July 29, 2005

Portishead - Sour Times (Live)

To be absolutely clear from the start, I am not talking about the album/single version of Portishead’s “Sour Times,” that gloomy cloud of psychodrama that mysteriously started turning up regularly on MuchMusic in my youth. That one is a great song too, don’t get me wrong, but on record it is maybe a bit too restrained for me now, hampered by the otherwise great rattle and glide of the samples. Beth Gibbons is singing too quickly, too glibly. The refrain of “nobody loves me, it’s true / not like you do” is all present and accounted for, but there’s something missing.

Live, at least on the version presented on the Roseland NYC Live album, the song truly blossoms. I’m definitely not going to claim that most live albums are anything other than fans-only, but for a band that have still only produced two albums this remains the best thing they have ever done in LP format. Backed up by an orchestra and all that, yes, but also more confident, more forceful, sadder, more textured, more rock, more soul, more everything. A nightmarishly rocky early record reading of “Cowboys” serves to put the listener on notice that Adrian Utley’s guitar is going to be taking as prominent a place in the mix as Geoff Barrow’s decks and Gibbons’ voice.

And boy, had she improved in a relatively short time. Capable of twisting from evil to pathetic in the space of a line, Beth Gibbons may in fact be very shy but on stage she can act her heart out. Over the slower swoop of this version of “Sour Times” she slows the pace a little and really wrenches everything from the chorus. The song now starts with a riff from Utley and the sampled rattle is replaced by high vinyl keen, live drums slowly urging the music forward.

And then the real flashpoint, four minutes in, as she keeps singing “And nobody loves me, it’s true.” Noirish twang becomes thrust and she’s shrieking, stuttering, howling— “It’s not like it seems from a distance” becomes one of the scariest things someone could say to you. If the original didn’t hide the disturbance beneath the seemingly straightforward declaration, this version of “Sour Times” foreground in the listener’s mind the fact that we haven’t heard the other side of the story—does the “you” in the song really love Gibbons’ narrator? Or like them? Or even know them?

Although the feel is close enough, at least at the beginning, that I assumed the backing music was roughly the same, a side-by-side play reveals the real sonic and emotional alchemy worked on the track. The original “Sour Times” was magnificent in 1994 but in light of this version it seems pale, facile, almost immature. The raging torrent at the end of the live “Sour Times” is something much more human, in some ways, even if deranged. For all the talk of Gibbons having an amazing voice (which she does), you don’t really hear much proof of it on Dummy; you have to turn to Roseland NYC Live and her collaboration with “Rustin Man” (Out Of Season) to hear it.

Giving the quantum leap in sound quality that was Portishead, and dim rumblings from the band that there may be another album soon, it’s easy to look at the live album, so much more fulfilling than either studio effort probably merely because of the extra experience under Portishead’s belt at that point, as both the definitive statement on these old songs and also hopefully a sign of the way forward. Even at its chilliest and calmest there is a muscular and skilled quality to these version of these songs that turns “Sour Times” from a 90s box-set oddity into the classic we always knew it could (and should) be.

The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (1)

July 28, 2005

Everybody knows about the French New Wave, but not so many are clued in to the simultaneous explosion of brilliant filmmaking that took place in what was then Communist Czechoslovakia. Something of a thaw occurred after the hard-line Stalinism of the 50s: censorship restrictions were loosened, Western influences seeped in (many recall listening to faint rock-and-roll transmissions on tinny radios), and the result was a cultural revolution strong enough that the Soviet loyalists in the Czechoslovak government felt compelled to call in the Russian tanks in August of 1969. If you talk to enough Czech film enthusiasts, you’ll hear the phrase “Czech film miracle” bandied about—I implore you, for once, to believe the hype. Obviously one should check out the films, but part of what makes these works so striking, especially for obsessive music fans, are the soundtracks. Czech and Slovak composers were at the top of their game, right alongside maverick directors like Vera Chytilova (whose Daisies is one of my absolute favorite films), Jaromil Jires, Evald Schorm, and Jan Svankmajer.

