Sunday, April 24, 2011

Twenty-One Good Instrumentals . . . .

Inspired no doubt by the new Explosions in the Sky album, the folks at Spin in their May issue produced a good little featurette about the history of instrumental rock. Though I enjoyed the thing quite a bit (and can you believe I've still never heard Link Wray's "Rumble"?), there's definitely some stuff I think they missed. No "Eruption" = No Credibility is what I say.

And of course there's the small matter of The Soft Machine.

I wouldn't say these are the 21 best rock instrumentals ever, or even the 21 best that aren't mentioned in the Spin article. But they might just be the 21 best rock instrumentals that weren't in the Spin article and haven't been featured here before.

Steve Miller Band Sailor Album cover 

21.  Russian Circles - "Youngblood"
20.  Rick Wakeman - "Catherine of Aragon"
19.  Yes - "The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)"
18.  Mono - "The Battle To Heaven"
17.  Gravity Keeps the Hours - "Gravity Keeps the Hours"
16.  Camel - "Earthrise"
15.  David Bowie - "V2 Schneider"
14.  King Crimson- "The Sheltering Sky"
13.  Oxes - "I'm From Hell, Open A Windle"
12.  Gong - "The Isle of Everywhere"
11.  Pelican - "Nightendday"
10.  Black Flag - "Southern Rise"
  9.  The Tornadoes - "Telstar"
  8.  China White - "Anthem"
  7.  Sonic Youth - "Fire Engine Dream"
  6.  Rush - "La Villa Strangiato"
  5.  The Velvet Underground - "Guess I'm Falling in Love                 (Another View Version)"
  4.  Metallica - "The Call of Ktulu"
  3.  Van Halen - "Eruption"
  2.  Steve Miller Band - "Song For Our Ancestors"
  1.  The Soft Machine -"Facelift"

The list as an iMix at Itunes, you can quickly preview and/or buy all songs, except for the Gravity Keeps the Hours. That one's here

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A New Member of the La Historia Team

Hipster KittyPlease join me and give a warm La Historia de la Musica Rock welcome to the newest member of our blogteam, Hipster Kitty.

Although she's of course famous all over the internets for the work she does at Memebase and at I Can Has Cheezburger, it turns out that Hipster Kitty doesn't actually write. I guess it's her lack of opposable thumbs.

The whole zero-productivity thing on her part might be a problem for some of those other blogs, but the opportunity to have an internet celebrity like Hipster Kitty on staff was much too tempting for me. I was more than happy to create a new, non-creative post for her, one that will require only the one special thing she has already graciously given unto the internet, which is that certain self-righteous and superior attitude that doubts your indie cred and viciously seeks to invalidate whatever it is about yourself you might think is cool.

In thinking about it, it seemed to me that Hipster Kitty might be a perfect complement for me: I've always been obsessed with coolness, yet have so often been clueless about what, in fact, you might have to do to actually achieve it.

In her new role here at La Historia, I'm sure that Hipster Kitty will do exactly what she means to do, which I can only presume will be to increase my insecurity and produce additional self-doubt as I traipse about South Florida in my Pelican T-shirt with the Lark's-era King Crimson issuing forth from the Sony earbuds.

So, yeah, it's all about the learning here at La Historia de la Musica Rock, and if Hipster Kitty is the new teacher in class, well, let the bell ring.

She brings plenty of attitude to a blog that might have sometimes been lacking it, that's for sure.

With Hipster Kitty's haughty dismissal of their importance, I'd like to share with you some excerpts from the interview I conducted with her when I first found out she might be willing to work for LHdlMR.

PBRWe met for lunch at a brew-pub she recommended. I had a burger and a Sam Adams; she had an avocado reuben and a PBR.

RASTRO: Nice place we're at, pretty cool menu and decor . . .

HK:             Well, I did pick it.

RASTRO: Yeah. So, I guess this would be the first time you've ever worked for a blog . . . .

HK:            Actually, I've worked for more than a few blogs . . .

RASTRO: More than a few? Really?

HK:             Yeah, but you've probably never heard of them.

RASTRO: Kinda stepped into that one, didn't I?

HK:            Yeah you did. Anyway, don't worry about it. A noncorporeal meme such as myself has all kinds of extra time she can use for familiarizing herself with internet timesinks. The fact that you've not had the time to hear about these places, well, I wouldn't worry about it. Too much.

RASTRO: Right. So, music. I wanted to say that this role of cultural arbiter you play, I think it fits right in with what I'm trying to do with La Historia. I've always been trying to tell people what music's best for them . . . .

