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Monday, May 31, 2010

74. "We All Got to Help Each Other" by Kenny Rogers & the First Edition

Some people feel like they've turned into their father when they start having to wear a suit to work. Not a problem for me because neither my father nor myself have ever had to do that. Other people feel like they've turned into their father when people start calling them "Mr. (Surname)", but my dad was never Mr. Broome. He was always Coach Broome. No, for me, I start to feel a little like I've turned into my dad when I start recording Kenny Rogers covers.

But I learned some interesting things prepping this one, one of which was ZOMG THE ENGLISH BEAT TOTALLY STOLE THE ALBUM ART FOR ONE OF THEIR RECORDS FROM KENNY ROGERS!!!11!!1 But it doesn't stop there. I have more affection for the other Mr. Rogers than a lot of folks might, and of course "I Just Dropped in to See What Condition My Condition Was In" is mighty mighty, but The First Edition sounds in some ways almost interesting enough for me to get really into them... I just coincidentally found out a thing or two about their drummer Mickey Jones, and then there's the fact that Rogers was also their bassist, and they sound really great in that '70's rhythm-section way I've started to really dig over the past five or ten years. And that it was none other than Glen Campbell rocking that backwards guitar on "Condition". There's the oddball subject matter on a lot of their tunes, their network variety show, and... well, it all sounds pretty intriguing. If you're me.

Of course my first thought on how to cover this was massive psychedelic dub. There are some wiseass moments on this recording that make me squirm a bit. I try to play my 39-40 with a straight face and "jokes" can read as contempt for the material. I don't want that, but at the same time, I was pretty angry about this that and the other thing today, so my filters were down, I guess, and it was something new, so I left them on there this time.

Personnel: Rex
Embodies big chunks of a couple of other tunes again. References available upon request.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

73. "Medication" by Primal Scream

You'll either get this one instantly and entirely or not at all.

Again, there's a story as to how this happened, but I'm keeping it. I'm currently finding myself more often than not of the Dylan "a song is anything that walks around on its own" frame of mind. These songs have all been walking without my help for years. I am at best helping them across the street.

Primal Scream is a weird artist. In one sense I like them probably more than I should, but I also have more problems with them than I should with an artist I really like. The main issue is that their straight-up rock material usually strikes me as so banal and tossed-off as to suggest that they're not even made by the same folks who craft the great trippy dubby psyche-y stuff that they do so very well, never better than on Vanishing Point. And they're so good at crafting monster covers of songs that are so fantastic to begin with-- "Slip Inside This House", "Five Years Ahead of My Time", etc.-- that it's hard to imagine them being into the Black Crowes-sounding stuff themselves, but there it is.

Rex Broome ~ Noises.
Embodies a big whole chunk of a separate tune by Mr. Lewis Reid.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

72. "Little Latin Lupe Lu" by The Righteous Brothers

I've never met Lisa Dunn... she lives in Morgantown, WV, and is a friend of Mr. Tom Heckman. One of the first decisions I made about how to cover this not exactly culturally progressive tune was to do it in Spanish, which I do not speak. I put out a call on Facebook to anyone who might be able to help on the vocals. Living as I do in a city where there are roughly equal amounts of Spanish and English speakers, I figured this would be easy, and so of course the first volunteer I got was from Appalachia. Which is just about absurd enough to be true. Tom recorded Ms. Dunn in Morgantown, sent the vocal along to me, and I built it from there.

The girls of Braine didn't end up being able to contribute nearly as much as I'd hoped. Perhaps as some form of compensation, I actually used MIDI for only the second time ever (at least in the way it's meant to be used)... the sequency stuff on yesterday's track was really my first attempt to use it sensible at all, and today's seemed to positively demand a horn line, so I gave it a shot. I guess I am belatedly picking up some musical skills these days. Old dog new tricks...

Lisa Dunn ~ Vocals and translation
Tom Heckman ~ Recording and engineering (WV)
Eden, Miranda, Ridley ~ Random musical contributions

Friday, May 28, 2010

71. "The Sounds of Pain and Pleasure (Track 16)" by Tortura

The joke would be something along the lines of how inevitable it was that one of my many, many '60s bondage LPs would be selected by The Machine sooner rather than later. And if you're curious as to what the hell this is-- and I'd imagine you may well be-- it's this.

