Monday, May 27, 2013

Countdown #61 - radioactivity

Broadcast May-25-2013 - 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). 

Kraftwerk - radio-activity
Because radio is maybe the best thing I've ever done with my time – the creative non-abuse and/or perversion of the airwaves I've had access to, the freedom taken and the activities pursued.  Not that Radioactivity's about that kind of radio.  It's about the other kind, discovered Madame Curie.  But the one, of course, informs the other, all those mysterious and invisible waves permeating our various spheres, beaming off into space, alerting who knows what alien entities of our existence ... maybe a million light years from now, when they finally get the message.  And the amusing thing, of course, would be if the first stuff they heard was Kraftwerk's 1975 masterpiece – the geniuses from Dusseldorf doing their damnedest to sound like machines, releasing great depths of humanity in the process.   

Roxy Music - Ladytron
Because the first Roxy Music album is still mostly ahead of its time even now decades later (and the next four or five are pretty sharp as well).  But it's the first one that lays it all out – the rock the glamour, the romance, the noise, the pop, The Future.  And the one track that delivers it all in less than four and a half minutes, the one single Roxy artifact I'd grab if the world was burning down (and it probably is), is Ladytron.  Which, it occurs to me as I jot this down, I don't even know what it's about.  A lady apparently, and beautiful at that, though she may be a robot.  But maybe my kiss can make her human.  Or more to the point, Bryan Ferry's kiss.

Mothers of Invention - brown shoes don't make it
Because it's late spring 1967, and all the pop world is getting its mind blown by The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band – the album that would change everything forever.  Except Frank Zappa and The Mothers had already been there, done that twice, with Freak Out and then Absolutely Free, which is absolute truth in advertising.  Forty plus continuous minutes of full-on everything, by which I mean jazz, doo-wop, rock and roll, pop, avant-noise, fun.  And Brown Shoes Don't Make It is the seven-and-a-half minute mini-epic where it all gets thrown together – rude and crude and sharp as a diamond, yet smothered in chocolate syrup.

Captain Beefheart - I'm gonna booglarize you, baby
Because this is what white men should do with the blues.  Not just ape what they've heard from the old records, but take them somewhere deeper, weirder, more complex, and yeah, probably inappropriate.  Because seriously, I don't think booglarize just means to compel someone to get out on the dance floor.  Though I did have the exquisite experience of watching a couple dance to this, all wild hair and hippie beads, while I was still just a kid, maybe fourteen, hanging out at my friend Carl's place during one his older brother's parties.  One of those legendary wild and wasted mid-70s affairs, before disco hit and made a mess of all things groovy.  Indeed, it was the first time I'd ever heard the good Captain.  So I guess it's true what they say.  The first cut is the deepest.

The Who - my generation + young man blues
Because it really is the invention of punk -- teenage rage, power, angst, frustration, horniness, confusion, apocalypse all erupting as a sustained declaration of ... something that's impossible to really put into words.  So guitar, bass, drums, distortion, a few explosives are utilized and it all just thunders on from there to the edges of the nine known universes, such that maybe a decade later, an eternally frustrating late teenage night, nothing to do, nowhere to go, just me and my friend Doug, a 26er of Tequila and his dad's Camaro, and an 8-Track of The Who Live At Leeds.  It's snowed recently, so we take it down to the back of an empty mall parking lot and cut loose with power slides, fishtails, spinouts.  True heavy metal thunder.  Although it would've been truer if the Camaro didn't have an automatic transmission.  Which we fried eventually.  So we ditched the car, hiked home and let his dad report it stolen the next morning.  We never did get caught.  Although maybe fifteen years later Doug got busted for some kind of insider trading.  One of these days, I'll get the full story. 

