Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hypothetical mixtape: March 2012

Coming not exactly hot on the heels of our February 2012 hypothetical mixtape, here is what we cooked up, or reheated, for March. Um, that would be March of last year.

"The Motorcade Sped On", by Double Dee & Steinski & Mass Media. It starts with these things: the introduction to the Johnny Carson show. The opening chord of "A Hard Day's Night". JFK. Three gun shots. A news bulletin. All in very rapid succession, such that, if you were listening in 1985, you really would not have had any musical framework into which to place it. It also would have been deeply confronting to anyone with personal connections to the assassination or who had been old enough in 1963 to have been scarred by it. I wasn't even born then, but I still find the track, even at this late date, surprisingly affecting. It also paved the way, eventually, for DJ Shadow's "...endtroducing" (among other things), and so has a cultural legacy of its own.

"Driving Away From Home (Wicked Weather For Walking)", by It's Immaterial. There are several songs that, throughout the earlier, less self-assured, years of my life, I harboured an affection for that was deep but secret. They were songs that I didn't think fit the way I saw myself, or more likely the way I wanted others to see me. "Rio", by Mike Nesmith. "Baker Street", by Gerry Rafferty. "Wicked Game", by Chris Isaak. "Driving Away From Home" is another one, and one, I must admit, that I had completely forgotten. I still like it. (I still like all those others, too. And now I don't even care who knows it. [Insert blogging as self-psychotherapy alert here.])

"I Don't Know Why I Love You", by British Electric Foundation. From the less well-known second volume of their "Music of Quality and Distinction". Featuring the one, the only, Green Gartside on vocals. When your young grandchild says to you, many years from now, "What did the eighties sound like, grampa?", you will play this, and they will know. (So it was released in 1991. It's still eighties to the core.) What's that you say? There's an extended version? Oh crap. [Cranks up the Google.]

"I Keep Mine Hidden", by The Smiths. And, speaking of the eighties: ooh, look, a Smiths song that doesn't seem to have appeared on any of the 25,000 (and counting) Smiths compilations that continue to litter the countryside. B-side of "Sweet and Tender Hooligan", apparently. Warning: contains whistling.

"Exactly Nothing", by Real Estate. We can always get excited about a Real Estate b-side. This is a song (and Real Estate a band) that probably, at some level, wouldn't have existed without The Smiths. I really like what Real Estate can do with guitars within the framework of the humble pop song. They can give a song both air and density at the same time, which is kind of a neat trick.

"Imaginary Girl", by The Silver Seas. The piano makes you think "Ben Folds Five", only I never much cared for Ben Folds Five. In my ideal world, every time you switched on your car radio this would be playing.

"Friend Zone", by Spectrals. We've said it before and we'll say it again: everything sounds better with reverb.

"Goldilocks Zone", by Grass Widow. Conveys the spirit of Electrelane (and, perhaps, The Raincoats) sufficiently well that how could we say no? It's the guitars, innit?

"Ohio / Machine Gun", by The Isley Brothers. Sometimes a piece of music has to go for nine minutes in order to find the sweet spot. The Isleys here take two anti-'Nam/Civil Rights Movement talismans, fuse them together, and travel so far into The Zone that there ain't no coming back.

"Police On My Back", by The Equals. Another anti-establishment song, then. At first blush it sounds a bit stilted in comparison with the agit-punk of The Clash's cover. But stick with it. Who knows, you may end up preferring it this way.

"Miss You", by The Rolling Stones. What have we here? Only the second-most ridiculous thing you ever heard: not just The Rolling Stones, but The Rolling Stones in a "Special Disco Version". The third-most ridiculous thing you ever heard? It works! Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts really come into their own over this song's 8.5 minutes. (You have to try to ignore M*ck J*gg*r. But you've been successfully doing that for the last 30 years anyway so that shouldn't be too hard. Focus instead on the electric piano.)

"Pacific State", by 808 State. Having sat through a lifetime of Dancing Stones, you need to have your palate cleansed. This will do nicely.

"Movie Show Dubwise", by Junior Delahaye. Okay. It goes like this. In the 1970s, heyday of dub and roots reggae, Lloyd "Bullwackie" Barnes recorded and released, on the Wackie's label, a bunch of crucial reggae tracks before relocating to New York, where he continued to do much the same thing. In the early '00s a couple of likeminded Germans, Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus, who had already been responsible for practically the only post-early-'80s reggae worth listening to (they understood the essential yin-and-yangness of bass and space) under the Rhythm & Sound moniker, undertook a spit-and-polish reissue programme of a choice selection of Wackie's material. It holds up particularly well, and it is hard to argue that old-school dub has ever sounded better. This is a good example. Its A-side, "Movie Show", also appears on an album called "Showcase", which I have, and which is as good a place to start as any.

"Domina (Carl Craig's Mind Mix)", by Maurizio. As fate would have it, this, too, is the handiwork of Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus, subtly tweaked by that man Carl Craig. While this may not fall under the rubric of "reggae", it, too, has bass and space. In quantity.

"Kohoutek-Kometenmelodie (Parts 1 and 2)", by Kraftwerk. Somebody took this 1973 (i.e. pre-"Autobahn") seven-inch single from Kraftwerk, fused both sides together into one long track, and gave it up to the internet. And we thank them for it.