One weird, occasionally frustrating thing about using iTunes as my randomizer is that every time I refresh the iTunes DJ thing to see what my next assignment is, I get not just the one track I'll be doing but at least a look at the tracks after that in the playlist, which I won't be doing, and sometimes they seem irritatingly more inspiring than the actual selection. And then sometimes if I'm multitasking and one of my tasks is to listen to the assignment track, I'll space out and suddenly the next tune will come on before I hit pause. Such was the case with the William Conrad track I ended up using as a sample here... I was really surprised and entertained when the opening words came blasting through the headphones.

I almost ruined this track a million times, so I'm grateful that it's listenable at all. Going into it, I had in mind how so many of the audio collage entries have been largely devoid of melody... that's fine, of course, but I thought it would be fun to try to do a tuneful one. Somehow I remembered a demo of a sketch I'd recorded in my bedroom 22 years ago, which I'd later found on a cassette and retroactively entitled "Annoying Bouncy Song" for obvious reasons. It was never going to become a "real" song, but it seems kind of cool here.

Rex Broome ~ Everything except:
Derek Hanna ~ (Formerly) live drumming
William Conrad ~ Spoken word (from this LP)
Joe Aufricht ~ Vocal samples (from this... erm, thing)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

70. "Linden Arden Stole the Highlights" by Robyn Hitchcock

I thought this one was gonna rilly rilly suck balls, but I like the way it turned out quite a lot. I could tell the story of how it evolved into something totally different from what I'd planned, but here's a totally different story for ya.

Of course this (once again) isn't a Robyn Hitchcock composition; it's a cover of a Van Morrison song. So the first thing I did was to go back and listen to the original. Except for the part where I didn't have the original. I was actually surprised to discover that I don't have, and on reflection must never have had, Van's Verdon Fleece album. Somewhere between knowing a bunch of the songs on it and having seen its iconic cover art millions of times over the years, I just got to thinking I had it. But I don't. And now I'm not sure if I'd ever really heard the original version of "Linden Arden" before. Maybe I did on a cassette dub of some dodgy Van compilation I seem to recall possessing at one point, but it's equally possible that I've only ever heard Hitchcock's version, which is pretty easy to mentally retroengineer into what Morrison's sounds like. I just don't know. In any case, I have the record now, and even used a (heavily treated) sample of the piano on it on my cover.

The most awesome part of this frankly great tune, for my money, is the couplet "Cleaved their heads off with a hatchet / Lord, he was a drinkin' man"... like that explains everything. I snuck a line of my own in there, sort of offhand, but I really like it... rhymes and everything.

Personnel: Rex (except for that piano sample, and I sliced and diced that up pretty good)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

69. "He Put It In the Soul of Everyone" by Joey Kneiser

Joey Kneiser's band Glossary are one of the few current bands which I completely adore but nobody else seems to have heard of. I'm not sure why that should be, since lesser lights cut from not dissimilar cloth seem to have no trouble becoming critical and hipster darlings, but none of them rock my world the way Glossary does. Their record How We Handle Our Midnights helped me through the lousiest period of my adult life, and not just because it was there; Kneiser's songs seemed to be written in the only language appropriate for those wasted days. I've been devoted ever since. I guess Joey is kind of Paul Westerberg now, since somebody has to do it; there's a certain melody to which he returns again and again, and yet I never tire of it. It's probably the basic melody to which I was attuned at birth.

Anyway, this beautiful tune from his recent (free!) solo album The All-Night Bedroom Revival-- which again seems completely to speak to the question of why the hell anyone would do what I'm doing right now on this blog-- might've been a fun thing to turn into a big rock number or otherwise mutate, but because I'm unusually evangelistic for this artist, I've done a pretty faithful rendition, reasoning that if anyone follows up on Kneiser or Glossary on the basis of this recording, they're not going to want to hear something radically different. I have on the whole not a whole lot of evidence that anyone follows my recommendations, and I usually do not attempt to "convert" anyone to my favorite artists... and I actually have no clue how many people even listen to these recordings, but this was an instance in which I felt obliged to dress up and try to be presentable.

There was one word I couldn't quite make out; I sang "resonance", but it sounds like "Residents", which changes the meaning of the line rather severely.

