, was Cold, assuring me that I was on the gods' straight and narrow path (which only appeared crooked because my filters were so fucked up).

Scott Walker - the impossible dream
Because the movie never got made, not properly anyway.  Sort of Goin Down The Road, the punk version, two losers stumbling around, roadying for various loser bands, having shambolic adventures.  At some point, they end up in an old school piano bar, a guy doing half-assed solo takes on various standards.  Until one of our heroes slips him a fifty (it's been a good night), requests The Impossible Dream.  And it turns out the singer is no less than Scott Walker himself, so it's perfect – the theme song for the whole initiative, the big dream never being more impossible than it was in say, 1985, and thus all the more reason to dream it, because we are humans with souls, it's our duty.  

Waterboys - this is the sea
Because we do need the Big Music sometimes, particularly those moments when it speaks to us directly, word by word, detail by detail, keeps us on course.  From the same movie as Impossible Dream, I figure, except this would be way at the end, after rock bottom has been hit, redemption somehow achieved, not so much happily ever after as beaten but unbowed.  And so like what's her name at the end of Gone With The Wind, who cares about all the wreckage, it's going to be a beautiful day, because that was the river, babe, this is the sea.  Which in 1985, felt so NOW (the psychedelics always helping in this regard).  But now, a further decade or so down the line, I see it all as far more out of reach, the 1960s being the real river.  And the sea?  Well, there's no grasping that, is there?

Pavement - range life
Because it's true, if you want to accomplish anything of value in this thing called life, you really do have to pay your dues before you pay the rent, even if you're deep into your thirties before you realize what that really means.  There Are Higher Obligations Than Mere Survival.  And if you don't grasp this, don't go calling yourself an artist.  Which the Pavement crowd mostly definitely were – artists that is, seeing the middle 90s for the colossal screwup they were, the murder of Kurt Cobain, the co-option of pretty much everything else that had felt so fresh and necessary barely three years previous.  The crooked rain falling in deluge, smelling of sewage and other assorted poisons … and yet, as always, beauty to be found in strangest, least likely of places.  Maybe out on tour somewhere with the Smashing Pumpkins and the Stone Temple Pilots.  

Leonard Cohen - everybody knows
Because it's a perfect summation of Winter of Hate resignation (and resilience), from Rabbi Cohen, some old guy the world had mostly forgotten about at the time, 1988.  At least mine had.  And here I'll drop one of my all time favourite quotes, also from Rabbi Cohen.  "We do live in several worlds.  We live in a world that's mundane, a world that's apocalyptic, a world of order and a world that knows no order.  We're continually juggling these worlds, entering and leaving them.  I've always had the sense that this apocalyptic reality is with us.  It's not something that's coming."  But everybody knows that, right?

Pink Floyd - set the saucers [randoEDIT]
Because sometimes it's not about the notes or the words, the chords, the keys etc; sometimes what makes music great is its architecture, the way the artists and engineers responsible put all the weird pieces together.  Which is certainly true of The Pink Floyd, and how they played it through the late 60s/early 70s, post the psychedelic implosion of their main man, Syd Barrett, pre all that tedious Dark Side of the Moon seriousness.  This particular item Set The Saucers being an EDIT comprised (mostly) of live fragments of Saucerful of Secrets and Set The Controls For the Heart of the Sun as found on Ummagumma, the Floyd's most resolutely underground release, and their most mysterious, and thus their best, even if you do have to be wary of several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict.

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