Good Reason

It's okay to be wrong. It's not okay to stay wrong.

Category: random five (page 2 of 3)

It’s that Random Five again

Broken Cloud by The Lilac Time
Album: Looking for a Day in the Night

A favourite track from a favourite album. In 1999, Looking for a Day in the Night marked the return of the Lilac Time, and this album is a fantastic return to form. Nick Duffy, brother of Stephen and multi-instrumental talent in his own right, wrote this instrumental.
Speaking of the Lilac Time, Stephen mentions on his blog that the new album is almost finished, and he’s very pleased with it. I am in a state of intense anticiption.

Cuyahoga by R.E.M.
Album: Life’s Rich Pageant

This was my first R.E.M. album. I always liked this track, even when I didn’t know that background. Apparently the Cuyahoga river was so polluted that it once caught fire.

The Judgement is the Mirror by Dali’s Car
Album: The Waking Hour

Dali’s Car is my favourite Peter Murphy project. Mick Karn appears on his trademark wobbly bass, and the mood is dark and misty. Slap a Maxfield Parrish painting on the front and the whole thing’s a winner.

The video’s up on YouTube, as is everything else, so you might as well.

Around. Around. Around.

Ironically this video might have been the only time they saw each other during the entire project.

Home by the Range by The Cure
Album:

An excerpt from a 1986 interview with the Cure. Robert Smith explains why it’s better for everyone in the band to do what he thinks. It’s worked for him, but perhaps not for everyone. It’s a tightrope. If a band has a strong central member, it can survive line-up changes, but you’ll have to work to allay other band members’ feelings of stifledness.

Whilst we meditate on this, let us see a clip from the interview.

Little Drummer Boy by Chet Atkins
Album: Christmas With Chet Atkins
Christmas is months away, but I am powerless to control the vageries of the Random Five. Ol’ Chet has a special place in my Christmas memories, mostly because of his wonderful medley of ‘Coventry Carol’ with ‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen’. And also this track. Both songs show the softer side of Atkins’ guitar work. My advice: get the album and ignore the cover.

Interesting facts about the Friday Random Five

This week’s FR5 presents songs and trivia, all from my own encyclopedic memory.

But first, let’s just gaze for a moment at the cover of the new Björk album, Volta.

Well, that’s a relief. For a little while there, I thought it was going to be something weird.

I’m gearing up for a performance of Fauré’s Requiem I’m doing on Sunday, so I’m not listening to any popular music this week. Well, maybe Cibo Matto. And the following Random Five.

I’d Like to Walk Around in Your Mind by Lush
Album: Topolino

  • This is a sweet little guitar song that conceals a bitter little core, which means that it’s a perfect Lush song.
  • The song is credited to ‘unknown’, but it would appear to have been an early Vashti Bunyan song.
  • She describes how she’d like to get inside the head of someone who hasn’t been particularly kind to her. Most unsettling lyric: But most of all I’d like you to be unaware / And then just wander away, dragging palm leaves behind me, so you don’t even know that I’ve been there.

12 Hours by The Whitlams
Album: Little Cloud

  • This album was produced by J. Walker of Machine Translations, and as a result, the album is about nine times more interesting than a typical Whitlams album.
  • It’s a spare piano song about post-seduction regret.
  • The Whitlams were named after an Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam. He was famously dismissed by the Governor General, which is sort of like being fired by the Queen. Since then, Prime Ministers have selected GG’s for their timidity.
  • Best lyric: ‘Some may drown their sorrows; mine, they like to swim.’ Too bad it’s a U2 lyric.

Get Off the Stage by Morrissey
Album: Piccadilly Palare (Single)

  • This song was written and played on by Andy Rourke, Morrissey’s former Smiths bandmate.
  • This song is a relentless self-parody. He taunts himself as an aging pop star and mocks his misguided trousers, his… mascara? Fender guitar?
  • Silly me. It’s a dig at Mick Jagger.

Special by Garbage
Album: Version 2.0

  • Three of the members of Garbage are producers, including Butch Vig of Nirvana fame.
  • Garbage is the worst name for a band. You have to be a really good band to have a name like Garbage.
  • They got that name because one of their friends heard an early demo, and said, “This shit sounds like garbage!”
  • This song appeared in a hallway shot in an episode of Dawson’s Creek. Remember Dawson’s Creek?
  • The theme of the song is a fairly involved three-part harmony. Fortunately, they drop the instrumentation around it for a while so it can be heard properly.

