50 Days Of Soundcloud #14

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“Beggar”

I may have skipped a day.  Eh.

This one is a filler track from Temporarily Abandoned Profiles, but one that I remember fondly.  Brash, aggressive, noisy, almost punk rock.  Good times.

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50 Days Of Soundcloud #13

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“The Long, Bloody Road To Hell”

This was back during a time when I was dealing with frenetic hand-drumming married to near-chaotic thumb piano lines. Early 2004, I think. A collection of increasingly ominous historical quotes from a variety of figures that ends with Rodney King’s sobbing plea to stop making it horrible for the old folks, and the kids.

Don’t forget to stop by the books page here to check out some fiction which you can use to subsidize my existence.

50 Days Of Soundcloud #12

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“Formula Modernia”

BUY SELL BUY SLEEP

Feel free to check out some books:  today’s featured titles include Disappearance, only 99 cents, which if you enjoy the action bits in books and you like apocalypse fiction you’ll enjoy; What You See Is What You Get, which manages to combine the specter of ag-gag laws with criminal trials that look more like reality TV than anything else; and 9th Street Blues, about a kid delivering cobbled-together drugs in the near future ruins of Woodward, OK (and is also the jumping-off point for my new serial novel, coming soon from ATM Publishing).

50 Days Of Soundcloud #11

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“Waiting For The Sign”

I want to say this was 2005, at the tail end of doing these sorts of faux-guitar sludge-heavy electronic tracks with creepy Apple Talk forced melodies. At the very least I remember it being the last one of them I ever really did. I still like the reversed beat that threads through parts of it.

Feel free to check out some books:  today’s featured titles include Disappearance, only 99 cents, which if you enjoy the action bits in books and you like apocalypse fiction you’ll enjoy; What You See Is What You Get, which manages to combine the specter of ag-gag laws with criminal trials that look more like reality TV than anything else; and 9th Street Blues, about a kid delivering cobbled-together drugs in the near future ruins of Woodward, OK (and is also the jumping-off point for my new serial novel, coming soon from ATM Publishing).

50 Days Of Soundcloud #10

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“The Function Across The Street”

I was once, back when GarageBand.com was still a thing, referred to as the illegitimate son of Herbie Hancock. I don’t think it was for this song, but then again it might have been. Lord knows it has a zippy, jazzy feel to it. The “function” across the “street” referred to the twin bars across from where I was living in Brantford, ON at the time; one had a sort of half-assed tiki bar theme going on and the other, right next door, didn’t, but both were quite busy on the weekends.

Feel free to check out some books:  today’s featured titles include Disappearance, only 99 cents, which if you enjoy the action bits in books and you like apocalypse fiction you’ll enjoy; What You See Is What You Get, which manages to combine the specter of ag-gag laws with criminal trials that look more like reality TV than anything else; and 9th Street Blues, about a kid delivering cobbled-together drugs in the near future ruins of Woodward, OK (and is also the jumping-off point for my new serial novel, coming soon from ATM Publishing).

50 Days Of Soundcloud #9

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“The Creation Of The Morning Line”

There are two versions of this track, which features a reading by Bukowski as the vocal line. The other one is breakcore, all violent head-shattering drums; this one is much lighter, with more of a dub bass feel. It’s a bit more playful, and it suits the dissolute nature of Bukowski’s poem better.

Feel free to check out some books:  today’s featured titles include Disappearance, only 99 cents, which if you enjoy the action bits in books and you like apocalypse fiction you’ll enjoy; What You See Is What You Get, which manages to combine the specter of ag-gag laws with criminal trials that look more like reality TV than anything else; and 9th Street Blues, about a kid delivering cobbled-together drugs in the near future ruins of Woodward, OK (and is also the jumping-off point for my new serial novel, coming soon from ATM Publishing).

Seriously, though, buy a book or two.

Ruby: 40 Years of My Aim Is True

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Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True

Released July 22nd, 1977 on Stiff Records

BestEverAlbums:  #329

In the early 1970s, Declan MacManus was another weekend-warrior pub rocker in the London club scene, working day jobs as a data entry clerk in order to fund both his family and his love of playing music.  The man came by it honestly; his father, Ross MacManus, played jazz trumpet under the stage name of Day Costello, and the two of them did a commercial together for lemonade three or four years before My Aim Is True thrust the younger MacManus onto the rock ‘n’ roll stage.  It was also the result of gobs of hard work, of course; the man who would be Elvis Costello spent his time after his wife and young son were asleep writing songs.  Those songs were painstakingly recorded into demos, and those demos shopped around.  Meanwhile, he continued to toil in obscurity for much of the 1970s, playing in a pub rock band called Flip City until one of his demos caught the attention of Stiff Records, an independent London label that convinced him to change his name.  Elvis, from The King, and Costello from his father’s stagename = Elvis Costello.

