Monday, August 4, 2008

This feature at Pop Matters is the best:


It's about albums from established or semi-established artists who released totally bizarre (at the time or still) albums that alienated half their fanbase. Funnily enough (wow, funnily is apparently actually a word, thanks spellcheck), a lot of the albums they talk about A) I didn't know about B) are really good.

For instance, Paul McCartney made a solo album called Ram. It's amazing, a really homespun record that sounds like it's just Paul & Linda having fun, but without any of the desperate qualities that sometimes prevail in Paul's work. At the same time that they're having fun, they're also creating some really really wonderful songs.

Ram On
Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

So, sometime after finishing Ram, but before it was released, Paul had this wild idea:

"Woah, I should get a big band together and record an instrumental version of Ram more or less note for note with this new big band and make a ridiculous easy listening orchestral near-musak version of it."

And then, because that wasn't enough, he had another wild idea:

"That Ram cover album is pretty sweet, I think I'll release it seven years later under a made up name."

And thus, Percy "Thrills" Thrillington's album Thrillington was born.

Ram On
Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

The thing is, I used to Hate (yes capital) Paul McCartney. I just couldn't stand his dumbfaced, thumbs up, love me bullshit. I thought that he was a worthless idiot who was cursed with the gift of pop melody, and nothing else.

What reading this article, and discovering Thrillington, and his Techno album, did for me, was re-evaluate what I thought of Paul.

I like Paul McCartney, he is a pretty sassy guy. I admire his sassiness.

More on other great albums I just discovered, like this:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mondays are alright.

(This blog blows, thus you have to copy the image to your desktop to see the whole thing grr)

A lot of people hate Garfield.

I don't hate Garfield. I learned to read from Garfield!


I have two favorite Garfield strips:

This is one:

And this is my all-time favorite:

Garfield is not always funny. These days, it is certainly rare, because it is easy to spot the trends in storylines. This week, for instance, it is Spider Week. There is Fern Week, Bird Week, TV Week, Kick Odie Week, Jon's date Week (though this is a little different now). There are a few exceptions to this. I can remember only twice that Garfield has had a storyline that lasted more than a week.

One was great, where Garfield gets lost in the nameless city he lives in:

This actually lasted an entire month!

It had some surprisingly emotional moments, as Garfield ends up meeting his Mother:

But in the end, after almost freezing to death, he makes it home:

Wow, a month long storyline on Garfield!

You know, I remember another, where Garfield joins a circus... I think.

Of course, there is also the week where Garfield is dead.

But that's another story!

P.S. Bonus Totally Lame Quote From Jim

"I wanted to create a symbol of what I think of pathetic humans, but my stupid syndicate made sure that I didn't offend anyone. So I had to be extra careful with Odie's post-modern symbolism."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hey! It's real!

Attention: I have gone back to a few old posts and refined the ideas. Mostly, I've added more thoughts to the barebones things I said. The Pumpkins and Bowie posts have the most additions, but feel free to revisit whatever you'd like. Hitched to some Rainbow.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Back of your head

A quick note, because I know nothing about the album other than it exists, comes after Hard Nose, and is from the seventies.

But what makes me smile a little every time is the fact that I subconsciously know every song on Van Morisson's Veedon Fleece without ever having put the album on. It's one of the albums that I've just heard my entire life, played from my parent's various stereos since I was born.

But really, I don't know the song titles very well, I couldn't hum it to you if you asked, but if it comes on shuffle or what have you, I'll know it instantly. It's a great thing. Another one of those little "ahh, music" moments.

In terms of familiarity, though, there's one exception to the album, and that's the fact that one of my favorite songs of all time is on it.

Linden Arlen Stole the Highlights is one of my favorite all time songs. I am tempted to put the lyrics up here, but that'd ruin the surprise (but honestly, they "get" me every time, still). Needless to say, I'm putting emphasis on the words because of all the genre of "story songs," I think this is the best. And that's not even talking about the delivery!

Van the Man. Oh, my boy.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

David Bowie, Part II.

Yes, I've put up a top 5 of Bowie already,
but it was just a first top five, I mean, my Best of Bowie mix is 60 songs long! There are around 560 songs in my actual Bowie playlist, so imagine how difficult it was to cut out the other 500.

