One of my favorite Sparks songs is “My Baby’s Taking Me Home”, in which said title is the near-entirety of its lyrics, barring a short spoken word passage near the end. The Mael brothers comment on it in The Sparks Brothers documentary, where the dynamics of the song are purely in its construction rather than its lyrics. Because of this, they find it one of their all-time favorite songs to play live.
Back in the 80s and early 90s I wrote a handful of Flying Bohemians songs that were similar in construction, and they were always my favorite to play because of that. One song, “She Sang to Me”, had three lines that were repeated in different ways while Chris and I played its three chords in various ways — fingerpicking, muted, augmented, and so on — until it sounded like a wondrous release of sound.
I don’t often hear that many songs like this, but when I do, quite often they’re my favorites of the band’s entire discography.
I started to look for the word count list for my work on A Division of Souls around this time, but either I hadn’t started writing it down, or I’ve misplaced the calendar organizer I used. I’m going to assume the latter. Anyway, a cursory look at the timestamp on some of my old files shows that I’d started the rewrite in November of 2001 and by February 2002 I was somewhere around Chapter 6. (It’s also right around when I stopped using MS Write and finally started using Word, having gotten a copy of it from my sister.) This means that I was still early in the game but feeling much more confident about my work.
If The Phoenix Effect was me happily reveling in claiming myself an author, A Division of Souls was me taking my craft seriously and having a lot more faith in the quality of my work. And pretty much every single album from here on in was going to be a writing soundtrack.
Mistle Thrush, Drunk with You, released 1 February 2002. I’ve mentioned this band a few times in the past; they were a semi-shoegazey Boston band whose singer was a good friend of my former record store manager, and their three records are great listening.
The Church, After Everything Now This, released 5 February 2002. This record felt like a slight change from their more experimental 90s output, somewhat returning to their old-school reverb-heavy sound but minus the jangle. They remain one of my favorite alternative rock bands, even if I don’t get to listen to them nearly as much as I should.
+/- (Plus/Minus), Self-Titled Long-Playing Debut Album, released 5 February 2002. A side project of the band Versus, their sound is much more angular math-rock but retaining their high-level energy and catchy melodies and rhythms. It might sound a bit strange at first, but it really grows on you.
Craig Armstrong, As If to Nothing, released 19 February 2002. Armstrong is more known for his movie scores (and “This Love”, the song he did with Elizabeth Fraser) but every now and again he’ll drop a solo album full of gorgeous music that really should be in movies. This one got some serious play during my Belfry days!
Tanya Donelly, Beautysleep, released 19 February 2002. Donelly’s second solo record is not quite as bouncy as her Belly work and not quite as twitchy as her Throwing Muses work, but there are some absolute gems in here including the lovely “Keeping You”.
Boards of Canada, Geogaddi, released 19 February 2002. At the time, this was a band I’d heard of (I’d seen their cds at HMV during the time I worked there) but never heard, so I went into this record completely cold. A good thing, because this ended up being on my top ten releases of the year! And yes, another album on the Belfry heavy rotation.
Buffalo Daughter, I, released 19 February 2002. Another ‘heard of but never heard’ band for me at the time, this was a great introduction to the band’s semi-electronic experimentation, full of songs both wonderful and strange.
Death Cab for Cutie, The Stability EP, released 19 February 2002. A follow-up to 2001’s The Photo Album, this EP features some extremely moody (even for them) tracks including the twelve-minute epic above, and a great cover of Bjork’s “All Is Full of Love”.
Clinic, Walking with Thee, released 25 February 2002. Clinic always reminds me of those 60s garage bands with lo-fi production and weird melodies that lean towards Beefheart and Zappa, only they stay this side of outsider music. Not for everyone, but definitely worth checking out.
Alanis Morissette, Under Rug Swept, released 26 February 2002. Forging ahead and refusing to return to the angry tension of her breakthrough record, this is an album about maturity…or at least making an attempt at it. It’s very much a laid back record and there’s some really great songs on it.
I started writing Meet the Lidwells! A Rock n’ Roll Family Memoir during the summer of 2017, and like any other book project I’ve worked on, I created a mixtape for it. Surprisingly, for a novel that leans super heavily on music, there’s only one volume! Still, it’s not as if I could create a mix containing music that, y’know, doesn’t actually exist in real life.
Most of these songs are from the early 90s, which is when most of the book takes place, and are inspirations for songs written by the Lidwells in the book. I did choose to add a few then-recent songs as well just to balance it out, but for the most part these were all songs that I loved and listened to during my college and post-college years in Boston.