Success was anything but a sure bet, even with indie label interest.  At first the label wanted him to write songs for someone else.  Then when they realized that Costello’s own songs came off much better, they decided to let him cut a record and release a couple of singles from it, “Less Than Zero” and “Alison”.  Both singles failed to do much damage in the charts, but Stiff Records pressed on and released the entire album; they also went all-in with a promotional campaign that gave away free copies (special edition free copies, at that) to friends of people who bought the album.

Such tricks – great marketing strategies though they might be – are not, strictly speaking, completely necessary to sell an album like My Aim Is True.  Sure, they help, but the strengths of the album are readily apparent immediately.  “Welcome To The Working Week”, the poppiest bit of sarcastic bitterness you’ll ever hear, starts off with the line “Now that you’re picture’s in the paper being rhythmically admired”.  He literally starts the record off with a crack about masturbation.  And that’s not even the best part!  Throughout the album he bangs out a series of songs that are part pub rock, part 50’s rock ‘n’ roll inspired genius (check out the Buddy Holly pose on the album cover for more on that inspiration) and all cynical asshole.  The first two are the result of his upbringing and his toils in rock ‘n’ roll obscurity.  The last goes a long way toward explaining why he was slotted in to the white-hot punk rock movement in the summer of 1977.  My Aim Is True may not have the snarl and viciousness of the Sex Pistols or the Clash, but it was just as frustrated, just as bitter, and in places just as political.  “Less Than Zero” was the anti-fascist anthem, a big concern in Britain where the economy was teetering on the edge of collapse by the late 1970s.  The song itself would become famous when Costello began playing it on Saturday Night Live, before cutting out to “Radio, Radio”, declaring that the song was meaningless in America (and earning himself a Lorne Michaels ban for nearly ten years).  “Watching The Detectives” was another such track, outlining the absurdity and obsession of TV violence while borrowing some of that Clash-inspired 1977 reggae bounce (literally inspired; the song came about after 36 hours of coffee and the first Clash record on repeat).  “Alison”, meanwhile, was a soulful ballad about infidelity that Costello claims contains a secret homage to the Detroit Spinners (and also gave the record it’s name) and “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” is pure pop bliss with a sour interior.

My Aim Is True was a stellar debut, a record that made Costello feel as though, after years of grubbing away in the underground, he’d become something of an overnight success.  It would be the beginning of a run of similarly great albums that would carry the man and his burning cynicism into the mid-1980s.

 

50 Days of Soundcloud #8

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“Icy New Twilight”

The result of a remix contest on Indaba that used Mt. Kimbie sounds; I thought the results were pretty decent but you know how those contests go.

Re-listening to it, I noticed the vocal line at the end: “dance and walk the streets”.  It’s from a creepy street interview with a street prostitute in some godawful Midwestern city or another.  It features heavily in another track which will probably make it into this 50-day celebration of the life and death of a Great Website that is on it’s way to join MySpace in the dustbin of history.  Hopefully a similar site pops up; Soundcloud has been a very useful device for bringing to light artists that would in the past be terribly obscure.

Also, it makes me want to cut up YouTube documentaries on the Rust Belt’s crippling heroin addiction and string them into icy synthwave/glitch hybrids.

While you’re waiting on me to do that, feel free to check out some books:  today’s featured titles include Disappearance, only 99 cents, which if you enjoy the action bits in books and you like apocalypse fiction you’ll enjoy; What You See Is What You Get, which manages to combine the specter of ag-gag laws with criminal trials that look more like reality TV than anything else; and 9th Street Blues, about a kid delivering cobbled-together drugs in the near future ruins of Woodward, OK (and is also the jumping-off point for my new serial novel, coming soon from ATM Publishing).

Seriously, though, buy a book or two.

