Archive for June, 2009


Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #72


It’s been a long week, and I think we all need a little dance. And I will try to forget that I can’t be anywhere else more fun for the weekend. Especially at Glastonbury. Watching Blur. After reading glowing reviews of their recent gigs here and here, I’m feeling those common pangs of jealousy that I don’t live on that side of the Atlantic. Not to mention the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Echo & the Bunnymen, Ladyhawke, Bat For Lashes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Calvin Harris, 2ManyDJs, Art Brut, British Sea Power, The Japanese Popstars, The Mummers, Filthy Dukes, Bishi, Bloc Party and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are also performing chez Michael Eavis. I’m not even there to watch it on the live television broadcast this time. Oh well. At least I scored a pretty nice ticket for the Billy Bragg gig here in November.

This mix is called Let’s Dance the Blues.

Zero (MSTRKRFT Remx) – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

I’m So L.A. – Mynx

Dance to Our Disco – Punks Jump Up

Kiss ‘n Fly – Surkin

Vulture – Patrick Wolf

Where Have the Club Kids Gone – The Mystic Underground

The Things That Dreams Are Made Of (Kissy Sellout Mix) – The Human League

Bulletproof – La Roux

Taken Away (Frederick Carlsson Remix) – Digitalism

Audacity of Huge – Simian Mobile Disco

1901 (Fabian Remix) – Phoenix

Body Packer – Love-Fine

See the Light (Calvin Harris Remix) – The Hours

Neo-Violence (Shazam Remix) – The Tough Alliance

Smack My Bitch Up – The Prodigy

Chinball Wizard (Cadence Weapon Remix) – The Wet Secrets

Listen to the Hiss (Tiefschwarz Remix) – DJ Hell

Beep Beep Beep – Tiga

Hazel – Junior Boys

Fixin’ to Thrill (Don Diablo Remix) – Dragonette

Tiptoe – Goldfrapp

Weekly Mix #72 (Megaupload)


Michael Jackson, Media Convergence and The Decline of the Global Superstar

I’m hesitant to contribute to the disgusting, inane circus that has been in motion since Michael Jackson died, but perhaps it’s a way into larger issues. Of interest to me is the (multi)media coverage surrounding this event and the idea of global, musical superstardom. The last time I remember witnessing this kind of coverage and global attention over a death was for Princess Diana. While at least a few hours were devoted to Michael Jackson’s death as “breaking news” on CBC’s Newsworld channel on the day he died, the first fifteen minutes of the CTV evening news broadcast the following night (in addition to at least five minutes more specifically about his autopsy and a couple minutes celebrating his career at the very end of the broadcast) was still devoted solely to Michael Jackson. My reaction to all of this coverage is still frustration and disgust; the world does not stop when a celebrity dies, and it is completely self-indulgent and useless to cover it to this extent, not to mention the hypocrisy of praising a man that was mercilessly derided and/or ignored for the last third of his life.

However, this time, Facebook, Twitter, texting, YouTube, and even Google as a whole, were also jammed with messages to crashing point. And that lengthy breaking news broadcast on CBC Newsworld was greatly bolstered by reports from not only so-called experts in the field, but also from sources like Twitter and Facebook. The mass media’s dependence on new media, especially of this nature, is pointing to a new media convergence that is both liberating and alarming. Do we need this many perspectives to contend with, and how much is verified before stated on air? Immediacy in any breaking event is always a waste of time because details will settle and change, and these social networking platforms are probably the most immediate forms of media there ever were. The crash of these technology-based social networks ostensibly shows an active rather than passive collectivity, meaning rather than experiencing a historical moment together via the exact same channels (limited to a few mass media networks), people wanted to reach out and create their own moment, their own reportage and rapport; however, this crash of systems also points to some intense displays of cultural capital, something a lot of these social networks are built upon. The reasons for this unprecedented crash are likely manifold, but it then raises the issue of the subject matter that prompted it.

The Pitchfork obituary makes some interesting, valid points about Michael’s role as a superhero and then as a cartoon. There’s something about his level of success and fame that made him completely unreal, and most people’s reactions to his death confirm it. There seems to be a lack of belief that this could possibly happen. I first heard about it while at a bookstore; a worker was running around the store telling his colleagues that Michael Jackson was dead, and everyone he told initially brushed it off with a nonchalant “You’re kidding.” And most reactions caught by the media and personal new media are ones of shock, as though Michael Jackson was always there and would always be there like some immortal. Where did this sense of superhuman come from?

Despite his earlier success in the 70s as part of The Jackson 5, there was something very essentially 1980s about the creation of Michael Jackson; he was a fixture of the cultural zeitgeist by being a brand and an overblown music video aesthetic in a nascent globalization. It’s no coincidence that his career glory years were bracketed by that money-hungry, visually loud decade. He was the living embodiment of the “American Dream” and represented all of the nation’s ideals and hopeful potential: rags-to-riches, creative innovation, celebration of the individual and his/her achievements, erasure of racial barriers. It’s when he started erasing his own race that he began reflecting a different side of America: self-destructive excess, worship of the artificial, delusions of grandeur, mob mentality and tabloid fascination with the grotesque and “different.” I firmly believe there won’t be another global musical superstar like Michael Jackson; not because no one will ever be as talented or exceed his level of talent, but that the media climate will never be so conducive to producing one ever again. Nor a shockwave like this.

The world is imploding into fractured pieces as much as people want to believe that the web of the Internet is pulling us closer together in a global village. No artist can hope to have the same impact Michael Jackson and even other, less famous, 80s pop stars had worldwide. Our sources for information and entertainment are divided into niches and people are increasingly creating their own information channels and entertainment. We are now all living in pockets that are dominated by cult artists, or we get bombarded by too many mainstream artists to care too deeply. Marketing ploys have made most of us very cynical and suspicious, making it a massive challenge to maintain brand loyalty. So many things are free and immediate that we don’t place too much value on anything or anyone. We are so easily connected and space and time have been so effectively tamed, we stopped feeling awe at sharing cultural objects and moments. Live 8 was by no means as culturally significant and as historically memorable as Live Aid.

In addition to his representation of America and the multiple channels through which he was sold and promoted, Michael Jackson’s global superstardom was a product of the fact he was non-threatening, a characteristic that often defines the genre of music he was purported king of. In spite of some of the bizarre, hard-edged, or spooky performances he gave in his music videos, there was always something of a child playing at adult roles about him; he wasn’t really going to fight in the streets, he was playing dress-up to be “bad,” and when he attacks you as a zombie it’s all in the name of make-believe. His Peter Pan syndrome, which ultimately became an exercise in entrapment and self-harm, spoke to a deep-seated, sometimes unhealthy, need for the rest of us to remain youthful and responsibility-free just like the myriad advertisements told us to be. And like mean-spirited children, the media and large parts of the public took part in the incessant bullying and gleeful picking and poking at Michael Jackson. By disintegrating and rotting with excess and mental illness, he showed us our face in the mirror more than any trite song ever could. And we didn’t like it. We only like to see the positive side of the zeitgeist. It was all fun and games until we lost an idol.

I probably shouldn’t be surprised that the most blogged about artists on The Hype Machine for the last few days have been Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5; however, after having read through many posts about him, I am a bit surprised how overwhelmingly positive and sympathetic they are. It’s as though people are desperate to forget the fact he hasn’t been top-of-mind for so long and hasn’t been at the top of his game for so much longer. And considering I’ve rarely seen Michael Jackson tracks posted on the blogs that are part of The Hype Machine, it somehow feels a little bit like too little too late. He had become so beyond comprehension, and we were all so desensitized to outrageous behaviour, that the media couldn’t even be bothered with him anymore – for all intents and purposes he had disappeared off the radar, even after announcing the continuing excesses of the 50-date O2 engagement. He had figuratively died a slow death for the past twenty years.

