Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Ten songs at random

So I put my media player on shuffle this evening, and this is what happened...
  1. Five Years - David Bowie
    (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars)
    Windows Media Player could hardly have chosen a better place to start. Bowie's impassioned lament about the approaching collapse of civilisation:
    ...news had just come over, we had five years left to cry in
    News guy wept and told us, earth was really dying
    Cried so much his face was wet, then I knew he was not lying...

    Ahh... my music knows me so well.

  2. There's A Tear in My Beer - The The
    (Hanky Panky)
    Lovely.... Matt Johnson's much underrated album of Hank Williams songs. In many ways it really shouldn't work... the voice of 1980s depressed lefty London bedsit dwellers applied to Hank's country blues Americana. But work it does... a connection is forged across time, across the ocean, and across a cultural divide. The underlying shared humanity is what shines through. Heartache knows no borders.

  3. Purple Rain - Prince
    (Purple Rain)
    Oh man, it doesn't get any better than this. Prince was to the 1980s what Bowie was to the 70s, The Beatles to the 60s and Elvis to the 50s... he managed to be a huge megastar whilst at the same time experimenting, pushing boundaries, and making some downright incredible music. Proof that popularity doesn't always have to mean mediocrity (incidentally, the sequence continued with Björk in the 90s). During the Lovesexy 88 tour, Prince played an extended version of this track, and I remember being transported out of my body by the incredible majesty of the music. His best work was still to come after Purple Rain. And listening to the track now... that's a remarkable thing to be able to say.

  4. Honey Pie - The Beatles
    (Beatles Anthology 3)
    Not the version from The White Album, but an earlier take with a far simpler arrangement... mostly voice, maracas and acoustic guitar. The stripped down arrangement really emphasises the sweetness of Macca's voice, and like many of the alternate takes from this period the atmosphere in the studio sounds wonderful, with exuberant backing vocals and a real edge of joy to the proceedings.

  5. Radio Ethiopia - Patti Smith
    (Radio Ethiopia)
    Urgent, Can-like drums roll behind Smith's powerful and captivating voice. A fuzz guitar rises and falls, almost washing out the soundscape completely at times. And Patti's half-babbled, half-wailed, half-sung vocals snatch fragmented images, curses and blessings from the ether and twist them into weird shapes before your eyes. There's nothing else like this.

  6. Keep Punching Joe - Daniel Johnston
    (Museum of Love - a compilation)
    Not everyone gets Daniel Johnston. But that's OK. He's intense, brutally honest, witty and unconcerned with mass appeal. His voice slips in and out of tune, his melodies are simple - though beautifully expressive - and his lyrics come straight from the heart filtered through his strange, self-deprecating mind:
    I guess I lean toward the excessive
    But that's just the way it is
    When you're a manic depressive...

    And you have to love someone who is so audacious with his choice of rhymes!*

  7. Impromptus (No. 3) - Franz Schubert
    (Schubert: Impromptus)
    Schubert is my favourite 'classical' composer. There's an exquisite melancholy haunting this piano piece. You feel as though you're listening to a great romance, but also to great loss. Passion held in check by sadness... very strange, and quite beautiful.

  8. Ghost Chase - Atari Teenage Riot
    (60 Second Wipeout)
    I laughed aloud when this came on after Schubert. Talk about your incongruous segues! For those unfamiliar with ATR, they make the noisiest and most extreme music you're likely to find. Digital Hardcore Recordings (DHR) are characterised by screaming white noise, ludicrously fast beats and shouty revolutionary swearing. "In fact, if you were to ask, 'how much more extreme could music be?' the answer would have to be 'none'. 'None more extreme'"

  9. Blind - Talking Heads
    (12x12 Original Remixes)
    Talking Heads are one of my favourite bands. David Byrne is a big hero of mine. And because Talking Heads had several hit singles, a lot of people don't realise that they were primarily an albums band. Listening to Remain In Light or Fear of Music or any of the later albums makes you realise just how truly original and daring they were. This particular remix of Blind, the "Deaf, Dub, Blind" remix is one of the better ones on a largely disappointing compilation album, however. Those of you who bought music in the 80s will recall the tendency to create "12 inch remixes" by essentially sticking 5 minutes of looped drum machine in the middle of the track. Talking Heads were just as guilty of this as everyone else sadly.

  10. Window on The World - The Legendary Pink Dots
    (Malachi: Shadow Weaver Part 2)
    The Legendary Pink Dots are the most underrated band in the world. Bar none. I understand if you feel differently, but please bear in mind that you are wrong. Plain and simple. The Pink Dots have released dozens of the finest albums ever recorded. Dark, industrial-tinged blends of acoustic and electronica with some of the most intense, hypnotic and evocative vocals you're likely to hear. A list of my top 100 albums would contain as many as five from the Pink Dots... yet most people have never even heard their name, and they've never had a major label contract. This particular track does their usual thing of starting in one place and finishing somewhere entirely different about 12 minutes later, having taken in an ambient soundscape, some full-on rock, plenty of sinister messed-up electronica and an acoustic ballad along the way.
* Only Nick Cave is more audacious with rhyme...
She got perfumed breasts and raven hair
Sprinkled with wedding confettis
And a gang of garrotters were all giving me stares
Armed, as they were, with machetes


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