Wednesday, November 28, 2007

video #35: Matthew Sweet - I've Been Waiting

"I've Been Waiting " was the follow-up single and video to "Girlfriend," and also incorporated lots of anime while somehow getting airplay on a pre-"Aeon Flux" MTV -- not that the show opened the floodgates for more of this stuff or anything. Footage comes from an 1980s series called Urusei Yatsura, which I've never seen before today. Need to and would love to see more "classic" anime like this. Just 20 or so more episodes of Inuyasha left to watch, and then Death Note, but after that, who knows?

As far as I know, this was the last anime-inspired video Matthew Sweet released. Not that he lost his love for Japan after Girlfriend: the 2003 album Kimi Ga Suki was initially a Japan-only release which featured cover art from none other than Yoshitomo Nara. I could have sworn I had a cover-less promo of that around here somewhere. 15 minutes of searching turns up nothing.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Naked City - Naked City (tracks 10-17)

Naked City - "Tracks 10-17" (from Naked City)

I was 16 or 17 when I bought the first Naked City album. Maybe I'd read about John Zorn in that jazz coffee table book I had, or knew that he was friends with Sonic Youth or something. I don't know. I'd heard a little bit of Ornette Coleman, not to mention Zorn's tribute disc to Coleman, and figured I was ready for this.

And there's no reason I shouldn't have been. Most of this album isn't that far out there. Lots of surf and rockabilly, and a lot of... trad. jazz. There's a cover of the James Bond theme and a song called "Batman," which sounds inspired by the show's original theme (punctuated by those "BAM!" and "POW!" horn blasts, naturally). So this is really a pretty fun and eclectic album. Nothing to be scared of, right?

But that's only the half of it. Naked City liked to mix their free jazz with hardcore punk, so about half the songs on Naked City feature Zorn's free improvisation over Yamatsuka Eye screaming at the top of his lungs. This was, and still is, hilarious, terrifying, or both. But something about it really creeped me out. Maybe it had to do with the song titles: "Demon Sanctuary," "Den of Sins," "Igneous Ejaculation." I was still terribly conflicted over listening to "secular" music while all my friends rocked out to Third Day and Newsboys, so this was beyond... I don't know, simply debating whether or not to listen to Pearl Jam or Green Day or anything approaching "normal" bands. I didn't believe that music could channel demons like any of the old videos we watched in junior high youth group at my old church instructed. Not really. But if any could, it would sound like this.

The music didn't bother me as much as the artwork in the sleeve. I should have taken a hint given that the cover shows... a vintage photograph of a man shot in the face. Maybe I just didn't look closely enough, or seeing it in black and white somehow lessened its impact. Anyway, that didn't stop me from picking it up at the store, nor did the painting on the back cover of a mummified man with crabs coming out of his mouth. More "hideous" artwork inside -- an evil-looking skull and a girl with a snake twisting in and out of her every cephalic orifice -- was too much for my pre-Internet, yet-to-be-desensitized innocent mind. The music made the pictures seem all the more evil. The pictures reinforced the heathen, hell-spawned vibe of the songs on the CD. I'd heard and enjoyed lots of "unChristian" music before this, even some with swearing, though I kept this a secret from my friends (who'd surely pray for me if they knew) and family (who really couldn't give a shit, in hindsight). But I'd never stumbled upon anything as sinful as this.

I don't know if I even made it all the way through the album before stopping it, removing the disc... and snapping it in two. I tossed the pieces into the plastic shopping bag that I'd taken it into my room in, along with the liner notes and jewel case, and took them down to the garage. There, I smashed them into tiny pieces with a hammer on the garage floor and tore the booklet into shreds before throwing it in all in the trash. I've never told anyone about this until now. I know that I could have sold it back to a used store for a few dollars, but something was telling me to destroy it. No one else could ever see or hear this ever again. If I helped contribute to anyone else's exposure to this album, even if only by putting one more copy of it back into the world, it would inevitably find its way into someone else's vulnerable imagination, and I would surely be judged.

