It’s one more random than 10!
I had a funny moment a couple of weeks ago. I was working from the new home office in Civilization, Illinois, pretty much the way I did for three years while I lived in Beaver Trap, Michigan. Near the end of the day, I got an e-mail from one of my work colleagues in one of our main offices. She was in Downtown Civilization for a conference and said I should come out for drinks.
It took me a moment to process this. Come out for drinks. In the city. Because I live near a city now. I live near stuff to do.
To be fair to the beautiful Beaver Trap, there is lots of stuff to do there, just not much that I like to do. Now, however, I have an abundance of choices for things I love to do, like listen to live music. Crowded House and Aimee Mann in September. The reformed Guided by Voices and The New Pornographers on back-to-back nights in October! I would have eaten the still-beating heart of an elk to get any one of those artists to play Beaver Trap, and now I have to wonder if I can see them all.
It’s still taking time to sink in. I’m still in the mode where I don’t really think about going out much because it doesn’t occur to me that there’s a whole urban sprawl at my disposal. It may take some time to undo my Beaver Trap Syndrome and return me to the dazzling semi-urbanite I once was. In fact, as I looked ahead the other day to a certain milestone I’m approaching next month, I had a dilemma: where should I go to celebrate/mourn said milestone? The choices are almost overwhelming, and for perhaps the first time in my life, overwhelming feels pretty damn good.
Time for tunes...
1) “Night Lies,” Bang Camaro. The other night, The Lovely Becky and I were extolling the virtues of late-night eating and how we would love to be in some greasy spoon gobbling down comfort food. It’s admittedly awful for you, but it is the most emotionally rewarding eating for me. I told her that I wanted something smothered in chili right then. I didn’t care what--eggs, hot dog, pancakes--as long as it was covered with layers of chili like it had erupted from a chili volcano. Bang Camaro is that late night meal. Hardly gourmet, made from some possibly suspect ingredients, but it still hits the spot when I need it most.
2) “Short Bursts,” We Were Promised Jetpacks. So earnest they should have named themselves Hemingway.
3) “Route,” Son Volt. As much as I like Wilco and believe Jeff Tweedy has left Jay Farrar far, far behind, I think that first Son Volt album is better than anything Wilco’s done, even the incredible Yankee Hotel Pitchfork 10.0 Review. Farrar took everything that made Uncle Tupelo great and baked it into 10 incredible tracks.
4) “Should’ve Been in Love,” Wilco. Well, this is awkward. Look Wilco, I didn’t mean you’re not great, because you really are. And I’ve been really faithful to you for, like 10 years. Sure, I still think about Trace and the good times we had, but it was just one album and I was really young. No really. Just because I’m humming “Route” right now while you’re playing doesn’t mean I’m not into you. Fine, if you’re going to be like that, I’ll just move on to the next track.
5) “When I’m Sixty-Four,” The Beatles. It really takes on a completely different meaning after the Heather Mills divorce. Will you still sue me, will you still rue me, when I’m sixty-four?
6) “On the Way,” Dinosaur Jr. I’m fond of the opening freakout. They just blast a wall of drums, bass, and guitar like a wave hitting the Poseidon. Then the adventure begins. Bonus: No Ernest Borgnine!
7) “Eyes As Candles,” Passion Pit. Never underestimate the power of a well-placed set of nah-nah-nahs. They are the paprika of rock music.
8) “Fashion,” David Bowie. Project Runway may have run its course for me. The return last season to New York, coupled with some contestants I loved to hate, had me watching it every week (live, no less, without DVR assistance). This year I tuned into the season opener and was kind of meh, and in fact only realized today I’d missed the last two episodes. I think it’s because it’s hard to get excited about people winning a big competition when so many of them have already had pretty good success with their designs. Could you imagine American Idol with Neko Case or Bon Iver on it? Sure, that would be a big improvement and those two would go from being successful to superstars, but it would sort of defeat the whole purpose, even if they were forced to do things like make a song using only lyrics about baked beans, Elmer’s glue, and Legos.
9) “Telegraph Road (live),” Dire Straits. I have a deep, burning hatred for jam bands. I have never liked the Dead because they always seemed to take what seemed like a good idea and stretched it out from 3 minutes to 23 minutes, like the musical equivalent of a Saturday Night Live sketch that has to keep going to fill some air time. Do I really need to hear someone playing around the same riff for 15 minutes, just because they can, or listen to the audience sing back “iko, iko” 50 goddamned times? Sure, you can stretch out a beat-off session for 30 minutes, but why would you, especially when you got shit to do?
However, I also happen to like extended songs when they actually go somewhere, when the bands take time out to put together a well thought out musical composition. The problem is, many of those compositions involve mystic lands and dragons and more artificially fruity sweetness than a bowl of Trix. Sure, when I was 12, a Boris Vallejo calendar full of well-endowed women in chainmail bikinis attacking a multi-headed hydra may have caused a stirring in my Bag of Holding. These days, that kind of stimuli is going to be more amusing than arousing (thank God).
Enter “Telegraph Road.” Eleven minutes, with plenty of musical twists and turns and some nice jamming, but with a hardscrabble story that seems like Raymond Carver to my prog-rock Piers Anthonys. So thank you, Dire Straits, for allowing me to enjoy my love of extended songs with an acceptable level of maturity.
10) “Jackie Dressed in Cobras,” The New Pornographers. The drumming elevates Twin Cinemas to my favorite New Pornographers. Kurt Dahle throws in fill after thunderous fill like a B-2 bomber dropping a full payload of delicious chocolate cupcakes on its targets. Side note: I clearly need to eat lunch after posting this today.
11) “Snakes for the Divine,” High on Fire. Speaking of Boris Vallejo...As if the title and band name didn’t give it away, this is pure, freshly forged metal. It’s also my go-to driving song of the moment. Sure, I enjoy riding around listening to a wide variety of music, and am also basking in the warm aural glow of the best radio station in the country, Chicago’s WXRT. I love hearing a good, poppy song on a sunny day or some sad folky lament while driving in the rain. But when I want to drive—windows down, music blasting over the wind, both hands on the steering wheel while I take a curve a little too fast—I need some heavy riffs, furious drumming, and vocals that sound gruff enough to cover up whatever silly lyrics the singer is actually singing. Even better, I now live in a location where I can’t go from one end of town to another before an eight-and-a-half minute song finishes melting my ears.
Have a good weekend. I am unfortunately going to miss the monster mash to my north because I have to go south to participate in a fantasy football draft at a riverboat casino. Who wants to touch me?