Let the Beat Build #31: June 2015
1. “I Don’t Know Why (AKA Don’t Know Why I Love You)” - The Rolling Stones
JW: I heard this song for the first time a few years ago. Not sure how I made it that far without hearing it. Why isn’t it on any of the albums in the jukeboxes? The jukeboxes I tells ya!! Anyway, I think this month is for the unexpected songs that rock. Sure, the Stones rock, but Satisfaction doesn’t really rock. Think of this as the “No Stairway To Heaven” playlist. Not necessarily B-Sides, but just stuff that not enough people are thinking about.*
*There is no hard data about the music people are not thinking enough about.
2. “Raspberry Swirl” - Tori Amos
KW: My first instinct was to break out either David Bowie’s first record or Paul McCartney’s Electric Arguments. But then I thought “there will be plenty of time for those guys, who else has gotten all weird rock and roll without getting enough attention?” Tori Amos. Most people have her fixed in Under the Pink, which is a great album, don’t get me wrong. But she did other stuff that was sometimes more interesting. Arrange this song differently and it would have been a great rock and roll stomper--imagine Little Richard or the New York Dolls tearing out this track. She definitely went piano + electronic instead of straight rock, but it fucking moves like a rock song. Another acceptable choice on From the Choirgirl Hotel would be “She’s Your Cocaine,” but “Raspberry Swirl” gets the gold star.
3. “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)” - Concrete Blonde
JW: Did you know Anne Rice’s original name is Howard Allen Frances O’brien? When this song came out I was still riding high on the coolness of Lost Boys. Johnette Napolitano had this strange allure, like the underground cove lair where Michael drinks the blood. She rocked dark dresses and lace and badass hair in her face. Equal parts Stevie Nicks, Edie Brickell, Margo Timmins and Joan Jett, with just a hint of Kim Deal. This band could drive a pulse through you, even though many of their songs were softer and poetic (maybe a little sappy). We’ve talked about struttin’ songs. This is a struttin’-through-a-crowd song.
4. “Shit From An Old Notebook” - Minutemen
KW: In some version of the multiverse, I roll into every crowded room shouting “Let the products sell themselves! Fuck advertising, commercial psychology! Psychological methods to sell should be destroyed!”
5. “Electioneering” - Radiohead
JW: What is what I need? What do I think I think? | I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. | I trust I can rely on your vote.
6. “Institutionalized” - Suicidal Tendencies
KW: I love how this song slips into the chorus, and how it operates on the edge of control in a world the narrator wants us to believe cannot be trusted. But more than anything it reminds me of a boss Suicidal Tendencies baseball hat I lost when I was 15, blown away by the wind while I was drinking beer in the back of a pickup in Texas.
7. “Stay Away” - Nirvana
JW: This song is the hokey pokey of teenage angst and rage. “Turn yourself around… that’s what it’s all about.” Imagine Kurt reenacting the warehouse gymnastics scene from Footloose. Anyway. I just saw the documentary Montage of Heck. It was really powerful in the access it grants to the boy inside the icon. It’s not a mosh pit if you are by yourself, right?
8. “Open” - The Cure
KW: I remember Thurston Moore once saying that Cobain’s music betrayed an obvious desire to be accessible, or catchy. Something like that. Beyond that, I’m not sure what Cobain wanted. I just read the scathing review of Montage of Heck written by one of the Melvins. Maybe the movie didn’t figure that out either. “Open”--a totally underappreciated rock song by one of my favorite, still underrated artists--is about getting lost in what you thought you wanted. I tried to live that too once. This is a slinky beast, in’t it then? JW: It’s funny, he’s spot on, and yet I don’t inherently hate what he hates. Probably because I didn’t live THAT part intimately. I relate to the manufactured Cobain more than any other pop narrative. That doc is still worth seeing.
9. “Something Against You” - The Pixies
JW: “I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it [smiles].” How do we reconcile Black Francis’ desire to be Pop? To be catchy? The Pixies pushed a lot of boundaries, especially when you think about the music that was popular at that time. GN’R, Poison, Lita Ford, Megadeth, Van Halen, The Sugarcubes, Soul Asylum, R.E.M., The Smiths, and New Kids On The Block all had albums released this year. Pixies’ songs each have some technical barb that would get your hand tapping your leg, your head nodding. There was this punk angst, with more poetry. The electricity of a stadium band, but the authenticity of a high school garage band. This can’t be true, but it certainly feels like they made music without any care of pressure from the industry and the outside world. KW: Now you got me in a 1994 Rolling Stone rabbit hole, reading this Liz Phair Q&A.