Some side notes: –The prevalence of EMF hints at the poppiness of the early Lidwells releases, as they were more of an alternapop band at the start of the novel. –A number of songs (and scenes) were actually pilfered from a trunked novel of mine called Two Thousand that I’d worked on in the 90s. The La’s track “Looking Glass” in particular was originally supposed to be part of the climax of that story but used instead as the “Listening” scene with Thomas talking about when they performed that song live. The remix of that Real People song (sadly not available online right now, it’s a banger) was also once part of that novel as a denouement scene. –I added Belly and Veruca Salt to hint at what Amy and Hannah’s songs would sound like. –The Stone Roses’ “I Am the Resurrection” is mentioned in the book as one of the main influences on The Lidwells’ first hit “Grapevine” with its stomping beat.
[SHAMELESS PLUG: The ebook is available at Smashwords for $2.99!]
1. EMF, “Children” 2. REM, “Pop Song ’89” 3. The Real People, “Window Pane” 4. Belly, “Gepetto” 5. EMF, “Girl of an Age” 6. The Cure, “Friday I’m in Love” 7. The House of Love, “You Don’t Understand” 8. My Bloody Valentine, “Soon” 9. 9 Ways to Sunday, “Come Tell Me Now* * 10. Belly, “Now They’ll Sleep” 11. Matthew Sweet, “Time Capsule”
1. Veruca Salt, “Seether” 2. The Black Keys, “Gold On the Ceiling” 3. Guster, “Barrel of a Gun” 4. Fenech-Soler, “Kaleidoscope” 5. Belly, “Super-Connected” 6. Matthew Sweet, “Girlfriend” 7. The La’s, “Looking Glass” 8. The Stone Roses, “I Am the Resurrection” 9. The Real People, “Window Pane [12″ Extended Remix]” *
I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, and I may as well start it now: I’ve been making mixtapes since I was a wee lad in the early 80s, well before I even knew what mixtapes were other than songs I taped off MTV and the radio that I liked. I usually average about six or so mp3 mixtapes per year nowadays, but back in the late 80s it would be upwards of maybe twice or even three times that.
Anyway, I’ve been wanting to share my mixtape playlists with y’all for ages because I’ve always gotten a positive reaction from them. In previous posts I’ve posted them as YouTube links, but now I’ve finally started getting around to building them as Spotify playlists. [I’m still annoyed that musicians’ earnings on the site are laughable, but I’ve come around to thinking that maybe pushing these mixtapes will help put a penny or two more on their paycheck.]
SO! Without further ado, I’m going to start off with a triple-play (heh) of mixtapes curated as soundtracks for one of my current novel WIPs. I’ve been listening to these quite a bit lately, so hope you enjoy them too!
Theadia: Music from the Waystation 1. Secret Machines, “3,4,5, Let’s Stay Alive” 2. Haelos, “End of World Party” 3. Bob Moses, “Love We Found” 4. Sault, “I Just Want to Dance” 5. Pretenders, “Message of Love” 6. Throwing Muses, “Dark Blue” 7. Billie Eilish, “My Future” 8. Bob Mould, “Everything to You” 9. PVRIS, “Good to Be Alive” 10. Algiers, “Dispossession” 11. We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It!!, “Versatile for Discos and Parties” 12. Doves, “Carousels” 13. Bob Moses, “Hold Me Up” 14. Secret Machines, “Everything’s Under” 15. Haelos, “Hold On” 16. Cut Copy, “Love Is All We Share” 17. Doves, “Universal Want” 18. Secret Machines, “Everything Starts” 19. BRONSON, “Dawn [feat. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs]”
Theadia 2: More Music from the Waystation 1. Annie, “The Countdown to the End of the World”” 2. Hatchie, “Sleep” 3. Pearl Jam, “Alright” 4. Georgia, “Started Out” 5. Shadow Show, “Glass Eye” 6. Field Music, “Money Is a Memory” 7. Låpsley, “Bonfire” 8. Hayley Williams, “Simmer” 9. Stone Temple Pilots, “Three Wishes” 10. Spectres, “The Head and the Heart” 11. The Cinematic Orchestra, “A Caged Bird/Imitations of Life [James Heather Rework]” 12. Phantogram, “Ceremony” 13. Georgia, “About Work the Dancefloor” 14. ADULT., “Why Always Why” 15. Caspian, “Flowers of Light” 16. Soccer Mommy, “Yellow Is the Color of Her Eyes” 17. Ultraísta, “Mariella” 18. Nicolas Godin, “What Makes Me Think About You” 19. San Fermin, “The Hunger” 20. Bob Mould, “Next Generation” 21. K/DA, “I’ll Show You”
Theadia 3: Waystation Blues 1. Grandbrothers, “Silver” 2. Roosevelt, “Echoes” 3. Flyying Colours, “Goodtimes” 4. Girlfriends and Boyfriends, “Your Touch” 5. Jane Weaver, “The Revolution of Super Visions” 6. Middle Kids, “I Don’t Care” 7. Anna Schulze, “A New Way” 8. Brian Vander Ark, “In Your Eyes” 9. Jeremiah Fraites, “Maggie” 10. Miss Grit, “Blonde” 11. Shame, “Human, for a Minute” 12. Field Music, “Orion from the Street” 13. Siamese Youth, “So Far from Home” 14. Anna Schulze, “Satisfied” 15. Grandbrothers, “Unrest” 16. Sorry, “Heather” 17. Jane Weaver, “Modern Reputation” 18. Flyying Colorus, “White Knuckles” 19. Roosevelt, “See You Again” 20. Quivers, “You’re Not Always On My Mind”
I mentioned over at Welcome to Bridgetown that I find myself once again returning to the 80s (surprise surprise), via an old story I started my senior year in high school and attempted to revive numerous times over the ensuing decades. This is the story that went through so many different titles, versions and mutations that it has its own report binder here in the file department of Spare Oom.
