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Friday, April 30, 2010

43. "High Fly Ball" by The Hellers

My possession of this record dates to a time when I was rapidly acquiring all the early Moog records I could find, some of which are just jaw-droppingly strange. This one was particularly interesting due to the involvement of Enoch Light, the innaresting character who ran the Command record label (famed for its art design as much as anything, and your record collection does contain some records whose covers are direct recreations of Command LP jackets) and Robert Moog himself playing his namesake keyboards. Unfortunately this combo is pretty much canceled out by the concept, which is, for some reason, to frame Moog's wild playing with unrelated sub-variety-show cornball novelty sketches. Why this would be packaged to look like a sunshine pop record by a "band" of some kind is a whole 'nother mystery. It's still loopy fun, but it doesn't scale the giddy heights of the most truly out-there Light productions.

Braine is the band again, this time pretty much for real, and they sound great, I must say. All of the kids played their respective instruments and, other than loop wrangling and editing, the only noise I contributed was the warbly keyboard which serves as the only remaining relic of the Moog origins of the original piece. In fact we replaced Moog's composition with one that Miranda cooked up, her first, and due to be completed with lyrics some time soon. It's really good on its own, not least because of the groovy guitar part Eden added to it.

Miranda Broome: Bass, musical composition, engineering, sportscaster, astronaut #1
Eden Hain: Guitar, engineering, astronaut #3, alien #2, artwork (Alice)
Ridley Broome: Percussion, astronaut #2, alien #1, artwork (garden)
Rex Broome: Engineering, editing, keyboard

Thursday, April 29, 2010

42. "Ace of Spades" by Union Avenue

Here's one for which I didn't have the highest expectations, but turned out fairly well. I couldn't quite develop my own take on the original. But a few days ago, doing the Talking Heads cover, I'd finally worked out how to create my own drum loops, and thereby hangs the tale.

Twenty-some years ago, I actually made my own tape loops, literally, by disassembling cassette tapes and splicing the loops of homemade recordings end to end with Scotch tape, rebuilding the cassette, trying it out, and then taking it apart again and resplicing until it looped properly. I started doing this to create ambient sounds for walk-through haunted houses and so forth, but eventually got insane enough to try to do this with actual musical parts for demos, and I got surprisingly good at it. The last time I attempted it was when trying to record the soundtrack for a student film; in particular I was failing to make a loop out of the odd drum part at the beginning of "Warning Sign" by, coincidentally, Talking Heads. I ran out of time, but the idea to use that part never left the back of my mind, and in my fury of creating loops of... erm, fury, I guess, I finally, digitally created one and I kinda wanted to use it.

I thought it would turn out pretty weird, being not especially a rockabilly-sounding part, but it did have a little slapback delay on it that helped it all fall together in no time, while the kids were watching Shark Boy & Lava Girl, which I fancy you can hear on the vocal track without much difficulty.

Rex Broome ~ Everything.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

41. "The Ballad of Bethnal Green" by Paddy Roberts

This is the kind of thing I envisioned happening on this project, except when I envisioned it, as generally happens when one envisions things, it sounded a lot cooler. There is, it is to be hoped, some entertainment to be had here, at least in the on-the-fly capturing of an absurd moment.

I had a moment of quiet at the end of the day to rehearse/figure out this number, but was being annoyed by the constant buzzing of LAPD helicopters over the Silver Lake reservoir. Eventually this struck me as a pretty absurd environment in which to be attempting a cute British music hall throwback, and I decided to document it just that way, maneuvering the laptop close to an open window and recording the song as quickly as I could. Another few minutes and I could've gotten a true stereo recording, but unfortunately (I guess) the choppers would have departed. So here you go.

Contains the words "titty" and "gay".

Rex Broome ~ Guitar and vocal
LAPD (and perhaps local media) ~ Helicopter accompaniment

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

40. "Houses in Motion" by Talking Heads

"Remain in Light" was my first favorite album. I don't think it's ever departed from my personal Top 10 since the first time I heard it. The funny thing for this Appalachian kid is that I didn't even realize I was listening to something funk-derived when I fell under its spell until someone told me it sounded, in less sensitive terms, like African-American music. So I guess David Byrne was my own personal Elvis. I've had (The) Houses in Motion on several short lists for band names. This is primal stuff for me.

So, was this fun for me? Hells yes. I started out with this idea of doing "Houses" in the style that the original 4-piece Heads might have done it three years earlier than they did, but those kind of high-concept cover ideas only last so long. Somewhere between stealing Busta Jones' bass licks from the live version on "The Name of This Band..." and working out that tight little riff on the chorus (all by myself!), I altered course and ended up doing the fake Belewisms and giant choral vocals. What pleases me most is that this is no way a straight cover of the original, but almost everything about it seems true to the period and ambitions of the band.

Rex Broome ~ Everything

Monday, April 26, 2010

39. "On Trial" by Minutemen

Yesterday's multitrack extravaganza did not jam econo. So you might assume that I'd be happy that today The Machine has assigned me a :41 track by the three-piece Minutemen, the power trio being my primary delivery system for rock music. But in fact I found this one far more daunting. For one thing, I respect the hell out of this band. For another, they were crazy talented and creative guys who put more into those forty seconds than most pop songs can dream of containing.