10. “Yuri-G” - PJ Harvey
KW: I was going to drop “Rid of Me,” which would have made three Steve Albini produced tracks in a row. I’ve never been a big PJ Harvey fan, mostly because I just haven’t been exposed to much of her music outside of 4-Track Demos. This song is awesome. Sleeper hit of the summer. Dig that metronome.
11. “Hot For Teacher” - Van Halen
JW: Ugh, Van Halen. Ugh, Diamond Dave. But, man, I just can’t stop listening to this song. (La Grange + YYZ ) - Jump = HfT. Shit, wait. I shouldn’t be doing math in the summer. KW: X you say? “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts” belongs here, but...
12. “Primal Concrete Sledge” - Pantera
KW: Vinnie Paul said this was their attempt to do “Hot for Teacher.” He also said that “Hot for Teacher” completely changed the game for rock drumming. I used to play this song back in the day. Fucking madness. JW: Is it me? Or is this the same song? KW: On that note, have you heard the new Beck track? Doesn’t it sound familiar?
13. “Sunspots" "March Of The Pigs” - Nine Inch Nails
JW: Hard to compete with Pantera on speed metal. I toyed with With Teeth, which is awesome. But this song should be considered the gateway to goodness. Do what you will with Industrial, and find its core Rock ethos. Piggy would have been good enough, but this song gets me grabbing my makeshift nightstick. KW: Heads up, this was one of your picks on LTBB#8. JW: Dammit. Really? I think I just drunk-dialed this list.
14. “Station to Station” - David Bowie
KW: It’s got a lot of that slinky rock thing going on, like “Sunspots,” but a slow burn. I’ll bet Trent has this as his alarm in the morning, or evening, I guess, because the dude is a vampire.
15. "Coma" - Guns N' Roses
JW: I almost feel bad following the thin white duke with Axl Rose. But there's a complexity and juxtaposition here that is worthwhile. One of the things I love about Bowie is that he imagines characters that are fantastical yet have familiar ways about them. The poetic "throwing darts in lovers' eyes" and the palpable "it's not the side effects of the cocaine. I'm thinking that it must be love". Axl, on the other hand is his living his own fantasy of the suffering wretch, the misunderstood megalomaniac, desireable ubermench. And he wants to be loved. He hates his mom.
16. “I Am A God” - Kanye West
KW: I’ll be damned if you didn’t just describe Kanye. Lou Reed said this is the shit. Well it’s definitely Axl Rose. Sprawling and weird like “Coma.” Also, “as soon as people like you make them unlike you.” Rock and roll. JW: "I can’t figure out why he would do that. It’s like farting. It’s another dare — I dare you to like this. Very perverse."
17. “Young Lust” - Pink Floyd
JW: Bravo on Kanye. Really nailed it. I like how Lou Reed talks about the production. That on its own is fascinating. I don’t know that I equate proof of talent/proof of effort as a full license to be esoteric or bait your audience. I don’t argue with the highlights of Kanye’s talent, but I really dislike a number of his choices. I don’t think that makes me a hater, but so often we’re asked to be one or the other. I can’t think of a more self-involved star without going backwards, so I won’t. This altitude and isolation made me think of The Wall. Bob Geldof portrays a deep 70’s version of the troubled rock demigod. Here’s the scene before the real madness. In some ways it’s hard to believe this is hyperbole. Imagine if they remade this movie in the 90’s with Axl or the ‘10’s with Kanye. Oh wait, they made their own! November Rain. We Were Once A Fairytale.
18. “Rock And Roll Heart” - Lou Reed
KW: I got a little mired while trying to figure out the right record to drop here. I feel like the crowd is looking for something that represents what happened on Friday. Also a party jam. Also an underappreciated jukebox favorite. I don’t know if this is the right pick in every dimension, but I finally dug out Lou Reed’s “Rock And Roll Heart.” I don’t know much about mid seventies Reed (can’t wait for the Will Hermes bio that is being written right now) but this one shines out of what was probably a dark time for him. Do what you love. Love who you love. Also that guitar wants to do things to you, and you’re into it, it don’t matter what the government says.
19. "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" - Elton John
JW: I'm with you kid. This is what my gut tells me to play in response. Response to Friday. Response to shining in dark times. Response to finding more fight in you, despite what they say is alright.