Posted by: cousinbrandon | December 10, 2009

The (Not So) Indignant Digits: Songs I (Don’t) Hate, From 0 to 10

See? I don’t hate everything, just most everything. And in the wake of (the first pass through) The Angry Alphabet , I thought it high time to recognize some of the numbers that have played (and continue to play) a substantial role in my development, arrested or not. In doing so, I’ve chosen to focus solely on 0 through 10. In other words, no, I’m not including tracks with “32” in them, nor tracks that mention a song that was “squared.” Numbers go on forever. You’ve got both your positives and negatives, your decimals and fractions, your square roots, absolute numbers, and for Christ’s sake variables. In other words, way too many possibilities to consider, and seeing as how there are no certainties in this life, best to get to what I can, when I can.

Some of the choices below were difficult, simply because certain numbers include more than one great possibility. In other cases – for example, the number 3 – choices were limited, so I made, well, exceptions of sorts to accomodate my list. Again, my list. I’ll do as I please, thank you.

0: Elvis Costello – “Less Than Zero


From My Aim Is True

Oswald and his sister are doing it again.
They’ve got the finest home movies that you have ever seen.
They’ve got a thousand variations, every service with a smile.
They’re gonna take a little break, and they’ll be back after a while.
Well I hear that South America is coming into style.

Elvis is one of my heroes. No, not that Elvis. I’m talking about the other musician who came from Liverpool who didn’t denounce Jesus. I’ve idolized Elvis Costello since middle school. I consider him the greatest songwriter of the last 30 years. (Sorry, Nickelback, but he’s got you on that one.) I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Elvis play in person. Twice. Both times at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia (one of my least favorite venues ever, incidentally). “Less Than Zero” is off of Costello’s debut album, My Aim Is True. And as great as the song is, all I think of now every time I hear it is that controversial moment on Saturday Night Live, when a young Elvis Costello, mere seconds into the first verse, threw his hands up and yelled, “Stop!” He apologized to the audience, explained that there was “no reason to do” the song, and he and The Attractions broke into a rousing edition of “Radio, Radio.” (On an SNL anniversary show, he and the Beastie Boys recreated the moment. Pretty cool, actually, but not quite as great as the first time. Then again, what is?)

EDIT:

I’m ashamed of me. Again. And this one ever more so than the Modest Mouse debacle (See: Number 8 below). I was on the phone with Cousin Matt yesterday, and he immediately named the following song when I told him about my blog post, as he hadn’t read it yet. (Dick!) Let’s just say that I suck something awful.

0: Built to Spill– “Carry the Zero


From Keep it Like a Secret

Like they’re waiting for your guard to fall
So they can see it all
And you’re so occupied with what other
persons are occupied with
And vice versa
And you’ve become what you thought was dumb
A fraction of the sum
Yeah you’ve become
Yeah you’ve all become a fraction of the sun
The middle and the front
And now it’s coming back hasn’t it come too far
I was trying to help but I guess I pushed too hard
And now we can’t even touch it
Afraid it’ll fall apart

It’s quite possible I’ve seen more Built to Spill shows than any other band (well, except for one band who shall remain nameless, as they, and their fans, are dead to me. DEAD!). Like Modest Mouse, I’ve seen BTS all over the country: Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Mexico, etc. The great thing about a Built to Spill show (other than the music, of course) is knowing that Doug Martsch is going to do something astounding at some point. And by that, I don’t mean he’s going to smash his guitar into the drumkit or hang from the rafters; rather, he’s going to play some kind of ridiculous solo that seems nearly impossible, yet he’ll pull it off with (what looks like) ease. I think I spoke to Doug after a show they played in Lancaster at the Chameleon. He was a quiet guy, but that came as no surprise. On stage, his demeanor is the same. He isn’t a “showman,” per se; he lets his music do the talking. (And by the way, I’m not saying “Carry the Zero” is a better choice than “Less Than Zero”; instead, I’m pointing out that it deserves at least equal time.)

