(Much, much loves goes out to my man Bryce D. for sending me the link to his news aggregator, which saved the copy for this post the other day. Thanks Bryce!)
I loves me a good remix.
Remixes or even mash-ups (I have a ton of things to share in regards to the latter format, but we'll get to those in the coming week(s)) are an essential part of music for me. Remixes, if done well, allow you to hear a song a new, sometimes revolutionary, way. Even for bad songs, remixes can be like a second chance at life for me.
It may sound odd, but I think I really started to be interested in remixes after seeing Wilco live during my college days. That band - more than any current rock band I can think of - spends a good deal of time on the road re-imagining and rewriting the arrangements to their songs. Anyone out there ever heard the demos for YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT? There are at least 4 versions of "Camera" that you can find through those demos, and almost all of them are artistically valid interpretations of the song. Wilco would do stuff like that in concert all the time (see the "punk" and "lounge" versions of "Passenger Side" below for an example).
My love of remixes means that sometimes when I hear a song, I can't outright say, "I don't like this" or "This song sucks." Because if that song is given to the right remixer and put into a new context, I might have my opinion totally changed. There was once a mash-up that combined Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle" with the Strokes' "Hard to Explain" and it totally redifined the song. Instead of sounding like childish pap, it sounded like a Blondie-era punk song.
Anyway, I love remixes is what I'm saying. And here are two in particular:
"Shut 'Em Down (Pete Rock remix)" by PUBLIC ENEMY (remixed by PETE ROCK): Pete Rock is a god in the world of hip-hop. And if he's a god, I have absolutely no word that could do the status of P.E. in the history of hip-hop any justice. Rock got started as a DJ before hooking up with emcee CL Smooth in the early 90s. This remix takes the angry lyrics of "Shut 'Em Down" and lays them over this looped horn and laid back beat, making the song a little more subtle and laid back. I don't know who spits that little extra rhyme in the middle.
"Mixed Bizness" by BECK (remixed by CORNELIUS): Cornelius is a crazy fucking genius. I first saw him and his "band" years ago, on a tour the Flaming Lips put together to promote the idea that complex music can make you smarter. The tour included Sebadoh, Robyn Hitchcock and more, but the artist who really stood out for me that night was Cornelius. He combined DJ'ing with all kinds of other elements, and even had what was essentially a speed metal band that played with him. I have his remix of Blur's "Tender" somewhere and it's INSANE how much he changes the song for the better. If you know this Beck track, you'll be stunned at the metamorphosis here as well.
Before I jet, I have to add something for current events purposes: "Scarecrow" from the upcoming Beck album GUERO. Enjoy.
Public Enemy official site
Pete Rock's bio at Loud Records
Beck's official page
Cornelius the musician
Cornelius from Planet of the Apes
Get Your Bootleg On: this site is mash-up heaven
Obviously, I'm kidding. If you followed this link over from a Google search, use your fucking head, man. Do you think if I had Natalie Portman nude photos, I'd be posting them here for free? Do you think I'd even be on a computer right now? I'd be sitting in a throne eating an entire LIVE lamb, while being paraded through Geek City. I'd be the new Louis the XIV. I'm the sun king, baby.
Silly wabbit, Internet tricks are for kids.
Now that I've got that old gem out of the way (honestly, I just wanted to see what kind of a spike that would make on my sad little traffic ticker on the right), here are a couple more songs for you tonight. I'm still trying to finish that writing job I have to get done, so I'm going to be up all night doing my homework for grown-ups. No babbling from me tonight. Just some rawk to help you and me stay awake:
A little NYC...
"Thank You for Sending Me an Angel" by the TALKING HEADS (Any time you need to stay up late, put this song on repeat. You'll go into this manic trance, especially if you set your crossfade to about 5 to 7 seconds.)
Some funky soul...
"This Land is Your Land" by SHARON JONES & THE DAP KINGS (Woody Guthrie would have fallen in love with Sharon Jones after hearing what she does with this one.)
Don't forget the hip hop...
"The Truth" by PHAROAH MONCH (COMMON guests here... sometimes that guy sucks, and sometimes he pulls it out. Here's one of the latter. TALIB KWELI is here as well.)
And for closers, why not a little hardcore?
"Stand Up" by MINOR THREAT (This is from the band's first demo tape, which they finally released on CD a little over a year ago... maybe longer. Miraculously, the band plays its already-insanely-fast songs even faster on this CD.)
Have a good weekend, y'all. Stand up, and be counted!
(Image straight jacked from my friend Russell over at KITTYTEXT.
I'm running late on a deadline for a magazine column, so for me to go into any specifics tonight would be suicidally counterproductive. At the same time, I'm trying to maintain a little more consistency in posting... I'm shooting for 4 times a week, but I'm just such a long-winded bastard and I already spend my day at a keyboard crapping out ad copy. The things we do for money, man.
