Revisiting

I’ve been thinking about revisiting some discographies lately, mainly the ones of bands I used to listen to obsessively back in my youth. One of the inspirations for this was the reissue of REM’s Chronic Town EP a few weeks ago, their first release on the IRS label.

I’ve always been an early-era fan of the band up to and including 1988’s Green, and it’s been ages since I’ve listened to those first albums other than hearing the occasional single on the radio (usually “The One I Love” or “It’s the End of the World As We Know It”, but occasionally I’ll hear “Superman” as well). Me and my high school friends were big fans of the band and taped each other’s copies of their albums into our own collections. But I haven’t listened to Lifes Rich Pageant in ages, and I used to play that one a ton in my college years.

So how is this different from any other time I obsess over 80s alternative rock? Well, instead of slinking back into the memory banks to relive those times or attempting to work on the Walk in Silence book, this is just…for fun, just like before.

I think part of it is tied into what I was talking about in the previous post, in which I find myself so constantly wrapped up in New Releases every week that few songs are actually sticking in my head. Which leads to the question: how is it that these REM songs (and Smiths songs, and Love and Rockets songs, and so on) stick like Gorilla Glue where the new songs don’t?

I think it’s partly because I’m not allowing those new songs to anchor themselves in the first place. It’s like I’ve forgotten how to do that somehow. The focus has gone from the music to the procurement of it. Which of course feeds into my obsessive tendencies, but doesn’t really move me emotionally, does it?

I’ve been trying to figure out how to change that these last few months. How do I let these songs into my psyche when I’ve forgotten how to do that? What do they have to anchor to? Moments in time, memories in the making? So many of those songs are fleeting, great to listen to but never quite moving me emotionally. Produced too clean, given airplay to a station that smothers us with its constant repetition. Caught in a race with millions of other songs, all trying to enter my subconscious at the same time.

It’s time to revisit how I made them stick in the first place. Allowing the song to percolate and simmer for a while in my mind, to allow it to latch onto a moment in my life. Keeping myself from getting constantly distracted by yet another song that sneaks up behind it. Allow the song to become a part of my own personal and private world rather than chasing after several songs at once as they go by.

Treasure Hunting: Figures On a Beach’s “Evil”

I mentioned a few weeks back on my Twitter feed that I’d finally found a song that had been eluding me for nigh on THIRTY years. This is by far the oldest and most elusive song I’ve been looking for to add to my collection, and now it has pride of place in my mp3 library.

What is this song, you ask? Well, after the band’s self-titled second album that dropped in the summer of 1989 (which featured the great underrated single “Accidentally 4th Street (Gloria)” and a fun cover of BTO’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”), they recorded a track that sounded quite different from their usual poppier style: darker, moodier and heavier.

“Evil” seems to be about An American Werewolf in London from the werewolf’s point of view, though it’s never quite made clear, other than passing references and a “waah-hoooo yeah” near the end hinting at the ubiquitous Warren Zevon song. It also samples a few lines of dialogue from Hitchcock’s The Birds which, per vocalist Anthony Kaczynski in a brief email chat I had with him back in the mid 90s (!!) was the reason it was never commercially released as they could not get the clearance.

I’d only heard this song on WFNX, its demo delivered personally by the band to the Boston area alternative rock station, and I never had the chance to tape it when it came on. I’d also heard it once live when they played for free at the Hatch Shell in the summer of 1991 as a double bill with The JudyBats. (Kaczynski was shocked that I remembered that show when I mentioned it to him.) Other than that, it showed up once as a track on a cassette-only “unsigned bands” promo. I distinctly remember seeing it once at Nuggets in Kenmore Square and stupidly never picked it up.

…and for thirty years, I looked everywhere for it. On Discogs, where that promo tape was for sale at a ridiculous price. On YouTube, where no one had posted it. On questionable mp3 download sites, none of which had it. Every now and again I’d do a passive sweep, never expecting to hear it again.

Until a few weeks ago, when I found that someone named Dave Stawecki had ‘remastered’ it with the band’s permission back in 2021. I played the video, and the memories came flooding back: listening to it in early 1991 while at Emerson, living in the Charlesgate dorm and trying in vain to record it and missing it every single time. Sitting on the grass on the Charles River Esplanade, handheld cassette recorder in hand in an attempt to get a live recording. Going to a few record conventions and none of the vendors knowing anything about it.