1: Mogwai – “2 Rights Make 1 Wrong


From Rock Action

[Instrumental]

Fooled you. Sort of. You saw that “2” and got all confused, right? Well, stick with me. I’m working here. Rock Action is by no means Mogwai’s best record. In fact, if I had to pick my favorite, I’d go with one that wasn’t even a full-length: EP+2. This song, though, was an obvious stand-out. In fact, if you’re like me and do one of two things at the bar jukebox — play horribly annoying music to piss off the entire bar, or download great songs for your own benefit despite the fact that the rest of the bar will likely hate you (thus pissing off the entire bar) — “2 Rights Make 1 Wrong” is an excellent choice. Considering it clocks in at over 9 minutes, it’s fair to say you get your money’s worth. What do you expect? I’m Jewish.

2: Frank Black – “Two Spaces


From Frank Black

This gravity
Is feeling like a tether.
I want to want to be
So high above the weather.
All frequency around
Without a sound.

Much like Elvis Costello, The Pixies are one my favorite bands of all time. I’ve been hooked since my first listen to Surfer Rosa. Stunned, even. In fact, The Pixies remain my choice for the “If I could have seen any band live in their prime, who would it be” question I like to pose to people. Okay, so Frank Black is not the Pixies (is not Black Francis) (is not Charles Thompson). But I contend that his solo work — namely, Frank Black, Bluefinger, Pistolero, and, of course, Teenager of the Year — are fantastic records. Obsessed with aliens (among other things), Frank Black’s solo debut was not so much an “excuse me” but an assurance that, despite the break-up of The Pixies, he was still going great guns. Don’t believe me? Go back and listen to the record, then tell me songs like “Old Black Dawning,” “Ten Percenter,” “Every Time I Go Around Here,” and “Don’t Ya Rile ‘Em” aren’t completely kick-ass.

3:30 Gallon Tank” – Spoon


From A Series of Sneaks

Action takes a back seat to abstraction
Works you up and takes out the piss
This action could finally put out in our
Cmon, cmon, cmon
30 gallon tank

Okay, so this is by no means my favorite Spoon track. Not even close. But, it does come from my favorite Spoon record. Sort of. See, I continue to waffle (and always have) between A Series of Sneaks and Girls Can Tell. And in all fairness, they’re such different records that I think it kind of makes sense, not knowing which one I prefer. I suppose it’s really just a mood thing. Girls Can Tell was something of a transition record for Spoon the same way Being There was for Wilco. I’ve seen Spoon live (at TT the Bear’s in Cambridge, MA), and while they performed songs from both records, I came to this conclusion: Spoon’s not a great live band. Don’t get me wrong; they’re not a bad live band. They simply don’t deviate much from the studio stuff. Yes, they’re a tight live band, but if that’s all I wanted I could have stayed home and gotten drunk while listening to their records for a lot less money.

4:4 AM” – Richard Buckner


From Devotion + Doubt

It’s 4 AM and I’m awake again
And not quite high enough
I’ll be back, you know when
Should I lie a little and dream away
I’m just lying here anyway
With a chill a little heat
Could kill on sight
But where are you tonight?

This song’s a killer. Devastating, really. I listen to it even now and am haunted by it, particularly by that final vocal, in which Buckner feels literally pulled away from the microphone and asks/pleads, “Where are you?” I’ve seen Richard Buckner live a few times, all in Chicago. In fact, I might have seen him all three times at this great little joint called Schubas. What you realize pretty quickly about Buckner is that he doesn’t have a great voice. What he does have is presence. He’s a rather tall, long-haired, scruffy looking guy who sounds as though he used boatloads of whiskey to wash down spoonfuls of shrapnel. What’s more, he’s clearly damaged, or has been damaged by a marriage gone awry. It’s all in his lyrics. And speaking of lyrics, he is truly one of the great lyricists of our day. Go check out Since, or his record The Hill, a play on/ode to Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. The guy’s got what the industry folk call “It.”