Well, in some cases, it wasn't hard. His cover of God Only Knows certainly isn't going on there, neither would most of Never Let Me Down (but I'm not too opposed to it), and I had a rule of no Tin Machine (but i would have put You Belong In Rock N Roll on there in a heartbeat). But still, he's got, what, 25 albums? Yes, i've said it before, but every time i listen to Bowie, I wish he had finished the inevitable trilogy of the early 00's.

Anyways, here are the next top 5 Bowie songs, to constitute a top 10, I imagine.

1. Red Sails (from Lodger)

The "Berlin" Trilogy (only Heroes was made in Berlin, natch) is noted for it's ground breaking, genre bending oddities. But what is truly the most fun about a lot of the trilogy is just how darn Goofy it can be! Lodger hold the most ridiculousness, and while some of it can be grating (Yassassin, I'm looking at youuuu), Red Sails proves that he can stretch his pleated pants over odd and catchy, and still retain a bit of the ground breakingness that permeated Low and Heroes. Granted, Lodger wasn't as Neumusik night and day, but Lodger has a different motive, that being a certain travel. The idea of travel suits Bowie well, being such a "chameleon" and all, and a lot of the songs have a gait to them. Move On sounds like it's on a train, Look Back In Anger sounds like a hard run, and Yassassin sounds like a jazz-handed sprint. Red Sails is a montage of sleek jets throughout time, and speed of sounds to the hinterland on a hoverboat dressed like Pierrot.

2. Memory of A Free Festival Parts One and Two, a single from Space Oddity.

There was a time when I was obsessed with finding as many songs as I could that had an ending like Hey Jude, with that kind of chord changes, and the whole rave-up quality. There are quite a few of those kind of songs, and they're often at the end of an album. Memory of A Free Festival is probably my favorite of these songs, maybe because of it's unabashed happiness. Young Bowie is painting a picture of a wonderful day, with all his friends, with free love, and at the end, they all gather around and apparently have the best trip ever, because, after all, "the sun machine is coming down, and we're gonna have a party."

Woah-ho-ho, indeed.

3. Space Oddity (1979 New Version)

Bowie did the first look back in his career when Scary Monsters came around. Not only did he resurrect the supposed first song he ever wrote (Tired of my life turned into It's No Game, more or less), he continued the story of his second most famous character, Major Tom (Ashes to Ashes). I can't say what prompted him to more or less cover his own song, but this new version of Space Oddity beats the original to a bloody pulp. This version is sparse and rife with between the lines anguish. Bowie's reading of the song seems like he's forcing himself to stand up at the mic and deliver the song, but the music behind it tells the real story. At the "lift-off" part of the song, usually full of weird noises goofily mimicking real space travel, the new version is completely silent. And not for a short amount of time, it's at least 15 seconds of pure silence, and it seems like it stretches on for hours. When the song kicks back in, the amount of relief you feel is the most masterful manipulation music can give you. At the end of the song, the outro stretches on and on, and it isn't that hard to imagine it going on forever, just like Major Tom, floating endlessly in space.

4. I Have Not Been To Oxford Town, from 1.Outside.

1.Outside is often insulted and placed in the lump of 90's Bowie, which for most people is almost as hard to listen to as 80's Bowie. The problem people give is that Bowie is "trying to hard," which I disagree with, as he'd learned his lesson not to do that with Never Let Me Down. Instead, he's pushing himself, trying new things to keep it interesting, have fun maybe. I feel like all of Bowie's 90's work can be summed up with the Outside song A Small Plot of Land, a free jazzy improv epic, which surely would have felt like a release for the parts of Bowie who don't want to embrace the single format.

Yet while people say that 1.Outside never embraced the pop single format, they're wrong, because right in the middle of the non-linear gothic drama hyper-cycle is I Have Not Been To Oxford Town, a wonderful song with a great hook and no over the top accompaniment. It's simple, and very pretty.

5. This List Is Impossible To Make, I Love David Bowie Too Much, But I Guess If I Really Have To I Will Pick "Lady Grinning Soul," Because I Love This One A Lot, but like others a lot, too.

