Songs for a Busted Muffler

This is one of my favorite songs and I happened to stumble upon this bluegrass version accidentally and I am stoked with the results. I’ve loved this song a long time and always felt like I am sort of a “Mr. Wrong”.  Although, really I only lacked a muffler for a short time and I have no tattoos or a particular aversion to meeting any significant other’s parents.

I’ve really grown attached to my new job and, luckily, things are going pretty well. My students are good this year, my co-teacher is incredibly on point and my bosses are supportive as well as enthusiastic. They decided to send us to a workshop last Monday so we could work on project-based learning, which is something we plan to do a lot in our classes. That Sunday prior was the first big snow storm of the year, the first real sign of winter for us in the snow removal business.

As some may remember, I have done this in the wealthy neighborhoods of Portland, Maine for almost a decade for my hippie neighbor as the winter arm of the landscaping company. Because he neglected to plow out the end of my driveway, I chose to bust out and my 99 Subaru Impreza’s exhaust severed right in the middle of the whole system. I didn’t know this though and drove an hour north and spent 8 hours shoveling snow.  It actually hung together until I started it up Monday morning to head to this workshop with my tie on.

This choice probably seems pretty obvious for why I chose it. You may not know it, but this song is actually about the other fluffy white stuff, cocaine, which the boys in Sabbath did pretty hard for a good chunk of the seventies. The imagery of the sun no longer bringing you peace and the snowflakes on the trees is very apt for our particular form of snowy white stuff but I can assure you none of our shovel crew is on blow.

Here I was, getting my nice clothes all wet, trying to push through yet another shitty Monday. Why do so many bad things happen on Mondays? I suspect it’s the higher power’s message to get your ass in gear, it’s time for the work week, but in this case it was just the weather and a neighbor’s negligence. I was lucky because I was able to call my vice principal and get put down for a personal day so I could deal with this issue. Then, like clockwork, my friend who works overnights appeared and was willing to give me a ride, After a few phone calls, I was able to drop the car off by nine am.

My brother and I have different views on religion, polar opposite in some respects. However, I think that we could both agree that if angels did exist, they would sing like Emmylou. The woman sounds just like she did in the 70’s and I am always looking at ways of getting her music out there. Also, I’m on a  serious bluegrass kick as anyone whose been reading can see and it doesn’t seem to be letting up.

Ultimately, it all worked out. My wonderful co-teacher was at the workshop and got all the materials so I was able to slide right in there the next day as if I never missed the first one at all. My car was an easy fix, although band-aid is more apt at this stage in the vehicle’s career, and the only further drag was that I had to pick it up mad early the next day when the high temperature was -2. The day off was actually very relaxing and I watched the beginning of a shitty Marky Mark movie called Contraband which started with the following song.

I hate having videos which have ads on them but I prefer this version so much that I had to drop one on you all. This band really blows my horn and it’s been on a constant revolution since that day last week that my muffler fell off. Their sound is unique for the time and they are so enthusiastic about what they doing. I will be watching this band.

I couldn’t get through the movie but this song really hit me and even if that is the only thing I got out of the broken muffler Monday, that it’s a good day. This was a little over a week before Christmas which is now over and that’s something I’m thankful for. I perked up at times but generally, the holidays are a drag and I have to pull myself through them with mostly fake enthusiasm. Another year gone and a new one to begin, something else I’m thankful for, another year to perfect my version of the human existence. Things are pretty good and things I’m waiting for seem to be right around the corner. So, on that note enjoy this little ditty from J Roddy and I truly hope all of your holidays were a time of love, relaxation and a realization that life is pretty good when you look at it that way.

I just discovered this song last night and it’s so different from the other one but equally as awesome. The sparseness of this recording is amazing and their harmonies make me wish I knew how to sing. Keeping going J Roddy, I need you and so does America!

Apocalypse Playlists: Songs for the End

In the spirit of Halloween and the depressive fog that fall can bring, I am combining two posts my brother and I wrote last year into one massive Apocalyptic post. Enjoy?

