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The screaming from the party down the block was extra-audible because we were siting on her second story porch. Ernesto's daughter scribbled on the chalkboard as we all slowly ate the spinach, cheese and mushroom quesadillas and drank wine -- some sort of sweet red. I would try not to stare too long at her, at the two simple, dark tatoos on her forearm and bicep, at the spaghetti straps of her worn tan tank top. She was explaining, quite convincingly, why the war in Afghanistan was a justified intervention. With backs turned suddenly, she quickly, unexpectedly, passionately kissed me.
It's sad now to look back on
The $9.98 CD, Garage Days Re-revisited
. Its 25 minutes can still kick your ass like being thrown from the sidewalk into speeding, rush-hour traffic, but there's something tragic about how much Metallica has changed in the intervening 15 years. The title was an attempt by the band to keep record stores from jacking up the price of the EP. Of course this is the same band that a decade or so later would threaten to sue their fans for using Napster. And their newer music sucks. Would Cliff Burton have let this happen?
A barage, frenetic, exciting, endearing, overpowering, power trio, sweaty, posthumous, The Hardback Café, enthusiastically off-key singing, the endless grinding of Jon's guitar, crisp alertness, passion, righteous feedback, jangly, memorable, done.
These are the words and images that come to mind as
All We Need of Hell
blares from the tiny speakers attached to my laptop. These are the final recordings of Gainesville's sorely missed Spoke -- a self-described go-nowhere punk band (see Jon Resh's engaging
(Viper Press, 2000)) who nonetheless were loved greatly by those of us fortunate to have been kicking around town during their 3 year lifespan.
I have to guess that it's simple coincidence that the last 3 No Idea Records Compilations start with the same letter:
Big Pants Waste Precious Fabric
Bread the Edible Napkin
(NIR 020), and
Back To Donut
(NIR 060). They're all jam- packed though with some of the best bands from our fair city and our li'l state: Radon, Rumbleseat, Moonraker, Usuals, Panthro UK United 13, Don's Ex- Girlfriend, When Pueberty Strikes, Bombshell, Hot Water Music, Pung, Strikeforce Diablo, Grain, Tired From Now On, Tomorrow, Hankshaw, Spoke, Clairmel, Vandbuilderass, Twelve Hour Turn, and Highway 66 and, of course, I Hate Myself.
Despite of being bombarded with band after band of misspelled "Nu Metal" crap-ola, like Korn and Limp Bizkit, pathetically mixing rock and hip-hop, I catch myself underestimating
Check Your Head
's significance. In part because they have since developed in further new directions, it's surprisingly easy to overlook what a great leap forward the Beastie Boys' 1992 album represented: A "power trio" (think Rush or Thin Lizzy) made up of MC's. For them it was simply a return to their roots, but for me it was the most fluid fusion of rap and rock this side of Anthrax and Run DMC.
I'll always remember the first time I heard this album. The end of the summer when I met Ashley on a trip to Europe. She went to one high school, me another. I hadn't seen her in the few weeks since coming home, but surprised her with a single pink rose on her birthday. This begot an invite to her birthday dinner 2 nights later. Entering, all eyes are on me. Whispers of "that's the guy" as smiles engulf both our faces. The Cure's
played later at her house as we both sheepishly danced around our massive mutual crush.
There are bands like them scattered all over the country: Fantastic musicians, fine people, even influential music, but never quite transcending past the city limits. For Emporer Moth, I think the latter was a conscious decision -- 1/2 of them went on to become Macha. But they
fantastic; bold yet unassuming. The live shows were something to behold, a multi-instrumental smorgasboord of sounds. I interviewed them once and to answer the obligitory "how did y'all meet", one of the McKay brothers said "I met Josh (the other brother) at my mom's house". The CD is singularly entitled
It strikes me as oddly coincidental. During the 1990s, five of my 50 or so favorite albums all began with the same letter, F: Hot Water Music's
Forever and Counting
Fuel for the Hate Game
For Your Own Special Sweetheart
, Public Enemy's
Fear of a Black Planet
Frame and Canvas
. S or T I could understand but F? Our sixth letter always struck me as underacheiving. It's only other accomplishement being the proud leader of the
. After tonight's beautifully chaotic show, it's clear Milemarker's
Frigid Forms Sell
missed only because of it's 2000 release date.
Far from being one of my favorite records -- heck its not even
best record -- Tesla's
Great Radio Controversy
probably will always be in my CD collection. Its one of those albums that earns its keep by some accident of history. We had gone to a party at Palmer's apartment complex, spent the whole night talking and joking around as we had grown accustomed to doing. Finally, Lara exasperatingly asked "can I kiss you Mark?". Later that night, as I lay in bed 2 things played on repeat: Tesla's second album and that evening's kiss, my very first.
