02 November 2006

Mix Musings: Fabuteck in the tete, part 2

Part two of S—'s play mix. For part one and an explanation of the track headers, click here. Things got a lot worse before they got better as far as the trivia-test aspect went, but she charitably threw me a few bones toward the end, so I made out alright.

  1. M. Ward, "To Go Home"
  2. Clearly included for the benefit of our fearless leader, a big Johnston fan.

    This whole exercise is beginning to highlight for me the fact that I simply don't listen to enough music. Ward falls into the crowded category of artists on this mix I've read about and never actually heard. I was about to write something along the lines of "maybe I spend too much time listening to processed-sugar-teen-pop," but we all know that's like, not possible. The answer is clearly "more", not "different". Maybe I ought to get me one of them iPod thingies all the kids are running around with these days. Get the hell off my lawn.

    Heard it? No.
    Own it? No.
    Like it? It's fine, I guess. I think there was a time I used to dig on this sort of stuff, but now I lean more towards bigger or weirder sounds. This is just an average folk-rock combo chugging along averagely. They're good enough at it I suppose, but generally speaking if something doesn't get my butt shakin', my head bangin' or my brain melting, I get easily distracted. There are exceptions, of course. There always are.

  3. Django Reinhardt [Les Paul], "Georgia On My Mind"
    ca. 1936
  4. ALRIGHT! Now this is more my speed. I think this came out when I was in high school, or like... the war. The Good War.

    My first guess was Les Paul when I hear the opening guitar solo but no, it's Reinhardt. Man, he really shreds, and it goes on for over a minute.

    I've always hated the idea that older music is automatically better, but I think I'm turning into one of those old curmudgeons. It's not that I don't like music today, I like a lot of it. There was plenty of mediocre tripe clogging record stores fifty years ago as well, but most of it's gone now, washed away by time, and what's left are the classics. Time is a brutally effective aesthetic filter, n'est-ce pas?

    Heard it? No.
    Own it? Do not.
    Like it? Oh mais oui. The guitar solo alone makes this one of my favourites on the mix.

  5. ?
  6. Absolutely stumped. No idea who or what this is. They sound British, recent vintage, that's all I can tell.

    Rhythm section's pretty strong, but the guitarist really needs to step it up a bit more. Needs to listen to Parklife a few times, really. Coxon could always paint all manner of elaborate riffs across the backdrop without ever threatening to take over the song.

    Heard it? No.
    Own it? No.
    Like it? Pleasant, though not especially distinguished.

  7. ?
  8. Again, stumped. Twice in a row. This is getting pathetic. I don't know any of these songs. Which, in a way is good, because I'm hearing all this new music, which is the whole point of a mixtape, right? But for God's sake I have a great deal of pride at stake here, and this is turning into quite an eye-opener.

    Anyway, this sounds like a relic from about 1965 which, given the contents of the rest of this mix, means it was probably recorded some time last week. Actually, this one may be authentically old, a guess based entirely on the brevity of the intro; generally speaking, a newer retro act would have dragged it out for a few bars, but back in the day they used to get right down to business. Other than that I have nothing to guess.

    Oh, and I think they're British. But I could be wrong.

    Heard it? No sir.
    Own it? No ma'am.
    Like it? I do, rather. Nice little first-wave British Invasion vibe going on here. I like the "bababum-bum-bum"s especially. They're kind of silly in a Herman's Hermits sort of way, but the song doesn't last long enough for them to get cloying.

  9. Pas/Cal, "I Wanna Take You Out in Your Holiday Sweater"
  10. I figured it out, but I still have no idea who these guys are. I've never been a fan of the whole twee-pop thing, and this is no exception.

    Heard it? No.
    Own it? And no.
    Like it? Cute enough if that's your thing I suppose, but I'm just into stuff that's a little more obnoxious.

  11. Electric Light Orchestra, "Livin' Thing"
    ; p: Lynne/Clark [Lynne]
    A New World Record [Olé ELO], Jet [Columbia1], 1976
  12. Ah, ELO. Due for a critical reappraisal, methinks, and perhaps they'll get it in the wake of Stylus's head-scratching choice of them as the inaugural inductees into their rather confusing Hall of Fame pantheon2. I've always thought of ELO as a band with a great sound and not many great songs, but on the other hand I've never given them much time. I tried when that Stylus article posted and just wasn't that into it.

