Posts Tagged ‘Pixies’

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CLT Recommends: Frank Black – Teenager of the Year (Part 2)

August 23, 2011

After the speedy opening romp of Pong/Thalassocracy (detailed here in Part 1), Black pulls back a bit for the next four and unwinds. The pace slows down towards “amble” and even approaches “truly laid back,” which could easily be mistaken for “coasting,” if he weren’t only six songs into a 22-song set.

3. (I Want to Live on an) Abstract Plain.mp3

An ode to wanting to be elsewhere, which is one of those vague feelings that gets under the skin like nostalgia, only with generally better results. You can’t go back. Nothing is like you remember it. However, with the right sort of wanderlust you can push forward. (Although, unfortunately, nobody ever really trusts a drifter.) Frank says “this town is dead to me,” only using better wording and imagery.

I’ve had it with this town
I never saw those shifting skies
I never saw the ground
Or the sunset rise

A bit later, he hints at the antagonism that lies underneath the unfocused (more omnidirectional than vague) “let’s blow this joint” emotion:

I’m building a frame
A place to put my ten-yard stare

But despite all the underlying tension (most of which I’m attributing to it with no assistance from the source material and a lot of self-awarded editorial leeway), the song itself is amiable, catchy and features a couple of tempo shifts, which as the album goes on become more and more common. This would seem to suggest that Frank Black’s new, um, black is tempo changes, replacing all the groundwork laid by the Pixies’ damn-near-patented “loud/quiet/loud” dynamics.

4. Calistan

This track remains one of my favorite Frank Black tunes (of ever!), not so much for the tune itself (although it does sport some rather large hooks), but because of the subject matter. There’s a dry and dusty near-Western feel to the lyrics (and the music), but what pulls me in is the border town imagery, illustrated by the Spanglish chorus.

Used to be sixteen lanes
Used to be Nuevo Spain
Used to be Juan Wayne
Used to be Mexico
Used to be Navajo
Used to be yippy-ay-I-don’t know

Note that “Navajo” is pronounced “Nava-joe” in accordance with Black’s bastardization of Spanglish pronunciations. In Spanish, the “j” would be pronounced as an “h” (as in “Jesus”)(also, as in the way that the Navajo pronounce it). Black inverts it completely by giving it the hard “j” (probably not an actual thing, this “hard j” — at least not according to prominent Englishologists), doubling the language tweakery by blowing right past the border English “h” and grabbing onto the imported Americans’ (German, Dutch, etc.) practice of pronouncing letters of “foreign” words in completely the wrong way. No doubt about it: English (especially the American version) is a tough language to glom onto, what with it’s shifting “rules” and incessant borrowing from other cultures.

So, as an immigrant, when you’re tangling with a brand new language and its odd habits of using consonants as vowels and taking sudden hard left turns at certain consonant groups and then ignoring them completely later in the sentence, it certainly doesn’t help that the word “jalapeno” or “Navajo” are part of the vernacular. Which rules do you follow? And why do adopted words seem subject to local accents? As if the whole thing wasn’t ridiculous enough (citizenship tests, et al.), you’ve now got the opportunity to further display your “not-from-around-here-ness” by completely fucking up the pronunciation of a word that shouldn’t even be let across the border without a phonetic spelling. You can’t win.

Black being a denizen of L.A. (and the citizens’ band [BUT LATER ON]), he knows his way around the mishmash (and frequently, mismatch) of blended cultures. He references pachinko parlors and karaoke while namechecking the La Brea tar pits, all the while blending things further with his polyglot chorus.

I can identify.

Growing up in El Paso, Texas, a literal stone’s throw away from Mexico, I knew all about Mexicans. (Of course, no one really uses the term “Mexican” any more. Mexicans = people from Mexico. 20+ years ago, “Hispanic” wasn’t really used much in regular conversation. Mexicans were Mexicans and Hispanics were Mexicans with political aspirations.) The culture that is a border town is (dichotomously) diversity defined, while still noticeably marked by pockets of exclusivity . It all depends on which side of town you’re on. Heading to where the money is, border towns look like inland empires (obligatory Lynch reference, yo). It’s all new money wealth and in-ground swimming pools and white teens with riced-up sports cars and bomb-ass ghetto-fab SUVs.

Head to another side of town and you’re going to need a guidebook and an Spanish-English dictionary. Of course, each side of town is equally authentic and there are a few areas where you see some dithering (a digital term! for no apparent reason!), but generally speaking, border towns are not so much “Oh, Melting Pot!” as they are a somewhat uneasy coexistence of homogeneous cultures.