I have no idea why Bowie has never performed this live. That's pretty much all I have to say about this song, because it's breathtaking beauty stands alone.

Here's what Bowie said about it: "A song will put you tantalisingly close to the past, so close that you can almost reach out and touch it. The sound of ghosts again."


BONUS CUT: Without You, from Let's Dance. The lost fourth-single. It's not lost, it just got ignored after the big punches of Let's Dance, China Girl, and Modern Love. But Without You is the real Bowie song, with David singing sweetly, yet powerfully, of love's near defeat (it ends happily).

Oh, and don't forget this.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dexy's Midnight Runners

Note: This post is really drippy, for which I apologize, so try to ignore my terrible "blog-tone," and just listen to the songs. They're still great.

I love Dexy's. Without question.

If anyone knows of them at all, then they would know them for Come On, Eileen. Well, that's fine. Come On, Eileen, despite it's popularity and ubiquitousness on one-hit wonder lists, it's a great song!

The thing is that the rest of Dexy's catalogue are all equally great and catchy and wonderful as Come On, Eileen, if not more so.

Having done my research (as I do with all obsessions), I've dug into their library. And am a better person for doing so.

They've got three albums:

The first, Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, is a Northern Soul Dance Energy Explosion. It's horn heavy, which smacks of deadly ska, but rather than being terrible, it's got wild tempo swings, more heartfelt energy, and Kevin Rowland's wailing, soaring, amazing voice. I swear to god he doesn't get enough credit for his singing. Or for anything, really.

Tell Me When My Light Turns Green

The second, Too-Rye-Aye, switches gears a little bit. There's still hecka horns, but joining the fray are fiddles and banjos and other sorts of celtic fun. This is the era that most people associate with Dexy's, as the grungy look of Come On Eileen is from this album. But it's got tons more. You can find Eileen easy, so don't look here.

Celtic Soul Brothers
Plan B
Liars A to E

Then Dexy's threw everyone for a spin, releasing Don't Stand Me Down, a record-memoir of sorts, as it's content for the most part concerns itself with Kevin Rowland telling stories of his life, from day to day to back in the day. It's verse/chorus style is generally Kevin and the band talking followed by a soaring chorus. It's not irritating at all, in fact I think this album is one of the great misunderstood gems, ever. You could also say it's a neat precursor to the talk-rap-british style that's going on these days.

The other thing about Don't Stand Me Down is that behind the talking and reminiscing, there's really great musicianship, totally moving music. It's really great. I promise.

Kevin Rowland's 13th Time
The Waltz

Dexy's broke up (of course), and Kevin Rowland got weird (not in my opinion), put on women's clothing, and released a covers album, My Beauty. Personally, I would love to hear it, but as of now I'm having trouble finding it. The fact that they say it only sold 500 copies isn't helping that. But, today Kevin soldiers on, and apparently is brewing a new album for Dexy's. Too-rye-aye, indeed!!

P.S. The lyrics to come on eileen are really really dirty.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Smith vs. Corgan, Round I

People always say that when you're into a musician or band, you should go backwards and trace their influences. An alternate to that would be trace the web of collaborators, friends, etc.
But as for the former, it's been proven to me, more or less. I would have never heard Neu! if I never read a shit-ton of books about Bowie. So thanks, Bowie.

But really what I'm saying about the former is a revelation I'm having today. I'm listening to the Cure, and I've noticed that literally everything about the Smashing Pumpkins comes from this. You can hear everything Billy Corgan heard and said "Raaah! I'm going to totally steal this later on!" It's incredibly obvious in the Pumpkins' early work (Pre-Gish, I mean), but even after they seemingly assimilated their influences (or hid them under a sheen of Big Muff pedals), you can totally tell that Billy listened to The Cure everyday of his high school life.

Sure, he's said he loves The Cure a ton, but I've just never noticed how obvious it was before today.