HK:             I'm kinda more into keeping it a secret.

RASTRO: Yeah, I guess so. But, still, I've sometimes felt I needed someone to point me in the right direction, musicwise.

HK:             I'm there, dude.

RASTRO: Figured you might be. Straightforward question: How would you describe your taste in music?

HK:         Well, I often like to say that I like the music you might find on a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack, only I liked it before it was on the soundtrack.

T Rex Jeepster singleRASTRO: That's a good way to put it, I think. You know, I was listening to "Jeepster" the other day, from that movie of his . . .

HK:         Death Proof.

RASTRO: Yeah, that was it . . . and I was thinking about how those of your persuasion . . .

HK:         My persuasion? What do you mean by my persuasion, imaginary cats?


HK:         Oh OK. Well, you can say the word. Hipster and proud, that's me.

RASTRO: Yeah, so anyway, I was thinking how if you graphed T Rex's pouplarity, it'd be like a fucking sine wave, up then down even in Bolan's lifetime, then fluctuating since depending on the popular attitude toward glam at the time.

HK:         Hmmm, true that, I think.

RASTRO: Except that IT'S BULLSHIT. T Rex are either good music or they're not, and why the fuck should I have to keep up with whatever trend it is that makes either a straightforward appreciation or an ironic re-appraisal the preferred reaction du jour? If I like something, I stay with it, and then I can forget about having to keep up with the social networking part of it.

The Arcade FireHK:         Please don't use that phrase "social networking." But anyway, what you're saying won't work. Just look at The Arcade Fire. I--of course--was onto them early, but now that they've won a Grammy, not only am I off the boat, I HAVE to be off the boat.

RASTRO: Well, I'm not a fan anyway, but they're not getting any better from here, are they?

HK:         Thought you'd see what I was saying.

RASTRO: Maybe. I wanna get back to the ironic re-appraisal thing. Did you see that movie with Ellen Page that Drew Barrymore directed, the name's escaping me . . .

HK:         Whip It.

RASTRO: Yeah! That was it . . .

HK:         I know.

RASTRO: So you'll remember how like, the central object in the film, was Ellen Page's Stryper shirt.

HK:         Yeah, yeah it was.

RASTRO: And I'm here to ask what the fuck is that about. Stryper were a CHRISTIAN GLAM METAL band. It's impossible to embody more varieties of suck, and now in retrospect Drew Barrymore or whoever is going to tell us that well, you might have missed it the first time, but they were actually pretty good?

HK:         Actually, a gal by the name of Shauna Cross wrote that film.

RASTRO: Whatevs. So Shauna Cross is gonna tell me that this band who dressed like a bunch of honeybees were of any use at all?

HK:         No, no, you misunderstand. They sucked but we can still like them. Sometimes we're even obligated to.

RASTRO: That's utter, complete, perfectly-formed bullshit.

<RASTRO fumes>

RASTRO: Alright, do you have any questions for me, anything you might be unclear on, anything maybe that's been bothering you?

HK:             Well I'd have to ask what's with all the Neil Young.

RASTRO: What, what do you mean Neil Young

HK:             Nothing, just why do you listen to a geriatric old fart?

RASTRO: LISTEN, man, Neil Young is a fucking musical genius, don't go there.

HK:             Alright. In the interest of harmony, I'll skip the lecture you'd otherwise get.

RASTRO: Thanks.

HK: No problem. But I've got another thing we can work on. This '70's prog stuff, you know it's gotta go . . . .

RASTRO: Fuck you.

OK, so actually that interview didn't end all that well. Maybe my fault.

But after I split and stuck her with the check and then another week went by, I still couldn't stop thinking about Hipster Kitty's internet celebrity, and how it might help the anemic hit-count around here.

So I called her back and here she is. She probably won't like most of the music I'm scrobbling or even am writing about, but her opinions should at the very least keep me honest.

Hipster KittyHipster Kitty
Hipster Kitty

Hipster Kitty's opinion on the music I scrobble will be found from here on out below the "Last Child" widget at the right-hand column

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pink Floyd's "A Pillow of Winds" and My iPod's Abject Inability to Pronounce Its Title Correctly

Pink Floyd Meddle Album CoverFrom the "Everything's Amazing, Nobody's Happy" file . . . .

Ever since I got III (or Jr. Jr., as I sometimes call him) with his fancy voice over software, I've gotten an intermittent kick from his fairly frequent misprononunced bandnames and titles.

