Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Beck's early discography is rather tangled. Apparently, part of his signing deal with DGC was that he could release other, less commercial records on indie labels. A bunch of these, along with Mellow Gold, appeared in 1994: Stereopathetic Soul Manure, One Foot in the Grave, and a little weirdo ten-inch called A Western Harvest Field by Moonlight. Or, as the spine had it, A Western Harvest Moon by Moonlight. Rather.
It's a handy little sampler of everything Beck got up to at that time, looking back: acoustic country blues, wacky cassette manipulations, auto-recording on microcassette, collaborations with various Haden sisters. The record itself is just a terrible, shitty pressing. It crackled and popped the second I put it on the turntable, and never stopped. But it was entertaining enough to a teenaged me, and it's definitely an early exposure that led me down the road to Skip James and Charlie Patton.
The internet was pretty primitive at that point, and I didn't learn until much later that I'd confused side one and side two. I still feel like my order works better, though, starting with the two acoustic numbers, then tossing you headlong into the experimental stuff (like the "normal," or at least not slowed-down, version of "Feel Like A Piece of Shit") until forcing you to get up and take the needle off the locked groove. "Totally Confused" (which made numerous appearances on other Beck records) is a great side two opener, staying vaguely more song-oriented ("Gettin' Home" is a quality tune, "Mayonnaise Salad" is less so, even at a stretch) until the final "WHOA YEAH" to close it all out.
Fingerpaint Records made about 7000 of these things in total, which is pretty scant for a Beck record of any sort. The first 3000 came with a fingerpainting, made either by Beck or one of his pals, at the record release party. And sure enough, that's the version I picked up at Broadway Records in Rochester, probably sometime in 1995. Looks like I could maybe get a couple hundred for it these days, but meh. I'm happier having the thing. Apparently, the 2000-copy CD pressing of Golden Feelings I got is going for a pretty penny, too. Things to keep in mind if I come up against the wall, I suppose.
Here's a rip from my vinyl. Enjoy the low fidelity of it all. It's a good listen.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre were a comedy team that went from Iowa to San Francisco, and ended up enjoying various levels of fame. Some of you who are old enough will recall a character on MTV called Randee of the Redwoods. That guy? He's Jim Turner, one of the Duck's Breath members.
One of the other guys in the troupe was Dan Coffey. He created a character called Dr. Science, who, like Coffey, is not a real doctor, but does have a master's degree. Dr. Science's, naturally, is in science. Coffey's, as I recall vaguely from a newspaper article in the Des Moines Register when I was a teenager, had something to do with radio. (note: upon further research, it's actually in playwriting. You can get a master's in playwriting? Who knew?)
When I was young, radio was magic to me. I lived in a quite small town in Iowa. We had one radio station. I can't remember the call letters, but it's not there anymore. The staff there were actually pretty nice, and tolerant of young me. I even got to come up and be on the air once, just because I was REALLY EXCITED about radio. It seemed like paradise. It was the job for me. I got to college and found out a lot more about radio: you, the on-air personality, don't get to pick the records. You have no job security, and you get paid like shit. Oh well. But there was creativity out there, on college and public stations. And on NPR.
I also grew up a hardcore NPR and Wisconsin Public Radio nerd. "Whad'ya Know" every fuckin' weekend, you bet. Tom Clark every morning, Jean Feraca and Larry Meiller. Oh yes. And let's not forget about Talk of the Nation's Science Friday, where I first encountered Dr. Science.
Dan Coffey plays Dr. Science as a complete know-it-all. Literally, this man has an answer, a SCIENTIFIC ANSWER, for any question. He did, and for all I know still does, a daily 90 second spot which airs on various NPR stations. None around here. But two of the three things I'm putting up today are compilations of these spots.
It was important to me, among other reasons, because it was specific nerd humor. It was science-based, but complete absurdity. Could I someday be that kind of character? No way, nowhere near smart enough. But I could maybe do the voice...
These days, information on Dr. Science is scant at best. His official website is perennially down, replaced by a promise of a revamped site that never comes. But all his references on Wikipedia seem to be present tense ones. There is hope for us all, as long as Dr. Science is there.
