This is the official blog for my obsession with music: listening, collecting, creating, playing, and everything in between.
Walk in Silence is named after the first line in Joy Division’s lovely song “Atmosphere”, which got a hell of a lot of play on my Walkman during my senior year in high school. As you may have guessed, I have a certain affinity (read: rabid obsession) with the college rock of the late 80s. Also known as post-punk, modern rock, alternative, indie, and all sorts of other labels. I always have tunage going at any given time of day, whether it be from my collection, a stream, or a radio station.
I’m also an obsessive music collector. I started collecting at seven years old in 1978 and I haven’t stopped since. Currently my collection is almost all digital, and I own about [REDACTED*] mp3s, all ripped and/or downloaded over the last twenty or so years.
* – Let’s just say it’s a metric crapton of music and leave it at that.
I also have another blog called Welcome to Bridgetown, which is where I talk about my long-term career of writing. I’m a self-published author writing primarily in the science fiction genre, but I have been known to write other kinds of fiction as well. WtBt is where I also talk a lot about the writing craft and pass on any knowledge I learn, as I like to Pay It Forward. You can find the blog here.
I wrote a few SF books I call The Bridgetown Trilogy, which are also under a larger umbrella called The Mendaihu Universe. They can be found in e-book form at Smashwords! They can also be found as trade paperbacks on Amazon! Please check out the Buy Stuff tab above for links!
My blog schedule here at Walk in Silence is Tuesday and Thursday, with the occasional fly-by or extra post. I try to post them first thing in the morning, but they may run a few hours later if there are scheduling issues.
It’s been a crazy week here, trying to get all sorts of things done before the long weekend. And yes, we are in fact going to Disneyland, because it’s my birthday next Wednesday and why the hell not? I’m hoping to score a Hondo Ohnaka collectible if there are any!
Normal programming will assume next week! Also, watching the above video a) makes me feel old, and b) is quite the sterling example of 90s male fashion in the rock world. Hee!
I know I often go on about how stupidly huge my mp3 collection is (and it is), but quite often I find myself reading a music biography or hear a tune on the radio and realize…why do I not have more of this band’s music? Most embarrassingly, these are often well-known bands that I just never got around to picking up, most likely because I was too busy focusing on completing someone else’s discography, or being distracted by all the shiny new releases.
So, without further ado, I am about to embarrass myself by providing you with a bit of a selection of bands and singers whose songs I am sorely lacking from my library. I really should do something
I have exactly two Sly & the Family Stone songs — the above one and ‘Hot Fun in the Summertime’. I really need to rectify that. Especially since they’re a local band!
I’m also woefully missing out on a lot of Tamla/Motown stuff too. I grew up on a lot of this stuff playing on the radio and I love it, but I guess I’ve just been so distracted by alternative rock all these years that I keep forgetting to make good on adding it.
I have maybe five or six Byrds songs, and that’s it. They pretty much kickstarted the folk rock scene of the 60s and only now am I starting to appreciate that genre and its history.
Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” was one of my favorite mid-80s pop-rock songs, and I loved his work with The Power Station…so why do I only have Riptide, a few singles, and absolutely nothing else of his?
I was far too broke to catch up on a lot of early 90s music at the time it all came out — and there was a lot I had to catch up on — so I’m sadly missing a lot of the classic riot grrl/grunge scene. [As mentioned in a previous post, I was too busy focusing on the shoegaze stuff from the same era.]
Yes, even current bands are missing from my collection! I came to appreciate bands like Against Me! only recently, so I’ve been pretty much gathering those titles when and where I can.
Now that I have the time and the wherewithal (and now that I’ve caught up with so many other discographies), I’ve been slowly making my way through the histories of popular music and making mental notes. Many of these are songs and albums I can stream, or find in the dollar bins at Amoeba, or borrow from the library or elsewhere.
I’ll admit, it took me years to actually grok what David Bowie’s music was all about. I was of course familiar with all the tunes you hear on classic rock radio: Rebel Rebel, Fame, Ziggy Stardust, Space Oddity, and so on… I was also familiar with his early 80s output, thanks to MTV: Let’s Dance, Modern Love, Ashes to Ashes, Fashion… all those poppy songs and weird videos. But I didn’t even own a Bowie album until high school when I found The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust in a Salvation Army bin for fifty cents.
I was a huge fan of his Tin Machine project, especially since I’d felt 1987’s Never Let Me Down was, to put it bluntly, quite dull and lifeless. Tin Machine revealed a much-needed energy that was lacking in most of his 80s output.
And it really wasn’t until 1997’s Earthling that I finally decided to actively start checking out his back catalogue, and figured out why he had such a huge following.