Loves of a Blonde (Lasky jedne plavovlasky)
Directed by Milos Forman. Music by Evzen Illín.

Americans know Forman better as the émigré director of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, and The Truman Show, but the trio of features he made in Czechoslovakia before departing for the States are truly remarkable. Loves of a Blonde is preceded by Black Peter (Cerny Petr) and followed by The Fireman’s Ball (Hori, ma panenko). All three manage that rare feat of being humorous and human, both stinging social satires and tender character studies. This quick rock ditty is literally the beginning of the film: an ample female sits against a blank wall with her guitar, accompanied by invisible off-screen backup singers. The style comes from one of Forman’s early experiments called Audition, in which he filmed hundreds of aspiring Czech rock stars (Czechoslovak Idol, anyone?) then grafted a story onto the performance footage. Americans will no doubt recognize the typical early rock-and-roll songwriting, but it’s sung in Czech and with such a charming, deadpan seriousness that it’s almost impossible to dislike.

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Valerie a tyden divu)
Directed by Jaromil Jires. Music by Lubos Fiser.

Yes, this is the film that inspired Broadcast’s “Valerie” (off 2003’s Haha Sound). A beautifully photographed erotic fairy tale about an innocent young girl’s coming of age, set in a small country village populated by vampires and angels; it’s easy to see what the retro-psychedelic obsessed Brits found to adore (she even looks like Trish!) Jires based this film on Czech Surrealist Vitezslav Nezval’s 1934 novel of the same name—though the material obviously made uptight censors queasy, Nezval was a staunch Communist, and adaptations of fairy tales, especially those written by Party members, were one route to creative freedom after the clampdown that began in 1970. The music is an inspired mélange of dreamy choirs, ominous pianos, spirited flutes, and folky strings, masterfully aligned with the various themes and characters of the film.

Bubenik Cerveneho kriza
Directed by Juraj Jakubisko. Music by Fedor Liska.

A lack of documentation and translation plagues English-speaking fans of Czech and Slovak films; this short, apparently created by Slovak director Jakubisko for the Czech Red Cross in 1977 to raise awareness about orphans (that’s the subject of the film, anyway) has precious little info available aside from difficult-to-read titles. Those titles list one Fedor Liska as composer, a name I’ve never heard, though Zdenek Liska is a prominent Czech film composer whose work can be found on dozens of titles. Anyway, the music is at turns ebullient and terrifying, as the film jumps from documentary-style war footage depicting a child losing his parents to amped-up 70s after-school special montages of orphanage life, which are punctuated by nightmares that slide into fantasy reunion sequences with idealized parents. It’s a breathtaking short, certainly sentimental but genuinely moving, and photographed with a psychedelic array of colored filters and smart, tight editing.

The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (3)

July 27, 2005

The new millennium has seen Berlin blossom into what is perhaps the most musically fertile landmark in the Western world. And no doubt with such prowess comes a handful of great independent labels. City Centre Offices may not be the most thriving and successful of these imprints, but quality-wise and as far as rock-solid rosters go, it’s certainly among the most notable. The following are selections from four recent releases from City Centre’s increasingly eclectic catalog.

The Remote Viewer- It’s Funny How We Don’t Talk Anymore

As founding members of Leeds-based post-rock outfit Hood, one might expect Craig Tattersall and Andrew Johnson’s Remote Viewer project to follow the lush indie electronic stylings of their parent band. That much would be a fairly precise assumption. Although The Remote Viewer isn’t quite as song oriented as Hood, it abides by the same hybrid formula: lush post-rock instrumentation blended with leftfield electronics, complete with the occasional vocal spell. “It’s So Funny How We Don’t Talk Anymore” finds tapping percussion sweeps married to sultry, soul-aspiring key progressions. It could pass as the best Arovane outtake you’re likely to ever hear. This selection comes from the duo’s latest full length endeavor, Let Your Heart Draw a Line, which dropped in mid May.

