Monday, December 19, 2011

I've come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains.

It's a love/hate relationship, mine and High Fidelity. The book and the movie, not the audiophilic concept.

I actually read the book first, back in the photo lab days, when I was picking anything off the library shelves that seemed halfway interesting. I remember the announcement of John Cusack as the star right about when I finished it, and thought it was a fine choice. I liked the book a lot, but everything I enjoyed about it was in the movie, so let's just talk about that.

Honestly, is this a romantic comedy for dudes? Nerd-dudes? It's actually not romantic very much, and somehow that's what makes it romantic. Rob and Laura's (hey, the Petries?) relationship stops with a fairly low amount of drama, and resumes with even less, and even that last, Natasha-Gregson-Wagner shaped curveball is dealt with in a terribly rational way, at least for the movies. It's not "self-aware," in a post-modern hipster kind of way, but it knows itself, and its foibles. That's something I've always found attractive in people, too, and it's comforting to see it in High Fidelity. Because I can see myself in it.

Or, maybe, it's that I want to see myself in it. Obviously, I share some of the qualities and obsessions: as I write this, I'm surrounded by music, books about music, and hard drives full of the stuff. I come home, sit down, and a record goes on. Then another. Or iTunes goes on shuffle. It's always meant the world to me, and it's the easiest art to share. Sure, you can lend someone a book, but you won't want to wait there while they read it. No two people will look at a painting and see the same thing. Movies are closer, but music allows for a nearly instant shared experience, under endless circumstances. I've felt it at shows with a thousand other people, when Fugazi broke into "Waiting Room." And I've felt it right here, when someone I hadn't really met until that night played me a beautiful song I'd never heard, and we closed our eyes and listened.

But I've never owned a record store. Never even worked at one, although I always wanted to. So did a bunch of other nerds, so there never seemed to be an opening. I've never run a record label, and I wanted to do that, too. Until I realized I actually could, if I had enough money I could commit to losing, if I had to. So I suppose that one's still on the table. I've had DJ gigs for years, on and off (although I've never "spun," thank you very much,) but I've never had a pretty stranger ask what I was playing. I never had to desire to create something, really, it was part and parcel with being in a band. That's what I wanted, was to play music with people, and I've been able to do that for a lot of years. Past that, I work a job I'm fairly ambivalent about, so I can pay rent, play music, and buy records. And I do make a damned good mixtape, if I say so myself.

I make lists, but not incessant top fives. Hell, I don't usually like to rank anything. I don't call up exes and ask them where I went wrong. I don't stutter and mumble anything like I used to, and I don't yell and push my opinion on everybody that crosses my path. But I'm in there, somewhere. It helps that the movie is visually a love letter to two things that mean a lot to me: record stores and Chicago. I can't put myself in completely, though, because the message I get out of it is one I can't agree with.

Part of it is in Laura's dialogue, in one of the six or seven scenes where she's taking stuff out of the apartment:

All I'm saying is, you have to allow for things to happen to people, but most of all to yourself.

I think I allow for things to happen, although it can be tough. It's easy to get complacent, when things are...satisfactory. Not even good, necessarily, but not at all bad. But the movie itself subjugates that message by the end, because all that happens is that the characters either face changes that don't matter, or nothing actually changes.

Dick gets a girlfriend. That doesn't seem to change anything. Barry sings the hell out of some Marvin Gaye. He'll probably show up at Championship Vinyl the next day, just like any other. And Rob and Laura have settled for each other. The key here is another bit of dialogue, Rob's this time:

I'm tired of the fantasy, because it doesn't really exist. And there are never really any surprises, and it never really[...]delivers. And I'm tired of it. And I'm tired of everything else for that matter. But I don't ever seem to get tired of you, so...

He's tired of trying, even. He's settled. And she's tired, too, so she took him back. She's settled. I'm not ready to settle yet.