It was my 21st birthday and Amy and I had been going out for about 3 months. We were still learning the little nooks and crannies of each other's hearts and minds. Along with a short Chomsky book and a lovely lasagne dinner, she gave me Patti Smith's
, a then-unknown to me. There was a subtle boldness of her selecting this one album to give to me that she had grown to love and that meant something so personal to her. In some ways it was beautifully understated invitation to come see and fall in love with her passions.
Mise en scence on the last day of my first trip to New York City:
- Four of us early-to-mid-twentysomethings lolling around on a roomy couch in the apartment downstairs from Serge, one of New York's many Gainesville expatriates
- The Sunday morning Park Slope sun bursting through the windows making the entire apartment uncommonly bright and vigorous
- Serge's cousin half-talking, half-screaming Creole from the kitchen
- Miles Davis'
In Person, Friday Night at the Blackhawk, San Francisco, Volume 1
blaring, providing the quintessential soundtrack for this impromptu Brooklyn brunch
- An already growing desire to come back here.
Listening to my little brother's remixes of Frank Rizzo's not-so-idle threats to "rap your fucking head in with a ratchet", I'm reminded of Howie's hairbrained conspiracy theories.< br>
"Mark's changed ever since he listened to that
CD," Howie would explain to anyone who would listen over the period of a couple of months. Exasperated he told our incredulous roomate "I feel like breaking that CD over his head or breaking and leaving it on his bed". Of course this confidence was betrayed hours later, when, over a combined chorus of our laughter, Annette relayed this all back to me.
. 29 years ago it was the record that started it all. Their makeup is still a bit crude (Peter Criss looks like he had his face done by a 7-year-old), the logo looks like it was made of some cheap, knock-off diamonds. And while it might not have any of the anthems of some of their latter albums, it does include some gems that have remained mainstay's of the
hottest band in the world
...."Cold Gin", "Strutter", "Duece", "Firehouse" and "Black Diamond". Despite the claims of Minnesotan's across the country, Kiss' version of the latter rocks more than The Replacements'.
I lived in Columbus, Ohio for about five weeks before my fiancee broke up with me. The sum of my accomplishments there can be broken down as such: Finageling my way into a construction job without any experience, sorting our sizeable combined book collection by subject, finding a good bagel place and movie theater, getting hired at the public library ("family problems" was the excuse I gave for leaving 37 hours after taking the job), and buying three albums, one of which was Rainer Maria's
Look Now Look Again
. All three became the soundtrack to my soon-to-be-newfound misery and lonliness.
Don't believe the hype: Everything I had read or heard about J Mascis' solo acoustic album was bad. But when I ran across a copy of
Martin and Me
in the used CD store when I lived in Somerville, I had to give it a chance. And they were wrong, the mostly-Dinosaur Jr. songs take on a new, if not groundbreaking, life with just Mascis and the guitar.
On the otherhand, Billy Bragg and Wilco's
, deserves every bit of critical praise that was heaped on it in 1998. Bragg & Wilco's mix of pop and politics is sublime.
Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nirvana's
. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. Nevermind. I'm sorry I don't have more to say at 6 a.m.
Our Own Wars
is the first CD that I've worn out by playing too much. Despite its sometimes over the top lyrics (such as "if I could find the words I'd tear them out of my throat and crush them into your eyes" on), Small Brown Bike's debut album was probably my most played CD for the last 3 months of 1999. The fury and righteousness of songs like "Zerosum" and "Make This a Holiday" did help me get through the day several times when all I could think about was her there and me here, forever. A love dead.
A smattering of musical moments.
Pale Sun, Crescent Moon
's "Cold Tea Blues": A guitar, a piano and a voice. On this song the Cowboy Junkies don't need anything else. Soothing. The Smashing Pumpkins' rendition of "Landslide" on
reminds me of my best friend Lara. Carol van Dijk's voice throughout Bettie Serveert's
(see esp. the 2 title tracks) is materful and memorable (and has only gotten stronger on their subsequent albums). Unitas'
comes complete with footnotes referencing words and concepts from REM, Fugazi, Elvis Costello and Uncle Tupelo. Of the latter "Screendoor" is their favorite song.
...a pass goes off Robert Horry's hands just by Antoine Walker and out of bounds. Horry pleads with the Refs, but its Boston ball. 5 seconds left. Antoine, goofy headband and all, breaks free from two picks, gets the pass at the top of the 3-point arc, pump fakes, ducks under Horry's outstretched body and banks in the winning three pointer. Reflexively I throw up both arms, and scream "yes" which illicits looks from all corners of the bar. The woman, bits and pieces of whose conversation I've overheard throughout the night, impulsively kisses me to share in the excitement.