I started picking up the Rykodisc reissues and got myself caught up. I finally figured out why the Berlin Trilogy is so revered. I was intrigued by the numerous evolutions of his style and look in the 70s. And interestingly, I found myself really liking a lot of the less famous tunes of his! Over the years I’ve finally acquired most if not all of his discography, and I’ve really come to appreciate just how creative he was.
Back in 1991, when I was at college in Boston and Nevermind was on superduper heavy rotation on WFNX alongside Soundgarden and Alice in Chains and all the other northwestern bands, I found myself shifting in the opposite direction, looking eastward over the ocean and listening to the sounds of roaring walls of wobbly guitar noise from My Bloody Valentine and Ride. There was just something about the otherworldly dreaminess of the sounds of the Creation, 4AD and Rough Trade labels. Grunge was alright and all, but it couldn’t hold a candle to my beloved shoegaze.
In 2019, having become a constant listener to Seattle’s KEXP, I realized that shoegaze wasn’t just experiencing a small comeback over the past few years. There were more bands out there embracing that wall-of-reverb sound than the previous years, and they were all releasing singles and albums that were absolutely fantastic. They weren’t just emulating the sounds of 1991…they were owning it and making it their own. And they weren’t just from the UK, either…they were from all over the world.
We have Dead Horse One from Valence in southern France…
We have Lo! Peninsula, from Imphal, India…
We have Tallies, from Toronto, Canada…
We have Pinkshinyultrablast from St Petersburg, Russia…
We have Deserta from Los Angeles, CA…
I never get sick of this sound. Sure, it’s essentially the MBV-tested equation of playing augmented guitar chords, fed through heavy reverb, turned way the fuck up high, and the extremely liberal use of the whammy bar to achieve that soaring wobble. But man, it’s that dreaminess the sound achieves that just hits all the right buttons for me.
And I love that it’s alive and well, and all over the world.
It’s a few days late, but as promised, here’s my best-of list for 2019! I have KEXP to thank for pretty much all of my listening habits these last few years…after slipping between a few online and satellite stations, I found myself returning to a station I’d listened to briefly a few years ago, and realized just how much their playlist resonated with my musical tastes. So much so that when I moved back to the office for the Day Job, I found I truly missed listening to that station. [I’ve since found that I can stream the station on my phone, which I am doing only for a few hours a day so my phone data isn’t all screwy.]
This past year’s soundtrack and purchases also showed a significant change, in that there’s a lot more in terms of inclusivity as well as flavor. So many more albums and songs in different genres, different countries, different genders. I found myself listening less in terms of “this is a great writing soundtrack” and finally returning to “this is just a damn fine album/single” enjoyment. And I haven’t had that in a long time.
So without further ado…
TOP 15 ALBUMS 15. Hot Chip, A Bath Full of Ecstasy 14. Hatchie, Keepsake 13. Honeyblood, In Plain Sight 12. Jay Som, Anak Ko 11. American Football, American Football (LP3) 10. Lamb, The Secret of Letting Go 9. Lemolo, Swansea 8. Elbow, Giants of All Sizes 7. The Beatles, Abbey Road Anniversary Edition 6. The Cinematic Orchestra, To Believe 5. Sleater-Kinney, The Center Won’t Hold 4. White Lies, Five 3. Drab Majesty, Modern Mirror 2. Coldplay, Everyday Life 1. Haelos, Any Random Kindness
TOP 15 SONGS 15. True Damage, “GIANTS” 14. Deserta, “Hide” 13. Beck, “Saw Lightning” 12. Boy Harsher, “Face the Fire” 11. Drab Majesty, “The Other Side” 10. New Age Healers, “Satellites” 9. Hatchie, “Without a Blush” 8. Jay Som, “Superbike” 7. Toro y Moi, “Freelance” 6. Silversun Pickups, “It Doesn’t Matter Why” 5. White LIes, “Tokyo” 4. Haelos, “End of World Party” 3. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, “Life On Mars?” 2. DJ Shadow feat. De La Soul, “Rocket Fuel” 1. The Quivers, “You’re Not Always On My Mind”
And of course, here’s my Singles 2019 mixtape for your pleasure…
I hate that it’s gotten to this level, but I’m putting both Walk in Silence and Welcome to Bridgetown on temporary hiatus until further notice. There are just too many frustrating IRL things going on right now and I have no idea when I’ll be able to return to them.
(All is well mentally and healthwise, if you’re concerned…the issue here is wholly related to Day Job Things that I’m not going to go into right now.)
I may pop in and post something now and again, but don’t expect it to be on any schedule. Sorry about that.
Hopefully things will be a bit more…sane, in the near future.
Series 1, Episode 3: How to Recognise Different Types of Trees from Quite a Long Way Away, originally broadcast 19 October 1969. This by far is my favorite of the early episodes. It contains so many of their best-known skits, and the humor and silliness are top notch here. And it also contains the extremely rare skit that actually contains a punchline!
