Monday, December 10, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
I. Startin' From the Middle Ground
It's not like it was the first mix CD, or even the best, but there was something about Andy Smith's first Document mix that seemed to grab everyone. It was probably the first time I'd heard kitsch (Tom Jones) so obviously paired and emphasized within a mix without it seeming jokey, and probably the first time I'd ever seen a cover of a dj set (Smith covers the venerable "Wheels of Steel" set). When Smith played the Republik later that summer, dropping "St. Peppers" into his set seemed revelatory; few djs in Calgary up to that point would drop something so glaringly outside of the normal rare groove/hip hop/acid jazz set (though most obviously could have, it just didn't seem to happen). Now it'd be weird without it.
Jay used to play the hell out of the Spencer Davis segue into Love Unlimited from this mix, but the Jungle Brothers/Jeru intro grabbed me to no end.
Jungle Brothers - "How Ya Want It We Got It" (Native Tongues remix): Oh yeah! Of the three Native Tongue heavyweights, the Jungle Brothers just don't generate the same excitement. De La's rhymes are perhaps more catchy, and Tribe's beats perhaps more influential, and thus the Jungle Brothers nestled in third. This track came well after the Native Tongues had lost their collegiate charm, but man, is it still comforting to hear them on one track.
De La Soul - "Intro" (from Stakes is High): The Jungle Brothers track always reminded me of this De La song, which I prefer. It's the first time that De La had sounded so bleak and weary to me, and the intro emphasized this the most.
Jeru the Damaja - "Come Clean" (from the Sun Rises in the East): I'm not sure what the beef with the Fugees was all about (none of them seem to have fared very well, outside of Wyclef's obvious commercial success), and the falling out with Primo didn't seem to help. For what it's worth, I really liked "Black Cowboys."
II. From Way Out
I'm digging on the new electro stuff coming out; in particular, the Flying Lotus tracks I've heard grab me. It makes perfect sense that it finds a home on Warp, though I prefer it to the mainstays of that label (Boards of Canada, Autechre, etc), mostly because, at the time Warp had glutted in excess, the records seemed largely exercises in output.
Flying Lotus - "Dance Floor Stalker": I guess this guy comes from the Coltrane lineage. It's not overly apparent, in that I don't get overwhelmed the same way. But it rumbles the kidneys, which is good.
Sam Prekop - "Sewing Machine": The Flying Lotus track also reminded me a lot of this early solo Prekop track that found its way onto the Two Gentlemen EP. At the time, I had anticipated Prekop's first solo album to be more of the electronic stuff, rather than how organic it actually came out to be (it's all good). Prekop's fun with samplers carries over onto the S&C track on the Reach the Rock soundtrack.
III. And Back To the Front...
Love Unlimited Orchestra - "Theme from the Together Brothers": The track that appears on the Andy Smith mix is from the Together Brothers soundtrack, which seems to be harder to find than not (the Love Unlimited releases always seem less ubiquitous than the Barry White albums, for whatever reason). But the title theme itself shows up regularly on various compilations, best-ofs, etc., and is just as r-e-d-h-o-t.
Ohmega Watts - "The Platypus Strut": How does Ohmega Watts go unnoticed? Dude's albums have been so heavy they're giving me a hernia tear in the sack-ro-ill-iac. The new album, Watts Happening, is no disappointment, and this track is just ass-boggling.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Have REM been around long enough now to be back in vogue a third time? Maybe, maybe not - but it had me searching through the storage bins.
I never saw Backbeat, mostly because (i) it was generally slaughtered in the reviews, and (ii) I'm not really that captivated by the Beatles mythology, but my ears did perk up when it came to the soundtrack. You had Mike Mills, Thurston Moore, Dave Grohl, Dave Pirner, Greg Dulli and Don Fleming doing their best Hamburg-era Beatles. At the time, the product didn't quite seem to measure up to its components, but after thirteen years, I've kinda warmed up to it.
the Backbeat Band - "Long Tall Sally": I'm not particularly fond of this song as a general matter (Lord help me if I have to hear the Commitments soundtrack again), but this version has some teeth.
the Backbeat Band - "Please, Mr. Postman": This song makes a lot more sense now that we've seen the latter part of the Afghan Whigs' career and the Twillight Singers (unless I'm way out to lunch and that's Pirner singing, in which case I've probably grossly underestimated Soul Asylum)
the Backbeat Band - "Carol": At the time, the Backbeat Band seemed overly glossy to me; now, it just seems better executed.
