Saturday, November 12, 2011

Seasonal Music

I'm sure this only makes sense to me but I subconsciously associate records with seasons. After writing that sentence I think it may be more accurate to say I make associations between bands and seasons. Seeing as I have already adjusted things slightly it should be clear that this paradigm has been EXTENSIVELY researched. It's probably even more accurate to say that some bands, not all, are tied to a season. I better finish this post soon. I can't readily explain why this is so. Probably it has to do with the time of year I first noticed the band. Since it's Fall now, here's a record that's firmly tied to this time of year for me.

New Order : Temptation / Hurt 45 rpm

Temptation is probably the single song I've listened to the most in my entire life. The 7" and 12" have different vocal takes and slightly different lyrics. Very different from the later re-recording, this is simply perfect. It's something I associate with cold weather. Not sub-zero weather. I spent a lot of time walkmanning with this song in the Fall. Joy Division is a Winter (like in the Shining), New Order pre-Brotherhood is a Fall and everything else is warm-weather fun. This is the song I measure all songs against. Probably nothing will ever equal or surpass it for me. There's simply no way for a new song to evoke some obscure and meaningful nostalgia from me. My comparison is more along the lines of "would this have meant a lot to me if I was sixteen and lonely?" The B-side is good but certainly never resonated for me like Temptation. This is starting to seem like an excuse to babble on about this record. Anyway, it's Fall and this is for walking in the leaves. According to me.

Temptation (7" version)


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hypocrisy / Election Season

Speaking as a New Englander, Fall is my favorite time of year. As a voter, I suppose it should be too. I know this is an odd year (well, numerically at least) but I'm certain I'll have similar reservations about the 2012 presidential election as I do every year. I'm increasingly unable to feel 100% good about any candidate. I guess that's natural since none of the candidates are actually me. The more I think about it, the issue is more to do with the way our media covers candidates. There's an unwillingness to point out obvious hypocrisy. The international media seems a little better at it but I'm just so bad about seeking out web sites that don't have distracting sidebars full of neat little factoids. I've grown so accustomed to single-sentence paragraphs that a fully formed thought spelled out over several sentences seems plodding. So really, it's my fault that I'm frustrated. This whole gripe could be laid to rest with some acceptance and effort on my part.

The Dead Kennedys never had any reservation about pointing out hypocrisy. There were a lot of reasons I bought their first record but mostly I needed to see what they were about. The shocking name, the organized parental outrage over lyrics, the t-shirts. So I bought it, listened to it, changed my entire outlook on music and life, etc, etc. "Holiday In Cambodia" jumped out at me, like it did for anyone who heard it. But, as I did with a lot of songs that initially drew me to punk, I got sick of it. As time went on I skipped over it when I listened to the album. Recently, I came across a copy of the "Holiday In Cambodia" 12" at a thrift store. I only had the 45 so I bought it just for completeness. That being the reason for the purchase, I didn't listen to it when I got home. But a few weeks before I had seen the Tom Tom Club and they played "Psycho Killer" as an encore. Even coming from a non-David Byrne half-Talking Heads, I was surprised at how totally great it sounded. With this in mind, I played "Holiday In Cambodia" all the way through for the first time in probably 15 years. It was turned up too. Holy sh*t! If you're reading this I know you've heard this song before but really - listen again. At about the three minute mark it gets so intense I can't believe it.

The lyrics (posted above - you're welcome) are an indictment of a loud-talking limousine-liberal type. The words are almost disorienting to read. I'm so conditioned to seeing opinions that wholly subscribe to exactly one, well-defined point of view. These lyrics shoot in a few directions at once. The Dead Kennedys had a unique way of skewering everyone in sight for their bullshit. Sure they hate Pol Pot and fascists as much as anyone else. But they seem to despise the hypocrisy of the rich kid even more, even suggesting that Pol Pot could help him learn a thing or two. Whose side are they on? Or maybe it's not about the side you're on but about not being a hypocrite? What a novel idea. No wonder people thought they were weirdos.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Making People Listen Whether They Like It Or Not

