10 of my Fav. Songs off 10 of J Mascis’ Fav. Records

16 Jul

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1. “Wildworld” by The Birthday Party from The Bad Seed E.P. (4AD; 1983).

According to J., “The Birthday Party filled the void left by a dying hardcore scene. They were my favorite band when I started Dinosaur Jr.”(CDNow.com); and: “It was a good stepping stone out of hardcore. It filled this hole that I had. It was like, ‘Hardcore is dead but I still want to listen to music. What else is there?’. And although it wasn’t hardcore, it was so crazy, and noisy, and heavy.”(The Quietus)

While the singing tends to take center stage, it is important to remember how “Howard’s often virulent turbulence utterly rattles, creating exceptionally demonic waves of sound for Cave to writhe and squeal to” (Sputnik). Howard, a gaunt and sinister-looking figure whose rampant drug- and alcohol-use hurried him to an early grave, is perhaps what makes the group more volatile and unhinged than later, Cave-driven, skeleton-wheeled vehicles.

I picked “Wildworld” because it shows who was the lightning bolt and who was the flame amidst the two primary heroes.

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2. “What Did You Do To My Life” by Neil Young from Neil Young (Reprise; 1968)

J. gravitates towards this intimate yet baroque-poppy Young album “[b]ecause this one’s not so popular you don’t hear it all the time, either, and it’s not quite as stripped-down as the later stuff. It’s a bit more produced – not quite as much as some of the Buffalo Springfield songs, but definitely in that more psychedelic vein.” (The Quietus)

Having never really spent any time with this album, I’ve enjoyed dipping my toes into “What Did You Do To My Life” the most so far. Although J. doesn’t mention his favorite songs specifically, I suspect he also might dig this number–fuzzy guitars, mystical apathy, constrained emotion, and a sense of loneliness/unrequited love hover around apocalyptic imagery radiating outward from the song’s center.

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3. “In My Time of Dying” by Led Zeppelin from Physical Graffiti (Atlantic; 1975)

Since J. states, “John Bonham is probably my favourite musician,” (The Quietus) I chose a song off this classic that showcases plenty of bold tempo changes and wild/erratic/passionate drum fills (as well as some mean slide guitar; c’mon folks, I know it’s 11 minutes + but just settle and and feel the blast); one may shudder at the utter banality/overplayed nature of his choice but, as J. also points out, “[i]t’s kind of like Exile On Main Street again, in that there’s so many songs and it’s easy to listen to a lot, because you don’t always remember them.” London Calling is another such rich and varied double album that springs immediately to mind.

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4. “Sweet Black Angel” by The Rolling Stones from Exile On Main Street (Virgin/Polydor/Columbia; 1972)

J. claims that the songs on Exile are “bad enough that you can listen to it a lot” (The Quietus). With his tongue firmly implanted within his check muscles, I think we both know what J. finds appealing here is the looseness and freshness of the approach; J. also nails it when he claims that with this Stones album “it’s like they’re finally out from under the cloud of The Beatles”(The Quietus). Gone were the silly, Sergent Peppers-esque costumes of Their Satanic Majesty’s Request; now they just looked cool (on the insets): they’d been hanging around Gram Parsons and he alt-countrified the hell out of ’em (he probably bought them cooler clothes than those costumes as well).

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5. “I Can Feel The Fire” by Ron Wood from I’ve Got My Own Album To Do (Warner; 1974)

This number sounds like it was recorded at any entirely different sort of party (perhaps one that Keith Richards wasn’t invited to (or is that him (extremely sloshed) on the steel drums?)). There’s some seriously wicked riffing going on here–enough so that the inane lyrics really become secondary to Ron’s intricate and playful strumming rhythms (or perhaps if Keith is playing on this record, Ron finally got to turn his amp up louder than Keith’s (C’mon, it is called I’ve Got My Own Record to Do!)

