If you had an Internet connection, were sentient, and had sufficiently poor grasp on what are the important things in life, you, too, could have constructed the following mix tape (June 2006 edition):
Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy”: is this the greatest radio song ever? Well, I can’t think of anything that would best it. It is almost as if the greatest pop moments of the last, what, 40 years had been absorbed into this one definitive three-minute perfect storm. It could have been made at any time over those 40 years and not have seemed out of place. I am not worthy.
Go Home Productions, “Papa Was A Clock (The Temptations vs Coldplay)”: perhaps not so surprising that the only song that could credibly hold its own with “Crazy” is something that doesn’t quite exist. We don’t much care for Coldplay, but by taking out those vocals and replacing them with one of the all-time greats you actually end up with something little short of wonderful.
Devo, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”: it’s funny, but the last two songs for some reason make me think of “Bittersweet Symphony”, which makes me think of the Rolling Stones, and how they went the corporate heavy over that song’s use of ... well, you know the story. So why not follow up with this Devolution of the Rolling Stones, featuring the most counterintuitive drumming known to man.
Bobby Bland, “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City”: and if we’re going to hate, we may as well play a song about no love.
Martin and the Moondogs, “Tropical Loveland”: and if there ain’t no love in the city, we may as well heed the call of Martin Phillips to choof off to his tropical loveland. (If you thought it was the height of “irony” for Abba to record a song about a tropical paradise, how about having that song covered by a bunch of reprobates from Dunedin, which may be as far from paradise as it is possible to get (geographically speaking only).) From an album of Abba songs covered by sundry New Zealand luminaries.
The Gist, “Love At First Sight”: and if you went to a tropical loveland you may find “love at first sight”. This, if I remember rightly, was Stuart Moxham’s first foray into the solo world post-Young Marble Giants. I have the album, “Embrace The Herd”, tucked away somewhere in my collection, unlistened to for many years. I have to say, hearing this song in the early 21st century gives me the odd sensation that I may have obtained my copy 23 years before its actual recording. It sounds in no way dated. Did Richard Thompson play on the album? That is something I will have to look into.
The Marine Girls, “A Place In The Sun”: I think we’ve taken the thematic approach way far enough for now, and it would have been too obvious to connect “a place in the sun” with a “tropical loveland”. So we won’t. What we will do, however, is point out the absurdity that Carl, the eight-year-old, has developed an obsession with this song, and has most likely listened to it more times in the last few weeks than the total number of times it was listened to by the total number of people who listened to it when it first came out. We can’t work out what he hears in it; it has no big air-guitar moments or dancefloor potential. He’s a good boy.
Hydroplane, “We Crossed The Atlantic”: full disclosure - Bart is one of the nicest people we know. And my mum knew Andrew’s mum when they were girls. None of which detracts from the indisputable fact that this song, this beautiful drifting thing, can, and does, more than stand on its own two feet. As featured (if I remember rightly) on John Peel’s Festive Fifty.
Ulrich Schnauss, “Suddenly The Trees Are Giving Way”: shimmering electronic beauty from somewhere in Europe from the recent past; and yet it follows on nicely from Hydroplane, adding to the sense of drift one of those simple drum patterns that Hydroplane used on some of their more (relatively) kinetic numbers.
Ratata, “Liv Utan Spanning”: bring your own umlauts. I bet you didn’t know there was a Scandinavian Ultravox.
Shimura Curves, “I Am Not Afraid”: this slice of gorgeously brittle pop has, buried in it, a nice trace of vintage Flying Nun. (The Dunedin sound is cropping up everywhere these days; viz. the latest Mojave 3 album.) There is a guitar line in here, too, that I’m sure I’ve heard somewhere before, which is driving me nuts.
Seelenluft, “I Come Along (Joakim Dub)”: I’m not quite sure why I chose to single this out from the seemingly endless parade of good electronic music coming out of Europe, but in terms of the sounds employed it cannot be faulted.
The Others, “I Can’t Stand This Love, Goodbye”: from the jungle (heh) to the garage, this comes from the Nuggets school of do-it-yourself proto-punk, and is as infectious as all heck.
Los Impalas, “Love Grows A Flower”: a slower, slightly trippier version of the above, the result, no doubt, of ingestion of the appropriate substances. If songs like this had been better received in their day, there would have been no need for progressive rock to have been invented; but then, there would have been no need for the jams to be kicked out by punkers either, so lets not go there.
The Master’s Apprentices, “Rio De Camero”: and some home-grown homegrown, if you know what I mean.
The Kinks, “Waterloo Sunset”: it is too easy to take the existence of a song like this for granted and never really listen to it. I did the same thing with “Ride A White Swan”. My bad. There may be no better evocation of a particular time and place.
Jeremy Warmsley, “5 Verses (demo)”: okay, it may be cheap, but believe me it’s not nasty, to play this after the Kinks, who are an obvious reference point for this gorgeous slice of English pop; fashioned, it seems, by the human voice, understated post-punk-era guitar, cheap keyboards, and a seriously over-amped drum machine.
Mulatu Astatqe, “Mulatu”: fresh from his uncovering by Jim Jarmusch in his beautiful most recent film, “Broken Flowers”. It is easy to understand Jarmusch’s love for this guy: his music is entirely simple, charming and uplifting.
Dandolo, “Fire Breathing (Shit Robot Remix)”: which amounts, in essence, to one goddamn propulsive bass-line repeated ad infinitum or until the bass player’s fingers fall off. But what a bass-line. And with just the right amount of bleeps and washes threading under, around and over the top of it. What will they think of next?
Well, that's it for now. We're off to Sydney, sans kids, for the week to learn how to make our home, and perhaps the world, comfortable and inviting for an eight-year-old on the autism spectrum. Plus, I have a brand new credit card and an expectation of bringing home more than a little John Zorn product.