5:2 + 2 = 5” – Radiohead


From Hail to the Thief

I try to sing along but the music’s all wrong
‘Cause I’m not, ’cause I’m not
I swat ’em like flies
But like flies the bugs keep coming back
But I’m not

Sure, I considered “5:15” by The Who. But since that isn’t my favorite song by The Who (as this isn’t my favorite song by Radiohead), I said the hell with it and went with this one. For some reason, I typically like the Radiohead songs where Thom Yorke loses his shit. It’s ironic, though, since my favorite Radiohead album remains The Bends, which is, for the most part, a bit subdued (particularly my favorite song on the album, “Black Star.”) I’ve seen Radiohead once and only once. (It would have been twice, but there was a pain-in-the-ass story with the ex-wife while living in Philly, so rather than both of us going to the show, neither of us went to the show and we ate the tickets. Thanks, ex-wife.) What’s more, it’s likely not the way many of you saw them. It wasn’t in a large, outdoor stadium; hell, it wasn’t in a large venue of any kind. Rather, it was in the fall of 1993 in Pittsburgh, PA. I was a freshman at Carnegie Mellon University, and there, at a tiny venue called Metropol, me and some got a chance to see Radiohead touring in support of Pablo Honey. The funny thing? I couldn’t have cared less. They were the opening band, and I was there to see the headliner: Belly. You know, Belly? Tanya Donnelly’s band of “Feed the Tree” fame? What can I say? I was a huge fan of Throwing Muses. Still am, really.

6:Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean” – Explosions in the Sky


From The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place

[Instrumental]

I once did a pretentious painting that looked remarkably similar to the cover of this album. Strangely, that was over 10 years ago. This record came out in 2003, I believe. I’m not pointing fingers, but I’d say someone owes me a royalty check or two. Don’t make me call someone, Explosions in the Sky. You’re paid now, thanks to Friday Night Lights. Like most post-rock bands, Explosions in the Sky make soundtracks to films that don’t exist. That is, the music tells a story, and the listener creates the narrative in his own mind. [See: Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Mogwai, Do Make Say Think, etc.] Of all these bands, though, I’d say EITS is the most accessible in terms of this genre (not my favorite, mind you, as that honor belongs to DMST). “Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean” is emblematic of their work, as it contains their typical slow-build dynamic. If I’m remembering correctly, EITS tend not to utilize the In medias res philosophy, but instead rely on constant climaxes followed by constant plateaus. On the whole, I think this is one of their stronger records, and, no, I don’t own the Friday Night Lights soundtrack, movie or television show.

7:Seven Nation Army” – The White Stripes


From Elephant

I’m going to Wichita
Far from this opera forevermore
I’m gonna work the straw
Make the sweat drip out of every pore
And I’m bleeding, and I’m bleeding, and I’m bleeding
Right before the lord
All the words are gonna bleed from me
And I will sing no more
And the stains comin’ from my blood tell me “Go back home”…

Best White Stripes song? Nah. Great riff at the start? Absolutely. Great beat (despite Meg White’s drumming that’s mediocre at best)? Hell yeah. I like The White Stripes. I don’t love The White Stripes. Like so many other bands with promise, they started out great and reached a bit of a wall. That is, there was almost nowhere else for them to go. And, yeah, a lot of you might disagree with me on that one, but the last really good record they made was White Blood Cells. (And, again, it’s really goddamn good.) After that, I can pretty much take or leave their discography. (Apologies, Mike D.) Jack White is super-talented; no one’s debating that. But after a while their music gets, well, redundant. I had the opportunity to see The White Stripes at a joint called Lupo’s in Providence, RI. In fact, I was joined that night by Cousin Matt, who was visiting me while I was getting my Masters degree in Boston. Jack had a touch of laryngitis that evening and apologized profusely. Still, he and Meg were fantastic. (And I’ll have to defer to Cousin Matt on this one, but the opening band who more metal than rock kicked all sorts of ass. Cousin Matt? Their name? Help a cousin out.)

8:Driver 8” – R.E.M.


