Pitchfork recently started does a cool little feature where they ask an artist to identify their favorite songs at the ages of 5, 10, 15, etc. The first in the feature is the incredibly hard-rocking Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney fame. I’ve done something like this before, but I wanted to do one of these features for this blog. Of course, I don’t get to interview cool indie rockers. So, you just get me. Feel free to share your own favorites in the comments or write your own post in response.
I turned five in 1980. It’s honestly very hard to remember music when I was five. I do know that my parents were Rolling Stones fans. Mom was a huge fan and my dad saw them in the ’60’s at Dayton’s Hara Arena, the same venue I saw Nirvana many years later. A particular song that resonates throughout my life is “Satisfaction”. It was so raw and powerful. That song was the opposite of sunny, top-40 pop. There’s a direct line from that track to the garage rock-turned-punk of the 1970’s and beyond. Whenever I listen to the Replacements or the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion or Titus Andronicus, I think of the raw dissatisfaction of that one song. I took special notice when PJ Harvey and Bjork once performed “Satisfaction” together, Cat Power remade the song for a covers records, and even when I found myself singing the song to my infant daughter. That song will stay with me forever.
In the summer of 1984, my brother and I discovered Prince (and his/the Revolution). The little rocker from Minneapolis released a movie, Purple Rain, we were not yet old enough to see. Then, right after my tenth birthday, my mom went on this trip to visit family in California. Dad let us see some rather racy movies. Purple Rain was one of them. We had the LP since September when my brother turned 8 and we quickly gathered as many of his records as Columbia House would allow. Among those purchases was Prince’s classic 1999, another great album loaded with killer track after killer track. Among all the Prince songs we listened to over that two or three year period, I’ve gone back and forth as to which song made the biggest impact, but I’ve somehow landed on “Little Red Corvette”. It had the hook, a story, and well…It was all Prince. From the 1982 album by the same name, this was the hit we played more than any other.
Truth be told, my introduction to indie/alternative music was not Nirvana. That came a year later. No, the shit hit the fan in 1990 with Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual De Lo Habitual. That record came at a time when I was listening to a lot of classic/hard rock. Radio stations had picked up “Been Caught Stealing”, a track I was all over. I mean, it had dogs barking. However, even my gateway track was not the most memorable off the album. “Ain’t No Right” which might not even be the best track on the record touched on a lot of anger I had stewing beneath when I was 15. It was the punkest thing I had at the time. Anything remotely punk was a rare thing in those days in West-Central Ohio. Somehow, Jane’s Addiction combined hippie-like politics, heavy metal heroics, and punk grit to everything they touched. It would be another year before the inaugural Lollapalooza and another three before I’d start even going to shows, but this was the track on the record that sent me on my way.
In 1995, I saw Pavement for the first time. I attended the third of three Lollapalooza’s. It was the middle of my college years, years that were greatly influential in shaping my musical tastes. Although Wowee Zowee was in full rotation for much of the year, I discovered another band on Matador that had been around for a while who was also playing Lolla that year. The band was Yo La Tengo and the album they released in ’95 was Electr-O-Pura. The track that has always given me a tingle was “False Alarm”. I saw the band twice that year and “False Alarm” was easily the highlight of both sets. Ira Kaplan just seemed to fall all over his Hammond B-3 organ, choosing to play with his elbows or chest rather than the more conventional fingers. The song is so loaded with angst and lust and jittery goodness that I didn’t hesitate when I hit my 20th year on this list.
2000 was a strange year for me, musically. Pavement was out of the picture for a year, a reunion a long way off. I struggled to find that groove in the scene within I used to fit so comfortably. Modest Mouse was leaving their indie years behind and fully embracing their major label selves. My music collection needed a swift kick in the ass. Enter The White Stripes. De Stijl was not a wickedly popular album at the time and Jack and Meg were still siblings/married couple. My sister turned me on to them. I still remember picking up the record in a tiny basement record shop in Athens, OH where she was living. “You’re Pretty Good Looking (for a Girl)” was the opening track that pulled me in. Despite the fact that it’s nothing like the rest of the album, the song made the rest, which was the jolt I needed, so much more approachable for me. Anyway, say what you will about Jack White, but he made some pretty amazing music back in those days.
