Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Countdown #16 - everything that rises

Broadcast March-31-2012 - podcast available here.  All comments are lifted from Philip Random's notes.  The full countdown list (so far) can be found here.  Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings we played on-air, but we tried.
The The - sweet bird of truth
It's 1986 and, in case there's any doubt, we're all gonna die.  The Cold War's as hot as it's ever been with enough nuclear weaponry to kill everybody on earth at least nine times (or is it ninety?).  And if that's not keeping you at night, there's all those angry folks in the Middle East and beyond (you've seen them often enough on TV), tens of thousands of them shaking their fists, howling their rage – Death To The Infidel and all that.  Sweet Bird of Truth captures all of this rather nicely (not that there's anything nice about any of it).

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - radio waves
1983's Dazzle Ships was the last OMD album that felt essential.  Radio Waves stood out because I was just getting started on my own radio adventures at the time.  From the transmitter to the receiver.  Sounds simple until you get profoundly high and you realize it's not just the machines that are transmitting and receiving, it's the human beings that connect from either end (human hearts, human souls).  And you dance to it. 

Pop Will Eat Itself - everything that rises
On one level Pop Will Eat Itself  were just dumbshit grebos, getting wasted, kerranging away in the garage with guitars and beatbox.  On another, they were pop geniuses fully owning their name, who could take an obscure Shriekback groover, and turn it into two-and-a-half minutes of full-on psychedelic revelation.  Because it's true, everything that rises DOES converge … if you're watching from sufficient altitude. 

Bauhaus - Lagartija Nick
Bauhaus were so solid in the songwriting and performing category they could casually release a single as tough and nasty and good as Lagartija Nick and never bother to include it on album.  Which isn't to say it didn't make it onto my obligatory Bauhaus mixtape, essential soundtrack to many an mid-early 80s trip to the fun part of the dark side (or was it the dark part of the fun side).  Swallowing flames - Sinking in the snow - He enjoys feeling pain - He enjoys peeling slow.

Cat Stevens - bitterblue
Being barely twelve at the time, it was always somebody's big sister that would own Teaser and the Firecat.  She would have it for the nice songs, of course, the Moonshadows and Peace Trains that the radio was playing the hell out of (and it still does).  But Bitterblue had something else going on, still mostly acoustic, but it rocked.  And that thing the guitars do near the beginning, where they kick from sort of normal strumming into a sudden almost mystical overdrive -- holy shit!  That still feels like a view into a future we humans haven't achieved yet.

Eric Burdon + the Animals - ring of fire
I discovered this psychedelic 60s take on Johnny Clash's classic at least thirty years after the fact.  But the timing was perfect.  Drinking too much, drugging too much, stumbling through some mid-life blues, I was very much falling into my own ring of non-heavenly fire.  And here was Mr. Burdon to welcome me, sounding as always like the Tom Jones that was actually cool and experienced enough to get what the whole mad 60s thing was about – something to do with saving the entire universe by letting one's freak flag fly, even if it meant going personally to hell in process.

Kraftwerk - radioland
The mid-90s were definitely a time for discovery of classic sounds missed the first time around.  Case in point, Kraftwerk's Radioland which found me via a cassette mix that happened to be running in the background during a particularly sublime acid trip.  It was a clear summer night and we were trespassing a West Vancouver mountainside construction site – a mansion to be.  The view from the roof (the whole lower mainland shimmering in the easy breeze) was like something only gods are supposed to see, which meant the music in question had to be soul, even if it had been coaxed from the cold heart of machines. 

Fad Gadget - collapsing new people
Same as it ever was.  Those beautiful new people – they just keep collapsing.  And thus 1984's Collapsing New People has achieved pop timelessness.  Of course, at the time, with all the extreme early 80s fashions and hairstyles finally getting co-opted and neutered by the mainstream, it carried a particular significance.  Just stand there (only slightly lysergic), downtown street corner on a Friday night, and watch the strange parade corrode before your eyes, the whole devolving culture eating itself from within.

Frank Zappa - Wille the Pimp
Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart in full-on freak mode.  Dare a freak ask for more?  No but maybe a bit LESS of the noodly jamming that goes on for most of 9-plus minutes running time.  But still, Zappa and the Captain!  Who's complaining?

Holger Czukay - ode to perfume [randoEDIT]
The whole On The Way To The Peak Of Normal album's a unique piece of genius.  Holger Czukay (Can's bass player and primary sonic organizer), goes deep into the outer realms of improv, overdubs and sampling-before-they-called-it-sampling (yes as a matter of fact, he did do it first).  Ode to Perfume is particularly notable for me because of that haunting melody at the beginning – actual chunks of somebody else's song that I vaguely recognized but could never place.  And then almost twenty years later, I finally caught it it, but only because the mp3 shuffle threw the two of them on one after another – it's Suspicion made famous by Elvis and Terry Stafford among others, a genius piece of paranoid pop if there ever was one.  

Brian Eno - energy fools the magician + king's lead hat
These two have always belonged together for me, from Side A of the first Brian Eno album I ever gave a proper listen to (Before and After Science).  Being the early 80s, I was, of course, rather high at the time, so energy really was fooling the magician, luring him to some place strange and exotic, only to slip suddenly away as the King's Lead Hat came charging in from somewhere only slightly south of punk rock.  That's an anagram for Talking Heads by the way, who Mr. Eno was working with at the time.  It all makes sense now, from a distance, but at the time, I was just confused – joyously, deliriously.    

Leonard Cohen - avalanche
Speaking of the early 1980s and my young adult tendency to recklessly set the controls for the heart of the sun whenever possible (ie: gobble LSD), I finally went way too far one cold night in a vague suburban netherworld known as Burquitlam.  Long story made short (and it was indeed very, very long) -- having destroyed my ego, reduced myself to my composite neutrons, merged with aliens from the dogstar Sirius who were in fact guiding my every thought and motion, I eventually found myself in a cluttered rec-room with a big brick fireplace (not working), which turned into a face and began singing to me in a voice that sounded eerily like Leonard Cohen. 

Bruce Springsteen - incident on 57th street
I would've been fourteen, maybe fifteen.  It's 1974, a weekday night, and I'm deep in my room, doing my homework or something equally forgettable, except suddenly there's this song on the radio I can't ignore.  Sort of Bob Dylan meets Van Morrison … but different.  The singer feels younger, more hopeful, even if he is telling a tragic tale, love and violence, despair and romance.  And then the DJ says the guy's name but it's kind of weird, and I promptly forget it.  Which is no big deal, it's a great song, I'll get to hear it again soon enough.  Except I didn't.  Because FM radio was turning to shit in those days, getting programmed not by music loving DJs anymore, but cold hearted consultants who know neither love nor grace.  So it took maybe three years before I finally heard it again, first song on side two of Bruce Springsteen's The Wild The Innocent And The E-Street Shuffle, a friend having picked it up after the breakthrough success of Born To Run (yup, even the shitty commercial radio stations were playing it). 

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