From Fables of the Reconstruction

The walls are built up stone by stone
the fields divided one by one.
And the train conductor says
“Take a break Driver 8 Driver 8 take a break
We’ve been on this shift too long”

I’ve never seen R.E.M. live. In fact, I’ve never been the biggest R.E.M. fan. But, well, pickens were slim when it came to “8,” so there you go. Truth be told, they really are one of those great bands that just never resonated with me like they did for others. I loved Life’s Rich Pageant, but I found that it was their material from the early 90’s that I really dug, for some reason or another. For instance, I always dug tracks like “Star Me Kitten” and “Try Not to Breathe,” as well as side two of Out of Time. I guess I’ve always admired them, but at the same time so hated their more popular songs, particularly that shitfest “Losing My Religion” (which, by the way, makes a nice “Letter L” once The Angry Alphabet returns). My brother is a huge R.E.M. fan and has always tried to convince me to see the error in my ways. And, to be fair, every time he starts bombarding me with names of their songs, well, I have to admit that he’s right. Still, there’s just something I’m not getting with them. Please, can someone explain it to me? I’m confused.

EDIT:

I’m ashamed of me. Truly ashamed. One of my pals pointed out that, although “Driver 8” is fine and all, how could I not choose “Interstate 8” by Modest Mouse? Um, you want to know how? Because I spaced. Completely. Hell, I even mentioned Modest Mouse in this goddamn post! How in the hell did I manage to forget them for my number 8?! So, with that, a second entry for 8.

8:Insterstate 8” – Modest Mouse


From Interstate 8

Spent 18 hours waiting stoned for space
I spent the same 18 hours in the same damn place
I’m on a road shaped like a figure 8
I’m going nowhere, but I’m guaranteed to be late
You go out like a riptide
You know that ball has no sides
You’re an angel with an amber halo
Black hair and the devil’s pitchfork
Wind-up anger with the endless view of
The ground’s colorful patchwork
How have you been? [x2]
How have you? [x2]
I drove around for hours, I drove around for days
I drove around for months and years and never went no place
We’re on a pass, we’re on pass
I stopped for gas, but where could place be
To pay for gas to drive around
Around the Interstate 8
You go out like a riptide
You know that ball has no sides
You’re an angel with an amber halo
Black hair and the devil’s pitchfork
Wind-up anger with the endless view of
The ground’s colorful patchwork
How have you been? [x2]
How have you? [x2]

Yeah, that’s right. I included all of the lyrics for the song. So? I’ll do as I please, thank you. What’s more, these lyrics come from a time when Modest Mouse was writing, well, great lyrics and great songs. Interstate 8 surfaced shortly after one of my favorite all-time records, This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About. Nowadays, you can barely find an actual hardcopy of Interstate 8 without shelling out $50 or more. Oh, and it’s an EP. Damn thing’s pretty rare. In all honesty, this is by no means my favorite track on the record. I’d give that honor to “Whenever You Breathe Out, I Breathe In (Positive/Negative),” which surfaces as one of the “hidden” tracks on the record (back when hidden tracks were “cool.”) I’ve seen Modest Mouse live on several occasions: Lancaster, Philadelphia, Chicago, Albuquerque. Hell, I’ve met Isaac Brock (bought him a Guiness during a Quasi show at the Empty Bottle in Chicago; he was kind of a dick), took a piss next to Eric Judy (at the Chameleon in Lancaster; really nice guy), and spoke to Jeremiah Green after a show in New Mexico (he signed my copy of The Fruit That Ate Itself). I love these guys. Or I did. Please, Modest Mouse, erase your last few albums. Do it for me.

9:99 Problems” – Danger Mouse


From The Grey Album

I got the rap patrol on the gat patrol
Foes that wanna make sure my casket’s closed
Rap critics that say he’s “Money Cash Hoes”
I’m from the hood stupid what type of facts are those
If you grew up with O’s and you zap the toes
You’d celebrate the minute you was havin doe
I’m like fuck critics you can kiss my whole asshole
If you don’t like my lyrics you can press fast forward
Got beef with radio if i don’t play they show
They don’t play my hits well i don’t give a shit SO
Rap mags try and use my black ass
So advertisers can give em more cash for ads…fuckers
I don’t know what you take me as
or understand the intellegence that Jay-Z has
I’m from rags to ritches nigga i ain’t dumb
I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one
Hit me