But authenticity is key. You can’t get real Mexican food without real Mexicans. Ask anyone who’s lived near the border. Trying to find good Mexican food is a fool’s errand in many parts of the country. This fact was plainly expressed in a very short-lived radio ad that ran while I was living in El Paso. It proudly announced that a restaurant had “Mexican food made by real Mexicans.” There’s an underlying offensiveness to that phrase. (See also: the second part of the restaurant holdup scene in Pulp Fiction, specifically Tim Roth’s shouted instruction — “Mexicans! Out of the fucking kitchen!” Even impulsive Brit stickup men knew who was working the back of the house.)

The insinuation is that the Mexicans will never get out of the kitchen, thanks to continued racism and random oppression from the Man and while you may actually prefer to have your authentic Mexican food to be prepared by authentic Mexicans (i.e., the ones most qualified to make native food), you really don’t get to go around saying so in so many words. Hence, the ad vanished, but for my brother and I, it lives on. Forever.

If you could ignore everything else about undocumented workers, etc., it’s actually the perfect tagline. If you heard an ad touting German food made by real Germans, you’d think “Fuck yeah! Bier und Sauerkrauten FTW!” and never once be troubled by the image of fiercely nationalistic young blonds slaving over a hot, authentic Stoverevekkenkerffumuschitteren. But if you use that phrase in relation to any of the so-called “marginalized” races (for the most part, “not white” [although “White-Hispanic” hits all the buttons at once]), you get in trouble. All hail White Guilt.

But enough about le culture, and more about Frank. The track sports some steely guitar and a windblown feel that makes it the perfect summer track. Of course, this track would be equally welcome in winter, especially since the heat of lyrical imagery would be a welcome blast of hot, dusty air during those colder days. You can almost smell the melting asphalt and see the shimmering, “pool ofwater” mirage spreading across the sixteen-lane horizon.

5. The Vanishing Spies

Another song that touches on the ineffable sadness of life not being nearly as magical as it once was. As you go further in life, the number of “unexplained” occurrences drops, replaced with facts and footnotes and the scars left by Occam’s Razor.

More specifically, this is Frank’s lament (as spoken by Fox Mulder’s office backdrop): I WANT TO BELIEVE.

Give me a blip, oh
And I’ll totally flip, oh yeah, yeah
Say it’s nothing but sky
And I’ll be a lonely guy

As to who the titular “Vanishing Spies” are, Black remains coy (or rather, “noncommittal”), but you can’t argue with the wistful quality of the music. Implicitly (through the power of editorial overreach), I’d say the vanished spies are the no-longer-all-that-common alien visitations. When all the mysteries are gone, all that’s left is life that plays out like a shitty street magician, telegraphing all its misdirection and plainly showing its cards. No one wants that. Not you. Not your kids on their 10th birthday. All he wants is for someone to say it’s “possible.” It doesn’t even need to be “probable.” Is that too much to ask?

6. Speedy Marie

An unabashed love song, filled with ecstatic imagery. Black goes nearly Shakespearean with Speedy Marie, his ode to his (at the time) wife. Early on, he mentions that he “sings this romaunt.” And he does exactly that.

In the sixth track, Mr. Black’s sings “I sing this romaunt”. A romaunt is a romantic poem. And, sure enough, the song ends with a quite lovely, romantic poem directed to a woman. This last section is written and sung in the classic 14-line sonnet style, with a rhyme pattern of A-B-A-B, C-D-C-D, E-F-E-F, G-G. The lines are actually an acrostic; the first letter of each line spells out “JEAN MARIE WALSH,” presumably the Speedy Marie of the title.

To wit:

Juxtaposed in each moment’s sight
Everything that I ever saw
And my one delight
Nothing can strike me in such awe

Mouth intricate shapes the voice that speaks
Always it will soothe
Rarer none are the precious cheeks
Is the size of each sculpted tooth
Each lip and each eye

Wise is the tongue, wet of perfect thought
And softest neck where always do I
Lay my clumsy thoughts
She is that most lovely art
Happy are my mind and my soul and my heart

Now that Frank Black has made everything any guy has ever done for his girlfriend/wife/s.o. look like so much underwhelming and non-poetic drivel, I guess we (the guys) have nothing else left to do but punch ourselves in the brain for being cursed with above-average brains (at best) and see if we can somehow shoehorn one of these intricate couplets (my favorite is: “And softest neck where always do I/lay my clumsy thoughts“) into an anniversary card or singing telegram (public domain only I’m afraid — to keep costs down).

