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Archive for the ‘Post-Apocalyptic iPod’ Category

(Part 7 of an ongoing series)

One reason I’m doing this here Post-Apocalyptic iPod project is because I’m kind of a music hoarder.  The biggest problem with this is that I hoard a lot of music that I’m pretty sure I won’t listen to again, yet I hold on to it because I’m convinced I might finally “get it” if I hear it enough times, or that this music which I don’t really like all that much might somehow come in handy at some point in the future.   Lucky for me and my lady and my dog, the vast majority of my music hoarding is done digitally.  If there were no such thing as mp3s, though, there’s a very good chance you’d see me on an episode that A&E show snapping at my loved ones and a team of professional clutter-cleaners as they try to pare down the gargantuan piles of CDs, tapes and records that are now preventing me from opening the bathroom door.  “Don’t throw out that Animal Collective CD!” I’d yell.  “I know I didn’t like it much the first 3 times I listened to it but I might change my mind if I hear it a 4th time!  Or maybe one day I’ll make a mixtape for someone who’d dig ‘Lion In A Coma’ way more than I do!

So by deciding what music matters most to me through the Post-Apocalyptic iPod project, I’m trying to better identify the music that matters much less to me, in the hopes I can free up more room on the rapidly dwindling hard drives of my laptop and 2 iPods.  I’m not very optimistic that this will work, and if it does work, I doubt my hard drives will remain uncluttered for very long; after all, the hoarders on TV relapse so very, very often.  But I’m sure gonna try.

One part of my music library I desperately need to trim is all the damn Jandek I have.  I don’t think Jandek has as much Jandek as I have.  I often feel like all the Jandek mp3s on my hard drive might as well be the complete Berlin Alexanderplatz without subtitles, considering how likely I am to consume it all.  Overall I’m kind of intrigued by Jandek, and I’m very glad Jandek exists, but from what Jandek I’ve listened to so far, I think deep down I know I’ll never be anywhere near as fascinated by Jandek as I’d have to be to justify possessing as much Jandek as I currently do.  Ben Gibbard’s probably got the right idea.  I could probably live just fine and dandy the rest of my life if I owned only one Jandek album- regular life, that is, not Post-Apocalyptic life.  Post-Apocalypse is a whole different bucket of beans.  Some Jandek songs would make an ideal soundtrack for wandering around the smoky rubble and twisted metal and scorched earth of what was once a slightly less wretched world.  Yet they also might be a little too ideal, too depressing.  Post-Apocalypse, I think I’d just need one Jandek song.  But more on that in a moment.

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(Part 6 Of A Series)

Screw all you movie & TV soundtrackers of the past 10-plus years who’ve helped make Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman” one of the most over-exposed amazing songs ever.  (Ditto for Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”)  Actually, screw you all except whoever put “Sinnerman” in the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, since that’s where I first heard the song, so I’m grateful for that.

Still, I can’t stay too mad at those non-Thomas Crown soundtrackers.  After all, “Sinnerman” is such a blistering track that it never fails to bubble my mojo, no matter how many times I hear it.  First and foremost, it’s my favorite performance by my favorite singer of all-time.  She may not have had quite the same grace and polish in her voice as the other ladies in the soul/jazz pantheon, but to me she always sounded like she had the hottest fire in her belly.  She was about as rock n’ roll as you could get without technically being classifiable as a rock n’ roll singer.  She had such superhuman power and charisma that she’d crack and slip out of tune a bunch of times and she’d still sound superhuman.  Where, say, Aretha Franklin sounds like a human with divine talent, Nina Simone sounds like a god with human foibles.

There will be oodles more Nina Simone added to the Post-Apocalyptic iPod later on, and therefore much more opportunity for me to rhapsodize about why I love her music, so for now I’ll just return my focus to what I love about “Sinnerman.”  For much of the track’s 10 minutes, the rhythm’s just a relentless rappita-tappita on the hi-hat that sounds like a fast-burning fuse.  Along with the super-simple piano lick that sounds like desperation incarnate, the instruments nearly make the lyrics redundant.  They sound exactly like a sinner on the run with nowhere to hide.  Compared to this version, all previous recorded versions of “Sinnerman” seem about as menacing as “I’m A Little Teapot.”

Just when it sounds like the song might be getting too repetitive, one of the greatest mid-song interludes in the history of music arrives.  The drums and piano gradually crescendo beneath Ms. Simone’s hypnotic, androgynous vocal into a burst of gospel fury.  Tom toms rumble and cymbals crash, and then…a hush.  The bass keeps the blood flowing as the guitar plays peek-a-boo like a frisky jackrabbit.  The percussion transmogrifies into fevered claps, and the piano mutates into a brief solo both austere and bewitched.  And just when it feels like how can this possibly keep up?,  it goes back to the verses: once again we’re running to the boiling river and running to the boiling sea and running to the Lord until one last explosion, full of the insane piano pounding and singing in tongues that Nina Simone did better than anyone else, past, present and very probably future.