Addendum: The real meat of this argument was that there's a Smashing Pumpkins song called She that has the lyrics "She is everything / Monday to Tuesday / Wednesday's another game / praying for Sunday." I always thought (before I got way into The Cure and had a vicious Wikipedia read) that this was an obvious ripoff of Friday I'm In Love, lyrically at least. I mean, the whole "day" thing, and the song was performed at a time when Billy was still trying to ape Robert Smith's voice (and failing).

But here's the wild thing: She was written years before Friday I'm In Love! I had no idea that Friday was an early nineties song. She was written in 1988! That's pretty crazy. It proves that Billy was such a big Cure fan, he went into the future to rip off his favorite band.

No hard feeling on She, though. It comes really close to being a catchy song, it's just held back by being performed by a band who hadn't found their feet yet.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


At some point recently I wanted to name an album something like "riding a rainbow" or something equally drippy yet descriptive of my feelings. Radiohead went and ruined it for everyone!!!

I mean, not really. A) In Rainbows is better than anything I've done, and B) Riding a Rainbow is a shit title.

But Radiohead isn't all roses, either. They've got great songs, great albums. BUT!

What about the songs that people (who aren't already avid Radiohead fans) know about?

There are a few obvious ones, most of which I'll talk about here.

For 10 years, the most obvious (maybe second most) was Nude, or Big Ideas, or Your Home is at Risk if you fail to keep up with Repayments." They played it, everyone loved it, then it wasn't on Kid A, and everyone was sad. Everyone was happy later when they released it on In Rainbows, but some people were obviously saddened that it meant it was no longer special to hear it in concert.

But there are three other songs that are the real crimes.

One of which is easy, as it's been released officially.

It's called Cuttooth, and it's their best song. It was supposed to be on Amnesiac, but at the last minute it was replaced with Hunting Bears. I used to love Hunting Bears, but i can't justify being into it when it replaced such a wonder as Cuttooth.

Cuttooth (from the Knives Out single)

The second one is called Follow Me Around, which was in the movie Meeting People is Easy played in the background at a Soundcheck. It's a wonderful song, that thankfully pops up in live sets now and then (rarer than Nude, certainly). This live version is from 2000, which is the version I've had for years, and am used to it's semi-poor quality.

Hopefully someday they record that one.

Follow Me Around

But, of course, the most infamous Radiohead song is Lift.
When they started playing Lift in 1996, everyone really went bonkers. "This is the song!" Everyone said. Their label was stoked, they were all like "ooh, first single, etc" and stuff. And rightly so, because it's amazing:

And the band recorded it for OK Computer, too! But for some reason, they were just like.. Nah. Don't like it anymore. They never played it again.


Of course, they'd dramatically rearranged the song, and everyone was sad. Except for me, who likes this version equally to the old. They recorded it for Hail to the Theif, but again, they were just like... Nah.

Neither version of Lift was on a b-side, either. It's sad. But people still keep up hope! When the tracklist of In Rainbows was announced, one semi-popular theory was that MK1 and MK2 would be the two versions of Lift. That's silly, of course, but people still dream.

First Lift
Second Lift

I hope someday, Radiohead looks back and goes "wait wait, did we say Nah? shit, we fucked up."

But you know, whatevz. We can wait another 10 years.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Treatise on Billy, part one of many


I love the Smashing Pumpkins, and i'm not afraid or ashamed to say it.

Why should I? Well, Billy Corgan's pretty much an asshole, and probably crazy. But besides that, he's incredibly prolific, and the vast majority of those songs are really good. I'm discounting most of their singles, aside from, say, 1979 and 33. The singles are good, but they don't give nearly enough insight to how good a songwriter he can be. I could try to explain why they're so good, but instead, I'm going to pick three songs that I love dearly and show you. No, you know what? Four songs. It's hard to pick!! There are over 400 Pumpkins songs!!!

Wound, from Machina: The Machines of God.

I pick this one because i just listened to it, and it echoed hard in my head tonight.
Wound may have near-pompous poetic lyrics, but they work, because at it's core, I think Wound is as simple a love song as you can get. The fact that the lyrics are groping toward the heavens (destroyed in the wake / the jealous ingrates / will tear this world down / to spite god above / with his own love) just prove the sincerity of the singer's feelings. He can't put into words what he's feeling well enough, but he's trying so hard. But at the chorus, he gives up and says it plain: "If you wait, I will wait. Taste, I will taste. If you run, I will run, to my last breath."