So it was going to be hard to figure out anyway, but to further complicate matters, this particular track is one of the many on Minutemen records which was lifted straight off of an audience tape to better represent the vitality of the performance. There's no studio version and the recording quality isn't the clearest. Suffering most from this are my approximations of the lyrics, which certainly must have possessed a political specificity that's lost in my wild guesses. And I honestly feel kind of bad about that, but I did get the hook, so I was at least able to guess where it was driving.

Rex Broome ~ Vocal and guitar

Sunday, April 25, 2010

38. "Way Over Yonder" by Carole King

I'm pretty sure this is the most tracks I've used on a 39-40 cover so far. I've been promising someone that I'd do a song in this style for a while, and this song seemed lyrically suited for it, although its original performance is in a very different style.

You really can't get a cat to pose in a pre-determined position in a self-timed photo that you yourself have to jump into before the camera goes off. Just sayin'. And also saying thanks to Miranda for the loan of her FurReal pet Whitefur.

Rex Broome ~ Everything

Saturday, April 24, 2010

37. "Magenta Moon" by Rex Broome

When I set out to do this project, I considered putting my own songs off limits. I also thought about excluding odd stuff like stage banter (which I've by now done twice) and any number of other odd things which might happen, but I eventually decided to let everything ride... random is random, and The Machine is The Machine, and I gotta keep myself honest. So up pops one of my own compositions for the first time. Hey, at least it took more than a month.

In this case I'm sort of glad, because this song really never found a place after I made the demo you can hear here as the "original"; it didn't quite fit with what Skates & Rays were doing at the time and I didn't really have anywhere else for it to go. At one point Gen expressed some interest in singing it, which sounded like a good idea both at the time and today when I was faced with how to record this thing a little differently. I did change the arrangement a bit as well, but right at the time I was ready for Gen to do her vocal, she walked up to me and said, "I think I have a fever... can you check?" She did, but she went ahead and did the vocal anyway; I didn't torture her for multiple takes, so what you have here is sort of a demo-level remake of an older demo. Now if we could just get the whole household healthy...

Genevieve Broome ~ Vocal
Rex Broome ~ The rest

Friday, April 23, 2010

36. "Midnight to Six Man" by The Pretty Things

I fought the loops and the loops won with a vengeance yesterday, so today I'm playing as rubato as I possibly can. I had the idea of converting this celebration of debauched late night living into a bit of a lament about the same... somewhere on the starker streets of The Replacements' neighborhood, "Here Comes a Regular" or "Nightclub Jitters". It came out a little more like one of the Big Star tunes that certainly inspired Westerberg when writing his. This is straight into the condensor mic again. On the first playback I got a bit of phasing from the mic still being open... I liked it and decided to incorporate something similar (without which the track would be in mono). Messed around with the chords a little bit on the way to a suitable feel. Fair game, I'd think.

Rex Broome ~ Everything

Thursday, April 22, 2010

35. "I Gotta Know" by Teenage Fanclub

Absolutely hands down the most frustrating experience I've had yet on a 39-40 cover, and on a song I was initially so happy to have been handed by The Machine. I curse the loops, you see, but moreover and more severely I curse myself. See, I laid out the drum tracks for this one, and it has a bit of a swing to it, and I painstakingly cut and pasted the loops to simulate that. For all that effort, when I played the guitar and bass and the other guitar and the other couple of guitars, I kept jumping the beats over and over again, despite trying like hell to compensate. Much later when I though I was done, I became annoyed at my lousy timing and took a closer look, seeing as how all my instruments were off by about the same amount in the same places... and damned if the thing didn't swing more than I'd consciously realized. So then I took the loops back apart and tried to put them together all over again, trying now to match the instruments and now struggling with my earlier efforts to rein in the swing... and then deciding that I had to fix the verses as well as the choruses. Final result was hours spent trying to make the thing sound, like, just kind of unsettlingly awkward instead of outright whack. Bleh.

Not only do I like the song I've just butchered, I'm also regretful because my wife Gen contributed a fine lead vocal to this one... should've been a big occasion to have a lead vocal by an actual human female adult, let alone one this good. Maybe the first half of the recording is listenable enough to get an idea of what she was up to. Sorry, dear!

Genevieve Broome ~ lead vocal
Rex Broome ~ everything else

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

34. "Recycling Ad" by McLeod Landfill

There's an interesting side note to artist name on this one (assuming that you've by now determined how much stock you want to put in my proclaiming any given thing to be "interesting"), and it doesn't have to do with the viability of a landfill being called the actual "artist" of the track (to which I answer in the affirmative, because it entertains me). It's the fact that my mp3 of the track, and every mp3 available online as far as I can tell, credits it to "McCleod Landfill", but I noticed that the cover art features a sign reading "McLeod Landfill" instead. I did a little research on the titular landfill and discovered that the correct spelling appears to be "McLeod", and so today's posting of the original track probably marks the internet debut of the correctly tagged and artist-attributed mp3 of "Recycling Ad". You are most welcome.

My 7-year-old daughter Ridley drew the portrait of me in the artwork mod, and it's my favorite thing about today's track because she just put "The Fall" on my t-shirt of her own volition, not at any prompting on my part for cuteness's sake. Having created the track to sound vaguely like Wire or perhaps the Adverts, I had originally intended to sing it like Richard Hell, but I finished the art before the track, and that pushed me towards finally getting my MES impression over with instead. Insekt posse will be crushed.

