Tue, 31 May 2005
Running on Empty
Sometimes reliving your youth musically can be... fun but emotionally charged.
Right now I'm listening to Jackson Browne's Running on Empty, released in 1977. I was 14 at the time, young, impressionable. Horny. Jackson Browne was like a god. His voice, his brown eyes, long hair. Never mind that he was 15 years older than me. I remember having similar crushes on Paul McCartney and Jim Morrison.
Listening to these songs is so evocative, bringing back memories of high school dances, drinking in parking lots, making out in the back seats of cars. The usual shenanigans of small town teenagers. We didn't know any better. We made what fun we could out of boredom and beer, dreaming of a life which seemed beyond us at the time.
Now the seats are all empty
Let the roadies take the stage
Pack it up and tear it down
They're the first to come and last to leave
Working for that minimum wage
They'll set it up in another town
At 14, back then, being a roadie seemed the ultimate in cool. I guess it still is for teenagers. Or maybe I just wanted to be a groupie. All the sex, drugs and rock and roll without the hard work of lifting cases. Either way, it didn't matter because I became neither. No doubt this is one small blessing for which my parents were extremely grateful.
Right now as I'm listening, David Lindley of El Rayo-X fame is singing "Won't you staa-aaa-yyyyyyy just a little bit longer" in that incredible high-pitched quaver and Jackson Browne is jumping in with his smooth as honey Californian voice:
Now the promoter donít mind
And the roadies donít mind
If we take a little time
And we leave it all behind and sing
One more song
Jackson Browne wrote and sang about life on the road. It couldn't have been further from my reality, but it seemed almost like an anthem to me. The words spoke to me. Anything to help get me out of where I was. There was a world out there and I wanted to find it. Running away, running on. On the road. Whatever. Whatever it took I wanted to get as far away as I could from small town Maine.
Little did I know at the time that I would succeed so well.
Listen with me: The Load Out (mp3, 8.3mb) and Stay (mp3, 4.8mb) by Jackson Browne.
Next up on reliving my youth: Squeeze. Now that's a different story altogether.
Sun, 06 Mar 2005
This is M.I.A.
Could you plee-ease
Come and get me
Okay, this is how Un-Hip and Un-Cool I am. I'm listening to a new favourite of mine, London hip-hop artist M.I.A. (from Hounslow! I used to live in Brentford, which is technically Middlesex, but Hounslow was the closest tube stop).
So, I'm listening to Amazon (Diplo mix) from the album Piracy Funds Terrorism Vol.1.
Now, I'm the mother of a three-year old, and I'm thinking, hmmmm... Diplo, is that like... Duplo? Like, is this the really easy version of the song, the big clunky version for little uncoordinated minds? I think about this for all of about one minute, and am none the wiser at the end of it. Later on, however, I'm reading a review of M.I.A. and discover that Diplo is her DJ!
It kind of made sense... but I have no idea what the DJ actually does. I thought DJs spun records at parties. Does he(she) mix all the music and sounds and vocals together? And do most artists have their own DJs? I do know people I could ask these questions of, and probably will, but as you can see, I am completely out of my generational and cultural depth here.
But back to M.I.A.
M.I.A. is Maya Arulpragasam, late twenties, female. Born in Sri Lanka, raised in London. Her father was a freedom fighter who went Missing In Action, hence the "M.I.A."
The name is not the only reference to her father. Scattered throughout her lyrics and music are images of war - fighting, ransom, capture, tyranny, bombs, and the ominous rat-a-tat-tat of machine guns.
Sometimes her songs seem lightweight, at other times the burden of her past weighs heavy: "Freedom-fightin' dad, bombed his pad, called him a terror, put him on a wanted ad". Her voice in this song, Freedom Skit, sounds fragile and old before its time, like a child who has seen too much, made to grow up too quickly.
And at the end of Amazon (Diplo Mix):
This is M.I.A.
You forgot me
You have to wonder just who she's talking to here. Maybe a father who put political ideologies before raising a family? Maybe not. In a land so torn by conflict, political ideologies become a matter of life and death. I don't know. No answers.
I guess there's a name for this sort of music... world hip-hop? I think that fits. Worldly. Weary. Wary. World-smart. Worldliness. Whatever the word, her music transports me far from here. I like it.
Listen: Amazon (Diplo mix) [mp3, 3.3mb]
Sat, 26 Feb 2005
We Don't Deserve...
Go read this:
"We don't deserve Al Green.