Thirty may have been the year of the greatest change for me. Within a week in July of 2005, I passed a Master’s exam, supported my partner as she successfully defended her dissertation, closed on our first house, married said partner, and moved 500 miles from the only state in which I ever lived. It was stressful to say the least. I needed some music to address this uneasiness.
Spencer Krug’s “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son” hit me like a ton of bricks from the first listen. My sister had pushed Wolf Parade on me, citing the fact that Pitchfork loved them and they were from Canada, which at the time was a winning combination. Anyway, that song still gives me goosebumps. Instead of flipping the record on that first go around, I simply moved the needle back to the beginning just so I could here that song with that drum beat, those piano blasts, and those lyrics. Man. Goosebumps.
Oh, that’s now. Well, I’ve decided not to over-think this one. Easily, the song that has it’s stamp all over this year is “I Won’t Lie to You” by Let’s Wrestle. Again, my sister is to blame. She put the track on a CD for my daughter. We played that thing into the ground for most of this year. Then I bought the Let’s Wrestle album and it was all over. The song is still the standout track, but the entire album has captured my longing for days gone by and that giddiness I used to get at rock shows or in record stores. The opening lines say all you need to know about me: “No matter how many records I buy, it still won’t fill this void.”
Those were the most meaningful songs to me every five years of my life. What were/are yours?
1OK. So, it was nothing like this post. That older link is to a post where I picked an album for every year of my life using my current experiences and perspective. This list takes into account what I was into at each age.
2Normally, this would have been a footnoted item. Oh, wait. I did just footnote it.
3Which was OK, but way better than her last covers record, Jukebox.
4In retrospect, might have not been the best move. It wasn’t perverted or anything. We watched Purple Rain, Up the Creek, and Revenge of the Nerds. These films are pretty tame by today’s standards, but they did have an effect on my perspective of sex and women. The good thing my dad did throughout the weekend moviefest was remind us that none of this was real. It was pre-AIDS can infect straight people. It was a simpler time for sure. Where was I going with this footnote?
5I don’t know how many times we joined one of these clubs. It was always a penny plus shipping for something like 10 or 12 records/cassette tapes. We would just stock up, buy a few records over the course of the three year commitment, quit the club, and join another. The best was when one of them started offering Matador albums in the mid-nineties.
6The first was on the second stage at the aforementioned Lollapalooza. The second was a great little show at Stache’s in Columbus, OH.
7However, Modest Mouse did release Building Something Out of Nothing, a collection of rare EP and 7″ tracks from their indie label Up (RIP). I had all these songs on the original EP’s or vinyl, but it was a nice collection all together and helped expose a lot of major label Mouse fans to their earlier work.
8Very popular with the lesbians. I ran around with a lot of lesbians in those days. Of course, I’ve been called a “lesbian” before, but that is another post/footnote for another time.
9It could be argued that Jack White still does make good music, but I’m not the one to make that argument.
10Actually, I had very little to do with her successful defense and possibly less to do with her finishing her book earlier this summer. However, whenever she feels the stresses of the academy, I feel them too and remind myself why I never took that route.
11This does not count the summer I spent in Seattle. Of course, does a summer spent anywhere really count as living there?
12Actually, my siblings and I have influenced each other’s music collection than is normal. I love Swearing at Motorists and other Dayton, OH bands because of my brother. I still remember my sister sneaking my CD’s in high school and college so that she could dub tape-after-tape of her own mixes. Music is a huge connection for the three of us, maybe even more than that whole blood thing.
13Although, the version my sister sent us was from an earlier release which is superior to the one on the proper album. It’s rawer, more immediate, livelier.