Rex Broome ~ Everything musical
Ridley Broome ~ Portrait drawing

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

33. "The Times They Are A Changin'" by Simon & Garfunkel

And finally I'm able to present a recording with a genuine guest performer not related to myself. Lending his talents to this version of Simon & Garfunkel's version of the Dylan tune is Mr. Clifford Ulrich, who plays bass guitar and sings with me in Skates & Rays, and contributes the songs that I don't write. Good man, good musician.

The political Dylan songs-- which I sort of think of as the Middle Period of his Early Period-- aren't my favorites, not quite possessing the spook of his earlier roots reinterpetations nor the ultra-spook of what he dove into next. But they do have an eerie power of their own; the song definitely came barreling through me from elsewhere when I sat down with the lyric sheet to sing it all the way through for the first time ever. "Visions of Johanna" I've sung a million times before; this one not so much.

Anyway, Cliff and I sort of did this backwards and messed a lot of stuff up, as you can hear, but we learned a good deal about what not to do next time. The methodology is necessarily different with two musicians... I can't just contain all the plans in my head like I'm used to, so that's a good challenge.

Rex Broome~ Acoustic guitar, lead vocal, harmony vocal, bass, left harmonica
Clifford Ulrich ~ Harmony vocal, right harmonica, electric guitar

Monday, April 19, 2010

32. "Didn't Wanna Do It" by Danny Collet

I used to be related through marriage to a helluva Cajun fiddle player, and that's how I came by these types of records. Great guy, fantastic musician... that's about the only thing I miss about that part of my life. But I'll not let this paragraph become the habitual place to bash the ex-boss, the ex-wife, etc.; there's work to be done.

Trouble is, I really really have no voice. So I'm handing the vocal duties on this one over to Anjali, the British-Indian Robot Lady who performed half of the Kingston Trio stage patter thing. I like Anjali. For one thing, she give me an excuse to do a "feat." song... I've been so jealous of modern pop stars whose singles always seem to feat. each other or T-Pain or whomever. So I'm going to feat. Anjali today.

Please also enjoy my first ever experiments with MIDI. Not in any way to be taken seriously, but a toe in the water, as it were. Gimme a break, I feel wretchedly ill!

Feeling as I do, the cover art is a total toss-off as well. I don't think Anjali really looks like that. But I spent too much time trying to find an CG image of an Indian girl (CG to reflect her robotic nature) and the internet sadly disappointed me. If anyone finds an appropriately cyber-looking image for Anjali, send it my way and it will become her canonical appearance forthwith. I love you guys.

Rex "Sickie Boy" Broome ~ Acoustic guitar
Anjali ~ vocals
Sax, Electric Guitar and Organ play themselves thanks to the Wonders of Modern Science

Sunday, April 18, 2010

31. "My Secret Flame" by The Mavericks

All my Mavericks records are rips from discs a former boss leant me. This guy was a real bastard, the beady-eyed aphasic kind, and he was a guitar collector with a special interest in Rickenbackers. I just can't get my head around that particular habit of the wealthy-- owning electric guitars that you don't use. It's easily excused if you used to use them and still have them, but to be currently pursuing the purchase of new guitars when you don't have any occasion to play them... it's just a bit creepy. Anyway, I often had me guitars with me at the job if I had a gig that evening, and the boss would always ask to see the Ricks. And he would always say, "Hey, Rex, you know, if you ever fall on hard times and need some money, I'll buy those from you." He got more and more intense about it right before he let me go. Just sayin'. I kept the records because I've heard the band is one of the more vital modern country artists and I figured I might one day want to check them out in more depth.

This is Day Three of me basically doing 39-40 from bed. I keep pulling up vocal-intensive songs and I have no voice. Drat the luck. Arrangement-wise I may have absorbed Sir Paul's faux reggae from yesterday as I went a little dubby on this one.

Rex Broome ~ Everything.

Friday, April 16, 2010

29. "I Don't Know What to Do with My Life" by The Buzzcocks

They say necessity is a mother, and that certainly is true. I've come down with the cold that ruined Eden's second week of spring break (documented in the coughing fit on the playout of "Egg Man") and about halfway through this recording I just couldn't be in the studio (living room) any more and had to go to bed. But I also had to finish the track. Not having the strength nor wherewithal nor Brian Wilson mindset to reconstruct the recording rig in the bedroom, I brought the laptop and the headphones with me and recorded the vocal into-- and this was inevitably going to happen anyway-- the condensor mic on the MacBook. So, like, sorry about that.

They also say that timing is everything. My friend Jeff has demostrated that singing with a headcold aids one immensely in sounding like Jonathan Richman, so this comes a day too late. My voice being messed up cuts into my upper and lower registers, so of course I double tracked myself singing in both, leaving the outcome to the law of averages. The feel of the cover is a bit ill-considered: it sounds like I'm doing the same thing as I did to the Rancid tune, taking a punk-rock composition and rootsifying it, but that wasn't my intention. I just fell into that swing feel while working out the chords. I was actually hoping to capture the spark of the coolest Buzzcocks cover I ever heard, ages ago when my friend KT Wiegman came over to my house and belted out "You Say You Don't Love Me" on an acoustic, at if anything a faster tempo than the one on the record. 'Fraid I didn't come close to her performance, and now, as the NyQuil kicks in, I'm left to wonder where the hell KT is anyhow.

