Friday, January 13, 2017

Formative teenage records

In a nice little bit of communal sharing and fun amidst the terror, anger, and sadness of the current political landscape, most of my friends have been posting lists of the 10 (or so) most important albums of their teenage years on Facebook. I quit the book of face a few years ago in order to stop arguing politics with my relatives and avoid stupid memes from both sides, but I still log in to my wife's account to see what certain people are up to and to look at cute pictures of my niece and nephew. It's been fun to see what records my friends were soaking up between the ages of 14 and 18, and it got me thinking about the big records for me in that turbulent 4-year chunk of time.
I was in high school from 1991-1995 in a culturally isolated small town in the Midwest. I didn't have MTV, the nearest major city was a four-hour drive away, the Internet was not really a thing yet for the average human, I had to drive 38 miles to buy CDs and cassettes, and it was a lot easier to find major label records than indies. I relied on music magazines, a few cool older friends and relatives, the cut-out bin at Wal-Mart, the TV programs Night Tracks and JBTV, my uncle's record collection, mail order, the one decent record store in the area, and random acts of weirdness to find out about bands. There were no real music scenes in my town, so the small handful of us who liked music more than sports congregated together, and we listened to pretty much everything except mainstream pop. I listened to a lot of terrible stuff, a lot of embarrassing stuff, and a lot of good and great stuff. These are the records I was able to find at the time that still mean something to me and have some connection to my listening habits now. If I were being totally honest, I'd put Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane's Addiction and lots of mainstream alt-rock stuff on here, too, but I don't listen to much of that stuff now, except for my rare nostalgia wallows. Here are the records I was completely obsessed with between 9th and 12th grades (I tried to limit it to 10, and then this happened) (also, I think my taste was better in elementary school and college and so much worse in junior high): 

Jimi Hendrix - Band of Gypsys
The Beatles - White Album
Nirvana - Nevermind and In Utero
Jeff Buckley - Grace
Dinosaur Jr - Where You Been and Green Mind
Guided By Voices - Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes
Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Wowee Zowee
The Replacements - Tim, Let It Be, and Pleased to Meet Me
Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime
fIREHOSE - Flyin' the Flannel
PJ Harvey - Rid of Me and To Bring You My Love
Bad Brains - Rock for Light
Black Flag - The First Four Years
The Clash - London Calling
Miles Davis - Bitches Brew (didn't appreciate this one until my twenties, but I listened to it a lot trying to understand it)
Faith No More - Angel Dust
Stevie Wonder - Innervisions
The Breeders - Last Splash
Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy
Mudhoney - Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge
Camper Van Beethoven - Key Lime Pie
Meat Puppets - II
The Black Crowes - The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion
Frank Black - Frank Black and Teenager of the Year
R.E.M. - Eponymous
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Rust Never Sleeps
Fishbone - The Reality of My Surroundings and Truth and Soul
Pixies - Surfer Rosa and, to a slightly lesser extent, the other three
Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville
Sonic Youth - Dirty, Goo, Daydream Nation, Sister, and Confusion Is Sex
Fugazi - Steady Diet of Nothing
The Flaming Lips - Transmissions from the Satellite Heart
The Dead Milkmen - Beelzebubba (I stumbled across Big Lizard in my Backyard in 6th grade)
Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes
Ween - all the '90s records


Friday, January 06, 2017

TV used to be weird, or you got queso in my peanut butter

I'm amusing myself during a freakish spell of downtime at work by looking at the list of past hosts and musical guests of Saturday Night Live. Some of them are hilariously odd pairings, for good, bad, ridiculous, or evil, until the late '90s when the combination of host and music becomes mostly very, very dull and stays that way permanently. (It really seems like a computer program is choosing the hosts and bands now. ) Seriously, like 85% of the combinations until the late '90s make me laugh and seem like throwaway gags from a vintage Simpsons episode, especially if you imagine them jamming together. (Also, Leon Redbone was the musical guest on roughly every fifth episode for the first seven years of the show.) These are the ones that jumped out at me (to be read in Don Pardo's voice):

