Thursday, February 12, 2004

Liner notes for my contribution to a round-robin mix-disc exchange some of my online buddies (including many of the bloggers linked at left) are participating in (track-by-track instructions included):


If you were making a soundtrack for your life so far – this song would have to be on it.

1. "A Bad Debt Follows You" - The Go-Betweens

Not debt as in money (though there's that, too), but a constant reminder of all that so many have loaned, granted and bequeathed me in terms of forbearance, support and common generosity, coupled with the knowledge that I could scarce hope to make proper reparations. That's not really what the song's about, though. No matter. It's a great opener.

A song from one of the CDs currently in your 1) car stereo 2) portable CD player 3) stereo (No MP3 or iPod players, just 'cause)

2. "Confidence" - Scritti Politti

The first step on this severe post-punk combo's passage into a lover-boy pop band with one subtly-mascara'd eye toward the politics of romance and the romance of politics.

A song from the first album, cassette, or CD (whichever was first or the oldest that you still have access to) that you purchased for yourself.

A two-parter here:

3. "Farewell to John Denver" - Monty Python

It should surprise no one who knows me that the first long-playing elpee I bought with my own money (don't recall how I earned it - I vaguely recall getting thirty fifty-cent pieces for betraying one of my fourth-grade classmates to the recess monitor. Did I spend study hall watching him get nailed to the jungle gym? Oh, hazy memories...) was a Monty Python record - the then-new Contractual Obligation Album (1980), to be exact. I actually heard this track (or most of it, at least) a few weeks before I purchased it - one of the local AM stations had done a brief news piece on how the subject of the parody in question was, for some odd reason, displeased with being garroted in effigy on a comedy record, sued the perpetrators, and successfully got the offending piece removed from the record (though, strangely, only in England). To illustrate his point, the DJ played the track, bleeping out one of the words so that the "Annie's Song" travesty played as "You (beeeeeep) on my pillow..." You can imagine what my fertile eleven-year-old brain thought was behind the mask(ing), and upon bringing the album home, I ran straight to the rec-room stereo, laid the stylus right on the track, turned the volume down (to protect my younger siblings from whatever foulness was sure to emanate from the speakers), listened - and got thoroughly confused. Hunh? I found my mother and told her how silly the people at KJR were, bleeping out a totally innocent word like "came." She asked for the context. I gave it to her. Once she let me back out of my room, I was old enough to buy my first CD...

4. "Red Guitar" - David Sylvian

...which was Brilliant Trees by the ex-Japan lead singer, a replacement for the cassette of same made by the coolest guy in school for me (I had to give him the blank tape, natch - had to keep me in my place, don'tcha know) a year or two previous. I remember being curiously disappointed that the CD didn't replicate the skips and jumps caused by his accidentally bumping the turntable and decided to leave on the tape anyway. Because, as I said, he was cool.

A song without a word in its title. (i.e. numbers or acronyms)

5. "N.I.T.A." - Young Marble Giants

The most plaintive moment from one of the great post-punk albums. 'Nuff said (especially considering you were probably still reading the notes for track 3 when this was playing).

A song from the year you were born (we’ll take written, recorded, or released)

6. "Ruby" - Silver Apples

Nineteen sixty-nine, okay. Woodstock. Armstrong. Easy Rider. Manson. Altamont. "Peace with honor." The Alaska pipeline. Steffi Graf is born. What better way to encapsulate such a tumultuous year than a weird love song by a couple of electronics freaks with the second-best use of a banjo in the entire decade?

A song with the name of someone in this music swap in it (doesn’t have to be in the title)

7. "Andy in Ten Years" - Game Theory

In tribute to (but not really about) Andy Axel. One of the comparatively normal-sounding pop songs dotting the gloriously fecked-oop soundscape of Lolita Nation, one of the greatest albums ever made. Okay, maybe that's a slight exaggeration. One of the two best double-albums made in the late 1980s with the word "Nation" in the title.

A song in a language other than English.

8. "Qu'Est-Ce Que Tu Veux" - Kahimi Karie

Not only is in French, but it's French as sung by a Japanese woman in her mid-twenties who sounds creepily like a twelve-year-old, like I guess most Japanese women in their mid-twenties do, especially when they're singing in French.

A song with a city or state/province name (countries don’t count).

9. "Daddy Don't Live in That New York City No More" - Steely Dan

So many to choose from, but I thought this Becker/Fagen obscurity would do the trick dandily. (By "obscurity," of course, I mean "one of the three or four songs that never show up on the tri-annual Steely Dan best-ofs that always have the ugliest cover art this side of a copy of Cellulite Fanciers Monthly." )

Say you're planning a multi-day road trip, this song could go on every mix you make for the trip.

10. "Dot Dash" - Wire

Uncommonly propulsive and rousing, a chorus that'd make a great drunken pub sing-along (if said pub was the same place the Young Semioticians Club meets every Thursday), a punk song with a pop structure and just enough intellectual vigor - could this be the perfect song?

A song by a local artist.

11. "White Elephant" - Volcano Suns

Again, far too many fine exemplars of the Bosstown Sound to dismiss, but I'm giving it up here for this great ode to kitsch from one of the best Mission of Burma spin-off bands. It could also fit snugly into the next category, but instead...

