Thursday, December 27, 2012

#351 Brothers in Arms--Dire Straits (now #352)

This album was kinda like getting really excited for a massage and then realizing, mid-massage, that the massage therapist is going to talk the entire time and mostly about your back tattoo.  And you have to talk to her because she is slaving away.  And you can't complain about it because then you're the asshole who complained about being burdened by talking to the person who spent the last hour giving you a massage.

In other words, it was great, but shut the fuck up Mark.  Your lyrics don't say anything but nonsense and you can't sing.  You sang about appliances.  fucking appliances.  and you said "be bop a lula baby" more than once.  Just play the guitar and shut your face.

There is a special place in hell for people who spoil good massages and music with their excessive mouth noises.

I thought that "So Far Away" and "Why Worry" were the best songs on the album.  I could feel the emotion, once I turned down the blathering singer in my EQ, and felt at peace and some sadness too.

It occurred to me though, that so much of this project, becomes the glue in my day-to-day life.  The songs that I listen to throughout each period of time marinate and stick in the cracks of my reality. They take all the little things that happen and tint them with their melodies.  They play in the background while I receive pictures of my newborn nephew, they gloss over words on title opinions that I read daily, and this album was played all through this Christmas season showering baby Jesus with color-tvs and be bop a lulas.  Maybe certain songs and albums mean so much to us, not because they are great, but because they remind us of good chapters from previous eternities or specific mind-states.  They are one of the only links back to those memories, long forgotten by those who shared parts in them.  I never knew that a person could go through so many lives in just one lifetime.  Cats may have nine, but I believe we have nine hundred.

You see, my beloved cat, Socrates (Socats), disappeared on the 16th.  He and I have been traveling companions to the grave together since 2008 when I found him in my first apartment complex right after I graduated college.  Or, he found me.  Together, we set off on our new adventure.  He slept with me, purred at me when I was sad, pushed beer boxes around with his head, walked with me in the mornings, would drink water with his paw out of my bathtub, would sleep on my books, killed a rabbit once, and shat on the carpet many a time.  The two days before he left, he was unnaturally affectionate, preferring to lay all over me and sleeping the whole night through right next to my head.  Then I let him outside, like always.  and poof.  he was gone.

The last eleven days, I have tirelessly scoured my neighborhood.  I get a glimmer of hope and am immediately shot down in an exhausting roller coaster of despair.

All of life is letting go of it.  Letting go of your childhood, of the toys you played with as a child, all of your dreams as they one by one slip through your fingers, of your denial, of your favorite cat, of your mistakes, your childhood friends, your high school friends, your college friends, your post-college friends, your grudges, your anger, your failures, your hopes, your family members, and christmas once again.  And with each set of let-gos, a new chapter begins.

I played "why worry" from this album over and over as I searched for lost Socats.  His life, if it is still with us, has changed and begun a new chapter.  His fate is out of my hands.  I don't know if he was adopted by an old ass lady who never leaves her house, eaten by a coyote, got a letter from Hogwarts, or ran into Gandalf who asked him to carry the ring of power to Mordor.  All I know is that worrying about the most likely answer won't bring him back to me anymore than wishing I were a child again will make me ten.

We pass through so many doors and so many people (and animals!!) before we finally part this world in this lifetime.  But we are all traveling companions to the grave, as Charles Dickens once said...So, why worry?

Thanks Dire Straits for playing music through yet another dreary december.

Warner Bros., 1985
Mark Knopfler started writing "Money for Nothing" when he overheard a New York appliance salesman's anti-rock-star, anti-MTV rant. The song, of course, became a huge MTV hit, and this album shows off Knopfler's incisive songwriting and lush guitar riffs on "Walk of Life" and "So Far Away."

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

#126 Remain in Light - Talking Heads (now #129)

There is a Southpark episode where any new music or television that Stan is exposed to sounds and looks like big piles of shit.  I felt a lot like Stan this week while listening to this cacophony of suck.  If you haven't noticed, dear reader, I have been trying very hard to stick it out with albums, even if I don't like them at first and do my best to appreciate the album for the band's goal and what it tried to accomplish.  I have been very successful, even with genres that I wouldn't normally like.  But this is stretching my optimism too far.

My experience with this album was very short.  Like listening to the Smiths, I did my exact two times through, and to be perfectly honest, I couldn't listen to the last two songs on the album again.  My anxiety and frustration would build up and control me and would only be abated if I turned off the disjointed, pointless noise.

 How on earth did this album make it to #126?  I really felt that this was a joke.  It honestly didn't even sound like music to me.  It just made my blood pressure raise because I was so impatient for the next song to begin.  There is all this twinkling and clanging and then someone begins to moan followed by women wailing a chorus in return and then they cue the last yelps of six one-eyed capybaras in a-cappella.  I could feel my left eye twitching and my right leg bouncing as I stared at the seconds decreasing across my iPhone screen for each song.  

I tried to think, well, each genre and generation of music has certain sounds and beats and rhythms that they adapt to and grow up with.  And that sounds like music to them.  I tried my hardest to get into the mindset of a person who prefers to listen to the Talking Heads more than any other band and I just couldn't even picture a single person or what he or she might look like.  Maybe he was someone who twitched a lot while flaring his nostrils and alternated speaking German phrases at parties for attention and commenting on topics like which black lights were better for finding stains on his little brother's sheets vs. which black lights might be more efficient for heating the closet where he keeps his Komodo Dragon collection.  But what do I know.

The ray of sunshine in the whole album was "Once in a Lifetime" which was probably the only tract that resembled anything like music.  If that song wasn't in there, there is no way this album would have made it to the list because everyone would have clawed their eyes out.