The music behind this is urgent and all-encompassing, as his love envelops the whole world in song. Seriously.

Set The Ray To Jerry, from the 1979 single.

I pick this one because it's one of my favorites, and it's been fairly important to me for a long time. I couldn't say it was my first favorite Pumpkins song (that would have to be Porcelina, another long and stupid story), but it was one of the first that made me really value this band.

Lyrically, the song is a little frightening. The singer is held in the tight grip of a lover (or is it not even a lover? maybe it's someone he wants too badly?) The whole song is a little inscrutable and ambiguous, but two things are clear: the singer adores someone (in some way) so much he hates himself (and the object of desire) for it, and the chorus (I want you, I need you, all you are is brand new) is really sarcastic.

Musically, the song is as nighttime as you can get. In a way, it makes sense it wasn't on Mellon Collie, and thematically (Dawn to Dusk, Twilight to Starlight), this song takes place in the dark before dawn. Mellon Collie has it's vitriolic moments (Tales of a Scorched Earth, I'm looking at you), but Set the Ray wins the contest for holding it's cards to it's chest with it's vitriol.

Pennies, from the Zero single.

I pick this because it's a damn fine pop song with touchingly funny lyrics. Billy says this:
"One of those songs that I wrote in 10 minutes and can't seem to shake off. I like this song a lot, and find myself humming it about the house, as it is a very rare example of actual Pumpkins humor in a song."

It's one you hum, and it's one you laugh at, and yet it's neither too drippy or too morose to lose it's charm. Billy gets an A+ from Pop School.

Stellar, from one of the myriad versions of Zeitgeist.

I said this:
"I pick this because it's proof that Billy still knows how to write a song that can stand up with the rest of them."

What I mean is: Zeitgeist was better than I thought it was going to be, but it was far from perfect. The main problem with it was that Billy didn't know what scope of the Pumpkins was the most important. He thought (because people on the street told him) that it was the hard-rocking that was missed, and made an album that had very little moments of pause (and is it a surprise that said moment, Neverlost, is one of the best moments on the album? No).

The truth is that Billy ignored a huge facet of what made the Pumpkins the Pumpkins, the Heartsongs (thanks, Zwan). The thing is, no one whose favorite album was Adore was going to go up to Billy and say so. It would be too dear to them to cheapen it like that. Only Bros and Dullards were vapid enough to go up to Billy and tell him to rock again.

Here's the hard truth: Stellar would have saved Zeitgeist. It's a song that proves Billy can still write great songs. And it's a song that bridges the gap between the Pumpkins and Billy's solo album, TheFutureEmbrace (which I am not a critic of). Stellar would have been the true much needed rest between the crushing riffs of Zeitgeist. As it is, Neverlost is too slight a rest, it still has a rocking solo. Stellar is more than just a rocker, it's more than just a Heartsong. It manages to connect both strains of Pumpkin songs, and in doing so is more affecting than anything on either Billy's solo album or Zeitgeist. It is a song that can, without any hesitation, stand up in the canon of Smashing Pumpkins songs.

For Martha, from Adore.

I pick this because I'm fairly convinced it's one of the greatest songs ever written. For serious.

It's hard to say more than the above sentence. Technically, For Martha is great because the more you listen to it, the more little bits you pick out, more tiny overdubs that serve the song, to get it from small to big to huge. Every tiny bit of this song is perfect. There's a video of Billy doing the vocals for this song, and he redoes one line (whenever I run to you, lost one) at least 10 times. It's clear that this song is important to Billy (of course it is, it's about his departed mother), and every little bit in this song is aching, yearning to be the most fitting tribute.

It's not only a glorious tribute to his mother, but to song writing in general. Composition rarely gets better than this in modern rock music.


I guess one of the reasons why I still listen to The Pumpkins is because they were the band that actually got me wanting to play music. I picked up a guitar because of Mellon Collie. The first song I could sing while playing was Disarm. Sitting down and trying to pick about every overdub in a Pumpkins song was really educational, but the thing is, after doing so, instead of liking a song less, instead of having the mystery taken out of it, i like it more. I am so into these songs. I can't even explain it.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bowie. Pt. 1

Okay, so I'm all about Bowie, yeah?