Lithium (live) by Nirvana
Album: Nirvana Live Vol. 1

  • This is a really crappy bootleg.
  • The songs appear on the disc as one long track. I had to cut the songs into tracks myself. How crap is that?
  • Pretty crap.
  • I remember that the video for this song had the Nirvana guys apearing in Beatle outfits, interspersed with them in dresses. There were two endings, one for each outfit. MTV tended to play the non-dress-ending one more.
  • I never got to see Nirvana live. The SLC show in 1994 sold out too quickly.
  • That sucks.

And the increasingly likely Bonus Sixth:
Video Killed the Radio Star by Buggles
Album: The Age of Plastic

  • The Buggles featured brilliant Art of Noise producer Trevor Horn.
  • This song was the very first song ever played on MTV.
  • The Presidents of the USA covered it once.
  • I still think it’s a good song.
  • Trevor Horn compiled the soundtrack to the movie Coyote Ugly. He used music from the early nineties, which made me think that his musical knowledge stopped there.
  • But then he did produce The Life Pursuit by Belle and Sebastian, which means he’s still relevant, and we owe him something after all.

Friday Random Five wants to be your monkey.

The disk I can’t stop listening to this week is Peace Love Death Metal by the Eagles of Death Metal. No, it’s not actually a death metal disc; call it unreconstructed sexy-n-satanic rock star posturing, with forked tongue in cheek. It would be a barely amusing schtick if the songwriting weren’t so rock-solid and the straight-up rockin’ grooves so repeatably listenable. The production leans toward minimal instrumentation, with everything right up front and a little bit gritty. They love reprises and handclaps, and they leave in a lot of studio banter between tracks, which reflects the mood during the two days it took to record this album. Check it out, but prepare for a sore neck from all the head-bobbling.

Sea Legs by The Shins
Album: Wincing the Night Away
Ah, time to check out that new Shins album I’ve been meaning to listen to. This song sounds cerebral and well-written. Will I feel like listening to it after it’s over? Does it mark me as an old fart if I say it reminds me of an updated version of Modern English? That was a cerebral band of good writers in the 80’s, kids. Maybe you haven’t lived long enough to have the music you like go out of fashion, but I have. Several times. I think I’m on my fifth cycle. Can you tell I’m turning 40 this week?

Nightminds by Missy Higgins
Album: The Sound of White
Missy Higgins was discovered by Triple J in one of their ‘Unearthed’ competitions. She seemed to have it all together and ready to go; a smoky voice, catchy songwriting, and thoughtful lyrics (check ‘The River’ for an arresting listen). So why do I care so little for this kind of music? Why does this debut album feel like her ninth? Does it play it too safe? Is it that I’m not enough of an Adult Contemporary old fart to enjoy this? That’s a good interpretation, and the one I’m leaning toward.

Agent Orange by Depeche Mode
Album: Music for the Masses
I never knew how to take this album. Were they ‘selling out’ (since we all cared about this at one point in history), and leaving the title of the album as a clue? Or was it the next stage in Depeche Mode’s progress that would continue what they started with ‘Black Celebration’? One thing is clear: they could never have managed this song on an album like ‘Some Great Reward’.

I Sometimes Wish I Were Dead by Depeche Mode
Album: Speak & Spell (UK)
See, this is what I’m talking about. A very Vince Clarke song. All the early electronica has a sweetness and innocence to it, especially this album.

I just found out something: Vince Clarke is not gay. Would you have guessed that? It’s just that I always listened to “What’s Your Name?” and saw Erasure on TV with their white outfits, and thought: I may not have gaydar, but I know that everyone associated with this music is extremely gay, including the caterers.

And then I see on Blake’s site: http://www.thefirstcut.net/ a very touching story about how he and his wife got to meet meet Andy and Vince through Vince’s wife Tracey.

Does this mean that no homosexuals were involved in the making of Speak and Spell? This is really doing my head in. I thought R. Crumb was dead for a long time, and he isn’t, and that had the same effect.

Mother by Red House Painters
Album: Red House Painters
This song is thirteen minutes long, and it takes itself very seriously, but it was the early nineties, so the Red House Painters got there first and I won’t begrudge them.

Can I resist a bonus sixth when it’s Severed Heads? No.