True to Morrissey’s Paint a Vulgar Picture, the response of unprecedented spiking sales for Michael Jackson music, downloads and otherwise, just seems more cynical than celebratory to me. There’s something tawdry about this financial tribute, and as with the amount of people coming forward with texts, tweets, and posts, I begin to wonder how much is genuine and how much of it is just not wanting to be left out. It’s yet another part of why I was reluctant to write this post at all.

In the global reaction to his death, it seems people are most sad because of nostalgia and ties to their own youth. I was born in the same year of Thriller’s release, but I obviously still grew up being very aware of Michael Jackson. My awareness of his music was probably first through the Dangerous album, which some of my friends and/or family members had, and the song Black or White, which always seemed to be playing at the roller rink when I was a child. I also have vague memories of seeing the Thriller video at a young age (maybe at Halloween), and back when music television still showed music videos, I would watch 80s weekends, which were dominated by Madonna, Duran Duran, and of course, Michael Jackson. Videos like Billie Jean, Beat It and Thriller became iconic to me at a later date, but they did still form part of that cultural touchstone in a way that I can’t imagine any music video becoming now. There’s no doubt that I love the music videos that my favourite artists are producing, but the likelihood that I could mention them to anyone else in the world and have them understand and know what I’m talking about is remote. They will never become global reference points, nor will they create moments of waiting for a music video world premiere like the one above this post. I’m by no means some huge Michael Jackson fan, and I wouldn’t consider him among my musical heroes, but I definitely acknowledge that Thriller is and was an important album, and Billie Jean is still genuinely one of my favourite songs.

As a society, we project a lot onto celebrities, but you can’t be a global superstar if the globe ceases to have any meaningful weight as a concept. The very networks that heralded his death to crashing point are the very same technology that is heralding the death of global superstardom. After all, Michael Jackson didn’t change the world, he merely reflected it. He was the King of Pop, but when all the world is a popularity contest, it’s impossible to crown another one. The world’s stage is groaning under the surplus of “stars.” There will never be another Michael Jackson because the world is a different place.

Billie Jean – Michael Jackson

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough – Michael Jackson


Life Inside Quotation Marks: Jarvis Cocker’s “Further Complications”


I love Jarvis Cocker. Ever since I first saw him doing some limp-wristed clapping in the music video for Common People back when I was a teenager, I’ve thought he’s one of the most attractive men in the universe. NHS spectacles and all. And his music hasn’t really ever disappointed me whether in Pulp or on his own. While Cocker had come to success relatively late for rockstar timelines, his maturity has only brought well-honed depth to his music and lyrics, and he never seems to go out of fashion because he never really was in fashion (okay, maybe for a couple of Britpop years of insanity, but even then, he always appeared to be on the fringes of laddish battle between Blur and Oasis, and he was one of the only Britpop survivors who appears to regret the whole thing). He’s like a particularly fantastic thrift shop find – sometimes a little retro, sometimes a little bizarre, sometimes a little cheap. It’s been a mixed bag of reviews for “Further Complications”, his Albini-produced follow-up to 2006’s Jarvis; some have been confused by the more “rock” direction, some have found Cocker to be a bit too pervy. Oddly enough, I’ve never found Cocker very perverted despite the longtime obsession with sex and its pathetic and/or seedy derivations in his music. It’s his frank, witty take on sex and its varieties and mundanities that make him a fascinating artist and social commentator. As the cover art suggests, Cocker is often a bit bent out of shape, the legendary “misshape,” in fact, and these pipecleaner turnpikes in his view of society and in his work are a large part of his appeal. And because you’re never quite sure about what’s around the corner, Cocker cannot be taken completely seriously nor dismissed lightly. You never quite know when he’s smuggling a tongue in his cheek.

The album begins with the title track as it crashes in with dischordant thrashing before drums and bass get going. Telling the story of the further complications we experience after leaving the womb, this song is filled with Cocker’s signature wit and flair with language and metaphor. The chorus compares life to a carrier bag, which if filled with crap, will snap at the straps, and if too empty, will just blow away; for someone like me who suffers through social interactions on a daily basis and constantly wonders about her life choices and compromises, this song is reassurance in much the same way The Smiths’ Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now always was. By the end of the song, Cocker’s voice is breaking, whooping and thrashing, adding an instability to the song. Angela sounds a bit 60s garage, and uses a great deal of lyric repetition about a twenty-three-year-old woman who works for 4.50 an hour. Some phrases like “I feel the sap rising tonight” and “overzealous hand” may make people a bit uncomfortable; I personally find them quite funny and sad. Pumping with odd robotic sound effects and a surf rock feel, the following track, Pilchard blows through over a minute before Cocker comes in with reverby “ow’s,” and that’s as articulate as he gets for this largely instrumental song.

Filled to the brim with “guilt and self-loathing,” Leftovers is one of my favourites on the album. Against a slightly country-tinged feel, the great lyrics just keep coming in this song as Cocker throws out puns and intertextual references to his own past. Cocker is no longer meeting girls at St. Martin’s, instead he sings, “I met her in the Museum of Paleontology/I make no bones about it” before comparing himself to a dinosaur. He’s always had that ability to give you unexpected turns-of-phrase with a delivery full of comic timing, turning whatever came before on its head (see: “Do you wanna sleep with common people…Like me…She didn’t…Understand”). A string of such odd corners comes with: “He says he loves you like a sister/well, I guess that’s relative/He says he wants to make love to you, but instead of “to,” shouldn’t that be ‘with’?”. While this track could be taken as another creepy come-on from an older man to a younger girl, I think it’s more top-notch self-deprecation from a character who is hopeless, but craves some sort of tangible connection; a lonely man without much to offer but his grammar tips and deft wordplay. He follows this song up with I Never Said I Was Deep, a soulful ballad that makes me think of Lloyd Cole’s melodies. There are more droll phrases as he becomes an utterly unappealing male stereotype with honest admissions about stupidity that play off those men who proudly affirm stereotypes. He sings lines like “I am profoundly shallow/My lack of knowledge is vast and my horizons are narrow” and “I’m not looking for a relationship/Just a…willing receptacle.” The song’s narrator is so repulsive that he becomes an entertaining parody.