Sonic Youth - the wonder + hyperstation + Eliminator Jr.
Because Daydream Nation is crucial.  Both for the culture as a whole, and for me in particular.  Because there it was, late 1988, when things had all fallen apart, and all other music had abandoned me (it's a long story ).  I'm flat on my back, bedroom floor, my parents place, grown man doing yet another season in hell.  Recovering from various injuries and afflictions, too spent for anything but the sprawl of this one album.  Which was perfect really.  If you're only going to have one album, it may as well be four sides of music and noise inseparable, reminding you that the biggest truths have no boundaries, the most important stories never quite add up, the best songs never quite hold together, always yearning for, grasping for, gunning for more ... and are thus defined as much by the chaos at their edges as the order at their centres (or is the other way around?)   The trilogy from Side Four gets nod here because it's the highpoint of the album (not that there's any real low points).   Guy wanders the sprawl, gets high by the sounds of things, likely something lysergic because he's truly seeing the wonder in things.  But then comes the long slow comedown.  He runs into some jocks at 3AM, gets his shit kicked.  But he makes it home, barely.  And there's his girl waiting, his angel, his saviour.  She fucks his brains, his soul, his bones to heaven and beyond, like a god damned top alcohol dragster tearing up the quarter mile, fumes so intense they cause a rare local breed of starling to go extinct.  The Lord works in mysterious ways.  The daydream never ends. 

Nancy Sinatra + Lee Hazelwood - some velvet morning
Because it's just so heavy, even if it is extremely easy to listen to, guy so wasted he can't even open his girl's gate, but some velvet morning he'll be up to it.  Maybe he'll even tell her about Phaedra.  Which I always just figured was heroin, yet suburban somehow.  Because nothing feels more desperate than a junkie in a bungalow with a fine trim lawn, the utilities paid, the appearances kept -- the split level dream going all rotten from within.  Feeling no pain, but burning up anyway.

Yes - close to the edge + wurm
Because it's true, the edge isn't the place, the edge doesn't exist.  You've either gone too far and you're falling the long fall into oblivion, or you've found that sweet spot just short of it where everything opens up.  All those BIG unifying ideas that have been floating around in you since before puberty even – the idea of indivisibility, of Jehovah and Allah and Jesus and Mohammed and Krishna ... all one big happy, and thunderous at that.  Bigger than any cathedral that's for sure.  Because (and here's the key point) every church gets it all wrong the instant it claims to have gotten it all right.  Because even if you have vast chunks of the truth, you can't have it all.  It's the nature of it, beyond human comprehension.  So the very claim of Truth divides us, sets loose corrosive elements, brings the fucking roof down.  Which is what's going on in the middle of Close To The Edge, when the church organ kicks in.  That's the capital T Truth failing, discrete-noun-thing.  That's the cathedrals all collapsing, and the mosques, the temples, the synagogues.  That's the outside gushing in, the inside gushing out.  Now that you're saved, now that you're whole.  It's all so clear once you stop trying to make sense of it.  

Like Yes themselves, who really were the best damned band in the world in 1972, even better than Led Zeppelin.  Because they had a secret weapon, they had Rick Wakeman and his mountainous stacks of keyboards, conjuring choirs and orchestras and all manner of big and mysterious colours and textures and … well, it's all there in Wurm (the live version found on Yessongs, the 1972 triple live extravaganza) which is to say, part three of Starship Trooper, and nothing against the first two parts, they're cool, but it's Wurm where it all truly transcends, gets heavenly even, definitely heavy.  

Johnny Cash - another song to sing
Because Johnny Cash is right.  There's always another song.  The world's always bigger than you thought it was.  There's always a reason to crawl out of whatever hole you're in, get up, try one more time.  It occurs to me that I don't really know Johnny Cash's story.  I know he had some hard times.  I know he got himself saved by the Lord Jesus.  I know he gobbled a lot of pills for a while, mixed them up with moonshine or whatever.  I know he managed to burn down a forest in California with a carelessly tossed cigarette.  A thick and complex volume, that man in black.  Thank the Lord he found so many songs to sing.  

Residents - Eskimo [the edit]
Because if you're not at some point listening to music that has turned into noise, or perhaps noticing that noise has turned into music, you're not trying hard enough.  And damn it all, I've tried.  I've listened to a pile of The Residents over the years, and loved it.  Most of it anyway.  Though they annoyed me when I finally saw them live.  Not that there was anything wrong with the show.  It was just too human somehow, all my secret notions that they were in fact not human beings, but aliens or spirit entities or maybe some kind of future post-humans come back to check up on us – all those notions were dashed.  And it hurt.  Because an album like Eskimo just doesn't feel something from this world.  It feels beyond us somehow, and sublimely, enticingly, alluringly, noisily so.


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