Thursday, June 7, 2012

Countdown #23 - get a grip on yourself

Broadcast June-2-2012 - podcast available here.  All comments are from Philip Random's notes (with some editorial diligence).  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.

Plugz - reel ten
If I haven't seen Repo Man twenty times, I've definitely seen it ten.  But I still couldn't tell you how it ends exactly.  Something to do with Otto getting into the car with Miller (the weirdo) and going for a ride.  But is the car nuclear powered, or something altogether more alien?  And then what happens after that?  Anything?  Does the movie just end?  Clearly, it doesn't matter.  Repo Man is a movie of scenes and moments, with more superlative ones than any random ten Oscar winners put together.  One of which is that scene with the flying car, mainly because of the music.  Reel Ten by a band called the Plugz.

Stranglers - get a grip on yourself
It's Britain, 1977, and if you're not punk, you're not worth knowing.  Unless you're the Stranglers, who never were really punk.  More like punk's older brother, more sophisticated, and more dangerous in a streetfighting sort of way.  Also, they had a cool existential edge as a song like Get A Grip On Yourself  makes clear.  Yeah, society's fucked, the world's going up in apocalyptic flames.  No reason to lose your cool, man.   

Kool + The Gang - spirit of the boogie
It would've been the late 70s when I first noticed Kool and the Gang, and I hated them.  Too easy and smooth – the wrong kind of radio friendly.  But come the early 90s, I was moving backward, getting archaeological as I dug through the stacks upon stacks of old vinyl that everybody was dumping because CDs were the future, man.  Which inevitably got me to 1975's Spirit of the Boogie and one of those, Oh Yeah! moments.  Apparently, even James Brown was afraid of them at time.  Too dangerous, he said, to have on while he was driving.

Dub Syndicate - the show is coming
I listened to a lot of dub in the 1980s.  It just seemed the thing to do –  gave all that  societal corrosion and apocalyptic immanence a relevant soundtrack.  Often as not, I never really noticed particular cuts, just threw on mixtapes, got lost in the timeless beats and echoes.  But every now and then, something stood out, like the Dub Syndicate's The Show is Coming, because it had a pile of smart samples and it was one tough, rock-steady groove. 

Pop Will Eat Itself - shoot it up
No, as a matter of fact, there's no intended significance in this being the 6-6-6 number on the countdown.  It just worked out that way.  Garage psyche-rock punk malcontents (with a beatbox) take on an annoying Sigue Sigue Sputnik hit, remove all the bullshit sheen and polish and deliver a raucous few minutes of delirious popNOISE.  No Satan involved.

Negativland - escape from noise
Album of the year 1988, assuming you'd pretty much had it with music by that point, which I had.  Not that there weren't cool songs continuing to percolate.  NOISE just seemed more relevant.  And there was no escaping it (still isn't), except by diving full-on into it, which is really what this whole album's about.  And it's hilarious.

The Jesus + Mary Chain - kill surf city
I have no memory of when I first heard this.  One of those songs that just sort of percolated into my conscious in that aforementioned noisy year 1988, not unlike a terrorist bomb in reverse.  All nasty up front and around the edges but get to the heart of it and you realize there's a beautiful little song humming along.  

John Lennon - well [baby please don't go]
Lennon and Zappa together at last, tearing through the history of rock and roll with all due savagery and respect.  Even Yoko's bleating can't hold the thing down.   

Frank Zappa - I'm the slime
In which Mr. Zappa ditches the Junior High humor for a few minutes and spits out the necessary truth about all that slime that was oozing out of TV sets back in the early 70s (and it still is).  Not just gross, perverted, vile, pernicious, obsessed and deranged, but a tool of government (and industry too) destined to rule and regulate.  And yet we keep watching.  Wouldn't want to miss anything. 

Alice Cooper - muscle of love
Alice Cooper (the group) was one of the great rock and roll outfits to ever rock a stage, outrage a parent, drive a young boy (or girl) wild.  But by late 1973, that was ending.  Alice Cooper (the guy) was about to part ways with his band and become just not that interesting anymore (the commodified showbiz version of the genuine threat he'd once been).   But they all still had one album left in them, rude and strong.  And as was pointed out to me at the time by an older guy on my hockey team, your muscle of love is NOT your heart.  

Jimi Hendrix - nine to the universe
Quoting my good friend Mark (who was stoned at the time):  "The only essential Hendrix albums are the ones he recorded while he was still alive."  By which I'm pretty sure he meant, the ones that were released while he was still alive.  But Mark did allow that 1980s Nine To The Universe rated at least half an exception, "Because, man, some of that stuff just tears your head off."

King Crimson - Asbury Park
To clarify.  King Crimson formed in 1969, quickly knocked the world onto its side by more or less inventing so-called progressive rock, then proceeded to do just that for the next five years.  They progressed.  The line-up was ever mutating.  The sounds were always challenging.  Only one thing remained unchanged.  Robert Fripp remained seated as he played his planet fracturing guitar.  Asbury Park comes from the last King Crimson tour after which Mr. Fripp shut the whole outfit down because he'd come to despise the music industry.  Not that he and the King Crimson brand wouldn't return half a decade later.  But that is another strange story.     

Aphrodite's Child - the end of the world
Strange dollop of Greek POP psychedelia that's creepy in all the right ways.  No, child, the end of world is not all fire and brimstone, plagues and pestilence.  It's just a quiet little place I know about, far, far away from your parents and your friends.  I promise we won't do anything you don't want to.   

Woodentops - move me
It's maybe 1986 and the Commodore is packed – some big deal band about to play.  But first there's the warm up act.  Some outfit nobody's ever heard of called Wood-something.  They open with a pumped acoustic thing that proceeds, over its three or four minutes, to amp up into something so extraordinary that we all knew who they were by the time it was done.  The Woodentops, and holy shit what a drummer!  I have no memory anymore of who the headliners  were.   

Barclay James Harvest - suicide
From my lame, late teenage phase of doing everything I could to avoid punk rock (for various lame, late teenage reasons).  This tendency led me down a lot of stupid roads, but as is always the case with music, there was still gold to be found.  In the case of Suicide, there's not just the song itself (all sorrowful and epic) but also the coda, the suicide, wherein binaural recording techniques are employed to impart to the listener a visceral feel for what it's like to hurl yourself off the edge of a building, achieve terminal velocity then SMACK.  Actually, it's more of a thunk.  


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