I’m not as fond of Homewrecker! as I am of the rest of the album – like Pilchard, it has a large instrumental lead-in, and its lyrics just don’t seem as substantial as Cocker is capable of. There’s a lot of saxophone and bluster, but it doesn’t seem to amount to much. Hold Still returns to a more subdued ballad format, and is actually quite touching in its metaphor and storytelling of losing hold and control of a relationship and desperately wanting to keep things as they are. Cocker’s voice quavers as he tries to keep life from spiralling away from him, making a line like “We’re cosmic dust, but you’re everything to me” seem all the sadder and more poignant. Coming in with some of that oft-cited “rock” influence, Fuckingsong has a monster riff and snarls and buzzes of feedback. The song takes on a double meaning as both a song about sex, but also as a profanity-inducing, frustratingly hollow replacement for the real thing. Caucasian Blues is a glammy romp with screaming, breathless vocals, and with its American influence, it feels a bit like Aladdin Sane if he were more self-aware and ironic. Sample lyrics include:

And so you finally took the plunge
And got into blues rock
And you like to give to charity
Because it’s easier to patronize
Than face the facts and now

I’ve heard it said
That you are hung like a white man

This self-mockery and reversal of racial stereotypes is refreshing, and it pokes further fun at being middle-aged and hopelessly “unhip.” Mellowing out again, the track, Slush, is filled with icy metaphors with the repeated chorus of “my heart melted at your touch, turned into slush.” While, at first glance, this song seems like a sweet song about being saved by the love of another, it then has lyrics that compare the lover’s influence to a blanketing snowstorm, culminating in the rather depressing line, “I barely recognize who or where I am.” And slush isn’t exactly the most appealing metaphor for love – it’s usually dirty and a messy leftover of winter. This song feels like the ultimate loss of oneself in love . There’s a strangled howl at the climax of the song, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s the sound of Cocker choking on his insincerity. Cocker seems to have always had a bit of disco on his mind (Death Goes to the Disco, Disco 2000), and in the last song of the album, You’re in My Eyes (Discosong), he reasserts himself as the sardonic disco king in this slow-burning, groovy tune. In the low, nearly spoken-word parts, he sounds like Barry White…if he were a weedy white man in elbow patches. From Sheffield. And I would definitely fall for him. Like many of the songs on this record, it’s not straightforward and its honesty can creep up on you. The opening lyrics are:

Grey floaters inside my eyes
And visible when you look into a clear blue sky
Memories of days gone by activated by a mirror ball shining bright
In a provincial disco on a Thursday night

You appeared from nowhere beside me on the floor
Identical in every detail to the way you were before
The best part of a decade since you went out of my life
The worst part of a decade, and here you are tonight
By my side

There’s reminiscence of lost youth in this song, but it is grounded in a reality of provincial discos and marred by the deterioration of aging eyes. The mind can’t be trusted and the memories are likely refracted by the disco ball glare, but that same need that makes Cocker sound pervy in other songs is present here in a less visceral, grasping sexual urgency, and is, thus, probably more palatable to people. And could be mistaken for love rather than lust.

This album somehow befits Cocker’s age; in some ways, it’s the ultimate soundtrack to a mid-life crisis. It’s about loss and self-loathing and reflection on the breaking down of a half-life. And though there is no doubt a hint of Cocker himself in these lyrics, he has always been able to adopt a variety of narrative guises, saying what so many of us are thinking and revealing things that so many of us are doing, but with an extra meaning hiding beneath an often dark, sooty patina of wit. He lives so well inside those quotation marks that we can often forget that they’re there. Jarvis Cocker can be many memorable characters at once, and no matter how socially misshapen and/or extreme they are, he is magnetic at the core. He can still be a voyeuristic boy hiding in a closet watching his friend’s sister. He can still be that curmudgeon that was beaten to death by obese children for his mobile phone. He can chase girls half his age at a dinosaur museum. He is still complicated. And I love him.

Leftovers – Jarvis Cocker

I Never Said I Was Deep – Jarvis Cocker


The Sanity of Slumber: The Mummers’ Tale To Tell

The Mummers Tale to Tell

Over a month ago, I was watching the first episode of the current series of Later…With Jools Holland, and my ears perked up at the sounds coming from Brighton-based band, The Mummers. Vocalist/songwriter, Raissa Khan-Panni, exuded playfulness with her melodica at her lips, as the miniature orchestra produced a ramshackle rhapsody behind her. Quirky, offbeat and magical are often overused terms for artists like this (I, myself, have probably overused them), and it becomes difficult not to make comparisons to female singer-songwriters like Kate Bush and Bjork, two artists who often make you feel like you fell down a rabbit hole. But as their medieval name suggests, The Mummers do have an otherworldy, ad hoc performance troupe quality to them, and their music definitely evokes marching bands, circuses and fairgrounds, which can all be rather magical and childlike. And all the while, Khan-Panni’s lyrics definitely weave a web of old-fashioned storytelling.

March of the Dawn, which was played on Jools Holland, lives up to its title with a gentle march, including muted trumpets and bubbles of strings. One of the most memorable lines in this paean to renewal is “Someone said we end before we begin,” and the theme of eschewing the outside world and telling one’s own tale makes its first appearance in this song. Wake Me Up, the other selection performed on Jools Holland, sounds like a circus pantomime with moments of hush interspersed with soaring trumpet interludes and plucked strings. Khan-Panni sings, “I’ve been silently forgetting that I love a million clowns,” and suddenly all I can envision is a harlequin ballroom festooned with glittering bunting. The fantasy worlds don’t cease; along with later track, See Alice, Wonderland is one of the more obvious nods to Carollian craziness, and its surreal arrangement and fantastical waltz makes it the perfect song for dreamers. There are plays on the melodic theme of March of the Dawn. Lorca and the Orange Tree, which I just used on my summer mix yesterday, feels slightly more modern with its pulsing beat and vocal effects; then again, technology is just another form of magic.

For the track, This is Heaven, I picture a parade of waddling clowns making their way through Oz or Toyland. In this song, Khan-Panni’s upper register definitely reminds me of Bjork, and heaven becomes more than a cerulean sky sponged over with clouds. The title track uses hazy, tinkling sounds against a soft, out-of-focus beat. Of course the motif of telling tales pops up again as Khan-Panni sings “free in love like a sunny day and a pea green boat,” instantly evoking the beautiful nonsense of Edward Lear. The sunshine of the previous tracks fades into a midnight garden under moonlight as Place For Us rolls in; traces of fairy lights are everywhere as the lyrics encourage a stepping away from mundane responsibilities and obligations. The aforementioned See Alice explicitly references the brilliant book through lines like “‘Curious’ she says, ‘still it remains the same.'” The relinquishing of the senses and trappings of rationality floats through cascading harmonies, which descend like a warm twilight; it becomes a lullaby for hammocks high above the Earth. The music feels like a transformative force, displaying the cracks in reality and gleefully tearing them open. In Teardropsfall, the combination of tomtom and bass reminds me of the yé-yé style of the 60s. The hushed, controllled vocals are sweet and soulful backed by overdubs of kaleidoscopic proportions. Two minutes in, the song goes a little off-kilter, rolling on a pleasant tilt and slides of flute; there are more excellent lyrics, making Bacharach familiar yet not, with the lines “teardrops are falling on my head/maybe something will grow.” The record concludes with Nightbus, a slower, loungey track that seems to wind everything down. The narrator has “no reason to be anywhere,” and says, “I’m still waiting for my curtain call.” And, rather appropriately, the track doesn’t quite end as a hidden, untitled piece comes in after some silence; “let it go/let it roll” is repeated like a cooing mantra as Khan-Panni seems to revel in her own lack of rules and meaning. The album slowly comes loose and dissolves like the ephemeral, but captivating magic of a seeding dandelion – the melting of the frosted globule becomes something more than a weed…if only for a moment.

This is truly a fantastic summer record. There aren’t too many records these days that bring me back to the dreamscapes of my childhood, but this one does without an ounce of cynicism. And I don’t think childhood is particularly simple or indicative of simpler times; I’m more inclined to believe that children just don’t get fussed if things don’t make sense. The album feels like a score to a particularly enchanting film with heightened hues and natural strangeness. In telling their own stories, The Mummers end up telling the narratives of others. Listening to it, I’m transported back to a place where mirrors and backs of wardrobes are gauzy enough to walk through; where toads wrecklessly take their motorcars for a drive; where you might just ride a luck dragon through Fantasia; where you might just become airborne in a giant peach. It’s a dream that you never want to wake from, and when you do, you happily turn over and let the sanity of slumber wash over you again.