Let's get to it:
"S.F. Sorrow is Born" by THE PRETTY THINGS: Just get the whole album, entitled S.F. SORROW. It's one of those albums like Love's FOREVER CHANGES or The Zombies' ODYSSEY AND ORACLE that will make you feel like you don't know anything about what great music is really out there. This was a completely random purchase I made one day at the record store. I figured "Well, if they put out a digitally remastered version, it must at least be worth a shot." That kind of logic rarely works, but it did that day.
"Something to Say" by THE ACTION: You know, as much as I love these guys, you'd really be better off learning about them at the Parasol Records site. One of the great unheralded bands of the late 60s... another band with those British Invasion soul fetishes. Head over to eMusic.com and get a cheapy subscription. They give 40 downloads for $10, so you could get this whole album for about 3 bucks.
The parasol site quotes Matthew Sweet:
"Their music is melodic mayhem. Reminiscent of the early Who or the Creation, but fueled by an emerging psychedelia, it has all of my favorite elements -- great songs and playing and singing that is approached with a spirit of abandon sadly missing from 99. 9% of today's music."
Fuck it in its stupid, stupid ass.
I'm sorry for all of the profanity, but I just can't help it. I should know better than to use the damned thing, but here I am at one in the morning, losing valuable sleep that could be preparing me for another shit day doing exactly what Elaine did on Seinfeld when she used to write for the J. Peterman catalogue. Seriously, that's what I'm doing now for Sears.com. Yesterday I wrote 2-paragraph blurbs about 17 different kinds of towels. And they all had to have a story. Like, if you were looking at a beach towel on their online catalogue and it had a sun sewn onto it, my copy would probably say something like, "Now you can even bring the sun out on a cloudy day at the beach!"
If anyone can show me the fast road to becoming a nurse... working in a hospital... even cleaning bed pans, I welcome any and all advice. I can't stand working at a desk any more. I'd rather deal with massive head trauma and sick kids on a daily basis.
And after all that bullshit I decide to stay up late just to deal out two sweet songs from CDs I just bought. I had little bios written up and everything for these 2 tracks, but I can't deal with that again. Both of these songs are from recently released albums. Check your local rekkid store for more:
"Untitled #1" by I AM KLOOT
"Interstate 5" by THE WEDDING PRESENT
(drawing by Terrence McKay White)
After endless weeks of broken promises, I now bring you the fourth installment in my tribute to the music of Guided by Voices. I've been meaning to note that this list of (eventually) 100 songs includes ONLY tracks released under the "Guided by Voices" name. Nothing from any of Robert Pollard or Tobin Sprout's solo albums. Nothing from Pollard side projects like Lexo & the Leapers, Airport 5, or other random releases like"SPEAK KINDLY OF YOUR VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT," an album he made with GBV guitarist Doug Gillard. Buy that, by the way.
Limiting the scope of my list kinda sucks because you can find a lot of great gems out there on those records. I just can't include that material. I'd have to hire people to help me sort through it all.
"A Salty Salute" from ALIEN LANES: Arguably THE quintessential Guided by Voices anthem. I have no statistics to back this claim, but it's probably the song they performed live more than any other. The band even brought a neon sign on tour with them that would be turned on before they took the stage. It said: THE CLUB IS OPEN."
I'm compelled to add that one of my friends once misheard the song's opening line, "Disarm the settlers," as: "Dissed on the sex list." I rarely hear this song without thinking about that and smiling.
"Atom Eyes" from UNDER THE BUSHES UNDER THE STARS: While it's a 100% Tobin Sprout song (he wrote it and played everything but the drums), it's kind of funny that this song predicts the sound of GBV's ISOLATION DRILLS. Sprout, along with the rest of the band's early players, was long gone by the time that record came out. It also sounds just slightly out of place on UTBUTS. One of Tobin's best songs.
"Everyday" from SANDBOX: Massively infectious. Really, it has to be some kind of feat to be able to write verses that are as catchy and hummable as choruses. This was recorded way back in 1987. More proof that the 80s didn't suck at all.
"How Loft I Am?" from SAME PLACE THE FLY GOT SMASHED: I've mentioned before that the first Guided by Voices purchase I ever made was their box set collection of early albums and unreleased tracks. It was a daunting task to confront, listening to all of that as your first exposure to a band. I have to admit, it took a while for me to get into it, but "How Loft I Am" was possibly the first or second song that struck a chord in me. There's no doubt why: it's totally a McCartney Beatles demo.
"Bomb in the Bee-Hive" from MAG EARWHIG!: This from the Cobra Verde-backed GBV album. Can't really tell you much about it, other than that I find the contrast between the muscular guitars and Pollard's gentlemanly declaration of "At precisely 9 o'cock!" amusing.