And now, thanks to a quick visit to a site that rips audio from video into mp3, I now have it in my music library, where I can hear it any time I want.

I still have a list of songs and albums that have eluded me over the years, but I have to say this one was high on that list and I still can’t believe it took me three decades to locate it. That’s one song to finally cross off my bucket list!

WIS Presents: The Boston Years V

After a somewhat disastrous first semester at Emerson, I came back from Christmas break with a clearer mind and a better idea of what I needed to do to avoid repeating the same mistakes. I reconnected with the new friends I’d made near the end of the first semester and started hanging out with them more, realizing I had a hell of a lot more in common with them than I did with my roommate, who I pretty much avoided and ignored from there on in. I may have been a bit let down that I didn’t connect with them on a musical and intellectual level like I had with the Vanishing Misfits gang, but really — who was I fooling, anyway? Try as I might to hide it, I was a blue-collar dweeb that had no further plans to attempt nonconformist hipness. Better to be myself than try to fit in, yeah? [To date, I am still in contact with two of those friends from then, and the only two from my college years that I still speak with. As for everyone else I’d meet those five years I was there…? For a college that focuses on mass media, I’ve somehow found it ironically impossible to locate any of them on today’s social media.]

I was still broke most of the time and could barely pay our phone bill whenever I wanted to talk with my long-distance girlfriend, yet somehow I did manage to find the pocket change to buy the occasional cassette at Tower Records up the street (or used at Nuggets in Kenmore!) as well as stock up on blanks to record tunes off the radio. I may have still been in a bit of a grumpy mood, but things were looking up. During this second semester I’d finally get my radio show: the 12AM to 3AM shift on WECB AM, and who the hell knew if anyone actually listened, but it was experience!

Peter Murphy, Deep, released 1 January 1990. Murphy’s third album dusts off a lot of the post-punk of his first album and the darkness of his second, leaving an extremely bright sheen. But it was also his breakthrough, with single “Cut You Up” hitting all the major radio stations and even getting airplay on daytime MTV. In my opinion it’s his most commercial, but also his most cohesive record, and it’s a joyful listen.

Inspiral Carpets, Cool As **** EP, released 1 January 1990. Another Mancunian band shuffles out of the club scene and onto American alternative radio, this one leaning heavily on a sixties garage band vibe complete with Farfisa organ. Not as sleek and groovy as The Charlatans UK, but just as danceable and fun.

The Telescopes, To Kill a Slow Girl Walking EP, released 1 January 1990. This British band took the burgeoning noise-rock sound that was gaining a following in the UK and went in all sorts of weird places with it, becoming one of the most loved yet least heard bands of the decade. Each release went in unexpected directions, so one never knew if they’d have a blissed-out groovy dance song, a J&MC-like wall of feedback or some spaced out jam.

John Wesley Harding, Here Comes the Groom, released 5 January 1990. Wesley Stace, under his JWH stage name, burst onto the scene in late 1989 with a few singles and an EP (which featured a quirky acoustic rendition of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”, which got some airplay). His early songwriting was smart, funny, and intelligent and damn catchy, gaining a considerable fanbase in Boston. I’d see him play live twice, both times for free, while I lived in the city. He still records now and again, and is currently an author of four books. His 2014 novel Wonderkid was an inspiration for my own novel Meet the Lidwells.

Big Audio Dynamite, “Free” single, 5 January 1990. As the original BAD lineup began to splinter, Mick Jones recorded and released a final single for the soundtrack of the Keifer Sutherland/Dennis Hopper film Flashback. The movie itself got mixed reviews, but the song did get airplay on WFNX at the time.

They Might Be Giants, Flood, released 5 January 1990. TMBG’s third album literally bursts onto the scene with a bright and sunshiney opening theme (“Theme from Flood”, natch) before haphazardly switching to yet another fantastic earworm they’re known for, “Birdhouse in Your Soul”. Like 1988’s Lincoln, this album does feel a bit overlong and straining in places, but it also contains some of their absolute classics, including the ridiculous “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”, the goofy “Particle Man” and more.

Various Artists, Super Hits of the 70’s: Have a Nice Day, Volumes 1 – 5, released 5 January 1990. And just like that, listening to cheesy AM classic radio is hip again. This series, which would stretch to a staggering twenty-five volumes, made it hip to hear those same songs you thought were corny and cringey just a few years previous. A few years later, Quentin Tarantino would take a page from this and insert 70s hits into his breakthrough movie Reservoir Dogs.