Or maybe we can just point out that Mr. Black and Ms. Walsh are now separated, as if that were evidence enough that the amazing amount of effort needed to produce this sort of loveliness is obviously a complete waste of time. Or something.

Also of note: not the first time Mr. Black has gone acrostic. There’s also Ana, which spells out a very simple message… (See the top comment.)

Until next time…

-CLT

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CLT Recommends: Frank Black – Teenager of the Year (Part 1)

July 27, 2011

Frank Black’s second solo album appeared without much ado in the summer of ’94. There may have been more “ado” elsewhere (perhaps Boston or L.A.), but for someone in South Dakota who visited the local records in a somewhat religious fashion (when money was available — so, not frequently, but more “periodically”, like a backslidden Catholic [which FB very much could be, if the lyrics of Weird at My School are to be believed]{but he actually isn’t, which is fine}), it was bit of a surprise. All of a sudden, there it was on the “New Release” rack: Frank Black, in all his weird glory, looking like a prom date that was the result of a lost bet.

More background: I discovered the Pixies in 1992, shortly after their dying gasps. These dying gasps of one of the most important bands ever were apparently delivered by Frank Black (known at that time as Black Francis) via an instrument that was very much of its time and place: the fax machine. “Dear Band – We are no longer,” or words to that effect were faxed to Kim Deal (bassist) and David Lovering (drummer). Joey Santiago (guitar), however, received a phone call, and in fact, was invited to play guitar on Black’s first solo album, Frank Black.

As is often the case when you discover genius only to have it torn away by forces beyond your control (see also: Skinny Puppy, Love & Rockets, My Bloody Valentine — all of whom ceased operation between 89-91, right about the time I was getting into them [although they’ve all come back since then]), it leaves behind a feeling not totally unlike the ungainly metaphor of a bandaid being ripped off a fresh wound. Frank Black’s first solo album failed to resonate immediately, but steadily grew on me for the next decade. However, Teenager of the Year arrived a couple of years further down the road when the old wounds were pretty much closed, sealed by fate, etc. and some of the more exposed edges had been rounded off by the quiet resignation that sometimes comes with living life.

The Pixies were indeed a once in a lifetime experience and I had missed out, but… well, there’s nothing you can really do. So you move on and distance yourself a little more from bands that seem to be implosive, and then find all of your overwrought “feelings” about said bands mocked openly by their eventual reunions and endless touring. (See also: all the bands I listed. Except Love & Rockets, who made a few more albums before re-vanishing again, but not before I got to see them as 3/4 of the reformed Bauhaus, which was pretty fucking kickass.)

This sounds more dramatic than it actually is, but the fact remains: Teenager of the Year will always hold a place in my heart that Frank Black (the album) never can and I’m pretty sure that’s because of two year’s worth of perspective. Obviously, I wanted Frank Black to sound like the Pixies. He doesn’t, especially on Frank Black. There are hints and motifs but these are very much Frank Black’s albums.

Put both of these albums together though, and you see some patterns emerge. Lots of sci-fi references and UFO fascinations trotted out. Pop culture meets skate culture meets L.A. melting pot meets mystic shit borrowed from Native American culture and fringe cults. It’s all in there and it’s all a continuation of Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde, the last two Pixies albums and the two that most fans agree are the weakest. And they are, if we’re being honest, although it took me a few years to figure that out. They’re by no means “bad” albums (in fact, stacked up against 95% of all other bands’ output, they’re actually excellent albums, but when you set the bar as high as their first 2-1/2 albums did…), but they are definitely more Frank’s albums than they are Pixies’ albums.


This is probably why Frank Black (again, the album) felt like a continuation of Black’s solo album aspirations from Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde, only extended to an actual solo album. I wanted the Pixies to go backwards and reclaim their glory. Frank just wanted out. Kim just wanted a million cigarettes and a semi full of booze.

The towel was thrown in well before the faxing, though. I still have in my possession a 1992 bootleg of a live set the Pixies did opening for U2 in Florida. Pretty lifeless as live sets go, with the band sounding more “perfunctory” than anything else. Still, it was the first time I’d heard Manta Ray, which is one their best b-sides.