I've got three things in this here zip file. One is the long-form cassette which I got from my mom, "I Know More Than You Do!" It's 60 minutes of the quick radio spots, and 30 minutes of radio play. Pretty good. Another is a tape I have merely labeled "Dr. Science," with no further information. It seems to come from a higher-fidelity source, and mostly regards technology of the late 90's. A pretty endearing time capsule, and funny all the same. Finally, there is an hour of Science Friday from September 2nd, 1994, in which Dr. Science takes calls and provides on-the-spot answers.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Were they gimmicky? You bet your ass. The schtick was that these three fellas from Costa Mesa, CA were actually aliens, from a planet called Cynot 3. Their sun exploded, and they found themselves on Earth, where they schemed ways to obtain the world's supply of aluminum foil. But this was really all circumstantial to their songs, two minute catchy bombs of melody and nerdery. Their lyrical concerns revolved around vitamins, math, superheroes, cookies, Mentos, cops, hippies, and, of course, Supernova. Oh, and they had geometric shapes cut into their hair. How they ended up on Amphetamine Reptile, I'll never know.
But sure enough, on AmRep they were, and in 1995 they made Ages 3 and Up, their first LP. Concurrent with this album, they filmed a "children's show for adults" pilot entitled "Last in Space: A Show for Kids?" Apparently this was big enough of a deal that they actually had a release show for the VHS tape at the Concert Cafe in Green Bay, where apparently everyone just came and watched the thing, and could buy their own copies. I'm pretty sure that's where my friend Kory got his, and that's how I saw it in '97 or so. Thirteen years later, I found a brand new copy on Amazon, and finally got to see it again. It was still silly.
Presented here is an .avi file, which oughta be Divx compatible, of the tape. I can provide an .iso file if anyone wants it, but it really doesn't look better than this.
Make sure to download all five parts before you try to unzip the thing.
Your bonus content for this post is my compilation of all the Supernova singles. Well, nearly all. The "Diga Queso!" EP isn't here, because I haven't managed to find a copy yet. But the rest of the singles, and the live 10", and some comp stuff, AND a couple songs from the videotape, are here. Some of these apparently got re-released on a CD called "Pop as a Weapon" a few years ago, but I'm not going to remove those, because I put this damned CD together a decade ago and I don't want to change it now. Besides, they failed to actually include the song "Pop as a Weapon," Supernova's finest 49 seconds.
No idea what's up with Supernova these days. I guess Dave had quit for a while, came back, and then Jodey quit. So they got a guy from the Aquabats to play guitar, and naturally appeared on Yo Gabba Gabba! via that connection. Their wikipedia page makes a lot of references to 2007-8, and their official page went poof. Anyone got any info?
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Ask anyone (in my band): Brainiac were the promise of the future WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY being the best band on earth. Sadly, I never got to see them. But I heard the records, the bootlegs, and the legends. And I loved it.
John Schmersal was the guitarist. There were plans, presumably. Tours with Beck, major label courting, all that. But Timmy Taylor died before all that could come to fruition. John retreated to a repurposed Masonic Temple somewhere in Kentucky, and made some music to deal with life. One of these was a moody, mysterious album released under the pseudonym of John Stuart Mill. A few other songs started appearing on singles, under the moniker of Enon.
Soon enough, Enon would become a full band, and a spectacular one at that. They'd put out four albums of music that was as wacky as, yet more mainstream than Brainiac ever was. And they'd put out a bunch of singles, too.
The singles are what we're concentrating on today. Enon compiled a number of singles and unreleased songs in 2005, on an album called Lost Marbles & Exploded Evidence. As good as that record is, as many classic tunes were left off. Here are some of them:
The first two Enon singles are of a piece with the John Stuart Mill material: murky, moody, and beautiful, speaking to loss and confusion. "Fly South" made it to the comp, but the rest didn't, which is a shame. "The List of Short Demands" sets up a lilting melody that it tries to scupper with a static-laden keyboard solo. "Motor Cross" is a swoony, Mellotron-filled ballad. "Burning the Bread" hovers on the brink of frightening, until it interpolates a chorus or two of "Keep on the Sunny Side." Well, of course.