Out of the various Stipe guest appearances, the Golden Palominos is probably the most forgotten of the bunch. The group, overseen by Anton Fier, saw a rotating cast though its years, including Stipe, Bill Laswell, Arto Lindsay, Bernie Worrell, John Zorn, Syd Straw, Matthew Sweet, Bob Mould, Jack Bruce, T-Bone Burnett, etc etc etc. Midway through the 90s, the first few Palomino albums were compiled into 'sampler' discs, each featuring two or so albums. These tracks are from one of the re-issues, compiled from the first two albums.
the Golden Palominos - "the Cookout": Out of the tracks from the first album, "the Cookout" is easily the most listenable, the rest being mostly sub-par NYC No Wave that hasn't aged well (it's certainly a God-send that Arto Lindsay has generally favoured singing over yelping through the years). Features some good 80s drum machine programming by Fier and turntable work from Laswell (keep in mind this track would've appeared in the same year as Afrika Bambaataa's "Renegades of Funk" and Herbie Hancock's "Rockit", thus meaning that Laswell/Fier must've had their ear to the ground)
the Golden Palominos - "Omaha": the least whiny of the Stipe tracks. The second Palominos album is a lot more accessible than the first, and probably a bit more thought-out. This is a cover of the Skip Spence song.
the Golden Palominos - "the Animal Speaks": I've had the benefit of the last 30 years to know what a douche-bag John Lydon generally is (I saw him show up on an episode of Judge Judy for punching out a roadie, for Christ's sake), but I will admit that this is probably the track that aged the best from that album.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I loved the Red Hot and Riot compilation as much as the next guy, but when did it become the new Bob Marley Legend?
While we're on the topic of Red Hot, how many of you knew about America Is Dying, their hip hop compilation that came out in 1996? Well, I didn't. Here's a few tracks that clued me in:
Prince Paul, Biz Markie and Chubb Rock - "No Rubber, No Backstage Pass": I think Biz actually meows at one point.
That Crazy Wu Tang Family - "America": just on the heels of that leak from their new album, here's this chestnut.
Common ft. Sean Lett - "Lately I've Been Thinking": about who the hell Sean Lett is.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Just to prove how topical I am, here's some cuts from a Joy Division tribute album, just in time for that biopic to come out (and, oh, all those Interpol albums).
Tortoise - "As You Said": A cover of one of few instrumental Joy Division tracks (from what the Interweb authorities say, it hails from the Closer sessions and ultimately showed up on the Heart and Soul set). An interview in Wire later revealed that the track was also one of the reasons why Bundy Brown left Tortoise before Millions....
Girls Against Boys - "She's Lost Control": mid-90s, Girls Against Boys...seemed appropriate.
Low - "Transmission": This came out later as a separate EP for Low. One of few examples of someone out-bumming Joy Division (Codeine also appears on the tribute).
This wasn't on the tribute album (or from the same decade), but I figured it fit. Here's LCD Speakerphone's cover of "No Love Lost":
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Calgary, it was fun. Vancouver, howdy doody!
There's little I can or will say about On Guard For Thee other than that it was one of those garage rock compilations that featured a heck of a lot of Calgary bands, particularly considering the compilation was released on an Australian label (Augogo). This one probably won't be remembered quite as readily as the various Bloodbaths, but probably saw just as much airplay.
Von Zippers - "Mega Volt": I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Von Zippers was/is one of my favorite Calgary bands, hands down. Few other bands in town, particularly at the Rotoflex prime (the compilation is from around '95), put on a better live show.
Parkades - "(You Ain't Heard) the 5,6,7,8's": I thought long and hard about putting this up, and ultimately decided to post this for a few reasons. One, I didn't have an opinion on most of the other Calgary bands on this compilation (Pussy Monster, Huevos, Chixdiggit); Two, I figured it'd be better to post a track from a band that was defunct than from a band that was still performing (Forbidden Dimension); Three, I can still picture the apartment listed as the Parkades' mailing address in compilation liner notes (more amusingly, Chixdiggit actually list a Market Mall PO Box for their coordinates)(also of note: no email addresses/websites listed whatsoever).
Smugglers - "Babe": Are the Smugglers still around? I've got no clue. I always thought they were immensely fun, and certainly liked them more than Cub.
