Category Archives: Past-the-bridge

Edinburgh Man

I guess, this is 2010’s first ‘Past The Bridge’ posting, and today’s band is ‘The Fall’.

The Fall

There are two things I can tell you about The Fall. First, nobody knows them and second, the band’s music is extremely hard to categorize (Wikipedia). There’s no doubt in my mind that Mark E. Smith (the band’s leader and sole inspirational force) is still around and that he picked up new band members all along. After all, The Fall, that’s the band that has more ex-members than any band in popmusic’s history (50 or something?). The last thing I heard from the band was that during the 2006 US tour, 3 band members either got fired or left the stage in an incident that included a banana peeling thrown in Smith’s face. And if that’s not enough for you, Mark E. Smith’s antics are detailed and set to film in the movie ‘The Wonderful and Frightening world of Mark E. Smith’, which you can see in full glory on YouTube. Call him brilliant or mad; at least Smith has been consistent in his music, and that all along since the 70s.

Picking out the right song was quite a task too but here goes: the
traditional 30+ second sample of ‘Edinburgh Man’, a smooth nostalgic eulogy of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland. For a second, I was considering ‘Hostile’ from the ‘Light User Syndrome’ album, but, I couldn’t get it over me to put this right on this blog. ‘Edinburgh’, comes from the album ‘Shift-Work’.

I discovered ‘The Fall’ during my Roskilde 96 visit (previously) and I do remember that the show was delayed for the longest time (Roskilde organizers came up on stage to apologize multiple times). I can’t remember the particular reason, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was some kind of argument between the members and Mark Smith. But the moment the show started, I was sold (and so were other festival-minders). Eccentric but excellent live performance. I do believe I shot pictures of the band, including a pretty close-up of Brix Smith.

So, generally, if you’re into post-punk music and don’t mind a ranting Mark E. Smith, The Fall’s music is excellent. Smith has a knack for writing biting rants and mumbling lyrics (I mean, he doesn’t sing) about current political and personal affairs , plus he always seems to find excellent session musicians. That is, until, he gets bored with them and shoves them aside. After all, ‘The Fall’, that is the wonderful and frightening world of Mark E. Smith. Since 1976.

Hate My Way

I‘ve beenThrowing Muses a long-time listener of the Throwing Muses music: I was actually a Throwing Muses fan before I started listening Sonic Youth (previously on xsamplex). However, I’m not going to write about the hows or whats: the reason for this entry in my ‘Past The Bridge’ series is that a couple of weeks ago I found out that it was the 25th anniversary of the ‘San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre’ (Wikipedia, personal thoughts of the only reporter at the scene). Obviously, the aftereffects of the massacre (one of the first live covered murder/massacres on TV and radio) had a huge impact on American culture and politics, particularly because of the apparent random killings (the youngest victim was an 8 month baby, the oldest was a 74 year old man).

The Muses’ song “Hate My Way” (30+ excerpt) references that event and (literally) captures the words broadcast by the news organizations (from that earlier mentioned/linked to CNN article):

“I looked down and could see that there was people ducking for cover, and there was a fire truck there with everybody behind it,” she recalled. She saw two boys lying on the ground, tangled in their bicycles after being shot by Huberty, and people hiding behind the low walls of the restaurant’s playground.

The song itself isn’t specifically about the killings but about being a teenager and the insecurities that come when you’re that age: Kristin Hersh at one time explained that the song was written when she was 18 or so, and that at that time ‘like all people that age, she probably took things too serious, or, even, not serious at all’.

Personally, what makes this song so compelling to me is its chorus-less musical narrative: from Dave Narcizo’s signature intricate rythmic section to Hersh’s ‘out of harmony’ singing (obligatory Youtube video, sound out of synch though). This was the Throwing Muses at their best.

Feel it?

I was going to mention Michael Jackson’s death (+06/25/09, Wikipedia bio) a couple of days ago, but ended up too busy doing other stuff. While I don’t consider myself an MJ fan, I do admit that his music has influenced and generated many other music- and subcultures. Michael Jackson was the first and most important pop-artist of the Eighties and while his legacy slowly fainted away because of the high oil price, his music and videos (youtube channel) will inspire many upcoming acts, artists and, of course, sound-a-likes, dance-a-likes and look-a-likes.