Later pressings of Believo! came with a bonus 7" featuring songs from the earliest days of the band. Fools like me that bought it on its first pressing didn't get the single. I complained to Toko about this when we played with them in Combined Locks, WI. She said "That is unfortunate." Later, back at our house, she asked me if she could have one of my Stewart's Grape Sodas. Naturally, I gave her one. The two early outtakes are very playful, particularly "Suz EQ." Love the upward bends at the end. Another early song, "Pollen Lane," showed up on the b-side of Enon's Sub Pop singles club contribution.
A few of the songs from the self-titled 7" made it onto the comp, but one of the best ones, "Believe or Deny," was left behind. The rest of the songs that didn't make it are sort of disposable, but good all the same.
Also playing at that Combined Locks show was Bloodthirsty Lovers. Mightily impressive band, particularly the drummer. He was playing live breakbeats, and using both ends of a drumstick to hit the hi-hat. That tour resulted in a split single, and Enon's side, "Because of You," is a lovely little march.
I don't have all the songs that Enon put up on their website, but there are a few. How did a song as excellent as "Out of Phase" not get on a record? Who knows. There are also a number of comp songs in the folder. Most of 'em are just okay, but the covers of "Sex Beat" and "New York's All Right if You Like Saxophones" can't be beat.
Finally, we arrive at 2007. A label in the Czech Republic puts out a single of two new songs, "Little Ghost" (of JonBenet) and "Swab the Deck." John told me that he was essentially the US distributor for the single, so I suppose it's a good thing I got it from him at a show in Chicago.
Note: you will not find the single "Listen While You Talk" in this folder. I don't think it's very good.
Oh, and just one more thing:
Back in 1999, Enon was heading out on their first tour. Toko wasn't even in the lineup yet, and Believo! wasn't out. It was a short tour, just a week or two. One of the stops was Green Bay, which was always a great place for Brainiac. We (and that was my old band, the Pop Machine) got to open this show. Sometimes, being the one band that sounds like you in the area really helps out. Here's a board tape of Enon's set. One of the songs never got re-recorded, or at least released. The rest ended up on singles and the first album. I think I gave my original CD of this to John, many years ago.
We've gotten to play with Enon a bunch of times since then, and they've always been inscrutable, hilarious, and wonderful. Here's hoping they get back to work soon.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
The first and only time I saw the Delta 72, they were touring on their second album, The Soul of a New Machine. Inbetween tracks on that album were bits of other, untitled instrumentals. Turns out they were parts of jam sessions recorded before the album. Tapes, hand-dubbed by the band (mine is taped over a copy of "This is Acid Jazz") were available at the show, and I picked one up. It sounds like all their other recordings of the time, which is to say, a damn swingin' sweet mix of soul and punk, all sweaty. Intros and outros sometimes cut off without warning; that's how they were on the tape.
Bonus inclusion: a recording of the Delta 72 playing between Cash Money and Brainiac, at the C-Haus in Beloit, WI on April 18, 1997. The Brainiac set can be found at the wonderful BRAINIAC Live Archive Project, but I don't think DJ taped the Cash Money set.
More D72 goodies can be found here, at a site maintained by Ben Azzara, the band's original drummer.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
So! One of the trends in mp3 blogging these days has been vinyl rips. I couldn't be happier! Dudes (and I'm only assuming they're all dudes, but come on) with super-good equipment, posting high-quality versions of direct-from-vinyl music. You might not think it matters, the end steps being digital and all, but it can and it does. PBTHAL's rips of the Big Star albums, for example, have a little...sparkle, or something, that's better than any CD of them I've heard. And sometimes, the best of intentions have an interesting effect.
Friedalive has been posting some interesting and unexpected things, and a couple weeks ago a rip of Soundgarden's Superunknown appeared. For the longest time, I'd only ever owned that record on vinyl, and I'd listened to it many a time. So I downloaded it, burned a CD, and took a listen. What a great job they'd done with the rip! Exactly how I remembered it. Still sounded like complete butt.