14Thanks to Carrie the Wade for setting me straight on this one. Sometimes in my old age I get the facts mixed up or am totally out of the loop as to what all the kids are into these days. Had she not pointed out this grave error I would totally look like an out-of-touch, aging hipster. Just to be clear, Carrie Wade reads the P4k all the time, a pursuit my frail old body cannot handle anymore. For more information I am too old to share with you (I mean, I’m thinking of writing an Arcade Fire review next. What am I? NPR?), go to Carrie’s blog where she covers way cooler music than I do. See you at Pavement, Carrie!
We had to travel in order to visit some family this past weekend1. So, I took advantage of the time to listen to new records2 throughout our travels.
I first heard Let’s Wrestle’s “I Won’t Lie to You” on a compilation3 a while back. From the get-go, I was hooked. Then I found out they were signed to Merge. What else did I need to know?
The band’s material is all over the map. There’s the punk charm of Billy Bragg, sans the politic. I hear a ton of Dinosaur Jr’s rawkward geekiness, without the guitar heroics. Plus, the presence of the youthful exuberance of a young Noise Addict4, with British accents instead of Aussie. The sound is still raw and emulates their heroes more so than creating their own niche, but that’s to be expected from such a youthful bunch of hooligans.
As a whole, In the Court of the Wrestling Let’s is as danceable and fun debut as one might want. It won’t shatter anyone’s expectations of rock ‘n roll, but it will remind you why you go to rock shows and buy more albums than you need5. There are even instances where I can tell this band won’t do punk records forever and my expand their repertoire to make albums of more substance in the future. However, for now, I want them to flaunt their youth and remind me that a piece of me is still young6. That’s why this record will be in heavy rotation for the spring and summer months, possibly beyond.
I’m lame. I have a minor crush on Zooey Deschanel. It’s nothing serious7, nor creepy. I just think she’s cute and her quirkiness gets me every time. There are no posters on my wall. The screen saver on my computer is not a series of Zooey Deschanel images. I just have a lame-ass guy crush on a Hollywood/Indie “it” girl8.
This does not cloud my view of her music. Sure, I loved Volume 1 she did with M Ward as the combo She and Him, but I was not alone in proclaiming the album’s greatness. Volume 2, on the other hand it is taking me some time to get.
The second She and Him album is bigger and brighter than the first. Deschanel still sings about relationships she’s had, not those for which she longs9. M Ward is still a master of producing 50-year-old hits. While all this sounds good, it doesn’t quite fit into the neat package that Volume 1 did, pulling me in from the first listen. Volume 2 is a good companion/sequel, but I don’t think I would give it as much time as I have had it not been for the band’s first effort. Eventually, it will grow on me and earn a regular spot in the rotation, but I doubt it ever overtakes Volume 1‘s place in the all-time list.
1We hit Pittsburgh before heading up to Huntingdon (near State College). I love older cities and towns like these. There’s so much character in eastern states. I miss it.
2Obviously, I did not listen to records on the road. The first album reviewed here is only out on CD. So, I lowered myself to purchasing said CD and played it on the ride to the airport. The second album came with the now-expected Mp3 download.
3The comp was created by my sister for my daughter Lucia after videos of Lu surfaced of her dancing in our living room naked. Lu’s aunt thought that she needed a mix in order to encourage more dancing. On the compilation are songs by Prince, The Clash, Unicorns, Michael and Janet Jackson, as well as Sponge Bob Squarepants.
4Early nineties teen band from Australia which was a pre-Claire Danes Ben Lee, released records on Thurston Moore’s and the Beastie Boys’ labels, respectively.
5It’s fun, exciting, makes you feel like you’re part of a community, etc.
6Despite the pains in my back that seem to shoot down my leg every morning.
7Then, I would be writing about my upcoming divorce. No worries.
8As far as indie it girls, there’s been Julianna Hatfield, Liz Phair, the Deal sisters before they became bloated on drugs, Neko Case, Feist, etc. Those crushes all fade eventually.
9This is a key difference between her and most indie musicians. Normally, they are way more awkward and unsure of themselves or they put on such a persona that their shyness doesn’t seem apparent at first. Zooey is a different creature all together.
10Look. It’s a very sensible size for a footnote section. I bet you’re proud of me…or hoping that the footnotes go away. For now, they stay.