It was a combination of various things that turned this into the perfect summer album, my head space being one of them. At some point, you lose your teen angstiness and are then able to appreciate lighter efforts like these, rather than feeling that if it’s not a doom-laden epic (like, say, the Cure’s Disintegration), then it isn’t a serious artistic statement. There’s plenty of hummable tunes hidden throughout Black’s album, as well as some weightier pieces, but nothing that drags you and your soul down to the darker side of town to make a deal with the devil or, at the very least, play a bit of craps in a metaphoric back alley.

It’s a sprawl of an album at 22 tracks, but most of them breeze by quickly enough that it never feels like an effort, even if you listen to it from front to back. There’s some surfer vamping, some steel guitar, a lot of angular guitar (even some regular guitar!) and plenty of quotable lyrics. The incredible thing is that out of 22 tracks, there’s only a handful of clunkers, most of which are purely subjective clunkers. There’s really not a bad track on the album.

I’m going to run through Teenager of the Year from front to back, pointing out anything I liked or thought was interesting or anything angular and spiky enough that I can hang a digression from it. I won’t be posting the whole album, but I will be posting (and addressing) most of it. Those that don’t make the cut will still be toyed with briefly before being dismissed. Hopefully, you’ll find this to be half as entertaining as I imagine it to be.

CLT Recommends: Frank Black – Teenager of the Year

Teenager opens with a pair of blistering, get-you-in-get-you-out, punk-as-post-punk-deconstruction-reconstructed, catchy-as-all-hell two minute romps. Here they are in their sequentially numbered glory:

1. Whatever Happened to Pong?.mp3

The opening track begins with a head fake: guitar that feints in the direction of anthemic mid-tempo rock before sprinting in a new, punkish direction. The title gives it away. An ode to Pong, which much like anything else that appears overly-simplistic, is also an ode to wasted youth (not the drunk kind of wasted, although I would imagine Frank was no stranger to the booze — after all, he went to college).

My brother and I used to play it down at the bars
Taking money from guys more used to the playing of cards

Most of the lyrics mimic the ball action (a sentence opening which will seem progressively dirtier with each readthru), paddle, left, paddle, right, with the riffs shifting gears here and there to allow another verse before the chorus heads back into the left-right action.

Now virtually everyone’s singing a popular song
But I still believe in the excellent joy of the pong

Bash radio. Get nostalgia. And it’s purposeful nostalgia. Time travel namecheck upcoming.

Now if they take it H.G. Wells
I’ll be on the first flight
To a time before the Kong
Oh, whatever happened to Pong?

Progress. It’s a killer. Everything seems better when you look at from a distance. Frank Black, proto-gamer longs for sub-8-bit graphics and sub-midi-file bloops.

All in all, a good opener. Catchy with a bit of fluff but still spiky enough to snag outre ears. Oh, and check the video, which was made with the combined power of stock video and couch change:

2. Thalassocracy.mp3

In case you needed to be reminded, Frank Black has a (partial) college education. Grossly simplified, thalassocracy means “ruling the sea.” The sea is another of Black’s fascinations. He refers to watery kingdoms and accompanying mythology a few times in his preceding work. On the Pixies’ 1989 album Doolittle, he touches briefly on one “ruler of the sea” in the song, Mr. Grieves:

What’s that floating on the water?
Old Neptune’s only daughter

(To make the syllables work properly, you have to pronounce Neptune as “Nep-tune-ah” like Black does here. He’s halfway to the Fall with that one word, echoing Mark E. Smith’s appended “-ahs”.)

On Trompe Le Monde (above), he’s got an entire song about the underwater world, Palace of the Brine, which, believe it or not, refers to the Great Salt Lake in Utah:

In a place they say is dead
In a lake that’s like an ocean
I count about a billion head
Every time there’s a motion

Later he gives it away, through the restorative power of screaming:

Beneath reflections in the fountain
The starry sky and Utah mountains

This, however, is some sort of vindictive fight song, for lack of a better term. It roars out of the gates and never slows down, with Black spewing intricately layered invective in the general direction of his nemesis. It paints an ugly-as-sin word picture using $64 words and heady references:

Wait
It isn’t so great since you learned karate chop
You’re walking machs and I’m just swimming in the slop
You waved your wand at me and made me dance flip flop flip
I want to sing for you and make your head go pop

But, like anything else Black writes, a picture will emerge. It seems to be a trick of evolution the protagonist is railing against. Someone has made it onto land (karate chop/walking machs) while he’s still stuck in the sea (swimming in the slop). There’s even more to it: “waving your wand” – fishing rod, “dance flip flop” – caught on the line, “sing for you and make your head go pop” – sirens?