Now, make no mistake: the blame does not lie with Friedalive for this butt-ness. I'm not entirely sure where it lies. Is David Collins, the mastering engineer, to blame? Difficult to say. The CD and cassette share none of the terrible qualities of the vinyl: the lack of bass, the cluttered overall picture, the static-laden transients. Regardless of where the finger points, the problem is the sound. It is bad. It could be better. In fact, my favorite version, the best sounding, as far as I'm concerned? The cassette.
You see, my friends and I, we have this DJ night. It started as a joke, really; Sean and I were remarking on the fact that we'd both saved all our cassettes from our high school years. "We should do a DJ set with just tapes!" one of us said. And the joke stuck around until there was a wonderful local bar that would let us do such a thing. It was a grand time, and it became a monthly affair. So, in order to keep things fresh (for me, if no one else) I scouted around for new tapes on a regular basis, including things I'd otherwise owned for years. And this here copy of Superunknown? It sounds great.
I think so, at any rate. You can judge for yourself.
If this sort of thing interests you, please let me know. I'm up for doing more of these, and will also gladly take suggestions (and donations!)
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Back in 1998, I had some friends who were SUPER excited because a band called No Knife were going to play at the Concert Cafe, up in Green Bay, where all the good shows were. I'd never heard of 'em, but a good show is a good show, so I was as excited as anyone. Come the Monday of the show, No Knife did a stellar job (I still think Fire in the City of Automatons is a classic record) but I was more taken with the openers.
Two guys, two gals, scrappy punk rockers, but BETTER. There was something wistful about some of their songs, chords and melody lines that seemed kinda...I still can't really place it. New wave-ish, maybe? Everybody sang, there were harmonies, all sorts of call-and-response stuff, but most importantly, GREAT SONGS. Selby Tigers.
Nathan, the guitarist, had been in a band called Arm. His wife, Arzu, was the other guitarist, and had been in a band called Lefty Lucy with Nicole and Dave, the rhythm section. This was, I believe, their first tour. Nate sang the rock anthems in a clear, high voice. Nicole had a rough-and-tumble punk thing going. Arzu could switch from a sweet, almost babydoll sound to an Ari Up shriek. And Dave would chime in everywhere. They played a song called "d-Day" that night, which I never saw them do again, and I remember Arzu doing a clockwork robot dance in the intro.
We chatted a bit that night, I got a copy of their EP for WRST, as I tried to do with every good band back then. Also, back then, I used to go home on a pretty regular basis. I made the three-hour drive back to La Crosse, said hi to Mom, and checked in with the Warehouse to see what was going on that weekend.
The Warehouse was the only game in town, then as now, for those under 21. I saw some pretty incredible shows there (Poster Children, Melvins, Savage Aural Hotbed, et cetera) inbetween all the MPLS industrial has-beens that could still draw a pretty good crowd. Lo and behold, playing there on Friday night was the same No Knife/Selby Tigers bill. So I headed on down.
I got there ridiculously early, for some reason. Ran into Dave outside, he was hanging out with his brother. We went across the street to the Bodega Brew Pub. I was all of nineteen, but had my long hair and beard, and they didn't look twice at me. I didn't have a drink, though. Went back and said hello to everyone, and I recall hanging out on the sidewalk with Arzu and Nicole. I'd brought my portable reel-to-reel recorder (I think this was the same weekend I recorded the steam organ that would later appear on the first Hifi demo) and when they got onstage, I hit record. That tape deck, Dave's brother, the soundguy and I were the only ones to witness the debut of "Cutting School," which would lead off their second EP.
It's not too far from St. Paul to anywhere in Wisconsin, and the Tigers would make the trip often. I saw them every time they played in the state. Nicole quit, to be replaced by Dave Gardner, a well-known, respected, and kickass musician and engineer. They signed to Hopeless Records in 2000, and their songs started to lean more towards straight punk. They were damn good, always, but I felt like something had gotten lost from those early records. Same thing happened with another Twin Cities band, the Soviettes...