"I Am a Scientist" from BEE THOUSAND... or you can try out this "stereo version"Alternate Stereo Version from the I AM A SCIENTIST EP: This probably should have been the band's huge hit. If the stereo version came out in the late 60s, it would be a constant presence on classic rock radio today. Some of Pollard's best lyrics. "And I know what's right / but I'm losing sight of the clues / for which I search and choose to abuse / to just unlock my mind."
"Captain's Dead" from DEVIL BETWEEN MY TOES: While we're on the topic of 60s music, how about this crazy Byrds-esque number? That horn at the beginning makes me think of some ominous Black Sabbath shit. And then you've got lyrics about war machines and rides into the sun. I wish I could sift through Bob Pollard's record collection some time to figure out where he gets all these ideas. Another very early track from the band, recorded in a garage studio.
"Little Lines" from MAG EARWHIG!: All kinds of great guitar work. Pay attention to all the different guitars and how differently they're being strummed. This song is bad ass incarnate.
"Dust Devil" from KING SHIT AND THE GOLDEN BOYS: Another great song that almost never saw the light of day until it was released on this compilation. Here's another great example of a song with a verse that's just as catchy as the chorus. It's a damn shame Pollard never carried this one on with him. I would have loved to have heard this one live.
"Your Name is Wild" from UNDER THE BUSHES UNDER THE STARS: If I were forced to narrow this list down to a Top 10, this song would surely make the cut. If I had to guess, I'd say this song is Pollard's tribute to his daugther. I think a previous song from my 100, "When She Turns 50," is also a song about the same daugther. He has a daugther, right? Anyway, I like how this song is sweet like a lullabye but full of distortion and noise like any of the best indie rock.
Bobby P's home page
Disarm the Settlers, a GBV discussion group (their site has a picture of the THE CLUB IS OPEN sign)
Buy all things Pollard and GBV related from Rockathon Records today
Looking back, I didn't have a whole lot of reasons for going to school at the University of Missouri, in Columbia, MO. They had a reputation for having a great journalism school. I got a little scholarship money thrown my way. More important than any of that, though? Uncle Tupelo played that town all the time.
That was until right before the summer of 1994, when the band parted ways after a final concert in St. Louis. I remember hearing about it from the cute girl who worked at one of Omaha's (now defunct) trashier record stores. I was crushed.
Luckily, I wouldn't have to wait long for Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar to start two separate bands from the remnants of UT (Wilco and Son Volt, respectively) that would play Columbia's Blue Note club a couple of times a year. In November of 1997, I was working at a record store called Slacker's CDs and Games. Every once in a while, employees at the store could pick shows that they wanted to see and the managers at the store would try to get them on the guest list. On the night of the 4th, I worked a closing shift with my friend Aaron and we asked them to call about getting us into the sold-out Wilco. They got us on the list for what would turn out to be one of the best concerts I had ever seen.
The most amazing thing about the show was the fact that the band looked like they were about to die. I've seen Jeff Tweedy looking pretty haggard, but his appearance this night was almost scary. You could tell the band was exhausted. If you look over their setlist, you'll notice that at this point in their excruciatingly long tour in support of their awesome BEING THERE double album, they were up for trying anything... including covers of tunes by the Buzzcocks, Daniel Johnston, Led Zeppelin covers (sung by a bald roadie named J.P.) to Uncle Tupelo tracks and even one of the earliest appearances of "She's a Jar" (which would eventually wind up on Wilco's 1999 album SUMMERTEETH).
Below is the setlist to that show, along with a few thoughts on 6 of the tracks that I'm including in downloadable form:
WILCO - Columbia MO Blue Note - 11/4/97
2. Far, Far Away
3. Forget the Flowers
4. Sugar Baby: This Doc Boggs cover was the first of a ton of songs I'd never heard the band do before. Since this was the tail end of their tour, I think the band had shed a lot of songs it was tired of playing and started getting creative with the setlist. Some of the people I saw this show with were disappointed because of that, but I've always been happy to see bands go off on strange tangents. At least you're getting a unique show.
5. That's Not the Issue: A great song off of Wilco's debut album, A.M., and one they never play live anymore. I love Tweedy's voice during that quieter part near the end, when he croaks out "I'm leavin'! I'm leavin' now!"
6. She's a Jar
7. Someday Soon
8. New Madrid
9. Red Eyed & Blue
10. I Got You
11. Someone Else's Song
12. I Must be High
13. Passenger Side (punk version): This song is pretty much the novelty "hit" from A.M., a funny little number about drugs, cars and suspended licenses. It's my theory that the punk version of this song was created by the band to speed through the audience favorite as quickly as possible. The most hilarious thing about this version is that after the band has finished playing, you hear an audience member scream "Play the whole thing!", as if the band hadn't just gone through all the verses. Tweedy, who was starting to look really exhausted at this point, shakes his head. "Play what whole thing? That was the whole thing." Tweedy turned to Jay Bennett and they both had a laugh, and then...
