by Ryan Meehan
The brutal winter weather that we are so accustomed to living in the Midwest has officially started here in the Quad Cities of Illowa. While we were able to skate through December with almost no snow at all and very limited sub-zero wind-chills, the harsh reality of blowing snow and people driving their 1998 Toyota Tercels into telephone poles all across the bi-state area hit us like a ton of bricks during the first full business week of January. I can definitely tell you that this kind of weather is no place for outdoor nude ribbon dancing in the middle of the street at 1AM, something that I get the chance to practice regularly once summer rolls around and I’m temporarily off probation for at least a few months. At least we have music to help soften the crushing blow that will be everyday life in the QC until the end of March, and we have Ragged Records in downtown Davenport to help satisfy all of our record purchasing needs. And thanks to the magic of the internet, we also have the ability to share our somewhat schizophrenic musical tastes in the form of playlists. Please excuse my scatterbrained tendencies with regards to staying inside of the lines here, and understand that this is not done intentionally to showcase the diversity of my listening tastes. I can’t stand it when people do that shit, and to be brutally honest I consider myself to be a bit of a music bigot when it comes to certain genres and styles. For example, I generally don’t trust any hard rock music with a flute in it. There’s nothing rockin’ about whistling into a goddamned tube. Jethro Tull? No thanks… Although I’m well aware “Aqualung” is a name commonly associated with an underwater breathing apparatus, whenever I hear it I can’t help but picture someone’s lungs filling up with water. As a little science lesson, do you know what happens when your lungs fill up with water? You die. How ironic, that’s exactly what happened to Jethro Tull’s career after they robbed Metallica of that Grammy back in 1989. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there and has nothing to do with any of the artists on today’s catalog. Now that I’ve gotten off of my soapbox, I’m going to put it away before I trip over it and while I’m doing that feel free to check out the twelve songs that I’ve selected in the second installment of my submission to the Ragged Records series of playlists.
1. Art Garfunkel – “Cryin’ in my Sleep” – 1977
Due to the abundance of softer rock from artists such as James Taylor and Jim Croce that was available in the seventies, Art Garfunkel’s “Watermark” ended up getting completely overlooked by most music historians. That’s a damn shame, because this record is full of high quality songs. “Mr. Shuck N’ Jive” is awesome, and Art’s version of the folk classic “She Moved Through The Fair” is also a must listen. The list of guest appearances on this record is almost laughable. Everybody who was doing anything non disco-related that ended up being on the charts in 1977 shows up on this album. Taylor pops up on “What a Wonderful World“, and would you believe that the guy scatting in that bizarre midsection of “Shuck N’ Jive” was David Crosby? I picked “Cryin’ In My Sleep” because I learned something interesting while researching this disc: That particular track had failed to chart when originally released in the United States, a move which I can only assume was due to the entire country being asleep for two weeks. The album was then re-released with “What a Wonderful World” and the rest was history. This cut right here is a classic first song for an LP, and a great way to start this playlist.
2. Anthony Jeselnik – Final Three Tracks from “Caligula” – 2013
I’m a sucker for vile comedy, and even more so a sucker for non-sequitirs. So it would only make sense that the last three tracks on Anthony Jeselnik’s 2013 album “Caligula” would be right up my alley. Watching this special live is really something else, as Anthony has a certain “stalker” approach to his act. Everything from the way he slowly walks back and forth as if he’s about to snap the neck of his prey in half to the way that he holds the microphone proves that he is the exact opposite of the overly hyperactive and “zany” comedians going out of their way to be someone they are not. The writing is nearly flawless, at times even frustrating to listen to because they are clearly jokes about difficult subjects that have been sitting there for years. If it wasn’t delivered so well, it would be infuriating to listen to because you’d constantly be beating yourself in the forehead with a crowbar because you didn’t come up with it first. Just to clarify, this is beyond not safe for work. The story about his girlfriend’s parents nailing the crucifix to the wall might be the best joke anybody’s ever written. I was heartbroken when “The Jeselnik Offensive” was cancelled by Comedy Central back in the end of the same year this record was released, and I couldn’t believe that they had gotten rid of a show of that high quality. This entire album is a ten, but the last three tracks clearly stand out to me as going above and beyond the call of the comedy gods.
