Friday, May 10, 2013

Break-Up Music

I'm still on my tear to listen to all my records to sort them into mine and not mine, and have been pretty consistent in listening to at least 10 a week to that end. But my brain goes to different places when subjected to different life events. Such as being dumped.

Ugh. One would think that, at 43, I would have a pretty secure identity and could weather this sort of stuff with ease. NOPE!

So for the past several days, I've been listening to my music through a different filter. This filter will probably be locked in place for at least the next month, maybe more, and the records I write about will largely be organized into "Good Break-Up Records" and "Bad Break-Up Records." Let's start with a record from the latter category.

Butthole Surfers - Rembrandt Pussyhorse

Turns out icky songs feel icky.

In good times, this album is a weird psychedelic noise masterpiece. The song "Creep In The Cellar" is almost pretty, and the cover of "American Woman" is equal parts deconstruction and celebration. But it's dense, churning sounds feel awful when you're on shaky emotional ground. Gibby's voice sounds contemptuous of emotion, and it's more sad and alienating than it should be. I'm filing this one for happier times.

Monday, April 08, 2013

If I Were Totally Ruthless...

... I would devise a point system for the keeping and tossing of albums. Every song would be rated from 1 to 10, and the sum of the songs' ratings would be divided by the number of songs. If that number was not greater than, say, three, I would get rid of the album.

Asia is...largely shitty

Unfortunately, this equation does not account for how much the song "Heat Of The Moment" rules, and how much the rest of that fucking Asia album sucks, so I will not be implementing such a system any time soon.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Salvation-The New Rock Musical

Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do.
I'm not a religious person. In fact, I'm an atheist. The closest I get to god is Jesus Christ Superstar. You play me "The Temple" or "Simon Zealotes" and I will feel the spirit, true story. I've never heard Godspell, though I am informed by several people that it's pretty good (I have my doubts, since I don't like most musicals). Either way, where's the musicals for the skeptics of organized religion? A good story, some kick ass rock songs... I don't need production values, just something I can sing. Apparently, we atheists have a hell on earth, and that is the musical Salvation.

It's a plodding, tuneless sprawling thing. It's telling that the best songs are the "spiritual" numbers, while the rest are dull acoustic guitar-plucked songs with a tragic dearth of memorable choruses, soaring  or clever lyrics. Apparently, this album produced a number eight hit, "If You Let Me Make Love To You Why Can't I Touch You." though I cannot recall a single feature of that song. I'm kind of glad it's so bad. The last three albums I listened to thinking they'd go in the "out" pile wound up being pretty damn good. Not this one, though. I didn't even have to wait until the end before I was done.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Big Audio Dynamite - This Is Big Audio Dynamite

 Go ahead, London.
I was a fan of the Clash when I was in high school, but not the ravenous fan who maintains that Sandanista! is one of the few true genius works of the 80s (if only for its crazy ambition) that I am now. When Mick Jones left the band in 1983, I was 13 and didn't know it was a big deal, if I even had any idea it happened. But I was interested in his next project, "General Public" by General Public. Say what you will about General Public—or better yet, let me beat you to the punch by saying their cover of "I'll Take You There" is a terrible, terrible song—that first single is a weird dubby sinister record. I'm a fan. He didn't last long there, and in 1985, he debuted his new band, Big Audio Dynamite. Listening to their first album now, it's simultaneously dated and timeless. It doesn't really sound like anything. You can hear the music they were drawing from, like Ennio Morricone, dub, and early hip-hop, but there really hasn't been anything that sounded like it since. The anger of the Clash is muted, reduced to wry lyrics, and there's a bit of weird xenophobia on the song "Sony," a song that gained an ironic edge when its label, Columbia Records, was bought by Sony four years later. While hits "The Medicine Show" and "The Bottom Line" still have a good vibe, album tracks like "Sudden Impact" have aged better. Even though it's ostensibly dance music, I never danced to it at the time, and it doesn't have enough bass to shake my ass now, but it's still a fun record.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sade-Diamond Life

Dress cool.
In 1985, Paul Schaffer and the World's Most Dangerous Band wrote a song/shot a video for the Late Night Holiday Film Festival called "Dress Cool," in which he sang about meeting Sade for a date, and she rejects him because he's not dressed cool. At the time, it seemed like the ultimate slam, because NO ONE was cooler than Sade. That breathy voice was all about a jazzy coolness. The years have been more kind to Paul Shaffer's novelty tune than they have Sade's debut. Diamond Life is all about surface gloss, the kind that seems more in place on a smooth jazz radio station or a shitty piano bar. It doesn't get much better than the opening track/monster hit "Smooth Operator," and that song about a globetrotting gigolo is better remembered than actually played for fear that one would pay attention to the trite and geographically inaccurate lyrics. It's a bland, silly album, and I can't for the life of me figure out what drove its popularity in the first place. I'm gettin' this out of here.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Funkin' Lesson: George Clinton, The Time, Kool and the Gang

George Clinton-Computer Games: 
You have the right to remain funky.