This is going to be a different type of “Past The Bridge” posting though: since His Royal Badness’ music is so readily available around (his official site), what’s the point of cutting up a piece of song? So, when I think of Michael Jackson, the first song that comes in my mind is The Jackson 5’s “Can you feel it” (YouTube) and not the typical Eighties songs ‘Billy Jean’ and ‘Thriller’. That’s only because I think the accompanying video of ‘Can You Feel It’ defined Jackson’s further and future video-repertoire: that is, using all possible (technical) visual means to get the music across. If you think the photographic effects in that video look cheap, don’t forget that this was all done before computers became staple.

Anyway: I don’t think our household ever had a single Michael Jackson album which brings me to the point of this posting (well, that is, his death was another reason). During the height of the popularity of ‘Thriller’ (the LP), we ran into a female classmates who bought the album together and on the question how they would share it they blurted out that since they were best friends, it would most likely be a weekly thing.

Almost 30 years later, I wonder what happened to that record.

Talisman

Quilty as charged: I have a soft spot for good “a cappella” performances, or even better, people who can sing extremely well, either classical or popular music. A couple of years ago, I found out that the song done for the Civ 4 game was sung by a Stanford “a cappella” group called ‘Talisman Acapella’. From what I know, or what I can decipher from the online sources, is that the group is actually called Stanford Talisman (official website: warning loud music ahead…) and that, since 1989, every year new students/singers will step in and replace the ones that leave the Stanford University to pursue professional careers. Since the group ‘broke through’1 with the Civ 4 song ‘Baba Yetu’, they’ve slowly moved into publicity maintaining a Facebook group, a YouTube channel, MySpace and a permanent entry on Wikipedia.

For today’s “bridge”, I decided to go for a sample from a live performance of ‘Baba Yetu’ (30+ second sample, or click here to view the performance on YouTube). If you’re familiar with the theme song from Civ 4, the sample above will probably surprise. The performance of the song highlights something trained musicians and singers will recognize: it is well-arranged, carefully accentuated and extremely dynamic. The YouTube video shows this clearly too: notice how the singers collectively (and individually) progress through the song, appropriately falling in and ‘fading out’ at the end. Another excellent demonstration is their performance of the spiritual “Lift every voice and sing’. Music 101.

The only problem I have with a capella is that I somehow associate this with singing spirituals and (generally) religious songs. Additionally, a capella, I find, is only suitable for ‘church’-style situations, i.e., physical locations where there’s a lot of reverb and echo, as opposed to say, intimate settings. However, without a doubt this is excellent material and I hope that the group keeps on going for another couple of decades.

1 ‘broke through’ is between quotes, because the group (of course) frequently changes setup.

Against The 70’s

The only Against the 70s reason to get Mike Watt’s very first solo album, “Ball-Hog or Tugboat” was because his name had popped up on Sonic Youth’s ‘Whitey Album’ (and others). If I remember correctly, I wasn’t overly impressed with Watt’s album: It features a whole pot stew of musicians (Sonic Youth, Eddie Vedder) except for the onions. What. Huh.

From that album, the only interesting song is ‘Against the 70’s’ (30+ second sample), which features Eddie Vedder on the vocals and the onions. The only thing I can say about the song is that to this day, I have no idea what Vedder is singing about. However, for some kind of reason, I find the song amusing in the light of the the current US corporate mess: a CEO invokes the 5th amendment in a tainted peanut scandal that killed at least 9 people and the current banking crisis.

What’s more to say?

1 I used a generic album sleeve: I was kind of surprised to see the actual song appear on a Pearl Jam collector

L’Arena

There are certain directors who have a knack for picking out music that goes with specific scenes. One of them is David Lynch, the other one is Quentin Tarantino. I’m not particularly a fan of Tarantino movies but I thought his ‘Kill Bill’ series were done exactly right, closely mimicking that typical 70s-like Kung-Fu movies with overdone sound-effects, hilarious unrealistic ‘gore’ (I dare say ‘surreal’) and music.