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Cyne - Soapbox

The fashion of leftfield electronic labels peddling the occasional hip-hop record is by no means a new vogue. Warp and Skam have both jumped on the bandwagon, and City Centre is not far behind. Surprisingly, Cyne’s debut full length, Evolution Flight, dropping in late August, isn’t much of a compromise for the label in terms of genre. It’s a hip-hop record through and through, no additives, no preservatives. The record only utilizes tiny traces of the experimental gooberisms associated with Shadow Huntaz and Antipop Consortium. For the most part, the two-MC, two-producer collective maintains a very straightforward appeal. “Soapbox” comes off like a Little Brother joint remixed by a younger, more clear-cut Scott Herren. If the beat bores you, perhaps you’ll find sanctuary in the too-many-to-count four-letter obscenities present on the track.

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Boy Robot - Super Scorer

Boy Robot is the collaborative enterprise between Hans Möller (aka Boulderdash) and Michael Zorn (aka Zorn). Released late last month, the acclaimed Rotten Cocktails has been serenading critics with its melting pot of uptempo dance gems and quirky, melodic IDM. With track titles like “Bass & Booze” and “We Accept All Our Parents’ Credit Cards,” the album upholds a certain youthful friskiness not usually associated with experimental electronic music. This is especially the case with “Super Scorer,” which is easily the album’s most accessible number. It sounds more like one of this year’s beloved Daft Punk copycats (Mylo, Vitalic, etc.) than something you’d expect off City Centre. It would be an ideal way to liven up a stagnant microhouse set without getting on too much of a tangent.

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Studio Pankow - Jungfernheide

Somewhere between the dubby IDM exercises of the ~Scape roster and the cold song structures of Pan Sonic lies ambient techno supergroup Studio Pankow. Consisting of Move D, Conjoint and Rawell, this multinational trio enlists raspy percussion samples, humming synth chatter, a mockup celestial choir and, of course, dubbed-out bass. A slight Detroit techno lean can be detected if you’re listening for it. The act’s full length Linienbusse, which found its way to shelves in late May, continues in this spirit.

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Will Simmons | 8:00 am | Comments (1)

July 26, 2005

Inflation Breeze

With electrohouse probably hitting its (relative) peak of popularity at the moment, I felt it was about time to do a mix of some of the great records that have been put out in the last year. There are a couple ongoing themes present to this mix. The first is that each successive track in this mix hits a little bit harder and louder than the last one. It’s a very gradual inflation process, starting from the ambient sighs of Donnacha Costello up until the bombastic Hystereo/Tiefschwarz/Ewan Pearson conclusion. To try and make these transitions as smooth as possible, I strove to include a good deal of melodic crosspllination between tracks. That is to say, the melodies of one track are very similiar in rhythm and/or timbre to the previous one. While a lot of DJ sets and mixes of electrohouse have either an acid-tech or EBM/goth type feel to them, I aimed to make this mix as fluent and burdenless as possible. You could almost say it sounds like a mechanical breeze. Perhaps, in fact, an inflation breeze.


01 Donnacha Costello - Cocoa (Minimise)
02 Water Lilly - Tangle of Wires (Mental Groove)
03 Delon & Dalcan - No Speak [Tekel Remix] (Boxer Sport)
04 Sweet ‘n’ Candy feat. Rufus Dunkel - Veritable (Lebensfreude)
05 Tomas Andersson - The Birthday Party (Bpitch Control)
06 Unit 4 - Bodydub [Bangok Impact Remix] (Clone)
07 Etienne De Crecy - Fast Track (Different Recordings/PIAS)
08 Tomas Andersson - Happy Happy (Bpitch Control)
09 Huntemann - Femme Fatale (International Deejay Gigolo)
10 Sweet Light - Nirvana (Freak ‘n Chic)
11 Dmx Krew - The Hunt (Sonic Groove)
12 ADJD - Believe (Pokerflat)
13 Alex Smoke - Chica Wappa [Mejor Edit] (Soma)
14 2 Rare People - Time [2 Rare People Redone Mix] (Blackout ‘77)
15 Hystereo - Corporate Crime Wave (Soma)
16 Tiefschwarz - Wait and See [Tiefschwarz Dub] (Four Music/Fine)
17 Silicone Soul - The Poisoner’s Diary [Ewan Pearson’s Instrumental Remix] (Soma)

*photo of Mesak courtesy of punainen.org.

