Monday, May 21

A Poor Counter's Dozen

"Sledgehammer" - Peter Gabriel
I forget how funky this is. If you can separate it from the video and just listen, it is a very, very good song. I always like Peter Gabriel more than I remember, which makes it even more of a shame that I don't play his stuff more.

"One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor" - Paul Simon
Slightly eerie piano-led intro makes no sense when it morphs into a light, gospel-inflected track. The transition is seamless, but that intro is wasted on this sub-Nola stomp. With all that criticism, you'd think I didn't like it, but this song works despite all the things I dislike. Except for the piano on the intro & outro, which deserve a different, darker song.

"California Über Alles" - Dead Kennedys
Now here's an intro that perfectly matches the song - the menace is real, the song a true bottle to the head. I lean towards American hardcore & punk over its British counterpart, in part because I like my anger topical; I never knew of Thatcher or tenement flats, but Reagan, Jerry Brown and their ilk were my bugbears. I often forget the vocal kinship that Jello Biafra and Fred Schneider share, as clearly shown by this track and the Albini produced album Just Fred.

"Fa -La" - The Feelies
Jingle-pop with glorious wood block drumming has never equalled this song from the first Feelies album. Rumor is Crazy Rhythms might be coming back in print soon. Not soon enough. I bet this song makes Rivers Cuomo cry.

"Black Flute"- Leftfield
Wherein techno is abbreviated to listenable as opposed to danceable length, while still retaining all of the color-by-numbers aspects. In this case, instead of adding a new element - or "soloing" an existing element - every 30-60 seconds, it happens every 15-20 seconds. What makes dance music fun in a club or at a rave (do those still exist?) makes it awkward to listen to; the formula allows one to dance to the unfamiliar without the ear striving to understand. Novelty in sound tends to get one to stop and listen (as do vocals to some extent, which is why so much "vocal house" and club music is nothing more than a chorus or hook repeated ad nauseam) as opposed to move. By the way, I still like this song, and remember it being played as a "surprise" track to throw people off expectations but keep them dancing to a new variant on the same old same old.

"Mystery Dance" - Elvis Costello
Why this ode to awkward adolescent longing and furtive sexual frustration wasn't used in American Pie is beyond me. I guess since Costello didn't talk about hot "man on pie" action, the producers couldn't make the leap. It's not like ol' E.C. wouldn't have let them use it for the right money. By the way, his first three albums are unassailable as true classics.

"Biloxi (live)" - Ted Hawkins
That voice! One of those voices that just gets me, raising the hairs on the back of my neck. This live version beats the studio one from The Next Hundred Years for two reasons. One, he is absolutely at the breaking point before the song's end, tearing his voice as only Ted could. Two, by connecting it with "The Lost Ones" and "Missin' Mississippi", he paints a picture of his roots that is as complete and as heartbreaking as any I can recall.

"A Lover Sings (Peel session)" - Billy Bragg
I've yet to hear any other artist who's BBC radio recordings are as far and away beyond their studio work as Mr. Bragg's. There is a reason he toured those many years all alone (besides his reportedly being a twat); with just a guitar he has the edge and fire necessary to sell his somewhat overly-precious lyrical conceits. That this doesn't make me gag is a sign of a great performance. I mean, "You're the kind of girl who wants to open up the bottle of pop too early in the journey. Our love went flat just like that"? And yet it works this time.

"Everything I Own" - Boy George
Covering Bread via Ken Boothe is one thing; failing to add anything, or even to convince me of the sincerity of the pap, is quite another. Bread - softly, of course - shits all over this, while Ken Boothe drops his load from a much greater height. If I'd seen Boy George on the side of the road picking up trash I would have found something to throw at him, gone home, picked out something really nasty, and driven back to throw that at him, all because of this song.

"Always Crashing The Same Car" - David Bowie
Hearing anything from Low outside its original context is quite strange; the otherness of the sound is striking and unnerving. Though he may have used a still from The Man Who Fell To Earth as the cover of Station To Station, it is Low that has the alien sound. Not threatening, just weird. Like it should have been used on a segment of "Pigs In Space" on the Muppet Show.

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