Search This Blog

Monday, February 28, 2011

347. "He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones

Completely Unplanned Country & Western Week continues here at 39-40. Cut at the same time as "Loving Cup", with almost the exact same backstory including the feature of another fine Derek Hanna lead vocal, here's one of George Jones' many "comeback hits", and probably the biggest one. Again, the whole thing was Derek's idea.

During this session Cliff told me that a female country artist-- I can't remember who and I can't find any references to it online-- recorded an answer song to this one called something along the lines of "She Never Stopped Loving Him", which kind of made me want to write an answer answer song called "Fat Lot of Fucking Good It Does Him Now That He's Dead", because I think that would make a good country song even, or perhaps especially, devoid of the context.

Derek Hanna ~ Drums, lead vocal
Rex Broome ~ Guitars, harmonica, backing vocal
Clifford Ulrich ~ Bass

Sunday, February 27, 2011

346. "Rocky Top" by The Osborne Brothers

And here's the final mix in the Thunderhill sub-project! Which only means that the sequencing and fine-tuning of the Thunderhill compilation, due out in Summer 2011, can begin in earnest, but at least it's one obligation fulfilled as far as 39-40 is concerned, and there are now only 20 more songs to complete all told. That's pretty crazy... I couldn't even begin to relate this stage to what it was like completing the 20th cover any more than I could then have speculated what was going to happen before I got to 346, much less the end.

These Thunderhill remixes are going to require a lot of finetuning before they end up on the CD, but I've gotten a lot of work done, but the project should be basically fun from here on out. Maybe a little stressful deciding what's going to make the cut and what isn't, but I think its going to be a cool thing for a lot of people, whether they're just looking for copies of the old recordings or into the new stuff and the rarities from the vault. Who the hell puts out a compilation covering 1963 through 2011? Seriously?

Jim Broome ~ Lead vocal, rhythm guitar
Rich Frush ~ Drums, backing vocal
Rex Broome ~ Lead guitar, backing vocal
Tom Heckman ~ Bass, backing vocal
Jerry "Vic" Marsh ~ Tambourine
From the same show at the Honi Honi as all of the previous tracks...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

345. "You're In a Bad Way" by Saint Etienne

And here's the "bonus track" for the Saint Etienne tribute album, a song not from Foxbase Alpha but from the band's subsequent album So Tough. Trivia, So Tough is one of at least two Saint Etienne records to take its title from an obscure-ish Beach Boys track, the other being the compilation You Need a Mess of Help to Stand Alone, which is perhaps the most appropriate title yet for the 39-40 tribute, especially since I've recently realized that we're actually covering the US version of Foxbase which has two stealth bonus tracks inserted in amongst the running order of the UK release. And that's just one more reason I'm more than happy to add this song to the package.

Another is the opportunity to feature New Zealand's own James Dignan again, this time in the spotlight. The list of contributions James has made to the project is long enough that I'll just advise you to do a search for his name on the blog to get caught up. Working on this project made James aware of the unfortunate demise of his trust 4-track, so this is his first digitally-recorded home project. Funny, it sounds better than most of what I'm coming up with after nearly a year of this stuff...

James also provided his own cover artwork, based on one of his own paintings. Yeah, James wears many hats. You can see some of them hanging at his website, here.

James Dignan

Friday, February 25, 2011

344. "Loving Cup" by The Rolling Stones

This is not only the first time I've featured a lead vocal by Skates & Rays drummer Derek Hanna on 39-40, it's the first time he's gotten a lead vocal on an "officially released" Skates & Rays recording. That's just plain ridiculous, because it's always been a part of the Skates & Rays thing that Derek not only sings but may well be the best vocalist in the band. This Stones cover was Derek's idea for a cover to throw into the set at the Oyster House a few weeks back, and I really wanted to record it while it was relatively fresh in our minds. It starts out a little rough, but it gets better, and I'm very happy to present Derek's singing for the first (but not last!) time on the blog.