I know why I bought this. It's George Clinton. I also know why I didn't listen to it for so long. It's George Clinton solo, and not Parliament or Funkadelic. It's after the break-up, and what good could that be? Jesus Christ, I have to get out of my own head. Computer Games boasts most of the P-Funk personnel, it has "Atomic Dog," and it contains the boast "I could out-Porky a pig. I could out-Woody a pecker." It's great. Clinton was still on top of his game here, and this album is every bit as fun and eclectic as the rest of the P-Funk cannon. Dare I say "masterpiece?" Why not? I'm not accountable to anybody. It's a masterpiece of electro-funk, a party classic. I'm keeping this one for sure, but it needs a deep cleaning. 

The Time-The Time:
Minneapolis circa 1982
Predating Computer Games by one year was The Time's eponymous  debut. I've always liked The Time. Ice Cream Castles was on heavy rotation along with Prince's Around The World In A Day in the basement of my 8th grade friend John Coopey's mom's framing shop/dad's portrait studio (John's dad, Lou, had taken my class picture from 1st grade through freshman year of high school and had once taken Lorne Greene's portrait). Later in life, when I DJed with my friend Chris (we were DJs Aperitif and Digestif, aka The Cordial Squad), we'd both play funk. He'd veer more toward New Orleans and deep funk. I would go toward the electro-funk of The Time and Sly Fox. This album is tasty, in part because—according to Wikipedia—Prince recorded everything but the vocals, but also because this was before Morris Day became the character of Morris Day, and his vocals are more strut than swagger. It's a solid keep, duh, as are all of The Time's albums.

Kool and the Gang-Ladies' Night:
Sexy lady/Sophisticated baby

For most of my blog posts, including this new round, I listen to the albums once, maybe twice, before I write about them. Maybe it's not a charitable way to write about music, but I have a realistic grasp of my attention span. But Ladies' Night (kudos to Kool's copy editor for the proper placement of the possessive apostrophe) has taken me several listens to form an opinion on. I feel like I should like this, I mean really really feel like I should like it because I like the song "Ladies' Night." I mean, I kind of like it. It's hard to be passionate about it. Though I agree with the general message of ladies the song is promoting, it's not terribly sexy. Or funky. The whole album is a tepid collection of songs about boogieing and dancin' without activating the rump to do so. It's not really fair to lump this album in with two funk greats, since it's actually disco from the tail end of the disco era. I'd probably go see them live and have  great time, but I'll be damned if I can remember one hook besides from the title track. Sorry ladies. This goes.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Love Unlimited-Under The Influence Of Love Unlimited

...a wholly owned subsidiary of Barry White Inc.

Produced by Barry White! Spiritual adviser Larry Nune! Album concept Barry White! Arranged by Barry White and Gene Page! A Soul Unlimited & Barry White Incorporated production!

I never knew that Barry White was a company unto himself. I wonder why he hasn't fully positioned himself in merchandising. Barry White Incorporated Fingertip Vibe! Barry White Incorporated Disposable Teddy! Barry White Incorporated Sensual Microwave Popcorn!

If Barry White's gooey fingerprints all over this album don't give you an idea what it's like, every song on side one has the word "love" in the title ("Love's Theme," "Under The Influence Of Love," "Lovin' You, That's All I'm After," and "Oh Love, Well We Finally Made It."), and Mister White's sonorous bass pipes launch side 2. It's not terribly sexy, though. "Love's Theme" is a pretty good instrumental, but the rest is pretty interchangeable disco. Pass.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Hmm. A whole new Blogspot since I last updated Needledropper. I have no idea how to use this, but hey, I never did in the first place.

When was the last time I updated? Nearly three years ago. My last post was about a dream I had involving a Gary Numan concert.  I've since seen him perform, and am happy to report it was a pretty decent show.

Well, anyway, it's time to return to this project because now, life changes being what they are, I am going through every record in my collection and deciding whether or not to keep it. I've moved for the third time since 2001, and frankly, lugging around 1000+ pounds of records is a bit of a drag.

                                         This is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you're interested in checking out any of the records I'm getting rid of, check my eBay sales/auctions.