March of the Dawn – The Mummers

Wonderland – The Mummers


Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mixes #70 and #71

Yeah Yeah Yeahs Jools

I apologize for being AWOL for a considerable time – work and real life has gotten in the way. Not to mention the daunting task of writing that Manics review; in a way, I felt just as intimidated writing it as the band probably felt recording it. Hopefully, it was worth the wait (I’ve had the album since a week after its release, but couldn’t find time to sit down, have proper listens and put my thoughts down). I will try to make up for the lack of posts by doing a post omnibus of reviews this week and maybe even next. And to start the catch-up process, I’m posting two weekly mixes this week. The first is called 2009 0.5, and it takes in a selection of some of the best songs of 2009 so far, especially those from albums that I didn’t have time to post about. Bear in mind, I still have a few reviews coming up this week that would definitely be included in my top albums thus far, but which I decided not to include in this mix.

Heads Will Roll – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Light Skips Cross Heart – Filthy Dukes

The Great Shipwreck of Life – IAMX

Fist of God – MSTRKRFT

Jump the Gun – Midnight Juggernauts

No You Girls – Franz Ferdinand

1901 – Phoenix

Beautiful Losers – Stuck in the Sound

Young Adult Friction – The Pains of Being Pure of Heart

Wake Up – Sliimy

French Navy – Camera Obscura

You Can’t Get It Back – Gentleman Reg

Anything Other Than Kind – Butcher Boy

The Smack of Pavement in Your Face – Shirley Lee

Journal For Plague Lovers – Manic Street Preachers

Battle For the Sun – Placebo

Parallel Lines – Junior Boys

David – The Radio Dept.

Daniel – Bat For Lashes

When I Grow Up – Fever Ray

Summer forest

The second mix is called Summer of ’09, and it is quite simply a summer mix. Despite the fact I don’t like it too hot, and I may have a vampire-like aversion to the sun. Listening to summer in an air-conditioned room is a great option.

English Summer Rain – Placebo

Summer – Shy Child

Rollercoaster – The Jesus and Mary Chain

Beach Party – Air France

Half Mast – Empire of the Sun

Summerdreamer – The Daysleepers

Barbecue – Orange Juice

Sound of Summer – Art Brut

Lorca and the Orange Tree – The Mummers

Summertime Clothes – Animal Collective

Honey in the Sun – Camera Obscura

You Wear the Sun – The Delays

Summerside – Adorable

Like a Summer Rain – Ladybug Transistor

Summer Shakedown – Slow Club

Last Summertime’s Obsession – Trembling Blue Stars

Summer Days – Euros Childs

Serenade – The Soda Stream

Sunshine Makes Me High – The Guggenheim Grotto

Summer Wind – James Dean Bradfield


Doors Opening Slowly: Manic Street Preachers’ Journal For Plague Lovers

Manic Street Preachers - Journal for Plague Lovers (2009)

The Manic Street Preachers have been adamant that “closure” is a false Americanized concept. I’m inclined to believe them – even more so after listening to Journal For Plague Lovers. It is a record upon which so much meaning was heaped before it was even created, it is a record that had to bear a lot of bulky history on its narrow shoulders. Rather than definitively closing a chapter of the band’s history, it has left many doors ajar, doors that will remain that way forever. Journal For Plague Lovers is not so much an attempt at being the New Testament to their Holy Bible (if we’re all honest with ourselves, we knew that could never really have happened, and perhaps, it never should have anyway), but by deliberately using Jenny Saville artwork for the cover, the band made a choice to connect the two works – almost as if to say, “Everything Must Go was a half-assed use of Richey’s lyrics, and we’ve strayed so far from Richey’s original guiding force, that this is our attempt to rediscover that rather difficult path before we abandon it for good.” Yet, because this journal, this dossier of typewritten lyrics and collage, has been hidden in drawers for fourteen years, any attempt at using them and exposing them to the public would re-open the case that is Richey Edwards. We are finally let into part of the mindscape of an artist before he effectively disappeared off the face of the Earth. JFPL ends up being open to hermeneutics of biblical proportions.

The Manics were faced with infinite choices when making this record; it would have been a daunting task trying to consider all facets of this project and all the parties involved, including the Edwards family, a passionate, potentially critical fanbase, a major record label, and their own artistic impulses. Ultimately, they chose to scan pages from Richey’s journal to serve as liner notes (at least in the double disc version I have) rather than merely print their edited versions or take them out of their context in that binder. Because they did this, there will always be a haunting, almost Derridean “trace” to those pages of unedited lyrics. The lyrics that weren’t given voice by the band in the songs themselves will always be there to be pored over, to be re-interpreted, to stand in as ghostly alternatives simultaneously speaking against the songs. This duality will continue to give the album texture and depth for years to come.

Reading Richey’s lyrics, I was compelled to mourn him all over again; not in the way his bandmates and family would, but in the way an art lover mourns the lost potential of an artist. He pulled ideas from so many different sources, high and low culture, and made so many unlikely, but valuable connections, that he couldn’t help but create inspiring, unique art. Unfortunately, I believe it would take a mind on exceptional overload to create in that manner. He also had the ability to leave his lyrics ambiguous, encouraging multiple, meaningful readings. On this particular record, one of my favourite songs is Marlon J.D., a title that itself can make multiple references at once (Marlon Brando, James Dean, J.D. Salinger, etc); its lyrical content is briefer than in other songs, but it is packed with religious imagery of a Christ-like figure. The transience of perfect beauty, the romance of destruction, the self-deprecation sitting alongside self-importance – all of these ideas exist in the same song. Even though the majority of the lyrics and notes are stamped out in the impersonal courier font of the typewriter, the scribbles, the spelling errors, the “x’s” over certain words, the choice to type only in capital letters, the self-editing lines of black marker, and the many collages, images and drawings, are all testament to Richey’s reality, to his fraility, to his mortality. These lines of prose/poetry give us a bit more insight into his mindset prior to his disappearance, but that brilliant ambiguity stubbornly refuses to comment on the whys and hows.

There are, however, some persistent themes. Possibly one of my absolutely favourite lyrics on this record is in All is Vanity:

I would prefer no choice
One bread one milk one food that’s all
I’m confused I only want one truth
I really don’t mind if I’m being lied too

It resonates so pristinely with me precisely at this time in my life when I feel like the data smog is smothering me and the banality of instantaneous communication networks is pummeling me. The fact that Richey wrote these words well before the onslaught of mobile phones, social networking and viral niche marketing is testament to his prescience. It would have been fascinating to know what he thought of the world in 2009. This leitmotif of information overload is evident in the fragmented thoughts, the melding of ideas, literature, celebrities and philosophies; though a large part of Richey’s lyrical style had always seemed like he was trying to get too many connections, thoughts, words and feelings out, this album makes it all the more clear that he had opened himself up to so much information, that his brain was raging with dialogue and dialectic which needed to be exorcised via the keys of his typewriter. After all, art is the coping mechanism for so many overaware, oversensitive people – of course “over” being a loaded term.