Derek Hanna ~ Lead vocal, drums
Rex Broome ~ Guitars, backing vocal, harmonica
Clifford Ulrich ~ Bass

Thursday, February 24, 2011

343. "Do It Clean" by Echo & the Bunnymen

Charlie Eckstrom has appeared on 39-40 in the form of an information-ghost, most notably on this track which was constructed out of a very old demo tape of a song he had written, and this one which was cut together from a recording Charlie, Derek of Skates & Rays and I did a while back, but this is his first appearance in the flesh. Like the Skates guy and Tom Heckman, Charlie's a guy I've done a lot of music with, for a long time, and it really wouldn't have done to have 39-40 shut down without having him on. Nor would it do to have Charlie's epic version of this Bunnymen tune, which has been his concert calling-card since before I met him, slip into the mists of obscurity. So here he is, belting out his take on the live version of "Do It Clean", with Skates & Rays doing our best to keep up with him.

Hell, I can't believe I haven't done Bunnymen tune before now. I mean, I did do an extensive quote of "Silver" as an addendum to "The Daily Planet" by Love last July, and I was quoting "Never Stop" as recently as a week or so ago in "Into My Hands", but somehow a full cover has never happened. Those quotes, and I'm sure there are others (hell, this song itself is quoted in one of my original songs, "Dead Tongue") stand as a testament to have very very much I love the band.

Charlie Eckstrom ~ Vocal, guitar
Rex Broome ~ Guitars
Derek Hanna ~ Drums
Clifford Ulrich ~ Bass

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

342. "Won't Find Better Than Me" by The Kit Kats

People, I'm really tired, and really burnt out, and sort of struggling to stay just two days behind on the blog right now, and it comes down to this: gremlins. There's no other explanation. No matter what I do, I can't stop that 13-string track at the beginning of this song from breaking up all staticky-like. The meters didn't peak; the waveform's not squaring off; none of the tracks are in the red. And the gear I'm using is the very definition of industry standard for decades and then some: Shure SM-57 pointed at a Fender Twin, which sounds, as it should, clear as damn bell in the room. And yet that static is there. I've had this issue before with the 12-string sound, but hell, the pickups on my Rick 610-12 are as time-tested as all of the rest of that stuff, and again... it sounds clean in the room, and it's not pegging any meters. So W, I ask you, TF?

What's particularly irritating is that this track is actually meant for better things, and all told it's the last track but one for me to finish before tucking into seriously compiling the upcoming Thunderhill double-disc retrospective. So it's supposed to be good and stuff, and most of what I achieved on it tonight is pushing it in that direction, it's just... that... damned... guitar...

However, this is a pretty good performance of a Thunderhill live staple, and once again a rare opportunity to hear the original version of a song which changed drastically from its inspiration, as it was easily able to do because nobody's ever heard of the Kit Kats. They are tucked away in the record collections of a few collectors of forgotten "sunshine pop", but I found them because my dad's band did this song and my mom put a lot of their tunes on the 8-track compilations she made for car trips (yeah-- I know-- my mom made mix tapes, how awesome is that?) and when pretty much everything they ever released became available on a CD compilation, I had to get it as a gift for the family, and happily kept one myself... because it's still really kickass. Looking at it from the perspective of your average sunshine record, it's got less filler and more originals (man is it weird how many bands recorded "The Nutrocker", but as this was the only version I heard or knew of for years I can still even dig it), but the main thing is that the standout tracks are really inspired. A lot of what you'd expect, but top-flight in execution-- big vocal harmonies, crazy keyboards, orchestrations-- and the songs are really good, complex and ambitious without the least bit of pretension and almost all catchy as hell. There's this one, of course, but also the maybe-better-known and dazzling "Let's Get Lost on a Country Road", "Breezy", "That's All Right", "You Got to Know"... man, good, good stuff that should be heard by any fan of chamber pop in its original form, Zombies, Beach Boys and all.

Jim Broome ~ Lead vocal, rhythm guitar
Rich Frush ~ Drums, vocals
Rex Broome ~ Lead guitar, vocals
Tom Heckman ~ Bass, vocals
Jerry "Vic" Marsh ~ Tambourine
Recorded live at the Honi Honi, Summer 2010 by Heckman, messed with by Rex at Minco in early 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

341. "Houdini Blues" by Kristin Hersh

So I find myself three days behind... this kind of thing would never have happened in the early days... but I develop this great plan for how I'm going to bash out three songs today without any of them sounding subpar, thanks to the backlog of band tracks I have at this point. That's when I reach for my MOTU... and find it doesn't work again. No, I never really solved the whole issue of what's wrong with it, but by and large it has behaved itself for a couple of weeks, only crapping out once and being easily reset on that occasion. But not this morning.

