Thursday, October 25, 2012

Music of My Existence

The CD album, once an item of daily use.
This appeared on Facebook a few years ago as a response to the challenge of name your favorite 15 albums. As I like my list I get to post it here -- my blog, my rules.

The List

Such a task! So much music. I have no scientific method. I reject the “Golden Age” formula which usually lists the big impact albums after musical taste was developed and before kids. These are a sampling, from start to the present, of albums that set me off on a number of profound, ridiculous, profane, sublime, and fanciful directions. I do not stand on this record. If I ever undertake this exercise again I reserve the right to list a completely different set of music. Anyway, this exercise is only for fogies, now it’s all about the playlists.

Songs of the American West -- I remember being able operate the record player myself when I was six or seven, this album becoming a favorite. I wasn’t necessarily in a cowboy phase, but the hearty, sing-a-long quality of these songs caught me.“The Ohio Line” can be conjured in an instant should I need an enthusiastic folk song to ease the swinging of a sledge.

Irish Rovers – Tales to Warm Your Mind -- My parents pushed me into the Rovers for reasons long confused. A good-timey, rollicking romp, almost folkloric. Looking back with an adult’s eye, I realize many of the lyrics were promoting anti-social behavior, although with Gaelic wit and fine musicianship.

Shanana -- From the Streets of New York --  I started to clue in to the larger world of rock ‘n’ roll with this. Images of cars, girls, popularity, summer, gold lamé cowboy boots. The music was straightforward, easily understood doo-wop harmonies.

Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead -- At this stage I was big into the usual British rockers. Intrigued at the unique hybrid of genres, I knew the Dead were a hippie rock act, but it certainly didn’t sound  like anything I’d heard before. “Casey Jones” was the Rosetta Stone, indicating exactly what was going on.

Talking Heads – 77 An anthem of adolescence – we are all misunderstood teenagers, whoops, I mean psycho killers, living in an abstract world that ultimately makes no sense. I had an adenoidal quality to my voice then, which perhaps gave me affinity with David Byrne. 

Repo Man Soundtrack – The word “random” was big in my mind at this point. Whatever that word meant to me then, this album was it. Sort of a primer to Punk with bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Suicidal Tendencies, Iggy Pop. Loud, fast, sarcastic, sometimes in Spanish, this was the ne plus ultra of cool for many years.

Butthole Surfers – Double Live. These guys taught me that art does not have to make any sense whatsoever – it doesn’t have to do anything, just exist. Still, the music had a voyeuristic thrill similar to listening to a curbside psychiatric evaluation at 3:00 am in a dangerous neighborhood.

Cramps – Rockin and Reelin in Auckland New Zealand  -- Simple, passionate, deviant. Lux Interior, a man so at ease with his fetishes as to render a leopard-print G-string as mundane as a homburg and banker’s suit. A man who implied the furthest extremes of something with the hillbilly yodel of “chicken pot pie.” 

Dead Kennedys -- Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. Ramones for adults, or at least left-leaning college students. Sleek hardcore punk with semi-coherent rages against mainstream culture and politics. Nobody does rage like Jello Biafra.

Pixies – Doolittle Abstract to the point of surreal, hard guitars, screechy vocals. This music frees my mind to see failure as triumph, dystopia as paradise. I drew from it the notion that we’re all sent to man some outpost in life, even if we’ve lost contact with home base.

Tom Jones --  Reload  My wife gave me this album as a birthday present before we were married. Each song is a happy memory.

Fat Boy Slim – Halfway between the Gutter and the Stars. Such a fine dance between order and disorder, repetition and ornamentation. So often this album was the motivational soundtrack for a journey or a big night out.

Miles Davis -- Sketches of Spain When wanting to bring a feeling of concentration or thoughtful reflection, this album created such in a matter of moments. Much was dreamed, planned, written due to Davis’s minimalist probing with the trumpet.

Matisyahu -- Live at Stubbs A rap-reggae fusion delivered by a pot-smoking Lubavitcher – hard to go wrong with that combo. The album became morning coffee on weekends in a way I hadn’t expected. The first album in years I actually wanted turned up to audible levels. Underscores the notion that everything stays the same, everything is different.

Dandy Warhols -- Odditorium or Warlords of Mars A quirky pop album that confirms my enjoyment of art rock – snarky, cool, these guys fill the room with subversion and fuzzy guitar chop. Music that makes going to the grocery store poignant with the possibility of transcending quotidian reality into exceptional experience.

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