The The, “Jealous of Youth” single, released 19 January 1990. Before it showed up on the Solitude mini-LP in 1994, this outtake from the Mind Bomb album sessions had a standalone single release that couldn’t have come at a better time. Matt Johnson’s desperation to recapture a youth that’s not so much out of his grasp but perhaps already tainted by the pain of adulthood is stark, painful, and an absolute stunner. A perfect song for a Gen-Xer entering the last decade of the century.

The Black Crowes, Shake Your Money Maker, released 24 January 1990. The Crowes were always bluesy and gospely and they wore their influences for everyone to see. They did sound a bit 80s in their production but that didn’t stop them from becoming wildly popular for nearly the entire decade, always churning out great songs.

*

Next up: The year moves on, Britpop starts encroaching on US alternative radio, and something about the coolness of a certain deity.

Best of 2021

Nation of Language, A Way Forward

Every now and again we have a year with a lot of great albums, some immediate personal favorites…but for some reason, little of it resonates to the extent that they’re going to be all-time favorites I’d be listening for years to come. That’s not to say that they’re bad albums, or even forgetful ones! It could be due to Just How Life Has Been As Of Late (after all, this pandemic thing is still putting the kibosh on a lot of uplifting celebration), or it could be a personal thing (my mind has been focusing on numerous things other than my ever-expanding musical tastes).

I spent more time this year listening to KEXP streaming online than actually listening to any of the music I might have acquired during the past year. In a way it felt like those high school days of yore when I went through a spell of listening to WAMH on a daily basis and only listening to albums at night (except that my nights these days are watching TV with A in the living room). And just like that era, I’m (hopefully) making some personal changes to my life in the new year that might necessitate me not listening to John In the Morning every weekday. [Unlike those high school days of yore, KEXP archives their shows for a few days so I should be able to listen in at a later time.]

Next year is a ‘2’ year, which means that I’m expecting some mind-bogglingly stellar albums that will become all-time favorites. I know, I know…it’s only a pet theory of mine, but it hasn’t steered me wrong yet. There have been hints of it in the preview singles being dropped over the last couple of months, and the few new release news bites that have slipped out. Whatever comes, I’m looking forward to it!

That said, here is my list of favorite albums, songs, and other releases in 2021. These are in no particular order this time, other than that my top favorites are in boldface. I highly suggest checking them all out, as they’re all great and worth a listen or five!

TOP ALBUMS
Roosevelt, Polydans
Nation of Language, A Way Forward
Grandbrothers, All the Unknown
Flock of Dimes, Head of Roses
Dry Cleaning, New Long Leg
Hooverphonic, Hidden Stories
Wolf Alice, Blue Weekend
Japanese Breakfast, Jubilee
Quivers, Golden Doubt
CHVRCHES, Screen Violence
Sleigh Bells, Texis
Low, HEY WHAT
Film School, We Weren’t Here
Coldplay, Music of the Spheres
Elbow, Flying Dream 1
Failure, Wild Type Droid
Miss Gritt, Impostor EP
The Beatles, Let It Be [Super Deluxe]
Snoh Aalegra, Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies
Foo Fighters, Medicine at Midnight

TOP SINGLES
Imagine Dragons feat. JID, “Enemy”
The Clockworks, “Throw It All Away”
Miss Grit, “Blonde”
Sleigh Bells, “Locust Laced”
Nation of Language, “Across That Fine Line”
Roosevelt, “Echoes”
Teenage Sequence, “All This Art”
Ambar Lucid, “Space Cowgirl”
CHVRCHES, “Cry Little Sister”
Girlfriends and Boyfriends, “Your Touch”
Dry Cleaning, “Scratchcard Lanyard”
Seatbelts, “TANK! [Flix Mix]”
Wet Leg, “Chaise Longue”
Jose Gonzalez, “El Invento”
Flock of Dimes, “Price of Blue”
Yola, “Stand for Myself”
Parquet Courts, “Walking at a Downtown Pace”
Jack White, “Taking Me Back”
Yard Act, “Dark Days”
Breeze, “Come Around”