I guess by the end it got pretty bad. Nathan and Arzu got divorced, and I heard stories about them all showing up at their last show in separate cars. Not that I knew they'd broken up. In 2003, everything didn't shoot instantly across the internet like it does these days. We never did get to play with Selby Tigers, but we did a show with Arzu's next band, So Fox.
Nathan and Dave G are in a band called the Dynamiters. I've missed them twice now, but I hope to see them soon. Arzu's been in a ton of different bands, most recently she's formed a band called Pink Mink with our pals Christy and Charles from Ouija Radio. Dave the drummer moved to Japan, and was playing with Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her for a while. I don't think he is anymore, though.
Their two Hopeless albums are still in print, so you won't find those here. This is everything else, though:
-their first EP, Year of the Tigers
-their second EP, South Then West
-the "Sidewalk" 7"
-the pre-second album 7" with "Tell it to the Judge" and "Snoball"
-"Pomona" from a four-band split single
-"World Without Charm" from one o' them Hopelessly Devoted to You comps
And three, count 'em THREE, live shows:
-the aforementioned show in La Crosse, WI at the Warehouse
-a wonderful basement show in Madison
-the last time I saw them, returning to the Concert Cafe, blowing Bratmobile and the Donnas solidly off the stage. Ears open for a shout-out to me at the beginning of "Snoball"...
A stellar band full of stellar people, that meant a lot to me. Hopefully you'll dig them, too.
The whole shebang.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
So, tonight I blew off a swank opening party of a film festival, which I could have gone to with a really cute gal. Now, keep in mind that I got to spend a bit of time with said cute gal today, and will be able to spend more time with her in the upcoming weeks. But still. Party? Appetizers? Drinks? No, I'm at home, writing on my blog. What can I say? Sometimes I forget how to be sociable, I've gotten so used to sitting around by myself. It's not an excuse, just something that happened. But I'm having my own drinks and appetizers, and I'm writing about Poster Children.
Oh! Mighty Poster Children! Formed at the University of Illinois Shampoo Banana in 1987, and still (slightly) active today. They've slowed down quite a bit, but we had the great honour of playing with them at two of their five shows in 2009, and they have not lost a step. Andy Lester had not seen them in their current incarnation, with drummer Matt, and he was pretty amazed. Justifiably so, as Matt was ON FUCKING FIRE at the 2009 shows. I also got to point at Rose, and say to my pal Anya, "See how much I rip off from her?" Anya nodded in agreement.
I think I've seen them more than any other band. They've never disappointed. I actually did not like them the first time I saw them, in Green Bay, on February 27th, 1997. But it was my fault, as I had not brought earplugs and they were very loud. Luckily, I was dragged to their show in Madison the next night, and I understood. So good, this band. So unassumingly wonderful. Possibly egoless, just fueled by the sheer power of good music. Purveyors of the best tour diaries on Earth (except, maybe, those by Michael Dalquist.) I don't listen to their records all the time these days, because I don't have to. They sing in my head, and I can recall so many songs that way.
They have taught us much as a band, as Fugazi taught them. How to be a good, independent rock and roll band, how to tour on a budget, how to be nice people who support their scene. They have always supported us, not necessarily in a mom-and-dad sort of way, but maybe more in a proud-uncle-and-aunt fashion. All of this means a lot to me, but on top of all of it, they are just a damn good band. We brought them up to play a show in Manitowoc way back in 2002, and it was a damn good one. I remember standing next to Rose while Death and Taxes played, and pointing at Matt, on the edge of the crowd. "Look at your drummer!" I crowed, as he dove into the crowd and started a mosh pit. She grinned, and so did I. We had to follow them that night, and I was awfully anxious. They brought it, as they always did, and we had to match it. It's a proud thing for me to say, but I think we did. Those are our best nights, really, when we're up against Poster Children or NoMeansNo or Enon, and we hold our own. That's when I think we're a good band.