Personnel: Rex

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

68. "The Purgatory Line" by Drive-By Truckers

Sometimes you get put off of a band by arguably incidental factors like the production of their debut record, the artwork of the first record you see by them (I am still haunted by the cover of Tripping Daisy's I Am an Electrical Firecracker or whatever the hell it's called) or, perhaps most deadly of all, their name. I wouldn't say that I hate the name "Drive-By Truckers"... it's more that upon hearing it I immediately filed it under "ignore all future occurrences of these words" as I would with names like "Bloodlegion" or "The Rockin' Good Time Boys". Something about the combination of the name of the band with the album title Southern Rock Opera suggested the sort of arch insincere goofing on country music for which I have increasingly less time as I get older. And it took a few years worth of slowly realizing that people whose musical opinions I respect actually like this band for me to give them a try.

It's been a while since I "Bragged" a song on 39-40 and this seemed like a pretty good candidate. The original has very little guitar and is even in a bit of an odd key for guitar; I went ahead and played it in that key just for fun, but I changed the tempo and added a sort of riff thing to it for fun. And then at the end I sorta tacked on a little piece of a Blake Babies song I didn't entirely remember, but which had a similar melodic figure in it. The guitar is unfortunately a little out of tune... it's one of those things that happen when I do live takes like this. It takes a while to warm up to a full-length performance with any kind of soul to 'em. I have to remember that by that time the guitar is likely to have imperceptibly drifted out of tune, and maybe, like, fix it.

Personnel: Rex
Additional lyrics from "Girl In a Box" by Blake Babies

Monday, May 24, 2010

67. "The Locust Girls" by The Go-Betweens

Ukuleles got really small frets, is all I have to say.

Well, actually I have a few other things to say, like how I'm still pretty seriously haunted by the loss of Grant McLennan. As a songwriter I've usually felt like what I do is a little more similar to Robert Forster's material, but it's Grant's stuff that most often amazes me for how inexplicable its perfectness is. Small words, small melodies, almost always at least one completely original image that seems utterly casual in its construction-- in this case, it's "Feelin' the rain come nailin' down"-- but stops me dead in my tracks even after many, many repeat listens. Seriously. "Bye Bye Pride" has followed me around for ages; it was, along with "Visions of Johanna" and "What Goes On", among the first songs I learned to play for Miranda as lullaby-ish things when she was a newborn, which means that they were also the first songs I could sing and play by heart all the way through. Miranda may think I wrote it.

I got a little ahead of myself in recording this one and got the structure wrong, which gave me a little problem to work out when I recorded the vocal. I decided to just write my own third verse, which maybe Grant would've done. That verse is dedicated to Ridley. I think Ridley could be in any number of Go-Betweens songs.

Personnel: Rex

Sunday, May 23, 2010

66. "Sweet Son of a Bitch" by Afghan Whigs

This literally came within seconds of sounding completely different. I actually recommend, as I usually don't, that you listen to my recording before you read this, so you can evaluate it on its own merits before the backstory ruins it forever.

Okay. Now, since the original is a very brief experimental sound collage, I was going to take this as an opportunity to once again demo one of my originals, and then, to be cute and rationalize it as a cover, take the original Afghan Whigs track, slow it down until it expanded from twenty-some seconds to nearly three minutes, and overlay that on my new tune, cleverly boasting that what could be a more complete "cover" than a recording which contained every last detail of the original, magnified and amplified? And I completed the demo for my original song, spending a particularly great deal of time and effort "perfecting" the drums. Then I respeeded the Whigs track and laid it over the whole thing.

But in listening to the respeeded track, I found that it... sounded pretty cool to me. And so did the drums I spent all that time on. So on a whim I muted everything but the drums and the slowed-down Whigs snippet, and I really really liked it. So that happened.

I was going to add some blatherings about how Afghan Whigs are a band I've always assumed I'd really get into heavily some day, but that day hasn't yet come. But enough navel-gazing already; I have to add vocals to the demo of the newly-minted song whose drum track you hear on this one. It's called "Norma Corona, What Have You Done?"...

Rex Broome ~ Assemblage and engineering-type stuff
Derek Hanna ~ Original drum tracks
Embodies the entirety of the recording "Sweet Son of a Bitch" by Afghan Whigs

Saturday, May 22, 2010

65. "Perfume-V" by Pavement

I have kind of a thing about doing the same type of recording two days in a row, even when it makes sense, and now that I'm posting this one I think I should probably get over it because this might well have been more fun to listen to in the excessive mold of the MBV cover from yesterday. But I'm okay with how this turned out. It got a little more stark (not so much so that it was a skyscraper) but not cloyingly faux-rootsy. I sort of feel like that angle was covered when Nickel Creek did "Spit on a Stranger". Except in their case it wasn't faux, but you get the point.