Evaporators - "Grouse Mountain Scenic Railway": Probably one of the more interesting songs on the compilation. Funny thing is, we've been here over a year and I still haven't driven north of the British Properties.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
In the whirlwind days of the mid-90s, there were plenty of times when I'd throw down cash for any old electronic shizz on a disc, and goddamn if those times weren't chock full of worthless comps. The excitement of a foreign genre was at full-time frenzy, and one of the treasure troves for the stuff was Kensington CD.
Kensington CD, located where an acoustic guitar store resides (well, at least when I left Calgary) behind Higher Ground (or thereabouts), was a fantastic place to be if (i) you were too lazy to leave the suburbs to head down to 17th, and (ii) you wanted to check out (and scoop) whatever the hell Sid and Faust were buying (the lady that ran the place would let me check their orders and buy out albums that came in ahead of them)(also: she also let me in on Sid's real name, a shocking revelation at the time). At some point I ran out of moolah and stopped frequenting the place, and thus I'm not overly sure when it packed up. Which is a good thing, because it wasn't overly long afterward that I noticed I spent a lot of cash on a whole lotta nothin'.
One compilation, Further Mutations on Lo Recordings, saddled that vague territory of electronic experimental music, which, in 96, would've also included the likes of Amon Tobin and Luke Vibert, even if only out of novelty. This comp came out before the plethora of laptop glitch, and certainly before anyone had caught on to Leaf Records. Kinda proves as a good nostalgia point, if high frequency squeals brings fond water to the eyes. Here's a selection:
Fish Out of Water featuring Robert Wyatt - "Cry From the City": notable for Robert Wyatt (on vocals and piano) and not much else
David Kristian - "See Sawing Sea": included purely because I'm a sucker for the musical saw. From what I gather, Kristian hails from Montreal, wherein he'd do his own soundtracks for whatever old sci-fi films were playing at the tv station he worked at.
Richard Thomas - "An Itch You Can't Fucking Scratch": I like to imagine this is avant garde scratch dj work, but now imagine it more as someone fucking around with pro-tools or some such early on. Now I just like the title.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
There was a time when Tim Goldsworthy (DFA, LCD Toasteroven) was hanging out with James Lavelle as Unkle. These tracks would have come out either while Goldsworthy was still with Unkle or shortly after he had left, and definitely before DJ Shadow had really come in and mixed it up. This would've also been a time when Lavelle was making worlds collide (well, hemispheres), and unearthing Japanese hip hop for the Western world: Nigo was better known for having one of a slew of Japanese albums out on Mo'Wax, and not for Bathing Ape.
The Unkle full-lengths that came out after these singles got slammed to no end, but a re-listen to these tracks don't exactly reveal alot of muster to begin with (caveat: I tended to like Psyence Fiction, and don't mind the other two albums that followed). I've posted a Dan the Automator remix too: it doesn't get more mid/late 90s than this.
"Last Orgy 3 (Dan the Automator remix)":
"Rock On (DJ Yas remix)":
While I'm at it, here's "Lesson 1" of the famed Double Dee & Steinski lecture series:
Monday, September 17, 2007
In any case, Electric Prunes + Axelrod + faux religious mass = go nuts. Here's a smattering from the album.
"Kyrie Eleison" (this probably has the most obvious Axelrod touches to it)
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
I DJ'ed with Jay for a long stretch (my faulty memory has it at over 5 years) and with Marco on and off throughout that period, and it's no understatement as to how much I learned through that time (it's easy to give Sideshow Sid credit, but honestly, I probably learned more through my half-Asian compadres). While I will take credit for finally putting a name to a song for Jay (Massive Attack's "Unfinished Sympathy," which I clearly remember Jay asking me about when I played it at the Den, mostly because he couldn't remember the name of it), he did completely learn me as to this Greyboy track, which stayed in my record bag for years:
I'm not sure who first came to this Gaturs track that underlies the song (I think I stopped DJing by the time I bought it):
I don't nearly have enough time to go into how much the various VOX boys (James, Doig, Chiclo, Arif, Frank et al) contributed to the whole process during that time, but I do remember James telling me he preferred Nick Lowe to Elvis Costello (which I still kinda find crazy to this day). My two other Nick Lowe memories consist of waking up to "Mary Provost" on Chiclo's show all the time (along with Peggy Lee's "Fever"), and first hearing "So It Goes" on Grant's (the one that looked almost exactly like Rusty) show, which seemed like a revelation.