Harold and Cindy Hospital by Severed Heads
Album: Bulkhead
There is nothing like this song anywhere, before or since. It’s an industrial tango with simian panting and lurid orchestral riffs. You will know in the first ten seconds whether you love it or hate it. Maybe it’s not possible to love it anymore if you’re just coming to it now.

Return of Friday Random Five!

So many new things to listen to, but this week’s album comes from my past. I have recently rediscovered Out of the Blue by Electric Light Orchestra. At $7.99 of my own money, it was the first record I ever bought. Though I used to lie and say it was Devo’s Freedom of Choice. For shame.

Out of the Blue was phenomenally successful at the time, and a high point for ELO. And it’s easy to see why. It still sounds wonderful, big and symphonic. There’s nothing wrong with this album, with song after song of layered, listenable pop, including ‘Turn to Stone’, ‘It’s Over’, and ‘Sweet Talkin’ Woman’ — and that’s just the first three songs. I’m gravitating toward side 3, known as ‘Concerto for a Rainy Day’. Jeff Lynne lets his classical muse loose, but doesn’t let it get in the way of the sunny masterpiece ‘Mr Blue Sky’. And at the end of the side, he returns to the theme of the ‘concerto’ with a flowing piano solo that sounds to me like nothing less than — I’m not kidding — Rachmaninoff. See if you don’t agree.

And now for the five.

Good Dancers by The Sleepy Jackson
Album: Cold Front: The Winter Chill Collective
One from a Perth band. A lovely sprawling song that could have been written by Prince in a strawberry field. In fact, is that the ghost of George Harrison on guitar? I might have to become a believer after all.

Debussy: Children’s Corner Suite – 2. Jimbo’s Lullaby by Peter Schmalfuss
Album: World of the Classics: Claude Debussy
If this is a lullaby, it’s an awfully dissonant one. The use of seconds isn’t comforting. Is this the mind of a child haunted by monsters?

Debussy makes me want to learn piano again.

Anaesthesia by Clouds
Album: Clouds [EP]
Clouds were a really talented band that never seemed to get out of Australia, like so many others. I was fortunate enough to catch them for an in-store at 78’s in Perth, as well as their farewell concert. This was in 1996.

Tighter songwriting than Veruca Salt, and they rocked harder than Lush, which whom they are frequently compared.

Planet Claire by The B-52’s
Album: The B-52’s
The B’s were the face of new wave in the early 80’s. It was easy to notice their fantastic dress sense and beehive hairdo’s, but listening today I notice how strong a guitar band they were, and how much they owed to surf rock. And, of course, b-movies, to which Planet Claire is a goofy sort of tribute. Few of their songs can match it for sense of humour.

Drowning [Group Home Demo] by The Cure
Album: Faith (Deluxe Edition)
You know what I love about the age we’re living in? Everything from the past is available and in digital. And one manifestation of this is the Deluxe Edition. Like the album? Get it. Really like it? Then why not go deluxe? You get the album, plus a second disc of rarities. You can choose your level of fan-ness! And of course, you can pick songs out of it with iTunes if you like. Everyone gets only what they want. Truly a perfect world. Except for the fact that I’ve now bought this same album three times.

It’s interesting to hear this early Cure song, which didn’t appear on the album. I can imagine how it might have sounded if it had been developed.

Love by Gecko
Album: Lizard Point
I think Gecko is one of the guys from Groove Armada. This is a very pleasant guitar riff, surrounded by a sample from ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’ by the Captain and Tenille. Nice.

Friday Random Five goes it alone.

So much good music out there! Next time you hear someone complaining that “there’s no good music anymore”, feel free to tip over their walker for me. And what’s playing now, you ask? Usually these days it’s…

Señor Coconut! The nom de guerre of Uwe Schmidt of Atom Heart. Since his move to Chile, he’s merged his love of electronica and Latin band music by releasing ‘El Baile Aleman’, a Latin-themed collection of (get this) Kraftwerk covers. I listen more to the second album, ‘Yellow Fever!’, Latin reworkings of songs by pioneering Japanese techno band Yellow Magic Orchestra. Part parody, part homage, all very listenable and well-done. Will they take away my membership in the Techno Club if I say that they sound better than the originals? if only because YMO’s production sounds a bit too 80s at times. But Señor Coconut is brilliant. He even throws in a little drill and bass when he thinks he can get away with it, and that’s when you’re getting the real Uwe.

But random songs are enjoyable as well.