If you look within a week or so of my post and it's not there, and you want it, just contact me and we can work something out, if it hasn't been sold. Maybe I'll eventually get around to recording individual tracks and posting them here as examples, but that seems awfully ambitious. To be honest, I'd be surprised if this blog doesn't peter out after two more posts.

Unless I have a lot to say about a particular record, I'm going to keep the writings fairly short, otherwise I'll never get rid of a single record.

Tonight, I went through three records:

                    Santana-Santana (Columbia, 1969)

Some good guitar virtuosity here, but in it's about three congas short of great Latin jazz and three caps short of great psychedelia. Gone.

                     Bruce Springsteen-Nebraska (Columbia, 1982)

I never bought into the idea of Bruce Springsteen as a populist. Even when I was 10, I was suspicious of him. Nebraska just sounds kind of mopey. Admittedly, I am unduly influenced by having just listened to Tunnel Of Love a few days ago and decided it was corny as hell. Gone.

                         v/a-Lonely Is An Eyesore (4AD, 1987)

Sad, and maybe even hypocritical, that I can tidily dismiss Nebraska as "mopey," yet enjoy this compilation of 4AD artists of the 80s. At that time, 4AD pretty much set the bar for mopeyness. I can't get rid of it because it played a substantial part of my youth, and also because it has a pretty decent 80s dance track from Colourbox, members of which comprised part of M/A/R/R/S. Keep

Here's that track:
 See ya in three years!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I just woke up from the following

I just had a dream that I went to see Gary Numan in a ratty outdoor venue in broad daylight with a crowd that was sparse, so sparse that I was easily able to get right up front and center of the stage. It was odd to see him perform songs like "Cars" in broad daylight. Instead of being moody and morose, Numan was uncharacteristically animated, peppering the performance with a lot of stage banter, including several bad jokes, and, feeling uncomfortable for him, I would laugh.

He eventually singled me out for being one of the more devoted fans, which I wasn't, not really. Most of the material he performed was new songs. During one these new songs, a group of women in the audience lined up and started this horribly choreographed dance number, but it fell apart almost immediately. Toward the end of the concert, he showed a trailer for an animated kids pirate film he created and seemed genuinely enthusiastic about.

The band started playing Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," which my wife (uncharacteristically) identified as "Supernaut." I was like "Cool!" but I looked around and the venue was nearly empty. People were streaming out, and when I looked at the stage, Numan and his band was leaving too, but still playing. I wanted to buy something at the merchandise shack, but it was an assortment of oddities including a knit sweater vest that didn't even say Gary Numan on it.

Note: He actually looked like this photo. My brain must have done some advanced aging of his face.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Worst/Best Rock Songs About Rock Part 3

The Who, "Long Live Rock"
Long ago, someone asked me which band I hated more: Pink Floyd or The Who. I think I went with Pink Floyd at the time, but I think I have to revise that estimate. There are more Pink Floyd songs I can tolerate and even enjoy, and I can respect Roger Waters for writing songs that meant something to him. When I hear The Who, I think of a quartet of Brits lining up at an ATM and inserting songs for cash*. "My Generation?" "Baba O'Rilley?" "Pinball Wizard?" They sound to me like peals of money being yanked from teenage hands. No song is a worse offender than "Long Live Rock." When the chorus extols the virtues of standing in line for a rock show, that's not being in touch with reality. That's thanking your audience for being sheep.

*To be fair, I also thing about trampled Cincinnati fans, a cocaine overdose and child pornography.

The Minutemen, "History Lesson, Part 2"
Certainly a lot less raucous than any previous best rock song about rock, "History Lesson, Part 2" is a Minutemen tribute to punk rock, only it sounds nothing like punk. It just sounds…like The Minutemen, which is to say, great. Unlike The Who pretending to connect with their fanbase, The Minutemen reached for a personal story. When singer/guitarist D. Boon says/sings "Punk rock changed our lives," there's no reason to doubt that he was entirely sincere, and when he says "Mister Narrator, this is Bob Dylan to me," is stated so plainly that it seems like the most obvious observation put to music, and you want to cry a little and kick yourself for not coming up with it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Race For Records 2008: Spiro T. Agnew Speaks Out

In honor of the election year, I have decided to pay homage to the contest for the highest office in the United States of America the only way I know how: by writing about records instead of voting. Just kidding. I will also write about the occasional CD.