It was either Rusty or Arif that made me listen to Split Enz, and I'm still waiting for news of a reunion tour - this shizz sounds current:
A'ight - I gotta head to the airport for more important things.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Thursday, May 31, 2007
On the one occasion I DJed in Hong Kong, the promoter had told me he wanted an old school hip hop and rnb/soul/funk set (the crowd, however, had different ideas). I ended up downloading a good majority of my regular picks, but hit the used cd kiosks for backup.
I scoured around for what was avail, and found one early/mid 90s hip hop compilation, which is kinda like finding an albino in a crowd of Oompa Loompas. I picked it up for the hits (Beastie Boys, Maestro Fresh Wes, etc), but it also featured this Redhead Kingpin hit, which, apart from Afrika Bambataa, is the only clear sampling of Kraftwerk that I can think of:
The other real memory I have of Redhead Kingpin was from
For a crowd of kids that doesn't remember Michael before Thriller, I'm not sure how I came across the Black Caesar soundtrack, but there you go. This was the first JB album recommended to me as a must-have outside the Star Time boxset (by Sam Prekop, nonetheless). I remember the Sweet Charles interview from Waxpoetics wherein he claims all the JBs thought Mr. Brown was a horrible singer, but a listen to any number of his slow jams should dispel that:
As a big fan of the various Soul Source remix albums for the J5, finding the James Brown one was a big treat. The series generally pairs well-known Japanese artists with hits from the featured artist, and thus the JB one features more "Sex Machine" remixes than is necessary. The only real remix that really works beyond the kitsch value is UFO's remix of "Deep In It":
By that point, the lustre off UFO has dulled. Their 3rd album released stateside, some forgettable spy movie wankfest, was largely a mis-step that only the most ardent fans (cough cough Faust cough cough) could enjoy. Their following albums were never released domestically stateside. I picked up V, a sleepy after-hours jazz affair, which featured more than enough Johnny Hartman knock-offs that put the final nail in the UFO coffin. This one track picks up the pace with a Latin tinge, and probably one of few tracks worth mentioning past UFO's second album:
In the end, I spun to a largely Chinese-American crowd of kids spending their summer vacations visiting their repatriated parents. Shoulda just bought that Nelly album. This time around, I'm just buying clothes.
Btw, am I the only one that likes the new Lauryn Hill track? I mean, it's been a gazillion years....
Sunday, May 20, 2007
That said, I never was able to find this De La Soul vinyl single, which was supposedly a promo single where they battle Parappa the Rapper on one side, and leave it blank on the other. I searched high and low for that record, and never did find it.
And now comes the muthafuckin' rub named Youtube: if there's going to be one place to beat Japan for rarities (and oddities), it's that site. And, as my luck seems to go for that record, alls I can find is this 30 second clip featuring De La and your ubiquitous Japanese rnb singer, Double:
The full-length video, of course, has since been removed. Goddamn!
That said, I did stumble across this De La rarity on my various travels, wherein they back up another Japanese rnb duo named "True Kiss Destination" on a track called "Victim," from around 1999:
There's no end to hip hop artists heading east to work on a Japanese-only release, and I can't begin to do the research to compile a definitive list. This next track is on here solely because I remember Jay used to prefer it to D'Angelo's Voodoo (that's stillcrazy, but heck, he used to bust out the Ralph Tresvant all the time too).
On this Toshi Kubota track, "Till She Comes," you might (read: should) recognize the drums - that's Questo, and the rest of the Roots crew (well, except for Black Thought; there's no sense in me posting that DJ Krush track, is there?) AND Larry Gold appear on the track (they produce one more track on the album, which also features production from Raphael Saadiq, of Toni Tone Tony/Lucy Pearl fame).
While we're on the Japanese kick, I don't seem to recall the DJ Krush/Toshinori Kondo album ever making it over to N. America except by import. It plays out in a similar way to that Bill Laswell/Miles Davis mix from around that time. I won't claim to be the biggest DJ Krush fan - no disrespect, but I still find it a little boring, but this track was a standout to me back in 96, though it's definitely dated now:
I found this track on an Ashley Beedle compilation that I found in a used CD bin in the middle of Shibuya (Lord, I wish I could still find my giant Africa medallion). From what I (hardly) remember, Son of Berzerk was one of the few productions that the Bomb Squad did outside of Public Enemy and Ice Cube, primarily because Flavor Flav was a member of its precursor, Townhouse 3, when he had met Chuck D:
I'll post odd shizz I found in HK when I was living there in another post.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
The whole Dinosaur Jr. reunion thing had me wondering about Lou Barlow again, though I didn't have the patience to go through the Sebadoh catalog again. I won't deny Barlow's gift for writing the 3 minute pop song, but there's only so much pathos a guy can take in one sitting, so the Folk Implosion seemed like a better idea.