    Still, of the few songs by them I've always liked this one's certainly up there. I've always had a soft spot for massive overproduction, particularly when it involves gobs of wildly unnecessary string sections, and this tracks got 'em in spades.

    Heard it? Yes.
    Own it? On a best-of cassette, I think.
    Like it? You betcha.

  13. Brian Jonestown Massacre
  14. The funniest thing about that movie DiG! is all the testimonials from people talking about what an unheralded genius Anton Newcombe is, but if he's ever written a single above-average, let alone great (or even good), song, I have yet to hear it. He strikes me as little more than a remarkably prolific hack with an ego the size of Oklahoma. This sounds like all of his half-assed output: tossed off and half-baked.

    I was unable to confirm that this actually is the BJM, and have no interest in sifting through their monstrous catalogue to find out, but suffice to say that if it's not then it's some BJM knockoff, in which case they're even worse.

    Heard it? It sounds familiar; if it's in DiG!, then yes. On the other hand, if you've heard one of BJM's "songs", you've heard most of them.
    Own it? Pass.
    Like it? Guess.

  15. Monty Python, "Sit On My Face"
    Idle/Parr-Davies [Monty Python]
    Monty Pyton's Contractual Obligation Album [The Monty Python Matching Tie & Handkerchief], 19803
  16. Fuck YEAH! My inner nerd is dancing with joy right now. Dancing with joy, reciting entire scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and emphatically not getting laid. All while laughing his ass off.

    This one falls into the category of mixtape classics, those ninety-second-or-less kneeslappers you'd always throw at the end of a side when there's no room for a full song. Good for a laugh every time the tape plays.4 Top ten mixtape classics, in no particular order:

    • Bad Brains, "Pay to Cum"

    • Hard to believe this was once like the fastest song imaginable. The rhythm still sounds absolutely relentless with that skipped half-beat at the end of the fourth measure in the main riff. I read that this used to be a pretty standard audition song for early-80s hardcore bands; if the singer could sing fast enough to pull it off, he was in.

    • The Minutemen, "Ack Ack Ack"

    • Classic. Basically just a sixty-second build to nothing.

    • The Art of Noise, "Snapshot"

    • Best appropriation of the "Baba O'Riley" riff ever.

    • Bikini Kill, "In Accordance to Natural Law"

    • Second-best appropriation of the "Baba O'Riley" riff. Also well-worth hearing at half speed if you've got the seven-inch.

    • They Might Be Giants, "Minimum Wage"

    • Nerd-pop at its most gut-bustingly lush. I'm not gonna say there's never been a bad song with a whipcrack sample, I'm just saying I haven't heard it yet.

    • God Is My Co-Pilot, "Su Vot2 Esta Su Voz"

    • Let me just say I know someone who's never laughed harder in his life as when he listened to this song on acid about a dozen times in a row. Anything beyond that and I plead the fifth.

    • De La Soul, "A Little Bit of Soap", "Can U Keep a Secret", "Take it Off"

    • 3 Feet High and Rising had some of my favourite fragment songs of hiphop's golden age. Any one of these still gets a laugh to this day; the dated fashion references in "Take" only add layers to the humour.

    • Any song from the Dwarves' Blood Guts & Pussy album

    • Besides having one of the greatest titles and album covers of all time, this one's just loaded with mixtape classics. Just about every song is under two minutes, and all of them rock. The finest of an unstoppable bunch includes "Back Seat of My Car", "Drug Store", "Skin-Poppin' Slut" and "Motherfucker". But really, you can't go wrong with any of 'em.

      What ever happened to the Dwarves, anyway? They may still be around, but they were never the same after Sub Pop dropped them for faking the lead guitarist's death. Ah well.

    • Napalm Death, "You Suffer"

    • Closed out my own mix with this one, one of the greatest songs ever recorded because not only is it one second long, but within that sliver of time lurks an actual song. It has a beginning and an end (in that they start playing and quickly stop again) and two lines of lyrics, which go as follows:
      You suffer!
      But why?
      And really, isn't that what life's all about? Flipper5 used to take at least six minutes to say the same thing.

    • Monty Python, "Sit On My Face"

    • If you've ever been able to parse the penultimate line of the lyrics, you've got one up on me.