14. Passenger Side (Stones lounge version): the band decides to do the whole damned song again, just to appease the idiot who missed it the first time. They slow the original song's tempo down and turn it into something resembling a drunken R&B tune.
15. Hotel Arizona
18. Outtasite (Outta Mind)
19. James Alley Blues
20. Auld Triangle
21. True Love Will Find You in the End
22. Ever Fallen in Love: Cover of a Buzzcocks tune. Sadly, it would be a couple of years before I really discovered how f#$king great the Buzzcocks were.
23. Casino Queen
24. We've Been Had
25. Immigrant Song
26. Gun: May be my favorite Uncle Tupelo song. That last verse, where he sings "Crawling back to you now / I sold my guitar to the girl next door," gets me every time. This was probably the third encore, and after this song I caught the only drumstick I've ever caught at a rock show. I still have it.
Wilco's home page
More Wilco info
Slacker's CDs and Games in Columbia, MO
Columbia, MO's Blue Note
All kinds of computer issues in my way still. I won't bore you with the details, but it is taking an absurd time to upload items right now. It has taken about a half hour just to upload the songs I'm posting tonight. So please, for God's sake, listen to them and turn them up loud, because many a tear of anguish was shed to bring you tonight's songs.
I promise, the next GBV 100 post will be coming this week. Probably Wednesday or Thursday.
GORILLAZ "Dirty Harry": In case you don't remember them from a few years back, GORILLAZ are a cartoon band conceived by Blur frontman Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett. The "fake" band's debut CD featured producer Dan the Automator, Kid Koala, Talking Heads bassist Tina Weymouth and the Tom Tom Club's Chris Franz, along with rapping from Del tha Funkee Homosapien, as the voice of the ghost that possesses the band's drummer. I know, it's totally insane. But when you're in the world of a cartoon band, anything goes. "Dirty Harry" is a new song from the band's upcoming album. This time around, Albarn is working with DJ Danger Mouse (the creator of the Jay-Z/Beatles mash-up THE GREY ALBUM). Not sure who the rapper here is, but it's definitely not Del this time around. True Albarn nuts might notice that this track is built from a skeleton of a song he released on the DEMOCRAZY CD called "I Need a Gun."
On the completely different tip:
LOW "Fearless": Low has a new album coming out, and if you hunt around on the web, you can probably find a track or three as a preview. Check my links below for a free download. Since you can find that stuff out there, I figured I'd take a moment tonight and post a couple other songs from these guys after a friend mentioned them in one of the Comments sections on this page. Pete Jones, this one's for you. "Fearless" is a cover of my absolute favorite Pink Floyd song. If anyone out there has any preconceived notions of Pink Floyd, try and seek out the original version of this track. It's bee-yoo-ti-ful, and closes with this mesmerizing little bit where a crowd of soccer fans sings for their team. I have this Low cover on a 7" record, and it's apparently from a recording session with John (Fucking) Peel -- the best thing to have happened to music since Alan Freed.
I can't close this post without including a link to "In Metal," a Low song from their superb THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE album. Listen to the lyrics and I dare you not to get teary eyed when you think about how your mom must have felt holding you in her arms when you were a baby and silently begging time to never let you grow up.
Go call your mom, right now.
Gorillaz' home page
Gorillaz Search for a Star contest
All about Jamie Hewlett's "Tank Girl" comic
Chairkickers.com, Low's official site
Low download at SubPop.com
John Peel, R.I.P.
"The roadside is littered with thousands of rock and roll bands that nobody's heard, and for most of us, that's probably a good thing. The fact is a lot of bands don't deserve to be heard in the first place. But every once in a while you find in the assorted debris a special band that works so tirelessly, creates works of such enormous and lasting value, and yet is so routinely ignored that you can only shake your head at the fickle vagaries of the music world." -- David Fisher, on the Verlaines, Filler Magazine 1999, nabbed from a Verlaines website
It's not often on a music blog that you'll see the writer admit to near total ignorance about a band they're recommending. Today is one of those days, and The Verlaines are one of those bands.
When I was a senior in high school (1993-94), a charity CD called NO ALTERNATIVE -- which benefited an AIDS charity called the Red Hot organization -- was released. That was a pretty hot CD at the time, featuring all the "cool kid" bands of the moment, like the Breeders, the Beastie Boys, Pavement, and an uncredited Nirvana. I wrote for the school newspaper at the time and reviewed the disc, and I remember remarking about how one of the best tracks on the CD came from a virtually unknown New Zealand band that had been making music since 1981: The Verlaines.