Appropos to nothing, I don't think I realized that Nickelback wasn't Nickel Creek for quite some time. For a year or so I kept hearing people complain vociferously about what I thought was an unassuming little neo-bluegrass band and I just didn't get it. I still couldn't pick a Nickelback song out of a police lineup, which I suspect is the point, but at least I know they aren't the guys who did that Pavement cover.

Personnel: Rex

Friday, May 21, 2010

64. "I Believe" by My Bloody Valentine

I still can't get over the fact that some Hot Topic band got away with naming themselves Bullet for My Valentine. Hell, why not go all the way and call yourself The Jesus & Mary Chair?

When The Machine spits out the MBV, you have a big decision to make. Do you go for a revelatory recontextualization, or just have the most fun ever making some sweet loud soup? Today's answer was that I had a hard time imagining a reworking of the band's sound that would be any more radical, or for that matter successful, than what Japancakes did to Loveless a few years back. So I opted for loud soup... just a slightly different flavor of loud soup. The thing I like most about my version is the "Tomorrow Never Knows"-style backbeat I added to the verses, a part that's very blurry on the original... a move that I think pushes this thing a little closer to being a pop song.

Personnel: Rex

Thursday, May 20, 2010

63. "Still Life in Mobile Homes" by Japan

A friend of mine compiles yearly sampler collections that go well above and beyond the call of duty, often including an entire disc of cover versions, which is always fun. Early this year I created, as I often do, a big bunch of CDRs of music I'd recently acquired for car listening, which tends to be the way these things get done, and Jeff's covers disc for 2008 (well, 2009 as well, but for some reason this one snuck on a year late) was subsumed into that unholy whole. Anyway.

The cover that particularly caught my attention and had me running it back and forth while driving was a version of "Scary Monsters" which turned out to be more and more basic the further you looked into it. It was essentially a vocal, a drum loop that never altered, and a little keyboard on top with nothing filling out the bass. And that's almost something I wouldn't have thought of, odd as it may seem. I know the covers on 39-40 have a certain ramshackly, half-assy quality, but there are certain things on which I won't cut corners, and it's hard for me to leave drum tracks unmolested for the duration of a song, or a bassline unplayed. Unless particularly inspired to do so. So here's to you, The Vile Bodies: your Bowie cover provided me with a natural template for my Japan cover.

(My not playing bass certainly has nothing to do with being intimidated by Mick Karn nohow.)

Oh, and that's Derek, the drummer in Skates & Rays, on the wall there in the artwork. He, like most rock drummers, is a massive David Sylvian fan and I thought he'd enjoy replacing Mao up there.

Rex ~ Everything
Koto music originally played by Zumi-Kai Instrumental Group

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

62. "Journey Inwards" by LTJ Bukem

During the 90s I listened to a lot of stuff like this. Some of it has held up better than the rest, but overall the vibe, which is its chief characteristic, of this kind of music has an oddly timeless feel to it. I've largely gone back to guitars, at least in terms of the music I create myself, but I still feel an attachment to this idiom as well.

This was an instance where, when I first listened to the track The Machine had selected for me, I immediately concocted a whole kitchen sink of strategies for remaking it. And then I used almost exactly none of them. I had just picked up an acoustic guitar to work out the chords, and laid down the part as a guide to the structure. But I liked what I heard, copied it and put a weird effect on it that could run in parallel to the clean track, picked a few odd drum loops, and suddenly I was hearing something that would've fit in just fine on one of those killer Ninja Tune compilations. I changed tactics accordingly.

The only thing that did make it through the process was the vocal hook. The original doesn't have one, but I thought my version should. I spent some time searching my mental hard drive for a soundbite or phrase which might reflect the title "Journey Inwards", and I landed on this image I'd done for a flyer many years ago, showing Amorfus the Jelly-Chimera and Little Miranda descending into some kind of post-narrative demimonde, drawn quite some time before my real daughter Miranda was born. Naturally I had to have her provide the voice for the character, and then we were 1/3 of the way to a Braine track. Ridley added percussion (with our now-signature DolphinSonic effect treatment) and Eden did a couple of viola tracks, and there you go.