But push comes to shove, I'll make a top 5. It was pretty hard, but I've done it, and I think the results are pretty groovy.

I mean, as far as I'd use that word. They're all good, though. I mean, duh, it's Bowie.

And I'm pretty nutty about Bowie. I actually purchased the Tin Machine albums!

I didn't buy Never Let Me Down, though. I'm not that nutty.

Anyways, here's the list... in CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER:

1. Conversation Piece (from the Prettiest Star single from 1970, later released on the Rykodisc reissue of the Space Oddity album, and even later re-recorded for the unreleased Toy album. But this is the original.)

This is one of the Bowie songs I'm lucky to hear. The Rykodisc reissues are out of print now, and a lot of them had some killer choice bonus tracks, this one included. This song I like though for more than just being a deep cut. It doesn't ever force itself on you, it's quiet, but still intense in it's own way. But it doesn't need to be loud, if anything, that would contradict everything the song is about. As for that, it's a wonderful case of one of Bowie's "character" songs, songs he wrote while inhabiting a role. Of course his best known role is Ziggy, but as a character, Ziggy is pretty boring and undescribed. Bowie's earlier characters (pre Space Oddity) were pretty silly and too goofy to really take seriously for more than a laugh, which isn't to say they didn't show any creativity, they just weren't really gelling completely yet. Conversation Piece, I believe, is the first really great character song. The character is still quirky, but isn't from another planet. If anything, he's more human than almost any other character Bowie got into (until Hours, when the character became Bowie himself). This man's story is told so simply and directly that you can't help but be friends with him. Also, this song has the least-irritating key change in recent memory.

2. Candidate (Original Demo, released with the Diamond Dogs anniversary release)

While most of the bonus tracks on the Diamond Dogs reissue were pretty lame, Candidate makes the whole set worth buying (also, the phat picture of Bowie and Bourroughs). This demo sounds nothing at all like the Candidate that ended up on Diamond Dogs, but from the first deep drum hits, you know it's destined to be even more epic. It surely doesn't disappoint. What's really puzzling is how Bowie took two lines "i'll make you a deal" and "we'll pretend we're walking home," and made them into the album version of Candidate. Also, rather than ruining it, Bowie's semi off-key vocals make the song even more unnerving.

3. Can You Hear Me? (released on Young Americans, 1975)

This song has a number of nostalgic reasons for being on the list. For one, it was one of the first Bowie songs I heard, because it was on one of my Mom's killer cassette mixes she used to make (they had great titles, too, like "Olive View" and "Harry Woo's Bar Mitzvah" and "Isn't We.") The other reason it's important is because it's on Young Americans, which is the first Bowie album I consciously heard. Let me tell you the story:
It was 8th grade, and I was totally bored with everything I had to listen to. I would puke if I listened to anymore Peter Gabriel, I just wasn't in the mood for any more Pumpkins, and I was so bummed I couldn't even listen to the Beatles. So I went to my parent's CD shelf, which was pretty monstrous. After perusing it for a while, I saw Bowie, and I thought "Ohhh, that Bowie guy. I've heard his name, I think he did that Fill Your Heart song I like." At this point, I didn't even know Bowie wrote Space Oddity or China Girl (yeah, I know Iggy Pop wrote it, too. Wah, wah.) So I grabbed the three CDs they had: Hunky Dory, Station to Station, and Young Americans.

So I put them in my three-disc changer in random order and hit play. And with that first drum fill into Young Americans, I was never the same. Seriously.

Anyways, Can You Hear Me? is probably Bowie's best attempt at the Soul he was going for at the time. It's got the most feeling, and doesn't sound too coked out. It takes it's time, and by the end, you're hammered with feeling.

4. Teenage Wildlife (Released on Scary Monsters, 1980).

My biggest pet-peeve with Bowie releasing new albums is that every time it happens, people say "his best since Scary Monsters." That hasn't been true since Buddha of Suburbia, and it's unfair to every album. Shit, even Let's Dance is a good album, it's just been tainted by popularity. And, I must admit, I don't agree with all the hype Scary Monsters has. While it's got some of his best songs, it's also got some total yawnsville-throwaways.

