From a friend:
“Okay no cheating. You have iTunes? Great — here’s what I want you to do. Access the entire music library you have saved, select “SHUFFLE” and press play. Write down your thoughts on the song while it plays, but don’t write past the point it ends. And please, no cheating — that N’Sync song pops up in the mix, write it down and say why you have it.”
Ordinarily I’d ignore the request, but as I just returned after a vacation, I really need to jump-start my brain, and this is as good a distraction as any.
Oh, I don’t have any N’Sync, so I’m safe there, but let’s see what happens.
1. Shaking Through – R.E.M.
Why I have it? Well, because it’s R.E.M. – one of my favorite bands. Shaking Through is off their first album, Murmur, and it’s appropriate that it’s the first to pop up, given that Murmur always makes me think of summer. Actually, R.E.M. always makes me think of summer – they’re a great summer band. Memories associated with R.E.M., particularly I.R.S. Records era R.E.M., always bring me back to Summer. There’s even video a friend recorded of us driving around my hometown in my Toyota Camry, just recording the sights in the summer of ’91. Of course, R.E.M. are on the deck.
2. Country House – Blur
What was the greatest “Britpop” song? It’s a question one character in a nifty suspense thriller I recently wrote (and am currently shopping) asks of another. The choices are “Country House” by Blur and “Roll With It” by Oasis. It’s a trick question, really, as everyone knows the greatest Britpop song is “Common People” by Pulp. I think If I was born two, three years later than I actually was, I’d be a bigger Britpop fan than I am, though The Great Escape, of which this song belongs to, is probably my favorite Britpop album, along with the first Elastica and the first Oasis.
3. Fast Cars – U2
Fast Cars was a bonus track on the Japanese version of U2’s 2004 ‘How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb’ album, but this version is from ‘Medium, Rare and Remastered’, a fan-club CD of b-sides, rare tracks and previously unreleased music spanning the band’s 30 years together. When I was U2 in 2005 in Toronto they played this song during the encore and it was the only song they did perform i had never heard. It’s got this weird, almost flamenco feel to it. Oh, U2 is a winter band for me — unlike R.E.M. Don’t know why, they just are.
4. Beloved Freak – Garbage
The newest addition to the library as the album came out a month or so ago, and I only got it in the last couple weeks. I like it — granted I’ve liked all of Garbage’s albums (even Beautiful Garbage and Bleed Like Me — the albums nobody else bought). For most, Garbage is your quintessential mid-late 90s band, in look and in sound. It’s weird to think they’ve been around nearly 20 years now, but they have, and I think it’s great they’re still together. Oh, and the album’s a definite grower — not as “single heavy” as their debut album (the one with “Stupid Girl”, “Vow” and “Queer”) — but as catchy as anything they’ve done.
5. Same Boy You’ve Always Known (Live From Manaus, Brazil) – The White Stripes
Another rarity, this from a B-Sides collection only available in Europe. I think to really appreciate The White Stripes, you have to listen to them performing live. A pity I never got to, but their live album “Under Great White Northern Lights” (or the film itself) is as good as any place to start. I’m really enjoying Jack White’s solo debut ‘Blunderbuss’ right now, and wonder how Meg is doing in her life out of the spotlight.
6. Staring at the Sun (Monster Truck Remix) – U2
And it’s U2 again, this remix from the ‘Artificial Horizon’ fanclub remix album my sister-in-law gifted me with. The original is off their much maligned 1997 Pop album, where they rode the Achtung-Zooropa train into a wall. Revisionists are coming around on it somewhat, but the album still feels half-baked. FIrst side is pretty solid, but it gets less interesting as it goes forward. That said, some of the tracks I initially hated (“Please”, “Wake Up Dead Man” and this track in its original format) are now some of my favorites on the album. Figure that out.
7.B & I Ferry – Shane MacGowan and the Popes
Anyone else as surprised as me that Shane MacGowan is still alive? Well, he is. That’s nbot to say he’s in tip-top shape; when I saw the Pogues at the Roseland Ballroom in 2006 he performed from the seat of his wheelchair (having broken his knee a couple days previous), and his between-song banter was an unintelligible slur. It was good to see him back with the band where he belongs, but his 90s solo albums, “The Snake” and “Crock of Gold” (of which this song is from) were some of my favourites from the era. Actually much of the late 90s were a wasteland for me; working a shitty job, making shitty money doing it and wondering if my career would ever get off the ground. But somehow, listing to Shane belt ’em out made life a little more bearable.
8. Amsterdam – Coldplay
Coldplay get a lot of grief from the hipper-than-thou, but I like ’em and piss on anyone who feels different. I thought once I got out of High School people would stop judging others based on what they like, but if anything it’s gotten worse. Thanks to the Internet, it’s like High School never ended; everyone is ready and willing to share their unwanted opinions with each other, only they’ve removed the usual socual graces of having the stones to utter their opinions to your face. Now they scream it safely from their side of their computer monitor. Anyway, even Coldplay haters will acknowledge that “A Rush of Blood to the Head” is their best album, and “Amsterdam” one of their best songs. I know it’s one of my favorite.
9. Making Time – Creation
Off the soundtrack to the Wes Anderson film ‘Rushmore’. Ironically I just had the epiphany that Anderson’s latest “Moonrise Kingdom’ is currently my favorite film of 2012. It also made me realize how burnt out I am on comic book movies and superhero cinema in general. I’m tired of the CGI overkill, the origin stories, the inevitable set-up for the sequel. I long for those quiet summer days of childhood where you could just explore your town, your cottage, that island getaway, and find something truly magical.
10. Drunken Butterfly – Sonic Youth
Ah, Sonic Youth. I think they were my favorite band through 1992, and I couldn’t wait for ‘Dirty’ to come put already. I saw them at the Concert Hall in Toronto that November, and my ears rang for days afterward. It was my soundtrack through that summer and autumn when I trekked off to university to begin the next phase of my life; a phase of life that feels like it’s ending only now. Maybe not ending, but heading in a new direction. FUnny thing is at least to my ears, this song feels as fresh now as it did when I first heard it 20 years ago. And then I realize it’s been 20 years, and I wonder where the time went. It’s all gone by so fast I worry the next 20 will accelerate even more. At least I’ll still have the music.
And that’s that. If you chose to do the same as I did, hit shuffle, and write about what comes up, I’d be curious to read what you say, either here or on Facebook.