Saturday, November 11, 2006

Before the Flood

There’s cause for celebration. The day passed by unnoticed, with all of the exciting impending political upheaval, but as of about November 1, we’ve been up and sailing for a year now at the Driftwood Singers Presents. All thanks to Lefty for pioneering the technology that went into converting old moldy vinyl into new crackly MP3s. If nothing else, this forum has helped to virtually replicate that experience of sharing music, talking nonsense and listening raptly with a handful of rabid and obsessive music-fan friends. Another, more personal, cause for celebration is that after dealing with a receiver that was on the fritz and on the blink, a crappy system that got increasingly worse over the past eight or so years, I finally got a proper component that won’t go silent for stretches, require beatings or drive me to have a temper tantrum ( I promise, it’s safe to come back over for a drink). In honor of all that, here’s a few bits of sound pleasure.

Listening to Lefty’s post on Bad Brains made me go dig up my copy of I Against I to relive some of the proto-nu-rap-metal glory of "Sacred Love." It was so much better than most of the music that it presaged, but you can sure hear the seeds of Living Color and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Follow For Now in this. The story is that H.R. sang his vocals over the phone from prison, or at least that’s what I was told. If apocryphal, it’s still great.

I watched The Devil and Daniel Johnston last night, which was pretty excellent, and the movie certainly conjured those days, say 1988 to 1995, when it seemed like all any of us could do was stew in a kind of brewing madness, whether it fully reached a boil just depended on luck and circumstance and genetics and chemicals and whatever else. Listening back to college rock from the pre-grunge days reminded me of just how unhinged and in-its-own-galaxy some of the music was. And at the same time, some of it was so close to being radio pop that it’s hard to remember what made it seem out of the ordinary.

It was all pointing toward something – Limp Bizkit, the Pixies, Nirvana, Little Wings. Kurt Cobain really did everyone a service by turning the world on to two of the best songs off of the Meat Puppets II record. Same with the countless people he turned on to the Vaselines, the Raincoats and Daniel Johnston. I saw Nirvana once in Detroit, on the In Utero tour. The Boredoms opened, then came the Meat Puppets. When the Boredoms hit the stage, after the initial excitement, the grunge converts quickly turned against the Japanese noise mongers. People were flipping them off, booing, the four or five of us tried to compete with our applause and cheers, but it was pointless. The Meat Puppets weren’t at the best phase of their career, but it was nice to see them win some fans and make some cash. We actually got to go grab a beer with Cris Kirkwood after the shows. We were probably trying to play it cool, but it was a big deal – having been sort of introduced to the joys of weird independent music through the Meat Puppets. I remember that I actually had a cassette tape with Steel Pulse live in Tokyo on one side and the Meat Puppets Up on the Sun on the other. I was moving out of my reggae dude, Deadhead phase into something else, nudged along by REM, the Velvet Underground, Brian Eno, Talking Heads, the Replacements, the Minutemen, Butthole Surfers and the Meat Puppets. Later, it would become a source of shame, to have been something of a hippie, but the connection and transition makes complete sense to me now. The Meat Puppets certainly owe as much to the psychedelic noodly excursions of the Dead as they did to anyone. And I can really hear plenty of the wide-eyed nature worship of Little Wings there. This music is like the Proustian cookie for me, it summons up remembrances of autumnal afternoons wandering through cow pastures, walking the railroad tracks or tipping over dead pine trees out in a cemetery – weed, no money, vague artistic ambitions.

I’m not so sure that the Big Dipper aged quite as well as I expected. It’s still a great song about a guy trashing his house during a blow-out party, but I think there’s probably one or two too many choruses.

“Sacred Love” - Bad Brains

"Up on the Sun" - Meat Puppets

"We’re Here" - Meat Puppets

"Ron Klaus Wrecked His House" - Big Dipper


Django West said...

I love "We're Here." I have it on a CD compilation I play when we drive around in Joshua Tree National Park, which we do about every 6 months.

jon manyjars said...

Ron Klaus was the bass player for the Embarrassment, of which Big Dipper guitarist Bill Goffrier was also a member. It's a fact!