The chorus refers to both the Inuit Indians and Caeser, which seems to be an contrasting of living in harmony with nature as opposed to the Romans’ relentless march towards domination through conquest/technology. This is confirmed in the second verse:

Hey
You’re spraying in the windy and I’m just pissing off
I’m literally deaf down here from your canned philosoph
Soft, soft, soft, soft, softly can you hear me through the sucking of your quaff
I’m thalassocracy and you’re just Romanov

In other words, I am the sea and will be forever. You may have evolved but I’ll outlast you and your “kingdom.” (Incidentally, the Romanovs were the last ruling Russian family before the February Revolution ended their reign, leaving the country in [eventually] Lenin’s hands.)

All in all, extremely deep stuff for a 97-second punk-pop tune. This one-two punch of bare-faced nostalgia and multi-layered mythological narrative speeds by in less than 3-1/2 minutes, laying the groundwork for the rest of the album. It’s an intro that lets you know exactly what you’ll be dealing with (oddball shit + brain exercises), even if the tempo rarely reaches this pace again.

That’s it for this section. This retrospective will continue (hopefully) over the next few weeks. If nothing else, the cumbersome introduction is out of the way, leaving us with plenty of music to enjoy between wordy bits from yours truly.

-CLT

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Sonic Collision 5 – Flying P Edition

April 23, 2011

This week’s version of Sonic Collision takes its cues from my favorite band: the Pixies. Enjoy.

Previous Collisions here:
The Sonic Collision Archives

The Kleptones – MKY Da HVN.mp3

Ingredients:

  • Nas – Hip Hop Is Dead
  • Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
  • Cream – Sunshine of Your Love
  • Munk – Live fast, die old
  • The Pixies – Monkey Gone to Heaven
  • Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name

Download more Kleptones here.

DJ Moule – Hey, C La Vie (Pixies vs. Martin Solveig vs. the Hives vs. Peter, Bjorn & John).mp3

Find more Moule here.

DJ Lobsterdust – Hey, I’m Ready (The Pixies vs. the Young Punx).mp3

More mashed Lobster here.

Phil Retrospector – Monkey Gone to Opera (The Pixies vs. The Young Punx).mp3

Retrospector’s Bootlegs Made 4 Walking blog.

Bonus track (unrelated):

DJ Lobsterdust – Knock Out Eileen (LL Cool J vs.Dexy’s Midnight Runners).mp3

The Young Punx vs. the AudioPorn Allstars Mashup Album available completely free!

Direct download link.

-CLT

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Heavy Rotation 47: It’s All Coming Together Now Edition

June 6, 2010

Another week, another selection of varied tunes for your perusal. Except this week. Well, there are tunes, but they’re all up in each other’s bidness, as you’ll have bludgeoned into your head with this extremely wordy issue of Heavy Rotation. Many thanks in advance for those who wade right in.

If you’ve still got time to spare, take a look at these:

http://thisstuffisfree.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/free-magic-tricks/

http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/05/sneaky-hate-spiral.html

http://hiddenleaves.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/shit-laertes-says/

Earlier, more varied and economical editions available here:
The Heavy Rotation Archives

….

Bauhaus – Rose Garden Funeral of Sores (Live).mp3
Pixies – Hey.mp3

First up: Goth pioneers Bauhaus drop their art-damaged punk all over John Cale’s dark musings on Jesus’ Marys: the virgin mother and the attentive prostitute. From the street hassle of being a virgin mother:

Virgin Mary was tired
So tired
Tired of listening to gossip
Gossip and complaints
They came from next door

to the epicenter of the pointless, projecting gossip:

And a bewildered stream of chatter
From all sorts of
All sorts of
Untidy whores
Came from next door

The song tracks the petty travails of being a legend in your own time, a position made less envious by being linked inextricably by the savior of the world, a man of impossible standards and unconditional love.

Peter Murphy struts, vamps and screams, playing off the lyrical surges while his bandmates chime in with hoarse, whorish shouts, channeling the tormented/tormenting taunts of “screaming whores” with guttural barks of “UH!”.

But their choice don’t seem to matter
They got swollen breasts and lips that putter
And their choice of matter and their scream of chatter
Is just a little parasitic scream of whores
Screaming whores
In the rosegarden funeral of sores

And now the Pixies…

From the most Biblically obsessed of their albums (1989’s Doolittle) comes this perverted love/lust song, filled with contaminated yearning and cursed fatalism. Riding a bassline they wouldn’t top until later that album (I Bleed), Black Francis unleashes his naked desire only to find it anchored to the dead weight of a self-destructive relationship:

Hey!
Been trying to meet you
Mmm…
Hey!
Must be a devil between us
Or whores in my head
Whores at the door
Whore in my bed

But hey!
Where
Have you
Been?