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6. “Decontrol” by Discharge from Decontrol E.P. (Clay Records; 1980)

I always find it a bit enigmatic that J. has listed this band–on more than one occasion–as one of his remaining favorites. It might almost make more sense coming from Lou Barlow at the of his first contributions to the group. Still, this is a pretty incredible punk song with a fuzzy but crisp and wild guitar player who begins yelping/speaking-in-near-tongues as the song cartwheels off its simplistic initial structure into a sloppy abyss that is not without its cushion of joy somewhere near the bottom.

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7. “Arm Over Arm” by Screaming Females from Arm Over Arm / Zoo of Death E.P.(Don Giovanni Records; 2006)

J. notes that “[w]hen Marissa plays she doesn’t hold back” because “[s]he’s a female guitar hero” and how he digs “anybody who just lays it out there and goes for it.” (The Guardian)It turns out Steved Albini produced their latest record, which means, to me at least, we’re instantly dealing with a group who will focus around the guitar and heaviness without necessarily donning black eye shadow and praising Satan while setting churches aflame, then using said fire to light their crack pipes.

When I stumbled on “Arm Over Arm,” I instantly saw Screaming Females’ appeal for J.: they sound like a lost grunge band but also fresh and refreshing as peeled, citrus-spraying fruit because here the guitar is once again god and you will actually feel the music heaving into your chest if you happen to turn a lucky corner in some depraved American city and happen to see SCREAMING FEMALES TONITE LIVE!!! on the marquee.

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8. “Oaxcaca” by Awesome Color from Massa Hypnos (Ecstatic Peace; 2010)

Here’s a band that definitely slipped through the cracks for me; that guitar is so heavy and the riffing is relentless, grim, and sexy. According to J., Derek Stanton (the leader of this band) learned to play from Scott Asheton (drummer of The Stooges). Wow…to hear this live. If any opening or closing act decided to bring their laptops in order to dance like an octogenarian while leaning/hunching forward while an audience boredly checked and oh-so-delicately massaged various facebook/twitter/instagram status updates on their iphones, they would surely have shattered from these psychedelic swirls of sonic rage.  Note: by playing this song you are risking damage to your phone/Macbook, but your might be able to see your true reflection after it has cracked just right.

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9. “The Thrill of It All” by Black Sabbath from Sabotage (NEMS/Vertigo/Warner Brothers; 1975)

I picked this song b/c I loved the synth which kicks in Hawkwind-over-drive-style @3:00 or so on the linked tube vid. J. ‘s interest was piqued in the group “because all these druggy and dangerous older guys were into them” (The Quietus). Ozzy is probably at his peak right here; he’s belting it out with a certain wizened emotional maturity (also apparent on Vol. 4 (my personal fave BS record)) and thorn-in-the-side-of-society scream clarity before the on-the-verge-of-self-parody solo years of goofy hairdos make-out and FM radio pandering tactics spent barking at the moon with Lita Ford. This song is pure, unadulterated Sabbath blood. If you need blood in your music to survive (like me), then here is your daily dose.

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10. “No Brains” by Eater from Eater: The Album (The Label; 1977)

J. mentions how inspirational Eater and the punk movement were for him. Their lack of musical talent made J. think, “I could definitely be in this band’, because they weren’t very technically good” and how Eater can give  “you the belief that you can do it”(The Quietus).

Eater is not the first band people generally bring up when talking about the original punk scene…or even the original British punk scene (which happened a few years after The Stooges, The New York Dolls, and The Ramones blazed through town). But here they are: young, juvenile, and with insipid lyrics but very menacing growls and invigorating energy. So were they technically good? Can you paint like a photograph? Or write a novel following the heroic journey? Punk–like the as-yet-unnamed literary revolution/volcanic eruption bubbling & bubbling and growing a deadly red–was more about mood and spirit rather than chops/conformity.  I’d rather see these blokes than a symphony any day of the week.

 

Here is the entire playlist for the above songs.

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