J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Notes From Underground - #8
Randomocity

It's late and, honestly, I'm in the mood to do another one of these. So even if only two columns have come and gone since the last 'Randomocity' column, well, there it goes. These are fun though. I'll try to do more writing between now and then. A reminder:

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.

Let's go!

# 1,932 - Mary Lou Lord - "Own Worst Enemy" : This is from the Live City Sounds cd that she recorded entirely live in the Boston subway where she got her start busking. It's a great album with lots of Mary Lou's wonderful interpretations of other people's work and a few of her own. I don't know if this is one of her songs or not, as I don't recognize it off the top of my head. It's a sweet and sorrowful song in the great tradition of a lot of her music. I never did hear her new LP from a couple of years ago. I'm a big fan of her Got No Shadow LP though. She's a masterful interpreter - in the same way that Johnny Cash was a great interpreter of others' work.

# 745 - Hot Snakes - "This Mystic Decade" : From their swan-song album Audit in Progress. I first heard this song on the Peel Sessions EP they put out. Hot Snakes was the last band to record a Peel Session before John Peel's untimely death the other year. The live version is torrential - but so is the studio version. Hot Snakes is on my list of bands I'm forever kicking myself for not seeing live. I can't imagine them being anything less than incendiary in a live setting. There's nothing especially new in their music, but there just isn't any punk-rock and roll like this being made as often anymore.

# 3,288 - Scott Walker - "Buzzers" : From 2006's The Drift. This is one of those records that if you a) don't know Scott Walker and/or b) aren't prepared to really open your mind up to music, you really probably want to avoid. Walker sings in this overly dramatic, emotive style that would sound almost parodic if he hadn't been doing it most of his career. This song has what sounds like someone hitting an empty glass with something as the main percussive track through the first minute or so. Then odd-chords on a guitar, a random maracca, bass. And on top of it all, Walker's odd, stream-of-conscious lyrics that wander all over the place. More theatre than an album at most points, it's an incredible listen. If you get a chance, check out the track "Jesse" from this album - 9/11 images crossed with the dead, twin brother of Elvis Presley. It's nightmarish and brilliant.

# 533 - The Damnwells - "Heartbreaklist" : From 2006's Air Stereo. I could not locate this album upon its initial release. Granted, I did not actively search for it online, but was trying to find it in some big box stores. No luck. I eventually got my copy this year at my local independent store. If you remember, I put the Damnwells' last album, Bastards of the Beat as the #13 album on my year-end list in 2004. This new album is equally good and this song is one of the highlights. Plaintive, begging, lonely rock and roll that is a great example of just how the Damnwells nail songwriting as an art. They could be commercially huge if they were pushed the right way - but their music is almost just too smart to be successful. I hate that that's where we're at as a culture, but it's true.

# 271 - Bill Hicks - "The Elite" : From Rant in E-Minor, the album that is just about Hicks' comedic masterpiece. This is a bit about how he feels that any president is inherently untrustworthy - owned by corporations and the rich elite. If Bill were only still alive. God rest his soul.

# 2,310 - Sloan - "Listen to the Radio" : One of the tracks from their epic Never Hear the End of It album. If you're a fan of pop music and have yet to discover Sloan, I don't know that this is the album I would recommend, but it's quite amazing. This album is a bit overwhelming for anyone but fans - 30 songs. All four songwriters in the band pitching in some amazing works. This song in particular is really nice. My mp3 player seems to be hitting hard on the melancholic, gorgeous pop songs tonight. I think my player is cogniscent of what time it is and tries to aim music towards that time of day. It does this a lot at night. Wow, I just hit the big harmony part in the last minute. The music swells, so do the voices. They don't over do it. Sloan really are masters of great pop.

# 845 - The Pharcyde - "If I Were President" : A skit from Bizarre Ride II, a classic, classic record. This is just a toss-off sung song about what the title says it's about. It's a kind of funny, nothing deep, nothing huge song. A great between-song piece.

# 2,645 - The Twilight Singers - "Dead to Rights" : From Powder Burns, for my money, the Twilight Singers' best album to date. I'm an endless fan of Greg Dulli and his songwriting, naturally. I've really enjoyed his work with this band. Dulli's work in this band (and it may have to do with his aging as well) trends less towards the Lothario guise of his best Afghan Whigs work and more towards the introspective of human emotion and back and forth. He's still a consummate performer and well worth catching live.

# 3,239 - The Dream Syndicate - "Definitely Clean" : One of the most rip-roaring tracks from The Days of Wine and Roses. I, of course, went into detail about this album on Extra Mayhem a few weeks ago, so I don't know that there's really anything extra I can add here. I'm a little disappointed that some of the more esoteric stuff on my player didn't show up. Then again, I'm only allowing for the first ten entries out of nearly 4,000 currently on here. The list grows weekly.

# 342 - Rock Plaza Central - "Sexyback" : The band behind the excellent "My Children, Be Joyful" takes a crack at the Justin Timberlake song and turn it into an almost gospel-spiritual-bluesy vamp of a song. It's ironic, but not at the same time. I mean, it's certainly quite amusing, but Timberlake has had some pretty masterful pop hits over the past few years and tackling them from the perspective of them being well structured music is not a vain exercise. I was really hoping for the new Dizzee Rascal to show up on my player, but alas. I'll talk more about that next week, I suppose.

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