Sunday, August 9, 2015

HipHop Bottlerocket I

"Saddle Up Your Salamander"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]

What I refer to as the “pre-modern mixes” were primarily developed in college.  In those days, I was often making mixes for parties, so the majority of them were upbeat.  Many of these mixes are lost to the ether, and even those that aren’t completely lost are physically gone.  This was before digital playlists, remember, so the only artifact of their existence was an actual cassette somewhere, and they’re all long gone as far as I know.1  But some of them I listened to over and over again so much that they sort of burned into my brain, and those I’ve attempted to recreate using the new format.

This is one such mix.  In this case, the “HipHop” in the name doesn’t mean literal hip-hop music; it just connotes something with a good beat you can dance to.  And the “Bottlerocket” part, as you might guess, just means that these are tracks that I found exciting, adrenline-inspiring, like watching fireworks.  This first volume is, I believe, a pretty faithful recreation of the original, although not complete.2  But the ones that are here are all from the original, and I think they’re all in the right order, even.3

Because this mix was made in the 90s, there’s nothing here newer than that, which means it may have a bit of a nostalgic feel for you, especially if you’re younger than I.  But I still think you’ll find the tunes here pretty kickin’.  Not super-dancy, like disco or techno or anything like that, and not super-hard, like metal or industrial or thrash.  Just good party tunes: tracks that make you happy, make you want to move, perhaps make you want to be drinking a frosty beer or a mixed drink badly concocted by an inexperienced bartender.4  Future volumes of this mix, if there are any,5 will keep this same vibe, only without the strong 90s callback going on.

There are no repeated artists here at all, so we can’t say that any particular artists dominate this mix.  Still, there are a few that we should be utterly unsurprised to find here.  The Pixies, for instance: Bossanova isn’t my favorite album of theirs,6 but “Dig for Fire” is still a classic tune.  Likewise, what party mix would be complete without an appearance from Jane’s Addiction?  In this case, it’s “Ain’t No Right” off their insanely good Ritual de lo Habitual.7  And, speaking of performers from the inaugural Lollapalooza tour,8 there’s also a track from Living Colour here.  “Love Rears Its Ugly Head” is one of the few great tracks off Time’s Up, their follow-up to the much better Vivid.  And of course we have an appearance from Fishbone’s “Bonin’ in the Boneyard,” which is one of my all-time favorite tracks ever, and the only song immune to my never-reuse-a-track-in-more-than-one-mix rule.9

Other folks that probably ought not surprise are Faith No More, with “From Out of Nowhere” (probably because I was getting tired of “Epic” and realized that The Real Thing had so much more to offer), and Midnight Oil, with “Surfing with a Spoon,” which is easily the best song off their first three albums combined.  Oh, and “Sometime to Return,” back in the days when Soul Asylum used to rock.  (The baroque lyrics of this tune, by the way, give us our volume title.)  And my all-time favorite Ramones tune, “I Wanna Be Sedated.”10  I first heard the Ramones in my freshman year in college when I met a guy from New Jersey, and that was literally all he listened to.  He had every one of their albums and nothing else.  I never quite got into them as much as he did, of course, but I got an early-ish11 education in all things Ramone.

From there it gets either more obscure or more surprising (or both).  Concrete Blonde I was introduced to by good friend who almost became my roommate but then didn’t.12  I immediately fell in love with Free (still one of my all-time favorite albums) and eagerly snapped up Bloodletting when it came out.  It wasn’t as good, to be sure, but it still had some great tracks, such as “The Beast,” which we see here.  Another friend13 was a big pot smoker who introduced me to a huge variety of music, from Black Uhuru to NWA to Metallica to Bad Brains.14  Now, I never got into Bad Brains that much, but there was another, similar band: hardcore thrash alternating with reggae, only perhaps not as harsh as Bad Brains.  This band was 24-7 Spyz, and their minor hit “Grandma Dynamite” immediately grabbed me.15  But the one I included here was “Social Plague,” which almost as good and slightly less thrashy.  And, speaking of thrashy, I threw in a Sonic Youth tune off what I consider to be their best album: Goo.  I know many people prefer Daydream Nation, but I just find Goo more consistent and more accessible.  Sonic Youth isn’t particularly obscure, and this particular track of theirs was a fairly big hit on the alt-rock charts.  “Kool Thing” is somehow both smooth and rockin’ at the same time, and has a guest spot from Chuck D.16