And here I am, half-seriously coming back to it. Again.
I mean, this is the same story that also inspired my much more recent nonfic book idea that shares the name of this blog, Walk in Silence. The college rock era of the late 80s will always be near and dear to my heart for many reasons.
So why bring up this old story again, you ask? To answer that, I’d need to explain why it failed so many times in the past, and it’s called roman à clef. Each time I resurrected it, I made the mistake of wanting to write it as a self-insert piece of fiction, and therein lies the problem: my life back then wasn’t nearly as exciting as I often make it out to be. A lot of silliness and a lot of gloominess and everything in between, but not enough to make it an excitable read. So what’s different now? Well, thirty years on I’ve learned a thing or two about how to write fiction and realized roman à clef is not what was needed here. I knew what I wanted to write, but real life self-inserting wasn’t the way to go.
I’m not taking this project too seriously at the moment, as I’m already focusing on a few other things, but I’m letting myself devote an hour or two a day for it anyway, making notes and revisiting mixtapes and looking at discographies and chronologies. I’m also resurrecting a writing style I haven’t used since those same 80s days: using music to inspire and influence certain scenes, Michael Mann style. The difference here is that I’m not leaning heavy on memory here. I’m taking ideas from the songs I loved and expanding on what images and thoughts they inspire and evoke in me. Sure, there’ll be a few self-inserts in there — there always are in my books — but it won’t be as obvious this time out. And I’m making an expanded mixtape that’ll have both the obvious (say, “Under the Milky Way”) and the deep cut (such as the below Love Tractor song). That, of course, is the most fun part of this project so far.
I have no deadline for this particular story, but I am looking forward to spending more time on it if and when I can!
I’ve made mixtape ‘soundtracks’ for pretty much every writing project I’ve worked on, even for those that I ended up trunking. When I’m coming up with a new story, I will usually already know what mood the story will take. For Meet the Lidwells I already planned for the story to take place in the 90s, so I gathered a number of my favorite songs from that decade that I knew would fit the feel of the story, not to mention what The Lidwells’ music itself would sound like. (“Grapevine”, for instance, is a mash-up between The House of Love’s “You Don’t Understand” and The Stone Roses’ “I Am the Resurrection”, both of which are on the mixtape.)
Theadia is no different. This story is going to be a bit different from anything else I’ve written, so the sounds are going to be a bit futuristic, maybe a bit weird and dreamlike. There are a number of dance tunes on there as well, which is very unlike me in terms of mixtapes…I use a lot of electronica and its numerous offshoots in my mixes, but rarely of the “get on the floor” type. Even the slow and shoegazey tunes seem more uplifting and less moody.
Here are a few selections from Theadia: Music from the Waystation. Enjoy!
Secret Machines’ “3 4 5 Let’s Stay Alive” has that Epic Opening Track sound: heavy, grand, and loud. But it also has an overwhelmingly positive message, which is what I was looking for.
Haelos; “End of World Party” is the kind of dance track I’m talking about above. There are a couple of tracks from this band on this particular mix.
Sault’s “I Just Want to Dance” works for me because it happens to capture the thrill of the dance floor (in a very retro way, in this case) yet goes about it in a different and unique way.
The Pretenders’ “Message of Love” is an unexpected left turn for me, as it sticks out amongst all the other more recent tracks, but its gritty bounciness and its positivity works as one of the story’s themes.
Bob Moses’ “Hold Me Up” is similar to Haelos in that it’s a darker dance sound, and one that’s easy to get lost in.
Doves’ “Universal Want” is a moody rock tune hidden near the back end of the mixtape, put there on purpose as a way to say “we’ve sat through most of these songs and moods but this here is the main theme of the entire story.”
