J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Playlists, podcasts and music from WQFS Greensboro's J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Friday, May 04, 2007

Notes From Underground - #5

This is kind of a cheap way out of the column this week, but it's been a busy week and I haven't had much time for thoughts of music. So I'm lifting a common practice from the blogosphere (Friday random mp3 lists) and The Onion A.V. Club (their Random Rules feature) and doing a bit of my own. We'll plumb the depths of my ever growing Creative Logic Zen Visions mp3 player and see what comes up via the DJ option with its Random Play All. And I'll type as I listen and explore what comes up. I'm in the process of ripping my entire cd collection to my hard drive and as I'm doing it, I'm adding things into my player as well, so right now there are 3,602 songs on here.

Here are my self-imposed rules: 1) can't spend any more time typing than the track is long; 2) have to type based on my own knowledge - no consulting the internets for confirmation, so if I put my foot in my mouth, so be it; 3) no skipping tracks - even if artists/albums repeat, no skipping.

# 3,423 - Johnny Cash - "Bird on a Wire" : From the 5th disc of the Unearthed box set, and also originally from one of the American Recordings albums. A fitting song to open since Leonard Cohen's (the original author of this song) first three albums have just been remastered and re-issued. This is originally from his sophomore album, Songs From a Room. Cohen's work is sparse and lyrically focused already, so Cash is a wonderful interpreter of his music. It's also a wonderful song for the grey, drizzly day we've had here.

# 3,213 - the Vaselines - "Son of a Gun" : Pop music like this is always criminally out of time and place. If I remember correctly, the Vaselines are Scottish. They were only together for a little while, put out a bevy of amazing pop music and then disappeared. My knowledge of the Vaselines (as is the case with a lot of people my age, I'd assume) traces back to first hearing Nirvana's cover of this song on the Incesticide collection. Kurt Cobain either just had wonderful eccentric tastes, was putting on a show musically, or putting on a show 'taste' wise. Or is it that I'm just looking at Nirvana's music through too narrow a lens? You can find this on one of the few available collections: The Way of the Vaslines: A Complete History which has their complete recorded output.

# 1,121 - Guided By Voices - "The Main Street Wizards" : From their next to last album, Earthquake Glue. It's not a bad record (and I like this song) though, to be honest, aside from my exposure to singles off of Mag Earwhig!, my real introduction to GVB was Isolation Drills which I loved (and still love) immensely. This song is one of the lovely, gauzy, melancholic songs of Pollard's later work. He had a really tight version of this band rolling by the end - quite a departure from the mid-90s version of the band, so I can see why some people abandon them after that early lo-fi stuff. I like the more produced stuff, personally.

# 2,363 - the Darkness - "I Believe In a Thing Called Love" : Not nearly my favorite song off this album, but I also believe Permission to Land to be one of the most amazing pop records of the '00s. It's melodic, clever, fun and just a hell of a good time, and how many rock records really had that to say about themselves recently? There's not a lot to think about on this album, but I think it holds up well to repeated listens and the humor stays pretty consistent, especially if you're a fan of Spinal Tap-esque satire. My friend Jeremy and I were up at 4 or 5 in the morning watching VH1's late night video show when we first saw this video - we sat there wide-eyed and astonished - deciding, if this was a joke, it was brilliant, and if it was serious, it was even better.

# 1,631 - Nirvana - "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle" : I sometimes believe that my mp3 player is conscious in a way that I don't really understand. But very appropriate for Nirvana to crop up after my earlier discussion of them re: the Vaselines. I love the last two major Nirvana releases - this album (In Utero) and their Unplugged performance. As much as I think/know that Cobain's work has been looked back upon through seriously rose-flannel tinted glasses since his death, there's actually a good bit of diversity and exploration in Nirvana's brief career - from the sludgy, grungy Bleach, to the note perfect, glossy power-pop of Nevermind and up to the discordant, sometimes cacophonous/sometimes gorgeous sounds of this album. It's clich├ęd to say, but it would've been really exciting to see where they would've gone after Unplugged. I often wonder if that album didn't serve as a studied bookend to the first part of their career, Cobain's death not withstanding.

# 1,476 - Girls Against Boys - "Vera Cruz" : From House of GVSB, one of the two albums (along with Pulp's Different Class) that could always make me manage to feel cool when I was in high school. This song delves into Scott McCloud's languid, cooly-detached vocals - the ones he has always delivered as if he were half-shrouded in a blue-spotlight, sunglasses on.

# 2,753 - John Cale/Lou Reed - "Nobody But You" : From Songs for Drella, the album that brought Cale and Reed back together for the first time in nearly 18 years in order to write a song-cycle album about the recently departed Andy Warhol. This album is pretty awesome, it's an interesting examination from such a public, yet private figure. Whether Reed's lyrical examination of Warhol is accurate is almost moot - it's a character study that works and succeeds in some pretty awesome ways.

# 438 - Yo La Tengo - "Let's Save Tony Orlando's House" : and then nothing turned itself inside out is my favorite Yo La Tengo album. I love the quiet splendor that it weaves throughout - even though it contains one of their best rocking songs ever, "Cherry Chapstick" (with its wonderful imagery - "there's a girl with cherry chapstick on / and nothing more"). Plus, the song title is a Simpsons reference. Even better.

# 3,387 - Johnny Cash - "Devil's Right Hand" : Another song from the Unearthed box set. A great, rare, electrified guitar track by Cash - "I never knew why / I didn't understand / why Mama said the pistol is the devil's right hand."

# 607 - Matthew Sweet - "Life Without You" : Despite his work with the Thorns and his platium sellings in the 90s, Matthew Sweet still remains so criminally underknown that it's just a serious shame. He's a man out of time with his obvious worship at the alter of pure pop poetry and music. Altered Beast is one of his albums that I don't always come back to often, but man, it's really every bit as good as his others and contains some of his best single songs. This song is resigned and sweet at the same time. God bless you, Matthew.



  • At 8:47 AM, May 05, 2007, Blogger Frances said…

    this is a great project. i love self-imposed rules in projects. and "devil's right hand" is one of my favorite songs but i've never heard johnny's version - i know it off steve earle's copperhead road. good stuff. this is from frances1972.

  • At 4:36 PM, May 06, 2007, Blogger Satisfied '75 said…

    i too believe there is some sort of AI going on with my iPod and iTunes when I have them playing on "random."

    The most jarring example was Built To Spill's "Cortez", followed by Neil Young's original off ZUMA.

    I had only owned the device a month maybe, and after that happened I searched the Internet for hours researching similar occurences.

  • At 5:20 PM, May 06, 2007, Blogger J. Neas said…

    Weirdest example (though completely random, again) was when a Hot Snakes song I'd had stuck in my head all day popped up as one of the first songs on my random one afternoon.

    I'm going to start recording these occurances - too weird sometimes.

  • At 10:14 PM, May 06, 2007, Blogger Sophie T. Mishap said…

    Those are some great rules, Draco!


    Just kidding.

    Actually, I'm really inspired now. I really love your take on music and on being a music fan. Those two kind of have to be separate in your field of work.


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