Robert Klein and ABBA
Ron Nessen (Gerald Ford's press secretary) and the Patti Smith Group
Fran Tarkenton and Leo Sayer
Broderick Crawford and Levon Helm
O.J. Simpson and Ashford & Simpson
Christopher Lee and Meat Loaf
Buck Henry and Sun Ra
Fred Willard and Devo
Michael Palin and The Doobie Brothers
Milton Berle and Ornette Coleman
Ted Knight and Desmond Child & Rouge
Bea Arthur and The Roches
Rodney Dangerfield and The J. Geils Band
Strother Martin and The Specials
Bob Newhart and The Amazing Rhythm Aces
Elliott Gould and Kid Creole & The Coconuts
Malcolm McDowell and Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band
Donald Pleasence and Fear
Robert Culp and The Charlie Daniels Band
Danny DeVito and Sparks
Ron Howard and The Clash
Howard Hesseman and Men At Work
Robert Blake and Kenny Loggins
Joan Rivers and Musical Youth
Ed Koch and Dexys Midnight Runners
Jerry Lewis and Loverboy
George McGovern and Madness
George Carlin and Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Ed Asner and The Kinks
Mr. T & Hulk Hogan and The Commodores
John Lithgow and Mr. Mister
Harry Dean Stanton and The Replacements (fuck yeah)
George Wendt and Philip Glass
Tony Danza and Laurie Anderson
Jimmy Breslin, "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler and Level 42 (?????)
Dabney Coleman and The Cars
Robert Mitchum and Simply Red (LOL)
Fred Savage and Technotronic
George Steinbrenner and The Time
Joe Mantegna and Vanilla Ice
Jeremy Irons and Fishbone
Steven Seagal and Michael Bolton
Jeff Daniels and Color Me Badd
Macaulay Culkin and Tin Machine
Joe Pesci and Spin Doctors
Sinbad and Sade
Charles Barkley and Nirvana
Charlton Heston and Paul Westerberg
Martin Lawrence and Crash Test Dummies
George Foreman and Hole
Danny Aiello and Coolio
Tom Arnold and 2Pac
Steve Forbes and Rage Against the Machine
Bill Pullman and New Edition
Sylvester Stallone and Jamiroquai
Rudy Giuliani and Sarah McLachlan
Nathan Lane and Metallica
John McCain and The White Stripes
Donald Trump and Toots & The Maytals (no longer funny thanks to our horrible future, also a big fuck you to SNL for having him host last year)

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

2016: My Year in Music

2016 has been consistently labeled a "garbage fire" by people who like to repeat phrases they hear, thanks to nightmarish global victories for authoritarianism, neo-fascism, and xenophobia and the loss of many beloved inspirational public figures, but I tend to think of 2016 as a kid walking home from school and just noticing that a group of bullies have locked eyes on him. 2016 was the unpreparedness, the shock, the surprise, the dread, and the slow realization of what's to come, but 2017 will be the beating, with the faint possibility of a last-minute miraculous defensive strategy and plans for regrouping and revenge. Meanwhile, the kid either repressed or failed to notice that those bullies spent the past several years beating on a lot of other kids who weren't him.
2016 was rough. 2017 will be rougher, but I see little droplets of hope in the sludge. Check back with me next year.
People die every minute. The 2016 memes got a little out of control, but I can get off my soapbox and admit the losses in music, film, literature, etc, this year were pretty heavy, the heaviest I can remember since that stretch from 2009 to 2010 that robbed the world at large and the private world in my heart of Vic Chesnutt, Rowland S. Howard, Barry Hannah, Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel, Mark Linkous, Captain Beefheart, Ari Up, Solomon Burke, Harvey Pekar, Dennis Hopper, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer, and Ronnie freakin' James Dio, among many, many others. And on that note, these year-end obituary wrap-ups keep forgetting to mention Richard Lyons from Negativland, even the ones that remember Alan Vega and Tony Conrad and Pauline Oliveros. Stop forgetting Richard Lyons.

What was good about this year, or any year? The answer is always music. I like a lot of cool music and a lot of uncool music, and I don't see much difference between the two, other than shinier or less shiny pants and faces, degrees of dank obscurity and/or massive popularity, ages of the participants, and how many coke-addled dirtbags are in and on the peripheral scene. These are the new albums and reissues I acquired this year that I liked and that were released in 2016. I don't know how to make definitive best-of music lists. I don't know which of these albums I like the most, which I will still be listening to years from now, and all that jazz. I have only scratched the surface and will keep discovering 2016 records until I am as dead as your favorite dead celebrity of 2016. I've heard two pieces from the 75 Dollar Bill album Wood/Metal/Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/Rock that are way up my alley, but you won't find it on this list because I don't have it yet. That's the problem with these things, but they're fun, and I like making them and looking at other people's, so bug off.