The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (0)

July 25, 2005

Mission of Burma - The Enthusiast

I’m finished talking about the MoB show this weekend; I’m sure all of you who’ve wanted to see them have. And maybe you were there in ‘82. I was a fetus, and three guys babbling in ragged harmony would’ve been awful for my development. Here is a mildly terrifying Burma-Shave sign.

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Black Flag - What I See

Can you imagine how catastrophic a true Black Flag reunion would be? Forget that WM3 comp: even if Ginn and Rollins could patch things up,the sheer number of ex-Flags who would be left in the cold is staggering. Gimme Kira on bass, Biscuits on the skins, Greg and Dezfor the two-guitar attack, and Keith to trade off with Hank on themic. Hank would tackle his own “What I See,” which on the right days is the best Flag song ever. Here is a perfectly serviceable review of the quasi-reunion benefit CD.

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Roger Miller - Palmsandr

How I Spent My Time OFF: Tinnitus didn’t knock Burma guitarist Roger Miller completely out of the game. He just had to turn down the levels a bit. Here’s a track from 1990’s Xylyl, a suite composed for a Boston art show. The conceit for Xylyl is the similar to the one employed for the ‘89 studio set Damage the Enemy (recorded under the moniker No Man): household objects are sampled and incorporated into structured songs. With no vocals, the focus switches to the lovely violin of Judy Stanton & Bob Weston’s stirring trumpet(!). Weston, the Dave Grohl of the post-punk network, has since joined Roger and Co. as Mission of Burma’s new resident tape manipulator. A beautiful song. Here is a man using a palm sander.

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The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (2)

July 22, 2005

Jamie Lidell - When I Come Back Around

Warp Records was once a highly specialized empire, a refuge for a humble-but-dedicated circle of leftfield electronic music consumers. It played a defining role in establishing the first wave of armchair techno in the early ’90s. However, in more recent years, Warp has begun to unwind its focus more and more. Evidence of this was brought forth when releases by Broadcast and Jimi Tenor began to surface later in the decade. By the time the new millennium hit, Warp had found a new assorted format and undoubtedly caused many former label devotees to turn away completely. As for myself, I never became impatient with the newfound eclectic slant. The heavy melodics of the Artificial Intelligence era ran a fairly sizeable course, but at some point, it was clearly time for a change of pace. Rather than seek an alternate point of focus, Warp opted for more of an “anything goes” mindset. Perhaps with Jamie Lidell’s latest full length, released last month, this mentality has reached a peak. Not only is Multiply quite different from any of Lidell’s previous outings, it’s more or less a bonafied soul record. With a few exceptions, the album’s track list is easily more comparable to Otis Redding than Red Snapper. However, the album’s single, “When I Come Back Around,” is something of a happy medium between the epileptic bump and twitch of “Windowlicker” and the vintage soul strut of Motown. For those unacquainted with classic soul, Multiply may take some time to grow on you, and this single may provide the training wheels necessary to spark your initial interest. Furthermore, if you’ve not yet gotten around to peeping the album, you are hereby recommended to do so. Why, it was only inked up as the Stylus “Album of the Week” for the week of June 13.

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Ohmega Watts - That Sound

Thanks to several you-know-who household names in the hip-hop mainstream, along with dozens of producers on the underground circuit, the notions of “soul” and “funk” have officially been reinstated into the hip-hop vocabulary. Upon scoping out commercial urban radio as of late, one might find that juxtaposed against the embarrassing second-grader drum machine workouts of “The Whisper Song” are the bright, authentic key progressions and smart breakbeats of Common’s “Go.” Portland-based Ohmega Watts (aka 25-year-old producer/MC Milton Campbell) is decidedly within the realms of the latter. And with the current overstock of generic, jaded “true school” inspired underground hip-hop, “That Sound,” the first single from Campbell’s forthcoming debut full length, comes off as a revitalizing diamond in the rough. With a delightfully Bohemian-style beat direction, the song has enough breakdowns, scratching spells and respectfully nostalgic vocal talent to wet the appetites of even the pickiest of the backpacker variety. “That Sound” embodies a less blunt-scorched and less comical Pharcyde in their prime. Also active as a graphic designer having Adidas commissions under his belt, Campbell churned out the cover art for the album. The 12-inch features a remix by Quantic Soul Orchestra, and the full length will include collaborations with DJ Bombay, Tiffany Simpson, Othello and Sugar Candy.