I don't know what it was about "Heavy 33" that appealed to me so much back then. I was still into punk, grunge, hardcore... all the gritty, angsty teenager stuff. Maybe it was the heaving, ominous droning of the guitars, or fatalistic lyrics like "I can force you to smile / But I don't reach your eyes / Like the moon in the day / silently fades / That which formerly shined is obliterated." It's intense. A few months ago, I was working late and listening to a web simulcast of a radio station in Seattle. I sent them an email request to hear this song and it gave me chills when the DJ answered my request. I imagined thousands of people in the Pacific Northwest hearing this on the radio for what was probably the first time it was ever played on air. It made me smile.
I've seen some descriptions of the band on the web that include influences like The Ramones and Bob Dylan. I think this is a pretty apt description of the combination of their sound, especially on the only full-length of theirs that I own, HALLELUJAH ALL THE WAY HOME. I first heard this record my freshman year in college, when I began working at KCOU, the University of Missouri's student radio station. I remembered the band's track from the previous year and decided to give the CD some air time without having ever heard it. I cued up "Lying in State" and soon, a new favorite song was born. The rest of the album is good, but this song just leaps out at you like the loudest acoustic guitar song since the Stones' "Street Fighting Man." And what loser in love can't sympathize with the opening verse: "Everything that I've done has been judged on if the woman was won. Yeah, all that I do, more or less, is for some women's sake"?
If your computer can play .m4a files, you should also take a second to download Superchunk's cover of "Lying in State," from their INCIDENTAL MUSIC collection of b-sides.
If any of you readers are out there online and you stumble across any other songs by this band, I ask that you think of me and maybe send along a link or a file if you can. I've always wanted to hear more from these guys (lead singer Graeme Downes has a solo career these days), but never knew where to start or where to find them in the stores.
FOR MORE ON THE VERLAINES:
Nice, informative site with lyrics, tabs, pics, etc.
An old link to the band's first label.
Filler magazine's profile of Verlaines' Graeme Downes, with some great notes on the band's discography
Any of the Matt Pond fans who may have caught my post a few weeks back will be happy to know that the band's new EP, "Winter Songs," was just released this week. I just got the band's email newsletter and they said the first pressing has sold out and a second is on its way. If you can't wait that long, go find it on iTunes and download it immediately. Along with a couple of great originals, the EP contains great cover versions of "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" (Neutral Milk Hotel) and "Holiday Road" by Lindsay Buckingham (you might remember the original from the closing credits of NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION). The band also does a mezzo mezzo cover of Neil Young's "Winterlong." Can't top the original, or the Pixies cover from the Bridge tribute album.
I've had that EP on repeat for the past couple of days (I'm going to wait a week or two before posting anything from the EP), and I started thinking of other cover songs I want to post to this blog. There's a huge list, so we'll just consider this the start of a "regular" feature on this site.
CLEM SNIDE "I'll be Your Mirror": I'd seen the name Clem Snide pop up in a few magazines like Magnet over the years, but until the release of their BEAUTIFUL EP last year, I'd never given them a listen. I guess I just couldn't wrap my head around that band name (I still don't know what it means or who it is in reference to), or the fact that the band's lead singer is a guy named Eef Barzelay. The NBC show "Ed" used one of their songs as its theme. Anyway, they are as brilliant as this cover of the Velvet Underground's "I'll be Your Mirror." Hunt around for some of their stuff on the web (Emusic.com is a really cheap place to download their stuff, including their best album so far, THE GHOST OF FASHION). The EP that this song comes from also features a pretty cool cover of "Beautiful," the Christina Aguilera song. Future shoppers note: the band's new album, THE END OF LOVE, is coming out in a few weeks.
JOSE FELICIANO "California Dreaming": File this one under "Wow, I Never Thought I'd Like a Song by (Insert Artist Name Here)". You know how you might think you know a band or an artist, and you think you've decided that they must categorically suck because of what little you've heard from them? A good example would be the Bee Gees. You might think you absolutely hate them, but then you hears something like their "Marley Purt Drive" and it makes you amend, if not reconsider, your position. Jose's take on the old Mamas & the Papas chestnut did the same for me. Here's a guy famous for a lame cover of the already lame "Light My Fire" by the Doors, and the theme song to "Chico and the Man." But what the hell do I know, if I never realized he could jam like he does on "California Dreaming."
OHIO PLAYERS "Feelin' Alright": Do radio DJs not know about this cover of the Dave Mason/Traffic hit while they continue to play Joe Cocker's cover up and down the classic rock radio dial? We need to have a singles recall, the same way a book company would have a recall if they discovered a glaring misprint in one of their books. Please, classic rock DJs, return your copies of Joe Cocker's single to the label and replace any future appearance of the song on your playlists with the Ohio Players' cover.