Not so this. This song is a spiritual sequel to "Heroes," but takes the lyrics from mythical to more down-to-earth. It's pretty bleak on the lyric side, but the music is absolutely soaring and hopeful. Which makes the lyrics lifted out of just being a total bummer dirge. There's a great moment when Bowie riffs on the bands starting to copy his glam-phase, even including a great bit of dialogue with himself. The song is long, but uses it to the greatest. By the time it gets to the end, with Bowie screaming "Wiiiiiiiiild!," you're so fucking into the song you might as well cry. Or kill yourself. I mean, seriously, it's that good. If this list was made by order of how much i'm into it, this song might have been number one.

5. Untitled No. 1 (from Buddha of Suburbia, 1993).
This one comes from Bowie's most horrifically unknown album. It was released in 1993, when Bowie was still riding high from Black Tie, White Noise. But it was marketed as a soundtrack (which it isn't), and then got totally fucked by Bowie's label folding. This is really sad, because Buddha is seriously one of Bowie's best albums. It's a great precursor to Outside (even containing an early version of Strangers When We Meet), but mixes the wild experimentation of the later album with the beautifully tunesmithing of the earlier. And right in the middle of it, wedged between beautiful instrumentals and off-kilter but still gorgeous pop songs is Untitled No. 1, the best of the bunch. The song exists in such a different world than ours that I don't even feel qualified to discuss it fully, I'd really just rather have you hear it and travel wherever it takes you. I guarantee you'll enjoy yourself.

Okay, so there's the list. I promise that sometime, I'll return to Bowie again, and go in to other reasons he's awesome. Reasons that you don't already know. So stop making out with your photos of Ziggy and join the front lines in praying that he'll record just one. more. album...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Midsummer's Day In A Graveyard

When people talk about Radiohead, and In Rainbows especially, I feel like a lot of people really gloss over the fact that it's such a good album. It's a great album! But people are hung up on either A) distribution or B) it's not OK Computer. Well, I like Kid A better than OK Computer, and I still love In Rainbows. That wasn't really a proper argument, but it doesn't really need to be. Just like In Rainbows doesn't have to be about dystopic faults in humanity and technology. It can be about you & me, you know? Well it is, I guess. It's very hotly debated. I try to keep up with At Ease's message board, but I stopped because it got really really ugly talking about the 'themes' of In Rainbows. I feel like getting really really ugly defeats the whole mood of the album. Except Bodysnatchers, I guess.

Anyways, on New Year's Eve Radiohead had a webcast (pre-recorded segments, but put together, so it was more like a little film. With Radiohead in it). It was called Scotch_Mist, and it was really stellar.

(side note: i find it funny i take the time to explain things that are incredibly easy to find out anywhere else. please indulge me until i get over it)

Scotch_Mist was a really wonderful thing. It was great to watch the band play through the whole album, really intimate. All the songs held up great, and the variations made on them really got me riled up and excited for the tour coming up. Ooo-eee!

Here's the whole thing:

And here's some songs from it:

Jigsaw Falling Into Place

And here's one of the spoken Interludes:
Head & Shoulders

Not to mention a short bit of an Arpeggi Remix:

Fact is, I'm nuts for Radiohead, and while I'd love to gush and gush about them and talk about specific things, I do believe I should wait until all the commotion turns down. It shouldn't be too long, I think people are starting to get over "the end of the music industry." Silly lads. Tee hee!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I'm Not There (1956)

This is a song Bob Dylan recorded with The Band while he was 'recuperating' (conspiracy etc) from his motorcycle accident (more often referred to as the Basement sessions, tapes, etc). It didn't end up on The Basement Tapes or any Bootleg Series so far, which is nothing sort of ridiculous. It's release on the soundtrack to the film I'm Not There corrects this wrongitude.