Anyway, enough of this blah-blah-blah. As any good internet-mp3-blogger type will do, I was reading another blog. Specifically the mighty Power of Independent Trucking, home of the amazing Joy Division and New Order remasters, amongst many other wonderful things. Browsing around in all of this, I stumbled across this post, beseeching all us anonymous folk to come forward with a copy of Toreador Squat, an early tape that Trouser Press described as "a raw, basic, set-length cassette for admirers of the band's live shows." "Oh, I have that!" I thought to myself. "But my old rip kinda sucks. I should do an upgrade!"
So I did.
Here it is. I tried to futz around with FLAC, but I couldn't figure out, using their frontend, how to convert the files. So, seeing as it's direct from cassette and all, I figured fuck it, I'll just put it up as wav files. So, this is a big download. Like 300mb. But you can handle it. Also included are a few tracks released on Chambana-area comps that Carlin gave me. Tracks as follows:
1. Hollywood USA
2. the Bump Bump Song
3. Rain On Me
4. Detective Tracy
5. Carrie Look Ahead
6. And So It Goes (the Skanky Song)
7. Jeremy Straight
8. White Noise (Black Light) (aka Question)
9. The Un-Reggae Song
10. Carver's of NYC
11. State of Mind
12. the Weenie Song
13. Five Minutes
14. the Half-Time Song
The cassette-deck-to-laptop setup I used to transfer this had some sort of automatic noise-eliminating action going on, possibly due to the low output from the deck. It didn't seem to affect the songs, though, just the silences between the songs, so I let it be. Many of these tunes showed up on their first real album (or even their second!) in superior versions. I think the demo take of "Rain on Me" is better, though, and it's a tragedy that this is the only recording of "Carrie Look Ahead," a lovely song about how life pretty much sucks. Includes scans of the insert, so you can make yourself your very own Toreador Squat!
Bonus tracks are:
-Where We Live
Yes, that "Cinnamon Girl." I suppose I would have been much more surprised to hear that if I hadn't seen PKids do "All Along the Watchtower" at the Cowboy Monkey last year.
Oh, and hey! You know what? Just because I love you, here's a board tape of their set at the Great Cover Up, back in 1998. They did Talking Heads that year. The set-ender of "Once in a Lifetime" is pretty chaotic, but "Memories Can't Wait" is a jewel.
I think that's all I have, unless anybody needs the "Copyright" self-bootleg of singles and comp tracks. I can post that, if necessary. Anyway.
Dear Pkids, love you. Keep it up.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Since its release in 1968, rock critics and other nerds have been playing the game of "Cut the White Album down to one LP." This game is surely less common these days, as its flaws and foibles have been accepted as a larger portrait of the group in dissolution (that's not to say it's no longer possible - my own CD burn, for example, excludes any song featuring the words "honey" or "pie.")
The early '90s version of this game is less likely to go out of style, as it features a far less beloved, or important, work. Use Your Illusion is generally regarded as the work of a band full of drug addicts, led by an egotist and his quickly bloating sensibilities. And bloated it is: the total time clocks in at over 152 minutes, making it a QUADRUPLE ALBUM. Yeesh. But so, the academic question: is there a quality album buried somewhere in those eight sides? I think there is, and I'm willing to go song-by-song to find it.
(Note: interestingly enough, GNR themselves (or someone on their behalf) have attempted this exercise. We will return to that later on.)
Now, this is 1991 we're talking about here, so we're going to give GNR the benefit of 80 minutes, a double album. They're a gigantically successful band, they're allowed that. So, starting from the top:
"Right Next Door To Hell": Despite Axl's hilarious mid-song shriek of "FUCK YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU, BITCH," this is a great, riff-driven opener. STAYS.
"Dust 'n Bones": Not awful, but not sung by the lead singer. Such things are destined for b-sides. Also goes on for-fucking-ever. GOES.
"Live and Let Die": Doofy cover song? I don't care how much time you spent on the fake strings (which, honestly, do sound pretty amazing,) this shit screams b-side. GOES.
"Don't Cry (Original Version)": Fuck. It's really hard to objectively listen to this song after to many years of overexposure, but I think it fills the power ballad slot. Overwrought, sure, but probably the most heartfelt slow song on here. Probably because it was like ten years old by this time. STAYS.