The Race For Records was inspired by this first record, one I probably shouldn't have bought, but for 50¢ in a Virginia antiques mall, I couldn't say no. Look at that face! Those mournful eyes, the slicked-back hair, the crisp suit, the look of pathos. Who among you could say no to Spiro T. Agnew?

Not me. For those of you who don't know, Spiro T. Agnew was the vice president under President Nixon. He was the first Greek-American vice president, the first vice president from Maryland, and the first vice president to resign under a cloud of criminal corruption. While the office of the vice president has been a rogues gallery of monsters, robots, idiot man-children, banana-headed elitists, and Walter Mondale for the last 28 years, the words of Spiro T. Agnew ring loud and proud. And out of touch. And hilarious.

Every track addresses a different side of Agnew. Whether it's his aggressive side where he's blasting hippies, or his sensitive side when he's blasting hippies, Agnew isn't afraid to let it all hang out.

Agnew is the nation's drunken father-in-law, lashing out against things he doesn't understand and painting them with the broadest brush possible. He's obviously angry and confused about the turmoil that fills the country, and even a little hurt, he attacks people freely expressing themselves in a democracy:

"It is not unusual nor should it be distressing that individuals of monumental ego among the failures of our society should attack everything fundamental to our free culture. They are simply lashing out in all direction because they cannot bear to face their individual inadequacies."

Har har har! Individual inadequacies. That's great. It's not dissimilar to many speeches I was on the receiving end of in high school.
"The every day, law abiding American who believes in his country needs a strong voice to articulate his dissatisfaction with those that seek to destroy our heritage of liberty and our system of justice. To penetrate the cacophony of seditious drivel emanating from the best publicized clowns in our society and their fans in the fourth estate."

Of course, it the country needs a strong voice that was not accused of accepting bribes in nearly every public office he held as well. But that was for another generation.
"And if the hippies and the yippies and the disrupters of the systems that Washington and Lincoln as presidents brought forth in this country will shut up and work within our free system of government, I will lower my voice."

Oh no, please don't. 
"A spirit of national masochism prevails encouraged by an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.

"Why then, if these political phenomena are standard to a democratic government should we be disturbed about them today?

"The answer lies not in the fear of kooks or demagogues themselves, but in their current respectability. Never in our history have we paid so much attention to so many odd characters. Twenty-five years ago, the tragicomic antics of such societal misfits would have brought he establishment running after them with butterfly nets rather than television cameras."

It is important to note here that the inclusion of laughter or applause is a little scattershot. Sometimes, it seems like it's natural. Other times, it seems like it was spliced into the recording without trying to make it sound remotely smooth.
Side two begins with a track called "Some Examples Of The Vice President's Wit."

"The vice-president's reputation for wit is well deserved, often at his own expense."

[Spiro T. Agnew]
"I enjoyed my recent visit to our Asian embassies. Eight of them still had windows.
"I knew I did fairly well when Bob Hope told me that he thought is was a little much that I waded ashore at Manila.
"And I remember an experience President Nixon had with his schedule. He picked it up one day, and it had this scenario. It said President Nixon will speak for 10 minutes, following which, his remarks will be translated into English.
[nervous laughter]
[awkward explanation]
"Well, I knew he had trouble communicating sometimes, I didn't think it was that bad"

The wading ashore at Manila joke is little bit of a mystery to me. I can't figure out if the inclusion of Bob Hope makes it a joke, or if people are just pleased that they recognize a reference to General MacArthur.

As with any great work of entertainment, the record follows the joke portion with a threat of nuclear war with Asian communists. Now that's a build!

Back to Agnew:
"When I see a United States senator travel to Paris and engage in secret conversations with the enemy at a time when he should be reinforcing the solidarity of our effort to bring an end to that conflagration, it makes me wonder what those people in his state were thinking of when they sent that man to the Senate!"
[wild applause]

Of course, this was likely recorded some time before Henry Kissenger went to Paris for his won secret meetings to end the war, so I won't fault him for that. And it goes on.
Though it spins its wheels on the same themes, Spiro T. Agnew Speaks Out is nothing if not entertaining. By the end, you kind of feel sorry for him.

"In closing, let me say simply that I am growing terribly weary of America's noisy detractors.
[applause awkwardly cut in]
"If this is such a terrible place to live, if our government is so oppressive and inept, then why is there an endless waiting list of people seeking to emigrate to America?
"Why doesn't the so-called brain-drain of Europe's greatest scientists and technicians moving the U.S. to work run in the opposite direction? Today, we the people of the U.S. should seek to emphasize what is right, what is decent, and what is good about our country."
[album fades out on applause]

You said it, Spiro. U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Me! On the Radio. And internet.

