Monday, May 24, 2010

"Dude, the soundtrack for your biopic sucks!" Part II

Greetings, fellow music nuts!

Not content with the spoon-fed pablum on radio and Much Music (and totally unaware of the burgeoning indie music scene in the Late Eighties) I turned to Classic Rock for solace.

I distinctly remember around that time catching snippets of an odd-looking music video with crazy imagery, loopy animation, and anarchic chanting on T.V..  Needless to say I was officially intrigued.  A few days later a friend of mine in High School hooked me up with a copy of the record from which it sprang: Pink Floyd's The Wall.  I remember that it was handed to me like contraband, like audio TNT.  When I got it home and played it, I quickly realized why.  A mere three minutes into it's run time my brain exploded and leaked out of my left ear.

I had no clue what a "concept album" was.  I'd never heard a band say "We don't need no education"/"We don't need no thought control".  I'd never been compared to a brick in a wall before.  Consider my mind officially blown at that point.  Here's a particularly tasty morsel:

Pink Floyd "Another Brick In The Wall"

In fact, this album was considered to be so subversive in my little town that when I went to my local video store to rent the film version a few years later, the clerk behind the counter made me promise not to hurt myself, catch anything on fire or push old women into traffic.

Sure, maybe I was a bit antisocial and intense around that time, but I wasn't exactly "Trenchcoat Mafia" material either.  F#@%*& pinheads.   

Also around that same time I discovered an odd-looking LP in my Grandmother's basement, left there by an older cousin of mine.   The cover was white and trippy-looking, with stereotypical 60's/hippie font featuring the band's name.  When you turned a dial on the side of the album the die-cut holes scrolled by with an ever-changing  kaleidoscope of surreal aerial-themed images.  That alone made it worth investigation.

I brought this artifact home and threw it on my parent's record player.  Flipping the record when it came time to do so was challenging since by that time half my face had been melted off.   

The album was Led Zeppelin III.  It was unlike anything I'd ever heard in my life and to this day "Since I've Been Loving You" is still my favorite Zep tune.  Here's a sample:

Led Zeppelin "Since I've Been Loving You"

Discovering Zeppelin sent me on a quest for as much classic rock music I could consume.  The Who, Cream, Aerosmith, Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix and Janice Joplin were all assimilated in quick succession.  Blue Oyster Cult even had the consideration to write a song about one of my favorite childhood heroes: Godzilla.  Here's a bit of Spinal-Tappian cheese to illustrate:

Blue Oyster Cult "Godzilla"

But this was all merely a warm up for the musical smart bomb that was imminent.  When I moved into residence at St. Mary's University I was finally exposed to the sort of musical palette that kids in urban settings take for granted.

Like 95% of music fans at some point in time, The Doors became a major fixture for me, to the point that my first Intro English submission was entitled "Morrison and Hendrix: The Lyrical Revolution".  Color me shocked when I didn't get an "A"!

As you might imagine, the music of The Doors makes for the perfect soundtrack to life in residence, with "L.A. Woman" a particularly appropriate selection:

The Doors "L.A.Woman"   

Eventually I began to move away from the musical wankery that taints a lot of classic crock music (I'm looking at you, Styx).  Thanks to the encyclopedic tape collection of a floor-mate, one Monsieur Buchan, I discovered my enduring musical passion for punk and alternative music.  

Acts like Bad Religion, The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Dead Kennedy's were fantastic, since they possessed the aggression of metal without the cheese or the wankery of classic rock.  It also added a healthy dollop of social commentary.  To this day, I'd fight anybody to the death for debating the relevance of The Ramones as one of the greatest bands of all time.  Here's a favorite of mine from Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny and Marky.

The Ramones "Rock and Roll Radio"

I know this sounds stupid, but every one of the songs featured in these links gives me friggin' chills and makes me feel like I could bench-press a Subaru over my head.  Awesome stuff.   

Then something magical happened.  It was like that scene in Star Wars when Ben Kenobi tells Luke: "That's good!  You've taken your first step into a larger world!"

Alternative music surfaced in my line of sight for the first time and I felt a burning anger towards mainstream radio and video shows for completely ignoring it.  Suddenly I was hearing The Cure, Sonic Youth, Ministry, Sugar, Sinead O' Connor, Fishbone, R.E.M., Rage Against the Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, The Lemonheads, The Proclaimers, Jane's Addiction,  Helmet, Concrete Blonde, Dinosaur Jr, The Sugarcubes, Beck, Velvet Underground, The Pixies, Violent Femmes, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Nine Inch Nails, and Primus.

All of these bands are special to me but two deserve special mention.  One is Throwing Muses featuring power-pixie Tanya Donelly.  Listen to this without being amazed, I dare you:  

Throwing Muses "Not Too Soon"

Now isn't that better than half the crap you hear on the radio nowadays?  Don't your ears just go..."Aaaahhhh, refreshing!"  Damn straight...

Also, upon first listen, the metal/alt/rap outfit Faith No More became one of my favorite bands of all time at that moment.  I still play them incessantly and talks of a large-scale reunion keep me riveted.  Here's my favorite track of theirs, from the desert-island disc Angel Dust:

Faith No More "Everything's Ruined"

I have that same bee suit, by the way.  It's surprisingly roomy...
All of a sudden Canadian acts were revealed to me that just weren't aping their American and British counterparts.  Turns out there were a slew of burgeoning bands that didn't suck in a Kim Michell/Parachute Club/Men Without Hats/David Wilcox/Glass Tiger/Haywire sorta way!  Ska group King Apparatus, alterna-brats The Pursuit of Happiness, alt-rockers The Watchmen, surf-kings/Kid's In the Hall soundtrack maestros Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, the spacey-sounding Gandharvas, folksy geniuses Leslie-Spit Tree-o, more-than-a-novelty act Barenaked Ladies, local boys made good Sloan and Bootsauce, Canada's pervy answer to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.  Having said all that, one band in particular deserves a special shout-out: National Velvet.

National Velvet "Flesh Under Skin"

These guys don't get the credit they deserve for blazing trails in the late-Eighties altenative music movement in Canada.  I wish they'd have stuck around a bit longer and collected some of the accolades they deserved.

Plus I'm still kinda have the hots for their Amazonian lead singer Maria Del Mar.  Dang, y'all.    

I also discovered rap beyond Run DMCKool Moe Dee, Ice-T, KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Slick Rick, House of Pain, Del La Soul, Boo-Ya T.R.I.B.E, N.W.A., Sir Mix-A-Lot, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Cyprus Hill, and Public Enemy all qualified for my harsh criterion: attitude, innovation and social commentary. Here's one of the best::

Public Enemy "Fight The Power"

The great thing about hip-hop back in the day is that it could also make for a fun party jam.  What happened to fun in hip-hop?  Here's what I'm talking about:

Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock "Joy and Pain"

Young MC "Bust A Move"

Maestro Fresh-Wes "Let Your Backbone Slide"

Organized Rhyme "Check the O.R."

OMG, I just realized that Organized Rhyme might be considered the Godfathers of Hip Hop Nerdcore.

In my next entry alternative is dragged kicking and screaming into the mainstream, dark days return and hope spring eternal.

And, oh yeah, I'm also eventually gonna get to why Nickleback sucks Herculean amounts of ass.  Keep yer friggin' pants on...

Led Zeppelin III The WallL.A. Woman
Greatest Hits The Real RamonaCourage
Fear of a Black Planet Angel Dust


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