I understand. I have a craving for stability that I can't ever seem to fill, a combination of homesickness and restlessness. So I look for new experiences where I can find them, most of which comes in the form of new music. And I hope to be able to recognize the changes, when they come. But I'm not really looking to be Rob, or Dick or Barry. I just want to be the best me. The happiest me, the comfortable me. I hope that I can find that. But even that probably won't stop me from buying records. And if I'm lucky, maybe someday I can clock an insufferable asshole with an old phone.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cordelia's Dad.

Uh...oh. Hi. So, yeah, it's been a few months since I've written anything here. It wasn't intentional, mind. And it's not like I haven't written anything at all...but let's just say that lack of free time and depression don't make for very good productivity. The ideas were in the back of my head, though, building up. And sometimes it's the smallest thing that can poke a hole in the wall. Like a band that I dearly love putting all their albums up on Bandcamp, and then me thinking to myself "I wonder what will happen to that DBC EP they did, or that one acoustic seven inch that was in their discography that I could never find..." And then going to eBay, searching for the band, and seeing that suddenly that very same 45 is for sale, at a very reasonable rate...

My mother is not an impulse shopper. But when she hears something she likes, she knows it. She knew it that day. It was probably a Saturday, and we'd driven out to Rochester. I wanted to go to my favorite record store, Broadway Records. While I browsed, Mom prowled the aisles of the nearby antique store, looking for who knows what. She came to rouse me from my record-shopping fugue, and heard the store PA. "What is this that's playing?" she asked the clerk. "It's Cordelia's Dad," came the reply. I walked away with something awesome, maybe a Shellac 7", maybe the Jesus Lizard/Nirvana split. Can't remember. Mom walked away with Comet, the third album by Cordelia's Dad. Funny how that record has meant as much to me as anything else I found there.

I was a teenager then, and didn't kno
w a lot about traditional music. I was pretty much a rocker, and maybe a bit of a jazzer. This was a whole different thing. Largely American traditional tunes, from the Appalachians, and presumably traceable back to English and European folk cetera. But there's more. The music, and Tim Eriksen's voice, spoke straight to me. The tunes were simple, easy to sing, and CLEAR, transparent music. It's like Louis Armstrong said, "All music is folk music." There's much to be said for complicated music, mind you. I'm continually fascinated by songs that I can't figure out. How, for example, did someone sit down and write "X-French Tee Shirt?" Or "The Anvil Will Fall?" No idea. But these songs. Anyone could have written them, anyone could sing them.

I was able to find more Cordelia's Dad albums du
ring college. Their earlier two records sounded like the last, electric track on "Comet." They tried to separate the electric and acoustic sides of the band, eventually, but could never really do it. Their 20th anniversary double live album is split evenly between the two. And the electric disc gets pretty violent.

They recorded an acoustic EP, though, before their second record. It had one song, "Sweet William," that was to appear on their next album, how can I sleep? and three others, recorded mostly on June 2, 1992.

It's a lovely record, but it's not a starting point. Go poke around on their Bandcamp page first. Start with the live version of "Idumea." It illustrates a lot of what I like about Cordelia's Dad. After that, come on back and get this.


Now, with that done, the flood will hopefully begin. Let's start with requested re-uploads:
Enon singles:
Enon live in Green Bay:
Supernova singles and live:

Stay tuned, y'all.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lewis Largent had to host when no one else would do it.

When I was a young man, I read Frank Zappa's book, The Real Frank Zappa Book, a number of times. Endless amount of times. I've honestly got most of the thing memorized. It led me down some interesting paths, and introduced an important concept to me: What Is Art? Zappa's theory, via John Cage, was that Art is whatever you say it is. You've just got to put the frame around it, so you can tell it apart from the real world. Doesn't matter what it is itself, whether it's good or bad, anything. If you say it's art, it's Art. An important, freeing concept. Is it empirically true? Nah, probably not. But the idea is important.

In the book, Zappa also presents a fear/idea of Death By Nostalgia. He feared that the cycles of nostalgia, seemingly ever shorter, would eventually slim down to nothing, so that humanity could not take a step without feeling nostalgic for the previous one. Well, luckily enough I suppose, things haven't gotten that bad. Luckily, in fact, because WE ARE GOING TO INDULGE IN SOME SERIOUS NOSTALGIA RIGHT ABOUT NOW.