HARRY NILSSON "Subterranean Homesick Blues": Just as manic and breathless as his "Jump in the Fire" (which was unforgettably featured in the movie "Goodfellas"... think of the scene where Ray Liotta is driving and watching the helicopter following him) is Harry Nilsson's cover of Bob Dylan's pre-hip-hop "rap" song. That fuzzy thumping bassline is the one thing holding this acid freak out together. Harry was friends with John Lennon, and Lennon produced this track and the album it comes from, PUSSY CATS. Nilsson recorded this whole record with a ruptured vocal cord, which goes to show: if you've got John Lennon behind the boards, fuck getting sick. To quote Jesse Ventura in "Predator," "I ain't got time to bleed."
For more on the artists listed here:
Clem Snide's web page
Some cool Clem Snide video footage, from their site
Jose Feliciano's official homepage
All kindza Harry Nilsson links
Unofficial Ohio Players page (check the afros!)
Scans of some classic Ohio Players album covers
Reason the Ohio Players song never made it to radio: It was unreleased until the "Westbound Funk" comp
I'm working nights again this week... not sure how many days, but I'm definitely screwing up any chance of a "schedule" I could have had going into the week. What sucks even more is that my roommate and I have been having some problems with the main computer in our house, which is limiting my access to our music library. Give me a day or two to figure things out.
For now, here's a variety of MP3's to sample and enjoy:
Howlin' Wolf "Evil": It's cold in Chicago, but this song from Chicago's own legendary Howlin' Wolf is hotter than shit. I just stumbled upon it myself on one of my dizzying Music Blog Purges. I can't even think of the site where I found this, so if anyone out there remembers finding this somewhere else, give them my love. As a matter of fact, if you can tell me anything about this track -- who played on it, who is that funky drummer, what album does it appear on -- I'd be much obliged.
Cannonball Adderley "Inside Straight": From the album of the same name. When I was a kid, my very first exposure to Miles Davis was through a Cannonball Adderley CD. Of course, it was still too early for me to get jazz, so the CD eventually found its way out of my stacks and into the hands of some used CD store in Omaha. It would be years later that I would rediscover Cannonball, even after discovering a newfound respect for jazz and diving headfirst into the music of Miles Davis. Cannonball was part of Davis's incredible sextet (which also featured John Coltrane) and played on the album that even jazz haters love, KIND OF BLUE. This song is not what you'd expect from jazz.
Detroit Cobras "Last Nite": I seem to remember there being some sort of Detroit revolution in the rock world a few years back. It was all over so quickly that some of the best bands from that area were lost or forgotten in the shuffle. Some of the unfortunately unheralded included the Dirtbombs, the Sights, and the Detroit Cobras, a garage/R&B band lead by vocalist and ex-exotic dancer Rachel Nagy. This is their gritty and glorious cover of a Strokes' hit you're probably familiar with already.
Colin Meloy "Sister I'm a Poet": Coming from the opposite end of the funky spectrum (meaning, "completely honkey, very little funk at all") is the Decemberists' Colin Meloy doing a cover of a Morissey song. This is from the limited edition (1,000 copies) tour EP, COLIN MELOY SINGS MORRISSEY. I thought this little acoustic ditty would be a nice palate cleaner after all that gritty funk and rock, as well as acting as a nice teaser for the upcoming release of the next Decemberists album.
For more on the artists listed here:
All Music Guide's entry on Howlin' Wolf
Motor City Rocks' Detroit Cobras Page
The Dirtbombs' page
The Sights' home page
Pitchfork's review of Colin Meloy Sings Morrissey
The Decemberists' site
Since my birthday is Saturday, this will be my last post for the week. GBV folks can come back 'round Sunday night or Monday morning for their next dose. For now, I'm closing up my little Lou Barlow love fest today.
I know this sounds odd, and I only mean it in the most metaphoric of ways, but in an odd way Sebadoh's albums are kind of like the comic strip "The Family Circus." What I mean is there is a pattern or blueprint to the kinds of songs on your typical Sebadoh record*, much in the same way the guy who draws the Family Circus has 5 or 6 jokes he reformats over and over again. You've got "Dolly (sometimes one of the other kids get this honor, but Dolly is usually the bullheaded dipshit) mispronounces something humorously," "Billie draws the strip himself," "The dead grandparents looking down on the family," "Not Me!," and the crushingly unfunny wordless strips that map out the path of one of the kids for the afternoon.
(*For "typical Sebadoh record," please see the HARMACY album. While there are a ton of great tracks on this record, it just doesn't seem to work as a whole album. BAKESALE works as a whole album, as does III and THE SEBADOH. HARMACY feels disconnected, like a collection of b-sides.)
