And you give yourself away

Standard

Birthdays are a funny time when you hear from people you never hear from; often people you have never heard from or actually talked to in your entire life, thanks to the wonders of invasive Facebook (of course it is only invasive because I let it be).

A guy with whom I had no actual acquaintance in junior high (and even less in high school), never sharing so much as a single one-on-one conversation but perhaps shared a handful of sarcastic group conversations, mostly arguing the (non-)merits of U2 (with whom I was abnormally preoccupied as an adolescent, steeped in the mania of the freshly released Joshua Tree album), popped up in my Facebook messages.

Back in junior high, my then-best friend and I were certifiably obsessed, and preached full-on religious zealotry like televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker at their zenith: Deliver U2 to the ignorant heathens: “THROW YOUR MONEY AT THESE IRISH LADS!” (I find these ‘lads’ in their past-middle-age incarnation to be rather sanctimonious, just as they were then – but a 12-year-old girl can’t see shit through the rose-colored glasses and distant, mystical music that plays silently when you mentally mythologize the Irish in any context.) That’s not to say that I don’t find The Joshua Tree to be an end-to-end marvel of aural achievement – only that my interest in U2 as a group dissipated along with most of the persistent drilling of teenage madness. Never again have I been as fervent a defender or ardent fan of anything, despite my wide-ranging passion for music. Perhaps after the U2 period, I moved fluidly into a ‘Madchester’ and shoegaze phase, but the musical palette continued to expand (and continues to this day), so U2 is a kind of speck on the horizon, even if they were the spark toward painting that multi-hued horizon. (And are, apparently, atop the list of anodyne sounds programmers report listening to while they work.)

But the point, though, was that this barely-an-acquaintance guy, who seems as an adult to be a genuine, cool and lovely person, but who had seemed in our youth, however vaguely I ‘knew’ him, like a too-cool, textbook-definition total dick (but this may well have been surface-level bravado; how many times have I written about the surface versus what’s underneath? We were all assholes at times, me included.), wrote to wish me a happy birthday and added: “U2 is still touring and playing the Joshua tree album, I was wrong in 8th grade and you were so right.”

In some weird way, I was touched, and this (here I am laughing) ‘vindication’ of my aggressive passion (he and his friends slagged off U2 at the time, but I don’t know if that was just to be contrary the way teenage boys are when they don’t have any idea how to actually communicate) was like its own happy little birthday present.

Wave goodbye

Standard

“So now you start to recognize
That every single path you see
Leads to a tear in your eye
So wave goodbye, wave goodbye”
Chris Cornell, “Wave Goodbye

The other day virtually everyone I ever knew in Seattle (okay, not everyone, but an awful lot of people) went to see U2 play their now 30-year-old album The Joshua Tree in its entirety. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder joined them on stage. I joked with my mom that Eddie Vedder is now the Tom Skerritt of music. See, Tom Skerritt constantly shows up everywhere – in film, in TV shows, in the fucking Pacific Northwest Ballet. He turns up in the big budget stuff, in tiny, no-budget indies, in large, memorable roles and in the tiniest roles ever. I mean, the guy appears in MASH (the film), Top Gun, Steel Magnolias, Picket Fences, Cheers, Huff and a whole compendium of other things. There were moments when I thought I was safe from Skerritt, and then, as if just to taunt me, he’d appear – for example, the little-known film, Smoke Signals, an adaptation of Sherman Alexie’s short story “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” from his book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Or for example when he turns up in the film Singles for just a few minutes of screen time as the mayor of Seattle.

I could carry on almost endlessly listing off Tom Skerritt sightings, but my point: Eddie Vedder turns up on other musicians’ stages (frequently in Seattle but often in cities all over the world) so often that he rivals Skerritt’s ubiquity – only in the music realm.