Why the Danger Mouse version as opposed to the original Jay-Z version? Well, to be perfectly honest, I was never a Jay-Z fan before listening to The Grey Album. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Jay-Z’s music; rather, I just didn’t know it. I guess I just dismissed him from jump, assuming I wouldn’t care for his stuff. And while I still don’t own a single Jay-Z record, The Grey Album definitely gave me sn appreciation for his lyrics and cadence. What I am, and always have been, is a stone-cold Beatles fan, so to hear that Danger Mouse recorded a “mash-up” with arguably my favorite band of all time and a hip-hop artist I knew little about intrigued me to no end. Surely it couldn’t work, right? Mixing “The White Album,” which remains my favorite Beatles record (in addition to side B of Abbey Road) and The Black Album was a ridiculous endeavor. Right? Well, not so much. It works. Well. And in the case of “99 Problems,” it’s pretty damn impressive, hearing Jay-Z’s original tracks “spliced” with The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.” I mean, it just flat-out works even though it shouldn’t.

10:10 Gallon Ascots” – Tapes ‘n Tapes


From The Loon

Your hats they long
Of range they’ve sung
File out at night
Shock steers with fright

So, you know how when you go to see a band live, but you end up smoking too much pot out of a carrot with the opening band, and by the time you realize how much weed, gin and beer you’ve had it’s too late, so you’re friends need to get you downstairs to the restaurant part of the venue so you can eat an octopus salad? Um, yeah, me neither. Okay, so some pals and I went to see Tapes ‘n Tapes in Philadelphia last Spring, and rather than going apeshit over their show at Johnny Brenda’s, I drank way too much, didn’t really eat anything, and partied with opening band, The Subjects. So, by the time Tapes ‘n Tapes went on, I, well, went off. They brought me downstairs and tried to get some food into me, which may or may not have happened. At this point, I really can’t say I remember. Too bad, really. The Loon is a fantastic record, incidentally. It’s got The Pixies written all over it, which is an immediate plus (obviously), as well as hints of Modest Mouse (when they were actually a band worth listening to, that is). And “10 Gallon Ascots” is a fantastic representation of the album, as it does the whole Pixies-esque quiet-loud-quiet-loud thing to a tee.

Well, friends, that’ll do it. Eleven Twelve Thirteen songs spanning 0 through 10. Any “number-based” songs I missed that you would have chosen over mine? By all means, leave me a comment. We can debate right there on my blog like civilized people.

Eh, who the fuck am I kidding. I’m an asshole. Still, I’ll debate the shit out of you.

Until next time, have at it, you vultures!

BD

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Responses

  1. Mogwai – check! Although I think the “Pissing off the bar” medal goes to the Liars. I’m just sayin’.

    • Close, but incorrect. That honor belongs to Ween’s live rendition of “Poopship Destroyer.” Thank you for playing.

  2. Ahhh, too much awesomeness to comment on in my last 5 minutes of work. Consider this a “to be continued” post.
    I will leave you today, as it’s on the topic of pissing off the bar, with the angriest bar situation that I’ve ever been in. My friend’s old band knew the Red Aunts and they agreed to let them play a couple of songs after their set at their last show. The problem was that it was at a lesbian bar and apparently it was not cool that a three piece of all dudes was taking the stage. People started sneaking around and unplugging instruments and there was a great deal of yelling. The guitarist was pretty drunk and I actually had to grab him and stop him from dropping his pants, yelling “boys can rock too.” I’m actually surprised that we eventually got out without incident.

    Anyways. I’ll add on tomorrow. Really, really great post.

  3. As I read yet another of your brilliant ideas for posts, I feel like Joker when Batman broke out one of his fancy toys.

    “Where does he get all these wonderful ideas?”

    • That, Sir, is high praise. Thanks so much, Mr. Socks. And to answer your question, blame it on the insanity.

  4. This was lots of fun to read and will further help me to fuck with the iTunes *cough* genius *cough*.

    In one of those “Say the first thing that comes to mind” games, if you’d have asked me to name a song with a number in the title, I’d say “Song 2” by Blur. I’m pretty sure it’s because the WOOHOO! is so much fun to sing.

    • Thanks for the feedback. Greatly appreciated, as always. And damn you for getting that song in my head. Once “Song 2” makes an appearance in the brain, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of.