A song with a color in the title (bonus points for pink, negative points for raspberry beret)

12. "Pink Frost" - the Chills

...I'm plumping for the greatest song ever written about accidentally killing your significant other in your sleep.

It’s 5am, your alarm is going off, this song would still make you smile.

13. "Jeepster" - T. Rex

This one did, in fact, raise a smile when the clock radio blasted it one fine morning. Something about the ascending guitar/strings interplay in the chorus makes such a sweet, cushiony segue from REM sleep to semi-consciousness. Best pronunciation of "Jaguar" ever, to boot.

Either a cover you thought was an original or an original you thought was a cover (identify in case we may not know which & if a cover, identify the original artist)

14. "Singing to the Sunshine" - Cardinal

I've never heard the original (by some '60s snerds called Mortimer), but I seriously doubt it's anywhere near as gorgeous as the harmonies Richard Davies and Eric Matthews pull off here. Even if Thee Slayer Hippy didn't play drums on this particular track.

A song that is about a specific movie or book or at least mentions a specific movie or book. (identify which one if it is not mentioned by name)

15. "The Seventh Seal" - Scott Walker

I like this one so much better than the song Julian Cope did about Interiors.


16. "Leo Ryan (Our Pharoah's Slave)" - the Lilys

Pure pop overload - there's gotta be five or six songs' worth of hooks in this seven-minute meisterwerk, a high point of Kurt Heasley's fleeting dalliance with sixties-styled songcraft. (Can't shake the suspicion that this is a paean to his coke dealer, but I'll let that slide.)

A song that has reached number one on a Billboard chart (state which chart and when).

17. "I Wish" - Stevie Wonder

Numero uno on the pop charts, January, 1977. A reminder that Steverino Wonderferishical was once a flat-out funkified genius before he settled into turning out songs in the key of suck. (Yeah, that's a little mean, but don't worry, he'll never see it.)

It’s a little bit country/it’s a little bit rock and roll – this song doesn’t fit a category as far as you’re concerned.

18. "This Magnificent Bird Will Rise" - Deerhoof

Chaos coheres. Yowza.

I hate the artist, but I love the song.

19. "Breaking the Girl" - Red Hot Chili Peppers

I don't despise these guys the way I once did, but boy oh boy, around the time BloodSugarSexMagik slithered out, I was fit to take these mugging funk-heads by the tube socks and fling them into the abyss. But this song, even more than the somewhat over-favored "Under the Bridge," was at least enough to make me hope the abyss didn't have too many jagged rocks sticking out of the sides on the way down.

Wha? If anyone can tell me what this song is about, give me a call.

20. "Sons of Temperance" - the Fall

Any number of Mark E. Smith mumblings could have gone in this space, true, but this one gets me wondering - is he referring to the offspring of the unloved dog breeder's hideous replica he "sang" about in "Impression of J. Temperance" two whole decades previous? Or is he atoning for the drunken stupor he'd sloshed into the few years before and getting all Carrie Nation on our ass? As usual, it hardly matters, not with that killer fuzz-riff and committed vocal performance (sounds like he's rushing to get the words out before his false teeth fall to the studio floor again).

Guilty Pleasure or I am embarrassed that I like it song.

21. "With Your Love" - Jefferson Starship

Yeah, you can just go to Hell, too. Like most of the folks participating in this exchange, I don't have much truck with the notion of a "guilty pleasure" - I likes what I likes and I make no apologies for it - but I must admit this one comes close. What can I say? I have a soft spot in some extremity or other for the sappy love songs Marty Balin contributed to the Airplane and its more galactic offspring, and this one nails me right in the reverberating twinge-center of the gut, the one that only got much use when I was in love or the acid was about to kick in. And please, let's give the man his props for having the good sense and presence of mind a) not to sleep with Grace Slick, unlike the rest of the band and b) to bail out well before somebody got it in their pointed little shrunken heads to pen that municipal-construction anthem of theirs.

Bonus tracks:

TV theme song

22. "Give It to the Soft Boys" - Soft Boys

Okay, okay, it's not really a TV theme song, but back when Robyn Hitchcock was my Platonic ideal of a rock star (pop melodies, Pythonesque absurdism, and hair as unruly as mine), I used to fantasize about this number being the title song for a wacky TV series about the adventures of a nutty rock band. Could've been even better than The Monkees. ("Oh, no, Kimberley! We've gotta be at the princess's birthday party in twenty minutes so we don't lose our apartment but Robyn's got his head stuck in a giant prawn figurine at the Museum of Oversized Crustaceans!" "What, again? Quick, Morris, Andy - grab the oleomargarine, the jumbo spanner and the talking cormorant and come with me!") Hey, a boy can dream...

stump (the group) – any song that you think they may not have heard.

23. Ain't tellin'.

They're local, though, and friends (and one-time collaborators) of mine, and probably a bit ahead of their time - if "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)" could be a radio hit, then this one could too. The razor lobby'd probably have issued a fatwa on 'em, but them's the breaks.

Total time: 79:58

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