It’s strange, then, today to think that Eddie Vedder is kind of … the last man standing of grunge-era frontmen. News broke today that Chris Cornell of Soundgarden had died at age 52 after playing a triumphant show in Detroit. Never quite “of” the grunge ‘movement’ (if you could really call it that), never quite getting his due as a songwriter (this has immediately changed upon posthumous evaluation). I’m guilty of underestimating the guy – I never cared a whole lot for the Soundgarden sound but have only, in Cornell’s death, taken a look at the songs and lyrics. I did not recognize the beauty or power of his talent (either the writing or the voice) fully until seen in another context (i.e., both in death and in hearing him in stripped-down versions of songs from other genres and sounds).

Of his own work, I honestly had no idea that Cornell’s writing was often so dark (even if that is not all it was). But I was certainly not alone in this errant and incomplete appraisal; masked by various labels and categorizations (“He was a cock-rocker in an era when everyone was supposed to be too depressed or doped up to fuck”, ‘grunge’ being but one of them, it’s almost as though many people just didn’t listen to what was beneath the sound. (One of the many articles on Cornell today cites, as an example, Johnny Cash’s cover of Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage” as an unlikely avenue through which people started to see Cornell’s writing genius.)

“It’s sort of a morbid exchange when somebody who is a writer like that dies, and then everyone starts picking through all their lyrics.”

What can you say about something like this? It’s a sad ending for someone who entertained, who evaded easy categorization, who defied labels and continued to reinvent and moreover brought solace and beauty to the lives of so many people. This is the best that can be said for most of us.

Photo (c) 2007 Guillermo Ruiz used under Creative Commons license.

Good goo of random gum: Halloween 2015 – Nearly lost you

Standard

Random Gum 2015: Nearly Lost You

The full soundtrack (minus those songs that don’t exist on Spotify.)

1. Screaming Trees – “Nearly Lost You”
This year, I nearly lost, and in some cases, lost, so much. The nostalgia brought on by the song and that period in time makes the case for the centrality of loss as a recurring theme.

2. Dark Blue – “Hanging from the Chandelier”
A bit over-the-top but the dramatic sound evokes dark images of last-second glimpses of giant moose on the prowl during my long, wintry, middle-of-night drives. Every dark object in the distance a deer or moose – or a mailbox.

3. Hunx & His Punx – “The Curse of Being Young”
I used to curse my youth – now I wish I could have stood still at 33 forever.

4. Metronomy – “The Look” …you’re goin round in circles/and everyone knows you’re trouble…

5. Phantogram – “The Day You Died” …And I don’t care to say goodbye, cause you’re feeling nothing/I dug into your heart, we got nothing at all…

6. Matrimony – “Giant” …Does it feel good to leave me on my own?…

7. MGMT – “Electric Feel” …shock me like an electric eel…
“All along the eastern shore/Put your circuits in the sea/This is what the world is for/Making electricity/You can feel it in your mind/Oh you can do it all the time/Plug it in and change the world/You are my electric girl”. With love from the sea’s ugliest creature, the wolf eel

8. Cold War Kids – “Mexican Dogs” …flashlights go out/stars will light the way/like Mexican dogs/nobody gave us names…
For Martina, our love for top dogs, piñatas and the endless dog-and-pony show

9. Cowboy Junkies – “Lost My Driving Wheel” …I feel like some old engine/that’s lost my driving wheel…
The sense of losing your bearings, and having nowhere to fall, nowhere to turn, nowhere to rest. Calling out for love, for support, for something, but finding no one, nothing, there.