This is so totally damned much better than my earlier electronica experiments on 39-40...

Miranda Broome ~ Dialogue
Ridley Broome ~ DolphinSonic percussion
Eden Hain ~ violas
Rex Broome ~ everything else

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

61. "House of Mirrors" by Will and the Bushmen

Here is a measure of to what extent I will hold on to all music which crosses my path, "just in case". Will and the Bushmen was a college rock band who played a free show or similar at school during my freshman year of (well, yeah) college. I didn't see them, but a number of my friends did, and one of them passed me along the cassingle (I think; it might have been a 1 track CD) of the song "Book of Love" from this album. I notoriously never sold back CDs during the whole time I collected physical media, holding onto even records on which I only liked one song, albums which didn't rock my world at the time but I thought might reveal themselves to me later, and completely incidental freebies like this one. Sort of-- by the time I sold all of my CDs a few years ago after ripping them all to mp3s, I had upgraded the single for a copy of the full-length spotted in a 99-cent bin.

I almost did something "cute" with this song... something cute which would have involved barely "covering" it. But as I started to play around with the song I hit upon a few voicings and a feel that reminded me of something completely unrelated, and I went that route. More importantly, I used the two-mic acoustic setup I test-drove a few weeks back, but with the near-noiseless MOTU instead of my old hissy mixer, and I was able to get a sound that I really liked. I matched a vocal approach to it that made the whole thing a study in quiet. And for what I think is the first time on 39-40, excluding the illness-fueled Mac-mic period, I didn't add any kind of treatment to any of the basic tracks... no reverb, no EQ, nothing. That felt good.

There was one lyric I wasn't totally confident I'd understood, so I sang "Box O' Laffs" as a little nod to the band that became Camper Van Beethoven.

Personnel: Rex

Monday, May 17, 2010

60. "Bury Me" by Dwight Yoakam

I'm not entirely sure what the story behind this Yoakam collection is... it's a bunch of acoustic performances, maybe demos, including some like this one which also appear on Guitars Cadillacs Etc. Etc.; the cassette belonged to my wife and she recalls it as being something she had before Dwight was signed, and the cassette itself bears this out if you, like me, are more familiar than you should be with what crappy blank cassettes which company was selling when during the period when a lot of companies were selling crappy cassettes. It should be noted that the two cheapos pictured here probably sold for enough cash to buy you like 25 CDRs today, and that's with no adjustment for inflation. We were gettin' screwed, is all I can say.

Say, you ask, are those real drums? Why, yes, they sort of conditionally are. In the course of collecting drum tracks from everywhere I could think of lately, I remembered that Skates & Rays had tracked but never mixed a bunch of tunes for Heckman's Christmas record a while back, and I still had the basic tracks. One of the tunes was a version of Neil Young's "Star of Bethlehem" which we'd radically made over into something that sounded like Neil Young playing one of his quiet songs louder. I was just looking into those tracks when The Machine threw this song, which has a similar rhythmic signature, at me to cover. Maybe half an hour's worth of editing Derek's drum track and I had this. Which is refreshing in the extreme.

Always fun to get to do the Thunderhill thing on the bass. Takes me back.

Derek Hanna ~ Drums
Rex Broome ~ Everything else

Sunday, May 16, 2010

59. "Sow the Salt" by Steve Jansen

Funny that the artwork to this one should feature some kind of antiquated sound mixing device, since I am at this point reveling in the improved sonic clarity provided by Heckman's MOTU and all that it has done to improve these recordings.

This is number three in what I'd thought was going to be a four part series of me grafting other songs' lyrics onto my recent compositions, a sort of Kill Eight Birds with Four Stones Collection. But as I've been doing sound and mic checks and troubleshooting gear, I keep coming up with new song fragments and ideas; Eden and Miranda and Gen are all doing some amount of songwriting as well, so the house is on fire with musical creativity, and it's hard to tell how it will end. This one is another fairly ideal composition for the treatment, being minimal and sort of experimental to begin with. The lyrics were so sparse that I ended up featuring a lot more of the lead guitar noodling intended as fills and filigree when I mixed this. Also that guitar solo bit at the end is supposed to go on for seventeen hours, as you might guess, this clearly being "Rex Rewrites 'Danger Bird' Part 73 1/2", but I do have some restraint. Especially the day after the cat thing.