Obviously, I don't feel this way anymore. But there's no story to tell there, no moment where I suddenly looked into the mirror and came around from my childish ways. If there was, it could have come a lot sooner than it did. But it did come, didn't it? I'm admitting it, right?

By writing this entry, am I just patting myself on the back for "getting over" issues I had when I was a kid, as if it was truly a struggle that I should be commended for? Am I just desperately trying to pull meaningful events out of my uneventful, meaningless adolescence? I deserve a vicious ribbing for this psychotic episode and even allowing myself to be taken in by the thought process that spawned it, but my lack of enthusiasm in commenting on other people's blogs has pretty much ensured that no one is going to reciprocate replies to me here.

Somewhat well-known painter and manga artist Suehiro Maruo contributed the artwork to the album. Very little of his material is really worksafe, and there's no reason for me to be looking at pictures of mutilated children while I'm at home, so needless to say I won't be investigating his work any further at this time. The track I uploaded is actually the entire middle third of the album. Enjoy it in one convenient file!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

video #34: Matthew Sweet - Girlfriend

All I wanted was to just listen to "Girlfriend" -- mainly for the drum break that comes in at about the three minute mark -- but didn't have the song and figured the fastest way to hear it would be just going straight to Youtube. I wasn't even going to watch the video, but hey! It's animated! At first I thought it was just another AMV mistagged as the "real" video, one of hundreds or more floating around in the oversaturated sea of fan-edits on the site. But Mr. Sweet's mug popping in at 0:38? Yikes. Wikipedia confirms this is the real video for the song, though if I'd had MTV as a kid like everyone else, I'd have known this already.

The anime used for the video is Space Adventure Cobra, which one review describes as "prime late-night material" for MST3K fans. An obscure title today, though I'm sure it wasn't an easier for Americans to find back in 1991 (no VHS release until 1998, it seems). Matthew Sweet... true otaku or just ahead of his time?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Throbbing Gristle - Hamburger Lady

Throbbing Gristle - "Hamburger Lady"

Spending the summer back from college at my parents' house meant going without a high-speed Internet connection, but I was determined not to let it stop me from having the same access to the Internet and Napster that I'd grown to take for granted at school. I set up my computer in the basement and spent more evenings down there than I should willingly admit to, given that it was the summer of my 21st year, and everything. In hindsight, I can see how this set an awful precedent for the rest of my life up to this point, though it was the last time I ever used a dial-up connection. Hopefully it taught me a little patience.

Throbbing Gristle... the "first industrial band," or so the lazy descriptions went. I had to check this out for myself. Downloaded a handful of songs, including "Hot On the Heels of Love" and "Walkabout," both which sounded more like house music than KMFDM, Nine Inch Nails, or anything else I was expecting. This "What a Day" song sounded pretty weird. "Aw shucks," I thought to myself. "I can sure relate to that!" But where was this weird, spooky stuff they were supposed to be known for? The Spin Alternative Record Guide mentioned "Slug Bait" and its backwards-playing counterpart, "tiaB gulS," so I patiently downloaded those and, probably an hour later, finally gave them a listen. Doing this alone, in the dark... not a good idea. "tiaB gulS" at least spared me from the original's accounts of rape and castration, but was somehow almost creepier.

I was relieved to make it through those tracks and just assumed that "Hamburger Lady" couldn't possibly be any worse. I remember "Hamburger Lady" following the same track as "Slug Bait," like a sadistic "A Century of Fakers"/"A Century of Elvises" pairing. I could be wrong about this, since I haven't listened to either song since! The warped vocals were a little hard to make out at first, so I probably turned up the volume, straining my ears to try to understand just what the then-Mr. P-Orridge was saying.

Why did I do this?