I had a lengthy career as a mixed-tape maker.  This went from about 1985 through 1999 or so.  Everyone I knew wound up with one eventually.  I think I was actually pretty good at it since I occasionally got requests for them.  Once I got to college I started working in the on-campus pizza parlor as a DJ.  This was great since I could really drive home my point with a captive audience.  Captive for as long at it took to eat a pizza is more like it.  Sometimes I purposely played irritating or aggressive music out of spite for my fellow students.  Big Black for lunch is not the usual collegiate whitehat's idea of a good time.  One day I played a Frankie Goes to Hollywood interview from Smash Hits several times in a row.  "I've got a weird assortment of freckles when the sun comes out".  Other times, overcome with a sense of populism, I'd relent and play a friendly bunch of one-hit wonder new wave.  This led to a spate of requests for tapes and "what's that song where they say...?" questions.   Eventually, I made a tape of typical 80's new wave songs to be copied in order to satisfy these requests without having to listen to "The Safety Dance" again.  

Generally, tapes were made to reflect my own taste and to push obscure music on others.  There were lots of personal favorites that made it onto those tapes.  Almost everyone got them at some point.  One of these was "88 Lines About 44 Women" by the Nails.  The Ravers were a weak punk band from Denver that wound up in New York City renamed as the Nails.  They made a great 12" EP on Jimboco Records with that song and some other good ones.  The original version of "88 Lines" is one of my favorite things.  I typed up the lyrics and posted a printout on the wall of my dorm.  In 1994, my roommate was prescient enough to have Archers of Loaf play in the pizza parlor.  Eric Johnson stood in our dorm and read the lyrics and said "the Nails, right?"  Right on.  The band signed to RCA and re-recorded the song but it lost a lot of the charm.  Their two RCA LPs were so-so.  They did a reunion CD in the 90's.  Of course I have that too.  None of that material gets close to "88 Lines About 44 Women".  

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Record Store Day

Today was Record Store Day.  This began in 2008 as a way to rally music stores around their product (er... music).  It is also an excuse for special, limited edition records to be issued by bands and labels looking to drum up interest in their flagging product.  In 2008 a handful of special releases were issued.  In 2011 there are over 100.  To paraphrase a certain midget, that gum you like has come back in style.  Records are back in a big way.  The truth is, they never went away.  But now they're back in force.  Vinyl had its best year since 1991.  Almost 3 million units sold, and that doesn't include 45's.  Why has this happened?  Why was Johnny's mobbed today like it hasn't been in years, if not ever?

Let's talk about the record at the top of the page.  You're wondering - is it one of this year's participants?  No, it's not.  This is a 1981 record by an Australian band called the Discounts.  As far as anyone knows this is the only thing they ever did.  The cover makes the point that "selling records in your shop will have a dramatic impact on sales".  This was clearly intended in a joking manner in 1981.  But by 2006 it probably seemed like sage advice.  If stores actually try to sell records to the public, they may buy them!  That's not really the beginning and end of the story.  Technology had to evolve enough to kill (or at least mildly maim) the compact disc.  The advent of music downloads made it feasible to create a vinyl package, insert a coupon for a download of the music, and sell the whole thing - for way more than a CD ever would cost anyhow!

This record is an entrant in Johan Kugelberg's top 100 D.I.Y. record list.  It's pretty spectacular stuff and I won't try to rephrase the Kugelberg description, "sub-sub-sub Blockheads DIY stumble".  There some inspired, carefully thought out lyrics : 

  "they make records in dark places, they make new ones every day"
  "you want a record - I've got a record"

When the guy runs out of things to say he just says "records records records".  For all the Record Store Days that happen, it's not likely that the Discounts will participate.  They said their piece in 1981.  But I'm not a jaded fool, if a 15 year old kid is walking out of Johnny's holding a copy of the reissued Bad Brains' "Pay To Cum" 45, something has gone right.  Here's a youtube link to the Discounts one and only moment.  Go buy some records.