3. The Carpenters – “Yesterday Once More” – 1973
Given how sad the ending of the story of The Carpenters was, songs like one this do tend to hit a little harder in the heart. But even if I wasn’t aware of the story, I’d still think that this is a fantastic piece of music. Like many other female vocalists in the 1970s, Karen had a Contralto range but stood out from many others as she had a very recognizable tone. The chorus of this song has a really somber feel to it, enough to make a death metal guy like myself get goosebumps in an elevator. And while a lot of “elevator music” from that era gets labeled as such, keep in mind that the production of songs written in that era made everything very compressed. There was a backing orchestra in almost every single track, and every studio session probably looked a lot like the video for Foreigner’s “I want to know what love is”. There was a certain plasticity about the seventies that slowly warmed the heart and The Carpenters were the architects of painting the music landscape all those awful shades of brown and green, just like the couch your grandmother had that smelled like Virginia Slims and cat urine. For the record, this is the only song they play over the radio feed at work that doesn’t make me want to pull my earhairs out with a pair of pliers or demand that voting rights be stripped from the homeless.
4. Ministry – “Freefall” – 2012
It’s safe to say that we’re going to switch gears a little bit here, as Al Jourgensen’s well-documented history of drug abuse makes Karen Carpenter’s eating disorder look like she simply forgot to throw a granola bar in her lunch bag on a random Wednesday. This song is probably the most in depth look at Al’s personal struggles with heroin, and where in other Ministry songs he alludes to his chemical dependency via clever metaphors and analogies this song pretty much lays it out with not a lot left to the imagination. A brilliant use of sampling, Uncle Al introduces us to the wonders of “Croke”, which he says can be yours for the low, low price of a crumpled up Andrew Jackson. I really thought that with “Relapse”, Ministry had gotten back to the sound that they were trying to create on “Rio Grande Blood” even though I felt they had lost momentum following the release of “The Last Sucker” shortly thereafter. While a majority of the material on the second half of this album tends to be a lot more dancier than usual, this song is as thrashy and metallic as ever. I still maintain that this is one of my favorite Ministry songs, and definitely the best song they’ve released this century.
5. 2 Live Crew – “Fuck Shop” – 1989
Simply put, 2 Live Crew’s music is ridiculous in every sense of the word. While I have an enormous amount of admiration for those who create music based on their knowledge of the art form, I also hold a special place in my heart for those who have absolutely no respect for it at all. A perfect example of this would have to be Miami hip-hop outfit 2 Live Crew, who couldn’t be any further from Mozart on the musical spectrum. It’s almost laughable how little attention they pay to detail, and how unbelievably stupid the topics of their songs are. As you might imagine, “Fuck Shop” is not about understanding one’s place in the universe so much as it is about a whore house where every happy ending is a new beginning. The track starts out with this large Gong cymbal, and after Luke welcomes you to the establishment you’re treated to the opening two bars of Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine” for no reason whatsoever. It then transitions into a well-utilized sample of Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” and appears to be headed in the right direction until these guys start rapping over it. One of the lyrics to this track is a cautionary tale about how far you can go with buttplugs at a fine place like this: “But be careful of the things that you use, ‘cuz you could get arrested for sex abuse”. This is just one example of their mediocre mic skills, and as you could probably guess it’s hardly Shakespeare from there on out. It does seem a little strange that I’d be so willing to put something on one of my playlists that is the exact opposite of what music should sound like, but here again I just have to give props to the general lack of respect that’s present in this song. It’s more the attitude that sells it than anything else, and I’m sure Luther Campbell would be more than happy to agree with me on that one.