Rex Broome ~ Everything



I've heard this recording a few times in my car over the past few months as I've reviewed the project, but until re-reading the text above I'd forgotten the circumstances involving my recording the guitars "properly" and the vocals upon my sickbed. Anyway, it seems to work fine and I don't have much to add in retrospect.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

28. "She Cracked (Live)" by The Modern Lovers

Honestly, this really is one of my favorite songs ever. If you got a mix tape from me at any time during the first ten or so years that I made mix tapes, this song was on it. Go check if you don't believe me. This is the first song The Machine has picked for me to which I already knew all the words ("Egg Man" being probably the closest contender thus far). It's the best, better than "Road Runner" even.

I tried to honor the "Live" aspect of this track by playing it... well, live. And I also tried to capture a little bit of the spirit of my favorite Richman solo album, the one just called Jonathan Richman on which most of the tracks are performed just by the singer and his electric guitar (although mine turned out a little more harrowing than anything on that record). I also sang a few of the tweaked lyrics from this performance (and then undid that tribute by singing a few other lines the way I misheard them for years).

The "cover art cover" today is worth a note, in that it's the most effort I've put into the artwork and simultaneously the least noticeable... as fun as it was to put myself in front of Jerry Harrison and Ernie Brooks, you really can't easily tell it isn't still Richman. Lesson learned?

Rex Broome ~ Everything



This remains one of my favorites. The solo Rick 12 has a lot less tightly coiled tension than the slashing guitar and keys of the original, but it also has its own kind of stately uptight menace somehow. And I just like my vocal; it seems very Jonathan without sounding like the easy imitation of him it could have been.

At the time I wondered if I should change my spontaneous lyrical alteration "I-- stay alone-- eat CAT FOOD! AT HOME!" back to the original, if maybe it was too silly. But ultimately I'm glad I kept it. It feels in character for the guy narrating this version of the song, even if it might not've been quite right for Jojo's.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

27. "I've Been Duped" by The Fall

Amazing. Not that The Machine has selected a song by The Fall for me to cover... in fact, I probably have tracks by The Fall than by any other artist in my library. I spent a recent year listening to nothing but The Fall, for reasons too... too something to detail. The weird part is that out of all those Fall tracks-- 1,372 of them-- I ended up with one of the very few that do not feature Mark E. Smith on lead vocals. This song is sung by MES's current wife Ele(a)n(i)(e)(a) (usually but hardly always "Eleni") Poulou.

First temptation was, naturally, to perform it as MES might. But cooler heads prevailed, and I ended up recording this as an homage to Ms. Poulou's penchant for low-tech synthesizers and modulators. Not a single digital loop used here... all of it comes out of one of the most primitive consumer-level keyboards imaginable, with just a few filters applied for interest and in emulation of Eleni.

Rex Broome ~ Everything



I claimed on the analysis of "Egg Man" that it was probably as far as I could go with sequenced samples without knowing how to make real loops. I was wrong; this track takes it further. It just doesn't seem like it because I didn't have to wrestle with tempos.

All of the "drum" tracks were recorded right off of Gen's old Yamaha PSR-11 (see the sadly outdated Gear page) at the same preset tempo, and I simply cut between the different beats and added in fills as needed with surgical focus. The sequency-sounding bassline was constructed the same way, by micro-cutting between single bass notes I just plain played one at a time. There were no real loops nor a tempo grid or anything... it's all just cut end-to-end and synched manually.

Over that I played at least two live keyboard tracks in real time. One of them is insanely heavily treated with what, if I recall correctly, was one of the first effect filters I customized so dramatically that I saved it as a new preset, called "Eleni". It sounds cool and grimy on its own, but the best part of it was that if you were sustaining a not and then added another note on top of it, they made this kind of crackity splitting sound, like a bunch of pool balls colliding and repelling off of each other.


The kids were watching TV while I was recording the vocals to this one, and this of course being way back when my daily recording of crazy stuff still held some novelty for them. They were incredibly amused by my increasingly wacky delivery of the backing vocals on the chorus, so I played that up for their entertainment.

About halfway through it I did a few backing vocals which are intended to sound like Dalek voices. The kids had just started getting into Doctor Who at that point, so they found it very funny. It goes down in 39-40 history as, I believe, the third Who reference, and the second one in a row after "egging by TARDIS" in "Egg Man".

The cover art is part of a long standing ambition/joke I've had about releasing and album or an EP or something of my own entitled Frampton Comes Alive, with only the band's name added to the original artwork. Eventually I decided that it would also be a funny thing for The Fall to do, during a period where I was actively submitting fake Fall album titles, track listings and cover artwork to a thread dedicated to such things on the Fall Online Forum. So that cover art was already, bizarrely, lying around on my hard drive. Hey, it's me.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

26. "Egg Man" by The Beastie Boys

I reckon this one's a classic for just about anyone my age. I don't think I know anyone who actively dislikes the Beasties, except for those harboring a pathological disdain for hip hop (which is probably its own punishment). I was excited to see this one pop up on The Machine because I knew offhand that I had a good deal of the source material sampled on it-- the Mayfield, the PE, the film scores-- but it got even better when I discovered that I had a killer cheesy synthstrumental cover of "Superfly" by Synthesonic Sounds, of which I made liberal use.

