Ever since the CDP Nationwide Mix-Tape Trade ended a couple months ago, people have been harping on me about reviewing their mix. Time constraints were getting in the way at the time, but while I’m waiting for my book to go to publication, I have a few days to really sit down and pick apart these works that CDP readers were kind enough to mail to me.
I set the rules for listening to and reviewing the assorted mixes as follows: I would write in complete stream-of-consciousness mode while each song played (hence the poor grammar and possible spelling errors), and stop writing as soon as the song was over. Any pausing or skipping tracks was not allowed. I was listening for songs that I liked, along with the general flow and mood you’d expect from a decent mix-tape. I listened to every mix through headphones and without outside distraction.
1. Needle In The Camel’s Eye – Brian Eno
I haven’t listened to nearly as much Brian Eno as I should, so this was a welcome and unheard opening track for me. Marching drums, fuzzy, rapid strumming and singalong verses kicked everything off, not long enough to overstay its welcome, and inviting me to dig more into the Brian Eno catalog.
2. I Heard It Through The Grapevine – The Slits
This disco-fied cover of the Marvin Gaye Motown classic is…different. Remember in 1979, where artsy bands were more heralded by being kooky and sheik, rather than possessing actual talent? Well, I’m not going to be that hard on the Slits (who are quite heralded themselves, in a completely different way than Marvin Gaye), but the track straddles the line between hipster and unnecessary, which is what I guess all hipster stuff is. I dig the jangly guitar, bass and dancy drums, however.
3. Rumble Ring – No Doctors
I could have sworn this song was from the early 80’s post-punk scene, but a quick Wikipedia search revealed that this lo-fi, noise rock churner was actually from the late 90’s. Damn; you learn something new every day. I don’t really know what else to say about this one; nothing too exciting sticks out to me. If I could really sit down with the lyrics, maybe there’s a hidden gem I’m not gathering, but until then, I got nothing.
4. When Jesus Gets A Brand New Name – Jim White
The broad term ‘Alternative Country’ can branch off into many different sub-genres. This paranoid, jazzy, twangy number sounds like the droning ramblings of a raving lunatic, which sounds far more appealing that it seems. I liked the vocal mixing, the production of the random instruments in the background, causing a disjointed and trippy feel throughout the entire 5 minutes-plus of this track.
5. I Do I Do – The Maids
This is a straight-ahead punk number from what feels like the CBGB’s era of the early 80’s. I’ve been wrong before, however. This was a good addition to shake off the lingering insanity from Mr. Jim White. A flat-out slam dancer; nothing to think too much about, here.
6. When You Touch Me – Reigning Sound
Will seems to dig the garage-punk sound, which is just fine with me. It’s been too long since I’ve really sat down and rocked out to this particular genre. When the synth beats and new-wave scene get a little too ridiculous to handle, a few hours of punk rock seems to set me straight again. Good theme, good flow and good variety so far for Mr. Betheboy.
7. Name Names – The Mendoza Line
I can’t believe I didn’t get a single Replacements song from anyone who sent me a mix. This will have to do. The Athens, GA sound is typically a little more bouncier and Zombies-influenced than this Athens band, but the ‘Mats sound is loud and clear, here. If you know what that entails, I really don’t need to say any more. If you don’t, please pick up Pleased To Meet Me this instant.
8. Get Back My Name – The Silos
Will can’t seem to stop the rock. No monster ballads or radio-friendly pop tunes for our Los Angeles resident with a decidedly more east coast taste in music. I remember when The Silos played in Green Bay about 10 years ago; I was too young to care at the time, but looking back, I really should have been there.
9. Teenage Kicks – The Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain
To answer your first question, yes, ukuleles are involved. Secondly, this song is an oft-covered masterpiece. Ash, one of my favorite bands, has actually covered this song as well. This is an acoustic version, still dripping with 70’s melodies and Motown doo-wop goodness. I loved it, you’ll love it, America loves it.
10. Undress For Success – McLusky
Why haven’t I heard of these guys before? Quirky, grungy, catchy, fuzzy, lo-fi, across the pond and full of attitude. This seems to chalk up Will’s taste in music to a T. At my core, I’m the same way, which is why this mix is pretty humbling to me. I’m getting schooled in underground bands that i should be plenty aware of my now.
11. Radio Aktiv – Bruset
As catchy as this mix has been, Radio Aktiv is the first track so far to feature both hand-clapping and the shredding guitar solo within 5 seconds of each other. Some bands pull out all the stops when it comes to rock and roll, and this German-sounding surf group knows what it takes. I was tapping my foot the entire time.
