1:21 p.m. - November 08, 2005
Right now, I set my iPod to my Five-Star play list (yes, I rate each song on iTunes, what, with my OCD I wasn’t going to do that?? C’mon!) and let ‘er rip. The first twenty songs that show up, I’ll comment on ‘em.
Ok? The play button has been pushed…..now!
2. Sunday Bloody Sunday – U2. Back when Bono had the best mullet in rock and roll, and back when not very many people were on the U2 love train, until the video of him scaling the scaffolding at Red Rocks during this song was shown ad nauseum on MTV. I have the studio version in my iPod, which is notable for the deep, powerful bass line that propels the song forward, and the very snary drum sound, which fits for a battle song. In high school, some of us knew this band was going to be reckoned with for a long time, we just had no idea how long. (And of course, a friend of mine saw them open up for J. Geils in 1982, and was just whelmed by them. Must have been a bad night.)
3. White Riot – Clash. The only band that mattered. This cut is a perfect example of their early punk rock leanings, when they were a by-the-numbers punk band. What the hell is Joe Strummer singing in the verses? Could anyone tell, even in England? Joe needed to take the marbles out of his mouth. Paul Simenon’s bass line is incredible, showing an early reggae and dub influence that fits in a punk rock song.
4. Luminol – Ryan Adams. For one, this freaks me out because the opening section is only in the right channel. I had to check to see if there was something wrong with my headphones. This is Adams as a classic-rocker, instead of an alt-country, or moody singer-songwriter. This is also the second song I have in my collection named “Luminol” (Tad also named a song that – and they really couldn’t be different). There’s some neat production going on here, and it’s a pretty slick track. That may or may not be a totally good thing.
5. Something Against You (Live) – The Pixies. They botched the collection “Death to the Pixies” but they added a live CD to the package, so it really made it worthwhile to find, at least used. This is one of my favorite Pixies cuts – it’s so deranged and mental yet it rocks like nobody’s business. And no, you can’t understand Black Francis live, either.
6. Soul Meets Body – Death Cab for Cutie. While I’m not buying the total Death Cab hype, this song is very nice and pleasant. It would sound great on the radio when you’re driving cross country (back in the day when you just had a broken down tape deck in the car, and by the time you reached Nebraska you were sick of all the tapes you brought with you) and by the and it certainly brings a smile to my face whenever I hear it. I don’t know what I think about the name – it’s clever but almost TOO clever.
7. Southern Man – Neil Young. Neil was always a stirrer of sorts, and this one definitely stirred up a lot of stuff down South. It was less than 10 years after a lot of the big time changes in the South took place, so the wounds were very fresh when Neil released this song. It’s hard at times to think about what the song meant at the time, when you’re 30+ away from that time. By the way, this is on “After the Goldrush”, which is THE must-have Neil Young album. Nils Lofgren is on piano, and Neil cuts loose one of his classic note-challenged guitar solos.
8. Smokers (Live) – The Old 97’s. “Drag It Up” was kind of a downer album for me, but this song (from where the title comes) was one of my favorite cuts on the record. Live, it’s a charming little corker. Murry Hammond sings lead instead of Rhett Miller, and it’s a fitting song for his voice. One wonders if the Old 97’s are going to fade away, or just give Miller time to do more solo records. I prefer this stuff, because it’s edgier and a bit looser.
9. Fireplace – R. E. M. “Document” is the first album where you can really hear Michael Stipe’s vocals, and the lyrics he sings are just as confusing as when he obfuscated them with his mumbles. (Yes, I threw that word in their just because I could, so there!) This has a sax solo from Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, harkening back to a time when he was the go-to hip guy for a random sax solo.
10. Madge Sessions – Fleetwood Mac. Ok, this is about 17 minutes in length, which gives me a lot of time to give a history lesson. This is Fleetwood Mac version I, with Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan on guitar. They were a blues band first and foremost. Peter Green is a guitar genius, as he proves on this the extended version of “Fighting For Madge” and “Searching For Madge”, which were two cuts on the classic “Then Play On” album. Don’t buy these records expecting to hear Lindsay Buckingham or Stevie Nicks, or even Christine McVie. Buy it because the guitar work is something to behold. Ok, I’m done now and I still have ten minutes to go – pardon me while I jam.