It's not a far stretch to place the Folk Implosion more squarely as being more noteworthy for Barlow than its other member, John Davis. Davis' solo tapes on Shrimper make it obvious as to why Barlow and him had a kinship to begin with (both being armed with 4-tracks and little in the way of self-editing), but also clearly indicate which of the two had a better knack for the stuff.
It might be for that reason, then, that the Folk Implosion made more of a mark when they ditched the 4-track Shrimper sound (though their first album was on Communion) for the lo-fi beat sampling they became known for from the Kids soundtrack. Here's "Nothing Gonna Stop" - I figure you can get their hit "Natural One" easily enough:
While I'm sure there's probably loads of examples that pre-date this, according to my spotty memory, there really wasn't much in the way of crossover in early/mid 90s N.American indie rock and other genres (note that I make an exception for UK/European indie rock, which would've made that crossover earlier in the game) - which probably gave rise to the later impetus to ditch the traditional guitar/drum/bass formula across the board. The Folk Implosion, apart from perhaps Beck, really seemed to me as one of few examples of a A-circuit college rock star from that time toying with hip hop craft, while it seems much more commonplace today.
"Nothing Gonna Stop" samples the Silver Apples' "Program" (though some claim it's "A Pox On You," my ears say otherwise), which were one of the earlier synth/drum machine groups, dating back to 68 or so (the liner notes have schematics for the "Simeon," featuring a set up of oscillators and pedals that, while relatively simple now, I can only assume would've been quite elaborate for pop music at the time):
Here's "Insinuation," from the Folk Implosion's last release on Communion. Dare To Be Surprised was probably a step backwards from the Kids soundtrack, stepping more in the lo-fi indie rock direction, but did feature a remix of the track from the Dust Brothers, a logical pairing:
The last Folk Implosion track I'll post is from One Part Lullaby, which should be counted as the duo's last album, though Barlow later released a further album with two other chumps as the "New Folk Implosion," which largely sounded more like Sebadoh than anything else (I'm still going to cite Davis' Shrimper tapes as reason enough to think this had to do more with Barlow losing interest in beats than Davis being some sort of beat-conducta):
'Course, all of this would have been in and around the same time that the Bristol sound was circulating the world. That said, here's an odd little Portishead track that isn't really talked about much - an instrumental track from the Help EP (after the first War Child comp):
PS - I gotta big up this blog, Golden Rock, which is posting archives from the Calgary local music scene, pre-CD.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
My memory might be a bit spotty, but by the time this EP came out, Frank Black was embarking on a new solo career that wasn't going quite as well as Kim Deal's was with the Breeders. It might seem odd now, but Frank Black was indeed being played on mainstream radio (though the Pixies never were), as I clearly remember hearing "Headache" on Calgary's AM radio, but that didn't even come close to how often I heard "Cannonball" at the mall. It was probably a good business move on Frank Black's part, then, to get this EP out, seeing as how Teenage Fanclub was still riding on the Bandwagonesque high (13 was rushed out shortly before this EP came out). At the time, Teenage Fanclub had an Album Of the Year under their belt and were definitely in the college rock 'A Circuit,' despite the fact that they don't get an iota of attention now.
The EP's not terribly momentous: Frank Black backed by anybody will inevitably sound like you'd think. Anybody familiar with the mid-90s Teenage Fanclub will recognize their guitar sound here and there, but it's pretty minimal. If anything, the EP is a good indication as to how much more poppy Frank Black's first two solo albums were in comparison to the Pixies.
More than anything else, the EP's just a funny reminder as to how transient and fickle taste can be. It's odd to see two bands go from ubiquity to nostalgia acts (well, more Frank Black/Pixies than Teenage Fanclub) in what is a relatively short period of time, and little oddities like this end up piling dust through the years. At the time, finding this was a little treasure; now, it's merely going in our storage bin.
(Note: the EP has since been re-issued following John Peel's passing last year.)