Pearl: 30 Years Of Appetite For Destruction

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Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction

Released July 21st, 1987 on Geffen Records

BestEverAlbums: #67

The highwater mark for Eighties hard rock came directly from the squalor of L.A.’s rock club circuit, the combination of two hot bands in that scene:  L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose, the latter of which featured guitarist Izzy Stradlin and singer Axl Rose.  The three members of L.A. Guns – lead guitarist Tracii Guns, bassist Ole Beich, and drummer Rob Gardner – were either fired or quit, and of their replacements, two were former Hollywood Rose alumni (Slash and Steven Adler).  Bassist Duff McKagan was the only out-of-towner, hailing originally from Seattle.  Still, regardless of the fact that the band was basically Hollywood Rose in it’s structure, the name Guns N’ Roses stuck.

It’s an apt name for the band on Appetite For Destruction:  blazing-gun guitar work and attitude with a dash of the rose, or at least a facade over burning lust.  In an era when so-called “hair metal” was dominating MTV with increasingly-saccharine pop music and power ballads, GNR were a fist in the nose.  Bands like Poison and latter-day Motley Crue were pretending at being loud and dangerous; Guns N’ Roses actually were.  This was the same era in which Vince Neil was singing about “Girls, Girls, Girls” and David Coverdale was crying in the rain.  Right from Axl Rose’s snarl of “you’re gonna die!” (cribbed from a homeless man who’d warned him in that exact fashion when he’d arrived in L.A.) this was something different – brash and bold, the musical equivalent of a street kid offering you weed with a switchblade hidden behind his back.

There were a lot of ways it could have gone wrong.  1987 was also the year that Def Leppard released that most boneheaded of hard rock singles, “Pour Some Sugar On Me”.  GNR’s id-driven sound could have had thudded like that, but it was kept deft by the dancing rhythm section of Stradlin, McKagan, and Adler, who were much more Rolling Stones than they ever were Black Sabbath.  Slash’s guitar work has always had trouble getting out of the minor pentatonic range, to be true, but it fits his work on Appetite exactly, like his leads were always meant to be married to the rest of the band’s boxer-bounce clamour.  Axl Rose also never sounded better; his soaring, hectoring nasal voice found the vanishing point between Bon Scott and Brian Johnson (ahem) and took up residence there, becoming the signature voice for a generation of aspiring hard rock vocalists.

Much has been said of the problematic nature of the songs on Appetite.  The album’s original artwork featured a surreal beholder-like monster attacking a robotic rapist, with the robot’s latest victim lying disheveled on the ground.  Indeed, there is a certain obnoxiousness present throughout the tracks – singing about getting sex on demand, regardless of consent, spilling out a tell-all on “My Michelle”, glorifying alcoholism on “Nighttrain”, spelling out the boys-club rock ‘n’ roll fantasy lifestyle on “Paradise City” – but, coming from a quintet of near-homeless, drugged-up and boozed-out miscreants barely out of adolescence and raised on Zeppelin and KISS, it’s maybe not hard to figure out where that obnoxiousness comes from.  At any rate, the band sells their songs with such vitality and fervor that it’s hard not to bang your head along, even if you’re worried about the message it sends.  It’s also important to note that a lot of the filth and fury present here is dredged up from the then-decade-old punk rock scene, and presented as a middle finger to the Just Say No, Nancy Reagan, Christian America of the 1980s.

Everyone from a certain era has put “Sweet Child O’ Mine” on a mixtape for a person they’ve been romantically/sexually interested in, except for me.  For reasons I’ll never be quite clear on, my go-to was usually “Rocket Queen”, probably because the latter is a much better-written song and the former is built around a guitar exercise Slash found stupid, and for good reason.  I’m convinced that the only reason he changed his tune on it was because it got so godawfully huge.  It’s a really annoying riff, even if the rest of the song is pretty okay.

Even as the band’s star diminished (by 1992 they were mostly a bloated joke, made fun of by Nirvana and the rest of the Alt Generation) Appetite For Destruction remained a classic album, a legacy of where rock ‘n’ roll had been prior to Nevermind that carried over into the new alternative world by sheer force of attitude.  Even in the face of sprawl, an acrimonious breakup, a revolving-door lineup, and a long-delayed vaporware album that was finally released, Appetite For Destruction remains the quintessential GNR album, the one that makes them rock stars for life, regardless of all else.

50 Days of Soundcloud #7

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“The Horsemen Now Have Come”

The best robot-rap track I ever did, except maybe for one that I’ll post later on. This one has a wicked-slice synth that adds a real menace to everything. The robot’s name is Sandwich Maker 775-C, he’s a real robot from the streets, and he’ll fuck you up as soon as look at you. As far as I recall, anyway – this WAS 13 years ago.