As I can relate to Richey’s overcrowded brain, I can also understand both his paradoxical self-absorption and his obsession with transient beauty. Though it may seem strange that Richey could be so self-aware and self-obsessed (honey) yet also be so open and vulnerable to the injustices and hurts of the outside world, I think I can understand. The observation and noting of the world’s problems can eventually numb you to other people, especially those that can’t seem to see what you see, and you start to internalize that frustration and turmoil; the world’s issues become your personal issues. You can also end up repulsing yourself because you get wrapped up in the superficial while being completely aware of it. There’s a loneliness inherent in being apart from society’s shared myths, and so there are times when you have to pretend along with everyone else even as it nauseates you. This push and pull paradox of Richey’s insecurity and superiority pops up all over his lyrics like jabs and shards of bone as does his preoccupation with physical beauty that couldn’t last. Marlon J.D. raises this issue by referencing two icons of male beauty, who destroyed their own beauty, and Pretension/Repulsion includes the fantastic line “Born.a.graphic vs porn.a.graphic.” The excellent line “I once impersonated a shop floor dummy” (original: “window dummy”) from Peeled Apples is another possible acknowledgement of superficiality. Or possibly a lack of feeling and connection to humanity. Or possibly a feeling of a false pose for others to gawk at.

Also, achingly obvious in the songs found on this record is the play with religious imagery. While Richey appears repelled by religion, he definitely never escaped it as a reference point. A fair number of the images in his journal are Judeo-Christian, including a crucifix, angels, and Dante’s levels of hell (the first having been a symbol long worn around Richey’s neck, the last having been tattooed on his arm). The title track’s chorus goes:

Only a god can bruise
Only a god can soothe
Only a god reserves the right
To forgive those that revile him

The bitterness and scorn are palpable, and the recognition that religion is most used and best believed by the weakened and the wounded is a very sad statement for its worth, indeed. Was Richey always mocking, or was he working through the reason and meaning of religion’s persistence and power? Perhaps a lifelong, inner struggle is laid bare in these references as logic and despair begin to muddle the mind. Perhaps not.

Not only are we privy to Richey’s lyrical process and thoughts, but the surviving band members have opened up their musical process for all to see in showing us what was left out in the editing process. This is a facet of the process that has never been shown to us before despite us knowing that Richey and Nicky Wire used to hand in reams of unedited lyrics before they were crafted into the songs we know. The unstaunched spillage of words was curtailed for a purpose, conscious or not, and in these edits, the band has made Richey’s truth theirs, inevitably transforming his work through their own reading of it, as thousands of fans will continue to do while holding the scanned pages of his journal. In the same vein, the band has chosen not to release official singles off this record, preferring to keep the work as one, whole piece of art – stamping it with “difference” and imbuing it with weight.

JFPL has also demonstrated quite clearly that James Dean Bradfield is greatly affected by lyrical content when composing music. Forget Send Away the Tigers, this is proof that the band has found its essence again. Peeled Apples is a rabid, fantastic opener to the album – the verses are musically raw while the chorus takes their ability to create soaring, anthemic choruses into a lyrical terrain that they haven’t been brave enough to tread for so many years. James’s vocals alternate between angelic beauty, staccato rasps, and tormented screams – an interplay that has been missing from his voice for at least a couple of albums. That opening line “You know so little about me…what if I turn into a werewolf or something?” by Christian Bale from The Machinist is also the perfect lead-in for a band so adept with intertextual soundbites and for such an enigmatic album with insomnia-infused lyrics. Jackie Collins Existential Question Time is a perfectly self-contained wonder of riffs and melody that grinds against the grain of punk on the song, which has the lines “If a married man fucks a Catholic/And his wife dies without knowing/Does that make him unfaithful,” which feels like an echo of The Clash’s “He who fucks nuns will later join the church,” and the line “Oh mummy what’s a Sex Pistol,” a phrase from badges worn during the punk period. The point at which James hits the lines “Situationist sisterhood Jackie and Joan/Separated us the question without a home,” he practically tears his own larynx out and gobs it into our faces – I love it. The start and stop and bounding romp of Me and Stephen Hawking emphasizes the surreality and humour of Richey’s lyrics:

African Punch and Judy show at half the price
100,000 watch Giant Haystacks in a Bombay fight
Oh, the joy, me and Stephen Hawking we laugh
We missed the sex revolution when we failed the physical

The song’s themes of genetic manipulation and humanity’s attempt at playing God are refracted through the lens of the outsider, who sees the manufacturing of consent in a mass media machine. This song is also an example of lyrical edits; the original line had “rice price” rather than “at half the price,” which invites what I see as a different interpretation.

The album’s title track is an excoriating and embalming piece ripping its way through bloody metaphors while soothing the pain away with sweet melody and comforting vocals. Marlon J.D. moves the Manics into a harsher, post-punk electronic element, which surprisingly works very well and includes one of those trademark Bradfield guitar solos, and, in combination with the stunning lyrics, makes it one of my top choices from the album. All is Vanity is a jagged, driven composition that pushes James’s vocals into all those visceral and immediate places that I’ve hoped for; it’s an angular bit of post-punk that feels like it could have been at home on The Holy Bible. It’s also nice to hear the kind of scansion-defying, fragmented lyrics of Pretension/Repulsion coming from James before exploding into a meaty chorus, rather than the sweeping chorus style that has been so prevalent in the last decade of the band’s output. Virginia State Epileptic Colony, which could be read as being about its namesake, or as being about Richey’s own hospitalization, or as an intertextual reference to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, or as any other number of things, uses clanging guitars and James’s intermittent howls to breathe life into the printed words. The “V-S-E-C Piggy” chorus utilizes a simplistic, singsong feel that provides an effective accent on how one can revert to being treated like a child when perceived as mentally ill. Or maybe it’s a reference to the children chanting in Lord of the Flies. Probably both.

There were quieter, more subdued melodic moments on The Holy Bible, despite the collective memory of it being one of brutality, minimalistic darkness, and harsh lyrics; Yes is one of the most gentle, melodically playful songs in the Manics canon, which makes the bleak lyrics all the more poignant and striking. And JFPL has its quieter moments, too. James manages to make the laundry list of advertised beauty enhancements and “this beauty here/dipping neophobia” in Facing Page: Top Left, a delicate, cascading ballad that twinkles like Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky (my favourite track from Everything Must Go). Doors Closing Slowly is another ballad that limps along to echoing drums, exuding brokenness and incorporating an apt quotation from Virgin Suicides; it must be said that the numerous spoken samples that were chosen to punctuate the album are just as much a part of the craft of musical composition as the music itself by adding an extra layer of interpretation to Richey’s words. And I think the Manics did an admirable, thought-provoking job.

As with most albums by any artist, not every song is perfect. This Joke Sport Severed is a mild acoustic ballad that feels detached from the content, and She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach feels like it’s plodding around, married to an awkward Nirvana-inspired style and trying too hard to be hard. To be fair, Richey acknowledged his own weaknesses and granted his bandmates licence by leaving a handwritten note that said, “These songs are in no particular order of preference although some lyrics are better than others – infancy speed, all is vanity etc.” It begs many questions of purpose and meaning, and that title “infancy speed” (which I may be deciphering incorrectly in the first place) will remain a mystery to us who only have an excerpted version of the journal. The bonus hidden track, Bag Lady, which wasn’t included on the double-disc version but was then offered as a free download (perhaps to make up for the oversight), would have been a more effective placement on the album proper in my opinion. Its guitarwork is extraordinary and lacerating, and the lyrics, which include “Never let yourself out, I did/It ruined me/It ruined me,” seem superior to those found in She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach.