If you go, I will surely die.

We’re chained…
We’re chained…
We’re chained…
Chained…

As the track heats up, Black Francis obliquely quotes “Rose Garden’s” screaming whores:

‘UH!’,
Said the man to the lady
Mmm…

‘UH!’,
Said the lady to the man she adored
And the whores like a choir go ‘UH!’ all night
And Mary, ain’t you tired of this?
‘UH!’
Is
The
Sound
That the mother makes when the baby breaks!

[I’ve been listening to these two tracks for the better part of 15 years and never saw the connection until just last week. Go figure.]

Bauhaus – Rose Garden Funeral of Sores (Live)

Pixies – Hey

Pixies – Hang Onto Your Ego.mp3
Public Image Limited – Public Image.mp3

The Pixies cover a Brian Wilson track that got deep-sixed by Mike Love for being too cynical and “out there” for the average boomer, taking an angular, guitar-heavy run through the greatest Beach Boys track never to hit the airwaves. (What if it had? It might have changed the face of “classic rock” completely. I think it would have hit Jimmy Buffett’s pocketbook the hardest…)

As the band warms up for the run, Black Francis fires off “Hullo, hullo, hullo…” quoting the opening of P.I.L.’s opening salvo Public Image, another deconstruction of rock ego and myth-making. Why this appropriation? Perhaps to indicate that Hang Onto Your Ego could have been a generational kiss off to a generation of undemanding Beach Boy fans.

I know so many people
Who think they can do it alone
They isolate their heads
And stay in the safety zone

But what can you tell them?
What can you say that won’t make them defensive?

So…
Hang on to your ego
Hang on, but I know that you’re gonna lose the fight

They come on like they’re peaceful
But inside they’re so uptight
They trip through the day
And waste all their thoughts at night

But how can I say it?
How can I come on when I know I’m guilty?

Speaking of which, John Lydon (the former Johnny Rotten) sends the Sex Pistols’ fans running for the shelter of their now “status quo” punk bands with the debut single from his new project, Public Image Ltd. His last words as Rotten were, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

Cheated by your manager. Cheated by your label. Cheated by your smack-addled murderer of a bass player. Cheated by the revolution that never was. Cheated by fans who wanted nothing more than a soundtrack for drunked, drugged-up mosh pits.

Lydon flips the script, announcing punk is over with a bruising bassline thundering over some exploratory soundcheck/reality check “hullos.” A farewell to Rotten/Sex Pistols/McLaren/Punk “Scene.” If his fans couldn’t be bothered to bootstrap a musical revolution, he’d just have to do it himself.

You never listen to a word that I said
You’ve only seen me
For the clothes that I wear
Or did the interest go so much deeper
It must have been
The colour of my hair

Public Image

What you wanted was never made clear
Behind the image was ignorance and fear
You hide behind this public machine
Still follow same old scheme

Public Image

Public image you got what you wanted
The Public image belongs to me
It’s my entrance
My own creation
My grand finale
My goodbye

[Yet another connection made only recently, although, to be fair, the Rough Diamonds compilation which contains this Pixies track is only a few years old… Still…]

Pixies – Hang Onto Your Ego

Public Image Ltd. – Public Image

Pixies – Ride the Tiger (Demo Version).mp3
Pixies – Ride the Tiger (Album Version).mp3

Since we’re already in a Pixies mood, let’s take two looks at the same track and the difference a great producer makes.

Let’s go ahead and clear the air: Steve Albini is an asshole. But he’s an uber-talented asshole who doesn’t glorify his own position. As is the case with most albums he’s produced, Albini credits himself with nothing more glamorous than “recording.” He knows what he’s looking for and he doesn’t fuck around.

There are plenty of anecdotes out there dealing with his “hands off” production technique. During the 1988 Surfer Rosa sessions, the most famous Albini-ism was his direction, which consisted of declaring things to be either “pussy” (in need of improvement) or “not pussy” (good to go).

So, listen closely to the two versions.

The demo version (taken from the Rough Diamonds compilation) runs nearly a minute longer. There’s a bit more space between the verses, giving Joey Santiago a chance to run through about a half-dozen ideas, casting liberal (for the Pixies) amounts of guitar squall/skronk here and there much like he did in “Vamos.”