6. Annie – “I Don’t Like Your Band” – 2009
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the artist, Annie is a Norwegian pop singer and DJ that is sort of like their version of Madonna given her ability to pack dance floors all across Europe. The only difference is that she can actually spin records and isn’t staring her fifty-seventh birthday right in her botox bin. Because of this, she has a really solid understanding of what it means to write high-quality dance tracks. This song has an interesting set of very square high keyboard plucks that draw you right in and pull you to the melody. It’s also lyrically an odd pick for me, because I usually hate the uber-feminist stuff where a female lead singer barks at some guy about his shortcomings. In this instance, at least she’s nice about it. My favorite line has to be “Your latest seven-inch sounds obscene, unless you spin it at 45…” Ouch. With all of the false praise you hear from somebody whenever they’re subjected to art they’d usually rather not deal with, it’s nice to hear the subject matter of a song center around something along the lines of “Why do you waste your time with this shit?”, a question I tend to hear a lot when the girls I’m dating have to listen me talk about this blog. Good song, great hook, excellent delivery, and well worth the 25% sales tax if you’re buying the album overseas.
7. Jon Wayne & Texas Funeral – “Time to Drink Whiskey” – 2000
When I first heard this band, a good friend of mine relayed a rumor that he had heard about its origin. He told me that he had heard Gibby Haynes from the Butthole Surfers had something to do with it, and that it was pretty much just a joke band. Although I wanted that to be true more than anything else in the world at the time (which sort of made me re-think my priorities regarding just about everything else going on in my life) as it turns out this was not the case. It was actually a group made up of pseudonymous session musicians who decided to form a more underground band as a diversion from their usual tedious work of making “artists” like Philip Michael Thomas from Miami Vice seem presentable as musicians. This was obviously a departure from what they were being paid to do between the hours of ten and six. Nontheless this track comes to us off the seminal classic record “Two Graduated Jiggers”, which includes such other well-edumacated titles as “Texas Jackin’ Ledge”, “I Do Drive Truck”, and the number one worldwide smash “I Caught me a Squirrel”. The genre is listed on several websites as being “Cowpunk” and although this band might not ever headline your local arena, they will definitely own that genre for many years to come.
8. Cannibal Corpse – “High Velocity Impact Splatter” – 2014
Even if you don’t want anything to do with death metal and have no interest in the genre at all, if you want to hear what a really good bass player sounds like you’re definitely going to want to check out some of Alex Webster’s work at some point. This is the first cut off of the band’s most recent record “A Skeletal Domain” and it’s just one of the many examples I could give you as to why this band has continued to exist after a quarter of a century in the business. It’s funny how people who hate extreme metal are always criticizing its sound and saying the notes are indistinguishable, because if you actually pay attention you’ll find that it features some of the most complex musicianship in the world. Not bad for a bunch of kids from Buffalo that dropped out of college to write songs about dismemberment and torture. I could talk forever about Cannibal Corpse, but why bother doing so when I could just tell you to check out their documentary “Centuries of Torment” and get some insight on how death metal rose out of the basements and onto the stages of festivals all across the world. I was expecting this film to be maybe 45 minutes tops, and as it turns out it was almost four hours long and worth every second. Plus with song titles like “Meat Hook Sodomy“, “Post Mortal Ejaculation” and “Fucked with a Knife”, you can’t help but laugh at how those titles are actually taken seriously and genuinely bother people.
9. Basement Jaxx – “Oh My Gosh” – 2004
British dance music makes me laugh because the artists can get away with being quirky, bitchy, and irritating as hell and there isn’t really much you can do about it. Basement Jaxx rose to success out of the underground ecstasy dens of South London in the mid-nineties, and had a couple of international hits just a few short years later with the dance smash “Romeo” and their most successful single to date “Where’s Your Head At?”. The latter was kind of this Aphex Twin rip-off thing that the duo tried to turn into a pop song, and even though I couldn’t stand it I did like a lot of their other stuff. But this one caught my ear because I loved how clean the track sounded. This is a great video as well, and it’s a total 180 degree turn from the club dialogue that you’d think might accompany such a song. Just the thought of a bunch of elderly women getting all hot and bothered while knitting and watching a group of old men in sweater vests is enough to make you not feel bad for watching this three minute video several times. Who would have thought such great club music could originate in a country where nobody brushes their teeth?