10. Sam Cooke – “You Send Me”

11. Charles & Eddie – “Would I Lie to You?”
“Ohhhh noooo!” I somehow managed never to know that this song existed until recently. S mentioned it, thinking it was common knowledge. We had a lot of laughs over it and my “death notice delivery” nature (every time he mentioned something, I had an, “Oh and I just found out he’s dead” moment). Suddenly, once I’d heard it, it was everywhere – even the Norwegian radio, perpetually stuck in the 80s and early 90s as it is. Check out the video if you get the chance: 90s music video amateur hour. And it’s all taken on a new life with my friends and me laughing at it. And poor Charles, RIP. For S, for Hayley my former colleague, for Alfa

12. Lesley Gore – “You Don’t Own Me”
RIP Lesley Gore

13. The Boomtown Rats – “Diamond Smiles” …love is for others, but me it destroys…
1970s: was it the coke that led everyone to sing about space, sparkles, glitter, diamonds and satellites? For S, for Angelika

14. J.D. McPherson – “Bridgebuilder
Another discovery sitting in a dark, cold parking lot in the middle of the night.

15. Spiritualized – “Soul on Fire”

16. Bebe Rexha – “I’m Gonna Show You” …tired of trying to be normal/I’m always overthinking/I’m driving myself crazy…
One of those annoying, cliché-filled songs- the whole “I’m such a crazy bitch you can’t handle me” trope… but still, here it is. It caught me off guard until it became catchy (one of the perils of listening to Norwegian radio…)

17. Garbage – “Push It”
Reminds me of the summer I spent dragging myself out of bed at 4 a.m. daily to go running – one of the songs that carried me through it. College days. And who in the world can get enough of Shirley Manson? Not me!

18. Nortec Collective: Bostich + Fussible – “Motel Baja” …life is like a piñata/filled with candy to the brim…
Middle-of-the-night drives through Sweden listening to Seattle’s KEXP and its Latin music show, El Sonido. One of my favorite songs all year long. “The bottles are all empty/and I can see the border/Goodbye, Tijuana, where the party never ends…”

19. TV on the Radio – “Happy Idiot”
Another one of my favorites this year. “What you don’t know won’t hurt you/ignorance is bliss/I’m a happy idiot/waving at cars…”

20. Kinky, Beto Zapata – “Para Poder Llegar a Ti”
El Sonido! Another one keeping me sane on the long commute.

21. Squeeze – “Up the Junction” …she left me when my drinking became a proper stinging…
I can’t listen to this without losing it, bursting into uncontrollable tears, for what it reminds me of. For S. “And when the time was ready/We had to sell the telly/Late evenings by the fire/With little kicks inside her”

22. Queen – “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
After a crazed listening and documentary fest digging into Freddie Mercury’s life, the history of Queen, couldn’t resist this. I was never a fan but no denying the unbelievable live charisma (see Live Aid if in doubt – pains me a bit to think of how long ago that was). For Roxane

23. Evans the Death – “Idiot Button …I’m an idiot for trying…
It is like there’s an “idiot button” that resets again and again, sending me back to the painful beginning, wringing out any last compassion I feel.

24. Dom La Nena – “Golondrina”
Too beautiful

25. Pond – “Holding Out for You” …I was only there for you…
The burden of sticking around to be there for someone, holding out hope…

26. Kevin Morby – “Parade”
“If I were to die today/Puppet in that great charade/The last thing that you’d hear me say/Is bury me in different shapes/Of the parade”

27. Mitski – “First Love/Late Spring”
“So please hurry leave me/I can’t breathe/Please don’t say you love me/Mune ga hachikire-sōde/One word from you and I would/Jump off of this/Ledge I’m on/Baby/Tell me “don’t,”/So I can/Crawl back in”

28. Courtney Barnett – “Dead Fox” …if you can’t see me/I can’t see you…
Love that the album this came from is called Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit. For my S. the lone wolf.

