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.