September 1998- Monthly Mixtape
Michaelangelo Matos is a freelance writer who contributes to the Minneapolis City Pages, the Chicago Reader, and the NY Press. Every month he will dig through his stacks--recent acquisitions, new albums, old favorites--compile a 100-minute tape, and delineate the contents for Perfect Sound Forever.
Side One (50:30):
- Fatboy Slim: "The Rockafeller Skank" (6:49) from Amp 2 (Astralwerks '98). Big beat is the most gloriously formulaic pop music the post-rave underground has coughed up yet, and there may be no better practitioner than former Housemartins bassist Norman Cook. Working under a variety of pseudonyms, Cook's pursued rock-as-techno has produced several wonderful singles, none more so than this lead cut from MTV's second respectable market sop to the baggy-pants-and-glowsticks crowd. The best single of 1998, hands down.
- The Dandy Warhols: "Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth" (3:11) from The Dandy Warhols Come Down (Capitol '97). The meanest conceivable pop song this side of "Positively Fourth Street." I mean, heroin addiction is sick, insidious and sad, and all singer Courtney Taylor can do is chide an associate (himself?) for his drug of choice because, as the unforgettable chorus has it, "heroin is so passe." And yet its catchiness implicates the listener bopping along with it: how can you feel anything but a little sick digging on someone's complete lack of mercy? The video (featuring a Busby Berkely line of chorus dancers dressed as IV needles) deepens the offense, and the pleasure.
- Black Eyed Peas: "Joints & Jam" (3:35) from Behind the Front (Interscope '98). This California-based group is a little too good to be believed on paper: multiracial, live-instruments-based, positive. Their debut album pays explicit tribute to De La Soul's first, only instead of weird in-jokes we get Sesame Street-style learning lessons (that's what that title means in Spanish, kids!). Sounds icky, but they flow like a summer day, and this cut bounces like a motherfucker: if it weren't for the swearing on the chorus this would rule the radio in a perfect world.
- De La Soul: "Eye Know" (4:06) from 3 Feet High & Rising (Tommy Boy '89). Because the Black Eyed Peas earned it.
- Eric B. & Rakim: "What's on Your Mind" (5:31) from Don't Sweat the Technique (MCA '92). The other of the two best relationship songs in hip hop history (see previous for the other).
- Mousse T: "Horny ('98 Extended Mix)" (6:00) from AM:PM import 12-inch ('98). One-track-minded house music with lively horn hits, and if it don't make you feel good, you need a doctor.
- Master Vyas: "Jala-Tarang" (3:13) from The Secret Museum of Mankind Vol. 5 (Yazoo '98). Weird, beautiful Indian music from the 1920's: mandolin and tuned, water-filled porcelain cups explore scales and live happily ever after together.
- Archers of Loaf: "One Slight Wrong Move" (3:18) from White Trash Heros (Alias '98). These great guitar avengers have been one of the most constant sources of pleasure this decade. Each of their five releases--three albums, singles-n-flexidisc comp, EP--has been separate and of a piece, and all are worthwhile. But their new album has a bite, a fury, that the others, even at their most pissed off, don't. Think of it as their Document: the album where the anger that's always been close to the surface bubbles over--not as despair, but as focused, directed, channeled, and righteous. (It's allusive, too, so if you thought you were gonna see Eric Bachmann waving a white flag around, relax.) Sonically it's got old synths and, on this selection, vocoders, but an electronica move it isn't: call it old-fashioned studiocentricity, leavened by their hardest rock yet. Their best album ever.
- The Knickerbockers: "Lies" (2:44) and
- The Strangeloves: "I Want Candy" (2:37) from Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 (Rhino '98). Just in time: I'd been wanting to get ahold of the original double-album in a pretty hard way when I heard about the Rhino box, which if nothing else eliminates a lot of miscellaneous oldies shopping for CD's by including "I Want Candy," among others. The first disc is also one of the greatest albums ever made (it's the sources of "Lies," the best Beatles ripoff ever). Is the box perfect? Not hardly. Would I part company with my copy? Not on your fucking life I wouldn't.
- Talking Heads: "Cities" (4:06) from Fear of Music (Sire '79). My girlfriend Amie discovered these guys for the first time recently, and I've rediscovered them with great pleasure--this is one of those bands you take for granted until you remember they exist, and then they're your favorite band ever again for a week or so. This cut is one of my favorites, from what (this week, anyway) is my favorite Heads album.