I've got lots of Les Baxter loaded up into the library, so it's pretty commonplace for me to hear it give Mr. Baxter's first name the French pronunciation, Les as in Les Halles or Les Miserables.

The instrumental postrock band from Athens who had both the good humor and the audacity to name one of their songs "Synchronicity III" isn't Maserati to my poor benighted iPod, it's mah-SAIR-a-TEE, the stress accents exactly backwards from what they should be, and the S as in Sam and not as in . . . well, Maserati.

Soft Machine Volume TwoIt's something I'm used to by now, and I find the software's flaws more amusing than annoying, but this morning while driving into work, though it absolutely aced "Hibou, Anemone and Bear," there issued forth from his digital lips a mispronunciation of a somewhat more mundane if still somewhat poetic title that got me thinking.

The song playing was "A Pillow of Winds," which I love for David Gilmour's preternaturally trippy voice and the way it descends dizzily when singing "Green fields, a cold rain/ Is falling in a golden dawn."

But the name of the tune if not the band and the album escaped me for some reason, so I hit the voice over button, there, as I drove down NW 37th Avenue in the battle-scarred Toyota, and III told me that the song was "A Pillow of Winds," as in winds-your-watch.

This bugs me more than usual, and I'll tell you why.

It's the word before the mispronounced one that gets me going, because the word "of" is NOT mispronounced. So, clearly, some programmer went in there and put in a line of code which says that the two letters O and F next to each other but off by themselves will be pronounced "uhhv."

Good so far. But "of," in addition to always being pronounced with an "uhh" and with a "v," will also ALWAYS be used ahs a preposition--and therefore will always take an object after itself.

And the word that Roger Waters spells as W-I-N-D-S is only an object if it's pronounced with the short i.

Does it seem too much to expect this voice over software--this CHEAP voiceover software, mind you--to keep track of parts of speech in addition to the sounds of letters?

No, I don't think it does.

Maybe in Spanish, everything's phonetic, but in English, sound and meaning ebb and flow in concert with each other. Meaning determines sound and vice-versa.

So, if you're trying to actually reflect the language that both Pink Floyd et moi customarily work in, and you're already putting in a subroutine that tells Jr. Jr. how to pronounce his fucking prepositions, I figure you can damn well include a library of nouns to use as their objects, at the very least.

</rant> the book falls to the floor

Pink Floyd - Meddle - 02 - A Pillow Of Winds.mp3

File under: Songs Named After Mah Jong Hands

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Descendents - "Hope" from the Album Milo Goes to College

The Descendents Milo Goes to College album coverThis is another one that gets tied up in my head with a science fiction story. In this case the story is "Push No More," by Robert Silverberg, a novelette which first came to my attention when it was collected in the author's excellent late '80's collection, Beyond The Safe Zone.

The sci-fi element, or the fantastic element, actually, of Silverberg's story is the conceit that the sexual frustrations of virginal adolescents can trigger a telekinetic ability within them.

Our awkwardly teenaged hero, Harry Blaufield, isn't sure exactly whether he is a poltergeist, or is just a host for one, but he prefers the theory wherein he's not been "possessed by a marauding demon." He prefers to think that his "hot core of fury and frustration," sexual on both counts of course, is what drives the whole moves-things-with-his-mind thing.
Why can't you see
You torture me
You're already thinking about someone else
When he comes home you'll be in his arms

And I'll be gone
But I know
My day will come
I know someday I'll be the only one

So now you wait for his spark
You know it'll turn you on
He's gonna make you feel
The way you want to feel

When he starts to lie
When he makes you cry
You know I'll be there
My day will come

I know someday I'll be the only one
Call me selfish
Call me what you like
I think it's right
To want someone for all your own

And not to share her love
But I'll have my way
You won't have a say anyway
Cuz I've got you

You don't stand a chance
So now you wait for his cock
You know it'll turn you on
He's gonna make you feel

The way you want to feel
When he starts to lie
When he makes you cry
You know I'll be there

My day will come
I know someday I'll be the only one
My day will come
I know someday I'll be the only one

So now you want perfection
I see your self destruction
You don't know what you want
It's gonna take you years to find out

I'm not giving up
And when you've had enough
You'll take your bruised little head
And you'll come running back to me

You know that I'm gonna be the only one
Neither I nor The Descendents talk much about psychokinesis, and aside from the ending pathos--bet you can guess--the power in Silverberg's story comes not from the supernatural window-dressing but from the stuff the sexually mature always condescendingly say is "only" natural.