William’s Last Words is the conclusion of the record proper and is arguably the most edited song on the album. Nicky Wire chose to sing it himself in his shambolic, flawed vocal style over top of a rather twee backdrop while chopping down over a page completely filled with text into a few select lines. It’s a difficult track to evaluate for both that reason and for the potential interpretations. Nicky chose to distill the heavy text and use the most hopeful lines like:

Isn’t it lovely when the dawn brings the dew I’ll be watching over you

Good night my sweetheart/until we leave tonight/hold me in your arms/wish me some luck as you wave
goodbye to me/you’re the best friends I ever had

Good night sleep tight/good night God bless/good night night star/I’ll try my best

I’m just going to close my eyes/think about my family/shed a little tear

Leave me go Jesus/I love you yeah I love you/Just let me go I even love the devil/Yes he did me harm to keep me any longer/’cause I’m really tired/I’d love to go to sleep/wake up happy

It’s hard not to read the goodbye/suicide note in it. And oddly enough, the cuts generally make the song sadder and more personal than it appears on paper. The full lyrics on paper are full of archaic references as though in the voice of a post-war character actor/entertainer, using “cheerio” and parenthetical asides as though in a play, and mentioning early 20th century singer/comedienne, Gracie Fields. All those lines seem distancing, but then the very last lines of the piece, which Nicky omits, are “You can die happy but I wonder if you can wake up happy, I’m hopeless. If I sing a song I’m down a scale or up a scale. I’ve come a long way, really, even for a tone deaf singer, if you want to know.” Whether this old and tired character that Richey is speaking through reflects any of his own insecurities and weariness is a matter for everyone’s personal opinion and judgement. Should we be resisting some of the obvious readings? I don’t think so. But I also think it’s worth exploring the context of those other references, devices and sentences. There are times when I can smile hearing this song, and other times when I feel my throat catching in spite of myself.

Journal For Plague Lovers doesn’t feel so much like picking at old wounds as it does slicing open the jugular of the band’s life flow, compressing the pressure into a concentrated power that hadn’t been present for years, and admittedly may never be again. The Manics’ story isn’t complete, especially not with their intentions to already start work on the next album, but they will never return to Richey’s words – a bittersweet, romantic notion that I think Richey himself would have appreciated. Despite this rather sad prospect and sense of finality, the Manics have left us with something that is to be continually returned to afresh and is to be interrogated into new life. Through this album, we are taken both backwards and forward in time, and that band symmetry that Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield have mentioned in both the past and more recently, is regained, reminding me of what I had forgotten to miss. Forcing me to prop up my eyelids and face the meaning to be found beyond simplified facades. Prompting me to take a closer look, a closer read. Journal for Plague Lovers is an open book, not a closed chapter.

Me and Stephen Hawking – Manic Street Preachers

Marlon J.D. – Manic Street Preachers

Bag Lady – Manic Street Preachers


Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #69

What exactly is New Wave music? Beats me. It ends up becoming a catch-all term for New Romantic/synthpop, post-punk, and many a late 70s/early 80s band. Well, even current bands can still be described as such. Despite this ambiguity, I’ve attempted an assemblage of what I would consider New Wave artists for this week’s mix. The only one that doesn’t quite fit into the time period is the Alcian Blue track, but considering you can hear the New Wave influence dripping from it, I’ve included it anyway. Also, for your viewing pleasure, I’ve included the music video for Les Rita Mitsoukos’s Marcia Baila, which reminds me of the crazy party scene in Beetlejuice (and the guitarist reminds me a bit of Jarvis Cocker). This one’s called Nouvelle Vague.

See You Shine – Alcian Blue

Love Your Shoes – Furniture

Statue of Liberty – XTC

Reward – The Teardrop Explodes

Veronica – Wreckless Eric

Less Than Zero – Elvis Costello

Let Her Go (12″ Mix) – Strawberry Switchblade

One More Colour – Jane Siberry

Marcia Baila – Les Rita Mitsouko

Hanging on the Telephone – Blondie

Away – The Bolshoi

City of Fun – The Only Ones

Into You Like a Train – The Psychedelic Furs

Waiting For a Miracle – Comsat Angels

Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream) – The Icicle Works

No Tears – Tuxedomoon

Coitus Interruptus – Fad Gadget

The Wrong Road – The Go-Betweens

The Thief and the Bride – Mary Goes Round

Bringing Home the Ashes – The Wild Swans


Twitter-Pated: Music and Information Overload

twitter network

Information is killing me. My brain buzzes with bloat and there are nights when I can’t sleep for it. In the last few years, I’ve had more panic attacks and woken up feeling like I’m forgetting something than ever before. It’s like I can no longer keep track of all the details. The devil definitely lives there, taunting me with my insignificant cerebral capacity. Between the number of books, fiction and non-fiction, that I read, the Web sites and blogs I visit, the daily advertisements and mass media I consume, and the copious music I listen to, I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of trivia and connections. I have a crazy need to organize myself somehow, and in doing so, I can now see that I seem to crave hierarchies when surrounded by networks. And both ways of organizing information are seemingly natural for humans, especially since both types exist within our biology. However, technology and new access to information and its architecture are affecting me more than I can possibly affect them, and the activities I love are being forever changed by them, not necessarily for the better.

I’ve come to the realization that computers have re-wired my brain and altered the very way I communicate. Computers have encouraged me to be non-linear in my thought processes and not only through the infinitely hyperlinked world wide web. I may not have had a computer until my first year of university, but I did have a shoddy word processor through high school, and so since I’ve been writing essays and papers, I’ve composed my thoughts in non-linear fragments – you can always go backwards and forwards in a digital copy. My essay-writing style is such that I plug in all citations and quotations first before building the argument around them. I’ve worked without an outline for so long now that I didn’t really think about how strange it was. Until I attempt to write a prolonged linear thought with a pen on paper. I then look back at my bulleted fragments and singular lines and realize that I haven’t actually written one fluid thought or argument at all. I’ve become so accustomed to composing piecemeal on the computer – my mind darting in and out and around thoughts while multi-tasking – that I cannot form a fluid piece on paper. Not only has my writing process been affected by technology, but my consumption of music has as well.

Last summer, I wrote a post addressing this issue of listening to music in pieces via something like iTunes and shuffle functions. MP3s have made it possible for music to be a non-linear experience. Perhaps to balance this non-linear chaos, I use what could be constituted as OCD methods of organization. For my physical copies of music, I first place them on the shelves alphabetically by artist name. If the artist is a single person, I file it by the last name. Within artist, I order them by release chronology – studio albums, then live or bootleg albums, then singles. Compilations are filed under the name of the compiler; for example, any compilation released by NME goes under “n.” This anal sense of taxonomy extends to my digital collection as well; I’m still in the process of creating the database that holds all of my thousands of tracks in it. While I may not have nearly as much music as some fans, I need these systems to gain control of an otherwise spiralling-out-of-control glut of music in my life. I initially thought that it was the mass media giving me too many options and polluting my brain with “choice” regarding music; that has completely changed, yet stayed the same.

I rarely take note of music by any mass media source, yet I still feel like I’m being pummeled by the tsunami of possibilities and new artists. If anything, the choice has just escalated exponentially with the Internet access to independent labels and artists and their myriad promotional tools, including MySpace, Bebo, Facebook, and Twitter pages in addition to e-newsletters, bulletins and forums. I can’t hope to keep up. I can’t even keep track of my favourite artists. Along with this proliferation of music and access to it, the innate human need for taxonomy and labelling takes over and creates a ludicrous number of hybrid, hyper-hyphenated genres like anarchist-folk-rock, Bhangramuffin, blackened death metal and 2-step garage to cope with it (Paul Morley actually just recently made a radio series on the subject of these fragmented genres and what they actually constitute – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these sub-subgenres grew exponentially as access to music grew). And while MP3 blogs and their aggregators have been quite helpful in terms of filtering music choices, they are becoming more and more like otakus.

