Excerpts from CHICAGO: The (Not Gay) Musical!
As I was enjoying the few hours of free time I have between quizzes and a long night of hospital work, I started listening to an old mix CD I'd made a few friends after moving to Chicago a few jumps back.
By moving to Chicago and abusing the resource of my friend Matt's pimped out Mac, I was finally able to break out the spindles of over 1,000 CDs I had burned over the prior 2 years as I sold off my CD collection disc by disc. Suddenly, I was able to pore over albums I hadn't heard in years, along with being presented with Matt's entire library. It was like someone had opened a store in my apartment and I got to play with everything. With an insanely cold winter to brave and no job to speak of, my free time was spent in front of Matt's stereo.
Before I'd left Philadelphia, I made my closest friends there a 6 CD mix, this massive box set thing full of some of my favorite tracks (a lot of which spoke to a theme of moving / leaving / getting the fuck out of Dodge). Not long after arriving in Chicago, I sent off a 4 CD follow up full of songs that had been my soundtrack as I'd wandered around the city, too broke to eat but never bored with my headphones on.
This afternoon, in no particular order, a few highlights from the 80+ songs on those 4 CDs:
"Lady Don't Tek No" by LATYRX: Finally. I've twice blogged about this song without actually posting it, so now I can finally be done. This is one of the greatest party songs of all time. Try it at your next suaree.
"There Was a Time (live)" by JAMES BROWN: I was tempted to post about The Godfather of Soul around the time of his passing, but I know so many other blogs out there would have handled it better. In my own little way, posting this track is my tribute to Mr. Brown, who brought this white boy more than I think I can really comprehend. If you're looking for one of the greatest live albums ever and you already own Brown's Live at the Apollo (either volume, really), check out Say It Live and Loud, which documents the mindblowing 1968 Dallas concert where tonight's song comes from. I swear I'm not burying you under hyperbole. It's so good that thinking about it right now just gave me goosebumps.
"Race Against Time" by PUBLIC ENEMY: This song was a highlight from a later period (and not very good) Public Enemy record, but it was always a hit between myself and a few close friends. Growing up, I was a huge Public Enemy fan, laregely because they pretty much legitimized hip-hop for anyone who doubted its sincerity, message or power. "Race Against Time" was, for me, their last Great song.
"Grown Men Don't Fall in the River, Just Like That" by LIARS: I had bought, burned and sold the Liars' They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top before I ever heard a single note. It would be a year before it made its way into Matt's computer, and this song jumped right out of that little digital box and punched me in my soggy gut. A great tune for a subway ride, and the people around you who hear this coming out of your headphones will think you're absolutely insane.
"Trouble Everyday" by FRANK ZAPPA: I mentioned incendiary lyrics the other day when I was writing about the Dicks' "Dicks Hate the Police." This paranoid, angry pre-hip hop rant from Frank Zappa is the grandaddy of incendiary. "You know people, I'm not black but there's a whole lots of times I wish I could say I'm not white."
"Dissect" by the JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION: Orange was an album that pretty much carried me through college. I literally wore out my CD, and ownly had the vinyl version by the time I'd moved to Delaware. I finally got to relive its greatness as I darted through Chicago traffic, listening to Matt's digitized copy. It takes a special frontman to pull off yelling "FANTASTIC!" during one of your band's breakdowns, and Jon Spencer is that frontman.
"Lowest Part is Free!"
"Freezing Point" by ARCHERS OF LOAF: The Archers have got to be one of the most overlooked, greatest rock bands - indie or otherwise - to never have a real hit. "Lowest Part is Free!" pretty much speaks to frontman Eric Bachmann's realization that they will never be on the radio or playing stadiums. "Freezing Point" feels like the comedown after that realization. These two songs are paired together on the band's The Greatest of All Time EP, and they should really never be separated. It's pretty much a rule of the mix tape that you never put two songs by the same artist back-to-back, but "Lowest Part / Freezing Point" presents an exception.
"Ohio" by DAMIEN JURADO: This one broke my heart every time it popped up on my lonely walks, but I kept going back to it regardless. It always made me think about all the people I regularly disregarded or ignored, using my headphones to avoid humanity as much as I used them to wryly observe it. The opening lines alone, "Out from my window, across from the city / I have what's considered a good view / Two blocks from the subway, three from the fountain / I walk to break in my new shoes," as vague as they might be, struck me in my situation.
"Brakhage" by STEREOLAB: When you've found yourself rationing $4 a day for food to survive, hearing the repeated lyric "We need too damn many things / to keep our dazed lives going" becomes a sort of mantra. If you're ever bordering on homelessness in Chicago, give me a ring and I'll show you how to get by on hot dogs, noodles and dollar beers. I had even found a bar with a jukebox that gave you 11 songs for a dollar!
"The Cedar Room" by DOVES: For walking around among skyscrapers and dark alleys, there is no better song than "The Cedar Room." God only knows how many miles I pounded out of my sneakers listening to this song, biting my lip as I tried not to sing along as loud as I could.
"Sunset Coming On" by MALI MUSIC: Coming home music. The sun would begin to drop down behind those tall buildings and I knew I'd have to get back, by train or foot, before the temperature dropped significantly. Back to my roommates, take-out thai food, bad television and good conversation. I was poor in a strange world, but I had a great time.