But in digging through my memory and through Milo Aukerman's cognitively dissonant lyrics, the hot core of fury and frustration part of it is certainly reflected.

Robert Silverberg Beyond the Safe Zone coverI remember reading the story when I was still a virgin and thinking to myself that here was tangible evidence of Silverberg's great writing ability: he wrote so convincingly of the bitterness and the jealousy of the high school virgin, yet you just know the talented and suave motherfucker was getting laid left and right when he was in school.

A petty thought that was, don't you think, and one which almost perfectly encapsulates the bitter jealousy of the virgin-too-long, and one that perhaps pulls a few triggers with me even now, even as I sit here and type in my underwear midway through my 46th year. Of course, the first thing you gotta wonder given that advanced age of mine is how relevant anything by the Descendents is going to be these days. They were always riffing on their "Parents" and about their teachers and about burger joints and, yes, about girls who wouldn't give them the time of day, or heh-heh anything else.

Subject matter that you'd think is not too illuminating for me at my age, and in my station, where it's the boss and the bank, and not the teacher or the parents, who have control over me, and my nights in bed with Melanie are more likely to be possessed of the tension caused by snoring than by tension of the sexual sort.

Well, Milo--able to get away from his research biochemist gig--sang with the band as recently as last December, and he's gotta sing the stuff.

And he has two kids beside the biochemsitry job. And somehow he pulls it off. Or I guess he does, anyway.

Regardless. Make of it what you may: in hearing the chainsaw pop of "Hope" the other afternoon during lunch, it still felt like the song in its love 'em/hate 'em duality was pushing some buttons with me. My frustrated sexuality for so long may have been moved into the "resolved" column, but I guess some of this junk is <sigh> always with us.

Harry Blaufield and Milo Aukerman polished their insensate libido until it was the most powerful thing they had, resolving it into a mean and petulant song like "Hope" and into the ability to somehow push a Schlitz can into orbit through thought alone. Christ.

Extraordinary schmucks and klutzes, but schmucks and klutzes still. Just like me, just like I'd been. Mind you, nothing I ever formed from my untended libido ever resolved into anything more than a messy puddle, but these guys, fictional and not so much, were and are in resonance with the kernel of inept adolescence that still to this very fucking day no doubt lies deep within.

I remember early one morning Mike and I were putting out the Sunday paper at the Town and Country mall and we came across a young, prettily made-up Latino girl who had been ditched by her date after the movie. She'd gone to pieces, was wracked by tears, the whole bit. And I don't remember everything about the incident, but what I do remember is that Mike agreed in the face of her desperation to give her a lift back to her nearby house or her nearby friend's house or whatever.

And I remember that I had serious issues with Mike's decision to lend a kind and helping hand there. With The Herald, there was no eight-hour shift: you went home when you were done, so any detours from the route were gonna cost me some Sunday morning personal time, and I suppose that only makes sense for whatever fifteen minutes were worth. But I also took the whole thing personally. I remember telling Mike in some great dudgeon that if the roles were reversed, this pretty young thing wouldn't have even glanced in our general direction. I forget how Mike replied, I suppose it was something like yeah, whatever. Anyway, he dropped the girl off at her house, and then we went back and resumed the paper route.

Milo Aukerman sings with his band The DescendentsTrying to remember back, I recall more episodes of sadness over the whole don't-have-a-girlfriend thing than anger, but the thing with Mike that morning seems to indicate that I was walking around with a chip on my shoulder when it came to girls, just as a matter of course.

A frustration that shaded into anger might be the best description of my sometime emotional state back then and it's that, again, cognitively dissonant state in the characters behind "Hope" and "Push No More" that resonates with me.

I spent much of my teenage years and at least the first half of my twenties pining after first one, then another, girl of bounteous, overflowing boobs and prodigious butt--which is, you know, the sort of thing I like--and I felt victimized when the platonic relationships with these girls I found attractive failed to become sexual.

But looking back, I can see now that both girls had at one point given me the favor of a sexual opportunity, which I of course each time then flubbed in my terror and in my complete lack of confidence. Though it's obvious now, I couldn't see this then, because it would have detracted from the victimization construct I had, from the assembly of fury and frustration that fit me so well.

First you gotta help yourself, and I suppose that's the lesson I eventually took sometime around my 29th birthday and the one that we can take most from Harry and Milo.

After which things get more pleasant, and less dissonant, and at least a little more settled.

The Descendents - Milo Goes To College - Hope.mp3

File under: Chainsaw Pop