The artist for this installment of 39-40 is Braine, a group which has theoretically existed for a nine months or so now since the name was made up by Eden and her guitar teacher Dan West: it was to be a power trio consisting of all my daughters and named after a combination of their last names, Broome and Hain. Eden's already writes songs for and fronts the band Wye, and Miranda is coming along nicely as a bassist and cellist, but the lack of a drum set has prevented Ridley from rounding out the lineup. Nonetheless they all appear on lead vocals here, so I'm calling it the band's debut.

Eden Hain ~ MCA (and additional engineering)
Miranda Broome ~ The King Ad Rock
Ridley Broome ~ Mike D
Rex Broome ~ Musical assemblage and the rest of it



By some reckonings the first true "classic" of 39-40, and I definitely can understand why. The things that grabbed the most attention in the early months of the project were (1) recognizable songs, which were rare at the time since the originals were being randomly selected from my vast-ass library, and (2) contributions by the kids, both for the adorability factor and then, increasingly, because they did stuff they probably shouldn't be able to do. Having them do a basically fun, prankster-y kind of rap was a natural.

Here I took the collage process about as far as I could without learning how to make real loops. And it was damned hard. I was running the Garageband loops that make up about 50% of the backing track at the approximate speed of the fake version of "Superfly" that was the source of my primary groove. It wasn't an exact fit so I had to do lots of trimming as I went along. From there on it was a slice and dice fiesta with me hacking up bits of the Psycho theme (which I'd captured from video years earlier as a soundbite for a Halloween compilation), the Jaws theme, Public Enemy, and, ultimately, the kids' vocals. This early in the game they hadn't quite dialed in how to keep up with the beat, so the vocals were done line by line and then required a lot of editing to get to the form you hear on the track. They would get much better at this, and the older the kid, the easier it was, for natural reasons.

The bottom line was that it was a long, long process that would've taken a lot less time once I learned how to create loops, but the editing basically worked out. What isn't so hot on the final product is the mixing, which is all the hell over the place. I wish I still had the session tracks for this one, because I could fix it up a lot now, but it's gone with the wind and this will have to do. A lot of people enjoyed it, so I don't worry about it any more than I have to.

EASTER EGGS (no pun intended):

In addition to the samples mentioned above, most of which are either the same sources used on the original or covers thereof, I rather obviously incorporated bits of "I Am the Walrus" by The Beatles and "The Little Black Egg" by The Nightcrawlers. "The Little Black Egg" would later be covered in its entirety on 39-40 with Miranda doing most of the heavy lifting, whereas big chunks of "Walrus" would be used in the Frankensteinian creation of this monstrosity.

The lounge-synth version of "Superfly" that I used in place of the real one is by Synthesonic Sounds, and it is dope.

Perhaps oddly, I didn't use any samples from the original Beasties version of "Egg Man" at all.

Most of the lyrics are intact with only a few shifts... "the eggs did crack on Andy's back" refers to the lead guitarist in Eden's band at the time, and then Eden raps "My name's Eden and I throw the yolk" where it useta say "Yauch". Her coughing fit at the end was a real coughing fit.

In my vocal turn as the actual Egg Man, I throw in a few references, one to Tony Perkins (as the Psycho music plays on the track), one boast about "egging by TARDIS like Doctor Who", and a claim to have "buried Paul" vaguely inspired by the "Walrus" samples. At the time, Eden and I were really into a weird entry in the 365 Project gleaned from a tape of a '70s radio show melodramatically detailing the "Paul is dead" conspiracy... we just found it endlessly amusing.

Monday, April 12, 2010

25. "Hips and Abdomen" by Cathi Stout

The battle between irony and sincerity continues unabated.

The problem in choosing a side is that both ethics are correct at times. Sincerity has the virtue of being pure and heartfelt, but there are things which are clearly bunkass, and being sincere about such things is worthy of ironic derision. On the other hand, irony as a kneejerk response to everything is just plain reprehensible. And the war rages without so much as a ceasefire.

All of this is by way of saying that it can be very confusing to enjoy "outsider music" as much as I do. That's largely because the term is slippery and best, and the people who collect and present this kind of stuff (curators, I suppose) have any number of agendas. All of us are interested in recordings and compositions outside of the mainstream and all but forgotten. Some of us are scholarly, some of us semi-professional nostalgists, and some are doubtless just looking for laughs at the expense of the people guileless enough to commit their odd, odd selves to tape (or similar). For me, the rewards come when I can be both amazed by the sheer weirdness of a piece and yet still emotionally relate to the impulses and desires behind its creation, and be moved in a profound way. It's a thrilling feeling and it does my favorite thing, almost, of all: challenges my ideas of what songs and recordings can be, what kind of things can touch us. Of course, sometimes I snicker, too. And don't feel great about it afterward. But the rewards are many.

Anyway, what we have here is an excerpt from... well, a 1970's Gospel excercise record. It may well have been put forward with a slightly condescending smirk, but at the same time, it's a sound whose like might never have been heard again and it has some anthropological interest. I decided to play it... sincere. Ignoring the exercise bit, I focused on the sort of cut-rate Oak Ridge Boys-style backing track, which is apparently pretty obscure-- can't find any references to it online anyhow-- and tried to perform it in a style that seemed to me more visceral. Which it certainly really isn't, and perhaps ironic derision is the proper response to my take on it. And the fighting goes on.