In Sum,

This was how my subconscious interpreted all of these bizarre sounds thrown together:

A Wild Snorlax +

This Dr. Seuss Instrument +

This Awkward Family Photo +
Dr. Ian Malcolm's discovery of Jurassic Shit

Here is what the Rolling Stone Mag had to say (nothing good.  The author totally doesn't know what to say and tries to be original with his description, but mine are clearly better; afropop, come on, cacophony of suck and 6 one eyed capybara is way more descriptive.  I win.):

On this New Wave watershed, the avant-punk avatars became polyrhythmic pop magicians. David Byrne and Co. combined the thrust of P-Funk, the kinky grooves of Afropop and the studied adventurousness of producer Brian Eno – and they still had a pop hit with "Once in a Lifetime."

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Friday, November 16, 2012

#258 American Beauty -- The Grateful Dead (now #261)

I don't think you can just like the Grateful Dead.  I think that the correct interpretation for the meaning of "like" when dealing with the Grateful Dead is that you are somewhere on your journey to becoming a Deadhead.  You might not officially be one, but once you've been exposed, you are inevitably on your way.  If you die before fully becoming indoctrinated into its awesomeness, Jerry Garcia and all his laid-back fandom would probably say, "sucks dude, you totally ran out of time in this life.  Maybe on your next journey through the cosmic void, a Deadhead you will become."

Now, unlike all other bands, there is a cult following to this one that outdoes the cult following of even the most hardcore World of Warcraft Fans.  When you hear two deadheads engulfed in a conversation, it's almost like they are speaking a different language between dropping phrases like "the pizza tapes" or "naw dood, nothing beats Attics of my life from the live concert of June 1970 man."  The second part I made up, please, brother, don't crucify me if that's an incorrect statement.

My brother explained that The Grateful Dead is a way of life and wished me luck and best of karma on listening to the American Beauty album.  He hyped them up so much that when I heard the album for the very first time on my drive to work, I was... well, I was a little let down.  Maybe not let down, but certainly underwhelmed.  I stuck with it though.  I kept them on as background music, stole a pair of speakers from an empty office, played them so low I couldn't hear them if I moved or rustled paper, even just a little...

Then, although my ears had already warmed up to the album for a whole day on repeat, I heard "Ripple" for the first time.  I sat quietly at my desk and I let the song inundate me with peace.  Then, on my drive home, I turned up the volume and played Ripple over and over with the windows down.  I was so strongly reminded of the moment when I read Faulkner for the first time.  I was so obsessed with Charles Dickens and the Victorians, and others who perfected the classic novel, that when I read something that was so out of this world, and yet so real at the same time, it blew my mind open.  When I read my first Faulkner novel, I remember looking up after a paragraph and shaking my head in disbelief.  Then reading parts outloud to myself, just to hear how it rolled off the tip of my tongue.  I couldn't believe that someone could reinvent something so straightforward as a novel.  And then heighten its importance in the world and how we think of our life's purpose and those around us.

And then I understood.  The Grateful Dead is a mantra; it's a reinvention of the band.  Here's a band that makes you feel good because the tunes are happy, they are singing their feelings out, and not in a way that makes you identify with a song in the classic sense, but in a way that takes you to another place mentally.  You can leave the world without leaving it and feel good in the process.

I thought, if I die, I'd like Ripple to be played at my funeral.  Then I thought, naw, I can't do that, I'm not a Deadhead; other Deadheads would be snobby and turn their noses up at me.  But that's not who Deadheads are.  They're not like Eric Clapton fans--who totally suck, ps.  I really haven't met a Clapton fan I truly liked or admired.  Dead fans accept you no matter where you are on your Deadhead journey.  Just as long as you share your drugs.

Here are some good Deadhead resources, for the veterans and the neophytes:
The Deadpod

What the Rolling Stone Mag had to say:

Warner Bros., 1970
The Dead were never better in the studio than on the down-home stoner country of American Beauty. Released just six months after the folky classic Workingman's Dead [see No. 264], it has some of the band's most beloved songs, including "Box of Rain" and "Friend of the Devil."

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

#245 Bryter Layter - Nick Drake (currently removed from list)

This album made me discover one universal truth.  Nobody ever grows up.  There are no adults, some of us just learn to act like them--most of us don't.  Because everything is always new to us, because we've never been 26, 40, or 75 before (to our recollection), it feels like the first time.  Just like the first time you eat, go to school, fall in love, get a job, etc.  We all feel like new souls now and then.

This album felt like something brand new.  Not just in genre (although it's not, of course) but it evoked a feeling of childlike innocence and first discovery.  And a rejoice in the fragility of a moment.  I felt calm and at peace, and I remembered moments of blossoming into something new, shedding my skin, and starting over.  Or moments of seeing something grand for the first time.  I was 18 before I ever saw snow.  It was the oddest miracle, it began snowing on Christmas Eve in Portland, Texas (south texas) and didn't stop until early christmas morning.  All I ever wanted since I was a child was to see and play in snow.  And the first time I watched its frothy grandeur, snow's heavy and delicate flakes blanketing cacti and palm trees; feeling the sensation of something silently accumulating on my hat, some new experience was born inside of me and filed away in my memory.  I picked up a handful of it, and remarked, like an idiot, "holy crap; it's a lot colder than in pictures."  And I wasn't 5, I was 18.  The next morning, nobody wanted to open presents, everyone was out in the streets making snow angels, snowmen with palm tree arms, throwing it at each other, remarking to one another what an amazing Christmas miracle.  Neighbors we hadn't seen all year were just staring at their yards in disbelief.  It hadn't snowed in South Texas in over 100 years; and we had a white christmas in 2004.  rad.

I haven't heard anything like this album.  Nick Drake is such a gentle soul, I am personally insulted that this album has been removed from the list.  His music would spread so much happiness if people would take the time to listen to it.  I feel like I must advocate for him.  I couldn't find it in the revised version of the list, but it was #245 in 2003.  If anyone is going through the list online and sees that I've overlooked its new position, please comment below.