One of the scenes that keeps sticking out is the ‘Escape scene’, where the protagonist (played by Uma Thurman) finds herself inside a coffin and accompanied by spaghetti western-like music manages to dig herself out of her predicament. It’s no surprise that the music comes from the 60’s Western‘Il Mercenario’ and was originally composed by Ennio Morricone. I’ve included a 30+ sample on this page. If you’re looking for visuals, try Youtube (link goes to video with that specific scene).

I’m not a fan of Morricone’s music, although I have to admit that his music always seem fit the Spaghetti-westerns and most Europeans will instantly recognize his music, since his music is literally tied to the many Italian shows we saw during our younger years (I think of the excellent ‘Octopus’/’La Piovra’ series, for which Morricone also provided his musical compositions). In 2007, Morricone received an honourary Oscar for his music, which was presented to him by Clint Eastwood.

Young Ones

I was going to put a long winding post about Cliff Richard (and his excellent backing band, The Shadows), but I decided to keep it to the point: My mother used to be a big fan of the 60’s singer and as a teenager, she had been able to collect all the records and singles, which eventually, ended up being listened to by teenage-me and that one. This is also the 4th anniversary of her death, or rather, funeral, so this is slightly appropriate. Personally, I find that there’s some vindication in the way how things panned out altogether: it’s not that I’m really into this music or that I love this music. That’d be too silly. However, if you think about it, it’s generally better music (or less pretentious) than the noise my other siblings listened to, back in the 70s. I mean, can you say ‘Grease Lightning’? Huh? HUH?

Now, I decided to pick out The Young Ones (If you prefer video: YouTube) because it shows how gifted Cliff Richard’s backing band was. The Shadows, fronted by guitarists, Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch, wrote, produced and co-wrote many of Cliff’s songs. The band eventually went on creating hit-songs of their own (with ‘Apache’ and ‘The Deer Hunter’).

This also reminds me of a theory of one of my sociology teachers in high school in the mid 80s: He opined that fans of Cliff Richard’s music ended up listening to the music of Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley fans ended up listening to Prince. I can tell you for a fact that this is not true.

Going Underground

I made it a tradition to bring up VJ day on August 15th, but decided to let it go by and return to it today by including it to a Past The Bridge posting here. The song I had in mind, ‘Going Underground’ from The Jam, (after all) has themes that slightly intersect with nuclear destruction and war.

The usual 30 second sample lifts out the chorus of the song. If you’re interested in videos that describe the mood of those nuclear 80s, the video clip of ‘Going Underground’ can be found on YouTube. You can’t miss the references to nuclear war. Personally (besides awkward TV shows about ‘Russians invading Georgia’ [haha] and others), this song perfectly illustrates that peculiar ‘nuclear war is right around the corner’-feeling of the Eighties.

The Jam (despite their great hits that established them as ‘Angry Young Men’) had an ambiguous political background though (as this fine article at Wikipedia explains) which has dogged the band’s lead vocalist, Paul Weller, for years to come. In 1979, he had announced that the band was going to vote conservative in that year’s General Election, which (as you know) was the year that Thatcher took the oath of office. What followed were years of unrests, strikes, IRA attacks and a couple more millions of unemployed British people. Four years after their announcement, the band expressed their frustration with Britain’s political state in their song ‘Town called Malice’.

Sonic Youth

So yeah, I’ve been a Sonic Youth (official site) listener for the longest time, which I’ve mentioned here from the very start. I’ve been planning to add a sound fragment to this category, but every time I end up doubting which song to pick from. I decided to go with Schizophrenia (30+ second long sound sample): I thought ‘Bull in the heather’ was a bit too easy (that’s Kathleen Hanna doing some weirdo dance in that clip) and ‘Expressway to Your Skull’ a bit too hard to cut through. I was tempted to use the latter, only because (and Sonic Youth fans probably remember) the song was originally titled ‘Sean, Madonna and Me’. The band members had some kind of obsession with Madonna: In the early eighties, the band released the Whitey Album under name ‘Ciccione Youth’, which some of you may remember as Madonna’s original last name (For a second I thought ‘Youth against racism’ was part of the album too, which it isn’t).

