Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hüsker Dü - " Data Control" From the Album Land Speed Record

Truly a song for the mp3 era 25 years before it arrived, "Data Control" is the kind of track pointed to with satisfaction by those who haven't really minded the Death of the Album: a fantastic song on an otherwise mediocre LP.

Land Speed Record was actually the first Hüsker Dü album I ever bought, and I had actually done so through mail-order. I'm maybe 20, 21, and still had no car and no checking account. So I rode my bike down to the 7-11, bought a money order for 7 bucks or whatever it was, made it out to New Alliance, and dropped it in the mail: a pretty big deal for me at the time.

And then three weeks later it shows up, and man, the first 16 songs did *not* go well. I'd heard the Dü were all about the melody, but I sure as fuck couldn't find any on Land Speed Record. Everything was short choppy and fast: nothing wrong there, but there was no tunage. The sound sucked, and it was all formless. Not only was there nothing grabbing you, but you couldn't even tell when one "song" ended and the next began.

I was kind of hoping "Gilligan's Island" might be a cover of the TV theme song--reaching for something, anything, to grab onto--but no such luck.

So, fuck. Taken for 7 bucks. But wait: what's this last song? Whoa, it's slower, and you can actually make out the lyrics. Still crappy sound, but here, the ominous bass comes off as portentous, like the rumbling of turbines and generators, and the percussion that seemingly consists only of cymbals crashing is the sound of glass windows smashing on the thirtieth floor.

Though it has nothing whatsoever to do with the places Hüsker Dü would later visit, "Data Control" is the one time on Land Speed Record where the Minneapolis trio were able to harness the rage. Everywhere else, the band's anger makes a sloppy inchoate mess; on "Data Control," if you (and Mould and Hart and Norton) can stand the analogy, at least the columns line up.

Hüsker Dü - Land Speed Record - 17 - Data Control.mp3

192 kbps mp3, up for six weeks (or more) (Right click and save as target)

File Under: Great songs on crappy albums

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Queens of the Stone Age - "I'm Designer" from the CD Era Vulgaris

QOTSA Era Vulgaris CD coverLike that redneck-chic T-shirt from the '70's said, the Queens of the Stone Age may not be perfect, but parts of their work are excellent.

Each of their albums rock solidly, yet each undeniably has a clunker or two. And even their most kickass tunes--like for Christ's sake the sick, sick raveup presented here--tend to have a chorus or a bridge or a refrain where the intensity is dimmed somewhat.

Excellent, but not perfect. On "I'm Designer," you can see that at 1:12 Josh Homme figured it was time to try and go ethereal with the chorus, but what you can't see is why.

What's with the choral dip in intensity? Homme created QOTSA with the express intent of not being Kyuss Part Two, of getting away from the Stoner Rock ghetto, but I am one to submit that regardless, part of Homme's job description is to rock for fuck's sake.

Note to Josh: For better or for worse, your band is just about the last one in the world that can be described simply as "hard rock." Homme writes in "I'm Designer" that "my generation's for sale," but another thing about his generation is that its bands have all headed for genrification. Everybody's got an emo band or their postrock revival thing or their sadcore project or their newgaze collective, but no-one fucking plays hard rock anymore.

Except QOTSA.

So stick with it, and focus on what makes you unique. I understand being diverse, Aerosmith when they championed '70's hard rock were diverse, Monster Magnet if you want a band more recent were diverse, but they never forgot what they were playing. Please skip the dreampop chorales, the cocktail blues, and the falsetto confessionals.

Stick to what's heavy, and your music will be that much the stronger for it.

Queens Of The Stone Age - Era Vulgaris - 03 - I'm Designer.mp3

207 kbps VBR mp3, up for six weeks (or more) (Right click and save as target)

File Under: Hard Rock

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Procol Harum - "The Devil Came From Kansas" from the Album A Salty Dog

A Salty Dog CD coverThree more women were hanged as witches at Union Square last night.

Both the county government and the legislature at Sacramento have issued proclamations that declare such acts of vigilantism "counter to the progressive ideals of the Republic" and have made it known to the general populace that the San Francisco Police Department does not and cannot recognise any reclusive or furtive actions by one's neighbour as witchcraft; and that further hangings during the current hysteria will be prosecuted with considerably more vigour than even your conventional murder would ordinarily warrant.

Their appeals to civilization go well-applauded in these quarters, but these are difficult times. The Devil has exited Hell and walks the earth, or so most people believe.

They say the infernal portal from which Satan has emerged was located in northeast Kansas somewhere. And they point to a dustbowl that stretches westward from that supposed gate out to Pueblo County, Colorado 1000 miles away, and they point to the perpetually dark and swirling cloud that has covered this vast area. The Eye of Satan, this enormous meterological freak is called, not only on the Plains, but out here on the coast, as well.

It is a poor time to ask restraint of the masses, to be sure.

Half a million of them have come west, and they all talk of the devil; they all talk of witches. They hoard the bits of shiny silver paper that they believe wards off the familiars and the spirits and the other agents of the diabolical, and when they find one they believe to be a witch or a warlock, they begin to slit throats in their ritual of mob panic.

I received a note from Snowden yesterday in the post. He tells me that Chamberlain has appointed Deputy Leader Simon to the newly re-created position of Witchfinder General. I daresay Chamberlain has found a man with the proper temperament for the job, but that a sensible fellow like Chamberlain should have found it necessary to create the post at all is quite simply flabbergasting.

Soon the Crown will be hanging witches, too.

Snowden's inquiries concerning business that came along with this grave news were probably best not made, however. Our ship is docked at China Basin and its refrigerated holds are still nearly full of our fine double Gloucester and Stilton. San Francisco is a city full of chefs and cheesemongers, but none of them, it seems, are in any kind of mood given our dark times to spend funds on a new product, no matter how qualitative, no matter how delicious.

Money is therefore running low for me, and so is my laudanum. I've been filling the dropper only three-quarters of late, and the lack has not only made my days with its frustrating calls upon our customers difficult, it has confounded my sleep in this dreary hotel room as well. I dream often of the pond I know deep within the New Forest, but in these dreams, I am not with the lovers I have taken. I am instead alone, and I strip naked, and dive downward into the cold and slimy waters, and after a while my feet touch the muddy bottom, and I open my mouth, and breathe deeply . . . .

I wake shaking and trembling, horrified, drained by the apocalyptic vision, and struck by how apt my low-grade fever dream seems for these troubled times. And struck, also, by how sometimes it seems as if our world is nothing more than the nightmare lyrics to a shanty written by an opium-eater in his throes, all the strangeness and the evil seemingly ingrained in this world merely the twisted verse of some talented songsmith deranged by his whimsical indulgence into narcotics. . . . .

Procol Harum - A Salty Dog - 4 - The Devil Came From Kansas.mp3

192 kbps mp3 with lyrics, up for six weeks (or longer) (Right click and save as target)

File under: Proto-Trower