Bryter Layter was so peaceful and serene that listening to it was almost like borderline meditation.  He has a sonorous voice that forces you to feel happy.  It's like he sings at the frequency monks chant, or something.  During a fit of road rage, (a nasty woman pulled out in front of me and then braked really hard for no reason) his "Hazey Jane I" song came on and I found myself taking a deep breath and thinking, "you are not a stupid bitch.  You are a divine human being.  and I'm not going to let you ruin this minute in my life.  It's not your fault that you are uneducated, eat microwaved 'food' and drink fluoridated water.  I'm not going to pray for your ignorant ass or anything, but I won't honk my horn at you and call you a fugly c*nt face either."

All because of the Drakester.  It's ironic because, according to his wikipedia blurb, he suffered from serious depression, and yet his music is such a reflection of serenity.  He reminded me of an English Jack Johnson, with better music.  Even the most introverted people must find a way to express themselves, and his fear of becoming famous makes me like his music even more.  He created music for the goodness of music, not to "become something or someone."  He didn't have to be heard, but he should be heard.  He will make you feel better about life.

The album cover made me jump though.  I felt a little creeped out looking at it.  I thought the album would be creepy and radiohead-like when I saw the cover.  It was the exact opposite.  Especially because I recently saw "The Ring" for the first time and watching that movie felt worse than the time I made a horcrux.  It really was like taking a razor-blade and cutting a portion of my soul off and hiding it in a murdered body.  Anyway, his face reminds me of the creepy girl in the movie.  And I can't, for the life of me, get her twitchy-ass movements out of my head.  Bitch came right out the TV!!!  Unprepared for that shit.  It didn't matter that I was 26; or that I am "an adult."  After watching that movie, I felt like a child again, and wanted to cry in a corner and sleep with the lights on.

But instead, I just listened to Nick Drake, and he made it better.  plus hugging a kitty.

They took it off the website, so I can't quote Rolling Stone for you.


Friday, October 12, 2012

#305 Odelay -- Beck (now #306)

Beck made me think of Jackson Pollock.

And imagination.

The album wasn't so much about the music, but rather, Odelay represented a musical space that proved vast imagination took place.  Much like a Jackson Pollock painting isn't so much about the end product, but the proof that a man used his imagination to create something that fit into our *updated* perception of art.  Or at least that's one justification for why people like shitty paintings.

In Beck's defense a five-year-old could not have created Odelay.

Odelay is an odd hodgepodge of music.  I couldn't tell if it was all made through a series of keyboards, turntables, or computers--but yet, it was surprisingly enjoyable.  I got the sense that these were highly motivated people searching to find something new to create, whatever the cost may be and in the process created an imaginary space that carried the listener out to uncharted waters.  There wasn't a single song that stuck out to me as the best on the album.  They are actually all quite unique from one another and yet, are produced with the same sort of gusto and inspiration.  It sounded a little like grunge, electronica, a medley of rock, punk, and indie music, all made with unconventional sounds.

Most importantly, this album made me think of how difficult it is to find one's little space in the great web of creativity and imagination.  While listening to this album, I began to process my love for writing from the beginning.  When I was about six-years-old, I remember dictating to my father, while he chicken-pecked at our DOS computer, the "great" story of a cat, a sloth, and a giant snail who were on an adventure in the rainforest.  It was imperative that my father get down every detail of how the cat and the sloth could fit inside the snail--which really wasn't an important detail to the story that lacked conflict and character development.  Not to mention themes.  Or direction.  

But the turning point of all of this was when I was in the 8th grade, I got grounded for failing algebra over my two week christmas break.  I took all my anger and angst for my inability to do math well, and my frustration that I was being grounded because I was having difficulty learning something and released it on a primitive laptop I stole from my father.  I wrote a 70 page story.  I mean, it's terrible and you couldn't pay me to reread it now. But the point is, I created something.  I wrote 70 pages when I was 13.  Even though it is all crap, it was a creation.  It represents that imagination was used.  I would have killed to be able to write so much in college, but worries of "what will the professor think, what will my peers say?" inhibited my ability to create.  Perhaps, I've finally unlearned all of that to not care anymore.

(I would also like to take this time to say, I forgive you, Mrs. Alma Martinez of Gregory-Portland Junior High school for telling me, "The will is there, but the ability isn't."  I remember that, 13 years later.  It's not your fault you were as bad at teaching as I was at algebra.  I might have failed algebra, but you failed your students.  I just have to live with the fact that I can't find the value of X.  You have to live with the fact that you left deep scars in people during their most tender years.)

But anyway.  If it wasn't for that "teacher," I never would have found the motivation to write.  Even if nobody read the 70 page story I produced.  And it begged the question to me, does it matter if nobody notices a creation?  Is it enough that imagination took place?  Writing for writing's sake?  Music for Music's sake?  If nobody ever listened to Beck's Odelay, would it diminish the fact that they created something nobody had tried before, put it together and suffered painstaking thought processes for the sake of imagination?

I don't know why this album made me think of that.  Perhaps too many artists are so preoccupied with trying to "make it" or finding themselves in the world and becoming famous that they forget first and foremost, it is most important to create.  Who cares if other people read, listen, or see it?  And so, I've decided that at all costs, I will write once a week.  Just for myself.  So perhaps I will blog more from now on.

Thanks Beck.

What the rolling stone peoples had to say:
DGC, 1996

Burrowing into the studio with sampledelic producers the Dust Brothers, Beck came back with a Technicolor version of his Woody Guthrie-meets-Grandmaster Flash vision, demonstrating to his rock peers that turntables had a brighter future than refried grunge.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

#13 The Velvet Underground -- The Velvet Underground and Nico (still #13)

Now that I have gotten knee deep in this project, it has become more and more imperative for me to become submerged in the music to get a true grasp of what it must have felt like to listen to it when it came out.  Proper mind-set is key.

So.  I drove to a Dallas prep school and bought some heroin from a 7th grader, put on my best 1967 outfit and shot up while this album was on repeat:
(Hope you dig the couch.  It was a friend of a friend's in college and somehow my husband and I ended up with it.  For now.  Ignore dog toys.  oops.)

