WARMER MIXTAPES #1243 | by Adam Gnade
1. The Velvet Underground | Pale Blue Eyes
Sometimes living out here in the country is like living in the jungle; the sounds anyway... Crickets and frogs, the yip yip then how-oooh of coyotes down past the cattle pasture. The Midwestern Jungle. Every night this summer we've had bats in the sky at dusk but you don't hear them. Once in the inner-woods of London I went on a bat walk with some friends. We took some kind of hand-held radio device that picked up the frequencies of bats and turned them into audible clicks. Later we saw a ring of women in the darkness of the trees, holding hands, red candles at their feet, chanting something. It feels like a dream now that I'm writing it but it's all true and Life's true and it's true that we don't hear the bats out here and it's true that the night is full of jungle noise. This month I have the farm to myself. Enter hours of playing The Velvet Underground's Pale Blue Eyes on a mixtape someone sent me; rewinding it each time, counting to 28, then hitting play again (on repeat but the repeat is me). Enter The Big Quiet and solitary meals and giving myself haircuts while Lou sings, I thought of you as my mountaintop... I thought of you as my peak... I thought of you as everything I had but could not keep. When Lou died last fall I was in New Orleans and I walked around at night by myself with my phone pressed to my ear listening to Pale Blue Eyes over and over again, waiting for the part where the guitar drops slightly out of tune and sounds incredible. Enter The Incredible. Enter The Lonely. Lou Reed is dead. Someone bring me beer and whiskey...
2. Artist That Doesn't Exist Yet | Playing A Song That Doesn't Exist Yet From A Conceptual Genre That Doesn't Exist Yet (But I Keep Hearing Ideas For It In My Head And It's Kind Of Intriguing)
Okay. Here goes. The genre would be called City Folk, a new genre of Country Music where the stories in the lyrics are by City Folk (i.e. city people as seen through the eyes of country people when they see them [the city folk] first come to their rural area). The songs would be the stories of these city people upon first visiting the country, their impressions of it, their first attempts at making Country Music about their experiences. Think about it. Actualize it. Make it happen. It's all on you now...
3. Castanets | You Are The Blood
Spooky and haunted. Derailed Country someone said in a review and everyone we knew laughed but it was kind of right on. Dark, Lonely Road Music. I've crossed the country so many times to Cathedral, the record this is on. Buses, trains, planes, cars, tour, off tour, aimless, with purpose, and this record is always there. Ray Raposa is a damn good writer. Ray Raposa's Cathedral. Ray Carver's Cathedral. Connect the dots, Mickey Mouse.
4. Elton John | Song For Guy
Soundtrack to an endless odyssey through coastal Mexico I took as a kid where everyone nearly died from tainted taco stand shrimp. We were stranded in Cabo San Lucas for what felt like months while the ill were nursed back to health--months, years, a lifetime. Memories are scant but vivid: monkeys in the trees by the cave where we bought our ice; eating human flesh in 120 degree heat that was really cactus meat; swimming in the mangrove swamps without getting cholera; checkpoints with Junior High boys in shorts, barefoot, pointing AK-47s into the cab and asking for toll money; a goat skull in the tent (and the light through the tent, orange, thin nylon, the morning flapping it; lobster tails cast over the cliff-side and prodded by cats; and this song from Elton's essential but mostly forgotten A Single Man LP. When I hear it I see a flash of brown desert and pale blue sky outside the hippy van, headed south, fast. I see the spot in the desert where someone dumped ten-thousand dead and sun-dried sandsharks; a stinking, curling pile. Elegiac song. Elegy to a lost friend. Near-instrumental. Used the song as an undercurrent for my last book, Caveworld. High ache and raw soaring. Only lyrics go Life isn't everything, a mantra. Hope for some kind of Afterlife. (In the words of my friend Marc Saviano's bumper sticker, Immortality or Bust.) Best thing the man ever did.
5. Galaxie 500 | Ceremony (New Order Cover)
The sound of Depression as Kalashnikov. Ian Curtis wrote this song and then he became a sad story teenagers like to fantasize about. Death isn't cool, but this song is.