BRONSON’s “Dawn” is the last track for the same reason the Secret Machines track was the first: it’s a gorgeous and epic closer that serves as an ending theme. The “Never give it up / Save yourself from doubt” acapella coda is the theme of Theadia in a nutshell.
Of course, as is typical for me, there is a chance there will be a Volume 2 mixtape. There almost always is. The Infamous War Novel had at least four different iterations. In My Blue World has two volumes. The Mendaihu Universe has…quite a few. Why do I make these, anyway? Well, mostly for something to listen to while I’m working on the project, to get me in the right frame of mind. But they’re also a lot of fun to listen to on their own, pretending they’re Official Motion Picture Soundtracks! Heh.
I’m ridiculously picky when it comes to updating my mp3 players. I currently have three, which I’ve acqured over the years: a Creative Zen Mozaic, an older SanDisk Sansa Clip, and a newer SanDisk Sport Plus. Do I use all three? Yes, of course I do! Normally I tend to have them filled up with specific themes or sounds; the Zen is usually reserved for new and recent releases plus the Beatles discography (because come on…do you know me?) while the Sansa Clip has older favorites.
Now that I work in an office again (grumble grumble), I’ve been putting all three to good use throughout the day. I don’t have direct access to my music library unless I use up a significant amount of phone data via our Plex server, so I make do with the old-school travel-sized players.
Lately I’ve been playing around with a new possible writing project (no promises yet) in which I sort of decided its soundtrack would be the music of the early 90s up to the early 00s. Why? Good question, but I won’t go into detail just yet. Suffice it to say, I’m going to start listening to these albums for first time without equating them to the Bridgetown Trilogy. I’m not doing it on purpose, it just happened that way. But in the process, I’m getting to revisit these songs with fresh ears and no prior influence.
But more importantly, I get to revisit these songs without the emotional attachment I’ve long had with most of them. I’ve written so many blog posts about those lean post-college years, and about the music I listened to during that time, but this time out I’m finally giving them a spin without getting caught up in all the personal drama. I’m listening to them in the context of what was going on in the world during the time of their release. [I suppose in a way you could say I’m purposely not making it all about me this time. Heh.]
Also, it’s kind of fun to revisit some of these songs and albums that I know pretty well but haven’t visited in ages. In particular, I’ve been making it a point to revisit some of the mainstream pop albums I enjoyed — the downside to being so into alt-rock is a habitual avoidance of all things pop — and getting something new out of them. It’s to the point that I’ve been tempted to do another visit to Amoeba Records’ dollar bin to find more of those albums that passed me by.
And who knows — maybe I’ll rediscover a few tracks that flew under my radar!
I don’t really know what possessed me, but it seems my next possible writing project wants to have an early 90s soundtrack. So here, have some non-grunge semi-obscurities that have been popping up on my mp3 player the last few days…
I’ve been thinking lately about how I want to approach Book Four in the Mendaihu Universe (oh yes, there will be more of them!) and yes, I’ve even been gathering music for the writing soundtrack. And like all the other projects, I’m searching for a specific mood that fits the story I have in my head.
Recently I’ve been listening to Kasabian’s “Club Foot”, a) because it’s got one hell of a kickass bass riff, and b) the video is an homage to student revolt against government suppression, specifically the Prague Spring in 1969 and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. It’s also an homage to pirate radio and Radio Free Europe.
I’ve always been fascinated by that kind of rebellion. Sure, it grew out of my listening to punk and ‘that weird college radio stuff’ back in the 80s, but the fact that the whole point of that music was a form of rebellion against the norm attracted my interest. [Yeah, I’ll cop to not always outwardly showing it. But that’s for a different post.]
In the Bridgetown Trilogy, the Vigil group is there partly to play both roles: revolt against those in power, and its voice. But what of the new book? All I can say is that it’s a new game. It’s seventy years later and things have changed considerably on both sides. The rebellion shown in the Trilogy wouldn’t work this time out. Those books were all about accepting and maintaining a balance between two opposite forces.
This particular book, I think, is going to be more about Setting Things Right.
The “Club Foot” song and video got me thinking this morning, and I posted it as a tweet: What would be today’s analogue of pirate radio as student revolt? How would people listen to it? Phone app? Internet streaming? Radio like in the past? How would its signals be secure/untraceable like a VPN?
Which brought up the next question: How would this kind of revolt happen in an age of social media (and multiple forms of media in general) that are chock full of white noise already? Is a digital/aural underground network even possible?
(Mind you, whenever I hear a question ending in “…is that even possible”, my brain immediately responds with “Of course there is. We just have to figure out what it is.” I’m an optimistic goofball that way.)
Things to think about while prepping for future writing projects.