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Brian Wilson - Our Prayer (Freeform Reform)

There’s no telling exactly how or why this remix came into being. Having little to do stylistically with the grownup album rock majesty of Smile, it seems unlikely that the Freeform Five’s take on the album’s opening acapella track would have been commissioned by Nonesuch. Although, perhaps the label felt compelled to reach out to the younger, more modish facet of the artist’s audience. But even then, why settle for a little-known act like Freeform Five? I figure the most likely explanation would be that the remixers in question had their fun with “Our Prayer” before any contact with the label was even established. Upon the reprise’s completion, perhaps the foursome (yes, there’s puzzlingly four of them rather than five) touched base with the imprint, and for the sake of convenience, Nonesuch decided to peddle it rather than opting for a more obvious reinterpretation by Postal Service or The DFA. I can’t very well blame them for such thinking, as the mix works rather well. Fashioned as a tame electro/IDM hybrid, it wanders alongside the track’s original version with crafty beats and further harmonizing via buzzy synths. It’s quite far removed from the instrumental stylings and compositions of Brian “Sweet Hair” Wilson, but it’ll do the trick as long as you’re expecting it as such. However, if you’re hoping for a quirky electronic compliment to Smile, look elsewhere. If you must, just put on your favorite Lemon Jelly track and pretend it’s a remix of “Roll Plymouth Rock.” “Our Prayer (Freefrom Reform)” first surfaced on a clear, one-sided 10-inch single. It has recently been made available in CD form on Freeform Five’s two-disc installment in Four Music’s Misch Mash remix compilation and DJ set series.

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Stand-Alone Mash-Ups From Last Week’s Mix

Snoop Dogg (feat. Justin Timberlake and Charlie Wilson) - Signs (Metro Area Mash Edit By Luminfire)

There’s something so right about the way Justin nonchalantly drops the F-bomb like it’s no big deal, as if *NSYNC never released that Christmas album. It’s equally charming how Snoop suddenly took the hint from Pharrell and started singing his lyrics. This joint is full of firsts! And surprisingly, the Metro Area’s “Nerves,” featuring horns by James Duncan, doesn’t sound too far off from the original “Signs” backdrop. Both tracks hark back to the disco funk heyday of “Uncle” Charlie Wilson. The way Metro Area applies driving soul piano and a live string section is entirely uncommon in the electronic music community. Hats off to them.

Amerie (w/ T.I.) - Touch (Chicken Lips Mash by Luminfire)

As the world simmers down into a post “1 Thing” stupor, I’m sure Amerie’s wondering if she’ll be able to capitalize on another monster hit, as the rest of us probably are. Well, things are looking up in that respect. Although “Touch” is a dramatic departure from that first single, it’s certainly got the formula: a resolute club readiness curated by none other than Lil’ Jon. This mash-up strips the track of the super producer’s TRL-ready ornamentation, providing a clean slate of dubby disco frolicking. The instrumental source is the Chicken Lips remix of the Triangle Orchestra’s “@ 137.”

Gwen Stefani - Hollaback Girl (Reverso 68 Mash by Luminfire)

As far as I can gather, the general consensus of “Hollaback Girl” is not a positive one. It’s either Gwen’s giddy, amateurish raps or the Neptunes’ minimalist framework that initially turns people away. Personally, I don’t mind the song all that much. It’s certainly not as high on my guilty pleasures list as “What You Waiting For?” or “Rich Girl,” but for some reason, it does the trick for me. Hopefully, those displeased with the original version’s production will find bliss in the Reverso 68 remix of the new Juan MacLean single, “Tito’s Way,” as a substitution.