Big week for me in the Onion Radio News. I have not one but TWO pieces where I am the vocal talent.

Warning: There are swears.

Also, a couple of weeks ago, myself and two other Onion editors were interviewed by Leonard Lopate on public radio station WNYC. At the beginning of the interview, I promise to pledge $100 if Brooke Gladstone (co-host of On The Media) comes in and signs my chest or iPod. At the end of the interview, she comes in and I lose it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Where Is Your Evidence

Artist: Frequency
Title: Where Is Your Evidence
Purchased: Savers, 2001? 2002?
Verdict: Available on eBay right now

I remember buying this. It was at Savers Thrift Store in Madison, since relocated to a crappier location that I will never visit ever again. I scored the World Destruction 12" by Time Zone (the odd pairing of Afrika Bambatta and John Lydon), and I saw this as well. I thought that since I had already gotten the ball rolling with one good find, maybe this was destined to be good as well.

There's another factor. Every year, I try to give techno another chance. And every year, I decide that I like it just as much as I did the previous year, i.e. not at all.

So when I my eyes were racing over everything to get rid of, I decided that I would finally give this a listen, and perhaps open my brain to a whole new genre. Well, Frequency was not the key to unlock my mind, though it did tickle some of the tumblers.

Metaphor strained. Can't maintain. Continue.

Anyway. It did remind me of 80s dance industrial band Manufacture, in that same way that all "THOOM THOOOM THOOM THOOM THOOM THOOM THOOM THOOM THOOOM THOOM THOOM THOOM EVERYBODY get LOOSE!" music does. In retrospect, maybe I didn't like Manufacture that much either. So, it's decided: Not only will I get rid of Frequency, but I'll also dig up my Manufacture 12" and get rid of that as well.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Title: Guantanamera
Artist: The Sandpipers
Purchased: Can not remember
Verdict: Digitizing two tracks

It's been a rough week. My normally stompy cat buddy Tiny was laconic and pooping blood. A lot of blood. When I got him to the vet, they told me that he needed a transfusion. AAAHHH! It's not the money. I just hate having my cats suffer, and hate leaving them at the vet because they hate it. That came in the midst of my regular job, working on a new book, writing an essay as a favor for a brand new satirical college publication in Nebraska, and trying my hand at another kind of writing assignment. Stressed out of my mind, I was doing all this work in our office, and getting more and more frustrated.

"WHY DO I HAVE TO STEP OVER ALL THESE RECORDS!!!!" I screamed, at least on the inside.

Then I came upon the solution. I would start a blog in which I would write about all the thrift store records I had indiscriminately purchased over the years, and decide if I was going to keep them or ditch them.

Then I had a realization: I already started such a blog about two years ago. I just hadn't written anything in it in the last eight months, and that was after promising to work harder at it.

So now I'm really going to work harder at it!

On to Guantanamera. I didn't really pay attention when I bought this. I looked at the cover, saw the tracks and the exotic beach scene and thought it might be a nice bit of exotica. Had I flipped the album over for more than a quick glance, I would have noted the group of…I don't know how to best describe them. 60s collegiate dorks? The bad element from The Lawrence Welk Show? One of the best, safest pompadours I have ever seen? All that.

After listening to the title track, I was ready to stop. By the second track, a listless version of "Strangers In The Night," I was less impressed. By the end of the first side, I was gleefully preparing titbits of destructive prose that would tear the Sandpipers a new one, about 40 years after it would do any good. "Flawlessly bland." "A wall of somnolence." "Would describe it as robotic if it were more interesting."

And then came side two.

The problem with me, as a music consumer, is that I'm a sucker for certain cover songs. I realized that I was in trouble when I saw that the second side started off with a version of "Louie Louie." That song and "Sunshine Superman" are my kryptonite. And sure enough, The Sandpipers delivered. It was slow and sexless, but it was just a little creepy. Unsettling. Like, you know this is supposed to be belted out drunkenly by people who don't know the words, yet here it is. Quiet. Restrained. And in Spanish. They completed their one-two punch with a cover of The Beatles "Things We Said Today," which, though not in Spanish, still seemed slightly alien and soothing.

I almost liked the last track "Angelica" (pronounced "ahn-juh-LEE-kuh," which I'm guessing is their best approximation of a Latino accent), but on the second listen, it wasn't as dense and interesting as I thought it was. It was just more dense in comparison to the rest of the album.

In any case, two pretty good songs are no longer enough to warrant keeping a whole album when hard drive space is so cheap. I'll keep those and dump the rest, and to hell with the consequences!