Then you have the tunes from bands you might not have expected: Guadalcanal Diary, with their Athens-bred jangle-pop which is sibling to REM, but still very distinct from it, and They Might Be Giants, known for quirky folk-infused alterna-pop which eventually led them to a successful carrer in children’s music.  When it comes to GD, Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man is my clear favorite, but Flip-Flop has one thing going for it: ”... Vista,” which I find insanely catchy and irresistible.  On the other hand, all of TMBG’s first three albums are excellent, and any number of tunes would have worked here.  But their amazing reworking of 1953’s “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”—much faster and catchier than the original—is the one I wanted to highlight for this mix.

Perhaps the two most unlikely tracks here are the two that introduce what would be side 2 of the original cassette version: Ice-T’s “The Girl Tried to Kill Me” and Junior Reid’s version of “Eleanor Rigby.”  Rap and reggae are two genres that I’m not a huge fan of, but there are some artists and albums that I like, and these two tracks are emblematic of the first rap album I ever bought and the first reggae album I ever bought.  Ice-T is easily my favorite rap artist, and The Iceberg is one of the few rap albums that I enjoy pretty much every track on.  “The Girl Tried to Kill Me” is not only a great tune, but funny as hell.  Likewise, One Blood is the only reggae album I ever heard that I enjoyed all the way through.  If you’re a reggae fan, I probably don’t have to tell you that Reid is the guy who stepped into Black Uhuru after original singer Michael Rose left.17  One Blood contains a lot of great songs, but his version of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” is pretty awesome, in my opinion.18  Somehow these two tracks always seemed to flow into each other really well to me, despite their very diverse styles.

HipHop Bottlerocket I
[ Saddle Up Your Salamander ]

“Dig for Fire” by Pixies, off Bossanova
“The Beast” by Concrete Blonde, off Bloodletting
“Love Rears Its Ugly Head” by Living Colour, off Time's Up
“... Vista” by Guadalcanal Diary, off Flip-Flop
“Social Plague” by 24-7 Spyz, off Harder Than You
“Kool Thing” by Sonic Youth, off Goo
“Doctor Jeep” by The Sisters of Mercy, off Vision Thing
“UV Ray” by The Jesus and Mary Chain, off Automatic
“Free World” by Kirsty MacColl, off Kite
“Ain't No Right” by Jane's Addiction, off Ritual de lo Habitual
“I Wanna Be Sedated” by Ramones, off Anthology: Hey Ho, Let's Go! [Compilation]
“Last Cigarette” by Dramarama, off Stuck in Wonderamaland
“Surfing with a Spoon” by Midnight Oil, off Midnight Oil
“Eleanor Rigby” by Junior Reid, off One Blood
“The Girl Tried to Kill Me” by Ice-T, off The Iceberg: Freedom of Speech ... Just Watch What You Say
“From Out of Nowhere” by Faith No More, off The Real Thing
“Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” by They Might Be Giants, off Flood
“Sometime To Return” by Soul Asylum, off Hang Time
“Bonin' in the Boneyard” by Fishbone, off Truth and Soul
“Pictures of Matchstick Men” by Camper Van Beethoven, off Key Lime Pie
Total:  20 tracks,  77:22

