Let the Beat Build #32: July 2015
1. “We Can’t Be Beat” - The Walkmen
KW: Somehow I didn’t know the Walkmen are on hiatus. Maybe that’s why they’re on hiatus. I got really into them for the first time shortly after I’d gotten engaged, gone to Puerto Rico, and read The Rum Diary. That’s not probably how most people came to know them. But I can never not imagine them jet-setting to sunny places with glamorous people, while alternating between the beautiful life and near-clinical depression, probably combined with a mild hangover. I just read a great piece about them that brought that somewhat closer to focus. I wasn’t right, but not all wrong either. Anyway, I’m a little sad that they pressed pause. But, like Fugazi, or the Pixies, there’s hope for a glorious reunion.
2. "Wish You Were Here" - Pink Floyd
JW: When I was in middle school, I thought this song was about unrequited love, or an ex that was too free-spirited to stay in one place. Ten years later, I thought it was about a buddy who was a dreamer, a lost friendship, who couldn't truck with conformity. Ten years after that I actually learned about who Syd Barrett was. Now I can't get this out of my head: "did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?"
3. “Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide” - Gravediggaz
KW: I think they’re on hiatus. Maybe not though. There’s something about Gravediggaz, I keep coming back to them lately. With the possible exception of Lil Ugly Mane (who once said all he wanted to do was make Gravediggaz records), Gravediggaz are the only group I can think of right now that really understood what it means to rap about dark, dark, dark shit.
4. "Run The Line" - Peanut Butter Wolf, Rasco
JW: PB Wolf is still making music. Rasco and Planet Asia are still making music. Hip Hop is still putting out good music, but it's fewer, far between and different than what I love. Why this crew stopped making music together was a mystery to me. Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton gave some insight to Wolf's trajectory, but the others? I dunno. They certainly found their complement in Stone’s Throw production. I'm sending up the Bambaat-signal... Bring. Hip. Hop. Back.
5. “I Used to Be (Kolombo Remix)” - Goh vs. Sugarstarr feat. Method Man and Redman
KW: One great thing that’s happening to hip hop is it’s getting harder to tell whether something is supposed to be dance music or hip hop. I heard this in a Juan Maclean mix last summer and lost my shit over it. In a way, whenever a Wu-Tang member does something great now I’m like “why can’t the Wu get their shit together and put out great tracks again?”
6. “Jump Into The Fire” - LCD Soundsystem (live at Madison Square Garden)
JW: I’ve not been sadder to say goodbye to a band. Especially one I’ve loved for such a short time. We couldn’t get tickets to this last show, but did get tickets to the last week at Terminal 5. It was pretty amazing. Pretty emotional. Like the end of Burning Man and other greatest hits. I’ve already written too much about myself. This letter says all you need to know about the loss of this band. And also the goodbye banter at 5:54. And of course the documentary.
7. “19-2000” - Gorillaz
KW: I’ll never like Gorillaz as much as I do when Miho Hatori is on the jam. You know, if they went on hiatus, I probably wouldn’t notice (I didn’t) unless Hatori said something about it. Don’t get me wrong, I like Gorillaz, I just think Hatori is the third kind of heat they need. Cibo Matto (another hiatus + restart) shut down without much comment on why, and got back together without much drama. I’m probably going to bring Cibo Matto back into this in like five seconds. When I think of great, groundbreaking New York bands, the short list always includes Cibo Matto, Beastie Boys, New York Dolls, Suicide, Le Tigre, LCD Soundsystem… All of them went on hiatus in some form, although word is that the Beastie Boys are finished and that’s sad but understandable. I’m really just rambling here. Miho Hatori forever.
8. “Valleys of Neptune” - Jimi Hendrix
JW: Alright, I will put this one on a tee for you. Imagine for a moment what the complete history of Jimi Hendrix’s music would look like if he were alive today. Would there be more Miles Davis? More Rick Rubin? Would he look like Jimmy Page in ‘88? Dylan in ‘80? Vernon Reid? Thom Yorke? Would he have partnered with Norah Jones for a romantic comedy soundtrack? George Clinton? KW: George Clinton, or some other big ass band with lots of horns, seems like the direction he would have gone. JW: Oh no! What if he made an album like Santana!? Jimi + Rob Thomas = sad.