The real title of my song as it will eventually, hypothetically appear is "What You Don't Wish For".

Personnel: Rex

Saturday, May 15, 2010

58. "Shots" by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

What the hell? Okay, calm down. I can explain.

See, like, last night, I was putting the kids to bed, and Eden for some reason was humming the guitar solo from "Just What I Needed" in meows. Miranda somehow got to doing the rhythm guitar part the same way. Somehow it started to seem funny to do a 39-40 in this idiom, but only, really, if we decided that we were going to do it that way before we knew what the song in question actually was.

So it was Eden who actually pressed the randomizer button on the machine, leaving me to watch in horror as it selected the long-awaited first Neil Young tune of the project. And a nearly 8 minute one at that. After all this time, we were going to turn the Horse into a bunch of cats. Could we really do such a thing?

Look, doing this project requires a special type of discipline and self-accountability. If you don't hold yourself to the random part of it, you really have nothing. And, really, there are some catlike elements to Neil's lead guitar and, at least in his higher register, vocals.

There are some great alternate verses for this song on bootlegs of live shows, but I guess you'll have to go find them for yourself. Wouldn't do to have the cats singing in English. Many citizens of the internet hold that they can haz bad grammars anyway.

Overall, it could have been worse. It could have been the feline version of Aphex Twin's "Ventolin" or something.

Eden Hain: Meowing (riff, lead vocal)
Miranda Broome: Meowing (guitar solos)
Rex Broome: Meowing (other), percussion

Friday, May 14, 2010

57. "Ring of Fire (Live)" by Johnny Cash

And so the Man in Black joins the 39-40 Two-Timers' Club.

See, what happened was, I got sick of the buzz in my mixer and decided I had the time to break out the MOTU digital mixer kindly leant to me by the illustrious Tom Heckman some years back, gambling on getting it up and running over the course of the day. I didn't, quite, but I came close enough to massage the resulting tracks into sounding okay despite my incompetence. In fact they're clear enough that I printed the resulting tracks completely dry here, which, while a goal dear to my heart, rarely happens in the end.

What to do with this song was a real conundrum, since it's not only been covered but also re-imagined many times over-- Carlene Carter's new wave, Wall of Voodoo's chilly synthscape, Social Distortion's punkabilly, etc-- but I reckoned that since this was a live version, time was tight, and I knew the song by heart without even listening to it (a first?) I'd just do it live; to add to the challenge I thought I'd play the harmonica live as well along with the vocal track. But it turns out my harmonica rack is missing a wingnut and won't stay in position. Otherwise, I did do it on the fly and present it warts and all. One odd thing that happens toward the end is that I accidentally end up singing part of the melody to The Kinks' "Johnny Thunder", which is, I suppose, an occupational hazard.

Rex Broome ~ Guitar, vocal, harmonica
Ridley Broome ~ Homework-related question

Thursday, May 13, 2010

56. "Misery" by The Beatles

I'm not typically on the "drum machines have no soul" bandwagon... too damned much excellent, emotive and, yes, extremely soulful music has been made with electronic or artificial rhythm tracks for way too long now for that idea to hold any water. But I do love drummers, and never moreso than this week, for one simple reason: you can describe a "feel" to a human drummer, a swing or jumped-beat rhythm or just something loopy and off-beat, in a couple of seconds by making spitty noises with your mouth or whacking the muted strings of your guitar, and he or she will either get it right away or turn out not to be a drummer you especially want to work with. By contrast, it takes (me) hours to wrestle a cut 'n' pasted drum track into the shape I require, particularly on tunes I've written myself since it's rather imperative to impart the feel on those, as nobody's heard them before. And apparently, or at least lately, I write a lot of songs that jump beats all over the place.

And so today up pops the second song on the first Beatles LP. It's got a bit of a shuffle to it, and I didn't feel like teaching The Machine to be Ringo, so I soloed it. And it was cool. I looked around for some instrumental idioms I'd not yet used on 39-40 and quickly came up with nylon-string guitar and a bit of acoustic slide work on a 12-string. I hadn't done the former yet because I just hadn't thought of it, whereas the latter I've eschewed because I suck at it. The best and most gratifying part of this one was singing it. I like it when that happens.