…and more Best-Ofs…

Box Sets, Compilations, Reissues and Remasters
The Beatles, Let It Be [Super Deluxe]
George Harrison, All Things Must Pass 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition
John Lennon, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (Ultimate Collection)
Various Artists, Bills & Aches & Blues (40 Years of 4AD)
Various Artists, Caught Beneath the Landslide: The Other Side of Britpop and the 90s
Supergrass, In It for the Money [Deluxe Expanded Edition]
POD, Satellite [Expanded Edition]
Death Cab for Cutie, The Photo Album [Deluxe Edition]
Radiohead, KID A MNESIA
Seatbelts, Cowboy Bebop (Soundtrack from the Netflix Series)
David Bowie, Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001)
U2, Achtung Baby [30th Anniversary Edition]

EPs and Singles
Ambar Lucid, Get Lost in the Music EP
Miss Grit, Impostor EP
Thom Yorke, “Creep [Very 2021 RMX]”
Wet Leg, “Chaise Longue”
Working Men’s Club, “X”
Bowling for Soup, “Growing Old Sucks (But Everybody’s Doing It)”
Teenage Sequence, “All This Art”
Imagine Dragons feat. JID, “Enemy””
Big Wreck, Big Wreck 7.1 EP
The Clockworks, “Throw It All Away”

Keepin’ It Local (Bands from My Hood)
The Reds, Pinks & Purples, Uncommon Weather
Chime School, Chime School
The Umbrellas, The Umbrellas
Cindy, 1:2

*

…and that’s it for Walk in Silence for 2021! I’ll be taking the first week of January off just to enjoy the remainder of the holiday season and prep myself for the plans I have for the new year. Here’s to hoping everyone’s 2022 is stellar!

The Singles 2021

Here we are, as promised — my end of year mixtape! As with the last few years, my listening habits have pretty much been listening to KEXP online or whatever tunage I happened to download. And this time out I’ve created a Spotify playlist out of it for your listening enjoyment!

This past year has been kind of a strange one musically — a lot of records made during lockdown, incomplete sessions rejiggered as EPs and standalone singles, and songs that have been kicking around in the vaults for a bit — so while there may not be as much coherence or intensity behind some of it, the gems that are out there were pretty flippin’ phenomenal. Stay tuned for my best-of-year lists on Thursday!

SIDE A
1. Imagine Dragons feat. JID, “Enemy [from the League of Legends series ‘Arcane’]”
2. Roosevelt, “Echoes”
3. The Clockworks, “Throw It All Away”
4. Girlfriends and Boyfriends, “Your Touch”
5. Miss Grit, “Blonde”
6. Grandbrothers, “What We See”
7. Celeste, “Stop This Flame”
8. Arlo Parks, “Hurt”
9. Flock of Dimes, “Price of Blue”
10. Yola, “Stand for Myself”

SIDE B
1. Yard Act, “Dark Days”
2. Parquet Courts, “Walking at a Downtown Pace”
3. Siamese Youth, “So Far from Home”
4. Flyying Colours, “White Knuckles”
5. Sleigh Bells, “Locust Laced”
6. Dry Cleaning, “Scratchcard Lanyard”
7. K/DA, “Villain”
8. Jungle, “Keep Moving”
9. Wolf Alice, “The Last Man On Earth”
10. Teenage Sequence, “All This Art”
11. Nation of Language, “A Word & a Wave”

SIDE C
1. Seatbelts, “TANK! [Flix Mix]
2. The Beatles, “I’ve Got a Feeling [2021 Mix]”
3. Nation of Language, “Across That Fine Line”
4. Bachelor, “Stay in the Car”
5. Breeze, “Come Around”
6. Coldplay, “Higher Power”
7. CHVRCHES, “Cry Little Sister”
8. Snoh Aalegra, “In Your Eyes”
9. New Candys, “Twin Mime”
10. They Might Be Giants, “Super Cool”
11. Geese, “Low Era”
12. Duran Duran, “Invisible”

SIDE D
1. Goat Girl, “Sad Cowboy”
2. Hooverphonic, “The Wrong Place”
3. Sleaford Mods, “Nudge It”
4. Jack White, “Taking Me Back”
5. Fotoform, “Running”
6. Hatchie, “This Enchanted”
7. Amyl and the Sniffers, “Guided By Angels”
8. Film School, “Superperfection”
9. Public Service Broadcasting, “People, Let’s Dance”
10. ABBA, “I Still Have Faith in You”
11. Ambar Lucid, “Space Cowgirl”

SIDE E
1. Foo Fighters, “Waiting On a War”
2. Bill Janovitz, “Coming Up Close”*
3. Ora the Molecule, “Die to Be a Butterfly”
4. IDLES, “The Beachland Ballroom”
5. Thom Yorke, “Creep [Very 2021 RMX]”
6. Sleaford Mods, “Mork ‘n Mindy”
7. Wet Leg, “Chaise Longue”
8. tUnE-yArDs, “nowhere, man”
9. Grandbrothers, “Silver”
10. Roosevelt, “See You Again”

SIDE F
1. Field Music, “Orion from the Street”
2. Danny Elfman, “True”
3. Ambar Lucid, “Get Lost in the Music”
4. Low, “Days Like These”
5. The Goon Sax, “In the Stone”
6. Makthaverskan, “Maktologen”
7. Anna Schulze, “A New Way”
8. Ghost of Vroom, “Rona Pollona”
9. Shame, “Human, for a Minute”
10. Jane Weaver, “The Revolution of Super Visions”
11. The Verve Pipe, “Forever Reaching”

SIDE G
1. RUFUS DU SOL, “Alive”
2. Big Wreck, “Beano”
3. Goat Girl, “Badibaba”
4. Jose Gonzalez, “El Invento”
5. Delvon Lamarr, Organ Trio, “Call Your Mom”
6. Lucy Dacus, “Hot & Heavy”
7. Dropkick Murphys, “Mick Jones Nicked My Pudding”
8. Lost Horizons, “Every Beat That Passed”
9. Pond, “America’s Cup”
10. Porcupine Tree, “Harridan”

SIDE H
1. Garbage, “No Gods No Monsters”
2. Django Django, “Glowing in the Dark”
3. Billy Bragg, “Mid-Century Modern”
4. Nation of Language, “This Fractured Mind”
5. Sneaker Pimps, “Alibis”
6. Matt Nathanson, “Even Better Than the Real Thing”
7. Japanese Breakfast, “Be Sweet”
8. Mr Twin Sister, “Fantasy”
9. Elbow, “Flying Dream 1”
10. CHVRCHES, “How Not to Drown”
11. The Beatles, “Get Back [2021 Mix]”

Rain

The Bay Area is finally getting some precipitation! It’s kind of making me nervous about some of our plans over the next couple of weeks, but I can’t really complain all that much considering that it’s been very DRY these last few years. I remember when we first moved out here the winter months were always wet — when we moved out of our old place in October of 2009 the ground floor had suffered a bit of flooding from bad drainage — but after a few years it lessened. Here’s to hoping that we can turn that around in the future, yeah?

Mixtape: ‘Does Truth Dance Does Truth Sing: The Singles 1988’

I’ve definitely talked and written a lot about 1988, considering it was a high point in my teen years socially and emotionally, as well as creatively. Everything just fell into place in a positive way. I knew this feeling wouldn’t last, but I chose to embrace it and let it lift me up while it lasted, and I’m glad I did. I used to return to those memories sometimes out of desperation, especially during my mid-90s slump, but nowadays I can return to them with fondness and maybe a bit of amazement. I really did have a lot more personal clarity then than I thought I did, and I sometimes use that as a reminder of how to live in the present.

I’d been making proto-mixtapes for years taping stuff off the radio, but 1988 was when I made the deep dive into the alchemical science of creating personal mixes. And since 1988 had been not just a personal high but a musical high as well, I was determined to celebrate that with a year-end mix. This was my first attempt at a multi-tape (non-radio tape) mix of this kind.

DTDDTS: The Singles 1988 is admittedly not my best mix work, as I was still feeling my way in making these things. It sort of rambles halfway through and drifts to a close with a sigh rather than a cheer…my mistake was overloading the first tape with so many great songs! (Whenever I listened to it I usually stuck with that first tape.) It does kind of redeem itself near the end, though, and in retrospect, I think it mirrors my mood at the time: once my friends left for college, the last couple of months of the year weren’t nearly as exciting or positive for me. Still: I do like this mix, and it contains so many songs that have remained personal favorites for years.

Side Notes:
–Most of these songs were sourced from original albums or singles, but several on Sides E and F were lifted from recent 120 Minutes episodes or taped off WAMH or WMDK. There are a lot of album cuts on this one, which really shows how closely I was listening to a lot of these albums.
–I made several “reissue” versions of this over the years, partly to fix the flow but also to add more songs that I’d left off or replace songs I no longer had in my collection. (I have in fact created digital versions of all of them.) This playlist is the original created 27 December 1988 during Christmas vacation.
–The title comes from the last song on Side B, “A Public Place” by Wire. Years later in 2013 I named a year-end mix ‘We Sing and Dance as We Go: The Singles’ after another Wire then-current lyric. Sort of a personal 25th anniversary thing, I suppose.
–This contains exactly one Flying Bohemians song which is thankfully not on Spotify as it is embarrassing as it is hilarious. Why I didn’t use “Night” or one of our better tracks, I’m not sure. “Nothing Spectacular” was me and Chris fucking around on guitars and making a hash out of a moody 80s riff, with Jim H scratching one of Natan’s Van Halen records while he was in the other room. Chris provides an amazingly torturous guitar solo.
–I put my favorite song ever at the time, The Church’s ‘Under the Milky Way’, on Side A Track 5. When I revived the year-end mixes in the 45-minutes-a-side format in 2013, I also revived that as well. My favorite song of that particular year will always have that spot.

SIDE A:

1. Morrissey, “Will Never Marry”
2. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, “The Mercy Seat”
3. Jane’s Addiction, “Jane Says”
4. Front 242, “Headhunter (Version 1.0)”
5. The Church, “Under the Milky Way”
6. The Primitives, “Crash”
7. The Godfathers, “When Am I Coming Down”
8. The Timelords, “Doctorin’ the Tardis”
9. The Smithereens, “Only a Memory”
10. Peter Murphy, “All Night Long”

SIDE B:

1. Siouxsie & the Banshees, “Peek-a-Boo”
2. The Sugarcubes, “Coldsweat”
3. Cocteau Twins, “Carolyn’s Fingers”
4. ‘Til Tuesday, “(Believed You Were) Lucky”
5. They Might Be Giants, “Ana Ng”
6. Camouflage, “The Great Commandment”
7. Erasure, “Chains of Love”
8. The Art of Noise feat. Tom Jones, “Kiss”
9. Information Society, “Running”
10. Wire, “A Public Place”

SIDE C:

1. Ministry, “Stigmata”
2. Grace Pool, “Out of the Wild”
3. The Jesus and Mary Chain, “Sidewalking”
4. Morrissey, “Everyday Is Like Sunday”
5. Shriekback, “Dust and a Shadow”
6. The Flying Bohemians, “Nothing Spectacular” *
7. A House, “Call Me Blue”
8. Information Society, “What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)”
9. REM, “Orange Crush”
10. Cocteau Twins, “Blue Bell Knoll”
11. Pet Shop Boys, “Always On My Mind”

SIDE D:

1. Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, “What I Am”
2. Big Pig, “Breakaway”
3. The Mighty Lemon Drops, “Inside Out” *
4. In-D, “Virgin In-D Sky’s”
5. Peter Murphy, “Time Has Got Nothing to Do with It”
6. The Psychedelic Furs, “All That Money Wants”
7. Midnight Oil, “The Dead Heart”
8. Stump, “Charlton Heston”
9. Dr Calculus, “Full of Love” *
10. SinĂ©ad O’Connor, “Never Get Old”
11. Shriekback, “Go Bang”

SIDE E:

1. Pixies, “Gigantic”
2. Graham Parker, “Get Started, Start a Fire”
3. Camper Van Beethoven, “Turquoise Jewelry” *
4. Crowded House, “Mansion in the Slums”
5. Living Colour, “Cult of Personality”
6. The Godfathers, “Birth, School, Work, Death”
7. Sonic Youth, “Within You, Without You”
8. The Church, “Reptile”
9. Joy Division, “Atmosphere”
10. The Primitives, “I’ll Stick with You”
11. Wire, “Kidney Bingos”

SIDE F:

1. New Order, “Fine Time”
2. Marc Almond, “Tears Run Rings”
3. The Fall, “New Big Prinz”
4. Cowboy Junkies, “Sweet Jane”
5. Lloyd Cole & the Commotions, “My Bag”
6. The Feelies, “Away” *
7. Hunters & Collectors, “Back On the Breadline”
8. Sparks, “So Important”
9. Hugh Cornwell, “Another Kind of Love” *
10. Ministry, “Flashback”
11. Morrissey, “Suedehead”
12. Information Society, “Make It Funky”

* — Not available on Spotify, but I’ve added the YouTube link if it’s available.

Mixtape: Listen in Silence…The Singles II

This one reminds me of Silver Lake Cemetery. In that short summer between graduating high school and entering college, I got a job at my home town’s Public Works department and spent the entire season mowing the several local cemeteries. Silver Lake had always been my favorite because it was the biggest and most varied in landscape and we could take our time with it. We could easily find a quiet spot and hide for an hour if we wanted. It gave me a lot of time to think. I went through cases of AA batteries listening to my Walkman that summer.

I really love this one a lot; I played this one to the point of nearly wearing it out. It’s full of songs then getting airplay on 120 Minutes, WMDK, records picked up at Al Bum’s and Main Street Music, with a few oddities thrown in. I’d started it with the two first tracks on each side, requested from a friend’s music collection, and I built it up from there. The idea was for the first side to be upbeat and/or energetic, with the flipside being downbeat and/or moody. It wasn’t the last complete mixtape of my hometown teen years — the first Untitled gets that honor a few months later, which I’ll post here at a later time — but it does have that feeling of finality, which was deliberate, especially with that Smiths/Joy Division double-punch at the end. I was more than ready to escape this place and head out into the real world.

[Side notes: The Procol Harum song does stick out a bit, but the reason it’s there is because it was used prominently in the movie New York Stories which my friends and I had gone to see that summer. The GnR song sticks out a bit too, and that was because it had originally been added more as an add to my collection rather than an integral part of the mixtape, but it does kind of fit moodwise. The two Love and Rockets songs are in fact the very same song, played in completely different styles, fitting in perfectly with my upbeat/downbeat theme.]

Listen in Silence…The Singles II, created June 1989

Side A
1. That Petrol Emotion, “Creeping to the Cross”
2. Siouxsie & the Banshees, “The Killing Jar”
3. The Cure, “Babble”
4. The Smiths, “The Queen is Dead”
5. Soul Asylum, “Sometime to Return”
6. Love and Rockets, “Motorcycle”
7. The Cure, “Fascination Street [Extended Remix]”
8. Voice of the Beehive, “Beat of Love”
9. The Smiths, “Shoplifters of the World”
10. Camouflage, “That Smiling Face”

Side B:
1. Guns n’ Roses, “Patience”
2. Talk Talk, “Life’s What You Make It”
3. REM, “The One I Love”
4. Procol Harum, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”
5. Julian Cope, “Charlotte Anne”
6. Ultra Vivid Scene, “Mercy Seat”
7. Love and Rockets, “I Feel Speed”
8. The Cure, “Plainsong”
9. The Smiths, “Reel Around the Fountain”
10. Joy Division, “Atmosphere”

Mixtape: Untitled XII

Early 2002 was definitely a time for personal change. Considering we ended the previous year with a terrorist attack and the reactive political wargasms that inevitably followed, I’d started unplugging a bit and refocusing on what was important to me. Part of that was writing A Division of Souls and beginning The Persistence of Memories. I was reading a hell of a lot more, continuing my comic and cd run, and writing new songs on my guitar. Trying to live life a bit more positively.

Nearly all the songs from Untitled XII come from Newbury Comics runs. A lot of deep cuts with some radio songs sprinkled in between. So where did I hear about them? From CMJ sampler CDs and music magazines, mostly. I’d read the reviews and pick out the ones that sounded like they’d be in my wheelhouse. It worked out great 80-90% of the time, too! It’s also a return to form with my mixtapes, as I’d kind of run out of inspiration from around late 1999 onwards. There are a few good but not great mixes from that time. I’m sure it was partly due to my leaving HMV, partly a change in musical tastes, and other non-musical things (personal and otherwise) affecting me in one way or another. But I remember starting 2002 with the determination that I’d be in a much better place emotionally and mentally, and immersing myself in more great music definitely helped.

Side notes:
–I was introduced to Mistle Thrush by my former HMV manager Tom, who’d become a Newbury Comics manager. The singer was a good friend of his and, as it happens, part of NC’s upper management!
–Cornelius gets three tracks as Point was getting very heavy play in the Belfry. He’s been in the Olympics news lately for acting like an arse some years ago, but I still love this record.
–The Massive Attack song is a bit out of place being four years older than every other track here. Some cosmetics commercial used it as a backing track at the time and got me back into listening to Mezzanine during my writing sessions.

Untitled XII, created 14 February 2002

Side A:
1. Cornelius, “Point of View Point”
2. Massive Attack, “Inertia Creeps”
3. Mistle Thrush, “Enginehead”
4. Pulp, “The Night That Minnie Timperley Died”
5. Rufus Wainwright, “Across the Universe”
6. POD, “Youth of the Nation”
7. Stephin Merritt, “This Little Ukulele”
8. Elbow, “Little Beast”
9. Starsailor, “Tie Up My Hands”
10. Foo Fighters, “The One”
11. Bis, “Two Million”

Side B:
1. Sigur Ros, “Svefn-g-Englar”
2. Turin Brakes, “The Door”
3. Cornelius, “Smoke”
4. Ben and Jason, “The Wild Things”
5. The Strokes, “Last Nite”
6. Puddle of Mudd, “Blurry”
7. The Church, “Radiance”
8. Mistle Thrush, “3 Girls Walking”
9. Cornelius, “Brazil”
10. Stephin Merritt, “Tiny Flying Player Pianos”

Mixtape: Untitled VI

This one was made during my last summer living in Boston. I was living in a two-bedroom apartment with a Berklee piano student on Brighton Avenue in Allston and working full time at the old Sony Theater that used to be up near Assembly Square Mall in Somerville. (A half-hour commute by the T, so of course I listened to a lot of tunage there and back.)

A lot of this mix came from different places: used CDs from Nuggets in Kenmore Square, album dubs from friends, a few Columbia House purchases, and a lot of taping off the radio, mostly WFNX. [I know, I know. I should have saved my money for things I needed, but I somehow made it work.] The title Untitled comes from a mix I’d made back in 1989, where I’d made a really great tape but could not for the life of me come up with a decent title. Calling it such seemed to fit somehow, and that particular series became one of my favorites to make. [I am currently on Untitled XXV, made last October. I need to catch up and make another one.]

There’s a lot of peak 90s bands here, and many songs that were highly popular with the alt-rock crowds. It was what got the most play on Boston radio at the time, plus there were some great tracks dropped then. I’d been listening heavily to Alice in Chains’ Jar of Flies, Soundgarden’s Superunknown, Stone Temple Pilots’ Purple and Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral at the time (among other things) and they’d pretty much become my personal soundtrack for the 1994-95 season.

I really like how this mixtape worked out, and I still listen to it from time to time. It’s not as adventurous as some of my other mixes, but it’s solid from start to finish and has some of my all-time favorite mid-90s songs on it. It also has a sense of humor to it; silly and lighthearted songs bump up against gloomy and angry songs, and each side ends in extremely short and funny filler. And in early 2003 I’d make a two-cd “reissue” of this mix featuring nine extra songs from the era that I’d loved but couldn’t fit on the original.

Bonus: That U2 song, which would be featuring on the Batman Forever soundtrack later that summer, had been recorded off WBCN in early April when it was world-premiered by DJ Carter Alan, a close friend of the band.

Untitled VI, June 1995

Side A:
1. Bad Religion, “Stranger Than Fiction”
2. Green Day, “Basket Case”
3. Live, “I Alone”
4. Pizzicato Five, “Twiggy Twiggy/Twiggy vs James Bond”*
5. Nine Inch Nails, “Closer”
6. Frank Black, “Headache”
7. Dig, “Believe”
8. The Flaming Lips, “She Don’t Use Jelly”
9. Alice in Chains, “I Stay Away”
10. Grant Lee Buffalo, “Mockingbirds”
11. Jeff Buckley, “Last Goodbye”
12. They Might Be Giants, “Spider”

Side B:
1. Blur, “Girls & Boys”
2. Danzig, “Cantspeak”
3. Ween, “Voodoo Lady”
4. The Afghan Whigs, “Gentlemen”
5. The Smashing Pumpkins, “Never Let Me Down Again”
6. Soundgarden, “Black Hole Sun”
7. Nirvana, “All Apologies”
8. Stone Temple Pilots, “Interstate Love Song”
9. Blur, “Parklife”
10. U2, “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me”
11. Bjork, “Army of Me”
12. Pearl Jam, “Bugs”

* – Not available on Spotify