The chorus and bridges linger for a bit too long, but that could just be 20+ years of hindsight speaking. All in all, a little unfocused but still a track that thousands of bands would kill to have in their catalogue, perfectly demonstrating the Pixies’ flawless command of the quiet/loud dynamic.

Now listen to the album version.

It is tight. Economical. No wasted effort anywhere. Santiago’s guitar scribblings are limited to propelling the song thru some lingering notes and restrained strumming. Pay special attention to the bridge between the first chorus and second verse, when he pulls the listener along on a thin strand of sustained feedback, using a couple of held notes to tie it all together and letting the rhythm section (and Kim’s backing vocals) do all the heavy lifting.

And Lovering’s drums. Those are definitely “not pussy.” It makes the drumming on the demo version seem so… serviceable. Of course, this may be nothing more than better miking and mastering, but that’s why a great producer is worth the $$$.

Of course, the song itself rocks hard, alternating between melodic and stormy, riding a metaphor from the Gaza Strip to the Cradle of Civilization.

Pixies – Ride the Tiger (Demo Version)

Pixies – Ride the Tiger (Album Version)

-CLT

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Heavy Rotation Vol. 44 – South of the Border Edition

May 16, 2010

Pigface (who does not appear in this selection of tunes) sets the tone...

Between fiery arguments over immigration to Scott’s self-imposed exile amongst the close-but-oh-so-far-away ancestry, who isn’t fascinated with Mexico and parts beyond?

More “cultural” than neighboring Texas and twice as fun as “New” Mexico, Old Mexico is the land where anything can happen and usually does. When not providing a handy euphemism for oral sex, our South of the Border neighbors also provide visitors with quality entertainment like late night “donkey shows” and easy, anonymous abortions for their secretaries.

The advantageous exchange rate is also fun, allowing you to buy a year’s supply of Chicle for $5 and an entire policeman for $20.

So, prepare to hold tightly to your water supply and wallets as we head South of the Border for a fine selection of tunes reflecting the invigorating spirit of Latin America.

Rather just stay home? Lots to do right here:
The Heavy Rotation Archives

Daddy Yankee – Gasolina.mp3
While I am not generally a fan of the reggaeton scene, this Daddy Yankee tracks stands out with its Puerto Rican jeepbeat approximations and its “once upon a time a thug went to a rave” combination of synth melodies and Casio-esque drum builds. It all adds up to something more dangerous than its pedigree would suggest.

If there’s another song out there that conjures up riding shotgun with Vic Mackey as well as this one does, I haven’t heard it yet.

Juno Reactor – Pistolero (Fluke’s Hang Em High Mix).mp3
Speaking up conjuring up images, Juno Reactor’s surprise hit brings to mind dry, dusty shootouts and the kind of bloodletting that gets someone’s aerated corpse tossed into the nearest shallow body of water/vehicle trunk. Of course, this conjuring goes a lot easier when your tune is showcased in a major motion picture trailer. (Starting about 1:17.)

Fluke shows up to add a few drops of Morricone into the mix and some nice synth pulses, which complement the tasty bits of acoustic guitar strumming and vocal samples perfectly.

 

Mighty Dub Katz – Magic Carpet Ride (Ulti-Mix).mp3
A classic track from one of Fatboy Slim’s many alter egos. It has nothing to do with Steppenwolf and everything to do with bass, mariachi horns and pasting smiles across the faces of dancin’ fools. And try not to be one of those once this starts rolling. You’ll just wish you’d had the foresight to pick up a sombrero or two earlier.

(Of course, you can always come back here after acquiring the proper headgear. We’re always open.)

Pixies – Vamos.mp3
Black Francis and his fabulous Pixies head straight at you like a bunch of aggressive mariachis, firing off mangled border “Spanglish” over Bonham-esque drums. As you reel back and eye the emergency exit’s ill-timed “No Passar” sign, one of the guitarists starts slinging jagged shards and steel slivers of distortion in your general direction, possibly taking out that eye you were just using.

Might as well just grab some good old American dolares and brace yourself. They’re not done yet. The pace never lets up and the guitar keeps on being slung (?). Might as well sit back and enjoy some beautiful bastardized lyrics, as Francis sends the song out “con mi sister in New Jersey” and theorizes that:

We’ll be well-bred
We’ll stay well-fed
We’ll have all sons
They will be all well-hung

The children play
Their friends all say
Your daddy’s rich
Your mama’s a pretty thing

Frank Black – Calistan.mp3
After all the bumped bass, faux pistol shots and musical beatdowns from street performers, it’s time to relax. A reprise of sorts, with former Pixies lead singer Frank Black taking us down a few hundred years of Californian history in under 4 minutes.

