Monday, September 17, 2012

A Brief History of Our Music Tastes (2 of 2)

Age 24-26 Buy Los Lobos’ KIKO upon move to L.A.; album winds up being soundtrack to our introduction to disorienting maw of the city; we watch the live beating of Reginald Denny at Florence & Normandie with the title track playing on the boom box behind us. Northwest music explosion catches up: prefer Pearl Jam’s muscular, groove-laden interplay over Nirvana’s sour, angry noise—although impressed when the latter demolishes the SNL stage after “Territorial Pissings.” Obligatory copy of Singles soundtrack. Hella purchases: Sailing the Seas of Cheese, BloodSugarSexMagik, Siamese Dream, Bandwagonesque, Last Splash, American Thighs, Meantime, Ill Communication, Goo, Rid of Me, Slanted and Enchanted, Live Through This, Naughty by Nature & Cypress Hill’s debuts, 3 Years 5 Months & 3 Days in the Life of…, Screamadelica, Pills Thrills ‘N’ Bellyaches. Intrigued/terrified of American Music Club; briefly appropriate lead singer Mark Eitzel’s porkpie hat-with-goatee affectation. Regret getting first Stone Temple Pilots record but second makes us pause and reconsider. Switch from masturbating to Madonna to Bjork and Jeaneane Garofalo. Love the concept of rap-punk hybrid via Ice-T’s Body Count while secretly hating the music, although we get to see Ice-T tell a reporter to “suck my dick” at the first MTV Movie Awards and are the only one in the press pool to laugh out loud. Missed first Lollapalooza entirely, first of many Never Got To See Live regrets (original Pixies, J. Geils Band w/ Peter Wolf, Joe Jackson on the Big World tour). See Lyle Lovett & Large Band at the Roxy. Endless replays of Frank Black’s first solo album. Like “Loser” video but don’t like Beck; think he isn’t “ready” yet. See Primus with the Melvins in a dingy old ballroom. Americana jones continues unabated with The Jayhawks’ Hollywood Town Hall, Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s Spinning Around the Sun and Bob Dylan’s “acoustic comeback” Good As I Been To You, which we hold close to our breast to this day. Convinced that the Mavericks’ “What A Cryin’ Shame” is the greatest country song of the last 25 years. Briefly adopt the watch-cap-all-black look of Cypress Hill’s B-Real during poverty-stricken graduate school years. See members of the Violent Femmes play a free-jazz freakout at blue-collar saloon on Milwaukee’s River West district and think, hmmm… Sugar’s Copper Blue, Beaster and “Needle Hits E” makes our cuticles tingle; the Bobster can DO NO WRONG. Miss seeing Bob Mould play acoustic show in Madison in order to take mom to the hospital for an overnight procedure; later hear from friends that Mould was sick (again) and invited fans up onstage to sing while he strummed, which leads to endless daydreams of what we would have sung: “Heartbreak A Stranger”? “Man on the Moon”? “Explode and Make Up”? Or something more obscure to prove we were a “real” fan: “Can’t Fight It” or his duet w/ Vic Chestnut on Gram Parson’s “Hickory Wind”? Join CD collection with blind date/eventual wife upon post-collegiate cohabitation, discover many bands we like (Afghan Whigs, Tori Amos, A House) and many others we don’t (Barenaked Ladies, Phish, They Might Be Giants). Watch/tape entire Woodstock ’94 simulcast while studying for Master’s Degree final and see the torch being passed: Nine Inch Nails (the Mud People!), Green Day (the mudfight!), Primus (probably the best set they ever played) with Jerry Cantrell, the Rollins Band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers wearing giant light bulbs for heads, creating a spinning-shirt shitstorm for “Higher Ground” and dressing up like Hendrix for an encore of “Fire.” Don’t think Zingalamaduni is that bad of an album. Creeping boredom with Tom Petty. Nirvana performing acoustic “All Apologies” on constant rotation on MTV during the weekend of April 8-10, 1994; video for “Heart-Shaped Box” too upsetting to watch.