Otaku is a Japanese term for people who obsessively collect information about the things they’re fans of; however, according to Speed Tribes: Days and Nights with Japan’s Next Generation, a book by Karl Taro Greenfeld, otakus can very often end up collecting information just for the sake of having and then sharing rarities in a bid for increased (sub)cultural capital. Some may not even really be real fans, but more like people who get off on being able to access information that no one else can. Many MP3 blogs wield music as informational power without any particular connection to the music being discussed or featured, and with very little discussion or commentary, period. I can’t really criticize this method of blogging because as I learned while writing my MA thesis on it, everyone’s got a different purpose for his/her MP3 blog; some are just using it as a global mixtape or broadcast with music being the primary content. But the result of all this is the fact that music has become just more information to process, transfer and file. My bigger problem with this style of MP3 blog is the fact it places the onus of persuasion on the MP3s alone; I don’t have time to download every track I see on blogs to have each of them try to convince me of their worth. I actually need a little more rhetoric in order to survive. As alarming as the idea of depending on rhetoric, the art of persuasion, is, it is necessary. As a species, humanity has come to use filters throughout time to cope with the influx of information; these rhetorical filters have come in the form of social mores, religion, educational systems, culture, government and mass media. We can’t possibly learn/know everything, so we break off into specialist fields and expertises and come to rely on the power of others’ arguments to make sense of the world and process it.

I, myself, have gotten caught up in the subcultural capital gone mad. I’ve tried to keep tabs on bands I discovered via blogs, via MySpace, via the promotional emails in my inbox, and it’s all driven me to distraction. When I was a teenager, I listened to full albums all the time on my stereo and thus learnt them as coherent pieces. Rarely do I get to spend that kind of time on one album anymore, let alone really “learn” a record. I’m too busy slogging through thousands of possible life-changing bands and what Kathleen Hall Jamieson calls “the normalization of hyperbole”; everyone is vying for attention, including musicians, which can only lead to exaggeration and disappointment, and eventually, apathy and cynicism. Because of digital technology and the advent of the MP3, music has increasingly been treated as information, as binary code to be collected and stored rather than simply enjoyed. And with it, you become expected to keep track of all of these disparate pieces, including their daily communiques via services like Twitter, in order to maintain dialogue and your own music collection.

Twitter has made a communication model from the sound bite, something that most people aren’t capable of making interesting in the first place. How much do I need to know about each artist I listen to? How many are worth being that interested in? When do you stop being interesting and end up being trivial? I can’t even bring myself to follow someone like Stephen Fry on Twitter. If Stephen Fry isn’t interesting enough to keep minute-by-minute tabs on, then who is? Are we all really that bored and strapped for finding new information that we need to get updates on strangers’ mundane details? I don’t have enough time to process the information I come into contact with on a daily basis let alone the updates on people, famous or not. I don’t want to watch people live abbreviated lives and engage with art in short, transient bursts anymore. I don’t want to keep contributing to the trivia virus – it blows the networks of my brain and makes them useless for actual thinking and literate linearity. Between back catalogues and new discoveries daily, I’m getting more music than I can effectively comprehend. I want to be able to make the leap from mere perception to consciousness more than I currently do. This may mean having to extricate myself from the superhuman race on the information superhighway, and I think I’m okay with that. I may end up not knowing as much as others or being quite as up-to-date and cool, and I may even still occasionally have the nagging feeling that I’m missing something, but perhaps I can then practice this quality over quantity method in my music listening and collecting as I try to do in my blogging. It’s for the sake of my own sanity.

As much as music is numerically encoded and is probably one of the most mathematical arts, it should not be reduced to ones and zeroes. I wouldn’t mind being waylaid by the occasional information highwayman/woman. As long as their music stands and delivers.

Useless Information – Apparat

Blogspot – Paul and the Patients


Day of 200 Songs Update

sharing music

Some of you may be wondering what the status is for my Day of 200 Songs idea. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll briefly recap. In honour of my 200th post, which happened more than a couple of months ago now, I wanted to collect one favourite song from 200 different people to make roughly ten mixes from them for all to share (for the actual post, you can also refer back here). I got a few responses – 23 in total. As my good and wise friend, JC, told me, “I’ve found that folk love reading and downloading, but when you ask for something in return, it is the dedicated few who, as they say on your side of the pond, step up to the plate.” And all those techno-utopia people thought the Web would increase dialogue, participation and interaction…

In light of this realization and to be a bit more pragmatic, I’ve got a few options available to me. I could wait and see if this prompts a larger response (I’m thinking, no). Or as a couple of contributors already have done, I could ask that those who already contributed submit a couple more favourite songs. Even then, that puts me at roughly 100. Then, my idea is to match those 100 songs myself by pillaging my own collection. This may make this project much more one-sided on my part, which is why I was looking for the variety of other fans, but with a little more work, I can do it. And if you all don’t mind that I’ll be monopolizing the mixes as usual.

So, here’s the modified deal:

Those who haven’t contributed at all yet, please do. You can submit up to 3 songs.

Those who have contributed at least one song already (see list below), submit a couple more if you can. And tell anyone else who might be interested in contributing.

Christina H
Christina K

And I will submit 100.

To ensure that I actually receive your submission, reference 200 songs somewhere in the subject line of your email. Thanks to those who have already participated and thanks in advance for those who will. Let’s all hope the Day of 200 Songs will happen before my 1000th post.

Number Our Days – Max Tundra

My Days Are Numbered – The Close Lobsters


Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #68


Though I’ve been to London on five separate occasions, I know I haven’t experienced nearly enough to qualify as knowing London. It seems time always got away from me when I was there (granted, the longest stretch of consecutive time I’ve spent there has been four days). London has always been one of those cities that gives me a good vibe (others being Berlin, Florence, and Cardiff), and I also find it one of the easiest cities to navigate and get around in. The London Underground is a thing of beauty, especially having experienced half a dozen other subway systems. At the same time, I’ve highly enjoyed myself just walking around the city. In addition to walking (or in some cases, running when it appeared that I was constantly losing time), I’ve done a few of the touristy things like visiting the Tate Modern Gallery (see here for musings from my 2007 visit); watching Richard III as a groundling at the Globe (note: Richard III is Shakespeare’s second-longest play and thus requires strong legs if you’re a backpacker with barely any money); taking a day trip out to Hampton Court Palace; getting sell-off tickets at Leicester Square for a musical; wandering through Westminster Abbey (I remember being particularly excited standing in Poet’s Corner and reading Lewis Carroll’s epitaph: “Is all our Life, then, but a dream?”); staring at the impossibly, ridiculously tiny Nelson at Trafalgar Square, passing by Buckingham Palace (resisting the urge to sing The Queen is Dead at the top of your lungs); browsing Covent Garden; and visiting Hamleys (the seven-storey toy store on Regent Street). I realize that I’ve missed out on a ton of museums and galleries despite a total of about eight days over the past nine years, but it seems I’m either with someone who doesn’t want to see them or I just run out of time. Part of this time issue has to do with the fact I’ve hit Camden Town nearly every time I’ve gone to London.

For me, Camden had tended to hold a mythological position in my mind. It seemed to be an ideal place to congregate if you were otherwise considered freakish or if you preferred to appear that way. It also seemed to be an exciting place for artistic pursuits. I don’t know what actual Londoners think of Camden, but I rather enjoy myself there, shopping in the stalls and record shops. I have yet to go unaccompanied by someone who would much rather be somewhere else, so I would like to visit there alone next time and go more slowly. Although, I don’t know how it’s been since the big fire, so perhaps my experience would be quite different in the future.