Here's Frank Black and Teenage Fanclub's cover of Del Shannon's "Sister Isobel":
Monday, April 23, 2007
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Here's the Hope Sandoval version of "Cherry Blossom Girl," which is way better than the album version.
I like how Godin looks like Barry Gibb in this picture; Dunckel generally looks like an elf.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Sunday, April 15, 2007
The feature plays out largely like a high school reunion newsletter, interesting mainly for the "where are they now" bits on each of the bands. Not surprisingly, most of the bands have since splintered off into either different acts or day jobs, with only the more well-known of them having continued on towards some modicum of success (eg. Calvin Johnson, Cornelius, etc). Here's a cross-selection of what I remembered of them:
Though often critically lauded, I don't recall either of Richard Davies' former bands having quite as much airplay as his solo albums, and even the latter were over-shadowed with Eric Matthew's solo output. This was probably due to a couple of things: (i) Flydaddy Records (which released both Cardinal and the Davies albums) were at an obvious disadvantage compared to the indie monolith Sub Pop (which released Matthews' solo albums, at the time), and (ii) Matthews had the better voice. I picked this track, "You've Lost Me There," because it features both quite prominently, and because the vocal arrangements around 2 and half minutes in are k-i-l-l-e-r.
I never listened past Papas Fritas' first album, having never been a huge twee pop afficiando, only because little of the genre grabbed much of my increasing diminishing attention span. Of the pack, Papas Fritas were definitely enjoyable, having a bit more polish than the glut of lo-fi 4-track tapes that flooded the market (anybody remember Shrimper Records?), but most of their debut didn't particularly stand out more than any of the other solid albums that were out at the time. Until, of course, you hit the last 40 seconds of "Passion Play," which has some of the best string arrangements that indie rock has ever mustered, catapulting the Papas Fritas ahead of the rest, if only for that one song:
the Spinanes/Rebecca Gates
Me and Chad booked Rebecca Gates into Calgary based solely on the Spinanes' swan-song, Arches and Aisles. I had/have never heard Strand, my interest in Gates having piqued mainly because of article she had written in Raygun about Dusty in Memphis, and I don't think I had heard the solo EP until after we had booked the show (it was supposed to be packaged with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, which didn't happen for whatever reason, though I do remember wondering who Ted Leo was, at the time). I left town for whatever reason before the show (I went to Texas, I think), and didn't meet Rebecca until we brought her in for a solo acoustic show a second time around. Regardless, I was already on the bandwagon with Arches, which was largely a Chicago album with all the usual Tortoise suspects (it featured Sam Prekop on backup on one song), and completely enthralled with Ruby Series, which had a bit more space for the songs to breathe (even John McEntire's drum programming was reigned in to something more uncharacteristically subtle). This track, "the Seldom Scene," is still a huge favorite of mine, a late night torcher with light jazz fringes:
(this file is also avail from Badman Recordings, with another track to download)
Again, I was late to the whole Teenbeat Records thing (see comments above re: twee pop). It was a matter of too-much-to-listen-to-not-enough-time, and thus I didn't catch much of it save for whatever came out on those annual samplers. Both my friends Rob and Chris drove Unrest into me, however, though it was probably more through Mark Robinson's latter outfit Air Miami (goddamn that "World Cup Fever") first. I kept up with it best as I could for a couple of years, but Robinson was still churning out more of the same (save for the Grenadine album), and from what Magnet tells me, that's still the case. I picked this track, then, because it's one of few Unrest/M Robinson songs that goes further than the formula and into truly classic territory (just listen to the friggin' drums, okay?):
Magnet picked Fantasma, Cornelius' first album available stateside, which Matador had picked up following its huge success with the other famed Shibuya group, Pizzicato 5. At the time, Jay and I had just started DJing at Pongo, and the management wanted as much J-Pop as possible (to match the Asian fusion menu, and a recipe for a Giant Robot overdose). There wasn't too much to come by in the record stores (this being pre-Napster and all), but I was traveling to Japan pretty regularly. If Pizzicato 5 (and, by extension, Fantastic Plastic Machine) was excessively kitsch, then Cornelius was excessively spastic, a sampling nightmare that you might see as a predecessor of Girl Talk, at least in terms of song structure. There's always one or two gems hidden on each P5 or Cornelius album - and the packaging in itself is always a thrill - but an impossibility to get through in its entirety, like a 45 minute sugar rush you just have to get through at least once. This song is from the 96/69 remix counterpart to 69/96 (both are also physically impossible for even a CD player to get through - they have 69/96 tracks, which older CD players find problematic), one of said gems:
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
We recently watched the Pixies documentary, after which I realized something odd: the Pixies have somehow found themselves in the classic rock canon. People talk about the band with the same fondness that others mention the Police or 80s REM/U2, bands that are a still a little too odd to find themselves in the same light as Led Zeppelin but not odd enough to find themselves as renegade as the Stooges might still be considered to be. I mean, who can't name the next line to "Hey! Been tryin' to meet you"?