Personnel: Rex

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

55. "Poison Gorgeous" by Violet Indiana

Today, another graft-the-lyrics-onto-a-Rex-composition experiment, and the flipside in many ways to "Maxwell" from two days ago. That was a song whose lyrics were so recognizable that they'd define any piece of music matched to them. This song is so obscure that it almost doesn't matter-- they register as a new composition anyway. The bummer is that the lyrics aren't really that good... I'm actually quite pleased with the "real" lyrics to the musical piece I'm trotting out today, which is the demo for a Skates & Rays song called "Newberry Spectacle".

Violet Indiana is Robin Guthrie's post-Cocteau Twins band. It can't help but suffer in comparison, particularly since it's basically the same configuration except that the very singular Liz Fraser has been replaced by a less distinctive female vocalist. I'm the kind of person who actually likes some of these kinds of projects-- I dig some Crazy Horse records without Neil Young, love Echo & the Bunnymen's Reverberation record, and I was amazed and delighted to see the fake-ass Big Star blow Wilco off the stage a few years back-- but by the same token, I actually have listened to Squeeze by the Lou-less Velvet Underground, and I honestly don't remember a single thing about it. So why do I still have this Violet Indiana record? In case I turn out to be wrong, of course. Because it happens. A lot.

Personnel: Rex

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

54. "Storm in My House" by Minutemen

Okay, this is getting ridiculous... The Machine is out to make it seem that all I ever listen to is Paul McCartney compositions, live Robyn Hitchcock, and lots of Minutemen. That's not the case, although one could do worse, and many people do.

In any case, this was fun-- I moved the action north from Pedro to the Sunset Strip and about twenty years earlier in time-- and it isn't a bad thing to be presented with multiple examples of what's great about a beloved artist in a short span of time. And in addition to marveling once again at the inventiveness and econo-my of the band... what a lyric this is. Hank Rollins gets a co-writing credit on this tune; never noticed that before. This song is from somewhere in the home stretch of the amazing Double Nickels on the Dime, which can't be recommended highly enough in this one reporter's opinion.

Technical irritation du jour... dammit, I can't seem to get my amplified guitar not to break up when mic'ing it any more. Bleh.

Rex ~ Musical shapes
Eden ~ Cover photo

Monday, May 10, 2010

53. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" by The Beatles

Now this was pretty funny, and I actually like the results. I mentioned in the notes to "Fetch the Water" that I was essentially going to have to trick myself into making some riskier moves on 39-40, and I seem to have succeeded. I wanted to do a radical remake without it being "clever" or high concept, and the quickest way I could think of to jumpstart that process was to record the music before I even knew what the song would be. At the same time I have a few songs of my own that've been developed for Skates & Rays which should really be demo'ed, so here was a chance to do the two birds one stone thing. The music for this is a song I'd recently written called "You Don't Have to Do This", and the chorus and bridge even get sung on this recording. Now, why I need to develop Skates & Rays material when I have quite a few boxes of our first album that haven't been sold is a whole 'nother issue... I guess that you'd have to say that although I've never been paid to make art, I have what you call an "artistic temperament" (which is, yeah, often shorthand for saying someone's an asshole; you make the call).

When "Maxwell's" came up as the song The Machine wanted me to retrofit onto my tune, I LOL'ed and everything and them gave it a whirl. It all fell into place in one and a half takes, and maybe you can hear me reacting to some of the happy coincidences-- the "knock" lyric that is echoed in the drum part, the "bang bang" rhythm that was already there at the head of the chorus, and the lead guitar accidentally personifying Rose & Valerie-- as I heard them for the first time while singing it.

Personnel: Rex

Sunday, May 9, 2010

52. "Know" by Nick Drake

It's often a surprisingly emotional moment when I first see what The Machine has picked for me. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I get excited, but this one was something else. Kinda gave me a chill. I probably whistled or muttered something profane. Pink Moon is a famously stark, minimal and harrowing record, and this song is probably the starkest, minimalest and harrowingest one on it. For someone as deft and literate as Drake to put forward a song which not only doesn't have a chord structure, but doesn't even have a chord at all-- the guitar line has all of four notes to it; the vocal has two more-- says something, and the words are even more fatalistic and scary. Drake's has long been the rock and roll (?) tragedy closest to my heart, devoid as it is of extenuating circumstances like drugs, booze, bad relationships, corporate abuse or whatever else. The man was simply depressive, which, at baseline, is my problem as well, and where he's at on this song is a natural place at the low end of the cycle. I almost didn't want to sing it. Honestly. Just wasn't sure I wanted those sentiments out there in the world in my voice.