As my brother and I texted back and forth during the Walking Dead premiere on Sunday night, we got into a conversation about what would be a good playlist about the apocalypse. Granted, you almost certainly would not be listening to any tunes in the event of a catastrophic world event, instead focusing on any route of survival. So, I leaned more towards songs about the end of the world and ended up having to cut my list down to accommodate the end of the world as we know it.

No, I did not include anything by R.E.M., although I hope my brother does. I don’t think the world is actually going to end in December of this year 2012 because most simply, we don’t have all the information even to know what the whole clock even means. When the Spaniards came to the New World, they burned much of the written record of the Mayans after witnessing a human sacrifice complete with the heart being taken still beating out of the victim’s chest.

I mean come on, what use could the history of a people who are so obviously heathen homicidal maniacs possibly be? (If it’s not obvious, this is sarcasm) It’s really too bad because there is much information we could have used and I don’t think we have a real grasp on who they were as a people so this end of the world thing pertaining to their calendar is probably bullshit.

Unless our sun does burn out or we are hit be some giant celestial object or some massive nuclear war, the end will probably be a very gradual ordeal that no one generation will remember. Rarely does anything huge happen in history quickly. Nevertheless, the end of the world, or conception of it at least, has inspired a lot of good music

1. “The Weight”- The Band

Hard to believe this beloved anthem of the hippie generation is about the end of the world, but it is one of the themes. Robbie Robertson has said it is about that and the impossibility of always being a good person. It may not seem obvious, as it is an upbeat song, but think about it.  Some guy named Luke is waiting on the Judgement Day and the Devil is floating around.  It never occurred to me until I read into it a little.

I always associated this song with Easy Rider and my father, a former motorcycle enthusiast and eternal hippie. It’s interesting also that the song talks a lot about asking other people for help, favors being traded for favors. In an apocalypse style situation, you would have to depend on whoever else was around and I’d imagine the currency system as we know it would go right to shit.  Even now in the rural area I live in, I often trade labor for labor with friends but I think this is a dying thing in the hectic 24/7 over-connected and electronic society we live in. Unfortunately, I think it would take an ending of the world as we know it to get people to work together.

2. “Electric Funeral” Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath is one of my top five favorite bands. I really don’t talk about them enough on this blog and how awesome they are. I know Ozzy made himself look like a fool on MTV a few years back and his solo work never did much for me, but Black Sabbath is the real deal. They created heavy rock as we know it, obviously with help from a few other bands, and basically all metal and heavy rock now is Sabbath in some respect.

For coming out in the afterglow of the swinging 60’s and singing about dark scary things in down tuned jams that lurch along, they deserve some type of medal. Nobody sounded like them and I just love that they put this stuff out not caring if anyone even wanted to hear it. This cheery little number is about atomic bombs and the chilly aftermath of nuclear winter. I love the guitars in this and the tempo break near the end. This is a mainstay of their music, the long and slow climb and then a kick up into a faster time with an ill guitar solo. Never gets old for me and I hope that if you haven’t ever tried Sabbath out, that you go ahead and give it a whirl.

3. “Pink Moon” Nick Drake

I never had any idea that this song was about the end of the world and it probably isn’t. I was having difficulty coming up with a different song so I googled “songs about the apocalypse  and this one popped up. Nick Drake is really great if you don’t know him, kind of like Elliott Smith but from way earlier and with less of an output. Exceptionally pretty songs but very morose.  Is this about the end of the world? I think Drake’s world anyway because he did die accidentally through a lethal combination of medications.

The couplet “None of you stand so tall, Pink Moon will get you all” is quite a bit more ominous than the melody would suggest. Is the pink moon a result of nuclear winter like in “Electric Funeral”? Who could be sure but I really dig this song. Great for summer nights at the end of the world.

4. “The End” -The Doors

The classic break-up tune and what a jam it is. I loved this song from the first time I heard it as the jets napalmed the hell out of the jungle in the opening scenes of Apocalypse Now. Although definitely about a break up, this is a great song about the end of the world as well. I think Morrison always wrote lyrics open to interpretation and this is one of the best. Like the Sabbath, it slowly builds through cool jazzy riffs and Morrison’s stoned poetry full of images of despair and Oedipus. I absolutely love the jam at the end, it feels like some type of tribal dance thing and it inspires me to take my clothes off and bang my chest like a chimpanzee. I think that would help in the high stress of an apocalyptic event.

