I remember the first time I heard Sigue Sigue Sputnik back in the day – so much different than the usual suspects (typical mid to late 80′s skate rawk like Suicidal Tendencies, Dead Milkmen, Butthole Surfers, and pre-sellout Red Hot Chili Peppers). I also remember the first time I heard Ray of Light and thinking “WTF? Madonna doesn’t suck?!?”
January 13, 2006
December 31, 2005
So this is the new year.
And I don’t feel any different.
I’m a little busy with the obligations (and pleasures!) of the holiday season, so this is gonna be a pretty quick update. Basically, a song I like from a band I love that just happens to be topical. What more could you want?
Happy New Year everyone!
December 24, 2005
Remember that time you and your buddy got drunk (perhaps even sampling other substances) and said We should totally start a band dude. That would rawk. Now, imagine that instead of passing out, you grabbed a microphone, your little brother’s Casio Tone Bank and proceeded to record and entire Christmas Album using only rubber bands as instruments. Have that image in your head? If so, you may be mentally prepared for this out of tune track from A Rubber Band Christmas, with the oh-so-punny title Feliz Rubberdad.
Merry Christmas everyone. And, uh, sorry.
December 17, 2005
I’m not a huge Metallica fan. It has nothing to do with whether or not they “sold out” or all of the wanna be bad boys in high school wearing …and Justice for All tee shirts — I just never really dug them. Turns out I just needed a different vector for tapping in. When it comes to metal covers, we’ve heard orchestral, ska, reggae, zydeco, disco, heavier metal, and of course lounge.
But how about four cellos?
No, you aren’t reading that wrong, I really mean that this band plays Enter Sandman on four cellos. It’s not drums, guitar, and cello. It’s not guitar, bass, and cello. It’s not even a string quartet. It’s four cellos, it’s pretty creepy, and it’s one of the most creative use of any instrument for any purpose I’ve heard (and I’ve heard a lot.) I’ll try and find a worthy Christmas song that’s not overdone for next week.
December 10, 2005
Thursday was the 25 year anniversary of the cold-blooded assasination of John Lennon. Paul McCartney might be a knight these days, but his music (while well-crafted) adds up to little more than a big pile of poppy hooks and pappy fluff, while John Lennon was a (if not the) voice of a generation. Needless to say, the artist for this week’s MP3 was never in question…but what song?
I wanted something that helped reflect a bit of Lennon’s essence without resorting to Imagine or Give Peace a Chance. I decided it should be from John’s comeback album, Double Fantasy, released just weeks before he was killed. After a little thought, I went with Watching the Wheels, because it’s a great song:
People asking questions lost in confusion,
Well I tell them there’s no problem,
Rest in Peace, John – we miss you.
 It would go on to win the Grammy for best album. If you can watch the footage of a six year old Sean Lennon going up to accept the award without a tear coming to your eye, then you must be some kind of robot.
December 3, 2005
Well, I hope you’re faring better in whichever piece of this ol’ ball of mud you call home, but here in Cowtown it’s mighty chilly with a big helping of snow on the side. What better to warm you up then our old friend Harry Connick Jr. throwing down a sweet boogie-woogie take on that proverbial winter favourite, Winter Wonderland. This boogie is so phat that when I was listening while typing I was forced to tap in time: that’s rock ‘n’ roll, kids.
Those who know my own piano stylings will hear a lot of my own influences here (although I can’t mention my piano stylings without mentioning Dave Luesink, who taught me the 12 bar blues, Jerry Lee Lewis, who I wanted to be, and Thomas Manshardt, who taught me that enjoying music is fine and dandy, but true love comes from appreciation) but I don’t put myself into the same league (Harry’s Avalon on his first live tape is insane).
Peace on Earth and all that jazz – where’s a chinook when you need one?
 Well, I wanted to play piano like him, I didn’t want the teenage cousin bride or that gaudy jewelry. Kinda got stuck with the hair, though.
November 19, 2005
There are fewer musical crimes more egregious than the sentimental over-produced pap put out by such luminaries as New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys. Manufactured to do nothing more than manipulate your emotions through lazy electronic hooks and sappy intelligence insulting vocals, boy bands are at best. But sex, even in the form of vague pubescent crushes involving the buying of posters and magazines with the word “Teen” in the title, sells. At least in the 60′s girls were swooning over John, Paul, and George who were brilliant musicians in addition to being “cute”.
