Thursday, May 23, 2013

Countdown #60 - the night train

Broadcast May-18-2013 - 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). 

Lee "Scratch" Perry + the Dub Syndicate - music + science lovers [night train]
Because it's the high water mark of the album Time Boom X De Devil Dead, one the great three way musical collisions that ever happened.  Lee "Scratch" Perry (having burned his famous Black Ark studio to the ground and split Jamaica), the Dub Syndicate (absolute truth in advertising), and Adrian Sherwood (mix magician extraordinaire) all taking the Night Train together, feeling no pain, while the Cold War world kept burning hotter and hotter, the Doomsday Clock kept ticking closer and closer to midnight.  So the only conceivable response was to keep moving, keep grooving, keep spitting out the mad truth.

Talking Heads - psycho killer
Because no way is 1977 their best album, but Psycho Killer's probably their best song.  Which gets us to the argument I had recently with Lorena, my lawyer, she claiming to have heard Psycho Killer before.  It's in the movie, Stop Making Sense, the very first song, David Byrne stepping out solo on stage, just acoustic guitar and beatbox.  But Lorena, the essential recording remains the original, which clearly not enough folks have heard, because I've yet to see it show up as the theme song for some eighth rate cop show.  Which is a good thing.  But I was at a wedding recently where it brought the house down, which was weird and also beautiful, all these ex-punks hitting their forties, showing scar tissue, but still moving, liable to explode at any instant, taking everybody with them.   

The Fall - the man whose head expanded
Because in spite of all my scepticism toward the cult of Fall main man Mark E. Smith (which I found particularly annoying toward the middle end of the 1980s), there's no arguing that the guy had something genuine mixed in with all the bile he was spewing.  And to my ears, he never spewed it so well as The Man Whose Head Expanded (just like Hitler), a single that crossed my path in 1983 or thereabouts.  Did I actually buy it?  Or did Martin Q force it on me after one too many arguments, late night and accelerated, our heads no doubt well expanded.   

Undertones - teenage kicks
Because even though it hit the year I officially ceased to be teenaged (1979), I was still young enough to get the point.  Still am, I hope.  Which is, The Who were right all those years ago, the kids are alright, they always are, they always will be, such is the life force itself, all those eternal teenage hormones, hardons, heartbreaks, total havoc.  The kicks must continue or else seriously, why bother?

Spacemen Three - revolution
Because I couldn't really justify forcing the Beatles Revolution onto this list, and anyway this latter Revolution pays it beautiful and eviscerating homage, all flesh eating distortion and simple message.  Just five seconds -- that's all it would take for all the fucked up children of the world to rise up and tear everything down.  The weird thing is, I was actually in Britain when this was new.  I even saw the t-shirts (the ones concerning all those fucked up children of the world).  But I didn't get around to hearing any of it for at least a year, by which point grunge was breaking (or about to anyway), which is really what's going on here, I think.  Grunge before they had a name for it.  And I mean that in the best possible way.

Patti Smith - rock'n'roll nigger
Because she's not black, she's no lady, she's not even a punk really (more proto than anything in that regard), but if she says she's a nigger of the rock'n'roll variety, I'm not going to argue.  From a 1978 album called Easter that's actually kind of restrained otherwise, boring even, though it does have Because The Night, the big deal hit that Bruce Springsteen wrote for her.  Which is hilarious -- all those Boss fans buying it, getting spat on by Rock'n'Roll Nigger.  Such were the punk wars of the late seventies.  No prisoners taken, confusion everywhere ... and it was good.

Pogues - thousands are sailing
Because the Pogues really take you there here, the Irish Potato Famine of the 1830s – the kind of desperation that would drive a man to pile his family into a cramped sailing ship, heading in the general of the Americas with no prospect of anything save that it beat the certainty of death by starvation.  And then maybe half way across, assuming you'd survived that far, some shady guy in religious garb might pull you aside and suggest that a snap renunciation of the Pope and conversion to the Church of England might save you and yours from getting kicked off the ship onto one of the plague islands in the St. Lawrence, the ones that hardly anyone ever left, alive or dead.  So yeah, here's to that stout and pragmatic Irish blood that still pumps through at least three-eighths of me, and to the Pogues for singing its bitter, drunken, resilient truth.  

Can - oh yeah
Because of that moment at Lollapalooza, 1994, Cloverdale BC, long hot day, traffic jams, shitty food, not enough water, too much dope, way too many big deal bands not really delivering, failing to send me anywhere I hadn't been before.  Except suddenly at sunset, in the run-up to the Beastie Boys' set, the DJ drops a little old school Can into the mix and it's perfect.  It's Oh Yeah from Tago Mago, seven or so minutes of pulsing groove, eerie drones, backwards vocals and jagged rips of sideways guitar ... and it owns the day, almost makes it worth the trouble.  Yeah, I could have just listened to it on the patio at home with a beer and a joint, but that would be like taking a helicopter to the peak of some notable mountain.  Sometimes the trouble is the point.  Such is life.

Echo + the Bunnymen - the killing moon [all night long]
Because this 12-inch extended mix is the Bunnypeople's masterpiece.  And yeah, it may have hit in the mid-80s (and served well in many a DJ-set when something dark, beautiful and long was required), but it took the Gulf War, 1991, to really bring out the epic truth in it – the horrors that were going down a world away in the name of oil and bullshit, the rumours that the moon had turned blood red in accordance with some prophecy to be found in the Holy Bible (the Book of Revelations or wherever).  Props to Chris the Christer for setting me straight on that.  And then he no doubt rolled another joint.  All praise to Lord Jesus the party animal, for he did turn the water to wine.  

Jethro Tull - thick as a brick
Because it's 43 plus minutes long and it shouldn't be one second shorter, even if it's ultimately not really about anything, just an in-joke within an in-joke.  Which is to say, the alleged epic poetry of a pre-teen kid (one Gerald Bostock) taking on all the hypocrisy and absurdity of his world and society and God ... and never really coming to any conclusion short of the wiser you are, the less thick you are, and something to do with all the superheroes taking early retirement, writing their memoirs down in Cornwall.  Or something like that.  Barely teenage me ate it up, of course, which is a pretty useless justification, because I was also seriously digging April Wine at the time, and I'm not still raving about them, am I?  Maybe the answer's more in the music itself, the epic mix of folk and rock and classical and pop tangents, the ebb and flow that really is all one big whole, themes and counter-themes, coming, going, kicking up, burning down.  And the cover wasn't bad either – essentially an entire small town newspaper complete with scandals, missing experimental non-rabbits, art crimes, even a review of the album itself, which probably says it best.  "One doubts at times the validity of what appears to be an expanding theme throughout the two continuous sides of this record but the result is at worst entertaining and at least aesthetically palatable." 


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