Sebadoh make that process work. Family Circus guy, not so much. With Sebadoh, you can always count on a certain set of songs. In addition to the Lowenstein/Gafney tunes, you'll always find these standards among the Lou Barlow songs:
1. The Indie Rock Prom Song
A good example of the Indie Rock Prom Song is "Willing to Wait" from the HARMACY album. Wasn't this tune on an episode of FRIENDS? I swear to God, I think it was. Anyway, that's the prototype. The full band version of "Brand New Love" is a good example. Any time Lou sounds like he's going to cry because he's so deeply in love, that's a prom song.
2. The "Riff" Intro Song (where Lou plays the song's signature riff before the whole band joins in)
These songs are almost always automatically irresistible. Look back on "The Freed Pig" from a few posts back and you'll see the blueprint for this type of Sebadoh song. There's usually some great, smartass lyric involved as well. Another great example, again from the HARMACY album, is "Ocean." (This is actually a different mix of that song, from the OCEAN EP.) In the first 5 seconds, you get the guitar riff that the entire song is going to be built on.
The "Riff" song doesn't always have to rock, though. Take a song like "Skull", from BAKESALE. One of the best damn Lou songs ever, with some of his corniest lovey-dovey lyrics ("There are dragons to be chased"?).
3. The "You Dumped Me and I'm Alone in My Closet Damning You with Much Earnestness" Tune
This makes up a good majority of Lou's early output. Every Dashboard Confessional-loving crybaby needs to wipe their stupid little cherub cheeks and kneel before the god of exposed human emotion. Chris Carrabra is the Real World version, Lou is the reality. Check out "Not a Friend," an acoustic version of the BAKESALE moaner from the 4 SONGS CD. Lou's not asking you to cry with him and sing along. He's a dick and he knows it, and he's not putting on any amount of hair gel to pretty himself up for you.
And since we've got a BAKESALE theme going, I'll throw in an awesome acoustic version of "Magnet's Coil."
4. Lou Rocks Out so Much You Think It's Jason (Whole Hog)
Sometimes I stumble on a Beatles song where I can't figure out if Paul or John is singing the lead vocal. I get the same glitch every once in a while with Sebadoh, and "Gimme Indie Rock" and "Whole Hog" are great examples of this phenomenon. Sure, that's Lou on the verse of "Hog," but is that him screaming the chorus? God, this song would be fun to play in concert. For the curious, this song comes from THE LOUNGE AX DEFENSE & RELOCATION CD. Lounge Ax was a legendarily cool club in Chicago (owned by Sue Miller, wife of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy) that finally closed its doors a few years back. This CD also features great otherwise unreleased tracks from Guided by Voices, Superchunk, Archers of Loaf and more.
FOR MORE ON LOU, SEBADOH, ETC:
Sebadoh Fan Page
Some idiot gives Sebadoh III a D.
Buy Sebadoh CDs right now. Fucking NOW!
EMOH review from Pitchfork
ANTI-FAMILY CIRCUS SITES:
I used to cut out the Family Circus in college and put new, filthy quotes beneath the pictures. This guy kind of does that too.
Dyfunctional Family Circus
I always identified with guys like Lou Barlow and GBV's Robert Pollard because their prolific output made people start to think, "Maybe a song doesn't have to sound like "Mutt" Lange produced it to be good." Who cares that 70% of Lou's catalogue sounds like it was taped in a bathroom? More importantly -- for better and for worse -- these lo-fi recordings made people realize that all one might need to start making their own albums was a guitar (tuned or not), a 4-track Tascam recorder and a broken heart. Much like how the punk revolution showed people that you don't have to be in Yes to make rock music, Lou Barlow proved that you don't even need the support of a major record label. Shit, the Sex Pistols had a major behind them, and so did the Ramones. Putting out your own records, that's punk rock.
Tonight I'm showcasing a few of Lou Barlow's "lo-fi" masterpieces... a couple from the earliest Sebadoh recordings, and a handful from his side project The Folk Implosion (which, until its most recent album, included John Davis). And what the hell, a song from the "III" album that was no doubt recorded at home as well.
SEBADOH "It's So Hard to Fall in Love":
SEBADOH "Brand New Love": Both of these tracks are from Sebadoh's second album, WEED FORESTIN, and both would be go on to be rerecorded by the band. While the re-recordings are a couple of the band's most classic songs, I prefer these rawer versions.
SEBADOH "Spoiled": Even though I'd heard it long before I'd seen the movie, it's hard to disconnect this track from the movie "KIDS." Barlow did the soundtrack to that movie, including music from Slint, Daniel Johnston and his own Folk Implosion and Sebadoh projects. While a Folk Implosion song called "Natural One" shot into the Top 40 in the US (an amazing feat for indie rock at the time), it was "Spoiled" that truly captured the emptiness of the lives of the kids featured in the movie. Whether you hated the flick, you can't deny that this haunting, mournful dirge isn't the perfect way to end the 100 minutes of nihilism that precede it.