WTF do you use the spoon for?  I just
knew you had to have one.
Although, if truth be told, I really had no idea what the spoon was for and the closest thing I could find to a syringe was a kitchen utensil.  

Embarrassed by my lack of street knowledge, I didn't want to google, "How might one 'shoot up' heroin?"  But I finally rationalized that with my college education, surely I have the brainpower to figure this out.  So after puncturing a few veins I decided this album was pretty rad.  But I guess that I just don't know.

*For those of you worried out there, Hi Mumsey, no actual heroin was purchased or used for this blog entry.*

Although, I quite imagine that if you did wish to buy heroin, a Dallas prep school would be your best bet.  However, I do hear that they only use 2% and prefer to cut the rest with Tylenol PM.  Which is hilarious.  You already have heroin.  Why do you need Tylenol?  And whoever came up with the word "cheese," has clearly never given a slang word to a drug before.  Doesn't sound de-lish to me.
Did they have legos in 1967?  

Alright.  Now on to Mr. Reed and his band.  Whether or not you are on heroin, this album is one of the best I've ever heard.  There is something so mysterious, eerie and disconnected that you just can't stop listening.  Nico's voice and accent are super annoying, but once you realize that they picked her because they needed a nails-on-blackboard-cat-in-heat effect to tie all the creepiness together; you're like, holy shit, that's totally brill.  plus banana.

Now, I'm too loyal to Bob Dylan to allow myself to like Andy Warhol.  But this album was totally boss.  It starts out with this sesame street happy beat with the song, "Sunday Morning" and the song is so ambiguous that it could mean just about anything--however, the lyrics have this ominous feeling that juxtapose the beat so well.  I wonder if the song is about a hangover, or waking up after doing too much heroin and needing more but being too afraid of what it might mean to need more.  There isn't a single drug reference, but feelings of wasted time and restlessness keep you guessing.  Then you move on to, "Waiting for the Man" about buying drugs from someone who wasn't enrolled in a Dallas middle school.  But, the obvious highlight on the album was, "Heroin" which is so nihilistic and sad it left me with a happy feeling that nihilism still exists in the world beyond post-graduate stress disorder.  Some of the other songs are about S&M (woo hoo, "Venus in Furs") and even Lou Reed can't keep a straight face while singing about a "whiplash girlchild," dominating someone in the dark.  The second time he says "now plead for me" he breaks and laughs a little bit which is sort of an icebreaker because the song is so freakin weird.  Basically, the album is about sexual deviance and drugs.  So, way to represent the New York socialite scene in the 1960s.  Although, I hear the album didn't catch on immediately.  And that's totally understandable.  Peace, Love and Nihilism don't exactly go together like sushi, wasabi, and soy sauce.  Although, perhaps, heroin goes well with anything.  I wouldn't know.  So you can move your DEA truck off my street already.

Taste the whip, bitches, now plead for me: 
"We were trying to do a Phil Spector thing with as few instruments as possible," John Cale, the classically trained pianist and viola player of the Velvet Underground, said of this record. It was no idle boast. Much of what we take for granted in rock would not exist without this New York band or its seminal debut: the androgynous sexuality of glitter; punk's raw noir; the blackened-riff howl of grunge and noise rock; goth's imperious gloom. Recorded dirt-cheap at a studio that was literally falling apart, it is a record of fearless breadth and lyric depth. Singer-songwriter Lou Reed documented carnal desire and drug addiction, decadence and redemption, with a pop wisdom he learned as a song-factory composer for Pickwick Records. Cale introduced the power of pulse and drone (from his work with minimalist composer La Monte Young); guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker played with tribal force; Nico, a German vocalist added to the band by manager Andy Warhol, brought an icy femininity to the heated ennui in Reed's songs. Rejected as nihilistic by the love crowd in '67, the Banana Album (so named for its Warhol-designed cover) is the most pro­phetic rock album ever made.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

#317 The Eminem Show -- Eminem

If The Sound and the Fury didn't convince me that having mommy issues could seriously eff you up, this album totally did.

When this album came out, my brother came into my room and whispered, come to the grocery store with me, I just bought the new Eminem album and you have to listen to it.  In his truck, he handed me the cd, and I took out the booklet and followed along with his lyrics to "White America."  We were Shady's perfect target audience, 15 and 19, white American kids, blond, blue eyed, upper middle class.  I felt sinful just holding it, and even at 15 I knew Eminem was talking directly to me.  I shuddered as he accused me of putting his lyrics up under a microscope to uncover a layer of anger and disfunction I never knew existed (how did he know I was so nerdy to read along??) and I sat with an open mouth as he talked about creating an army to march to the steps of congress and piss on the lawns of the white house.

Excellent.  Where do I enlist?  Come on, Marshal, where was your burly black recruiting officer sipping Hennessy and smoking a joint at my high school's college fairs?

If you haven't listened to White America, by all means, click on the link above.  I think it's more important now than it was 11 years ago.  And because I feel this anger more NOW than I did as a teenager, I suppose the public education system is better off without me.

He was the unheard voice of our generation, I fear.  But make no mistake, he was the voice of our generation.  This album provoked so much political anger, but I believe it fell on deaf ears (in Texas, anyway).  Ironically, it's so anti-Bush and anti-War, even though it's through a medium of endless anger and frustration.  In the song, "Square Dance" he accuses us of being at band camp and unconcerned about a draft to go fight in Iraq for the government (see lyrics below).  For someone who was born in around 1973, perhaps this seems like a concern.  But for those of us who were in High School during the time of 9/11, I would say, you were made fun of if you didn't want to enlist right out of High School to go kill "those bastards who did that thing to them towers I didn't even know existed until September."  He could have been our Bob Dylan, he pretty much was, minus Peace and good drugs like Acid, but instead everyone from our generation are wild Snorlax(es? Snorlaxi?) and would rather bury their heads in the sand, or just blindly trust institutions.