Final note on the oddity of this process: my recording seems to be of a song called something like "By Faith" or "Step Out Upon the Water", but because of the source from which I pulled it, its title remains, amazingly, "Hips and Abdomen".

Rex ~ guitar and vocal
Photo by Eden Hain



I pretty much stand by my decision to interpret this piece as I did. The above ruminations on sincerity, irony and Outsider Art stand, and I have nothing of consequence to add.

The recording is okay, although the performance gets shakier as it goes on. At this point I hadn't worked out how to record parallel tracks in Garageband, so this, as with all tracks where I sang and played guitar at the same time, was recorded in Audacity, and like most of them the tracks weren't treated with any effects, so it's very dry. Which is okay, but somehow I messed up let the vocal drift into the red throughout the track. It could be worse, but it bugs me a lot more now than it did at the time.

As I still felt a little self-conscious about doing a completely live performance and, more to the point, tended to feel like I was unlikely to get another good take after I'd come close, I left some obvious mistakes in this recording, the most obvious part being when I say that the apostle Peter "died" instead of "cried". It creates a bit of a continuity problem in the song, to say nothing of the Scriptures.


Very obviously I segue into "Lookin' Out My Back Door" by Creedence Clearwater Revival on the playout. That song is deep in my musical DNA as it was one of a very small handful of 45s I inherited from parts unknown as a very young child (along with The Band's "Up On Cripple Creek", a pair of Beatles singles, and "Ode to Billy Joe"). For some reason I sing "lookin' out my front door", though. If there was meant to be any significance to that, I've totally forgotten what it might've been.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

24. "Solar System" by The Beach Boys

So in all honesty, this was the first time I took a look/listen at what The Machine selected for me and went all "Dude, I don't know if I can DO this." It's a Brian Wilson thing. It's got weird chords and changes, and good singing and stuff. I was afraid it might take me more than a day to even unravel the music part. I thought of a few weird ways of doing it, as usual, and then wound up with... this.

A few notes: the background space noises are from a record called "Scary Sounds: Nightmarish Noise for Halloween!" I sort of collect that kind of thing, but it should be noted that I might well have to cover this track itself ("Saucer Wars in Outer Space") one day. Also, I reversed the track to give myself something else to stir into the sonic stew, and ended up accidentally making the sped-up backwards "alien voices" play forward again... you can hear them on the fade-out.

Rex Broome ~ everything



Not very pleasant to listen to, really. The effects on the vocals were just too much. At the time I think I was just trying to cover up for pitch problems on those really hard-t0-sing even the melody lines (I didn't even dare to try the harmonies), but it ends up too garbles to qualify as "whimsical", which had been my hope. I do enjoy the weird little keyboard vibe things that stand in for the entire backing track, but overall it was mostly an attempt to "show my work" in the face of a solution that didn't really work out.

This one was most definitely tracked along to the original song, which was then erased. Without doing so, I think I would have been totally lost on those melodies and quite probably the keyboard parts to. Never even considered playing any guitar on this one.

By far the best part of this is the parody artwork, which wasn't really so much difficult-- it's a grid with all the elements I needed already there in little squares to be duplicated and pasted-- as it was time-consuming. Very effective, though!


There's a backwards vocal of me singing... something... running through the latter part of the track. I honestly don't remember what that was and don't feel like reversing it to find out, because I highly suspect it's just the same vocal as the lead track, just played backward and with far fewer effects.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

23. "I Can't Pretend" by The Barracudas

A lot of people spend a lot of time debating what is and isn't power pop. There's only one thing I'm sure of: if a song has a tight little boogie-sounding bit and then breaks into giant folk chords on the chorus and then goes back again, giving one the impression of listening to Chuck Berry turning into the Byrds and back three times in as many minutes, it's power pop.

Elsewhere, damn am I getting sick of drum loops. I thought about doing this one a little differently, but the truth is, it's so close to what I do with Skates & Rays that I thought I ought to do it "correctly" to make a point, and then when The Machine gives me something by Teenage Fanclub I'll record that one on a toy xylophone played backwards and re-recorded off of a cellphone speaker in my shower. Okay, sorted.

Oh, and a prize to anyone who identifies whose vocal style I'm aping on the word "obsession".

Rex Broome ~ Everything



This seems to me to have been the first time I went all-out to use GarageBand to simulate a real live rock and roll band. When I conceived of 39-40, I'd thought that I'd probably be getting weekly live band performances from Skates & Rays rehearsals, but by this point it had turned out that the band was doing very little due to scheduling issues, so I felt I needed to establish my credentials at what I did "best".

As I recall, it wasn't that hard, but it took a long time, and I was very pleased with the results at the time. In retropect, the drums sound pretty weedy... those are all drum loops that came packaged with Garageband because I hadn't figured out how to make my own drum loops yet, nor had I spent much time working out compression and effect treatments to unify loops from different sources. Still, it's not bad.


The vocalist I'm ripping off on the "it's an obsession with you" line mentioned in the challenge above is, of course, Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs. It still sounds screamingly obvious to me, but I like it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

22. "Alive Again" by Live Skull

If asked to cite one truly great band who's almost completely forgotten, I might well point to Live Skull. Thanks to a rave in Spin, I picked up Live Skull's
Dusted at a tender age, having only read about Sonic Youth and the like, and still harboring suspicions that this whole "punk rock" thing might just be an attention-grabbing put-on. I've still never heard anything quite like it, although at this point I can make connections with all kinds of influences; it still hovers around my personal top 10 records when such things are called for. Thalia Zedek's subsequent band Come got a little more notice and sound positively prescient post-Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but I still prefer the textural guitar tangle of Live Skull.