9. “The Noonward Race” - Mahavishnu Orchestra
KW: I remember reading that some people proclaimed John McLaughlin was the future of guitar after Hendrix died. I don’t think that’s true, but damn if this doesn’t sound like “Purple Haze” performed by Miles Davis’ group after they got into a lot of speed. Even the keys bear the mark of Hendrix and Roger Mayer (Hendrix’s guitar effects tech, inventor of the Octavia). I can get down with this. Apparently these guys couldn’t get down with each other and split at least a couple times. JW: This last line is a perfect Pop Up Video caption.
10. “Trouble No More” - The Allman Brothers
JW: Just like Conway Twitty said, “No one EVER expects the Allman Brothers. But they probably got speed.”
11. “GudBuy T’Jane” - Condo Fucks
KW: A song originally by a defunct band and sort of contemporary of the Allmans, but covered by a fake band, which had a fake discography, and a fake reunion record. With tasty guitar and a minimum of speed.
12. "The Hardest Button To Button" - The White Stripes
JW: A stadium band, promoted as a garage band, with a fake relationship. The guitar, it is tasty. The drums, they are accessible. The hype, the influence, the synthesis.
13. “Land Locked Blues” - Bright Eyes
KW: I was never fully onboard with the White Stripes, especially when the hype was deep. I almost missed the boat on Bright Eyes in part because of the hype. But these days I need a lot more Conor + Emmy Lou in my life. This song is a perfect statement--if it were the only reason for the hype, it would be enough. Dayenu. Maybe though, maybe it’s not enough, and the Bright Eyes mantle should be taken up again some day. We’ll see.
14. "Body Rock" - Mos, Q-Tip, Tash
JW: The hype. The hype. The pre-hype. Before Twitter, the bridge between underground and mainstream, between fresh and overhyped (no, let's just say hyped) was the compilation. I also include Funkmaster Flex in here. The purpose was promotion, sure, but goods being sold were actually good. Not just bloated noise for attention. Rawkus Soundbombing (KW: Soundbombing #1, still probably the greatest hip hop compilation of all time). Lyricist Lounge. It was less of a menu of products, and more a roster of that year's varsity team. Dave Chappelle's Block Party was like an alumni game. At the time this song came out, Tash was my favorite. Admittedly, I was in LA. Tribe felt big already, and I'd gotten Ms. Fat Booty on tape single. But I used this wedge to get into Saul Williams, Bahamdia, Ras Kass, J5, Talib Kweli. You'll not see a marketer put talent together like this in the age of the Bonnaroo.
15. “Speechless” - Cibo Matto
KW: For a minute, the world around Cibo Matto was so damn interesting. Beastie Boys, JSBX, Sean Lennon, Le Tigre, a bunch of allstars. I read a James Murphy interview from around that time where they asked him “are there any bands doing everything right?” and he said, “yeah, Le Tigre.” Cibo Matto was my Le Tigre.
16. “Knives Out” - Radiohead
JW: During that minute (and I know I always go back to videos) there were a handful of video directors doing really groundbreaking work. They were, I dare say, Auteurs. You innately knew you were looking at a Spike Jonze, a Chris Cunningham, a Jonathan Glazer. You definitely knew when you were watching a Michel Gondry, especially when the fakers started. His film career had some brightness, but petered out. At its peak, the world around him was super interesting. KW: I’m reminded of Fatboy Slim, "Weapon of Choice" here.
17. “The Rip” - Portishead
KW: How about some Portishead with your Radiohead? Supposedly Radiohead records are so difficult to make that they consider breaking up every time. Or at least that’s what happened with In Rainbows. I don’t know what happened to Portishead but I’m glad they came back.
18. "Kashmir" - Led Zeppelin
JW: Oh, the make out mix tape. I knew a guy, who looked NOTHING like me, who would, on occasion, play Dummy to set the mood. Other people played Dave Matthews, but this guy wanted to have The Attitude. This made me think of Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Damone is giving Rat advice on how to impress his date. "When it comes down to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV." The thing is, side one is is filed with cymbal-pounding amp-rock. Side 2 is a little more mellow, but No Quarter? That's only sexy if you met your date playing D&D. And here's the rub... when Rat goes on his date, he pops a tape into the car stereo, and plays Kasmir. Not a bad choice I think, but it's from the Physical Graffiti album, four years later. You'd think screenwriter Cameron Crowe would be committed to doing that right. Whatever. I miss the culture of make out music.