Some choice lyrics from "Square Dance:"

Yeah the man's back
With a plan to ambush this Bush administration,
Mush the Senate's face in and push this generation,
Of kids to stand and fight for the right to say something you might not like,

This white hot light,
Yeah you laugh till your motherfuckin' ass gets drafted,
While you're at band camp thinkin' the crap can't happen,

All this terror America demands action,
Next thing you know you've got Uncle Sam's ass askin'
To join the army or what you'll do for there Navy.
You just a baby,
Gettin' recruited at eighteen,

You're on a plane now,
Eating their food and their baked beans.
I'm 28,
They gonna take you 'fore they take me

And here we are, bankrupt, unemployed, vaccinated, fluoridated, addicted to adderall, and bored.  You don't need a draft if everyone wants to join the U.S. army, Mr. Slim Shady...sad, but troof, my wigga.  It's ok, America loves to prosecute anyone who incites independent thinking.  (cough Julian Assange cough Alex Jones cough).

Change of subject--Eminem also consistently gets flack for being a misogynist.  Writing songs about murdering ex-wives, beating women, killing his mother, yadda yadda.  Let me give you a spoonful of perspective, from a female's point of view.  Homeboy has serious abandonment and Mommy issues.  Just listen to Cleanin' Out My Closet and remember the valuable lesson we all should have learned from Frankenstein, if anyone actually reads anymore; and it's that monsters are created by society, not born.  His song about his anger towards his mother is no different from Sylvia Plath's anger aimed at her father in the poem, "Daddy" where she calls her father a bastard and a fascist.  But we call her a "feminist confessionalist poet."  And talk about her as "groundbreaking" for women's rights and the confessionalist movement in poetry classes.  I smell a double standard.  But maybe nobody reads poetry anymore either, so all those incensed by Eminem probably don't know about her...Neither actually killed their parents, but both are metaphorically burying a past (and the offending parent) they'd have been better off without.  It's called M.E.T.A.P.H.O.R., try to say it again-- Meeeetttttttaaaaaaaaaaappppphhhhhhooooorrrrrr.

and as Em says, "If my lyrics were literal, I'm a criminal, how the FUCK could I raise a little girl?"

Not to mention that when women kill in music and movies, it's sexy.  See this ending snapshot from Lady Gaga's Bad Romance music video where she freaking burned some dood.  But she's not known for being a man hater, is she?:

In Marshal's own words on his "Sing for the Moment" song:

They say music can alter moods and talk to you
Well can it load a gun up for you , and cock it too
Well if it can, then the next time you assault a dude
Just tell the judge it was my fault and i'll get sued

His music is an expression of anger, a confession- not unlike Plath's poetry, to uncover the depths of his anger, and raw unadulterated emotion.  It spills out of him with perfect rhyme and meter, layered with metaphor and symbolism, and it probably feels good, like inhaling after being under water for a minute.  He really is a lyrical genius.  I suspect he has fragments of Shakespeare's soul locked up in some of his brain cells.  Eminem explains in the lyrics I chose above that, yes, he understands his music can alter your mood, but don't prosecute him for your life choices.  Are we going to sue the creators of the Batman Trilogy for James Holmes's decision to shoot up a theatre too?

In fragments from the Preface of The Picture of Dorian Gray, "There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.  Books are well written, or badly written....No artist is ever morbid.  The artist can express everything,"  as Oscar Wilde once put it.  So I say, leave Eminem alone.  His songs are beautifully written, regardless of content.  And who wouldn't envy someone who can stand up and scream and feel no end to the depths of human emotion?

Bravo, Mr. Mathers.  Badass Album.  I don't think you're on the "updated" 500 album list, Em, but this is what Rolling Stone Mag had to say about you on their "100 greatest albums of the 2000s" or whatever.  If you want to see my brief rant about how Rolling Stone changed and updated their list, please click here.  (sorry, slim, you were replaced with the Pixies, of all bands.)

Otherwise, this is what somebody wrote about The Eminem show:

On his third album, Eminem shifted from provocation to introspection, mulling fame, fatherhood and the psychic toll of being America's biggest pop star and – according to scolds on both ends of the political spectrum – number one moral menace. The rhymes were as densely packed and virtuosic as ever ("When I speak, it's tongue in cheek/I'd yank my fuckin' teeth before I'd ever bite my tongue"), but they were also poignantly confessional; the beats largely jettisoned perky hip-hop to embrace the power chords and grandeur of Seventies rock.

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I have a bone to pick with you, Rolling Stone

Alright, I am sorry that I didn't post a blog for July.  I don't have a great excuse, but plan on doing two albums this month to make up for it.  Actually, getting married in 16 days should be a good enough excuse, but on top of finalizing a wedding, I will try to squeeze in two albums.  You see, I am just a little annoyed with Rolling Stone.  They decided, out of nowhere to change their top 500 album list.  I noticed this when I posted the George Harrison blog that on my printed copy from a year ago where I highlight each album I've listened to, it clearly said "All Things Must Pass" was #437, but when I checked the Rolling Stone website, it listed it as 433.  Conundrum.

I was befuddled and annoyed.  I'm not a super type-A personality, but when you throw a wrench in my plans, I will fucking kill you.

So the next album that I have been listening to is "The Eminem Show" by Eminem, of course.  If you ever want to blow off steam, Mr. Mathers is your man.

But when I checked to see what number he had been moved to, I think they took him straight off the list.  They only have his other album on there (please correct me if you wish to click through their updated list of 500 and let me know if you see The Eminem Show listed anywhere else).  So after one whole month of analyzing his anger, I had to decide what to do.

Thus, the delay in my post.

So, here is what I am going to do.  I am going to stay true to the original list that I printed off.  The original one published in the paper version of Rolling Stone Magazine in 2003.  When I notice that an album has been moved, I will provide the changed rank in parenthesis.