Aside from the fact that “Sinnerman” is a masterpiece of recorded music by my favorite singer ever, the main reason I’m uploading this 10-minute behemoth to the Post-Apocalyptic iPod is because, well, I can’t deny that it’s a great song to have ready for my soundtrack.  I don’t mean TV or movie soundtracks though, since I doubt I’ll have time to do much filmmaking in the Post-Apocalypse, and even if I did, I wouldn’t dare score my projects with such a now-cliched song.  I’m just talking about soundtracking my own life.  Like if I’m ever on the run from gangs of Post-Apocalyptic marauders, or a torrential river of fire, or my own guilty conscience, “Sinnerman” will be the first song on my RUN FOR YOUR FUCKING LIFE playlist.

Approx. 10 minutes, 9 seconds; 7,890 minutes, 42 seconds left on the iPod

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(Part 5 of an ongoing series)

The most polarizing music-related discussion I’ve ever had was about The Fiery Furnaces’ epic 2nd album Blueberry Boat.  It was the summer of 2004, not long after the album came out.  8 people from our circle of 15 or so 23-ish year-old friends were hanging out in my East Village apartment when Bobby, Kelly, Leslie* and I voted to play Blueberry Boat, which each of us had been really into lately, and we hoped the half of the group who hadn’t heard it yet would be similarly blown away.

*All names in this piece that do not belong to Fiery Furnaces have been changed.

By the middle of the second track, stark lines had been drawn.  The half of the group listening for the first time were not only not very impressed, they basically hated this album.  Less than 15 minutes in, they seemed to be spending more time expressing trivial and/or ill-informed criticisms than paying attention to the music- music that was, to half the ears in the room, whimsical, unprecedented and endlessly fascinating.  To my ears, it was like hearing a benign form of schizophrenia, fun as hell and just a little bit unnerving.  Or running through the various rooms of some M.C. Escher-designed building that’s part mad carnival and part haunted house, and your tour guides are a brother and sister who sound like precocious autistic savants.

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(Part 4 of an ongoing series)

Though it’s a bit of a stretch, I like to imagine Iris DeMent singing this song from a rocking chair on her front porch as she watches the apocalypse unfold before her very eyes.  The reason she sounds only a little sentimental but mostly stoic is because she only had a half-hearted attachment to the hometown/world that’s currently being annihilated by the Lord’s wrath.  Also because she knows she’s one of the saved, despite the fact that she seems to be an agnostic, at least according to her song “Let The Mystery Be.”  Maybe because I’m an agnostic myself, I like to think that if there is a God, it actually favors the agnostics over the gung-ho true believers (and especially over the evangelical atheists).  I envision God, if it exists, not unlike Groucho Marx, in that it wouldn’t want to have any worshipers that would worship a God like itself.

Now even though “Our Town” isn’t really an apocalyptic song, it does pencil in a couple shades of darkness beneath those wistful slide guitars and the Small Town, U.S.A. nostalgia.  Ms. DeMent frequently reminds us that “nothing good ever lasts,” and that our hearts are “bound to die.”  Yet she sings it all with that golden voice of hers: youthful yet wise, sweet but not sappy.  The first time I heard this song I had to listen to it again and again for like 100 times over the course of several days, partly because of the melody but mostly because of the voice.  I need that voice with me in the Post-Apocalypse, to lullaby me to sleep when I’m weary and scared and in need of reassurance.

Approx. 5 minutes; 7,977 minutes left on the iPod

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(Part 3 of an ongoing series)

Even in the Post-Apocalypse, I will continue my mission to promulgate the glory of the criminally under-appreciated Urge Overkill.  (By the way, their latest album is pretty great.)  There will be plenty of Urge on the Post-Apocalyptic iPod, though perhaps just a smidgen less than overkill.  Kilobytes are tight, after all.  For now I’ll just add “Sister Havana,” which is about as perfect as a rock n’ roll song can get.  The main riff is one of the most excellent riffs of all-time, so excellent it carries the verse and the chorus, even though each has its own distinct melody and feel.  The verse is Nash Kato being his super-cool self, brainwashing a sexy Cuban assassin with his smooth, subversive charm, and the chorus has all the sing-along enthusiasm a great rock n’ roll chorus should have, without losing any of the cool.  Then there’s the “There’s no time to lose!” bridge, which also does its job perfectly, spiking the tension and energy even higher (with considerable thanks to Blackie Onassis’ mighty drum fills) and making the return to the chorus even more gratifying.  With “Sister Havana,” Urge Overkill finally had a tune awesome enough to justify those leather vests and leisure suits and giant gold medallions.   And if this song didn’t make it past the apocalypse, my will to survive would plummet by a good 15%.