    Heard it? Oh yeah.
    Own it? On more than one cassette, I think. Store-bought cassettes, not mixtapes. Nerd power!
    Like it? You better believe it baby.

  17. Elvis Presley, "Don't Be Cruel"
    Blackwell [Axton]; p: Sholes [Phillips]
    (single, b/w "Hound Dog"), RCA [Sun], 1956
  18. Seeing as I just finished Guralnick's biography, I'm a little embarrassed that I mistook this for a Sun cut, but had I known it was RCA I totally would have got Steve Sholes as the producer. And hey, I got the b-side (or, in this case aa-side) right, so that's worth half a bonus point, right?

    What else can one say about this number? The King didn't record a single less-than-terrific song in '56, and this one holds up as one of the best of an unstoppable bunch. Thank God it's not the Cheap Trick cover.6

    Heard it? Hell yeah.
    Own it? Believe it or not, I may not have the original version anywhere, but I know I've got several live versions.
    Like it? And how.

  19. Madness, "House of Fun"
    Stiff [Two-Tone], 1982
  20. The nutty boys! Love 'em! I'm also a bit embarrassed for getting the label wrong on this one, as I just read that Simon Reynolds book earlier this year, but hey, I've gotta save a few brain cells for school.

    Worth noting that the boys' rendition of "One Step Beyond" barely missed the cut for my own mix. Can't go wrong with any of the old singles, really. Great video, too. I love the goofy choreography in all those old Madness videos.

    Heard it? Hell yeah.
    Own it? No, but it's on Rhapsody.
    Like it? If you don't like it check y'pulse.

In conclusion...

Solid mix. Holds together pretty well from one song to the next for the most part, at least until the end, when there's a palpable sense of "running out of space, gotta get this one on somewhere!". Like all the best mixtapes. More than half the songs I'd never heard before, and several of those were by acts I'd been meaning to check out, so bonus points there.

As for the no-tracklist challenge, I think I did pretty well, considering my advanced age and all. I don't think I got a single one from this decade, which should tell you something right there. Oh wait, I got the Art Brut one. And I think I counted three absolute stumps. But it's the game that counts, not the results.

When my wife and I were first dating I made her a mixtape without a tracklist, the idea being that if she really liked a song she could ask me what it was and we'd, like, talk about music. Yeah, I was lame, so what, she married me, so who's laughing now? Anyway, she was pissed, thought it was a dumb idea and just wanted to know what the songs were, not talk about them.7 We still talk about music sometimes, though. Or at least I do. She just smiles politely and pretends to listen.

    Tangents & Clarifications
  1. I'm pretty sure Columbia was distributing Jet in those days, so I should get partial credit for this. [Return]
  2. The pedestal has since been expanded to include Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and the Boredoms, to give you an idea of the aesthetic at work here. Or lack thereof. [Return]
  3. The song probably dates from an earlier year, but that's the year of the first album to include it, so I'm counting my guess as correct, even though I got the album wrong. [Return]
  4. It just occured to me that there's a whole generation of kids now who've neither heard nor made a mixtape. Hell, the really young ones probably don't even bother burning CDs anymore, they just email each other iTunes playlists or something. Lost charms of the tape: two side-openers/-closers, difficulty of skipping a track, gradual sonic deterioration... Those were the days... [Return]
  5. Irrelevant trivia note: I dated Flipper bassist Will Shatter's cousin in college. So there. [Return]
  6. Of course, S— may not have been born yet during during that insufferable video's run of MTV ubiquity, but anyone my age will certainly groan at the memory of that stupid remote control gimmick before the last chorus. See? [Return]
  7. Interesting little I-should-have-known-even-then note: I put Yo La Tengo's "Sugarcube" near the beginning of the tape, a surefire winning move. I mean, you could never go wrong putting Yo La Tengo on a mixtape for a girl. To my shock and disappointment, she thought it was kind of cheesy(?!?). A few cuts later was the Fall's "Free Range", a risky move for a girl mixa, but she recognised it right away and said she loved the Fall. I mean, should there have been any question after that? [Return]
    1. Not that that ever stopped me; I always believed, and still believe, that the best mixtapes are the ones you make for yourself first and foremost, and anyone else can take it or leave it. This may be a small step toward explaining my long run of lousy luck with girls, but why dwell on the past?

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