I am pissed.  I still have 400 something albums to go, and they will probably change the list in a few more years anyway, so this is the only thing that makes sense.  When I've completed the original list, perhaps I will add in the new albums, but I will probably be bored with this project when I am 40, have 3 kids to homeschool and live in the middle of a forest.  Don't laugh at me; have fun falling from your corporate ladder.  elle oh elle smiley wink-face.

Is it just me, or is it also scary that on the interwebz, you can update something like a list and not tell anyone and then all the history of what it used to be is lost and gone forever unless you're a distrusting person like myself and printed out the original?  cough*1984*cough

So thanks Rolling Stone for this snafu.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

# 437 All Things Must Pass - George Harrison (#433 new list)

The last time I listened to "My Sweet Lord" my car had been flipped upside down going 70 miles per hour on I35 on the anniversary of the birth of our lord, William Shakespeare.  While my seatbelt held me upside down, I watched the glass smash onto the pavement and my crappy Nissan Altima screamed in agony like a braking train.  The unyielding pavement popped piece after piece of glass flecks up and up like popcorn, hitting my face and shirt and wrists.

I was laughing.  Like a Kurt Vonnegut character becoming unstuck in time.  I recalled the faint smell of leather and satin from pointe shoes years ago.  Effervescent ejaculations of uncontrolled giggling poured out of my body like tears.  I laughed at the death that I was waiting for as my head hit the window and all I could hear above the sounds of screeching breaks, roaring highway, and my own beating heart were the (un)comforting words of George Harrison singing, "I really want to see you lord, but it takes sooo long my lord (hallelujah)."  During a nutcracker rehearsal when I was 14, one of my friends said to me, did you hear, George Harrison from The Beatles died today.  yeah, I said, as I hopped up and down to break in my new pair of pointe shoes.  The crack of the rosin rocks beneath my blunt toes looked remarkably like the glass popping in my face.  And, as one who is cursed to find irony in every moment of life, I laughed.  Until a man held me back in my seat as he unbuckled my seatbelt, pulled me out of my car window, carried me to the side of the road, laid me on my back, put my feet in the air, and said, "you're going to be fine.  I do this for a living."  I said, "you pull people out of cars for a living?  That's a pretty sweet job." (My Loorrrdddd, my my my lord, my sweet lord, Krishna Krishna) "I'll stay with you until the ambulance gets here."  He said.  "No, you don't need to do that.  When I feel better, I'll get up and move my car." I said. "It's upside down." he said. "Is it?  If you could give me a minute, I'll just flip it back over."  "Just relax but don't close your eyes.  you could lose consciousness."

When life came back into focus a few days later, I picked up the accident report.

"Passenger extracted herself from the vehicle."  according to three witnesses.  And when I saw my car, both front doors were jammed closed and both windows were intact.  To this day, I have no idea how I got out of the car, upside down after a concussion and spinal compression.

Apparently, my guardian angel is a 40 something hispanic male in black nike shorts and a wife beater.

That memory, and the memory of a stiff new pair of pointe shoes as I recalled my first celebrity death rushed through my brain when I turned this album on.  His words melodiously slithered through my brain and unlocked doors of memories long forgotten and images not of this lifetime.  Through a neurological web, I recalled the crunch of a rosin rock under pink point shoes and the sound of shattering glass.  I thought about how we are not individuals, although we think we are.  In an article I recently thumbed through, they estimate that microbes outnumber our own cells 10 to 1.  And that we are not single entities, but rather we are private ecosystems, providing a home for billions of cells and microbes who all work together like a micro-universe.  We are forests.  And that each cell has its own parts and functions and works with its neighbor cells, much like we live in houses and live next door to other families.  I recalled walking my careless pomeranian puppy who stepped on a small snail that carried the secret fractal geometry of the universe in his miniature shell as I heard Harrison sing through my earbuds, "Isn't it a Pity."  I thought about the time where I once had a moment when I stood naked in my closet and felt humbled by my clothes.  This shirt, I mused, this cotton shirt is so much more than that.  IT started with cotton seeds that came from centuries of cotton plants once picked by sweating black hands, but are now picked by people all over the world.  And those little balls of cotton that came from the same plant went off to a factory to be spun and dyed.  A beautiful person planted the seeds, someone with a pregnant wife picked the cotton, a small child wove the cotton into fabric, a woman who was inspired by a song someone wrote designed the image to be printed on the front, someone who was bullied in high school designed the printer she used, and a recovering alcoholic sent it to a store, and I bought it and brought it home and placed it in my closet.  And at the moment I  lifted it over my head and put my head through the hole, I was born with a realization that this very moment was put into motion years before I was conceived.  And this moment too, shall pass.

And this album made me realize, that I am a piece of any puzzle of any one person or thing I have ever touched and will ever touch before I pass away.  And so are you.  And on a grand scale, we are God and Nothing at the same time.  Our lives are the most meaningful, especially for the billions of microbes who call it home, and are also the most insignificant of lives (to those who make us pay taxes).  And these small memories I've provided here, are some of the many memories of people who have been touched by this album.  If we could make a mountain out of the memories triggered by George Harrison, it would take an eternity to climb.  And he was only one man in our macro-universe.  And that is one of the many profound points I surmised from this album.

So if you didn't get that, give it a re-listen and keep in mind that "Not too many people, can see we're all the same."