11. The Ballad of Irving – Frank Gallop. An old favorite from Dr. Demento. It’s the story of the 142nd fastest gun in the west, full of a lot of dated Jewish jokes. It’s funny, of course, but I think you may have had to be there for some of it. This ditty hit #34 on the pop charts – how, I don’t know.
12. That Bangle Girl – Robbie Fulks. Robbie’s twisted tribute to Susannah Hoffs – it even mentions that awful movie she made. (What was the name of it…oh, yeah, “The Allnighter”. Joan Cusack was in THAT?) My favorite Bangle girl was either Michael Steele, or Debbie Peterson. Can I have both?
13. Lights of Downtown – The Long Ryders. Oh, I had high hopes for the Long Ryders. They were a true roots-rock band that I really thought was going to catch fire and be the thing in the 80’s. Alas, most of the country was either listening to hair metal or pop tarts, and they missed the alt-country movement by a good ten years. Their records still sound great, though.
14. Cables – Big Black. Steve Albini is misunderstood, most of the time. He writes about unpleasant subjects and people – and puts himself in first person most of the time in his songs. So it sounds like he’s advocating what he’s singing about, when he’s just doing a character study. The guitar work is piercingly sharp on this track, the bass line is wobbly and deep, and the subject matter – well, it’s about going to a slaughterhouse for fun and amusement. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.
15. Joy – The Minutemen. OK, I have 56 seconds for this one. This is a classic song by them: short, direct, to the point with a great powerful sound. And I just finished this comment in time.
16. Sweet Blue Midnight – The Georgia Satellites. “In The Land of Salvation and Sin” is one of the most underrated albums ever released. (I think I’ve said that before, but I’ll say it again). A sweet, gentle ballad with Nicolette Larson guesting on harmonies, this track shows the versatility of the band that not many people recognized at the time.
Damn, I jinxed myself. My left headphone cut out. Off to Satan’s Discount Store at lunch, and I gotta pause. Sigh.
I’m back. Wasn’t that thrilling?? (Wendy’s for lunch too – double w/ cheese and ketchup so the ketchup kind of drips out…mmmm…oh, back to it then…)
17. Jumpers – Sleater / Kinney. While I like this band, I do think they can be a bit overrated, a bit preachy and a bit overwrought. However, their latest album, “The Woods”, is pretty darn nifty, and this song is an absolute classic. I saw them perform this on Letterman and I was mesmerized. A powerful song by a strong band.
18. Light Up The Sky –Van Halen. Oh, man, I forgot this one was on my iPod. An underrated song from the oft-overlooked “Van Halen II” album, this was the side 2 starter and one of Van Halen’s hidden gems. People don’t remember some of the songs where they weren’t all just party all the time, and this is one of them.
19. Marquee Moon (live) – Television. Ok, I have 14 minutes on this one, and I may take all of it. (Heh!) I could do an entire essay on this song, on how the guitars intricately intertwine, how the bass and drums are lockstep, solid and unwavering, how Tom Verlaine’s whiny voice fits perfectly with the mood of the song and the lyrics. This is where Richard Lloyd shows he’s the master of the short, concise guitar solo and the unending, unwavering riff. This is where Verlaine shows he’s the master of the long, improvised solo and the creator of a song structure that allows for all of the above to take place. Normally, I don’t like long songs because it’s basically spanking one’s own monkey, out in public. Not so, here. This, my friends, is musical nirvana.
20. Mesopotamia – The B-52s. After that last one, I need a bit of comic relief and here comes the B-52s. This is rather obscure, since it was on an EP released as a stop gap between albums in the early 80s. With our current situation over there, the line “before I talk / I should read a book” is quite apropos.