Monday, July 30, 2012

Countdown #29 - the thrill of it all

Broadcast July-28-2012 - 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.

Devo - Wiggly World
Cool and wigged out masterpiece from from Devo's second album, Duty Now For The Future, which the experts tell me is their best. And certainly nobler words have never been spoken. Than "duty now for the future", that is. Because the past is done, the present merely "is", and a sadly devolved "is" at that – but the future, that's where the wiggle is. Not black and white, not straight up and down – it's stranger than that, impossible to hold down. 

Dead Kennedys - too drunk to fuck
Nasty bit of genius from 1981, Ronald Reagan's America at full boil, assholism not just on the rise -- boiling over. Fortunately, we had the DKs to help us focus our rage, antipathy, spite. Not at anyBODY in particular – just the general, clean-cut preppy crowd. The so-called "good kids", all dressing the same, looking the same, drinking the same shitty beer, getting too drunk to fuck, puking their repressed, conservative, neo-fascist guts. 

Rolling Stones - starfucker
Often known as Star-Star in realms where you're not allowed to speak the truth. I remember hearing this at a friend's place when I was maybe fourteen. He'd bought Goats Head Soup (now there's a title for a pop album) because he liked Angie, the big deal single. But Starfucker quickly became the essential track, cranked as loud as possible, even when his uptight, churchgoing parents were around. Which still sort of puzzles me. Did they just not hear it? Or maybe that's just what all rock and roll sounded like to them in 1973, just one long invocation to fuck like ragged. For some decent folks, the world has always been ending. 

Beatles - and your bird can sing
Beatles at their absolute pop peak, cranking out perfection at a faster rate than the culture could even begin to handle. And Your Bird Can Sing didn't even make it onto the North American version of Revolver. got stuck on Yesterday and Today instead, the one with butchered meat and torn apart baby dolls on the cover. It quickly got pulled, of course, the forces of decency in full combat mode. Oh those loveable moptops.

Dukes of Stratosphear - my love explodes
In which parody transcends itself, becomes sublime, the Dukes being XTC in disguise, 1985 being about as far from the spirit of everything that was cool, essential, classic about the psychedelic 60s as the culture ever got. By which I mean, you really couldn't do something like this with a straight face – it had to be taking the piss. Which was wrong. And all of us were to blame. Yeah, the 60s bath needed emptying at some point in the late 70s, early 80s,, but we went and dumped the baby as well. Fortunately it survived the sewers. Tough baby. 

Jean-Michel Jarre - ethnicolor
Early mid-80s techno-smorgasbord of now possibilities. And it was epic. I had no time for Monsieur Jarre at the time, his previous stuff being way to Euro-Easy-Listening (cosmic lite). But with hip names like Laurie Anderson and Adrian Belew on board, this one was hard to ignore, and a darned good thing, because it really goes places. Samples before we called them that, great crescendos and unearthly howls. The future definitely sounded cool. 

Supertramp - the meaning
The classic God-I-hate-that-band-Oh-wait-a-minute-that's-a-great-song syndrome. So let me correct myself. I hate what Supertramp became, the huge record sales for the wrong records (which I won't mention here). I loved what they were in the middle, the mid-70s, still not that well known, delivering smart, innovative, ambitious pop … and beyond. Crisis, What Crisis? stands out now because it seems to be their most forgotten album, thus the least likely to induce allergies. The Meaning gets the nod, because it's damned important. Assuming there is one. A meaning, that is.

Bauhaus - all we ever wanted was everything
A generational anthem if there ever was one. Not that I ever really paid attention past the title. It's 1982 and everything's pretty much gone to shit. Slimy and/or demented conservative types in power pretty much everywhere, the rich getting richer, the poor getting eaten. What is it that you unsatisfied young people want? Oh, not much. Just EVERYTHING. 

National Health - squarer for Maud
I mostly hated so-called jazz-rock fusion at the time – so many of my fave progressive heroes indulging themselves, getting caught up in technique, forgetting to actually make interesting, astonishing music. But not National Health. They kept it smart, innovative, fun. And with Squarer For Maud, even a bit epic. And then there's that rap about Numinosity (a word I'd never heard before). Of or relating to a numen; supernatural. Filled with or characterized by a sense of a supernatural presence. Hell yeah. That's exactly what music is, the good stuff anyway.

Viv Akauldren - censored
They were from Detroit, I think. I seem to remember smoking a joint with the guitar player, then wandering the sidewalks of downtown Vancouver, mid-80s sometime. He was overwhelmed by how peaceful it all was – how safe. They were gigging in town that night. The booking agent was a friend. So I guess I was being hospitable. Anyway, it all speaks to how lost so much of that era is. So many indie outfits coming and going, cranking out powerful stuff, leaving little or no trace. Of course, I did manage to hang onto a copy of one of Viv Akauldren's albums – Old Bags + Party Rags – nice and dark, paranoid, political, psychedelic. Except I don't remember them actually sounding like that live. They were more forgettable, for lack of a better world.

Sly + the Family Stone - Africa talks to you [the asphalt jungle]
No doubt about it, Sly Stone's There's A Riot Goin' On is one of the best albums period. A seamless flow of barely post-1960s truth-telling, most of it kind of grim. And Africa Talks To You is the strange dark heart of it – not a song so much as an excursion, a side trip to a multi-dimensional galaxy, dub before we had a name for it, but more than that anyway. And yes, that is a drum machine keeping things in line, a good decade before it was the hip thing to do.

Neil Young - tonight's the night
It says 1975 on the cover, and most of the album was actually recorded a couple of years earlier. But I didn't find Tonight's the Night until at least the mid-80s. And grimly perfect timing at that, given all the darkness, shadows and murk. The title track's about heroin and the damage done, souls swallowed, faces turned blue. There was way too much of the shit going down in the Terminal City in the 80s. Still is probably.

Chicago - I'm a man + liberation part 2
Maybe you had to be there. Chicago 1969. Only a year earlier, the hippie revolution had crashed and burned in those very streets during the riots at the Democratic National Convention (at least, that's what the historians say). But the energy was still percolating in 1969, such that a big fat band could erupt from it all, even earn the name CHICAGO. True, they'd be awful before long, lost down that deep sewer where all the schmaltz goes. But not in 1969. In 1969, they still had the noise. 

Roxy Music - the thrill of it all
I try not to regret things. Life's way too long, offers up too many options. But I do deeply wish I'd somehow managed to be cool enough as a teen to actually see Roxy in around 1974, when they really were about the coolest band in the world. And not just in terms of look. They also had the chops, the songs, the SOUND. But then I guess, I wouldn't have had the latter day pleasure of rediscovering it all a decade and a half later. By which point, I was fully adult, owner of a broken heart or five, able to fully grasp what was going on, thrill and all. 

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