Don McLean would be happy to know that this music saved my mortal soul.  Here is what Rolling Stone had to say:

Apple, 1970
Harrison had almost enough songs stored up from his Beatles days for a triple LP – the gas starts to run out during the jams on Side Six. But spiritual guitar quests like "My Sweet Lord" and "What Is Life" became classics.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

#27 King of the Delta Blues Singers - Robert Johnson

To be honest, I would have had a much better time trying to distinguish between ancient Chinese dialects than to distinguish between each track on this album.  I thought the same song was on repeat until I realized, after having listened all the way through the album several times that every song sounds unmistakably the same.  To complicate the issue further, the recording, albeit "digitally remastered" is horrendous enough that the static seems to become apart of the music so that it no longer stands out, like high fructose corn syrup in your tasty sparkling beverage.  Not to mention that Robert Johnson's "blusey" voice is so difficult to understand I think I only heard about three distinct words after tirelessly straining to decide if indeed English is the spoken language: Woman, Kitchen, and Blues.  Which, pardon my ignorance to this genre, isn't a recipe for interesting music to me (and honest people everywhere).

So, if the quality of sound, sound variance, lyrics, or catchy music isn't to blame for this album's startling 27th place spot, what on earth is?

So I looked him up.  I do this after I listen to the album.  I don't want what others have written before me to taint my virgin musical experience; nor do I want their biographical information to influence what I think of their music.  What I read was absolutely absurd.  Apparently, this dood sold his soul to the devil to be a "great" blues musician.  Epic Fail.  After achieving success and banging a lot of women (in worthless musician fashion) he was poisoned by a jealous person and the devil wanted his soul.  And then, somehow influenced every other musician who is/was worth a damn.  Just name your fav, s/he's on the list of groupies.  Because according to legend/typical groupie jargon, rock and roll couldn't have happened without Robert Johnson.

It reminds me of those self-righteous dickfarts I went to college with who claim that, "Without Beowulf, we mightn't have had such masterpieces as Lord of the Rings."  Well, we'd be much better off without both of them.  I day-dreamed of an interview with Miley Cyrus and she'd be all like "oh yeah, I couldn't have gotten where I totally am today had it not been for R. Johnson, homeboy show me love from hell, lol smiley wink face."

Just because something was created and it was the first (beowulf/king of the delta blues etc) doesn't make it art.  For serious.  Nobody likes primitive pottery.  We know nothing about the dark ages not because shit isn't there, but because it was boring shit and no self-respecting archeologist can lie long enough in his sad-faced office examining terra cotta crap his three-year-old could have made.  Had nobody like Clapton, Keith Richards, Bobby D and the like turned around and pointed fingers at this guy, would anyone know who he is?  Seriously?  Because this album was just total gibberish and whining.

But I could have lied like everyone else did.  Come on, admit it you music snobs, you totally don't go on a run or a car trip and get excited for "Moo cow's calf's baby mama blues in the kitchen. Woman." or whatever.

And if you don't believe that every song sounds EXACTLY the same, play the first 8 seconds of each recording before going to the next track.  it sounds like this on repeat: "Ber Ne Nurh Nurh Nurh dum dum bum bum bum... Mehehehehehe mamama in da kitchen!!!!!!  bur bur bur meeeeh mooo beeen so long" etc. etc.

But, I guess it is possible that without Robert Johnson, Dave Chappelle might have had a different opening for his short lived show of badassery.

Here is what the Mag says about Robert Johnson because they are all afraid of the devil:
"You want to know how good the blues can get?" Keith Richards asked. "Well, this is it." The bluesman in question was Robert Johnson, who lived from 1911 to 1938 in the Mississippi Delta, and whose guitar prowess was so great, it inspired stories that, in exchange for his amazing gift, he had sold his soul to the devil. Johnson recorded only twenty-nine songs, but their evanescent passion has resonated through the decades. This initial LP reissue of Johnson's original 78s was a fountainhead for 1960s rockers such as Richards and Eric Clapton, who plundered it for covers. A better starting point today might be the recently released sixteen-track compilation King of the Delta Blues.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

#2 Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys

I had this revelation about a week ago, as I was sitting on the back porch watching my cat Socrates chase butterfly after butterfly.  He would pounce a little to their left and they would fly away; confirming my suspicions that he is partially blind.  I sat there, like Pip in front of his parents' graves and thought, I'm here.  I am here.  Like, my whole life, has been building up to this moment, that just as soon as I appreciated it, it had gone from me.  Like the butterfly that flew over the fence and then there was this new moment, slightly altered, slightly different from the one of neuron fires previous.  And, like a cat who lives only in the present, I knew that this is all I have.  I did not go to college in this moment.  I did not attend grade school in this moment.  I am not the freckle-faced nymph I once was, who secretly ate sticks of butter, carefully unwrapping them and savoring the decadence between small fingers, who was startled with annoyance at the discovery that I could not wash the oils from my hands so easily at the conclusion of my crime; and who started secret clubs where all the members had to have an imaginary friend who played tricks on the boys who killed lizards and toads for fun.  I am 25 right now.  but I won't be that exact age in another second.  I had had all these thoughts before, but they were marinated in this new, surprising, striking feeling of mortality.  Like, I am not promised tomorrow.  I have this moment with my large orange cat and a cup of coffee, and the feel of the grass beneath my bare feet.  But I have nothing else.  I will have other things when I go inside, when I watch paranoid forensic shows on TV while I wait for the next notable thing to happen, or I will have the feeling of the white and black keys beneath my fingers as I play a sonatina by Beethoven; but I do not have those things now.  I have a cat who found me along his winding path, and a cup of coffee.  I wondered why, with persistent annoyance that we do not train people to think like the eternally content cat.  We are taught from the smallest age, that we must wait until we grow up.  You must wait until Christmas to get the Xbox.  You will have your free time in the summer.  You can drive when you are 16, you can vote when you are 18, when you are out of college, you can do whatever you'd like.  It felt like all this incessant and pointless waiting led up to this moment.  That I am here.  Finally, after so long of waiting.  And nobody could have told me that the future held a cat and a cup of coffee.  And a Beach Boys album that may have helped to spark many of these thoughts.  What on earth was the point of waiting?  Why do we program people to look towards the future when it has not yet arrived; and it might not- for you may be the unfortunate boy whose remains are found in a sewer, like in the last forensic show.  Or you may have been one of those people who used to talk of nothing but the future, how you will become a doctor, how you will marry a beautiful woman, how you will make lots of money, and now you nurse dark bottles of beer after a tiring job, standing in intimate circles in the back corner of a bar and talk about nothing but the past, when it is no more.