29. Perfume Genius – “Queen”
A certain atmosphere

30. The Platters – “Only You”
Just one of those things you have to love.

31. Eddy Grant – “Electric Avenue”
Reminds me of the 80s, being a kid with my brother, Kyle, and enjoying this video on USA Network’s NightFlight (decades before original programming!) or TBS SuperStation’s NightTracks or some other video show in the pre-MTV era (or rather before we had MTV)…

32. O Terno – “Ai, ai, Como Eu Me Iludo”
For all my Brazilian friends and acquaintances.

33. TV on the Radio – “Trouble”
I am in love with this song no matter how many times I hear it.

34. Ultravox – “Vienna”
Dead cold city (Oslo) at the holidays. Coffees at Deli De Luca (only thing open). For S.

35. Las Ketchup – “Asereje”
For Sarah. Back when I had pirated Israeli MTV in Seltjarnarnes and this song was everywhere annoying the crap out of everyone. Marshmallow couches, trips to the few restaurants with booths – it was like some other lifetime. The song still annoys – was shocked to hear it on KEXP’s El Sonido radio show this past spring.

36. Ros Sereysothea – “Shave Your Beard”
Reminded me of the Vietnamese music I used to hear with a long-ago boyfriend (from youth). And of course… no more beards. Clean-cut, new passport!. Fresh start, fresh face. For S.

37. The Beach Boys – “Surfin’ USA”
To new career endeavors and surfing the choppy waves of love. Waimea Bay and Five-0!

38. U2 – “An Cat Dubh” …yes, and I know the truth about you…
A rabid U2 fan back in my youth, it’s all been downhill for me since Achtung Baby (with The Joshua Tree being the pinnacle of their achievement). But listening anew to the back catalog, nothing they’ve done thrills me more than their first album, Boy. It’s so exuberant, not trying too hard, fresh (certainly for its time) and still sounds exciting, exploratory. I love it and the way the musicians’ youth explodes in sound. For Terra

39. OMD – “If You Leave”
Nostalgia, if for no other reason

40. Robyn Hitchcock – “The Ghost in You”
One of my favorite Psychedelic Furs songs only performed by one of my favorite musicians, the wild Robyn Hitchcock.

41. Leon Bridges – “Better Man” …what can I do to get back to your heart/I’d swim the Mississippi River if you would give me another start, girl…
When one requires and asks for too many chances, you care less and less every time.

42. Berlin – “No More Words”
At first included as an homage to the 80s, the lyrics took on special meaning as I kept being fed the same empty words over and over – only to face the same results (insanity?)

43. Crowded House – “Help is Coming”
Beautiful, underrated and understated Crowded House. Hard to choose a song, really, and at the end of the year as the refugee crisis hit peak levels, their gorgeous, longing tune “Help is Coming” became the anthem of offering refuge.

44. Jermaine Stewart – “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off”
One of my ill-advised Norwegian radio-listening experiences yielded this old gem. I wondered, driving along, whatever happened to Jermaine Stewart and his cherry wine, only to come home and discover that he died ages ago. More of my grim-reaper nature. Poor guy – RIP.

45. The Maccabees – “Toothpaste Kisses”
“With heart shaped bruises/and late night kisses/divine”

46. Falco – “Der Kommissar”
Nothing like memories of Lufthansa flight watching Falco biopic

47. Glenn Medeiros – “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You”
I had never been a fan of this dude at all, this song or this style and had promptly, conveniently forgotten the existence of this. S heard it in a TV ad in Glasgow, proceeded to incorporate it into his musical repertoire, and this made me, ever-curious… curious. Glenn is now a wild-patterned-shirt wearing school administrator in Hawaii, where he grew up. We follow each other on Twitter. Strangely, lots of factors can change your love for someone.

48. Night Ranger – “Sister Christian”
I have always hated this song and find the name “Night Ranger” more than comical. But it sticks in the mind in a big way.

49. Lera Lynn – “My Least Favorite Life”
The only good part of the 2nd season of the bloated and pretentious True Detective.

50. Foreigner – “I Want to Know What Love Is”
Another cheesy piece of auditory crap, but I heard it as it closed out the most recent season of Orange is the New Black, and in my apparently weakened emotional state at the time, the song seemed to hit me rather hard.

**51. Vorderhaus – “Could I Run **bonus track**