What can I say about the band what you don’t know already? Most of the info on Wikipedia seems to be the similar of what I remember out of my head: I remember reading a booklet on Sonic Youth (which was part of a collector edition) which had a lengthy discussion on the band’s split with their record company SST (Husker Du et al). The band has been called the most ‘intelligent’ guitar band of our time and that only because of their weird guitar tunings and musical experiments: I did indeed attend one of their concerts in The Netherlands. I recall drills being hauled on stage. I can’t remember what that was all about, but it was amusing. Not to everybody’s liking, I guess and probably not really an event to take your girlfriend to (that is unless she’s a fan too). Also, if you’re familiar with Hal Hartley, Sonic Youth’s music was heavily featured in his movie ‘Simple Men’ (“I can’t stand the quiet”), with Elina Lowensohn dancing on ‘Kool Thing’. Which is a kind of cool, if you’re into Hal Hartley movies.

There are plenty of videos of live performances of ‘Schizophrenia’ on YouTube, my favourite one being the one recorded at the Montreal Jazz festival. The song was (surprisingly) also covered by the UK senior choir ‘Young@Heart': I remember watching the video on YouTube and wasn’t sure what to think of it at that time. Too bad it was removed, earlier this year.

Candy

I‘ve mentioned a couple of times that I lived a fairly harmless nightlife, where on Saturday nights, I tried to anonymously enjoy a small club (‘The Swing’) in the center of the city I did not live in before returning back to a club in the city I used to live in. I was introduced to this club by a colleague, who’s brother happened to be a bouncer at that place. This is also the club where I befriended people I would have not dared to talk to if it wasn’t for the thing I didn’t mind the, that is dancing or watching other people dance.

It was one of those nights, where I entered the club expecting to be all alone, and was surprised to find one of my female friends, who was apparently with a date, sitting at the sideline of the dance floor, trying to get a dance out. After a quick greeting, I ran to the DJ’s corner to request a song, ran back and danced with my friend to the tunes of ‘Candy’ (sample in usual 30+ seconds) in our best ‘Iggy’ vs. ‘Kate’ style, half-laughingly making fun of each other. Obviously, we where having fun while her date was not. To add to the absurdness of the situation, we discovered her date had gone at the end of the song. So much for ‘Candy, Baby’.

I mention this event, because during my brief return to The Netherlands in 2006/2007, I happened to run into my friend again, to who I brought up the incident. She remembered the event because of the date she was with (who apparently was a person she didn’t really know but who she had run into and had told her about that club) and the fact that I surprisingly showed up out of nowhere. I told her that I vividly remembered that night, because of the absurd turn of events during that obnoxious song: Generally, I don’t dance with other people’s dates but I wouldn’t walk out either.

And, yes, I generally don’t care about Iggy Pop.

Ready to go

ARepublica couple of weeks ago, I was humming the tune of Republica’s “Ready To Go” (mp3, +30 seconds): earlier I had found an excellent live performance of the song at VH1 Loudly Fashionable (or something like that), which led to a search for the original European version of the song.

Apparently, the band (or rather their record company) released two versions of the song: A US version (which sounds a bit more rock-like and is probably the one everybody is familiar with) and a European one (which sounds a bit more ‘techno-like’). Adding to the confusion, the band also produced two different videos for each continent. Whichever version you fancy, the song became a hit on both continents: in Europe the band got mainly positive reviews and was branded as one of the most promising UK bands. That was until the members decided to disband the band and go their own ways. Saffron, the band’s vocalist, ended up contributing to various other artists’ recordings (The Cure, Junkie XL) and even sang in a London musical called ‘Starlight Express’. In between, there was an incident about a record company releasing an unauthorized ‘Best Of Republica’ CD, which prompted a swift statement from Saffron and her fellow members to their fans not to buy this CD.

