Sunday, September 4, 2011

Killing Yourself To Live Soundtrack: 85% Of An Aggregatibacter Mixtape

I was pretty sick for most of this month and one of the books I read while laying in bed bored out of my mind was Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself To Live: 85% Of A True Story. It's a tough book to put down. It's the story of a cross-country road trip Klosterman took while writing an article for Spin magazine about why death is often the best career move musicians can make. Along the way he meets up with, and contemplates his relationships with, the main loves of his life, snorts coke on the site of the Station fire where about a hundred rockers where killed by Great White's pyrotechnics, listens to all the KISS solo records, and recalls a story in which his brother broke a deer's neck with his bare hands. This is all while traveling to various sights where rock stars have kicked the bucket: Kurt Cobain's greenhouse, the farm where Lynrd Skynrd's plane crashed, the apartment where Replacement's guitarist Bob Stinson drank himself to death, etc. As a rock critic and record nerd, he talks about and listens to a lot of music along the way. He brought 600 records on the 2 week trip. What I like about rock critics is their ability to give the reader an idea of what a record will sound like by comparing the band's sound to a conglomeration of different culture artifacts that are simultaneouely important, well-known, and oddly related to this new work they are describing. I can't do this, which is why all my posts here have links to the records themselves and videos of songs from the records I talk about. Anyway, Killing Yourself To Live, shows cirtics not only do that with the records they review, but with every aspect of their lives. They compare girlfriends to certain songs or members of KISS, sum up the entirety of major terrorist attacks by going track-by-track through an album released before said terrorist attack occurs, compare their relationship to a town to Ozzy Osborne's relationship to Randy Rhodes. They see the world through music, often making very deep, truthful realizations by making absurd comparisons. To make this point, I've chosen some of the more ridiculous songs referenced in the book. Klosterman writes about hundreds of songs, albums, and recording artists in the book. I chose one song that was specifically mentioned in each chapter to make this "soundtrack" to the book. I usually picked the silliest track mentioned, but not exclusively. Sometimes I picked a song that really summed up the events of the chapter, or that effectively created an image, or that I just liked a whole lot. Oddly, as I look over the track list, very few of these songs were written by the dead artists who were the subject of the article he was researching as the events chronicled in the book take place. Many are songs he used to describe ex-girlfrends and most are just off-the-wall references that paint a perfect picture of whatever it is he's trying to describe at the time. If you decide to read the book while you read this, you may find yourself comparing it to High Fidelity, but KYTL is a much better book with a much stranger soundtrack.

Chapter 1: Bodies--The Sex Pistols
Chapter 2: I Can't Explain--The Scorpions
Chapter 3: Jolene--Dolly Parton
Chapter 4: Chantilly Lace--The Big Bopper
Chapter 5: My Drug Buddy--The Lemonheads
Chapter 6: Crazy in Love--Beyonce (feat. Jay-Z)
Chapter 7: Downtown--Petula Clark
Chapter 8: Sit Down, Stand Up--Radiohead
Chapter 9: Hollywood Nights--Bob Seger
Chapter 10: Rock Me Amadeus--Falco
Chapter 11: Camel Walk--Southern Culture On The Skids
Chapter 12: More Than Words--Extreme
Chapter 13: I Don't Want To Know--Fleetwood Mac
Chapter 14: Bastards of Young--The Replacements
Chapter 15: Dancefloors--My Morning Jacket
Chapter 16: Stay With Me--Faces
Chapter 17: Trampled Under Foot--Led Zeppelin
Chapter 18: New York Groove--KISS (Ace Freehley Solo Album)
Chapter 19: Lithium--Nirvana
Chapter 20: Something in the Way--Nirvana

The Music Tapes--For Clouds and Tornadoes

There are a few things that I find more beautiful than words can explain. They are all natural phenomena that tend to be the only things in this world I can just stare at and immediately feel calm. One is flocks of birds, particularly the rapidly changing, perfectly choreographed smoke-like flocks of starlings. Another is water flowing over stones. And the last is clouds drifting behind buildings, trees, mountains, air traffic control towers--doesn't matter what, just moving behind something. There are only two days of elementary school I remember distinctly. One of those was the day we learned the names of the different types of clouds. It was one of the best days of my life. The very idea that someone had the job of looking up at the sky and naming the clouds just made me so happy. To this day, I still could not tell you which cloud is a cummulonimbus, which is a cirrus, which is a stratus, but I could tell you what my teacher was wearing when she taught me (a purple dress), where I was sitting (third row, fourth seat), even what belt I was wearing (Superman). I couldn't even tell you what grade I was in. So, The Memory Tapes's For Clouds and Tornadoes remains my favorite Non-Mangum Elephant 6 endeavor. Not only does Julian Koster recall this bit of nostalgia by shouting, "NIMBUS! CIRRUS! STRATUS!" throughout the record, but his singing saw, toy pianos, accordion, banjo, and his otherworldly voice sound more like a memory than song. This must be why I always mistakenly refer to this project as The Memory Tapes instead of The Music Tapes causing much confusion every time I try to put on this record and wind up listening to the first 2 minutes of Seek Magic before I figure out what the hell is going on. I always say I remember things better when I write them down. The purpose of this post is to help be remember The Music Tapes are the cloud band created by Neutral Milk Hotel's Julian Koster and the Memory Tapes are the electronic "chillwave" band with the bicycle pump and sneakers on a basketball court sounds on their record (also some nostalgic feelings associated with that one...). And I'd also like to share this Music Tapes record (and hopefully this feeling) with you. I love this record and the way it makes me feel. Enjoy.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks--Mirror Traffic

A Beck produced Jicks record, do you really need me to explain why it's essential for you to have this? It's even better than you might expect...

Okkervil River--Overboard & Down

Named for and featuring an excellent cover of one of my favorite songs off the focus of my last post, Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers, this tour EP is just one of countless records that were influenced by that Big Star Record. Just a few minutes on YouTube will reveal covers of Sister Lovers songs by Bat for Lashes, Elliott Smith, This Mortal Coil, Mike Mills, Jody Stephens, Evan Dando, Yo La Tengo and a bunch more. This Okkervil River cover is one of my favorites and the rest of the EP is pretty amazing as well.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Big Star--Third/Sister Lovers (1992 Rykodisc Edition)

Big Star never really received the commercial attention they deserved. Championed by the critics (and later The Replacements), Stax Records just wasn't up to the task of promoting their acts by the time Big Star came along. It didn't help that there were only two original members of the band left during the recording of their third record and that Alex Chilton was pretty much falling apart during most of the recording of the record. No one even agreed that this was a Big Star record. The group that recorded these songs went by Sister Lovers, not Big Star. That name, which later became the record name, came about because Chilton and drummer, Jody Stephens, happened to be dating two sister at the time. Cousins of my favorite photographer, William Eggleston, the sisters also contributed some of the backing vocals, but were later erased following the break up that must have led to the creation of songs like "Holocaust" and "Kangaroo." The rest of the band was made up of Stax session musicians with producer Jim Dickinson trying to keep some sort of order. I have to say that despite all of the emotional ups and downs and the eclectic mix of songs on Third/Sister Lovers (or perhaps because of them...), this is my favorite of all the records Alex Chilton created in his career. Stand out tracks include "Thank You Friends," "O, Dana," "Stroke It, Noel," "Holocaust," "Kangaroo," "Femme Fatale," and one of my favorite Christmas songs, "Jesus Christ."