April 20, 2012

30 Day Music Challenge:Day 20 - A Song You Listen to When You're Angry

George Harrison - "My Sweet Lord"


When I'm really angry, I can go one of two ways--sustain or diffuse the anger. Usually, this decision is made when stuck in traffic. If I want to sustain the anger, I roll down the windows and blast Dillinger Escape Plan (either their self-titled EP or Calculating Infinity).

Should I decide to calm down, I put on "My Sweet Lord." I'm not a spiritual person and I don't buy into religions (Western or Eastern), but I can't deny the relaxing properties of a chanted mantra, especially when accompanied by a hypnotic, full-sounding acoustic guitar. I am usually feeling better by the key change, at which point I'm also in awe of how cool it is to completely change the key of the song for really no reason. Plus George Harrison seems like a cool dude and I feel like he spent a lot of time having to calm himself down to get through arguments with Paul McCartney.

April 10, 2012

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 10 - A Song That Makes You Fall Asleep

Fantomas - "Delirium Cordia"

I've listened to this whole track. Love it. But I've never made all the way through in one shot. Good luck.

April 9, 2012

30 Day Music Challenge: Day 9 - A Song That You Can Dance To

I don't dance. But if I got drunker than I've ever been in my life and Dillinger Escape Plan's "Farewell Mona Lisa" was on, I'd probably do this:

(with a little more air guitar though).

April 8, 2012

30 Day Music Challenge: Day 8 - A Song You Know All the Words To

"The McDonalds Menu Song"

I remember this song came as an insert in the Sunday coupon section of the newspaper. It was one of those really flimsy records that could be cheaply mass-produced but actually worked on a record player. I remember listening to it a million times, imagining that if I knew all the words, I would have a chance at winning the million dollar tie-in contest. Eventually, I transferred the recording over to a tape (and for some reason, also recorded a high speed version) and listened to it over and over again until I had the lyrics committed to memory.

I don't know the words to most songs I listen to, even my most favorite, but today is the first time I've listened to "The McDonalds Menu Song" since 1989 and I'm proud to say I still know every single word. And I'm still waiting for the million.

April 7, 2012

30 Day Music Challenge: Day 7 - A Song That Reminds You of a Certain Event

Every Time I Die - "The Logic of Crocodiles"

In August 2001, I went to Ozzfest at the Arts Center in NJ. Black Sabbath headlined and was playing a pretty awesome set. Knowing the end was coming when they went into "Paranoid" though, me and buddy Jim decided to take off before everyone else dashed for the parking lot.

It was the last show of the US Tour, so on the way out, all the vendors were unloading everything they could. Dudes were standing on top of trailers throwing out CDs and posters and other promo materials by the handfuls to everyone walking by. We stopped for a minute and caught some discs.

When I got home, I listened to one labeled Ferret Music Sampler. Some of the tracks were pretty cool and had the chaotic Dillinger Escape Plan kinda vibe I was into. There was one track though that I instantly fell in love with--"The Logic of Crocodiles" by Every Time I Die. It was listed as an "unmastered" version, but it was exactly what I wanted to hear.

I went to their website and bought the album, and soon saw them live. They're still one of my favorite bands and it all happened because I was in the right spot at the right time and randomly caught a CD flying through the air. Thanks Ozzy!

April 6, 2012

30 Day Music Challenge: Day 6 - A Song That Reminds You of Somewhere

Jonah Matranga - "Not About a Girl or a Place"

Technically, this shouldn't remind me of somewhere. And technically, it doesn't. It reminds me of a reminder of a place, while I'm listening to it, also while telling me that it's not a reminder of a girl or a place (though the lyrics suggest that it is actually about a girl or a place, or possibly both). I don't know anything else specific that "Carolina" could refer to, unless it's about a basketball team, or a puppy, or a restaurant, or maybe a guitar or a car. I don't know. Or care.

What was I talking about?