This song is one of the bonus tracks on the out-of-print CD... it still isn't "on" the album as my mind hears it, because I listened to the thing on cassette so many millions of times. And it's not the greatest showcase of the band, sounding a little more like Patti Smith-meets-Shriekback (NTTAWWT) than the usual controlled sludge-feast. That was a relief for me, because the guitar parts on most LS songs would be damned hard to master in 24 hours, if ever. And to entertain myself alone, I recite my best approximation of Zedek's poetry from the original track stereo left, and something I wrote myself stereo right. Because like the judge said, it's all about me.

Rex Broome ~ everything except:
Eden Hain ~ viola



This isn't the kind of thing most people would want to listen to more than once, if they're even able to get all the way through it... after all, the original is only a bonus track on a difficult art-guitar record nobody's ever heard, and my cover is very true to the atonal, sensory-overload spirit of the thing. But I like the way I got my two overdubbed guitars to seem to "interact" with each other, and the stereo poems are just like on the original. Except that stereo right track, which is the poem that I wrote for the recording, and it's not too bad... which is a good thing, because Thalia Zedek's poem on the left channel is way better than most poems intoned over arty rock music.

My enjoyment of it is a little bit dulled by the fact that I'd go on to do too many other things like it on 39-40... confusing overlapping vocals, slashy noodling guitars, no real focus. But it was a legitimate treatment of this particular piece, I think.


Surprisingly my original poem seems to be devoid of clever references to anything.

However, interjected into Zedek's poem is the question "Does the home secretary have the barest faintest inkling of what's going down?" or some misquote thereof; it's line from The Fall's "Telephone Thing".

"The cat's going nuts" at the end is a description of what was happening in the room as I finished recording the vocal.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

21. "The Legendary Morris Windsor" by Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3

Strategy #2 for when The Machine assigns me to cover stage patter: make it into a song. I had this funny little riff thing I made up while troubleshooting the Twin yesterday, and, fortunately, some entertaining verbal riffing by Hitchcock and Scott McCaughey (from a Venus 3 gig at Maxwell's in November of 2006) with which to work, so it could've been worse.

I'm... not entirely sure I really have a Strategy #3 worked out.

Rex Broome ~ Everything



Wow, that's a short writeup, considering that I basically wrote an entirely new song for this track! Not much of a song, but it does sound plausible as one of the more lighthearted early Soft Boys tunes... sort of...

I count this as a pretty solid success. The music part didn't take too long to construct... I had the riff and that little intro thing which served as the "Maxwell's" refrain, and I think I pretty much made up the two bridges on the spot (I don't think they're even the same as each other), then played the bass to match and edited the drums accordingly.

I guess it's a trifle in a way, but what else is to be done with a randomly selected track like this one once you've already had female Indian robots in the middle of the ocean recreate stage patter? Well, there are a few more strategies left, but this one is about as good as it would get. I kinda wish there had been more tracks like this, but after I stopped using the randomizer halfway through the project, it became unlikely that this kind of non-musical and for all intents and purposes not-intended-as-art track would become source material.

My favorite part, really, is the strained and seemingly impassioned backing vocals on the bits that are clearly just someone thinking out loud... "It might've been '86!"


The text is almost verbatim what Robyn and Scott (and Morris) say on the original with only very occasional alterations to fit the meter or make transitions.

"Oh no no no" is a lift from The Monkees' "Last Train to Clarksville".

"Tell me, Morris" on the fadeout is from Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians' "Tell Me About Your Drugs". Morris is the band's drummer, but the band have all swapped instruments on that track and Morris is on guitar. Robyn yells, "Tell me, Morris!" right before the guitar solo.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

20. "Kill the Mockingbird" by House of Freaks

House of Freaks is probably, sadly best known these days for the tragic death of its frontman Brian Harvey, and for being well ahead of its time in featuring the kind of minimalist lineup (just one guitar and drums) that wouldn't be embraced until much later in the post-White Stripes world. They also had some cross-pollination with Cracker and played with Sparklehorse, whose Mark Linkous has also just passed away too soon. Me, I really like Harvey's voice. It's a clear insistent folk-rock tenor, similar in some ways to the underrated Ed Crawford of fIREHOSE, emotive without putting on any kind of forced false grit. It may well come from having been raised on The Kingston Trio, but if I could choose what kind of singing voice I had, I'd pick something very much like Harvey's.

My version went for a sort of (more) noir feeling... I can really get into the vibrato sound of my Fender Twin. The wobbly timing issue sort of compounded themselves over the recording of the track... sorry about that. I do these things rather quickly, you know.



Categorizing this one is a little bit tough... I guess I'd classify it as "Big Production Number (Non-Fake-Rock-Band Division)". I hadn't thought about it much before now, but that's a useful description to have lying around.