Archangels by The Wild Swans
Album: Bringing Home the Ashes
I think this may be one of the rarest albums I have. I bought this first Wild Swans album in 1989 when it first came out. I liked the way it combined the boyish October sounds of the Icicle Works and The Ocean Blue, while bringing its own fresh British sensibility. The time of day is early morning, it’s cold, and you’re zipping past rows of trees on a motorcycle. Soon the Wild Swans would release their psychedelic-tinged second album Space Flower and lose all their fans, but this album is seriously worth tracking down.

Wish Coin (Go It Alone) [Diplo Remix] by Beck
Album: Guerolito
I’m not sure how it worked out, but Diplo has managed to work the nervous ska of the English Beat’s Twist and Crawl into Beck’s ‘Go It Alone’. About time someone gave the Beat some props. And it works with the song. Why didn’t Beck think of doing this himself? I guess he can’t think of everything, and he did write ‘Satan Gave Me a Taco’ after all.

One Minute More by Chris & Cosey
Album: Skimble Skamble
Not everyone likes this Chris and Cosey era, but I’m not sure why. Cosey Fanni Tutti’s vocals are, as always, cold, emotionless, and ever so slightly off-key. The sequencing is, as always, smooth and detailed. Could it be that Chris and Cosey didn’t have many ideas by this point? Or is it just that thing where everyone gets tired of a band’s new material even though they’re still brilliant? No, it can’t be that. Chris and Cosey were never the most brilliant band. But they were awfully good at weaving together weird and dangerous mood pieces, and this is just trancy enough to do the job.

Everything You Do is a Balloon by Boards of Canada
Album: Boc Maxima
BoC is the best and most memorable band to come out of the IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) genre. To their repetitive drumbeats and damaged layers of sound, they’ve added a fine sense of musical structure. This rather long song comes from their early period, and the structure is tryptich. First, spangly notes hang in the sky, falling, like something a baby might grasp at before falling asleep. Then a heavier-than-usual drumbeat (their signature boom-boom-bop) rolls along with deep slow-moving chords, while a single querulous horn lends the song its hook. The third part of the song sounds like nothing more than Tibetan drums and frogs (though the ‘Hi Scores’ EP version omits this last part). A fascinating piece that I never tire of.

Tantos Desajos by Suba
Album: Serve Chilled 2
In the battle of Spanish v. Portuguese, give me Spanish. Why? Sensible orthography and sheer comprehensibility. If that’s important, why do I speak English then? Huh? How come? Hey, no dissing English, you malcontent. If that’s the way you’re going to be, why don’t you just listen to this song, which has Portuguese in it. And I must say, the liquid phonology of that language does sound nice coming from this singer, whoever she may be. I was going to categorise this as Latin Chill House, but genres can’t be three words long unless there’s a hyphen.

Friday Random Five shakes my paranoia

Here I thought Soul Whirling Somewhere defined the genre of ‘sadcore’ with their first album “Eating the Sea”. Now via the magic of eMusic, I realise that the honour goes to Red House Painters. Though ‘Mistress’ got all the airplay in 1993, I’m entranced by ‘Katy Song’. After a brooding song with lyrics that would make Brian Wilson say, “Geez, that guy’s a bit pathetic,” the painters launch into a wondrous four-minute outro that could have repeated for the rest of the album without being tiresome.

And now for the random five.

Late Show by Book of Love
Album: Book of Love
Even though they hadn’t found their sound yet, I still enjoy the first album of sugary pop band Book of Love. I first saw the cover in a lovely young lady’s dorm room, and have always associated the album with that place ever since. This instrumental number attempts to rock out a bit, but cinematically so. The stronger numbers are the hits like ‘I Touch Roses’ and ‘Modigliani’. Music for a good mood.

Autumn fires by Bill Nelson
Album: Chamber of Dreams (Music from the Invisibility Exhibition)
Another song from the Bill Nelson 4-CD box set (five, if you count ‘Sounding the Ritual Echo’, which I do). This track is very representative of the set; washed-out swirly guitars hum under a layer of twittery improvised birdsong. A staid parade comes through at the end.

Crossroads by Tracy Chapman
Album: Collection
Sometimes I wonder about what makes an album ‘work’. You could be a really good musician, write an album full of well-formed and well-played songs, and someone (like me) wouldn’t like it. And I can’t really say why. Maybe it’s the religious imagery that turns me off, or maybe it doesn’t ‘speak to my condition’. But why doesn’t it? What makes a piece of music click? and what would make you say, “I really like this artist. I could get behind this, and buy everything they’ve done and maybe even wear the t-shirt out in public”? I don’t know. I just don’t care about this music, even though I think it’s technically fine. Have you got any bands like that?

Stop the Rock by Apollo 440
Album: Gettin’ High on Your Own Supply
People may scoff that this song is in the collection, but I will defend it. I clearly remember the first time I heard it — it was the year that companies were fighting each other for the right to use pop songs in their commercials, and Mars won this one. You must admit that the chorus is a bit of an earworm. Also it shows how much can be accomplished with just one chord.

Beethoven: Minuet in G, WoO 10/2 by Budapest Strings
Album: Meditation – Classical Relaxation
Ah, so this one’s by Beethoven. I always think of him as fiery and all Sturm und Drang, but maybe it’s just that portrait. A lovely and familiar piece. Maybe after a lifetime of listening to these mp3’s, I’ll remember which composer did what.

Bonus sixth:
Mao Badge by Duffy
Album: 17 (Single 1)
Songs like this reminds me why Stephen Duffy is my musical hero. A pop masterpiece, with so much instrumentation and all in the right place. It’s a lazy day with his favourite girl. “Let’s just stay in, play old records, and watch TV — something you taped on video.” But relationships are uncertain: “I hope that you’ll be here for the good and the bad times.” And then a poignant aside: “I hope that there aren’t too many bad times.” It’s a really beautiful song.

Friday Random Five makes the rockin’ world go round.

Today was Australia Day, and you know what that means: music. Specifically the JJJ Hottest 100, which I found strangely uncompelling this year, not because I didn’t know the songs. (I did.) I voted again this year, and I’m willing to lay it all on the line for you now. Ridicule and suck.

  • Beck – No Complaints
  • Belle & Sebastian – Funny Little Frog
  • Belle & Sebastian – The Blues Are Still Blue
  • Midnight Juggernauts – Shadows
  • Kimya Dawson – I Like Giants
  • Augie March – One Crowded Hour
  • Peter Bjorn & John – Young Folks
  • Sonic Youth – Incinerate
  • Thom Yorke – Atoms For Peace
  • Thom Yorke – Black Swan

Basically anything I thought was good enough to download (legally) or buy.

But look at the final list. Sure, a lot of my picks were there (and in fact the Augie March tune made it to number 1). But no Belle? No Midnight Jugs? No Dawson? Instead the list is clogged with trendy stuff that, really, you wouldn’t even borrow a year from now.

So I say a curmudgeonly ‘harrumph!’ and retreat to my own musical zone, where delights new and old are always around the corner.

Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen
Album: Greatest Hits

Did Queen really get a bunch of nearly nude fat women to stage a mock bicycle race? Or did I dream it? Never mind. I’m trying to think of a song that combines fat fetishism with a positive take on child sex abuse, and I’m coming up with nothing.

The Clock by Thom Yorke
Album: The Eraser

This album works for me where other Radiohead albums don’t, and here’s (I think) why. The band carries a weight, and without them, the album feels lighter. It works well with the edgy paranoia, more electronic, more nimble. Take this track — the tick of the percussion speeds along like time itself, with Mr Yorke’s vocals dancing along the top. More chill than chill — almost uncomfortably cold.

Wear Your Love Like Heaven by Sarah McLachlan
Album: Solace

I love random songs. How often would I take this disc out and play it? Never, that’s how. But then I’d be missing this sunny tune from the ex-Nettwerk artist Sarah McL. And that’d be a shame. And if it annoys me, it’s over soon. Which it rather does. Never mind. Onward.

I Wanna Be a Cowboy (12″ Saddle Mix) by Boys Don’t Cry
Album: I Wanna Be a Cowboy (Single)

An Aussie band from the 80’s, who charted with this hit in the USA. I think they came to Spokane once. Jeff saw them; I didn’t. (Jeffrey — tell them the ‘ta very much’ story.)

So here’s a guy who wants to be a cowboy. And you can be his cowgirl. His name is Ted. Which is funny. In fact, this is a really funny song, especially when Cowboy Ted’s girlfriend expresses her ambivalence about the dust and dirt of the trail (complete with robust cowboy chorus). Yippee yippee yi, yippee yo, yo, yo.

But then check the ending – existentialist angst where you least expect it: “My name is Ted. And one day… I’ll be dead, yo yo yo.” Where did that come from? And it has a good beat and it’s easy to dance to. I give it a nine out of ten.

All the Money or the Simple Life Honey by The Dandy Warhols
Album: Triple J Hottest 100, Volume 13

From last year’s Triple J Hottest 100. The Dandy Warhols are a band that I’m not always very interested in, but they’ve put out some great songs over the years, and I’m always surprised by how good their work is. Check their “Thirteen Tales” album; “Solid” is getting heavy play on my computer this week. This song is a good example of how to use a horn section to beef up an otherwise thin idea for a song.

Look out: it’s another Hottest 100 winner from 1998:

Dragula by Rob Zombie
Album: Hellbilly Deluxe

I decided to include this sixth song because, really, there aren’t enough webpages with Rob Zombie’s picture on them, especially looking like this. In retrospect, his decision to direct slasher b-movies should have been obvious. Still a great song. It does the quiet loud quiet thing well. Is the ‘drag’ in ‘Dragula’ supposed to be, like, him in drag? Because putting that on top of this song is scarier than anything I can think of. Or is it supposed to be motor-fueled carnage? Like the “Nyak-Nyak” comic book from the Wiseblood single? Perhaps both? Mr Zombie’s oeuvre is rich enough to suggest both without giving it all away.

Friday Random Five is made of timber and steel.

The Chariot by The Cat Empire
Album: The Cat Empire
iTunes has been picking lots of the Cats lately. This is actually one of my favourite songs from them. Maybe it’s because they subvert war by waging it on their own terms — with music. And extended metaphor. For example, they don’t use bombs. Instead, they have sexy women that explode them with their looks. Wait a minute, that didn’t make any sense. But who cares? The chorus is great. File this under latin-ska-dub.

Romeo (Original Mix) by Basement Jaxx
Album: Ministry of Sound: The 2002 Annual
I really hate Basement Jaxx. No, wait, I hate the Chemical Brothers. Or is it Daft Punk? I don’t know. How I concentrate with all this stupid crap playing? It’s my own fault for adding this CD into the collection. Instead I should have not. The moral here is: If you’re looking at borrowing a CD from the library, and you’re wondering whether to borrow it, just think: do I want this coming up at random on shuffle year after year? But I shall make amends. I shall uncheck the little box, and then see if they still have this CD at the library and then steal it and not give it back so as to avoid infecting others.

A Hard Day’s Night by The Beatles
Album: 1962-1966
When I was a kid, my parents had this album. It was called “Let Us Entertain You” and I think it might have come with the enormous cabinet-sized Magnavox phonograph they had. So I would listen to Broadway hits from this record. One of the songs was an orchestral reworking of the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” by someone named Marty Gold. So now when I hear the real version, I think there’s something wrong. The real version didn’t have words! The moral is: don’t let your children listen to crappy records that they give away with stereos. Except that it did have Mancini’s “Pink Panther Theme” so I don’t know. Giving a young boy a record full of show tunes just seems to be asking for trouble.

Can’t Get Used to Losing You by The English Beat
Album: I Just Can’t Stop It
This is the best English Beat album. And here’s a chirpy cover of “Can’t Get Used to Losing You”, a song about a pathetic break-up. But it’s fun to sing “Can’t Get Loose to Using You”, which my friend Curtis and I did once accidentally, and we thought it was so funny that we just kept singing it that way, and then we couldn’t go back and sing it the right way. And in fact even now if I ever try to sing this, I have to think. So the moral is: singing perverted parodies can bite you in the ass.

Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder) by The Beach Boys
Album: Pet Sounds
Whenever I listen to “Pet Sounds”, I always think two things: 1) Damn, Brian Wilson is a musical genius. And 2) I cannot believe how unbearably creepy these lyrics are. What kind of emotionally disturbed co-dependent would write about relationships in this way? And then I remember: Brian Wilson. But listen to this song! The string arrangements, predating Sgt. Pepper! The timpani! And the key change in the third bit of the chorus. I couldn’t write that. It is so incredibly moving. On to the lyrics, which this time are not disturbing at all. Instead he says, “Don’t talk. Put your head on my shoulder. Close your eyes and be still, and listen to my heartbeat.” Maybe it’s avoidance, or maybe it’s an attempt to make time stand still, and make the words stop. Please don’t say anything. Just enjoy this moment of silent closeness, the only sound a heartbeat. Listen to the sound of being alive. Shh.

Seems a shame to break the silence, but there’s a bonus sixth.
In the Waiting Line by Zero 7
Album: Simple Things
I first heard this song in the movie Garden State during the party scene. It was the first time I’d heard of Zero 7 (sometimes called the “British Air”, which seems unfair). Since I had the laptop (it was a laptop kind of movie), I found out who did the song, and downloaded it by the time the credits came out. I’ve since bought the album, and played this song a hundred times. Love it. So smooth. And it poses an intriguing question: Do you believe in what you see?

Friday Random Five will sweep up my lazy bones

Just Like Heaven (‘Chuck’ Remix) by The Cure
Album: Join the Dots
‘Join the Dots’ is a near-complete box set of Cure rarities and b-sides. There are also a few gems, like this remix of everyone’s favourite Cure song. (It is everyone’s favourite, too; I asked.) Imagine a bass-heavy stripped-down version with drums at half-tempo, plus eclectic percussion. That’s about it. It dampens the sunnyness, but maintains the listenability if you’re not feeling all that hyper.

M1 A1 by Gorillaz
Album: Gorillaz
There’s something unsettling about hearing someone hollering for help and not getting any, which is what you’ll hear in the first two minutes of this Gorillaz tune. What happens after is banging and screaming, and it sounds fantastic. This is Youngest Boy’s favourite Gorillaz song. I’ve found him putting it on at times and dancing. That’s him.

Strange 9 to 9 by Clan of Xymox
Album: Subsequent Pleasures
This album is a collection of the early Xymox demos that got them signed to 4AD. As such, they’re a bit rough. You can hear the echo-y guitars and plaintive vocals that would serve them in such good stead on later albums like Medusa. Although this song isn’t really fully formed, it’s still an interesting snapshot of where Xymox was at the time.

Caramel by Blur
Album: 13
Lots of Blur songs have a definite pop-song structure, but on this track they’re pulling into atmospheric territory. It starts with a dreamy guitar-induced texture, as syrupy as the name would suggest. At the same time there’s a lot of pain, Damon without Justine, walking around in a dull muffled haze, repeating lyrics like “I’ve gotta get over/I’ve gotta get over/I’ve got to get better/Will love you forever”. Sometimes the noise in your head can sound like this. It jumps on you like flies as soon as you wake up.

Jack-Ass by Beck
Album: Odelay
The cover gives a hint of the strangeness inside. What is that thing? How did they get a bale of hay to jump? No, no, no. That’s a dog, a komondor — you can tell by the black nose up front.
A relaxing song for the porch that quickly unravels, and finishes with the braying of the titular donkey. Then I think it gets attacked by wolves.

Friday Random Five on a lonely platform

Lots of eighties stuff again. But what an incredibly diverse time the eighties were, musically.

Fade to Grey by Visage
Album: Fade to Grey: The Best of Visage
This song represents all that was great and terrible about 80s new wave. Ice cold synthesizers. French vocals. Pretensious hairstyles. It’s sad that it sounds so dated now, but I still think it’s a great track.

Pictures of Matchstick Men by Camper Van Beethoven
Album: Key Lime Pie
Just a bit better than the Status Quo original, if only because of the violin. It’s strange; there’s a manic energy, but all held together by tight musicianship.

Wishing Well by Schönherz & Scott
Album: Windham Hill: The First Ten Years
An early Windham Hill offering. Faintly African percussion blend with a breezy piano line. Still good to listen to, even if much Windham Hill sounds a bit Adult Contemporary, or I could just be getting old.

I Am Stretched on Your Grave by Sinéad O’Connor
Album: I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
Just Sinéad’s voice carrying the melody over a funky drum and bass riff. And she’s singing to her dead lover. What more could you want? Perhaps a vigourous violin solo?

“The priests and the friars approach me in dread,
Because I still love you, my love, and you’re dead.”
Imagine the wary cleric.

Eighties by Killing Joke
Album: Night Time
If the Visage tune represents the pinnacle of New Wave posturing, this song represents the pinnacle of boot-stomping guitar-driven punk (even though it’s not rough or thrashing). Both songs recall evenings of Going Out to do dangerous things. Easily the best song with ‘eighties’ in the title. Much better than Loverboy’s ‘Lady of the Eighties”.

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