April 4, 2012

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 4 - A Song That Makes You Sad

"Making a Cross" from the Desert Sessions 8

Everything about this song is a total bummer--the chords, the lyrics, the delivery.  It sounds like a bunch of depressed, hungover dudes got together on a Sunday morning to write a song to make themselves feel better, but ended up commiserating and feeling worse.  The instrumentation they chose is pretty sparse for most of the track, and they don't bother tuning up all the way, adding to the pessimism. There's a change towards the end which could have been an opportunity to to brighten up the mood, but instead the percussion and distortion turns into fists that pound the vocalists into submission. They cry tortured melodies until all that's left is a slowly de-tuning guitar, and then it's over. 

It's a beautiful song, but I never feel any better after listening to it. I have to mentally and emotionally prepare myself to listen, otherwise it's just masochistic. Particularly tough to watch is the live version performed at the Celebration concert after Natasha Shneider passed away. I don't know how Alain Johannes gets through the song. "It's never been easy." 

Honorable mentions: John Frusciante "I Will Always Be Beat Down," Dave Grohl "Friend of a Friend," Eels "It's a Motherfucker"

April 3, 2012

30 Day Music Challenge: Day 3 - A Song That Makes You Happy

Hella - "1-800 GHOST DANCE"

Whenever I hear the opening section of this song, I feel like I've just jumped off a diving board into space and stars are corkscrewing around my head. The other sections of the song are more jagged and complex, and they make me smile and think about how nice the world is with quirky, complicated music like Hella, Don Caballero, and Dillinger Escape Plan in it. I'd blissfully shit my own pants if I could play like these guys.

April 2, 2012

30 Day Music Challenge: Day 2 - Least Favorite Song

Here are some long songs that I love:

The Wipers - "Youth of America"
Tool - "Third Eye"
Jimmy Eat World - "Goodbye Sky Harbor"
Turing Machine - "Bleach It Black"
Don Caballero - "The Peter Criss Jazz"
The Doors - "The End"

Here's one that I hate:

Don McLean - "American Pie"

I obviously don't hate because it's long--I hate it because it's long and boring. Six verses. One chorus repeated at least that many times. And that's it. No bridge, no key change, no major variations. There are some dynamics--slow beginning, fast middle, slow--but not nearly enough for a 9-minute opus.  Even Weird Al couldn't bare to parody the full length of the song.

The lyrics are coyly cryptic in order to distract from their simplicity, and McLean refuses to spill the beans on who his characters correspond to in real life. And that's fine--I liked "Hey Man, Nice Shot" when it was still a mystery (and afterwards as well)--but "American Pie" is clearly not about anything too obscure in the first place. It pretty much just reviews 15 years of rock-related tragedy, like "We Didn't Start the Fire" but with the names changed.

At least Billy Joel got angry enough to throw over a table and say "I can't take this anymore." McLean just strums simple chords, sings easy rhymes, and repeats the chorus ad nauseum. Sometimes McLean nearly sounds sad, but most of the time it feels like he's on autopilot. Maybe the point is supposed to be that he's desensitized, but who wants to hear that for 9 minutes? The events that he's covering are certainly worth deep reflection, but lumping them all together lessens the impact, to me at least.

I get annoyed at the shorthand that is often used to explain the 50s changing to the 60s/70s. Over the media portrays it as one day it was Leave it to Beaver, and the next it was assassinations, hippies, the moon, and war. It seems so oversimplified. Likewise, with rock history, one day it was Elvis and Buddy Holly, then suddenly it was Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and Janis Joplin. Is it all because of the plane crash? I don't think so.

Anyway, and I can't believe I'm even saying this, "Abraham, Martin, and John" is a more digestible and interesting song. I'm not saying it's enjoyable, but at least the melodrama seems appropriate and focused, and most importantly, it doesn't overstay its welcome. Writing this has forced me to read and analyze the lyrics to "American Pie" more than I had ever done before, and I will at least credit McLean's ambition and wordplay (something I wasn't prepared to do at the start of this entry), but I still just can't past the length and lack of dynamics. Maybe if Black Sabbath had written it, I'd give "American Pie" a chance.