Outkast - B.O.B. (Christopher & Raphael Just Mash by Luminfire)

If you haven’t heard “B.O.B.” yet, you’re officially in what Stylus would regard as the “pupa stage” of pop music self enrichment. Why? Well, mainly because we cited the joint as the #2 best single of the new millennium. It’s all there: the rock-solid organ progression, the cleverly prophetic chorus line, the nod to techno and Miami bass, the energy. Oh, the ENERGY! My goal in this mash-up was to preserve that same raw and boundary-pushing vigor maintained in the original. I think I came close. The chip-encrusted “Popper” by Christopher and Raphael Just is by no means an unhurried track. The two songs aren’t exactly peas and carrots, but see what you think.

Will Simmons | 8:00 am | Comments (0)

July 21, 2005

Jack Nitzsche

I have spent the better part of this summer immersed in the deluge of work that Jack Nitzsche made, played, partook in, or produced in any way. A small piece on Jack in the LA Weekly is here and a look at his soundtrack work through the seventies and eighties will be forthcoming in the next issue of Stop Smiling Magazine. Jack not only helped build Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, but made killer surf instrumentals (even re-imagining Link Wray’s tough “Rumble” as some sort of Wagner-ian heavyosity) and scored movies like The Exorcist, Performance, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, as well as some of Sean Penn’s directorial efforts. Oh, and he was a key player on Rolling Stones singles like “Paint It, Black” and “Satisfaction.” (Mick called “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby?” the ultimate freak-out.”) Jack also played a crucial role in jump-starting the careers of Neil Young, Mink DeVille, Graham Parker, as well as Ry Cooder. That’s a lot of music to swim through, and it should be no surprise that the booklet accompanying the recent Hearing is Believing set has lots of pics just of his little black book, showing connections to every record label and major player on the LA scene. He could turn Monkees into porpoises and he could make Marianne Faithfull into “Sister Morphine” even outside the confines of the song. Hell, he even produced the Germs, though that might not be the right word for it, as he did more drugs than Darby and the band hated the guy. “Jack was pretty steady,” Neil Young once said, “he was just fucked up all the time.” Doubt it? Check the chopped and screwed version of “Da Doo Run Run” he orchestrated to show that even back then, Jack was on some heavy medicine.

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July 20, 2005

Hüsker Dü - Makes No Sense At All

In the mid-1980s there was one very special kind of sound that ruled my soul. It was the sonic equivalent of a buzzsaw and went by various names: feedback, distortion, Psychocandy, and this one by Minneapolis’ favorite sons. It is the sonic template which leads ultimately to My Bloody Valentine, but we get ahead of ourselves. Famed sociologist and rock critic Simon Frith described the phenomenon thusly in Music for Pleasure:

From the start American hard-core musicians were formalists, less concerned than British bands with social and media gestures, more enraged by the constrictions of pop music itself. Hüsker Dü’s cover versions—”Ticket to Ride” and “Eight Miles High”—reinterpret psychedelic pop as music in the throes of collapse. The tunes are deconstructed, turned into grinding noise—which is how this music was originally heard live anyway. To get the argument, play The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl (the screaming never stops) against Hüsker Dü’s Flip Your Wig or The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy.

You can extend this argument to listening to classic pop on the am dial where basic road features like highway overpasses cause massive distortion and interference due t amplitude disruption. In eulogizing the late John Peel in The Guardian, My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields’ backs up my assertion: “When I first listened to him, in Ireland—and I’ve still got loads of tapes of that music—the reception wasn’t very good and there was all this phasing, it made music sound much weirder than it was. Did that have an effect on me? That I heard all this great British music through distortion and phase? Very possibly.” So what about this glorious noise?

