Friday, July 22, 2011

Poisonous Nostalgia

Hey here is something I penned on a ferry to be seen on the music rag, Wheel Scene.

When you consume a great quantity of music at a great pace in a relatively great period of time, the standards by which you define "impactful" seem to change not only in their source, but also in their impact. You often hear people talking about "phases" is their life of listening to music -- "I'm having a techno phase" or "i'm so into prog right now" -- and truthfully, after a while that's what it's like. Stations of focus for the sake of a broader understanding of the waves that music make through time. There is a time in every persons life, though, where those waves are only just reaching our bows, and every pitch, yaw, and shudder that comes our way is a memorable one. By no means can I truly narrow this down, but here's a snapshot of a few high points:

Motorhead - On Parole

Listening to this record led me to the epiphany that there is room for a lot of finesse in otherwise bludgeoning and heavy music. This is far from the most violent and wild Motorhead record, but in the wrong hands, these songs could have been a lot worse off. Particularly, I focused on the drumming. If memory serves, the story goes that the original drum tracks on this record are by someone else, whose fate was sealed when his performance in the studio did no better than to track ink all over an invoice. WIth an unusable LP in their hands, Animal Taylor stepped in like rhythms' bespoke tailor and turned a potential mess into the crafty, flexible, swagger that Motorhead would blast into in the next decade (and beyond). So what does finesse have to do with impact? Well, it's important to have learned that force can be accompanied by craft. Even though it's the least iconic, I listen to On Parole more than any other Motorhead record (Overkill is actually my favourite, favourite), if only for the good graces and untamable, civilized, forcefulness of their playing. TRACK PICK: "MOTORHEAD" better than the s/t version imo

Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger

This is one of the first cassettes I ever bought that was a real rock band. I believe some member of my immediate or extended family preceded the ok'ing of this purchase by asking "this isn't some of that devil worshipper music is it?" Anecdotes aside, I was absolutely floored by hearing this record. I was lost in a sea of trying to figure out pre-teen and understanding how to get plugged into the things people were talking about and for some reason, buying this cassette made the most sense as a startup. I worshipped it and played it until the tape was transparent. Basically my whole introduction in to rock music (i discovered classic rock/punk etc well after this tape) was "Rusty Cage" and "Jesus Christ Pose." In fact I made my first friend in middle school (Carter Smith) when he walked up to me and asked "what are you into?" and I said "Soundgarden." In something that could have been cut dialogue from Repo Man he said, "Cool. Let's start a riot." Though, instead of turning the trash upside down, I went back to the record store...


Nirvana - In Utero

For someone my age (29) Nirvana will most always grace a list like this. They were just THE most important band you could imagine, and every record delivered. I had already heard 'Nevermind' at summer camp and was pretty hooked (also a fine cassette purchase), but this one came home with me on a solo mission to "Sam The Record Man" (a now gone-bust music institution in Toronto). After hearing this record, the rest of rock music made perfect sense. The one thing they all had in common is that they weren't as good as Nirvana. Heart Shaped Box was the most frightening thing I think i'd heard. Again, sort of coming back to force and finesse. I had no idea what he was saying, and even if I could read the lyrics, I don't think I then understood what they meant. It was incredibly loud, the drumming reaches Bonham territory...but it's also dynamic. All the info about Nirvana was distributed in magazines and TV, most of which I didn't have access too, so there were so many rumours and questions floating alongside every listen to colour the experience. This is still my fav Nirvana record, even though Incesticide is probably the more punk choice ha.

TRACK PICK: "TOURETTE'S" which at the time I thought meant "short stories about tour." I am naive.

Sex PIstols - Never Mind The Bollocks/Ramones - s/t

These two are a must, of course, and therefore get equal footing. Never Mind the Bollocks was the first punk record I ever bought (also on cassette). It was purchased on a school trip to Ottawa (Canada's capitol) in grade 9 (age 14). After I bought it, I went to the "IT STORE" and bought some orange hair dye in a spray can and came home a punk. I couldn't shower or else the dye would wash out, so I also came home smelling like garbage. Possibly also punk. TRACK PICK: "SUBMISSION"

The Ramones record was inherited from a good friend whom i'd often accused of being too "trendy." But when it came to liberating this classic punk album from a lot of inherited LPs, and saving it from certain trendy death, I suddenly didn't mind him being so on the up and up. My reaction to this record was monumental, and actually came in three waves over the next 10 years, each wave intensifying and reshaping my whole identity as a "punk," then a music fan, and then as a song writer. One of the most important records i've ever had the pleasure of listening to. TRACK PICK: "I DON"T WANNA WALK AROUND WITH YOU"

Infest - Slave

This is maybe an odd choice. Infest's first LP really doesn't have anything directly in common with the other picks on this list, and lets face it, you might not even know who this band is. They are a hardcore band from Southern California that were mainly active in the mid to late 80s, slightly inched in to the 90s, too. The reason this LP is on this list is because of my experience playing it for the first time. In any number of documentaries about the Ramones, there will be a section of talking heads discussing the first time they heard the s/t album. The reactions ranged from maniacal laughter to determination that they were listening to the greatest music ever recorded. In any scenario, though, people are flabbergasted and silenced by the new sounds they're hearing. I bought "Slave" in high school on the same day as my closest pal. We both brought our copies home to my place and rushed up to the stereo to break out this slab of wax that we'd been hearing about for so long, but had never heard. The wax whooshed silent for a few seconds as the groove started out and then Infest smashed through the wax for the most intense fifteen minutes of my life. I thought it must be a joke. The vocals were barked, the drums sounded like popcorn popping, it was SO fast...the guitars screamed out of control, the bass sounded like a bandsaw breaking, and tempos changed on what seemed like completely nonsense turns. My friend and I sat there SCREAMING with laughter throughout the whole thing until the run off grooves crackled away on "Fetch the Pliers." We wiped our eyes and caught our breath and then with all seriousness looked at each other and said "play it again." Infest is some of the most undeniable USHC ever produced, and all of their records are classic and crushing too. LP TRACK PICK: "HEAD FIRST" (NON LP PICK "JUDGE ME")