There were faux punk bands affecting rebellion, many of which were no more relevent or less manufactured than those they professed to hate, but the real rebellion came from the ladies with the Riot Grrrl movement. The academics called it “feminist resistance to male domination in society and especially to the abuse and harassment of women,” and there was a new energy. You wouldn’t dare objectify the girls of Bikini Kill or Bratmobile, and listening to true feminist lyrics exposes the “Girl Power” of the Spice Girls as the tripe it is (or was, as the case may be.)
One of the bands that formed in the mid-90′s to kick some ass was Sleater-Kinney. A little rough around the edges, they were one of many cures for the Britney Blues, and you probably haven’t heard of them. But enough rambling. The song is Ironclad, from their fifth disc, All Hands on the Bad One. You know you love it.
 Let’s face it – nobody swooned because of Ringo
 Just like Metallica, by the time they hit the mainstream, the rabid fans will be waxing poetic about the old days before the band sold out.
November 12, 2005
Before Marilyn Mason’s Antichrist Superstar in 1996.
Before Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast in 1982.
Before Johnny Rotten ushered in a new era screaming “I am an antichrist” in 1977.
Before John Lennon let us know the Beatles were more popular than Jesus in 1966.
Hell, a full century and quarter before Jerry Lee Lewis was accused by Reverend Falwell of playing the “Devil’s Music”, violinist Niccolo Paganini was playing the violin with such passion, force, and virtuosity that people in the audience would faint.
There were rumours that one of his violin strings was fashioned from his wife’s intestines, and of course there was no way someone could develop such technique without entering the proverbial Faustian pact. Such was his mastery of the violin that inspired the incomparable Franz Liszt to do the same for the piano (and we shall hear from him one day, believe me.)
In 1820, Niccolo’s 24 Caprices for Violin were published, to this day considered far too difficult for the repertoire – these pieces are for virtuosos only. Without further ado, here is the second caprice from that incomparable collection. And yes, that is a solo violin (played by the excellent James Ehns, master of the fiddle.)
 Yeah, I know the song. I know it’s about a dream. I know it’s not pro-Satan. But did your parents know that?
October 22, 2005
By now it’s no secret that I am a sucker for covers that go in completely different directions than their originals. And while you could argue that it’s possible to get farther away from Sir Mix-A-Lot’s infamous ode to big butts (but it still takes a back seat to Spinal Tap’s Big Bottom) than the easy listening, almost folksy cover put down by nerdcore folk artist Jonathan Coulter, I have my doubts. I mean, c’mon – it’s got a banjo and background singers.
If you liked Nina Gordon’s Straight Outta Compton, I think you’ll dig this.
October 8, 2005
(Editor’s Note — Yeah, I know; the MP3 of the week has become the MP3 of whenever Nathan feels like it. But I’ve been busy – last week I was at NFJS and the week before I was hanging out with the family. But I haven’t forgotten, and it’s back. I hope to do this every week, but it might end up being every second week. Sorry.)
When people ask me who my favourite poet is (admittedly, this happened infinitely more often when I was an English major than it has in my professional programming career), I almost always answer “Dylan.” Not Bob Dylan, but Dylan Thomas. I was first drawn to Mr. Thomas through one of the oddest poem titles I had ever seen in a book of classics: A Refusal To Mourn The Death, By Fire, Of A Child In London. I wasn’t sure what to think, but it was a touching ode to the authour’s inability to find adequate words to pay tribute to the death of a child (can anyone? This is heavy stuff, folks.)
Like so many artists, Dylan died young (before he was 40 – his last words were reportedly “I’ve had 18 straight whiskeys, I think that’s a record.”) So, going in a completely different direction, today’s MP3 is Dylan Thomas reading what is probably his most famous peom, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. Maybe it’s just me, but it doesn’t get much cooler than this.