If you haven't noticed it already, Guided By Voices has slipped into a close second. While they still might have more of a cult following than the Pixies does, there's an awful lot of people that know "My Valuable Hunting Knife." Guided By Voices has that good ol' college rock gumption that people identify with en masse, and if you still don't believe me, go to a Ween show and see how many frat guys show up, and extrapolate that accessibility by a multiple.
The most identifying GBV album, in my mind, remains one of their earliest: Bee Thousand. The album doesn't truly start until its second song, "Buzzards and Dreadful Crows," much like Big Star's #1 Record doesn't really get going until "Ballad of El Goodo." From there, it's hard for any of the songs to skip a beat, considering most are two and half minutes in duration.
It's "Hot Freaks" that really gets me going. A combination of tape hiss, erotic imagery comprised mainly of culinary references: it's got e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I'm generally bad for remembering lyrics, but it doesn't take long for me to remember when exactly to yell out "Hot Freaks!" (and it still makes me giggle when he sings about a "wet spot bigger than the Great Lakes").
Of course, as with the Pixies, fuck if I know what the hell Pollard's on about. Understanding isn't the point. There's a whole dissertation on what Pollard (and to a lesser extent, Tobin Sprout) might have meant when he sang about robot boys - read it, and more power to you - but when it boils down to it, Bee Thousand's mass appeal is about soundbites. It really doesn't matter whether you know what "Kicker of Elves" might refer to, but it sure is fun to sing along to, and catchy enough to nestle itself in mass memory.
This is why I figure Pollard has remained more memorable than Lou Barlow. Both were widely associated with the whole lo-fi thing in the mid-90s (Bee Thousand being the most exemplary example), but Sebadoh's certainly not the crowd fave of the two. I loved both at the time, but GBV's a lot more fun to listen to now, with Barlow's sadsack whining being the last thing I need to listen to now, having (hopefully) grown out of any adolescent angst (btw, the Dinosaur Jr albums aren't a great trip down memory lane, either).
That's not to say Pollard's not just as big of an asshole as Barlow - he is, but just a whole lot funnier. When I was 19 or 20, I ended up backstage at a GBV show here in Vancouver, and watched Pollard smoke up in the green room with one of the Zumpano guys while making fun of Eric Matthews (who they had apparently both met at a Sub Pop party). At one point they wanted to release a split 7" called "Fuck Eric Matthews" (the Zumpano guy since carried on with the New Pornographers).
This was they hey-day of whino-GBV, in the incarnation with Mitch Mitchell, Tobin Sprout, and Kevin Fennell. Pollard had pawned off his press obligations to Fennell, who I interviewed for hours before the show, watching him get progressively more and more drunk inside the Commodore, switching from thought-out soundbites ("I fucking love Canada!") to off-the-cuff rants ("I fucking hate Canada!"). This culminated in Fennell running out on a dinner tab and me leaving it to the V3 groupies to pay out.
It wasn't exactly glamorous, in the strictest sense, but it sure was exciting to watch. I re-read whatever GBV press was out, starting with what got me into the band in the first place, a sidebar piece Jim Greer had written in Spin (at the time I was convinced Greer/Blackwell/et al were the second coming of the 70s Rolling Stone). Greer subsequently wrote piece after piece on the band, and, more than that, joined the band (and married Kim Deal, who by that point was pretty much done with the Breeders, started the Amps, and released a number of singles with Pollard). Much like the rest of the GBV lineup from that period, Greer parted ways with Pollard (though he did write a whole book on the subject), which coincided nicely with when I parted ways with GBV too.
Since then, it's probably been around seven or eight years since I listened to Guided By Voices. Despite this fact, I did buy a few of the albums on CD to replace the cassettes I had, out of no better reason than wanting to own them, regardless of never wanting to actually listen to them. And the thing is, after so many years, I still know exactly when to shout out "Hot Freaks."