Tuesday, October 31st, 2006
Joe requested we write lists of 7 songs that changed our lives. Coming up with 7 was impossible. So I (more or less) separated it by age group. For better or for worse- here it is…
Things started happening fast. Minor Threat made me understand Hardcore. They spoke to me in the same language I spoke in. This led me into New York, Â to the Hardcore Matinees at CBGBâ€™s. A NY band that only played one matinee that I recall (Easter Sunday with New Republic) was the mighty trio known as Urgent Fury. Their singer/bassist Abe Rodriguez was the voice of an alternative Hardcore that went beyond the NYHC goonishness. He expressed dissatisfaction with the scene and with the aggressive military stance of the U.S. government. If more then several hundred people were aware of Urgent Fury they could have been Americaâ€™s answer to the Clash. The song â€˜Cogâ€™ warned me of the next stage of my life. While playing tribute to the worker. â€œSlaving hard for a minimum wage as a master thief steals your life away and your life goes by chained to a desk a production line and you get no rest oh this is for the working man take a bow take a bow mr. working manâ€. Husker Du internalized all those feelings of being uncomfortable in ones body, of post-adolescence, the fear of disappointing your parents. Bob Mould was specifically speaking of issues of sexuality, but it could be related on a much deeper level. The album â€˜Zen Arcadeâ€™ where this track is taken from was really my soundtrack to High School. Husker Du was the perfect lead in to what came next…
It could be said Urgent Fury politicized me. Crass radicalized me. This was totally an English thing but it was so clear it felt like it came from my backyard. This music came out during the Falkland Islands War and it wasÂ a shock listening to a band so openly attack its government. This was going beyond folk music or even political punk. This band was all but openly calling for Revolution. Again, I heard this music a couple years after the fact but its power never wavered. That the vocals could be so raw yet so poetic. From obscenity to …to images of flowers in fields. What could come next? (Ah, that is exactly what they were asking). What is criminally ignored about Crass is their music. People focus too much on the lyrics (and oh ok, iâ€™m sure this is a band where the lyrics came first) but its music was weird and experimental and you really didnâ€™t know where things were headed. This band has been totally ignored in the punk histories and this is wrong.
Out of nowhere Happy Go Licky rose up from the ashes of Rites of Spring. With the exact same line-up as RoS they had totally changed their style. A complete 180 from the sincere proto-emo of RoS, they surprised everyone with a 5 song 12â€ packaged in a manila envelope. This changed my concept of the idea of the song. As there were NO songs per se, just â€œjagged dancceableâ€ (in your death disco) â€sheets of noiseâ€. (as Mark Anderson described it in the book â€˜dance of daysâ€™.) Happy Go Licky rarely practiced, they relied on intuition and smarts and an art school aesthetic that colored it all in. They did not record in a studio, the tracks on the ep (later expanded into an amazing cd on dischord with 21 tracks, Â some repeated in different versions-they never played the same song the same way twice) are culled from their 6 or so live shows. these songs are moments that occured and will never occur again. â€˜White Linesâ€™ is actually a cover of the Melle Mel song. But HgL idea of covering a song was the bass player would play the bassline as best as he could from remembering the original and the rest of the would let their guitars shriek and yell out lyrics of the song they could remember- â€œtake me higher babyâ€, â€œfreebaseâ€, â€œcrystal eyesâ€, â€œblown awayâ€. almost like a cut up of the lyrics. It was an amazing thing.
Another out of nowhere band was Slint. They showed how to strip down the sound to its bare essentials. I think Steve Albini said Slintâ€™s drummer, Britt Walford (later in first lineup of The Breeders, the one that made the amazing â€˜Podâ€™ album) was the thing that made him a great drummer was that he knew when not to play. â€˜Good Morning, Captainâ€™ takes you on a slow burn for 6 months, you hear a long story of a shipwreck or a dream until suddenly the music rises and Brian McMahon starts screaming â€œI MISS YOU!!!â€ over and over again as the song fades to its cruel end.
7. Ages late 20s to present
My Bloody Valentine â€˜To Here Knows Whenâ€™, Dead C â€˜Helen Said Thisâ€™
This is a song I heard in 1991 when I bought the â€˜Lovelessâ€™ album. But this is a song I carry with me wherever I go. The guitars and vocals are blur into one and the music shifts and leaves you woozy. Its the sound of a dream and I canâ€™t think of anything else like it. So many bands tried to emulate them and though many great bands (and a whole bunch of lousy ones) came in their wake, no one sounded like them.
This Dead C track is another song I heard before 30 but I cannot get away from it. There is nothing so raw. Guitar as noise, drums like falling down a staircase and Michael Morley imploring â€œHelen she said/Helen she said/Helen she said/I donâ€™t need you…
Time, I absolve myself of your vow to vanquish me.