5. “Santa Monica” Everclear

Another song about suicide and certainly the only one I like by this band. But what a song, from the very beginning fuzzy guitar riffs to the ending lines of “Let’s swim out past the breakers and watch the world die” Some thing about that really makes me happy like, ok it’s the end of the world but at least we have each other.

In some respects,  our world is pretty cluttered up right now so maybe we could use some massive cleansing to work out the kinks. I don’t hope a bunch of people die or anything but just from watching the nightly news it’s clear we need to make some serious changes in the way we treat each other. The word apocalypse, from the Greek, means revelation of something hidden. Perhaps we need to swim out past the breakers, watch the world die and find whatever it is inside of us to come alive. I look forward to re-posting this in December of this year and think we will be around quite a bit longer after that.

(if you think there’s more to say, my brother does too: he wrote his own damn list)

Well sure as planets come, I know that they end. 
And if I'm here when that happens, will you promise me this my friend? 
Please bury me with it! 
I just don't need none of that Mad Max bullshit.
-Modest Mouse

 

Recently, my brother listed his favorite songs about the apocalypse. For various reasons, I cannot let this post stand alone. (This says far more about me than about my brother or his post.)

Why are we obsessed with the apocalypse? I actually ask this of my students on a semesterly basis. I think that the answer, if there is one, is partly psychological and structural. First, we know that we begin and end individually—part of our death drive or obsession also nearly demands contemplation (and fantasy) about everything expiring just as we will.

In addition, there is a structural logic among the cultural offspring of the Abrahamic religions. We tell the story of the world being created. Logically, that which is created must eventually be destroyed.

(Oh, and science supports this. Oh, and we keep destroying things. And, by the way, our lifestyle and growth rates are unsustainable….)

So the Younger J confessed that during the premier of The Walking Dead we were texting song lists back and forth. My brother’s list is great and, I am sure, cooler than mine. His music taste and knowledge can be so much deeper. My corresponding ‘interests’ are random and aesthetically scatter-shot.

Oh, and I am also pissed that he stole my shtick and mentioned that apocalypse is Greek in origin.

So his list is good, but it isn’t mine. In ascending order of my subjective taste (from best to 8th best), here are my favorite songs about the apocalypse.

 

1. “(Nothing But) Flowers”, The Talking Heads

The happiest song about the end of the world—at least on the surface level. I have loved this song since my best friend in high school (a previously mentioned Lead Singer) played it for me when we were in 7th grade. I can still remember the road we were on, the caravan his parents were driving, and how hilarious we both found the song.

While I still see the humor in it, I think that Byrne’s lyrics are more satirical and cynical. His post-apocalyptic paradise is one where men cannot adjust—not because it is too terrible or tough, but because it is too wonderful.

This was a discount store,

Now it’s turned into a cornfield

you got it, you got it

Don’t leave me stranded here

I can’t get used to this lifestyle

2. “Bury Me With It”, Modest Mouse

What more is there to say about this great song? I love the frantic balance of the multi-syllabic verses with the almost-screamed chorus. The instrumentation supports the contrast beautifully. This is Modest Mouse at its most quintessentially schizophrenic.

When I ask my wife about post-apocalyptic scenarios (on the occasions she will entertain my hypotheticals), she insists that preparing for the occasion is a waste of time. She says she wouldn’t want to survive in a world undergoing whatever cataclysmic event could be called an apocalypse.

Besides loving the late alt-rock crunch of this song (and, in general, appreciating the even quality of Modest Mouse’s work), I love this song for this one line: “I don’t need none of that Mad Max bullshit”. The command of the title and chorus (“please, bury me with it”) reflects my wife’s opinion just enough to demand the inclusion of this song.

 3. “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”, REM

I know my brother didn’t include this song because a lot of people despise REM. In fact, of the seminal early alt-rock bands REM get the least respect and probably garnered way too little attention when they called it quits. I think that this comes from a few things.