September 17, 2005
In 2005 (maybe moreso in 1995) everyone and her dog knows who Bjork is, but back in 1988 not too many people knew about the Sugarcubes. I have very clear memories of listening to their first album, because it was so much different than choking down the latest Rick Astley turd on FM Radio. Deus wasn’t as popular a song as Motorcrash, but it struck a chord with me.
Deus does not exist
But if he does, he lives in the sky above me
In the fattest largest cloud up there.
He’s whiter than white and cleaner than clean.
He wants to reach me.
I think it kinda meshed with my own fucked up ideas about religion and god and how I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t think it sucked, but still wanted nothing to do with it.
In truth, I haven’t evolved too much on that front.
September 3, 2005
Kein Mehrheit fur die Mitleid
Roughly translated, the above means “no pity for the majority”, and it that for which the letters KMFDM stand. They were one of the first and electronic industrial bands, and that name could describe their feelings for late 80s top 40 radio. But rather than throw down something raw like Terror I’m heading back to cover land with their charming version of Madonna’s Material Girl.
Not much else to say this week – lemme know if you dig.
 Not, as you may have heard back in the day “kill mother fucking depeche mode.”
August 27, 2005
John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things: a landmark for Coltrane and a landmark for jazz. Few have heard of it . Fewer still have heard it. Is it because a lot of people don’t get jazz? I used to not get jazz. Then I realised there was nothing to get, and now I get jazz.
I think a lot of people are intimidated by jazz fans, because they make wine connoisseurs look like Bud swilling wresting fans in comparison. But you know what? You can drink a bottle of wine and like it without knowing where it came from, or how old it is, or which grape is dominant . So with that in mind, set aside 15 minutes in your busy day, turn this up, sit back, and just listen. Notice how you can marvel at the solos without caring about how Coltrane was recently influenced by Miles Davis’ experiments in modality. Notice how you can feel a tight rhythm section without knowing that influential jazz pianist McCoy Tyner is on keys, or that this was Steve Davis, not Jimmy Garrison, on bass. Note how you can feel the swing without caring that Coltrane put this in 6/8 time (instead of 3/4) and used 10 bars for the verse (instead of 8.)
Doobie doo wah, folks, doobie doo wah.
 And if you’ve heard of it, it’s probably because it inspired Robbie Krieger and Ray Manzarek to lay down that extended musical musing in Light My Fire.
 Before I get any hate mail, let me express that learning all this stuff about wine or jazz, or anything else you care to appreciate does significantly increase your enjoyment. I’m merely stating that this shouldn’t be a barrier to entry – it should never be a crime to just like something without a litany of justifications for it (if that were true, nobody could say they like Mulholland Drive.)
August 20, 2005
I was thinking about what I should bring out for the MP3 this week and it suddenly dawned on me that I’ve been far too easy on you guys the last couple of weeks, throwing out some nice easy listening; nothing challenging at all. So this one’s a bit of a challenge. The Mae Shi is the kind of band that forms when a bunch of people can’t sing or write a sweet melody, but desperately need to make music. The are the kind of band that will put out an album with 32 tracks in 42 minutes and call it Terrorbird. They are the kind of band that will have 2 songs called Terror Bird, and 5 songs called Repetition on that album.
I’m not saying I dare you to like this (those songs are coming later) but I will say that you need to listen to at at least 5 times before passing judgement. Just to frame your reference, listening to this song 5 times is not much longer than listening to Hey Jude just once.
Without further ado, I present…Vampire Beats. You know you love it!
August 13, 2005
With the anniversary of Jerry’s death, it was preordained that our MP3 this week would be a Grateful Dead tune. The question then became “which one?” After much soul searching and debate (or a quick look at my CD collection, whichever seems more interesting) I’ve decided on the Europe ’72 version of China Cat Sunflower because it it fulfills the criteria I was looking for:
- It’s live. Everyone knows that the best Dead is live Dead.
- It gives you a taste of the groove these guys could build…
- …but doesn’t go on for a half an hour.
- Jerry’s singing.
- It’s a kick ass track.
August 6, 2005
You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge
So began the title track NWA’s second album, Straight Outta Compton; arguably the seminal gangsta rap work. Like so many other retired taboos, it doesn’t seem that offensive to today’s audience, but back in 1989 this was some hardcore shit. It was one of the few musical moments that really knocked me on my ass, and I remember listening to that tape over and over.