Musically I knew right away that I didn't want to do a straight cover, but nor did I want to trick it out as one of those chillout remixes that were springing up a few years back during Nick's post-VW-ad posthumous hipster heyday. I took my cue from the sparse, tasteful strings on earlier Drake records, some of which were contributed by John Cale, the coolest human being on the planet, and had Eden lay down some viola. Added a few near-Ostrich guitars and there it was. And I did sing it. There are all kinds of soupy effects on the ambient instruments, but the vocal is dry as a bone. I sang it directly into this crazy compressor mic I'd set up to capture the strings on the acoustic, and it was really hard to not breathe on the thing. As I was putting it away I noticed that it had a windscreen in its case. Oops.

Eden Hain ~ violas (violae?)
Rex Broome ~ everything else

Saturday, May 8, 2010

51. "Fetch the Water" by Minuteflag

So now the repeat artists are coming fast and furious. Sort of: Minuteflag was a collaboration between members of Black Flag and the previously covered Minutemen. And as with the Cramps, as a result of doing this song, I am now the proud owner of a font which looks like the Black Flag logo. If this bothers Greg Ginn, then he can release all those classic SST records in listenable digital editions and I'll totally stop being mean to him.

Doing this tune I focused on mic'ing my little percussion arsenal, but it was done pretty quickly and I'm not sure I learned much from it. And that highlights the conflict between two of my goals on 39-40: the one where I serve the song and the one where I learn stuff. If I spend time working out the treatment and arrangement of the song, I'm going to tend to record and play stuff the way I normally do because of time constraints. I'm thinking of ways to even that score somehow and may roll one out tomorrow. For now, I'd have to say Eden's vocal on the chorus makes this one worthwhile, and my attempts to keep up with Mike Watt on bass provide comedy relief.

Rex Broome ~ Everything except...
Eden Hain ~ Vocals on chorus

Friday, May 7, 2010

50. "The Bells of Rhymney" by Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians

I'm going to skip past the unlikely fact that it's Hitchcock again, because so many other factors shaped the way I performed this song. They might give you an idea of how many odd circumstances and decisions go into the simplest interpretations I post here, which, if taken it its logical conclusion, sheds some light on the mind-pummeling amount of things that shape any performance of any song. But some particularly kickass things happened here.

As soon as this showed up I knew I had another cover with an asterisk on it. This is Robyn's cover of a song written by Pete Seeger, but more specifically an extremely faithful reproduction of The Byrds' popular rendition thereof. I was thus charged with creating a cover of a cover of a cover. My first thought was to sing this as a duet with Gen, who loves The Byrds as much as I do-- which is a lot-- but unfortunately she's basically lost her voice and just couldn't do it. So I was pondering doing a radical revision of this, the jingle-jangle version having been done numerous times and also being a second (if not first) nature way for me to do it while I was looking up the lyrics, when I discovered that the name of the town with the silver bells-- I'd always heard it as "Gwye", which seemed Welsh-sounding and tallied with the previous town being Cardiff-- was actually "Wye". And Wye is the name of our daughter Eden's band, in that case derived from a combo of a nods to the Who, the general British Invasion propensity for misspelled band names, and
the spelling of Pye Records, home to the early Kinks material. Finding a connection to The Byrds was cool. So I did a little more mucking about online.

First thing I found out was that Wye is not in Wales, but Kent. But that information came along with a citation of the song's lyrics as being "traditional" and including... a third verse I'd never heard before! In fact, sporting as it did the lines "They have fangs, they have teeth", it seemed like the kind of thing Hitchcock would've included if he'd known of it. Tracing it a little further back, I discovered that the words were neither traditional nor penned by Seeger, but adapted by him from a poem by (yes) a Welsh poet named Idris Davies. Of course, all people with the surname Davies are completely awesome, as are all Welsh people.

By this point my mission was clear: reinstate the lost verse into the otherwise Byrdsian version I was pretty well equipped to produce. So here it is.

Personnel: Rex