Where else can Mr. Mojo Risin' and the Gallaghers coexist peacefully?


Ah, here we go. It’s late, it’s Tuesday, my throat is sore, and I feel like scribblin’. So, with that in mind, shall we take another spin through iTunes and see what the shuffle gods have in store for a stream-of-conscious writing session? Why, yes, let’s shall!

1. The Doors — “The Unknown Soldier”: Breakfast where the news is read! Television children fed! Unborn living living dead! Bullets strike the helmet’s head! I am a firm believer that, lyrically, Jim Morrison never topped 1968’s Waiting for the Sun. Remembering that this record also includes “Five to One” and “Not To Touch The Earth” from the aborted epic “The Celebration Of The Lizard,” Morrison was at his surrealist best at this time. Before the cocktail lounge stuff, before the major arrests, he was still a poet, and his diatribe about a solider dying for no cause made real waves.

2. The Beatles — “A Taste of Honey”: Essentially a throw-away from their debut LP, Please Please Me, “A Taste of Honey” is still a nice little gem, a sense of what their softer numbers from the Cavern Club days were like. Plus, listening to Paul McCartney in full voice with George Harrison and John Lennon backing him in almost barbershop style will always be a hoot. You can almost picture the white pinstriped suits and the straw hats.

3. The Ramones — “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?”: Barely, actually. It was the mid 1990s, and 95.5 WBRU out of Providence, R.I., was definitely the best source for the stuff. It’s where I got my first real taste of the likes of Pearl Jam, Oasis and Nirvana, and it’s also where I encountered some older acts of the 70s and 80s not around on the classic rock dial. Via their “Retro Lunch,” I took to the Violent Femmes and their quirks pretty quickly, but being still obsessed with guitar solos, I brushed of the Ramones for years. What a waste, but maybe it was for the best. I’m full-blown in love with them now, and I have them to indirectly thank for my current obsession with the Clash, the Stooges, Dead Kennedys, the Buzzcocks, Black Flag, the Damned, the Replacements, Television, X, Mudhoney ...

4. Neil Young — “The Old Laughing Lady”: From his self-titled debut, but first encountered by me on his essential double-disc collection Decade. Actually, that’s a lie — I first heard it on his Unplugged album as the leadoff track, but the original has a power — David Briggs would later call it “The Spook” — that the live acoustic take doesn’t replicate. Sure, later on the bizarre gospel choir might sound out of place, but Neil’s voice, the brushed drums and the strings really keep the Spook in full force here. The guitar is only half-strummed, and Neil’s lyrics about the drunkard on the village and the ankles from the rest of his feet forshadow a career full of twisted metaphors. Alas, this laughing lady’s loving ain’t the kind anyone can keep, so it’s time to move on to another track on our tour.

5. The Velvet Underground — “Rock & Roll (Demo)”: From the Fully-loaded edition of Loaded, we find a stripped down take on one of the best rock and roll songs to tackle it’s mighty subject. The image of Janie losing herself to the rock and roll stations is one of my favorites in the entire genre, something I imagine Bob Dylan could’ve tackled if he’d taken his “song and dance man” claim to heart. Then again, he didn’t have to here — Lou Reed was more than capable of capturing that spirit in 1970. Though the demo here doesn’t have the same spark as the final album version, it does, along with the rest of Fully Loaded, illustrate how on top of their game the Velvets were by the end of their run. Being in my mid-20s, I wasn’t around with them, but it’s still a little sad to me that it literally took 20 years and Lester Bangs’ death before anyone ever finally gave them a real chance. Now? Hundreds, perhaps thousands of bands owe their place on the stage to the Velvet Underground. And through all the noise and experimentation, all they ever wanted was a little rock and roll. Now that’s something.

6. The Damned — “Feel the Pain”: Now here’s some of that good stuff I was talking about! The Damned took that croon that Morrison made all so famous and added that Ramones angst to create a series of firsts — the first British punk single, the first British punk album (this one, Damned Damned Damned) and the first British punk band to break up and reunite, little more than a year after their debut. This track is definitely slower than the rest of the record, but it picks up nicely in the last 30 seconds and definitely keeps that demonic vibe throughout, a feeling they’d fully explore later on in their career.

7. Oasis — “Fuckin’ In The Bushes”: ... We put the festival on for you bastards with a lot of love, and you want to tear down our walls?! WELL YOU CAN GO TO HELL!! And with that bit of dialogue from 1970’s cursed Isle of Wight Festival, we launch into one of the greatest instrumental tracks of our time. Three minutes and nineteen seconds, all drums, guitar, guitar, guitar, bass and borrowed bits of speech. Now, it’s probably best known for its place in the movie Snatch, when Brad Pitt is getting the ever-living crap beaten out of him in the ring. But the solos on top of solos here, all screaming guitars and thwacking skins, really make this a blood-pumper. The perfect start to your Monday morning!

8. Supergrass — “Pumping On Your Stereo”: A lot of songs about the act of listening to music here, eh? Here, Supergrass, the greatest of the overlooked bands of the past decade, tell us that life is a cigarette and ask if we can hear them pumping on our stereos. Meanwhile, handclaps, swirling background vocals and some angular guitar lines push us through perhaps the catchiest song of 1999. Not to go all “I’m old” on you, but I vividly remember watching and loving the video for this one on 120 Minutes, with the band propped up with pipe-cleaner bodies and Mickey Mouse hands while instruments swish all around them. Remember 120 Minutes? Matt Pinfield? Whatever happened to that guy?

9. The Flaming Lips — “Waitin’ For A Superman”: And, staying with the 1999 theme, we arrive on the best album of the decade, the Lips’ The Soft Bulletin. “Waitin’ For A Superman” is the band at their mellow, tear-jerking best. When the Lips want to reach you at your core, they don’t pile on the sappy cliches. They’re much more powerful — they aim for the ordinary, the little guy trying to get through his day. They take the small problems and help you move by them. They take the super hero and remind us that, y’know, he’s got stuff on his mind. Sometimes, when I hear this, I swear I can hear vocalist Wayne Coyne crying in between lyrics. “Is it overwhelming?” he asks. “Well I thought it was already as heavy as can be,” he answers. “Tell everybody waiting for superman that they should try to hold on the best they can. He hasn’t dropped them, forgot them, or anything. It’s just too heavy for Superman to mend.” Just beautiful.

10. Spoon — “Something To Look Forward To”: The best in stripped-down rock today, bar none. Brit Daniel paints another drum-bass masterpiece with dashes of guitar and boogie piano on this one, from 2002’s Kill the Moonlight. Not to harp on this, but I got into the band slightly later, around 2004, and this album was my introduction to them. I was spending a lot of time in Somerville, say, around October. It was fun, a typically cool month, lots of burgers and beer, I recall. There was also a lot of baseball, and that month, the Boston Red Sox were responsible for one of the most significant moments of my life, and many, many others. Dusting off the Angels, coming back from the dead to murder the New York Yankees, and sweeping the Cardinals as if a matter of formality, they ended decades and decades of heartbreak, all the while making my years of loyalty, and all the abuse that came with it, completely worthwhile.

Funny about that, they’re back in the World Series again, taking on another team of destiny, the Colorado Rockies, this week. And with that, it may be time to give that Spoon record some more spins in the car this week. Every little bit helps, right?

October 23, 2007

E-mail Nick Tavares at nick@staticandfeedback.com