But times have changed, my friends.
Ice Cube, who bragged he had a crime record like Charles Manson, yelled out Fuck tha Police and wrote one of the most venomous, hate filled diatribes ever recorded (No Vaseline — so spiteful I actually feel dirty just listening) is now “the-guy-who-was-XXX-after-Vin-Deisel” and filming family friendly fare like Are We There Yet?.
Luckily we’ve got folks like Nina Gordon (of Veruca Salt. Go check out American Thighs — it’s a good time) to keep it real. She lays down a phat acoustic cover of the first verse of Straight Outta Compton that I just know you’ll love. I think my favourite part is that she doesn’t change the lyrics to make it from her point of view (unlike Tiffany, who thought I Saw (Him) Standing There was a good idea) and hearing her melodically croon ’cause Ice Cube is crazy as fuck just makes me smile.
Really interested in hearing what people who haven’t heard the NWA version think.
July 30, 2005
During the whirlwind that is my life, I have been in two bands (or one band with two names, as the case may be) – Psychedelic Toque and Nicely Warped Table. In the interest of full disclosure on this week’s tune, I was good friends with Lungbutter’s vocalist, the Rev. Reed Collins, during my university days…and I am the Nat X mentioned in the liner notes of Available Now. He played guitar and sang on the NWT Light My Fire cover (called Pants on Fire, it featured Dave Calam’s chillingly accurate rendition of Ray Manzarek’s famous organ solo — on an accordian.) Our other great collaboration was when the mysterious Nat X started a rap band with Reed (as Col Rock) and a third member (to be billed as Ton Def.)
Anyway, Lungbutter is right up there in the running for weirdest band in the world, and with songs like Antifreeze Ain’t that Bad, Boot Raper, Sewage Missle and of course Check It Out Dude, Get Ready, Cuz We’re Rock’n'Roll Rebels Cruisin’ For Chicks In Our Metal Machine, Baby, All Night Long, Alright, Oh Yeah! (A Rock Anthem) Dude. (We Really Know How To Rock.) You can’t make this stuff up, folks.
Anyway, I’ve decided on a cute little ditty called The Martians Aren’t Coming from their third album The Most Hated Band in Town. If you like a side of satire with your bizarre musical tracks you’ll like this one. Or you’ll hate it. Either way, I don’t think Lungbutter would mind.
July 23, 2005
I don’t hate Philip Glass. But I hate boring music, and while he’s produced music I didn’t run screaming from, he is boring. So when I found this little ditty by dj BC (from his album Glassbreaks), I was kinda stoked.
Called Einstein on the Beast, it mixes excerpts from Glass’ opera Einstein on the Beach with the Beastie Boys rap Pass the Mic, from the most excellent Check Your Head. Not only does this make Philip’s music more palatable, but it makes me think that Enya could work if you remixed her with House of Pain. Or maybe Nana Mouskouri and Organized Rhyme.
Yeah, that would be sweet.
July 16, 2005
In the rush to laugh off the albums of such “now I’m an actress now I make crappy dance music” notables as Linsday Lohan and J.Lo (yeah, Lohan can’t act and Lopez hasn’t done anything worth watching since Out of Sight, but you get the picture), it can be easy to forget that it’s been happening forever. In that vein I proudly bring you the absurdly manufactured can’t-enjoy-it-even-in-an-ironic-way pop stylings of Lisa Whelchel (you will remember her as Blair from The Facts of Life.)
The song, from her album All Because of You is called Good Girl, and while it’s not so bad that you’ll gain sudden respect for Britney Spears, it will make you feel better that a band like Sleater-Kinney is around. If all the digs that the Simpsons take at the Grammys weren’t enough for you to completely dismiss the awards, maybe the fact that this album was nominated for one will be the proverbial straw. Nominated for “Best Inspirational Performance”, the album lost to Donna Summer; I’m not sure it inspired anything other than teen queen wannabes like Tiffany and Debbie Gibson to think “Damn, I could do that.”
To prove I’m not entirely evil, feel free to cleanse your palate with this Hate Dept. cover of the theme song from Lisa’s Diff’rent Strokes spinoff.