We didn't deserve Marvin Gaye, Sam Cook, Curtis Mayfield or Nat King Cole. We deserve neither Sam nor Dave. God Damnit, we did nothing to deserve Otis Redding. We didn't deserve the Mills Brothers early stuff, but got what we deserved with the latter stuff. We don't deserve Chuck Berry, we just wish he'd stop acting that way. Same goes with Little Richard. "
And dammit, you know what, we don't deserve One Perfect Green Blanket either! I'm talking about the blog, but we don't deserve Barbara Manning, either.
What a fantastic freaking entry. The sort of entry you read and think, shit, I wish I had written that! And why didn't I think of that for a blog name? And the Al Green download is fantastic too. Sorry, you've missed it, it's gone now, but take it from me, it's wonderful.
Yes, I have discovered mp3 blogs, and verily I say unto thee, they are good.
Wed, 16 Feb 2005
Okay, you asked, and so shall ye receive...
You are the generation that bought more shoes and you get what you deserve by Johnny Boy [mp3, 6.4mb].
Fri, 11 Feb 2005
You Are the Generation That Bought More Shoes
I'm listening to You Are the Generation That Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve by Johnny Boy.
This is the best pop song ever in the history of pop. Ever. Anywhere. Oh yeah, it also has the best title as well. This song is so mind-blowingly brilliant that I just have to listen to it again. And again. And again.
Well, you get the picture.
Described as "subversive pop" and "Sandinista-era Clash having a shoot-out with Phil Spector", it's got "church bells, boy-girl vocals, loops, twists, walls of sound and edgy guitars." Not to mention the woosh of fireworks.
Go buy this single. I guarantee by the end of the song you'll be on your feet, dancing, punching the air and singing at the top of your lungs "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!"
Wed, 26 Jan 2005
I've never really been into Hip Hop or Rap music. Sure, I've listened to some, and have even liked some of it. But I've never been drawn to it. It's not been a genre that I have spent much time listening to or getting to know. I think that's partly been an age thing, and also just a matter of circumstance. I've never had friends who were into hip hop.
So when I first put on The Streets, I fully expected to say "Oh yeah, that's okay, thanks" and then never listen to it again.
But. I loved it. And for the past two days I've listened to little else. I've been sitting on the bus with the biggest grin on my face, just because this music makes me giggle. It makes me laugh. I tap my feet, wiggle around. It makes me want to move and sing out loud.
Mike Skinner, white garage hip-hop artist from Birmingham (UK, that is, not Alabama) clearly has a style that you either love or hate. No middle-of-the road, take-it-or-leave it. Nah. None of that. You either really like it. Or you really hate it. Case in point: a twenty-something colleague of mine who is into electronica rolled his eyes and said "That's a really naff interpretation of music, if you ask me."
Okay. I can take that. Each to his own.
It's a simple enough scenario: Boy Loses Alot of Money, Boy Meets Girl, Boy Finds Money Again, Boy Loses Girl. This storyline runs through the songs, tying them together.
What I love about this album, A Grand Don't Come For Free - and I speak from a complete ignorance of Hip Hop/Rap - is the way Skinner cuts in big swooping orchestral sounds and really sweet beautiful melodies with the rough almost staccato 1-2 beat of his spoken words.
The Brummie accent is brilliant. The humour is superb. The level of detail and realism is remarkable... I loved the account of getting the television fixed. And the failed pick-up of a girl at the burger bar counter. That's probably my favourite of the lot - Fit and You Know It. I was in the supermarket listening on my iPod when I first heard that particular song, and I burst out laughing right in the middle of the dairy foods. People just turned and stared at me. Looked at the butter. Looked at me. Back at the butter. Shook their heads. I just shrugged and turned up the volume.
But what I love most about the music is... I started off thinking this guy was probably a real asshole and by the end of the album I ended up really caring about him. Sure, he's a typical young geezer down at the pub wiv his mates watching the match, gawking at all the girls, but he also shows his insecurities. He's not full of himself. He cares about his friends. He learns lessons. He knows when he's done wrong. He feels lonely. He has awkward moments. He loves his girlfriend yeah even despite the fact that he cheats on her.
For me, the real clincher song on the album is Dry Your Eyes. This is as raw and painful a break-up song as you will ever hear. The detail that he puts into the description of their parting moment left me tearful. It was so real. I just wanted to reach out and put my arms around him. Not many songs make you want to do that.
He's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But he's definitely human with an amazing gift for story-telling.
I've raved on long enough. Listen for yerself, then go buy the CD:
Fit and You Know It [mp3,6mb] | Dry Your Eyes [mp3,6mb]
Sat, 15 Jan 2005
Greetings from L.A.