10. The Crystal Method – “Sling The Decks” – 2014
I was first turned onto TCM when Rexroat burned me a copy of “Vegas” – the band’s first major label release – and I was instantly hooked because the production was incredible. Some of the songs were too long, but overall the samples were very well constructed and you could tell a lot of work went into that process. Flash forward to last year, where the EDM duo released a fantastic self-titled record with a lot of interesting guest appearances. The most pleasing was that of songwriter Dia Frampton on a track called “Over it”, and the most confusing was country singer LeAnn Rimes who appeared on the track “How the fuck did LeAnn Rimes wind up on a Crystal Method record?“. Neither of those two women showed up on the completely instrumental track “Sling The Decks”, which ended up being the first single off of the album. Listen, I’m no more thrilled about this than you are but we are all going to have to face a very important fact: Dubstep is not going anywhere because there are always going to be elements of its editing benefits that DJs will always use on at least one track on their mixtape. It doesn’t bring me any pleasure to tell you that, but the sooner that we come to grips with the notion that this particular type of editing is going to be around in some form for many decades to come the easier it’s going to be to absorb future blows. If done correctly – and not overdone – you can use the best aspects of its existence to create some really cool music, such as that which occurs on this track.
11. The Cupcakes – “Cosmic Imbecile” – 2000
I discovered The Cupcakes in college because somebody on our floor was friends with one of these guys, as the band was based out of Chicago. They got a major label deal at some showcase, and for some odd reason nobody ever heard from them after this record came out and promptly tanked. Which is a shame, because a lot of reviews I’ve read said they were very explosive live. The rest of the album is very skeptical: Lots of talk about black helicopters and conspiracy theorist stuff, and while there are love songs present most of the stuff is very existentialist like “Cosmic Imbecile” which is by far the best song on the record. A lot of people whom I played this cut for immediately dismissed it because they do sound an awful lot like Radiohead, an assessment that I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with. But I suppose if you plan on sounding a lot like somebody, if you think about it sounding a lot like Radiohead is a pretty solid career choice. (Didn’t seem to slow Muse down, did it?) This track is also a very important lesson for aspiring songwriters: Don’t neglect the bridge. The bridge of a song can buy you an additional hook you didn’t even know was there, so don’t waste that space. This song contains instructions on how to do just that.
12. Dethklok – “Go Into the Water” – 2007
I feel like the best way for me to wrap up a playlist full of artists who exist in physical space is to do so with a band that technically isn’t real. As many of you know Dethklok is the brainchild of “Metalocalypse” creator Brendon Small, an animated Adult Swim series that began back in 2006. In the show part of the joke is that Dethklok is the biggest thing to ever hit music industry, but they also just so happen to be a death metal band. As Small himself said, they’re “Like the Beatles, just a thousand times more dangerous and a billion times more stupid.” If any of you have ever been around extreme metal culture you’ll know there are all sorts of reasons why Dethklok is hilarious, but the fiber that bonds them all together is that Brendon is a brilliant musician and this “fake” band is actually much better than about 80% of metal bands who are packing themselves into a van and driving across the country trying to drum up a fan base. There’s no better illustration of this than “Go Into The Water”, which is the first Dethklok song I ever heard and by far the best. Sure it doesn’t exactly pack the same slick production and spectacular prose that the newer stuff does (Like “I Ejaculate Fire”) but how can you go wrong when the opening line of the song reads as follows? “We call out to the beasts of the sea to come forth and join us, this night is yours…Because, one day we will all be with you in the black and deep…One day we will all go into the water…” I don’t know about you, but drowning never sounded like so much fun.
Thanks to Ben for letting me submit another playlist! Don’t like this playlist? Connect with Ragged Records on Facebook and submit your own. Check out the store, and once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.
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