Thursday, December 27, 2007

Holiday music of a different kind

The wife and I got some time to go out tonight without the kid so we went to Gooski's. Might sound like a squandered night out to some people, but we had a great time.

Among the songs we played on the jukebox while we were there, having drinks and eating wings, I played "Out From Blown Speakers" by the New Pornographers and "Little Johnny Jewel" by Television. Talk about a couple of songs that'll get your heart pumping. I didn't realize that LJJ was the uncut full version of the song, without a fadeout in the middle. I love that song anyway, but when the second guitar solo kicks off, man, it goes into outer space. I think that's Verlane soloing there and there's that moment where he gets locked into a string-bend and it's like he's really trying to channel Coltrane. Maybe he doesn't actually get there, but the fact that he takes a shot at it and has no inhibitions or delusions of grandeur - you can FEEL it in the way he plays - makes it so powerful. Plus the rhythm section is really grooving too.

"Out from Blown Speakers" is from the second Pornographers album The Electric Version. Stop me if you've heard this one before, but when that came out in 2003 or so, I thought it was going to save the world. I hadn't heard their first album but this one hit me over the head with a seventh chord. That's the way pop music in the new millenium should sound, it seemed to tell me. I was working at Pulp at that time, and I remember saying something in print about how I only allow myself to get hyperbolic two or three times a year, and that album was one of those times. It was so good to hear it tonight. So good without making me feel bad about those days of my life being over. (One of my ex-Pulp co-horts was sitting with me at the time too, coincidentally.)

Every Christmas Eve, I think back on certain Christmas Eves past and where I was. This year, I remembered 1981 in particular. That year, I was a freshman in high school. My great-aunt had just died a month prior, thus closing the door on that generation of the Cordic family to me. (My grandparents on that side had died before I was born.)
My brother John came over to spend Christmas Eve at the house and he brought with him a stack of vinyl by a bunch of bands I was largely unfamiliar with: okay, I knew Killing Joke but not their "Turned to Red" EP; Rip Rig & Panic's God was weird because it had a picture on the cover that appeared in Life, some band called the Birthday Party and an album called Prayers on Fire, which I thought had a song called "200 Music Girl" until I looked at the cover and realized it was "ZOO Music Girl."
There were probably a few others but those were the ones I remembered best. John played the solo piano track from RR+P in the living room and later we were in my room - me, Bre'r John, Tom and maybe young sister Claire - checking out the records. My piddly phonograph didn't have any bass signal which pissed John off.
It was a watershed time for me because I was just starting to realize that, yes, this punk rock stuff that John listens to is really speaking to me and this is what I'm into and besides if kids in school are going to ostracize me, well I ought to give them a good reason to ostracize me.
That same day, I got a package I mail ordered from a record store in California: I got a used copy of Moby Grape's Grape Jam (oy.......) and a new copy of Talking Heads '77 (hmmm, what's this herky jerky stuff all about?). That was the crossroads for me: '60s fanaticism giving way to more modern music. The next morning, Tom would give me a copy of King Crimson's Discipline.
And a few days later, I would venture into Heads Together and buy the copy of Still by Joy Division because John recommended it and because they covered "Sister Ray."
I had absolutely no reference point for dark music like that at that point. The cover of "Sister Ray" was the closest thing to a reference point, but that was only one track on a double album by a band that couldn't be bothered to list their band members' names.
But I kept playing it.

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