Well, I'm sitting here drinking Sol, a Mexican beer, made in Veracruz. Cerveza importada. Who knew Mexico produced such fine beer. And if I lived in Quebec I could get 10 cents refund back on this very expensive bottle.
So, anyway, here I am, feeling fine, with very clean windows, and ready to talk.
It always amazes me when I discover new music. Music that I think "God, where have I been all my life. I've never heard this before. What a waste of time to have lived and not heard this."
I've been listening to Tim Buckley, a singer from Los Angeles, who died in 1975 at the age of 28 of a heroin overdose. Almost thirty years ago. Amazing that his music has been around for that long and I've never come across it until now.
His music is described as "wild sex-drenched, white boy, funk/soul fandango", and well, I couldn't say it better myself. Certainly not with a fuzzy head after a bottle of Sol. Spin Alternative Guide (aging, creased pages, broken spine, but still the bible), says of him: "Buckley was such a distinictive artist and singer that no one, save his biological son Jeff, could ever really sound like him..."
The CD, Greetings from L.A., had been sitting in our shelves all along. It had been there for ages. I'd seen it but hadn't thought anything about it, just skimmed right over it to other singers and bands that I was familiar with.
That's a bad thing about me, I think. My tendency is to always listen to what is familiar, what I know. I miss a lot of good music by not being more adventurous.
So how did I come to play it? Well, Joshua wanted to choose the next CD to play, and he pulled it out. As simple as that. Child-like serendipidity.
He handed it to me.
I played it.
And the first thing I thought was, Wow. This is sex music!
You think Marvin Gaye sings the leading bumpy-bump music, but he ain't got nothin' over Tim Buckley singing Get On Top.
Get on top
Let me see what you learned tonight
Then I talk in tongues mama
Oh when I love you
Yes I talk in tongues
Anyway, if you're really interested, here it is either as an mp3 [11mb] or streaming Real Audio [3.5mb]. Sorry for the large file sizes, but it's a long song.
Do listen. I think you'll like it.
The Spin Guide only gives Greetings from L.A. a three-star rating, whereas some of his other albums get 8 and 9 stars. Well, if this is a three star album, I can't wait to hear the others.
Thu, 17 Jul 2003
Sweet is the Melody
As I've grown older, I've learned to appreciate country music. That genre that I ridiculed as a teenager now sits comfortably in my collection and my cd player. Good country — and I am talking about good country music, not that Shania Twain shit — good country makes me feel things that other music doesn't.
When I'm feeling a bit down, and want to hear a real old-fashioned melancholy song, I listen to something like this — She Had Everything from The Flatlanders (launches Real Audio). I listen to this song over and over but still can't quite grasp what it's about. I just know that his voice sounds so... I don't know... resigned. So bittersweet. Sad.
Today, though, I wasn't feeling melancholy. Today I was home, cleaning like a mad woman, and listening to this - Sweet is the Melody by Iris Dement. Have you ever heard a voice as pure as Iris Dement's. If you turn this up really loudly, and sing with her, your voice lapses into that beautiful southern drawl, completely of its own volition.
It is a little known fact about me that I love to waltz. Real old-fashioned waltzing. This song makes me yearn to be on a dance floor, in a ballroom somewhere, with an arm wrapped around me in a strong lead, and waltzed into the wee hours of a morning.
Sweet is the melody, so hard to come by
It's so hard to make every note bend just right
You lay down the hours and leave not one trace
But a tune for the dancing is there in its place
The dance floor's for gliding and not jumping over ponies
Where boots and gold bracelets come and meet as they should
It's for celebrating a Friday night romance
Forgetting the bad stuff and just feeling good
Yeah, that's what this song does. Makes me want to glide.
A few months ago, when I was feeling really down, my friend Mark sent me this — Johnny Cash singing Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart (mp3). By the time the song finished, I was laughing so hard I couldn't stop. It was just what I needed at that moment. Mark's good like that. He keeps me grounded, so I don't take myself too seriously.
The other night I found myself in front of the television at 2:00am, unable to sleep, hacking and coughing, watching lengthy half-hour infomercials. I must stop doing that, because I came perilously close to buying Time Life's Classic Country Collection for three easy payments of $49.95. There was something about Conway Twitty singing "and as I put my arms around you, I can tell you've never been this far before" which just did something to me as I sat there in that weird altered time television glow in the middle of the night. Or maybe, I'm just getting older.
Note to self: buy some Johnny Cash.