      Great, there goes my weekend!

  5. I think this was a really great idea for a post for starters, and I could comment on all of them positively except for the two that I haven’t heard (both of which I am currently buying from the iTunes store). That would get pretty ridiculous though because it would basically be me practically writing a blog on your blog. I’m longwinded enough as it is. So, with that in mind…

    I love the Frank Black portion. Two Spaces isn’t necessarily a favorite of mine, but I really couldn’t possibly agree more with your sentiment about that record or about his solo career. Personally, I know I’m in the minority, but I would stack Teenager of the Year against any Pixies record and that first solo one doesn’t fall too far behind it. I really think that was the perfect first record for him. There is such a quality to it. A certain sense of freedom. Knowing what we know looking back it’s really apparent that it stopped being fun at the end of the Pixies run and he really got it back with that album.

    That was long so I’ll be brief. Man, My Aim Is True is just a monster and Less Than Zero is probably my second favorite track from it (I’m a sucker for The Angels Want To Wear My Red Shoes). Less Than Zero is the source of one of my favorite teenage memories though. I was having an awful time at this party until this random, without music, sing along of that tune started in the kitchen. Turned the whole night around and it’s just stuck with me over the years.

    Also, do you know a good/safe way to get my hands on The Grey Album? I just heard 99 Problems on this “best of the decade” special and it’s really got me intrigued. That is a really interesting track. I’m pretty into it.

    Great edit too. I’m a big fan of Interstate 8.

    Thanks man. If you’re looking for a way to get Song 2 out of your head, the trick that works for me every time is to get the whitstle part to Love Me Do going in your head. It’ll knock everything out and it’s easily replaceable.

    Damn, last thing. As I’ve been typing these last couple bits the Richard Buckner tune has been playing and it’s really, really damned good. I just bought the rest of the record. Man, great tune. Thanks for putting it in here.

    • Sweet Jesus, Man! That’s quite the response. All I can say is thanks for taking the time.

      Okay, that’s not ALL I can (or will) say. You nailed it on the Frank Black insight. I know The Pixies continue to get all the kudos (which is understood), but Frank Black deserves even more credit than he deserves. The guy’s a fucking genius.

      I think what sets the tone for My Aim Is True is, well, “Welcome to the Working Week.” I mean, it’s the opening track and it’s under 90 seconds, for God’s sake. Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis Costello! (For the record, Blood and Chocolate gets the nod for favorite EC album.)

      Sorry, can’t recommend a “safe” way to get the record. Although, perhaps I could mail you a copy?

      “Love Me Don’t” is more like it. Thanks.

      And, yes, Richard Buckner whoops ass. Both Devotion+Doubt and Since are monsters, though I’d also urge you to get his debut, Bloomed.

      • I’d respond with thank you for giving me so much to talk about, and for the laugh I got from “Love Me Don’t.” Ouch.

        In regards to Frank Black, I know. I’ve talked to so many people who really like the Pixies who basically think Frank Black just fell off the face of the earth after they dissolved. It’s a real shame. Couldn’t agree more. The guy is just amazing. Also, one of the few sort of musical heroes of mine that I’ve met and he was a really, really nice guy.

        Because he was already pretty established by the time I was really aware of him (My Aim Is True came out the year before I was born) I’ve never really thought about Welcome To The Working Week as Elvis’ overall introduction to the world. I, of course, knew it was his first record, but I’ve never thought of it that way. It is really fitting. That’s very cool. Blood and Chocolate is amazing, but My Aim Is True is a real all time favorite for me. Beyond the greatness of the music there are just so many amazing memories with that record.

        Actually, if I wouldn’t be putting you out I would really like that. I’d gladly reply in kind (there are a couple of more local-ish records that I’ve been thinking you might like) and I’ve been pretty bummed that I can’t just buy that album. If it’s ok just shoot me an e-mail. I’d really appreciate it.

        I’m really enjoying Devotion + Doubt. Looks like my list is going to grow a bit. Not to mention what’s probably going to happen after I do some listening from your 2006 bonuses. Thanks a lot man.


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