The It’s Man is only on screen for about twenty seconds this time (crawling through a heavy forest, complete with wild animal sound effects in the background) before the credits hit. Then we’re immediately thrown into the first running gag of the episode: a lo-fi nature slide show indeed showing us How to Recognise Different Types of Trees from Quite a Long Way Away, with narration provided in perfect BBC deadpan by Cleese. This gag ends up being used throughout the episode for links between sketches, and always with the same exact tree image.
The first skit proper is the Courtroom Sketch, written by Cleese and Chapman but quite ably delivered by the entire troupe: a man (Idle) is brought before the court and asked his plea, and proceeds to deliver a dramatically overwrought Shakespearen response. (We’re provided the actual offense afterwards, of course.) Witnesses are brought to the stand: a Pepperpot (Chapman) delivering nonsensical rumors, a dead person in a coffin, and a Cardinal Richelieu impersonator (Palin) who is proven a fraud by a well-loved panto-singing officer from Scotland Yard (Chapman). This sketch prides itself on completely losing its intended way almost from the start. The skit ends with Cleese attempting to reprise Chapman’s song, much to everyone’s confusion (and a knight in armor boffing him with a chicken in response).
The next skit is the fantastic Jones/Palin ‘Bicycle Repairman’ skit, set in a world full of Supermen going about their day, with the humble F.G. Superman hiding the fact that he is in fact the titular repairman saving the day of trouble bicyclists. Almost all the lines are delivered with over the top American accents to pay on the whole Superman mythos. This is pure Jones/Palin, who frequently play with the ideas of ordinary folk in strange situations (they’d work together in the mid-70s in a similar vein with Ripping Yarns). As the hero walks into the distance after fixing a Superman’s bike, we’re linked by a hilarious voice-over by Cleese, whose anti-Communist lines become increasingly more outlandish and insane, until he’s interrupted by his wife.
The follow-up is another skit-gone-wrong, this time wonderfully written and delivered by Eric Idle as a pastiche of a children’s story time show that gets cut short due to the not-so-child-friendly stories he’s given to read. The story time animation returns, this time with the cute hopping bunnies getting trampled by a not-so-cute hippo.
A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it joke (“donkey rides”) link introduces my favorite of this episode, the Restaurant Sketch. A couple (Chapman and soon-to-be-regular Carol Cleveland) are about to eat at a fancy restaurant, and all seems to be going fine until Chapman reveals that he happens to have a dirty fork. The waiter apologizes profusely and brings out the maitre d’, who brings out the floor manager, who brings out the owner, until finally the cook (a hilariously over-the-top Cleese), each of them growing increasingly despondent that such a horrible thing has befallen not just their customer but their restaurant. This is one of the very few Monty Python skits that actually has a punch line — done on purpose, since their whole oeuvre is about not having them — at which point the audience actually boos them!
Another weird Gilliam animated commercial (‘Purchase a Past’) provides another link to the Seduced Milkman sketch. It’s an old-school joke that any other comedy troupe would riff on, but it’s short and its payoff is pure Python. We cut to another variation of the News Report riff, this time with robbers stealing Cleese’s completely oblivious newsreader, who is put on a lorry, driven across London and finally dumped into the ocean.
We’re brought back to the Larch link once more, surprising us by providing “And now…the horse chestnut” before going to a vox pops link with Palin, Idle and Jones as nervous school boys who eventually introduce the final sketch.
And that final sketch is one of the most famous and most quoted early skits, Candid Photography (aka Nudge Nudge), written by Idle. It’s Idle at his sleaziest and funniest, trying to get a conversation going with a fellow pub drinker about strange cryptic pastimes that are eventually revealed to be double entendres about sex. This too has a punch line of sorts, but it’s delivered as such a quick zinger that it works, almost Goon Show style. Cut to end credits, with the It’s Man re-entering the woods and allegedly getting attacked by unseen animals. And an arrow pointing to one of the trees in the shot, providing us with one last example of The Larch.
This episode was a huge favorite of my circle of friends back in high school in the 80s, when MTV played the show early in the evenings and as part of their Sunday night lineup. I’ve been known to quote quite a few lines from it (“Why not?”, “So anyway!”, “…with a melon?”, “You bastards!”, “oh, no no no…yes.”), and my band The Flying Bohemians even named one of their demo tapes after a line (“And now…No 1…The Larch”). I love this one because it’s consistently silly and brilliantly paced, and there isn’t a single skit or link that trips it up. It’s also a sign of the levels of absurdity they’ll reach in future episodes, particularly in the second series. If I had to choose one episode to explain Python to newcomers, I would most likely show them this one!