First, REM had too many styles and took risks (“Shiny Happy People”? Worst song by a great band). Then, when REM broke through it was with the wrong music. “Losing My Religion” was a fantastic song, but not grungy enough or angry enough. Who wants contemplative when you can be mad?

Second, “Everybody Hurts”. When I first listened to Automatic for the People (and “Drive” had just been released) I knew that “Everybody Hurts” was going to be a big hit. But like similar 1990s explosions (say, Hootie and the Blowfish and Forrest Gump) what seemed initially universally appealing, aged quite poorly. Now, “Everybody Hurts”sounds like a parody of itself.

But I don’t care about any of this. “It’s the end of the world…” is one of the few American made indie-rock songs from the 80s that (1) almost everyone knows, (2) many have imitated , and (3) sounds like nothing else. REM was one of the most important and influential bands on College Radio—they didn’t break through with a consistent style and image like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, or Green Day, but they took more risks.

There is something about the insouciance of this song that is reassuring. I also have fond memories of covering this (rather poorly) with one of my bands. It is successful because of the radical juxtaposition of the end of all we know with a feeling of not sorrow or elation but measured acceptance.

And, if you’re living through the apocalypse do you want to take risks and feel fine about it or what?

4. “Eve of Destruction”, Barry McGuire (P. F. Sloan)

This is a phenomenal protest song that I grew up hearing on the radio (since my parents only listened to Oldies stations). I love the gravel in the vocals and I love the melody and desperation in the song. Now, I know that this is not literally a song about the apocalypse, but rather one anticipating.

Nevertheless, I guarantee that if there were a cataclysmic event occurring, too many of us would be in denial about it and would ignore voices like McGuire’s as if they were panicked Chicken Littles. And, hey, it isn’t like Global Warming is a serious issue. Or that overpopulation will eventually outstrip developments in agriculture. Or that we’re playing with house money when it comes to the fact that we haven’t used atomic/nuclear weapons since WWII…

5. “Seconds”, U2

Speaking of nuclear weapons and bands that no longer get sufficient respect: U2 has almost become a dirty name to ‘real’ music lovers. Bono is a megalomaniacal self-mockery at this point and while many praised All You Can’t Leave Behind, the band should have been disbanded after Zooropa.

But, to be fair, how many bands have given the world so many great songs? This song is about nuclear holocaust. As the Historian and I used to discuss, people just a little younger than we are (say, the Younger Js age), fear terrorists and Global Warming (and Zombies, fake things). We were raised with the fiery fear of nuclear war. I remember attack drills. I remember the 80s arms race. Even in my 30s, I still mistrust Russians because I was born and bred to expect a war of total annihilation in my lifetime.

So, this song takes me back to when I first started listening to U2 and when we didn’t have to hear random and unexpected attacks or religious war or Y2K.

6. “California Love” 2Pac (Featuring Dr. Dre)

I know that this song isn’t really about the end of the world. Including it also made be feel bad that (1) I didn’t include Tool’s “Aenima” which is also a song about California (and the world ending). But, Tool gets a little too heavy for me and I love this song.

What makes it fit for this list, though, is the video. Dr. Dre and 2Pac in a Mad Max party? It might not be the safest place to imagine, but what the hell do you expect from the end of the world. Count me in.

7. “Come to Daddy”, Aphex Twin

All I have to say is this. If the end of the world is anything like this video, I don’t want to be there.  Also, if you’re short on reasons that mankind may not be worthy of survival, watch this video.

( That was only partly a joke)

8. “Not if You Were the Last Junkie on Earth”, The Dandy Warhols

So this song is only partly serious. A great rock song—and the song the Lead Singer mentioned above said was the only one ‘half-assed’ music fans would know. This was the song that put the band on the map and which also inspired a great parody from the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

It is also a reminder that, should the end times come, survival will be random and serendipitous. The best won’t survive. The most well-prepared will not prevail. It will be chaos. Chance will preserve few. Some of those will be survivalists. Some will be honest and virtuous. But many will also be criminals, drug addicts, and, most of all, the ruthlessly selfish and opportunistic.