Camden has always struck me as a haven for subcultures, perhaps even a graveyard for subcultures (let’s face it, cybergoth is probably pretty passé), but like anyone who wants to set themselves apart from the mainstream, it persists in spite of the uncoolness of it all or the irony-fisted hipsters. I come to Camden from a slightly more mature direction than when I first stepped off that stop on the Northern Line six years ago, but I still love that I get excited about being there. And I will continue to cherish The Clash vinyl bootleg I purchased there on that first trip. Like punk, Camden is tempered by my accrued life experience, but that doesn’t mean I still didn’t hang onto my two pairs of bondage trousers, which were bought from the same shop on Camden High Street on two separate occasions and were tried on on the same rickety staircase landing in lieu of a fitting room.

Through Camden and several other record havens in the English capital, I associate London with music and the hunger for music (although I would say that the UK as a whole takes music much more seriously and fervently than North America). London, England has been the epicentre of music at various points in history, most significantly in the swinging 60s and in the past-obsessed 90s, which was essentially a re-living of the 60s. Once again, due to a combination of company and time limitations, I’ve never gone to a live gig in London, but I still hope to someday, especially since I’m falling in love with its current independent scene. I would imagine most local music scenes would have a bit of an incestuous organization to them, but I find it interesting just how convoluted the networks between some of the artists in today’s mix are.

Let’s start with now-defunct band, Luxembourg, which I mentioned in my last post. When they broke up, they spawned The Melting Ice Caps and The Soft Close-Ups (David Shah), Jonny Cola and the A-Grades (Alex Potterill), and The New Royal Family (David Barnett). Barnett used to be in The Boyfriends with Richard Adderley, who now plays with him in The New Royal Family and in his own separate project, Small Crew. The video for The New Royal Family’s song Anyone Fancy a Chocolate Digestive? (which is featured in this mix) included an appearance by Dickon Edwards, who used to be in Orlando and in Spearmint, but who is now in Fosca. The New Royal Family also released a split EP with Keith TOTP a couple of years ago; Keith TOTP has collaborated with both Art Brut and The Indelicates, both of which branch off into various solo and collaborative projects. Then there’s Morton Valence, which shares Anne Gilpin with Vanilla Swingers, and frYars who is friends with Tom Rosenthal. To round things off, I’ve added White Rose Movement, Soho Dolls, Monocle Rose, The Firm, Kingfishers Catch Fire, and oddly enough, a song by a band named Truck, in which the vocalist is Andrew Robertson, who played Titus Groan in the mini-series adaptation of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. There’s a lot of art and literacy blended with urban(e) style in these artists. It may all seem a little crazy, but it has the beautiful logic and design of the Tube.

This one’s called The London Underground.

London’s Mine – White Rose Movement

Disappearing Act – Jonny Cola and the A-Grades

The Rest For the Wicked – Soho Dolls

Too Good For Hollywood – Simon Indelicate

Visitors (Stephen Hague Remix) – frYars

Anyone Fancy a Chocolate Digestive? – The New Royal Family

Round the Rim and Back to Him – The Firm

It’s a Kick – Monocle Rose

Pump Up the Volume – Art Brut

Fun is For the Feeble Minded – The Indelicates

I Love You – The Boyfriends

Supine on the Astro Turf – Fosca

City – Truck

Rambling – Small Crew

A Week Away – Spearmint

Chandelier – Morton Valence

Mise en Scene – The Melting Ice Caps

Ballerina – Kingfishers Catch Fire

Two of the Beatles Are Dead – Keith TOTP

Tesco is Evil – Tom Rosenthal

The Town – Vanilla Swingers

The Hype Machine
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Gigs Attended

Arcade Fire w/ Bell Orchestre + Wolf Parade (2005)

Arctic Monkeys w/ Reverend and the Makers (2007)

Austra w/ Young Galaxy + Tasseomancy (2011)

Big Audio Dynamite (2011)

Billy Bragg w/ Ron Hawkins (2009)

Billy Idol w/ Bif Naked (2005)

Bloc Party w/ Hot Hot Heat (2009)

Buzzcocks w/ The Dollyrots (2010)

Damo Suzuki (2012)

David Bowie w/ The Polyphonic Spree (2004)

Diamond Rings w/ PS I Love You + The Cannon Bros. (2011)

Diamond Rings w/ Gold & Youth (2012)

Dragonette w/ Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees (2009)

Frank Turner w/ The Cavaliers (2010)

Frank Turner w/ Into It Over It + Andrew Jackson Jihad (2011)

Franz Ferdinand w/ Think About Life (2009)

Gang of Four w/ Hollerado (2011)

Good Shoes w/ The Moths + The Envelopes (2007)

Hot Hot Heat w/ The Futureheads + Louis XIV (2005)

IAMX w/ closethuman (2007)

IAMX w/ Coma Soft + The Hourly Radio (2007)

Interpol (2007)

Janelle Monae w/ Roman GianArthur (2012)

Joel Plaskett Emergency w/ Frank Turner (2012)

Jonathan Richman (2011)

Keane w/ Lights (2009)

Lou Reed w/ Buke and Gass (2011)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Fear of Music (2007)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Bear Hands (2009)

Manic Street Preachers at Wanaja Festival (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Old Folks Home (2009)

Mother Mother w/ Whale Tooth (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Hannah Georgas (2012)

MSTRKRFT w/ Felix Cartal (2008)

Muse (2004)

Nine Inch Nails w/ Death From Above 1979 + Queens of the Stone Age (2005)

of Montreal w/ Janelle Monae (2010)

Owen Pallett w/ Little Scream (2010)

Patrick Wolf w/ Bishi (2007)

Prince (2011)

Pulp w/ Grace Jones, TV on the Radio, The Hives, The Horrors, Metronomy, Devotcka, Vintage Trouble (2011)

Rufus Wainwright w/ Teddy Thompson (2010)

Snow Patrol w/ Embrace (2005)

Snow Patrol w/ OK Go + Silversun Pickups (2007)

Sons and Daughters w/ Bodies of Water (2008)

Stars w/ Thurston Revival (2006)

Stars w/ The Details (2008)

Stars (2010)

Steven Severin (2010)

Stroszek (2007)

The Antlers w/ Haunter (2012)

The Flaming Lips w/ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2010)

The Jesus and Mary Chain w/ Nightbox (2012)

The Killers w/ Ambulance Ltd (2004)

The New Pornographers w/ Novillero (2008)

The New Pornographers w/ The Mountain Goats (2010)

The Ordinary Boys w/ Young Soul Rebels (2006)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart w/ Suun (2011)

The Rakes w/ The Young Knives (2006)

The Raveonettes w/ Black Acid (2008)

The Stills w/ Gentleman Reg (2009)

The Subways w/ The Mad Young Darlings (2006)

Tokyo Police Club w/ Smoosh + Attack in Black (2008)

TV on the Radio w/ The Dirty Projectors (2009)

Yann Tiersen w/ Breathe Owl Breathe (2011)

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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave


So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun


Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head


Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away


Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners


Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away


You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender


I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding


You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black


Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side


Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb


Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape


Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah


And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning


My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it


Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love


We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's


Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south


Running on


As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different


LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can' the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell


Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are


You must let her go

She's not crying



Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times



Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone


Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't


So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need


The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest


Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know


No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more


All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids


Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome