Mixwatch '08: In Which We Finally Come To Grips With It All
So this summer, with the near-constant work and having to move, yet again, led to a weird one. Since I am still an analog kid, I needed first to build shelves on which to put my records, and get my stereo set up for the recording onto magnetic tape. At various points, the inclined plane, the pulley and the wheel were involved.
Then of course, there begins the endless debates with oneself about the themes involved, and how much to be that way about it, as opposed to just putting a bunch of songs together that I like. I sort of told Bee about this inner debate, and I am almost certain that what I did there was make her over-analyze lyrics in songs that I included simply because I liked them.
But if there was a theme, what was it, as far as this one goes? A traveler, sensing his travels are done for the time being; that's in there, but also the idea that maybe you -oneself- are not so good a judge anymore of what is rational and what is not.
And above all else, don't violate the ultimate law of mixmaking: do not end on a dark note. I nearly did, just 'cause I was having a hard time juggling. Let's look.
"Dismal Dan"- Jack Purvis & His Orchestra. This 1930 recording sums up what I love so much about that particular period in jazz: people couldn't afford big bands anymore, and what small combos that were left had to economize to a tremendous degree. What they did instead was make a noise so damn big, you hardly noticed the lack of a Tommy Dorsey-sized outfit. They played the hell out of it.
"Blow Wind Blow"- Wilmouth Houdini. This is also from some point in the late '20's, early '30's. It's from a compilation album released last year called I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore, on some record label too cool to bother telling you what its name is, or what the provenance of any of the recordings is. They're all recent transplants to America, the people on that album, and it shows. Beautiful Ukranian weirdness sitting alongside Hawaiian music.
This particular song is your basic Cajun shit-talking song, but the direness of the violin bespeaks something terrible about to happen. Tom Waits stole from it twice, by the way: the melody became "Jockey Full of Bourbon", and his own version of "Blow Wind Blow", from Frank's Wild Years, is decidedly his own, but every bit as chilling.
"Alabamy Bound"- Santo & Johnny. From the boys who brought you "Daydream". A weird attempt at Space Age Pop, Bachelor Pad Music. Too surreal to not be good.
"Deal"-Tom T. Hall. I think it is only his matter-of-fact delivery that causes people to view this man as a joke act, rather than a songwriter every bit as good as say, Willie Nelson.
Oh, and the song: life considered as a game of poker. Not like we've never heard that one before, but in Tom T's hands, it's like you're hearing it from an old friend.
"Vivando"- Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks. I've got a serious soft spot in my heart for these guys. It's sort of song about being bored, but also realizing that life isn't going to be exciting all the damn time, what with the dishes to be done and all. The instrumentation is beautiful.
"Jesus Christ Was An Only Child"- Modest Mouse. The pride of Issaquah. Not a lot to say here, except that this band always did need a fiddle, and this is from one of the ten greatest albums of the '90's.
"Cool Water"- Fleetwood Mac. This is from Revenge of the Killer B's, which was the second of two compilation albums of b-sides to hit singles. Here, it's Lyndsay Buckingham leading the kids through this Sons of the Pioneers favorite. Turns out, this song is creepy as hell, and I'd never had a chance to notice it before.
"Easier (alternate version)"- Grizzly Bear. This one is from last summer's Music Issue of 'The Believer' magazine, with its accompanying CD. This song is pretty damn effecting anyway, but here, the Exceedingly Creepy Beach Boys thing they've got going on is in service of a parenthetical, understated story line, which may or may not be the lead singer channeling his dead grandfather.
"The Friendly Ranger At Clontarf Castle"- Thin Lizzy. This song, and the one before it, have always belonged together, in my mind. This is the first song they ever recorded, from 1971. It begins with a Moody Blues-esque spoken-word intro that I elide from the mixtape final cut.
I'll let Phil Lynott's haiku-like poetry do the talking:
To feel the goodness glowing inside
to walk down the street with my arm about your hips
side by side
To play with a sad-eyed child 'til it smiles
to look upon a starry sky at night
realize the miles
To see the sun set behind the steeple
Clontarf castle, no kings or queens
or knightly people
A cold mile, and it's pourin' rain
to wave goodbye to a very good friend
never meet again
of you to me
Shit makes me cry, man.
"Ventura Highway"- America. The one good song by what may very well have been the 1970's least talented American band. But it's so damn good, it makes up for it all. Along with some truly great lines, it also features a refrain that casually mentions 'alligator lizards in the air', and a verse that includes 'purple rain' (!).
"My Tears Dry On Their Own"- Amy Winehouse. This might be the best damn pop song I've heard in ten years. Also, I don't view it -for my own needs- as a breakup song; I always saw it as a song about self-reliance in the world.
"Look Thru Any Window"- The Hollies. Might very well have been the best damn pop song of the '60's.
"Box of Rain"- The Grateful Dead. I think a lot of people forget that both American Beauty and Workingman's Dead weren't psychedelic albums so much as they were country pop of the highest order.
The last song on this side was going to be Blondie's "Union City Blue", but my vinyl of that one is too warped to play. Sitting in lieu is the magnificent, Badfinger-esque Emmit Rhodes song, "With My Face On the Floor", just 'cause I like it.
Side Two commences with the Talking Heads' immortal "Crosseyed and Painless". The magnificent paranoia at work in those kids during that period of their career is simply fuckin' piquant.
"Raisin In The Sun"- Self Fulfilling Prophecies. A wonderful, vaguely-Clash like (but not really) song from some local boys. Bee and I saw them on their last night in town before a national tour, and I've not heard from them since.
"7th Time"- Xymox. From that first, murky, weird, uncomfortable album, Clan of Xymox, in which they sort of seemed like an actual tribe of synth-playing aliens from some rainy place in the Low Countries. This is the one vaguely peppy song.
"Wolf Like Me"- TV On the Radio. I'm not even sure how to sum this one up, except that "howlin'...for-ever..." refrain at the end of this one is so nicely chilling, and absolutely right for the metaphor that I suspect is at work here.
"Born on the Floor"- The Make Up. Like pretty much everything they did, this is a song that is both deadly serious and completely satirical. It takes the lyrical conceit that the narrator was present at all the most revolutionary moments in western civilization, but was only an embryo or fetus while all of them were happening. Oddly, I could see this song being done entirely straight-faced by any number of less clever bands.
"My Posession"- The Rolling Stones. A nice one, and an odd one. It possesses one of the meaner bass lines in rock history.
"The Door Into Summer"- The Monkees. Another one that is both nice and odd. Lyrically, it's really just one of the many songs by '60's pop bands that tried to be hard hitting and critical of those who went to work in a suit, and stuff. But, this is also more or less a lyrical transcription of one of my favorite 'Twilight Zone' episodes, of the same name.
"7 and 7 is..."-Love. It just kicks ass, this song. No idea what the fairly silly-sounding lyrics are about. Doesn't matter.
"Cold Duck"- Zen Guerrilla. See directly above, although in this case, I can't even tell what the lyrics are.
"Model Worker"- Magazine. This recording is taken from the soundtrack to "Urgh! A Music War". Howard Devoto opens it by saying, "And this song is...Full of moral fiber..." I love this under-appreciated band, and this song just goes so nicely after the overwhelming power of "Cold Duck", while also changing the mood, the 'subject'.
"Polk Salad Annie"- Tom Jones. Thanks to Junk Thief for this one, as I'd never heard of it before. Mind you, Tony Joe White still does it better.
Oh hell, let's watch that again:
Okay. Well shit; more than okay.
"Somebody Like You"-Marshall Crenshaw. Another one from Revenge of the Killer B's. A fantastic, climbing guitar line with a very nice twist on the chorus: "Somebody, somebody like you/I shouldn't be expectin' too much/ from somebody like you".
"Absolute Beginners"- The Jam. One of the cutest damn songs from one of the cutest damn bands. I can't find enough space for this one, without shaving seconds from other songs. I will make it work.
Ah, enjoy that summahtime shit, y'all.