Laced with some evocative guitarwork and some heartbreaking piano accents, Calistan’s all nostalgia and displacement, which is in no way diminished by Black’s “white boy” historical perspective and pronunciations.

Used to be sixteen lanes
Used to be Nuevo Spain
Used to be Juan Wayne
Used to be Mes-i-co
Used to be Nava-joe
Used to be Yippy-yay-I-don’t-know

... and provides this coda.

-CLT

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Heavy Rotation Vol. 41 – Arguably Less Familiar To Millions But Still Recommended (Especially to the Cool Kids of Death)

April 25, 2010

This was the night went it all went haywire
Spun records by strobelight
Set cars on fire
Fed E to the goths just to force a smile
Drug em off the walls
Just to dance for awhile
Watch em trade their black for bright new day-glo
Write self-prescriptions
Trade dope for yayo
Big ideas float on waves of bass
Dub cuts Wax Trax
Out of Space
Out here on the dancefloor
It’s assholes with elbows
Tweaked-up punks
Tweaked-out emos
Cuttin up records with a disco sawzall
Manic depressives
Gettin high on Midol
Flashes of talent
Disco biscuits
Marxist tomboys
Pancaked Misfits
Pasted-on grins from too much X
Sweaty bodies
Faceless sex
When it’s all over there’s nothing left but trash
Used up men count up piles of cash
Played out players look to cut and run
Embrace the darkness
Beat the sun

Now all it needs is a beat. Oh. There’s some.

More beats – MC CLT = A Better Overall Experience (Which Awaits You on the Offworld Colonies, Which Are Located Behind the Blue Link Below):
The Heavy Rotation Archives

War – Low Rider (DJ Kue Mix).mp3
Kue grabs ahold of a verbal sample and some of the best drum bits and, after a chopped and flanged drop, brings in a wobbly, drunk-off-its-ass bassline. The end result? A War built for dancing. Like when the Jets met the Sharks, only without all that Romeo/Juliet baggage.

Joy Division – She’s Lost Control (Tronik Youth Shredit Edit).mp3
Tronik Youth gazes at Joy Division’s insanity plea and sees their undervalued rhythm section as a jumping off point, bringing an industrial edge to the proceedings. Shredding the vocals and running the track through an electro chop shop, Tronik Youth finally drags the metallic carcass, clanking and screaming, to the dancefloor. Or as close to the dancefloor as its faulty electronics will allow.

Buzz buzz glitch. Buzz buzz bang bang bang.

DeathSet – Negative Thinking (Treasure Fingers Remix).mp3
Treasure Fingers lays down the law on these shouty, punky misfits, confining them to their immaculately remixed room. Still as singalongable as ever, Treasure Fingers retains the sweaty urges and colorful language of the original while adding layers of restraint and muted color, dressing the boys up in robotic Sunday best and presenting them to the world as well-rounded, if occasionally profane, individuals.

Slayer – Raining Blood (Sexistalk Remix).mp3

I went to a rave and a mosh pit broke out.

Totally. Well, it was mainly amped-up pogoing.

I know.

Best rave ever!!! 

Pixies – Where Is My Mind? (Bassnectar Remix).mp3

Pixies Remix Club Rules
1. You do not fuck with a classic.
2. YOU. DO NOT. FUCK. WITH A CLASSIC.
3. If someone does fuck with a classic, taps out or adds a limp 4/4 and calls it good, they will be mocked and derided and their electricity cut off.
4. One remixer per remix.
5. One remix at a time.
6. Clothing optional. (?)
7. The remix will go on as long as it has to.
8. If it’s your first remix, start somewhere else. Maybe with any of the millions of lesser bands out there.

Bassnectar follows the rules. He toughens up Steve Albini’s already “not pussy” drums and throws in some nice buzzing noises.  Good stuff.

Here’s a bonus for everyone still playing. And when I say “everyone,” I of course mean mainly FJ, who routinely makes Pixies references when not being praised for his Lynchian qualities.

Pixies – The Thing (Allez Allez Bootleg Mix).mp3

Oh, and the Cool Kids of Death? Just a rather nice St. Etienne track, which unfortunately doesn’t live up to its menacing name, but then again, what possibly could?

-CLT