I can only remember fractions of lyrics ("burned from the waist up... she's dying..."), coldly recited and split up with some kind of echo or delay effects, all over that insistent, repeating siren in the background (which didn't even have the decency to introduce anything as simple as a beat to distract me from the sickening monologue). I waited for this song to go somewhere, but after more than three minutes, it was clear that there wasn't going to be any relief from this grotesque account of loneliness, misery, and suffering. Maybe I was just too impressionable, maybe most people can listen to this and "enjoy" it in the same way they'd enjoy watching a slasher film. The only problem is, there's no layer of irony or camp here, just a brutal, unflinching portrait of hopeless agony.

I'd had enough and went to stop the song, intending to delete it and put it out of my mind for good. That's when things got a little weird. I must have been running too many programs at once, because when I tried to use the Winamp controls, my computer froze up, causing the always-unsettling glitch sound of a "skipping" mp3 to come tearing out of my headphones. Ctrl-Alt-Delete, Ctrl-Alt-Delete... nothing. Desperate to put a stop to this and reboot my computer, I quickly reached for the power switch, which killed not just the computer but my monitor as well. I was left in the dark of the basement, incredibly spooked by what I'd just heard and the sudden, unexpected series of events that followed. I don't remember what I did then, except that I somehow managed to stand up and find the light switch in the dark, flipping it back on even though I half expected to be face-to-face with the Hamburger Lady after doing so. After that, I probably went back upstairs, turned on all the lights, and woke up the dog for company.

Even now I can't quite bring myself to listen to this song again. I'm sure Throbbing Gristle would love to know that they scared a 21 year-old man completely shitless, and even in 2000! Not that this would offend anyone in 2007. Americans love watching panic-striken people suffer and die, the more painful and agonizing it is, the better.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

video #33: Sally Shapiro - Time to Let Go

Another fan-made video. Or is it something more? The inexplicable Busch beer billboard has me wondering. Anyway, best use of basic Flash (?) and clip-art in a while.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Illinois First! - George Ryan

Illinois First! - "George Ryan"

A good man who made some terrible mistakes. A true American tragedy.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

video #32: Boards of Canada - Olson

My favorite AMV. I know this isn't a "real" video but who cares? Short, simple, beautiful. Edited by Zerophite, who I'd consider a past Internet acquaintance but who surely doesn't remember me at all at this point. It's always sort of haunting to read journal entries like these, whether they're abandoned Livejournals or ambiguous final postings left on message boards, after which their author simply disappears. You wonder just what they're doing with themselves, especially after completely abandoning something that, considering how much time they invested in it, was obviously important to them.

If nothing else, this video is more proof that 1998 was probably the height of human civilization. Unfortunately, that probably has less to do with the greatness of Cowboy Bebop or Boards of Canada than the general downfall of, well... everything else in the world since then. At least we have faster Internet connections now.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Tortoise - Restless Waters

Tortoise - "Restless Waters"

"Restless Waters" originally appeared on The Lounge Ax Defense & Relocation Compact Disc, a compilation released to benefit the now-defunct Lincoln Park bar which closed its doors in 2000. I don't know why Lounge Ax was forced to close, though I've always assumed that good old fashioned Chicago gentrification played a part somewhere along the way. This compilation dates from 1996, so while it wasn't enough to save Lounge Ax, maybe it helped them ride out the storm for a few more years. I was too young to get in when it was open, but was only barely aware of its existence until after the fact anyway. And besides, I've still never been to the Empty Bottle, so let's face it: I probably wouldn't even make the effort today if Lounge Ax were still open.

"Restless Waters" doesn't sound like any other Tortoise song; I've thought about playing it for others and saying "oh, yeah here's the new Avalanches song" or something like that, just to see if anyone would fall for it. Can't say that such an opportunity has ever come along, though. Really astounding to think that this was from 1996. It's unlike anything on Millions Now Living Will Never Die, or even TNT.

Of course, now that any 15 year-old kid with an Internet connection can become a post-rock expert overnight, Tortoise suck! Oh, and Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, and Sigur Ros are totally awesome and amazing.