Rounding this set are a few more potentially unlikely tracks.  In the middle, we have a 3-track stretch that kicks off with the Sisters of Mercy, who are primarily a goth band.  Their best album is undoubtedly Floodland, but that’s a darker, more atmospheric affair.  Their next album, Vision Thing, is not as consistently good, but far more upbeat, and “Doctor Jeep” is one of its highlights.  Then we have “UV Ray” by the Jesus and Mary Chain.  J&MC’s “style” runs the gamut from slow, almost-goth numbers, to sweet pop melodies, to the occasional wall-of-noise thrashy pseudo-punk tune.  “UV Ray” is in that latter camp, and was always my favorite tune off Automatic.  And finally Kirsty MacColl, who we’ve heard from before,19 with the most upbeat track off Kite, “Free World.”  I first heard that song on WHFS,20 and I bought the album soon after.  Good call, since it’s contributed 3 tracks to theses mixes.21

After the Ramones, winding down to what was the end of side 1 on the original cassette version, I throw in my favorite all-time Dramarama song, “Last Cigarette.”  I know many folks prefer “Anything, Anything,” especially here in my now-native LA,22 but there’s something about “Last Cigarette” that just strikes a chord with me.  Perhaps because I was a smoker for many years and I can fully relate: “last cigarette, last cigarette, one before I go to bed ... I know it’s killing me ...”  If you’re not familiar with Dramarama, seek them out.  We’ll see them again on other mixes.23

Finally, we close out this volume with Camper Van Beethoven’s remake of “Pictures of Matchstick Men” by Status Quo.  The original was a lovely piece of psychedelic pop from 1967, but I like the Camper Van version even better.  I just think the violin adds a whole new dimension to it.  CVB, of course, is often thought of as “the first band of that guy from Cracker,” but I always liked them better than Cracker.  Camper Van could throw in a little country twang, but they always knew where to draw the line.  Cracker wasn’t always so discerning.

Anyway, hopefully you dig this mix volume as much as I do.  Make sure to crank it up.  Next time around, we’ll circle back around to the beginning.


1 Although, who knows? maybe I’ll stumble across a few while unpacking a box one day.
2 The original, of course, would have been on a 90-minute cassette, which would be too long for a volume in the modern mix age (meaning it wouldn’t fit on most recordable CDs).  So I couldn’t include all the songs here, even if I could remember them all.  Which I can’t.
3 Which would mean that either the only ones I can’t remember are at the end, or else I’m fooling myself about having the transitions right.  But I’m happy enough with the results.
4 At our college parties, that was most often me.
5 Which there likely will be, someday.  I have some nebulous thoughts for more tracks, but haven’t started to organize a volume II as of yet.
6 That would undoubtedly be Tromp le Monde.
7 The album version of this includes a somewhat bizarre spoken-word introduction from Perry Farrell that I’ve often been told I should leave off.  But I always leave it attached to the track.  I kinda dig it.
8 Which I attended, I’m proud to say.
9 Which means you’re likely to see it again on another mix one day.  In the fullness of time.
10 See, they’re not all from the 90s.
11 1984, to be precise.
12 Which was fairly unusual, as I’ve had approximately 10 times more people actually become a roommate than almost become one.
13 An actual roommmate this time.
14 Also Adrian Belew, for some weird reason.  Also the first person to play me Digital Underground, and De La Soul, and Cypress Hill, and local band Hearsay.  He was a great guy with exquisite taste in music.
15 And thus we shall see that track on another mix, in the fullness of time.
16 The original version of this volume featured “Mary-Christ” instead of “Kool Thing.”  However, the former track had to be snatched to be featured on a different mix.
17 And, if you’re not, I probably do.  So I just did.
18 I can’t remember for sure, but I probably was exposed to both these albums by that same roommate who introduced me to 24-7 Spyz.
19 Both on Rose-Coloured Brainpan and Tenderhearted Nightshade.
20 Check out Salsatic Vibrato if you want to listen to me wax nostalgic about the glory days of WHFS.
21 So far.
22 Although Dramarama was conceived and delivered in New Jersey, LA is where they achieved what little fame they managed, on the strength of that very track, and they soon relocated here.
23 And have in fact already seen them once before, on Rose-Coloured Brainpan.

No comments:

Post a Comment