When I first listened to Pet Sounds, by the Beach Boys, I was a little disappointed.  At first, it seemed very poppy, and I wondered with annoyance how they could have made their way to the second slot on the list.  I thought I would say things like, which beach boy turned trick to get them up that high on the list?  But I really don't know anything about why this album was so important.  I wasn't there in May of 1966 when the album came out.  I imagined young girls in high school buying the album at a record shop.  and I wondered where all those women were today.  Did they have grown children?  Did they remember the smell of the record, the crackling, popping noise it might make as they delicately placed the needle on the first track?  When they hear "God Only Knows" on the radio, do they imagine a past lover, a boy who, like the woman in question, shared the same sympathy with the lead vocalist?  Did they identify with music that supposedly shaped Rock and Roll history (for reasons unbeknown to me)?

When "don't talk, put your head on my shoulder" came on, I recalled a Paul McCartney concert a few years ago when he sang, "She was just 17, if you know what I mean..." and my insides almost curled up and died.  He looked like a gaunt, deathly ill ghost impersonating a man who once was.  An elderly shadow clinging to a moment that came and went.  And I wondered where the Beach Boys were now; what were they doing?  What time made them become.  Do they sit around and talk about the past, or do they have different lives now with new interests and new pleasures?  Did they have a moment with some butterflies, a cup of coffee, and a cat?

In this light, the songs seemed less pointless and poppy to me.  They seemed a little deeper than expected.  Suddenly lyrics like:
Wouldn't it be nice if we were older
then we wouldn't have to wait so long
and wouldn't it be nice to live together
in the kind of world where we belong?

Seemed like a group of people in a quarterlifecrisis reaching out for a future they were promised by parents who unknowingly programmed them.  I could feel people, perhaps a whole generation of people, itching to burst out of their skin, but feeling unable to do so.  The song that really stood out to me on this album, one that was not poppy and happy, one that seemed introspective and sad was "I just wasn't made for these times":

"I keep looking for a place to fit
where I can speak my mind
I've been trying hard to find the people
That I won't leave behind

They say I got brains
But they ain't doing me no good
I wish they could

Each time things start to happen again
I think I got something good goin' for myself
But what goes wrong

Sometimes I feel very sad
Sometimes I feel very sad
(Can't find nothin' I can put my heart and soul into)
Sometimes I feel very sad
(Can't find nothin' I can put my heart and soul into)

I guess I just wasn't made for these times"

I could feel the angst and the annoyance.  The constant searching for a destiny that never really existed, but was always promised by people who don't have to live your life.  How many others of his generation felt this feeling.  God, how many people of my generation feel this?

In sum, the album's placement on the list at first glance seems like something to be written off as a fluke.  It could easily be dismissed that "oh, it only made it so far up the list because it was pop music."  Perhaps that helped it get placed, but there is much more to this album beneath the surface.  The thoughts that it provoked in me made me rethink dismissing it.  I wonder if I heard it years from now if it would have produced similar thoughts, or a whole chain of different ones.  Maybe 'twas the culmination of being the same age as the band members, in a generation that so desperately wants change and yet feels so impotent to break away helped to formulate this "review" if you can even call it that.

So thanks 24-year-old Brian Wilson.  Did you know that one day, on my own path, yours would cross mine on an iPod and I would spend a Sunday afternoon with a cat named Socrates sharing a private eternity of thoughts that will soon be forgotten, like everything else?  Until I am blindsided by a Proustian Madeleine years from now and a song of yours from this album will come on, and I might tell children of my own how had I not written a blog in my confused 20s, I never would have stopped to appreciate a neurological path accidently forged by a musician before me, who never knew my name, nor has never and will never meet me.  And they might laugh, or think I'm strange, and I, in turn, might laugh at them when I go to make brownies and all the butter is missing.

You make me and baby Jesus happy to hear your music.

What people who actually know how to write reviews said:

"Who's gonna hear this shit?" Beach Boys singer Mike Love asked the band's resident genius, Brian Wilson, in 1966, as Wilson played him the new songs he was working on. "The ears of a dog?" Confronted with his bandmate's contempt, Wilson made lemonade of lemons. "Ironically," he observed, "Mike's barb inspired the album's title."
Barking dogs — Wilson's dog Banana among them, in fact — are prominent among the found sounds on the album. The Beatles made a point of echoing them on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band — an acknowledgment that Pet Sounds was the inspiration for the Beatles' masterpiece. That gesture actually completed a circle of influence: Wilson initially conceived of Pet Sounds as an effort to top the Beatles' Rubber Soul.
Wilson essentially made Sounds without the rest of the band, using them only to flesh out the vocal arrangements. He even considered putting the album out as a solo project, and the first single, "Caroline, No," was released under his own name. The deeply personal nature of the songs, which Wilson co-wrote primarily with lyricist Tony Asher, further distinguished the album from the Beach Boys' typical fare. Its luxurious sound convey a heartbreaking wistfulness, as songs such as "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" and "I'm Waiting for the Day" bid farewell to the innocent world of the early Sixties and to the Beach Boys' fun-in-the-sun hits.
Unfortunately, Capitol Records proved no more enamored of Pet Sounds than had Love; the label actually considered not releasing the album at all. Not yet vindicated by history, Wilson withdrew further into his inner world. "At the last meeting I attended concerning Pet Sounds," Wilson wrote in his autobiography (which took the name of the album's opening track, "Wouldn't It Be Nice") about his dealings with Capitol's executive brain trust, "I showed up holding a tape player and eight prerecorded, looped responses, including 'No comment,' 'Can you repeat that?' 'No' and 'Yes.' Refusing to utter a word, I played the various tapes when appropriate."

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