Although I do still hear the timing issues alluded to in the blog entry at the time, I'm much more bothered by the inconsistency of the mix. At least I was when listening to it on my car stereo recently... the balance sounds a little better on the tinny speakers of my MacBook. Of course, one of the big challenges with mixing in general is getting the recording to sound as good as possible on as many different sound reproduction devices or situations as you can. This requires a bit of time to be spent trying the mixes out on various sound systems, but over the course of 39-40 I rarely had time to do that. Usually I'd do the mix with headphones, then listen to it on the MacBook speakers, figuring that those were the extremes: super high detail and bass clarity in the phones, crappy everything on the computer speakers. But sometimes things just turn out differently when they come out from blown speakers, or even working ones in your car. There are a few latter day 39-40 songs I may even remix, particularly the ones that seem to me as if they might be quite good indeed if not for the mix, but the mix session for this song was lost along with all the others through September or so of 2010 in the Great Hard Drive Crash.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

19. "St. Mary" by Rancid

Looks like all the inevitable curveballs of this process are happening right up front. Here, for the first time, is a song by an artist whom I don't like very much at all. Funny how one man's pargaon of punk-rock integrity is another man's quintessential poseur posse, seeming to endlessly rip off The Clash without bringing anything new to the table. This record is lurking in my library on the off-chance that someone I respect tells me to give the band a serious try.

But the aim of 39-40 isn't to bash artists, it's to take each song offered up by The Machine on its own merits and try to come up with a response to it or interpretation of it that furthers or redefines its intent. What we have here is a song-story with guns and love and revenge... maybe I will like it better if I turn it into straight country. Worth a shot anyway.

(It's times like this that I wish I had some nearby friends who were like ace country pickers and I could just call them up and say, "Hey, you busy? Wanna drop by and throw some pedal steel on this thing?" But alas.)

Rex Broome ~ Vocal & guitar



This is another one of those early vocals that sounds way better than I remember, and way better than most of them that I've done lately. That's more than a little frustrating.

I'm a little surprised that I added a harmonica but not a high harmony to this one. Most likely I was going for a true Guthrie-style solo artist feel, although I'm not entirely sure whether or not I cut the guitar and vocal separately or at the same time.

Most 39-40 songs fall into one of maybe six trope categories. Faux-Folk Balladeer is one of the big ones, and this is probably the third one I'd done at this point, after "To Beat the Devil" and, perhaps oddly, "So Let's Get Truth".


The added phrase "Smoky Mountain rain" is a shout-out of sorts to the Ronnie Milsap song by that title, which I actually do like in a not-very-ironic way.

Monday, April 5, 2010

18. "How I (Learned My Lesson) (Live)" by X

I love X so much that I actually have a pet named after one of its members. Now, that may or may not have something to do with the fact that she's a white female cat and my daughter, about 3 at the time we got the cat, like to proclaim very loudly that she wanted a WHITE GIRL cat, but in the end, I have to take responsibility for naming the creature Exene. Which would become even more embarrassing a year or so later when I started dating a woman who knew all of the members of X pretty well, and had for a long time. She married me anyway and now gets really irritated when Exene pees on the couch, not giving the name a second thought.

This was... difficult. Some hairpin turns, sudden changes not where you'd think they are... actually a small universe of inventive musical decisions for a punk rock tune. It's X. Anyway, I wanted to play this on ukulele at first, but it was too hard to get the chord forms up the neck formed by my fingers, so it migrated back to guitar. I needed some kind of percussion to lock in those jerky changes so they didn't sound like mistakes... hence the tambourine. And then... the vocals. It took two of me to (start to) equal one Exene, and then there was Doe's part. I love X. But this was hard.

Rex Broome ~ Everything



Not much to add to this one, other than that the memory of how tough it was to get down really prevents me from having an opinion as to whether or not it's good. This was another one where I literally played along with the original song when recording the guitar part. At the time I think that it was necessary to do so given the complexity of the music. After doing this for a year, I think, but couldn't swear, that I could play this one unaided now. Not saying it would be easy or anything, just that I could do it. Maybe.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

17: "Intro To: Where Have All the Flowers Gone" by The Kingston Trio

This was bound to happen. Note that what The Machine has selected for me here is not "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" as performed by The Kingston Trio, but the spoken intro to a live performance of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" from the K3's 1967 concert album Once Upon a Time. An odd thing to cover, but there you are.

Fortunately I had prepared for this eventuality. I have a number of strategies for dealing with such tracks, and here's the first one.

Rex Broome ~ Assemblage and banjo what needs restringing



The first, uncredited appearance of Anjali, who would continue to unwittingly contribute to 39-40 until the bitter end. Here, for some reason, I seem to have use her to portray both John Stewart and Bob Shane. Which would have been fine (not great, but at least comprehensible) had I panned them to specific places in the stereo picture, instead of setting both instances of her voice to the "wandering around" effects setting.

I actually think I know why I used two Anjalis, although I can't recall whether it was conscious or not: around the time I recorded this one, my wife Gen had just gotten a pair of new co-workers of Indian descent, both named Pooja. This seemed so unlikely to me that I must surely have intended the double Anjalis to reflect the double Pooja presence in our family life. I can't go much further with that line of thinking, though.


I was surprised and a little bit disappointed with myself to realize, upon listening back to this track, that I'd used the sound effect of the lonesome buoy from the end of the opening scene of Jaws here, well before its more appropriate appearance on this track. I'll go into more detail about the sound on that entry, but the fact that I unknowingly used the same ambient effect twice really makes me wonder about just how limited my imagination is.

Finally, I have no idea why the text in this section is showing up in an unbroken glob like it is. Believe me, I would stop it if I could.