The year was 1995, and the possibilities were endless. I was 17, and my dreams hadn't been crushed yet. Plus, I didn't have to pay rent. And the music was THE BEST EVER.

Okay, not really. There is, and always has been and will be, good music. But 1995 was a good time for it! Indie was in the mainstream, the waters had yet to reject the oil. And there was a show on Sunday nights, on MTV, called 120 Minutes. It had been around for a while, sure. But one summer, most of the network headed to Florida (or California, or something, who knows) for Spring Break. And 120 Minutes, the weirdo kids who stayed back in New York, had the studio all to themselves. So they spent the summer inviting bands over to play on the show.

Back in 1995, I used to tape almost EVERYTHING. I paid attention, kept lots of blank VHS around, and recorded, knowing that the future me would like to see this shit. And sure enough, I was right. I particularly kept an eye out for the live compilation episodes of 120 Minutes, wherein they'd broadcast performances from a bunch of bands they'd have in the studio. They did it at least twice in 1995, and I had the tape rolling.

It's kind of mindboggling to look back now, and realize there's nothing on TV that really covers this kind of ground, nor how wide. Here you'll find the good (Hum! Radiohead! Shudder To Think!) and the bad (Oasis! Sugar Ray! Goo Goo Dolls!) and the completely forgotten (Complusion? Seed? Love Spit Love?) in a solid cross-section of what was going on aboveground and under. And the good stuff here is SO GOOD. I once had the Spearhead song stuck in my head for a solid week and a half, and never got tired of it. I stole the opening bass riff from the Lush song for a song on our first album, and still have never been called on it. I can see my tastes forming, somewhere in here.

These are mp3 files, from DVD, transferred from VHS. They don't sound pristine, but you can deal with it. They just get a little crackly during the quiet songs (doesn't matter too much, apart from the Tori Amos song.)

1) Weezer - the Sweater Song
2) Bob Mould w/ Lou Barlow - Believe What You're Saying
3) the Jesus and Mary Chain w/ Hope Sandoval - Sometimes Always
4) Iggy Pop - Untouchable
5) Bad Religion - Stranger than Fiction
6) L7 - Stuck Here Again
7) Love Spit Love - Am I Wrong
8) Compulsion - Delivery
9) They Might Be Giants - Snail Shell
10) the Cramps - Ultra Twist
11) Victoria Williams - Crazy Mary
12) Cracker - Get Off This
13) Blur - Parklife
14) Liz Phair - Supernova
15) Sunny Day Real Estate - Seven
16) Grant Lee Buffalo - Mockingbirds
17) Spearhead - People in the Middle
18) Lush - Hypocrite
19) Helmet - Biscuits For Smut
20) MC 900 Ft. Jesus - If I Only Had A Brain
21) Seed - Rapture
22) Luna - California All the Way
23) Oasis - Supersonic



1) Radiohead - Just
2) Toadies - Possum Kingdom
3) Hum - Stars
4) Blind Melon - Galaxie
5) Bush - Come Down
6) Babes in Toyland - Sweet '69
7) the Verve - On Your Own
8) Goo Goo Dolls - Burnin' Up
9) Veruca Salt - Seether
10) Catherine Wheel - Judy Staring at the Sun
11) Alanis Morrisette - Hand in my Pocket
12) Shudder To Think - X French Tee Shirt
13) Better Than Ezra - In the Blood
14) the Charlatans - Just Lookin'
15) Buffalo Tom - Summer
16) Sugar Ray - Mean Machine
17) Tori Amos - Horses
18) Jill Sobule - I Kissed A Girl
19) Smoking Popes - Need You Around
20) Morphine - Honey White
21) Luscious Jackson - Here

No, here.

Yes, I do have video of these, if you really want it. But trust me, they look pretty crappy. Fifteen years on VHS will do that.