Posted by: cousinbrandon | September 10, 2009

The “Music for My Ex” Mixes: The Rise of Music in Western Civilization, Vol. 1 & 2

The craziest thing I’ve noticed about these mixes versus the ones I’m making nowadays is the number of songs.  I put out my Best of… CDs and typically walk away with at least 40 songs between the two discs.  Clearly it was because I was recording these older mixes to tape – yes, tape! – whereas nowadays I can track a mix for CD, thus giving me two 80-minute canvasses to paint on, if you will, as opposed to two 60-minute sides of a 120-minute cassette.  Confused?  Both “volumes” of The Rise of Music in Western Civilization, for instance, was encapsulated on a single 120-minute TDK cassette.  Ah, the old days.

The other element I noticed – something that still turns up on my mixes nowadays, incidentally – is the fact that my “loud” isn’t always so loud, and my “soft” isn’t always so soft.  Rise was a sister-project to The Fall of Music in Western Civilization, with Rise being the “loud” and/or “fast” of the two compilations.  Looking now, though, I realize that songs like, say, Silver Jews’ “The Wild Kindness” or Pavement’s “Father to a Sister of a Thought” aren’t really loud or fast.  That’s always been the way with me, though.  I mean, I think it’s too hard to quantify things as one thing or the other.  Everything’s not so black and white. 

For instance, take Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, my favorite record of all time.  Yes, there is a mixture of upbeat, down-tempo, and even carnival music.  The record’s all over the place.  Yet at its core, there is a single mood – there is a single focus.  Jeff Mangum is singing his guts out about Anne Frank and World War II.  Would I call this a “depressing” record because of its subject matter?  Certainly not.  I mean, just because it deals with some heartbreaking issues does not make the record depressing.  Rather, I would argue that it is, in the end, hopeful. 

Consider, for instance, these lyrics from the record’s final track, “Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2”:

In my dreams you’re alive and you’re crying
As your mouth moves in mine, soft and sweet
Rings of flowers around your eyes and I’ll love you
For the rest of your life

Here Mangum’s addressing Anne Frank directly, as he claimed in interviews he was haunted – literally – by her ghost after purchasing The Diary of Anne Frank in a book store and reading it relentlessly.  There is both an unrequited longing and want in these lyrics, as well as a letting go, as if Mangum’s pain eases, and hers as well. 

Good lord, how in the hell did I get so far off topic?  The mind is as crazy as it is intricate.  I think Dave Coulier said that.

The Rise of Music cover.

The Rise of Music inside art.

The Rise of Music in Western Civilization (Vol. 1):

1. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – “Calvin”      
2. Pavement – “Father to a Sister to a Thought”  
3. Frank Black and the Catholics – “Western Star
4. The Dismemberment Plan – “What Do You Want Me to Say
5. Guided By Voices – “Much Better Mr. Buckles
6. Quasi – “I Give Up
7. The Minders – “Joey’s Pez
8. Fable Factory – “Eyesight The Cyclone
9. Kleenex Girl Wonder – “Two Places at Once
10. Beulah – “Ballad of the Lonely Argonaut
11. The Halo Benders – “Bury Me
12. Modest Mouse – “Breakthrough
13. Tobin Sprout – “Little Bit of Dread
14. Chris Mills – “Sawtooth
15. Silver Jews – “The Wild Kindness

The Rise of Music in Western Civilization (Vol. 2):

1. Fugazi – “Combination Lock”      
2. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – “High Gear
3. PW Long and Reelfoot – “Signifyin’ Honkey
4. Frank Black & the Catholics – “Solid Gold
5. 764-Hero – “Stained Glass
6. Quasi – “Ghost Dreaming
7. Sparklehorse – “Pig
8. Pavement – “Billie
9. Archers of Loaf – “Telepathic Traffic
10. Neutral Milk Hotel – “Holland, 1945
11. The Multiple Cat – “For Bernard
12. Guided by Voices – “Picture Me Big Time
13. The Dismemberment Plan – “Back and Forth

This, too, came out of my time in Chicago, as evidenced mainly by the Chris Mills and PW Long selections.  I distinctly recall buying PW Long’s Push Me Again in a record store in Chicago that wasn’t Reckless Records, which is odd considering my regular pilgrimages to that place.  I can’t for the life of me recall the name of the shop in which I bought Push Me Again, but I do remember buying it on an overcast day after breakfast.  Weird.

Well, that’s it for now.  Until next time, have at it, you vultures!




  1. Man, Solid Gold is a monster song. I haven’t listened to that self titled Catholics record in a while, but it’s really a stand out record in my opinion. It might make a top 100 for me if I ever made one. I remember the first time I heard I Need Peace. There were 4 of us driving around listening to it for the first time and when the song slows down for that brief section there was a sort of collective “whoa.” Just one of those random moments I remember.

    I think we come from a similar place when it comes to fast and slow, rocking and mellow types of distinctions. I’ve gone back and listened to mixes of mine where I’ve tried to set it up to be one or the other and noticed a real ambiguity that makes perfect sense to me, but it has a lot to do with what the songs give me more than it really has to do with tempo or power. The song “Dust to…” by Elvis Costello comes to mind as a song that I would say “rocks” but that would be a stranger statement by the standards of others.

    Anyways. Thanks for posting this stuff. I definitely enjoy reading it. Have a really nice weekend.

    I also just was listening to this tune as I was typing and thought you may like it. Nice little tune if you feel so inclined. I like these guys.

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