12. Don’t Call Me Whitney, Bobby – Islands
When this track, my ears perked up. Not only because it’s a song that I’m already aware of, but the production values are Phil Spector-like as opposed to the last 11 songs on this mix. Islands have been featured on four of the mixes that were passed around for this Nationwide Trade, and for a good reason. It’s timelessly wonderful, universally accepted by fans of all genres, and truly one of the top 5 albums of last year.
13. Intoxicated Man – Mick Harvey
This song lays on a smoky jazz feel; very film noir, dirty and sultry. I’d like to listen to this while I’m driving through downtown Madison at bar time, spotting shady characters and catching the eyes of beautiful women who are more than willing to chain me to a hotel room bed and steal my money.
14. Gene Autry – Beulah
Why, why, why did these guys have to break up? I love their musicianship, their masterful indie hooks, blasting horns and pretty much everything else. I think if they could have hung on for another album, they could have reached the current levels of popularity that Of Montreal is riding in 2007. The Coast Is Never Clear is another one of those albums that is just constantly listenable at any time.
15. Bomb Shelter, Pt. 2 – The Halo Benders
I may be stating the obvious, or perhaps missing out on an obvious in-joke, but Calvin Johnson cannot sing to save his damn life. The joke between me and the Missus whenever we’re listening to any Beat Happening is “Boy, Calvin Johnson must be a really nice guy,” referring to all of the projects and interesting bands he has his hands in, despite a lack of any discernible musical talent. That all being said, this half-sung/half-spoken track about wartime America is downright hilarious and poignant at the same time.
16. 24 Hour Shop – Fish Turned Human
I think that Will threw this track in just to prove that he knows about more bands than I do. I mean, I can obviously hold my own in any arena the world over, but man, this is sort of insane. Normally, I can tell you a little bit about nearly every band that you toss my way (as seen over the last two weeks), but Fish Turned Human? Come on. Seriously. If anyone else on this page knows about these guys, sound off and let me know.
17. How Great Was Husker Du! – Anthemic Pop Wonder
I like that even though the title of this song is a question, it doesn’t end with the question mark. That’s because it’s not really a question; Husker Du was the greatest, period. Every once in a while me and the Missus will drive the 150 mile trip back to our hometown and blast Everything Falls Apart at peak volume. Makes me happy; makes me love the Missus, too.
18. Long Neck Bottles – Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
Captain Beefheart is a lot of things. Experimental musician. Bizarre lyricist. Accomplished artist. These are all true. However, the one thing you need to know before jumping head-first into the Beefeart catalog is that he is 100 percent, Grade-A, certifiably bat-crap insane. Nothing more. Nothing less.
The theme of this mix is prevalent, the flow is steady and the depth is pretty decent. For awhile, I thought that Will was just going to throw on a bunch of bands that I had never heard of before, proclaim his indie superiority and ride off into the sunset. Not true. These are good songs by good bands, no question.
19. To The Dogs Or Whoever – Josh Ritter
Folk music is hit and miss to me. When done incorrectly, it’s annoying at best. When done right, however, it’s the most emotional and personal music every created. This is an example of folk done right. Wow; I don’t really know what to say right now. That was an amazing song. It’s hard to accurately describe a personal experience to someone who isn’t there to share it with. Maybe someday, we can all get together for a beer, crank this song and toast all of our past mistakes.
20. Chicken/Payback – The Bees
Will likes catchy new bands that sound like catchy old bands. He also likes catchy old bands that have influenced catchy new bands. Sorry; I’m in pop-overload mode right now. This mix started off slow and got better and better as it went along. Kudos.
BONUS TRACK: Virginia Reel Around The Fountain – The Halo Benders
Last week, Will sent me this track after a conversation about The Halo Benders. While Chicken/Payback was supposed to be the actual end of his mix-tape, this actually works far better, in my opinion. The high-pitched, swooning tone of Doug Martsch combined with the monotone-bass of Calvin Johnson work far better than it really should, resulting in a surreal, almost romantic experience.
Wow. Great stuff, Will! Time for stats!
Total Number Of Tracks – 21
Number Of Above Average Tracks – 11
Number Of Average Tracks – 6
Number Of Below Average Tracks – 4
Number Of Tracks That I Own – 2
Best Track – To The Dogs Or Whoever
Worst Track – Rumble Ring
Total Score – 8.3/10
I want to thank everyone for participating in the 2007 CDP Nationwide Mix-Tape Trade. I want to do a love song-themed Trade for Valentine’s Day 2008, if at all possible. More details on that as the date gets closer.
Tomorrow, the final countdown to the release of 65 Poor Life Decisions begins. For an accomplishment as important as a book release is for me, you won’t believe how miserable and uncooperative I’ve been for the last 6 months. The full scoop arrives tomorrow; until then, sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.