6. The Locust | Nice Tranquil Thumb In Mouth
The wild card. The end of Cohesion. If you put this one on a mix-tape with the rest of these tracks it wouldn't work but it's no exaggeration to say this song changed my life. It's what? Forty-five seconds, tops? Seeing this live for the first time at the Che Cafe was like biting your brand-new braces into the power grid. Pure tremoring, pulsing violence. Jerky, robotic, ravenous grindspazz and full-band call-and-response screaming that feels like a Pop song and is catchier than half the shit on the radio. This is what Punk Rock was born to become--the proper next stop/step on the evolution rail-line.
7. Swans | A Piece Of The Sky
The beauty in this song comes after (what feels like) an hour of end-times noise, but rising up from the hurt-sound of the first part of the song (which is really a suite) comes Gira and his band doing some kind of early morning comedown country The Velvet Underground/Nico thing... Clean, light, graceful, almost healing maybe, definitely ecstatic (though calm) and there's Gira singing some of his best lines. (My favorite: In the blood of the swans... As the Sun fucks the Dawn.) Beautiful dusty green safire on an album of red coals and Earth cracking and opening up to reveal teeth in crags and whipping tentacles. The sweet heart beating in the ribcage of the Sarlacc.
8. Lower Dens | Completely Golden
I'm not much of a guitar solo guy. My records don't have them (well, there's one) and I usually cringe when they come on, but, goddamn, if this early-in-song solo isn't the best Minimalist Surf guitar solo by a non-Surf-Rock band in a non-Surf-Rock song. It happens again at the end of the song; all Simplicity and reverb like some kind of White Williams Daytrotter session from 2008 I half-remember. It's a sunny, dazed-out piece of a California that never existed from the hands of a Baltimorean by way of Texas. Excellent. Lower Dens is my favorite band right now. Both records. Everything they do.
9. David Bowie | Five Years
The part when he sings And it was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor... And I thought of Ma and I wanted to get back there... Your face, your race, the way that you talk... I kiss you, you're beautiful, I want you to walk is the most Glam Rock moment in History. Urgent! I can see him (back-lit, dressed in white feathers) singing this on stage. I think the film Velvet Goldmine was written around that singular moment alone. If I could become a song and live inside it it would be Five Years.
Sub-section: I also love:
10. Queen & David Bowie | Under Pressure
The perfect song. LISTEN TO THE WORDS. Don't fuck around.
+11. David Bowie | Starman
I'm listening to this record right now in the farmhouse and it's playing so loud I'm afraid it's going to jump off the turntable and fly around the World killing liars.
+12. David Bowie | Life On Mars?
No comment. Too good to talk about. No more talking.
+13. David Bowie | Kooks
The sweetest song about kids and family.
+14. David Bowie | Rock 'N' Roll Suicide
Seal this in amber, make it live again on Jurassic Park island. Watch the water rumble in the cup. T-Rex! Resurrection!
+15. David Bowie | Ziggy Stardust
I once explained what a guitar riff was to a friend at 3am while sitting on my porch in Portland, popping beer bottles to pieces with a Red Ryder BB gun. Used this song as an example.
+16. David Bowie | Lady Stardust
That scene in the Natural when he hits the ball into the lights?
+17. David Bowie | Heroes
Self-belief as essential Coping Mechanism.
+18. David Bowie | China Girl (Iggy Pop Cover)
I claim this one for Iggy, but this version is maybe better. Don't tell Iggy. No shirt, no problem.
+19. David Bowie | Young Americans
Hello Dance Music. Goodbye Blue-Eyed Soul. Hey... Where's Prince? Prince! Prince, c'mere. Prince, cover this song. You did already? On an Alternate Dimension? Bullshit. You know that doesn't count... Come on. Get to work. Your hair looks like shit.
+20. Crocodiles | Summer Of Hate
To start with Lou and end with Lou: This feels like San Diego Punk's take on All Tomorrow's Parties. Big, proud, elegant, majestic. These guys were in The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower and now they're up in some evil, best-when-it's-slow Shoegaze-ish '50s Pop that sounds like flowers rotting in time lapse when you hear it on decent headphones. This whole record is great, I Wanna Kill, Young Drugs. Fucking right on. Land a spaceship on my head.