- Soul Coughing: "Circles" (3:07) from El Oso (Slash '98). I live in Minneapolis, where Soul Coughing is like the Beatles or something. God knows why, but I can't deny that I love them too: their records are good but they burn live, with a ferocious energy uncanny in a bunch of skinny, self-conscious collegian eggheads. "Circles" sounds like a future modern-rock staple, which means you'll never have noticed it until you realize they've been playing once an hour for the last six months. Meaning that soon SC will be as ubiquitous in N. America as they are in the Twin Cities. Hmmm...
- Chet Baker: "My Funny Valentine" (2:18) from Chet Baker Sings (Pacific Jazz '58). A standard, sung with a fluctuating burr, and utterly seductive.
Side Two (50:45):
- Dub Specialist: "Starring Dub" (3:13) from 17 Dub Shots from Studio One (Heartbeat '95)
- Mad Professor: "Kunta Kinte--the African Warrior" (6:05) from Beyond the Realms of Dub: Dub Me Crazy!--the Second Chapter (Ariwa '82)
- Augustus Pablo: "Chant to King Selassie I" (3:43) from By the Rivers of Babylon: Timeless Hymns of Rastafari (Shanachie '97)
- Scientist: "Space Invaders Re-Group" (3:18) from Scientist Encounters Pac-Man (Greensleeves '82)
- Rockers Almighty: "Rockers Almighty Dub" (2:22) from In the Red Zone: the Essential Collection of Classic Dub (Shanachie '97)
- King Tubby: "Natty Dub" (3:20) from King Tubby Presents the Roots of Dub (Clocktower, c. '78)
- Tapper Zukie: "Tappa Zukie in Dub" (3:04) from Tapper Zukie in Dub (Blood & Fire '96)
- Harry Mudie Meets King Tubby's: "Full Dose of Dub" (3:17) from Harry Mudie Meets King Tubby's in Dub Conference Volume One (Moodisc '76)
- DJ Spooky: "Theme of the Drunken Sailor" (5:19) from Riddim Warfare (Outpost '98).
I cheated big time here. Dub, dub, dub... What can I say in my defense? Do I need to defend myself? Dub is the most intensely pleasurable musical style imaginable: who could blame me for wanting to just wallow in it?
I know, I know: it's not challenging, it doesn't make you think, it's lazy music for potheads... Bullshit. I'm a music-lover, not an amateur sociologist, not an associative historian, not someone who aspires to "real" writing and is just doing rock criticism in the meantime. So spare me any discussions of how "characterless" or "specialist" it is, because everybody I play the shit for likes it, loves it, wants to know why I don't play more of it. Which I then do, because I feel the exact same way myself.
Oh, the tracks? Dub Specialist is a CD of old Studio One tracks that have been fucked with mercilessly, with wonderful results. Mad Professor is more modern, and he earned my eternal respect by dubbing up Lee Perry like a fiend when he played in Minneapolis recently. Pablo is sui generis--if there's a musician you either love or don't it's him, and I love him. Scientist is rigorously minimal, yet makes surprisingly casual listening. Rockers Almighty and King Tubby are differing version of the same titanic rhythm. Tapper Zukie is the lead track from a classic album. Harry Mudie's got funky-ass percussion augmenting the bass pressure. And DJ Spooky is a loudmouth from New York who's finally made a full-length that justifies his egotistical claims-- it may be too late for some, but anyone who releases as varied and rewarding a work puts me in a forgiving mood. Could certainly live without his voiceovers, where he talks smugly about how cool he is cos he's recombining old sounds. Hey fucker, anybody who picks up an instrument or learns to speak is recombining old sounds, so shut up and play yer sampler, will ya? Thanks.
- We: "Ojhala" (5:58) from Rock & Roll: This is Jungle Sky Vol. V (Jungle Sky '98). Jungle you can't dance to, dub that isn't really dubby: ah, self-conscious post-modernism, from my favorite illbient artists of all time (a pretty meaningless designation, I know, but As Is was one of my favorite albums of 1997, so please bear with me), with a fetching compilation contribution.
- Mix Master Mike: "Supa Wyde Laces" (2:18) from Anti-Theft Device (Asphodel '98). Scratchcratchratchratchratch.
- Liz Phair: "Polyester Bride" (4:06) from Whitechocolatespaceegg (Matador '98). One of those soon-to-be-ubiquitous radio hits, like "Circles." Get it now before it goes stale.
- Lucinda Williams: "2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten" (4:42) from Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (Mercury '98). No, it's not as great as everybody says it is, but it's great enough to forgive the overhype. Sure, Williams is a great songwriter, but the new album in particular is full of great SOUNDS: on this cut, a tremolo guitar that locks you in place and holds you there, with that high note on the chorus ("HEY-hey") making you jump.
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