FOLK IMPLOSION "Slap Me": I have to credit my friend Matt for first introducing me to this Lou side project. When someone like Lou (or, again, Bob Pollard) releases as much music as they do, you start to get wary of what to purchase and what to avoid. Matt took a chance and bought their debut CD, TAKE A LOOK INSIDE. One listen to songs like the awesome "Had to Find Out" and the funky "Slap Me" and I knew this "band" had just as much potential as Sebadoh. On a tangential note, John Davis started doing his own home recordings after hearing Sebadoh's WEED FORESTIN. He sent the tapes to Barlow, the rest, as they say...
FOLK IMPLOSION "That's the Trick": After the success of "Natural One" and the incessant radio play that followed that summer, my friend Matt was a tad worn out on the idea of the Folk Implosion. Now, it was my turn to get HIM to check the band out. DARE TO BE SURPRISED came out in the spring of 1997 and soon found itself lodged in my car's CD player for months. It was jammed full of songs that exceeded the pop brilliance of "Natural One," while maintaining that lo-fi charm of the first record. I still recommend this album to people, and I think that the whole first "side" of the record is unstoppable.
FOLK IMPLOSION "Someone You Love": While ONE PART LULLABY, the third album from the Folk Implosion (and the last to feature Davis), isn't flawless by any stretch of the imagination, some of the songs border on the sublime. Davis was sort of pushed to the background on this record, acting more as a backing vocalist. A damn shame. Nevertheless, I still love a few songs on this record, including "Someone You Love," one of the most heavily produced tracks the band had ever released, and probably the closest to "Natural One" of all the tracks I've included tonight. This probably wasn't "lo-fi" at all.
FOR MORE ON LOU:
Lou and Jason, live 2004
The first Folk Implosion interview ever.
Another Folk Implosion interview.
Tascam USA, makers of fine 4-tracks
One of the four people who read this site mentioned the idea of posting about Lou Barlow a couple of weeks ago. My first request, if you will. I figured, "No problem, I'll mash that one out in an hour this week."
But once I started going through Lou's catalogue... all the bands -- Dinosaur Jr, the Folk Implosion, Sebadoh -- I just couldn't narrow it down to a 4 or 5 song post. I started to realize, like I was in some bad Molly Ringwold movie, how much the guy meant to me. I think Lou would appreciate the analogy.
I talked to my roommate about my dilemma. He's a huge Sebadoh fan, and in trying to come up with his own version of what playlist he'd want to share with people, he managed to narrow the catalogue down to a whopping 44 songs. My list is shorter, but I felt his pain.
In honor of the release of Lou's new album, EMOH, I'm going to spend the remainder of the week passing around some of my favorite Barlow songs. Come back daily through Friday for more:
Deep Wound "Dead Babies": Historically, it all starts here. Deep Wound was the hardcore band that Lou started with a friend in the early 1980s. The band hired drummer J Mascis and recorded an EP, but disbanded before recording a full length album. That was far from the end of J and Lou...
Dinosaur Jr. "Show Me the Way": This cover of the Peter Frampton dinosaur rock classic is from Dino Jr's second album, YOU'RE LIVIN' ALL OVER ME. All Music Guide gives the album a 5-star rating, and I don't think I'd argue there. Along with 9 big chunks of Mascis's insane guitar heroics, the album features "Poledo," a noisy, folk-and-psychedelia number that would map out the future of Lou Barlow's home recording experimentation. Apparently, the MERGE record label is reissuing the first 3 Dinosaur Jr. albums with bonus tracks, to commemorate band's upcoming 20th anniversary.
Sebadoh "The Freed Pig": To say things between Lou and J didn't go too well in Dinosaur Jr. would be putting it lightly. Barlow, kicked out of the band in 1989, began to focus on Sebadoh, a small side project he had started with drummer Eric Gaffney. "The Freed Pig" is a huge middle finger to Mascis ("Now you will be free / With no sick people tugging on your sleeve") is from the utterly fantastic SEBADOH III, the first album to feature Jason Lowenstein and the first to solidify the group as a trio sharing songwriting duties. This dynamic would remain throughout the band, even as Gaffney left and other drummers entered the fold.
Lou Barlow "The Ballad of Day Kitty" (Demo?): I'm not even sure where I found this one, but it was either at another blogger's page or at Lou's own site. This is a bare bones version of a track on Lou's EMOH album. I bought a few tracks today while browsing iTunes, and I'm loving what I've heard so far.
Stay tuned this week for more from Lou, Sebadoh, the Folk Implosion, etc.
FOR MORE ON LOU:
Extensive EMOH liner notes, lyrfics and bonus material from Lou's site
Sebadoh's official page
Free MP3s from Sebadoh, including a great full length show
Lou's ex-enemy, J Mascis
This isn't actually the Lou Barlow we're talking about, but it's cracking me up right now.