Age 27-31 Kurt Is Dead, long live the post-Grunge Hype Hangover, dovetailing perfectly with Endless O.J. and a series of low-paying office-drone jobs, including one where the only music allowed is the local “Adult Alternative” station. Many, many featurelessdays in dingy, grey-and-beige office at crappy outdated computer station hearing the following blared out of the intercom on the office phone until they pierced the back of our skull: “Roll to Me,” “Who Will Save Your Soul,” “Follow You Down,” “Lighting Crashes,” “Zombie,” “You Oughta Know,” “Everyday is A Winding Road,” “Santa Monica,” “Runaround,” “Closing Time,” “Semi-Charmed Kind of Life,” “Smooth,” “Sex and Candy,” “One of Us,” “Don’t Speak,” “Everything Falls Apart,” “6th Avenue Heartache.” (Guilty pleasures: Matchbox 20’s “3am” and Lit’s “Gone.”) Eventually have a breakdown and start sneaking in Discman to work; busted by boss listening to Bongo Fury, busted again by office manager listening to The In Sound From Way Out! Only saving graces: Dion Farris’ “I Know” (especially the sweeping vocals at the end), Oasis’ “Roll With It” (which gave us shivers), Luscious Jackson’s “Citysong,” the Latin Playboys’ first album, Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear The Hearts Beating As One, Son Volt’s Trace & Wilco’s Being There, Rage Against the Machine’s Evil Empire. See Barenaked Ladies in Ventura and think they’re dutifully hilarious, but prefer happy accident of having Syd Straw as the opener. See Dave Matthews at Universal Amphitheatre and become Under the Table and Dreaming acolyte until we read lyrics to “Ants Marching” and realize it’s about our sad life as office drone. E tu Dave? Forget Madonna exists for a few days. Win radio contest to see/have dinner with Bush and opening act the Toadies at the Mayan Theatre; Bush fails to show up for dinner, but the Toadies do and they are awesome to hang with; not surprisingly, they later blow Bush off the stage. Bored by Sting. Energized by Odelay; apologize silently to Beck while we listen to “Devil’s Haircut” and “Hotwax” at one of those cheesy old Blockbuster Music “listening stations.” Immediately buy everything Beck has ever recorded. As some sort of physiological reaction to current state of career stagnation/urban alienation, morph into Americana primitive and leave Shitbirdworld for a life as a freelancer; soundtrack to this transfiguration: Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music (and its attendant bible Invisible Republic, which we read in one sitting on the banks of the Hudson in Nyack, NY); The complete 5-disc bootleg of The Basement Tapes, which reignites Dylan/Band obsession (re-watch The Last Waltz way past the point of being healthy); the Carter Family and Jimmie Rogers; the High Lonesome anthology, the Alan Lomax collections Southern Journey and Sounds of the South; Steve Earle, Smithsonian Folkways’ Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia (a perennial fave), Tampa Red, The Flatlanders, Clarence Ashley, Uncle Dave Macon, Dock Boggs, Gillian Welch, Buck Owens, The Bristol Sessions, Roscoe Holcomb, Johnny Cash (forgive us, John), Bill Monroe, The Louvin Brothers, The Delmore Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs, The Flying Burrito Brothers. Nearly pass out shaking Charlie Louvin's hand backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. Ever-so brief mating dance with electronica: Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, The Orb, Orbital, Tricky (only the last really sticks). Round out acoustic blues collection with Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Skip James, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Mance Lipscomb, Charley Patton, Sleepy John Estes, Furry Lewis. Keep hearing about a local guitar whiz named Nels Cline—said to be L.A.’s answer to Thurston Moore—and think, hmmm… Watch live kidney transplant while surgeon listens to Allman Brothers box set.

Age 32-36 The rap-rock/boy band/jailbait ingénue period of American Pop. Established music labels beginning to crumble in favor of the free-exchange utopia of the World Wide Web. Join the Buena Vista Social Club and O Brother Where Art Thou? bandwagons. Have lethal panic attack interviewing celebrities the red carpet for the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards and calm self down by humming Los Lobo’s “This Time”; make mental note to thank them if we ever meet them someday. In midst of Latin explosion (Ricky, Enrique, Christina, Marc, J-Lo.) man the red carpet for the Grammy Awards outside of Spago Beverly Hills. Interview the follow in blurred succession: Tony Bennett, Courtney Love, Sting, Destiny’s Child, Andy Garcia (whom we impress with a question about his producing albums by the Cuban bass maestro Cachao); watch Puff Daddy and J.Lo (this is the year she wears The Dress) arrive and get mobbed but they don’t take questions; Watch young chirpy ingénue reporter from Entertainment Weekly flirt her way past the velvet rope and secretly resolve we have to get out of this fakakta racket. Decide to collect everything Ryan Adams records, no matter how shitty or embarrassing (see also: Billy Corgan). Attend second Coachella (the Electronica One) and get a massive headache, but dutifully impressed by Mos Def, who along with Kool Keith, OutKast and Aceyalone seems to be the saving grace of literate Hip Hop. Love of outmoded electronics and acoustic folk dovetails quite nicely in the careers of Granddaddy, Radiohead, Sparklehorse and Jim White. Interview Nels Cline and his twin brother Alex Cline and they clue us in on the “secret” L.A. world of experimental/creative jazz/new music/avant garde/noise underground, which becomes a tonic and an obsession. Discover Horace Tapscott just after the Man dies—another great interview opportunity/experience lost. Start haunting Club Rocco; drop Vicodin with fellow journalist and catch L. Stinkbug, Wayne Horvitz, Vinny Golia, Andy Milne and Crater in a sparkly haze. Midlife crisis, expressed through carrying around copy of Please Kill Me and adopting of attendant attitude. Punk roundup: Suicide, Ramones, Iggy, The Screamers, NY Dolls, Pere Ubu, Television (our favorite!). Mired deep in Ornette and Ayler. German minimalist roundup: Neu!, Can, Kraftwerk, Faust. Post-punk roundup: DNA, Neu!, Can, The Fall, Sonic Youth, Swans. Post-everything roundup: Jim O’Rourke, The Sea and Cake, Tortoise, Sunburned Hand of the Man, LA Free Music Society, Deerhoof, Xiu Xiu, Sunn O))), Jandek, John Weise. Mine Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for all hidden 9/11 meanings; leads us to the decidedly nonmusical, lonely and alienating Conet Project box set, the perfect soundtrack to 2001-2008. Almost fall asleep to Beck’s Mutations but wake up again with Midnight Vultures. Arcade Fire yes; Decemberists, no. Tall blue aliens with large doe eyes emerge from giant Ice Ship and begin to play instruments, call themselves “Sigur Ros.” Struck dumb by Cat Power’s recording of “Sweedeedee.”


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