I'm reminded each time I listen to Faith No More's breakthrough album
The Real Thing b> just how good most of it really is. I was saying to my brother when we were listening to some "nu-rock" station in Orlando that its impressive to think that even though it came out more than 13 years ago it both laid the foundation AND is light years ahead of 99% of the rap-metal fusion stuff out there today. The ferocity and clarity of the 7 minute, 43 second cover of Black Sabbath's anti-war classic "War Pigs" still continues to amaze and inspire me.
When I saw Richard Buckner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina he opened up with the first song on
, the effortless yet stark "Believer".
One of the first shows we went to in Chicago was at the now-defunct Lounge Ax. 200 people crammed into a sweatbox as wide as my bedroom to see Mudhoney play a sonically devastating set of mostly
I became a fullfledged Son Volt convert when I saw them in Boston. I was mezmerized by Jay Farrar's unmistakeable, sublime vocal power. I believe
is one of the great underated albums of our time.
These days, for better or worse (probably worse), you think of albums in terms of a period in a band's life. Written and recorded over a period of weeks or months it becomes a historical record of sorts. The stunning beauty and power of
The Trinity Session
is amplified when you consider it was recorded by the Cowboy Junkies in a Toronto church in a single day.
A man, his politics and an electric guitar. The photo of Billy Bragg on the back of
Talking With the Taxman About Poetry
proudly (in my mind) evokes the legacy of Phil Ochs
On the whole, I found Ani Difranco's
up up up up up up
to be fairly disappointing. But the second to last song, "Trickle Down", may be her most singularly haunting and strident song. Adding the accordian and a water cooler to the lone acoustic guitar create a backdrop eerily evocative of a Midwest steel town on its last legs. What an apt, on-target condemnation of the 20 years of fantasy-like economics hyped by Reagan/Bush/Clinton:
"The president assured us it was all gonna trickle down, like it'd be raining so much money that we'd be sad to see the sun."
Moving back to Florida meant a reconnection, albeit tacitly, with some of the homegrown bands. Twelve Hour Turn had been gathering steam and I had some inkling when Tom, our resident music crank/critic actually spoke highly of them. Usually if more than 6 people have even heard of, let alone like, a band they are too popular for him. So one afternoon I purchased
The Victory of Flight
. My tiny apartment filled with angular, jarring screams; guitars that sounded like heavy machinery being stripped down and slammed against a metal floor. Can you fuse delicacy with intensity and strength? Yes.
Quippy superlatives as we approach the three o'clock hour.
Letters To Cleo's
Wholesale Meats and Fish
. Horrendous title and gaudy artwork; overlooked power pop melodies
We Speak In Code
, debut offering from the Gainesville punk rock supergroup. Flattening.
Billy Bragg's masterpiece
: unparalleled cover art; great post- breakup soundtrack; four of the finest songs ever recorded.
Smoke-'em-if-you-got-'em: Dinosaur Jr.'s
Where You Been
and Sonic Youth's
Way to Blue
, an "introduction" to Nick Drake: the first album I bought after only hearing the artist being played in a record store (not unlike that Beta Band scene in "High Fidelity").
Like a silly movei it was a string of accidens, coincidi (the plural of coincidence?) that led me to learning of Nick Drake. I took a different bus home. Then halfway got off to amble around this different neighborhood. Stumble on a record store, couldn't avoid the allure of investigating. As I was leaving I went back in to look for some record. Then there was that frighteningly beautiful voice overhead. "Who is this?" I asked sheepishly after unsuccesfully trying to make out the name on the record jacket. I scribled his name on the back of my CTA transfer.
Lately I've been shying away from my steady diet of loud, inspiring music (Hot Water Music, Rainer Maria, Small Brown Bike, et al.) in favor of more calming acoustic stuff: slowcore and the like. Its not me getting old, just that stuff like Red House Painters, Low and Clem Snide is a better yang to the ying of stress at work. Today driving to Miami for a meeting I put on
Your Favorite Music
hoping to find some peace to battle my frayed nerves. The beautiful sounds of of acoustic guitar mixed with cello and upright bass did the trick.
The vague warnings of more attacks and my nose, head and ears whine with soreness and pain. We'll be driving home tomorrow. Today we shared thoughts on the future, the women in our lives over a plate of beef nachos (which strangely enough were preceeded by chips and salsa, which seemed a bit redundant, but being hungry we didn't complain). Now we're reading, watching Letterman, setting tomorrow's schedule, fretting and dreaming of sleep. I would love some cold chinese food right now, the love of a good woman, some quiet music and no alarm clock tomorrow would be nice too.
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