In the case of “Makes No Sense At All,” even Grant Hart’s opening drum salvo seems masked in a haze. And then there’s the guitar and bass work, much of which seems to be so buried in the mix it literally sound like its behind the singers in another dimension of sight and sound. And its all in the service of 2:46 of perfectly crafted pop sugar melodies and sentiments. If ever there were a song to insistently pogo around a room or at least bob your head to or at least. This is the one that should have been their first major label single if only …

A story of dysfunctional love, Bob Mould’s lyrics crisply discuss the control issues of an anonymous significant other. It’s perhaps appropriate that the 7 inch release of this record had as its flip a brazen cover of Minneapolis’ favorite daughter’s theme song, “Love is All Around,” yup the one being played when Mary Richards expresses her independence by flinging that hat into the air and spinning around deliriously. Flip your wig indeed!

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July 19, 2005

Carla Bozulich writes some damn mean songs, but she can also twist a cover pretty far. As most of her recent solo work consists of reinterpretations, it’s apt to bypass her writing for this set. We don’t get apples to apples, but we get an ample sense of her stylistic range, and her evolution. Do, please, seek out her albums to catch her own compositions—they’re magnificent.

Ethyl Meatplow - Close to You

Heard in album context, it’s easy for this to slip by a few times before realizing what it is. Once I finally realized, I had a huge guffaw over the mangling of the Carpenters’ classic. It’s no joke, though, with its Some Great Reward style clanging percussion intro and Carla snarling like a trapped wildcat before it settles into the main groove. Happy Days, Sweetheart is a classic one-off release best known for the infamous “fuckin’ bitch cunt” chorus on “Queenie”. Less known is the fact that Barry Adamson co-produced with the band.

The Geraldine Fibbers - Yoo Doo Right

No mistaking this Can cover, even if one missed the spelling on the tracklisting. Greatly shortened, and missing a lot of the dynamic range, it’s still a jaw-dropping performance. Not very representative of its home album, Butch, it does at least have some of the country fiddle elements that are prominent on half the numbers, and some of the raving that appears frequently on others. A few even jam the two together for a very of-the-moment Southern Gothic feel.

Carla Bozulich - Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain

By now, Carla’s gone from shredding the original, to re-interpreting, to trying to get it stripped even closer to the essence. This take on Willie Nelson’s classic may be lushly sweetened a bit, but it doesn’t add many frills, and is quite reverential. It’s the crowd pleaser from Red Headed Stranger, a reworking of his entire album that he also guests on, both vocally and on guitar. Her earlier biliousness doesn’t appear, but some of the tracks are intensely sparse and brooding, lest you miss the dark element of her work.

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July 18, 2005

Ghostface Killah - Malcolm

Arguably the best song off Supreme Clientele, it’s the perfect song for the initial scenes of the great, unmade blaxploitation thriller. The opening bars have the protagonist leaving his Brooklyn apartment, hopping on a dusky, skeletal subway car all while clutching a small package underneath his jacket. The director of my film (hopefully either Singleton or Mann) can splice the song over the opening credits anyway he chooses, but it’s essential that as soon as the protagonist (perhaps an unshaven Derek Luke?) hits the street in lower Manhattan, the brilliant Malcolm X speech-sample on the song picks up around the weak piano right as Brother Malcolm hits with “By any means necessary!” It gets no realer.

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U.G.K. - 3 In The Mornin’

A cold burner like the GFK lick, but a looser, certainly less thought out version of the twilight-rap anthem. When Bun-B compares himself to current NBA journeyman Lindsay Hunter you can tell how soaked with age this beast is. I’d probably use it for one the film’s early scenes, when the protagonist is crawling all over the city, searching for the man who might just help him leave the game forever. Think creeping through Union Square before hitting the downtown train to Battery Park. Think a Houston vibe perched on the edge of Manhattan Island.

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Lil’Kim - No Time (ft. Puff Daddy)

Like all the great Westerns, the best blaxploitation movies always were anchored by the women. Now right now Lil’Kim doesn’t look like the best choice for someone to ride off into the sunset with, but this song, the lead single from her shocking debut, Hardcore, has all the ingredients of a glamorous yet toothy song for the end credits: the ballroom piano, Lil’Kim’s bragging about her Evita Peron methods for success, and a perfect balance of female braggadocio and the Horatio Alger-born-in-the-Bronx smirk.

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