New releases I found at least some pleasure and joy in hearing in the year of our lord 2016 (in reverse chronological order, sorta)

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez - solo album series, released digitally every two weeks (A Lovejoy, Some Need It Lonely, Nom de Guerre Cabal, Zapopan, Weekly Mansions, Infinity Drips, Cell Phone Bikini, El bien y mal nos une, Umbrella Mistress, Arañas en la sombra, Blind Worms Pious Swine, Corazones, Sworn Virgins)
Neil Young - Peace Trail
The Men - Devil Music
Thee Oh Sees - A Weird Exits and An Odd Entrances
Solange - A Seat at the Table
Mint Mile - The Bliss Point EP
Oneida & Rhys Chatham - What's Your Sign?
Lambchop - FLOTUS
ESP Ohio - Starting Point of the Royal Cyclopean
Rihanna - Anti
People of the North - The Caul
Wilco - Schmilco
Angel Olsen - My Woman
Cass McCombs - Mangy Love
Sam Coomes - Bugger Me
Dinosaur Jr - Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not
Death Grips - Bottomless Pit
Neil Young & Promise of the Real - Earth
Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
case/lang/veirs - case/lang/veirs
John Frusciante - Foregrow EP
Melvins - Basses Loaded
Beyonce - Lemonade
Dalek - Asphalt for Eden
Destroyer - My Mystery EP
PJ Harvey - The Hope Six Demolition Project
Guided By Voices - Please Be Honest
Mike & The Melvins - Three Men and a Baby
Kaada/Patton - Bacteria Cult
White Denim - Stiff
Robert Pollard - Of Course You Are
Waco Brothers - Going Down in History
Freakwater - Scheherazade 
Field Music - Commontime
Nevermen - Nevermen
Eleanor Friedberger - New View
Moonsicles - Bay of Seething
Ty Segall - Emotional Mugger
David Bowie -

2016 re-releases, reissues, compilations, and repackaging of the old that I enjoyed in 2016

Joseph Washington, Jr. - Merry Christmas to You
Various - Bobo Yéyé: Belle Époque in Upper Volta
Various - Shanghai'd Soul: Episode 4
Dow Jones & The Industrials - Can't Stand the Midwest 1979-1981
Chapells - Are You Ready for the Chapells?
Meic Stevens - Outlander  
Pisces - Somewhere in Your Mind
Master Wilburn Burchette - Transcendental Music for Meditation, Music of the Godhead for Supernatural Meditation, Guitar Grimoire, and Mind Storm
Blonde Redhead - Masculin Feminin and Peel Sessions EP
Cheap Nasties - 53rd and 3rd
This Heat - Deceit and Health and Efficiency EP (also recommend This Heat, but I didn't get the reissue because I already have a good copy)
The Scientists - A Place Called Bad
Various - Afterschool Special: The 123s of Kid Soul
Tucker Zimmerman - Song Poet
Tommy McGee - Positive - Negative
Circuit Rider - Photograph Attached
White Zombie - It Came from N.Y.C.
Various - Eccentric Soul: Sitting in the Park
Joanna Brouk - Hearing Music
Various - Los Alamos Grind
Arrogance - Knights of Dreams
Jimmy Carter & Dallas County Green - Summer Brings the Sunshine (not the president)
Various - 1st Annual Inner-City Talent Expo (March 26, 1972 Columbus, Ohio)
Various - Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music
94 East - The Cookhouse 5 (a teenage Prince on guitar)
Rob Galbraith - Damn It All
Various - Plastic Dance 1
Echo del Africa National - Recit historique de Bobo Dioulasso

Late to the party: 2015 releases I acquired in 2016

Boogarins - Manual
Soldiers of Fortune - Early Risers
Sun City Girls - Torch of the Mystics (reissue)
Harmonia - Complete Works (box set)

Live shows I seem to remember enjoying

Boogarins - Hotel Vegas residency
James Chance & The Contortions
Cobra Verde
Guided By Voices
Dinosaur Jr
Ice Cold Singles
The Residents
Eleanor Friedberger
Waco Brothers

Bands I played shows with in Austin that brought the heat

Abigail und Hansel (three times)
Sado Massachusetts (twice)
Rabbit Fist
Mitch Fraizer
Desert Stars (twice)
RaDaM (formerly Rhett & Dean)
She Sir
Will Courtney & The Wild Bunch
David Israel
Angry Beige

Last but not least but maybe least but maybe not, copies of my band The Early Stages' two 7-inches are still available at Bandcamp and our own website