"Perfect Crime": Solid riff, but totally sunk by the lyrics. Any song with a chorus that goes "It's the perfect crime/goddammit it's the perfect crime/motherfucker it's the perfect crime/I SAID IT'S PERFECT!" is laughable. Allowed on the album will be the harmonized demonstration of counting in the middle. GOES.
"You Ain't the First": Acoustic waltz, again not sung by the lead singer. GOES.
"Bad Obsession": Real heavy on the honky-tonk vibe, here, with the slide guitar, harmonica, and piano. But not awful, somehow. Maybe it's the disco bass that shows up in the choruses. STAYS.
"Back Off Bitch": Seriously. What's redeeming about this song? What makes it worth listening to? Nothing I can think of. Wuh-uh-oh-LAME. GOES.
"Double Talkin' Jive": Like "Back Off Bitch" without the level of stupidity in the lyrics. Although they're still pretty stupid. This really sounds like they're not particularly trying to, y'know, write a good song or anything. GOES.
EDIT: OH FUCK I FORGOT THE STUPID "SPANISH"-STYLE ACOUSTIC ENDING TO THIS STUPID HALF-ASS SONG GOOD THING I ALREADY DITCHED IT
"November Rain": Okay, gets kind of tough here. This song is iconic, a signpost about what GNR were all about at this point. And I think that's exactly why I want to exclude it. It's SO fucking overblown, right from the top, with the retarded "symphony" intro and the thunderstorm effects, and the rolling mallets on the cymbals...by the time the vocals start, it's already annoying. An ace Slash solo can't redeem it. Oh, and not to mention the coda, which could have gone entirely. Here's the exercise: try to separate this song from your memories of it. Don't think of the video, don't think of the first time you heard it...hear it now. Listen to it. It's crap. GOES.
"The Garden": Yet another song dredged up from the pre-Appetite days. Boring, repetitive, and outright wastes Alice Cooper. GOES.
"Garden of Eden": Now, this one, I dig. Racing tempo, cool riff, two and a half minutes of nonstop kickass. Even manages to overcome the weird whooshing sound effects. STAYS.
"Don't Damn Me": Not awful, but again, feels like filler. We know, Axl, everybody's out to keep you quiet. You just keep speaking your mind, and the truth, pal! GOES.
"Bad Apples": Man, this is getting pretty dire. I'm starting to rethink my desire to ditch "Dust and Bones." This one's kinda "bluesy," sorta "funky," has weird talkin' breakdowns, and is pretty much bad. GOES.
"Dead Horse": I love this song without reservation. I'd say it's the best song on I, maybe the best on the whole set. It combines everything I like about Appetite and Lies all in one four-minute package. Classic don't-let-life-get-you-down-even-though-that's-exactly-what-it's-doing subject matter, too. STAYS.
"Coma": The intro brings this one closer than you'd think to being included, but I just can't justify keeping ten minutes of this Bloodrock semi-ripoff (P.S.: looks like I subconsciously stole this comparison from Mark Prindle. Credit to you, you beautiful bastard! I READ YOUR BOOK!). Goddamn, that's a good riff, though...almost. Sunk by bits like "Zap the sonovabitch again." GOES, just barely.
Okay, that's the end of volume one. We are at just over 20 minutes. Looks like we're gonna come in early on this, right? Well, read on...
Days later, I come to whiskey and rock, and here we are, USE YOUR ILLUSION II. We begin:
"Civil War": When people think about the "classic" songs from these albums, "Civil War" is easily among them. It's a bit histrionic and definitely overlong, but shows genuine concern for the general concept of "war," and how it's probably bad or something. Good tune, all the same. STAYS.
"14 Years": I know, I know. I made a whole big deal about having the lead singer sing on the songs, earlier. But Axl sings on the choruses of this one, it's about Izzy and Axl's friendship (soon to collapse,) and there's gotta be at least one example of the three or four songs on UYI that sound like this. STAYS.