And, with that thought in mind, maybe I will join my wife and Modest Mouse to ask for this: if the world starts to end, please, bury me with it.

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder

My brother wrote a few weeks ago about dealing with winters in the north and their effect on your psyche. He also stated that this issue basically disappeared when he moved to a southern climate; but I think this has a lot more to do with the fact that the man has no time to be morose with two young kids, a full time job as a professor and so on and so forth.

One of the many things that add to Seasonal Affective Disorder is that when it is extremely cold and/or snowy, you can’t do much outside unless you thrive on a winter sport like skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling or whatever. Snow removal generally sucks as well (which we will discuss a little further along). The bad weather coupled with the come-down from the holidays and the crappy economy of the last few years has really made me feel this S.A.D. thing. I also tend to miss my father more around this time for the obvious reason that the anniversary of his death comes at the end of this month and the holidays really emphasize his absence.

So I had a long talk with my brother on the phone on this subject and one of the many ways we talked of dealing with these generally shitty feelings is to write about it in our blog. He has already sort of covered it and I will add my own experience right now. I’m lucky to have a brother that not only listens  about why I feel like shit but also helps me look at various ways I can combat this yearly phenomena.  Exercise, limiting of alcohol consumption and a renewed focus on finding a real job were key points. So here it is.

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My Musical Mentors: Hippie Neighbor # 1

 

The only people who influenced my musical knowledge and appreciation more than my parents and my brother were my hippie neighbors. Until recently, the house the Elder J and I grew up in was the only house in the midst of a few thousand acres of old logging land that had largely grown back. Now, there are some encroaching neighbors along the road and elsewhere but until about 8 years ago, this was our domain. It was so private, that not only did my father routinely walk the dog in his underwear when we ere very young, I also used to shoot cans with my .22 from my bedroom window.

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Political Songs

I am incredibly sick of the presidential election, the media frenzy and, basically, politics as a whole. So don’t be concerned in the slightest that this post will be all preachy trying to get you to vote for whomever I am voting for because that is not at all my goal. Truthfully, I don’t want to vote for any of the presidential candidates or  the senators or anyone else because I think to be a politician at all, you have to be intrinsically crooked. This why my faith in the whole thing is pretty much non-existent. However, I do feel that everyone who should vote can because the whole idea of democracy means nothing if you don’t.

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Scary Songs

Its that time of year again, my favorite holiday Halloween is just next week. After a zombie playlist and an apocalypse list, it seemed fitting we’d do one about scary songs for the holiday. I want to warn you though, mine is not always what you think. I could have picked a bunch of hardcore bands that screech so bad you can’t understand their lyrics but I went for stuff that scares me personally. I like to think I’ve covered all my bases here and I can’t wait to read my brothers forthcoming list, but here it is, scary playlist from yours truly.

1.”Too Close”  Alex Clare

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Apocalypse Playlist

As my brother and I texted back and forth during the Walking Dead premiere on Sunday night, we got into a conversation about what would be a good playlist about the apocalypse. Granted, you almost certainly would not be listening to any tunes in the event of a catastrophic world event, instead focusing on any route of survival. So, I leaned more towards songs about the end of the world and ended up having to cut my list down to accommodate the end of the world as we know it.

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Unreal Shows

Unreal(istic) Live Shows

To complete a trilogy of entries on live music, I want to write about some shows I was not able to attend because of not being alive. I won’t wax poetic on about how music in my generation isn’t as cool and all that(….but it isn’t). Maybe it’s because it actually it isn’t as cool or more aptly, there hasn’t been the time to create the mythology around the music. Oh yeah, and I cannot forget the fact that the bands of today are alive and generally still perform while all of these bands do not or can not. We all want what we can’t have.

The first show I will never be able to see is easy: Hank Williams Senior, sometime in the mid 1940’s and with a good pedal steel guitar player. Old timey honky-tonk music may be the music closest to my heart for a myriad of reasons that warrant their own entry. But, to sum it all up, I think that type of music is as real as it gets and Hank is the godfather of it all.

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