Bob Dylan—I'm Not There (1956)

The song itself is among the best examples of Dylan Magic. If you really pay attention to the lyrics you'll find that they're nonsense, sounds Bob was singing, most likely to denote what sounds he wanted where, or just as a basic guide to a melody that he'd finish later. He never finished the song, and we're left with this ghost. But what a powerful Ghost!

It's a pretty simple song, but there's a subtle build with the instruments. Near the end, a little piano riff comes in, seemingly from someone entering the room, or waiting until they know the chords exact, and that waiting seals the deal. But the thing that really makes this song is the fact that even though the lyrics are mostly gibberish, the song still feels like it's about something. It feels like something is happening, feelings are being expressed, but they're being expressed without concrete images, which end up being more powerful than if they were specific. There are a few lines along the way that help it along ('well, I cried tonight, like I cried the night before', and the refrain of 'but i'm not there, i'm gone'), and Bob's delivery is also important, one of the more passioned of the time.

Interestingly enough, if you think of the film I'm Not There in similar terms, it makes a lot of sense. Check it out, and this song.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


In trying to think of a way to introduce this, I decided to be a bit of a sass and put together some songs that have "hello" in the title.  And have them varied, sort of as a nice way to say "hello, this is the kind of stuff that i listen to and think about."
I'm not going to write about up-n-coming things, unless that's what's on my mind.  I guess the real goal of this is to write about things that are on my mind, songs that I like and have something to say about.  They may be purposefully bad, or they may be songs that most people think are bad but that I think are really nice.  Maybe in doing this, I'll figure out what really are the things that define "good song" to me.  And maybe you too!

A little about me: I'm a student at (deep breath) Theschooloftheartinstituteofchicago (exhale, inhale) right now.  That's all well and good, but more well and good is music, which I make by the name Violet Mice.  Add a dot com to the band name and you can visit my keen site.  But now, the blogggggg:

I was fortunate enough (apparently) to get into Todd Rundgren without having any idea of who he was.  By that I mean, I had no connection to Todd as a 'classic rock schmooze rocker.'  To me, Todd was only one of the people that my Mom had on one of her amazing and well-titled Mixtapes.  Of course, in Todd's prime, he had many fans and wasn't a laughing stock.  But nowadays he's known for The New Cars and stupid sunglasses: 

Those glasses are so dumb.  But that's not the point.  The Point is that Todd Rundgren is (used to be?) a really freaky pop genius, one that I'm sure I'll revisit in the future.  In Todd's heyday, he could write a perfect, literally perfect popsong with the greatest ease.  Hello, It's Me is not his greatest, but it's still amazing.  It's got a groove, a hook, a lil' swagger.  It's got everything going for it, and it's got cute lyrics.  

I don't think John Cale gets nearly enough credit as he does.  Everyone goes on and on about Lou Reed and his solo albums, but here's the thing (and it's wildly controversial, so sue me): John Cale's were better.  Lou Reed has spunk and sass up every orifice imaginable, but John Cale's got the chops.  He knows how to put a song together, whereas I really get the feeling that Lou Reed just gets lucky with his composition.  Now, I'm not saying that makes Lou bad, I just really really feel like John Cale made the better albums, but wasn't enough of a weirdo to get the attention.  Now, I'm choosing this song because it has the word "hello" in it, so it's not the greatest example of what I'm talking about, but it's certainly not a bad song, and now I'll just have even greater reason to write more about him (and in particular, his album Paris 1919) later.

If you don't know who The Residents are, you probably haven't spent enough time around me. Just kidding, sort of.  But this band is, as the saying goes, "the most famous unknown band in history."  People who choose to be dismissive will spend most of the time talking about the fact that no one knows (sort of) who the real band members are, and that they wear eyeball masks (which they don't do all the time, it's just the most easily remembered image of them).  The fact is, The Residents have been around for over 40 years, and have churned out increasingly creative, interesting, psychotic, and occasionally beautiful music.  They've also put on incredibly performances and pioneered the music video artform (but who hasn't 'pioneered' it, right?).  I believe The Residents are the most wonderful example of how music can be an artform, and how music can meld with other mediums.  They're amazing, so there.

So that's number one!!! Not bad, eh? See you soon, I'm sure.  And I guess maybe sometime I'll figure out a better way to put up the songs.