"Yesterdays": Sounds like another dashed-off who-gives-a-shit song, complete with heinously out-of-tune vocals. It's like these songs are all "Think About You," except this one actually sounds like a slow version of "My Michelle." GOES.
"Knockin' On Heaven's Door": Oh, good, another lazy cover. With reggae/gospel inflections, no less! And what the hell is up with the fake phone call? Who thought this shit was listenable? GOES.
"Get in the Ring": All right, people, this is where it gets serious. On one hand, this seems like a throwaway track, just another excuse for Axl to yell at people he hates (or who are vaguely not serving his purposes, it's not particularly clear.) But it's a good rocker, and something about it is so goddamn AUDACIOUS that it's hard to ignore. And in all honesty, Axl's pussy whining in the spoken-word bit just makes me giggle. How many times in my life have I randomly spouted "Bob Guccione Jr. at Spin?!?" Many times, many times. STAYS, somehow.
"Shotgun Blues": See, this is exactly why "Get in the Ring" made it. Coming after that, this song just sounds dull and indistinguished. GOES.
"Breakdown": According to the Wikipedia entry (and Slash's book) this song was really difficult to get right. Huh. Too bad it wasn't particularly worth it. Seems like the random breakdown (oh, I get it, ha ha ha ha!) at the end is indicative of the slack attitude of the whole tune here. GOES.
"Pretty Tied Up": An uninspired tune, with another set of particularly misogynistic lyrics. Sheesh. GOES.
"Locomotive": Wait, wait. Eight and a half minutes? Is there something that I don't remember in this song? Something else than generic blues-chug with badly off-time vocals in the choruses?
(six minutes later) A piano-led coda! Oh, sure! That makes SOME FUCKING SENSE AT ALL. GOES.
"So Fine": GNARRRRGH. It sounds like they're ripping off the beginning of their own cover of "Live and Let Die," except it's a whole song, and apparently it's about Johnny Thunders. It sounds like meta-bullshit. GOES.
"Estranged": Yes, they're allowed one epic. ONE. And it's this one. The lyrics are bearable (somewhat,) the exploded song structure makes sense in context, and Slash's guitar work is so good that even Axl had to thank him for it. STAYS.
"You Could Be Mine:" The last of the absolute classics on UYI, in fact, the last worthwhile song on the damn thing. This could have been on Appetite and no one would have blinked an eye (apparently, the song germinates from early sessions for that record.) Check out those nifty harmony vocals in the chorus! And the suitably apocalyptic middle eight! Even if Axl's lifting lyrics from Bernie Taupin (carefully noted in the liners, no less,) it's worth it. STAYS.
"Don't Cry (alternate lyrics)": Same song, different vocals. You can get away with this treacle once, but not twice. GOES.
"My World": Oh, hee hee hee! Hee hee! Oh, hee hee hee! Oh, Axl. If this had been a hidden, "bonus" track, you probably could have gotten away with it as a joke. Instead, it is the official closer to your magnum opus. God only knows what you could have been thinking, but it wasn't anything smart. GOES.
Total time of selections from volume II? 33 minutes. Our total time is 53 minutes, a solid 53 minutes, five songs from each volume. Yes, folks, this could have been the power-packed followup to Appetite. In original order:
-"Right Next Door To Hell"
-"Don't Cry (original version)"
-"Garden of Eden"
-"Get in the Ring"
-"You Could Be Mine"
Needs some sequencing, but a damn good record, right there. Now! Interestingly, and as I mentioned before, GNR attempted to cover this territory themselves. In 1998, someone (god knows who) threw together a bunch of non-swearin' tunes from the two albums, and called it plain ol' Use Your Illusion. Here is its tracklisting:
"Live and Let Die"
"Don't Cry" (original)
"You Ain't the First"
"Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
"Don't Cry" (alternate)
Not entirely off from my selection, but manages to include BOTH cover songs and BOTH versions of "Don't Cry." Yipes.
And that is how I have played the game. Agree? Disagree? It hardly matters. The point is, there's a good album in there somewhere. If you don't like my version, surely you can find one yourself. I know it's in there.