What surprises me is that the song is popular with the YouTube crowd: from people who make machinima movies to aspiring musicians who prefer to create ‘unplugged’ versions of any hit-song mankind has ever produced. I’d be the last person in the world to say that this song doesn’t have a catchy chorus.

Interstate

I‘m not System 7really a ‘techno-ambient’ music lover: however, as someone trying to enjoy different styles of music during my twenties I ended up listening and buying into several techno-DJs and musicians. During the early 90s, System 7 became the rage: I happened to like their ‘Interstate’ track, and that only because of the first part (30+ second sound bite). There’s not really much to tell about System 7 except for that they’re still around and that their website reminds of the pre-2000-webdesign age. I think I remember that they had this same webpage in 1996 too. I’m not kidding.

Back to the personal bit: There were basically two clubs in my old hometown. One club focused on playing ‘alternative rock music’ and the other one a mix-and-mash of, uh, well, whatever it’s called nowadays, “house and techno”? I only visited the latter on one occasion and I remember the huge video screens playing psychedelic movieclips (sort of like what your current Windows Mediaplayer is playing) and me overlooking the crowdy dancefloor, probably drinking a soda, because it was still too early in the night to drink alcohol. When the tune of “Interstate” started, I remember asking the DJ the specifics of the track, so that I could buy it the next time I was close to a record shop.

This is not the whole story: System 7 also made it to Roskilde ’96 (they were actually so popular that they played at many of the European Pop fests that year), and obviously, I was there too. This is also where I discovered that live performances of Techno-music can be rather uninspiring and, I quickly forgot about this event. Not really, of course: the music of ‘Interstate’ came back to mind when we were driving the Trans-Canada Highway, last week, for no other reason than reminding me of those uneventful couple of nights.

Update 1: ‘Interstate’ can be heard in this podcast @ Most People Are DJs (at the end of the MP3)

Update 2: This just in and official! Europeans get drunk to have sex!

Djed

About ten The band Tortoiseyears ago, I discovered the band Tortoise by accident while looking for new records (or rather CDs) in the (I dare say) legendary Amsterdam music store Boudisque. For the Dutch speaking, the recordstore is prominently and frequently on display on the YouTube channel ‘OndergrondsTV’ (Underground TV), a channel dedicated to “sub-culture in Amsterdam”. Anyway, during that particular visit on that particular day of 1996, ‘Djed’ blared over the soundsystem and since then, it became part of my (then) extensive CD collection.

Before I wade into personal anecdotes: I uploaded a fragment of ‘Djed’ (in you know how many seconds+) for your listening pleasure. The original piece is exactly 20 minutes long and can be described as ‘experimental music': the band’s website and its Wikipedia entry list their music as ‘Post-Rock Instrumental’, which is about correct too. The band itself has gone through several line-ups, but over time, their music has stayed pretty consistent. Let me say it this way: you can either sit through the band’s music or it cringes your toes. I see that someone uploaded a concert of them on Google Video, so, here’s your chance to sit through it, that is, for 30 minutes long. It will probably come to no surprise that their music was quite popular with mixers and DJs, as you can witness in this Djed video/remix (warning: noise ahead).

Yeah, so, one of the reasons to attend Roskilde Fest’96 was this band. To anyone I ran into during the pre-concert days, I proudly mentioned I was going to see this band, which generally was answered with ‘Who are they?’ or ‘What?’. In one case, a British punker thought I had called her a ‘turt-ass’. After explaining I was talking about the turtle-like animal, she quickly corrected my pronunciation (I obviously pronounced Tortoise the French way). The concert itself was held late at night (probably around 9 or 10 PM, on the second day of the Fest) and as expected, there was hardly anyone attending: which was good, because at least it allowed everybody, fans and accidental bystanders, to sit down on the grass and listen to music.

And maybe, that’s why I remember the band these days: after all, there was nothing remarkable about the band’s performance itself, except for that they were playing good music, and most importantly, I guess, it was music you had to sit through.