Approx. 4 minutes; 7,982 minutes left on the iPod

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(Part 2 of an ongoing series)

The music of Billy Joel, from the elegant, good-time champagne to the nasty, molar-gunking candy corn, is practically embedded in my middle-class Long Island DNA.  So “A Matter Of Trust” would be the first but far from the last Billy Joel track I’d take to the end of the world.  I’m just adding this one to the playlist for now because I’ve been hooked on it recently, and I’ve been thinking:

  • The “1…2…a-1,2,3,4!” count-off is one of my favorite things in all of music.  It belongs in the Count-Off Hall Of Fame next to Wilson Pickett’s from “Land Of A Thousand Dances” and all of Dee Dee Ramone’s.  This count-off feels good and it says a lot.  Like Pickett’s, it’s sung rather than just spoken or shouted, which is excellent.  And more than just establishing the time and tempo, it announces, “Here’s some White Guy Soul that’s passionate but doesn’t try too hard.  It doesn’t exactly ‘rock’ but it’s sturdy and lively and even if it doesn’t make you want to dance it should at the very least get your heels tapping while you’re stuck in traffic in your Audi or waiting your turn by the pool table in your local blue collar bar.”
  • There’s no chorus in this song, only verses and bridges, even though it always sounds like it’s on the verge of exploding into a humongous chorus.  Yet it never sounds like it’s missing anything.  It’s incomplete, in a “pop” sense, but still immensely satisfying.
  • Lyrically, the song’s a peculiar mixture of harsh cynicism and sweet, desperate optimism.  The final verse sums it up: “Some love is just a lie of the heart/ the cold remains of what began with a passionate start…but that can’t happen to us…” It’s so witty and bleak and heartwarming and real it rivals many of the best Stephin Merritt lyrics.
  • I very much want to believe this video’s premise that “A Matter Of Trust” has the power to unite folks of all demographics simply with the magic of music, even in a crowded city on a hot day when everyone’s bound to be crankier than usual.  That basically “A Matter Of Trust” is the opposite of what Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” was in Do The Right Thing.  Like if instead of smashing Radio Raheem’s boombox, if Sal had just popped in a tape of “A Matter Of Trust” into it, then there would have been a dance party instead of a riot.  So basically if I’m ever in a tense situation in my hypothetical post-apocalyptic wasteland, I’m hoping “A Matter Of Trust” can serve to defuse said tension.  After all it is all about holding on to hope in a sad world, but it’s not cloying or anything, and I find it hard to imagine many people could stay mad while this song comes on, unless they just plain hated Billy Joel, and while I can grant that Billy Joel has done his fair share of schlock I can’t abide anyone who dismisses him entirely and if someone did dismiss him entirely maybe that person’s a lost cause anyway.

Approx. 4 minutes; 7,986 minutes left on the iPod

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(Part 1 of a Series)

Let’s say an apocalypse happens.  How it happens isn’t terribly important.  However it happens, though, I’m one of the few survivors.  Now I have like half a day to get back to my apartment and gather some of my things before I have to leave my place for good and set out into the wasteland for who knows how long.  Let’s assume I’ll be out there a very long time. 

The 30-gig iPod I’ve had for years has recently been broken beyond repair, because, oh I don’t know, it got destroyed in some apocalyptic explosion which I was lucky enough not to be in, or something like that.  However, I happen to have in my possession a brand new 8-gig iPod with nothing on it yet, ready to replace the old one.  Unlikely, perhaps, but there’s a reasonable explanation, like maybe I got the 8-gig iPod as a gift just a couple minutes before the apocalypse and haven’t had time to do anything with it yet.  Sure, that works. 

Now once I gather some essentials- food, canteen, weapons- I have some time to fill my newer, smaller iPod with music that I absolutely positively have to bring along on my sure-to-be perilous journey.  So which songs and albums do I choose to occupy those 8 precious gigs?  Or, for simplicity’s sake, let’s convert those 8 gigs into roughly 8,100 minutes (at 128 kbps). 

In other words, this has been a prolonged way of setting up a modern twist on the old “desert island albums” hypothetical.

Ramones – Ramones/ Rocket To Russia/ Road To Ruin, plus various singles

The post-apocalypse won’t give a crap about things like “influence” and “genre pioneering,” so the mere fact that The Ramones created the sound we call pop-punk has nothing to do with why I plan to upload their stuff first.  I mean they are basically the nexus of great rock n’ roll, the point which most great rock n’ roll either helped shape or was shaped by.  But more important than being the nexus is being the essence; that is, even if they never achieved all that influence, they still captured that perfect rock n’ roll sound, the sound of freedom and dancing like a spaz and sock-hops for high school outsiders, a sound I can hardly imagine the world without, and they had the tunes to back it all up.  People who say all Ramones songs sound the same are only half right.  The style of the songs is pretty much the same, but the hooks and the melodies and the lyrics are usually unique.  Which is why I can’t just stop with one Ramones album.  I need all the stuff they did during their peak, except maybe Leave Home which is pretty good but not essential.  I’d also include a selection of tracks from their post-peak period: “Do You Remember Rock N’ Roll Radio?” from the Phil Spector Production (Produced By Phil Spector) End Of The Century;  “The KKK Took My Baby Away” from Pleasant Dreams; “Little Bit O’ Soul” from Subterranean Jungle; “My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down” from Animal Boy; “I Believe In Miracles” from Brain Drain (for an added dose of optimism); and “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” from Adios Amigos!

Total: 46 songs, approximately 110 minutes; 7990 minutes left

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