So I decided to give it a rest and see if it'll come to its senses while I bash out another weird phasey open air recording in the bedroom. I'm really surprised that I didn't pull this song out during the Lightning Round... I've been playing it for a long, long time.

Personnel: Rex

Monday, February 21, 2011

340. "This Is Radio Etienne" by Saint Etienne

And here we have a rendition of the opening sound collage of Foxbase Alpha, reconfigured into a similarly-structured sound collage by the enigmatic Monkey Typing Pool, whom you may recall have twice appeared on 39-40, once contributing a cover and once supplying the original track for me to cover.

The Head Poolboy has this to say:
So, my idea was this: I listened to the original, and rather than cover it as such, I decided I would just make a track that was similar to it...vaguely oldish radio-sounding music, "foreign" talk, etc. There's no musical similarity at all (except accidentally); I just went for structural similarity.

Most of my foreign jibber-jabber means nothing. Except in the middle - that's pseudo-Slavic-language for "This is Radio 39-40" (phonetically, something like "den siss rod-nyom tronsip-nupp fartsip")...
Heh heh heh... fartsip.

More on the creation of the track can be read here.

Monkey Typing Pool
Keyboards, sound effects, completely made-up "foreign language," samples (based on excerpt from Antonio Russolo's "Corale and Serenata" - 1921).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

339. "Like the Swallow" by Saint Etienne

I guess I'm becoming a one-man clearing house for Foxbase Alpha tribute art. And I'm far from done.

This is the first big vocal piece from the album to be covered, and once again it started in one place and ended up in quite another. When we last left, um, me, I was determined to get the kids to play as a real live fake string section, and out of the songs on deck I felt that "Like the Swallow" could best use string accents. So I worked out the chords, transposed it down a half step and some change, and... well, neither "arranging" nor "orchestrating" are humble enough terms for it: I assigned individual notes to two cello parts and two viola parts, and then broke them down into a couple of different rhythms. I also worked out the spooky little synth/horn melody figure that floats through all that cool windchimey ambient stuff at the beginning and wrote that up for Eden to play on viola a couple different ways. None of it was especially artful, but at the same time I was sure that none of it was "wrong".

Then I got Eden to lay down the viola part; I took one of her lines and copied it pitched up an octave with a neat little plugin I just now discovered in GarageBand, to simulate a violin. While Miranda was recording the cello parts, she played part of a gypsy folk tune she had learned, and it happened to be in the same key, so I had her lay down some of that, too, and you can hear it during the breaks as and alternate melody on cello. I lined all of the parts up (it totals out to six tracks worth of strings most of the time) and had a listen to it against the beats I'd looped (which are actually lifted from another Saint Etienne song, "Speedwell") and it sounded pretty good to me. I decided to use it as bulk of the tune's sonic heft, and so I did. The way I spread them out in stereo causes some weird illusions, so I'll just let you know... there aren't any synths or samples or electronic washes on this track, it's all cello, viola and guitar.there aren't any phasers or flangers in use, either... the strings only have reverb and the barest touch of delay on them. The electric 13-string has some old fashioned Fender Twin vibrato on it, but that's about as processed as it gets.

Toward the very end of the recording process Gen volunteered to do the lead vocal, and I was happy to oblige. She'd been encouraged by her vocal on "Rain" and wanted to try something in a different range. It worked for me because I'd been planning on asking her to sing "Only Love Can Break Your Heart", but this one was if anything better for her and I'm no stranger to Neil Young covers. Gen was really happy with the results, saying she thinks it's one of the best covers I've done. I'm pleased, too.

Genevieve Broome ~ Lead vocal
Eden Hain ~ Violas
Miranda Broome ~ Cellos
Rex Broome ~ Guitar, bass, backing vocal, assembly etc.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

338. "Stoned to Say the Least" by Saint Etienne

Jeremy Osner provides the first of what I hope will be a bunch of guest covers of tracks from Saint Etienne's Foxbase Alpha (and if not, I'm gonna be slightly screwed). Amazingly this cover, spotlighting Mr. Osner's fiddle playing, sounds something like I expected it to when Jeremy was matched with this tune, and that's a good thing.

This is, as I undertand it, the first and thus far only track from the Mountain House project. Jeremy's written a little bit about it at his blog Readin, which is eternally linked to in 39-40's sidebar and always worth a look.

I'm excited to have these submissions starting to appear! The idea of the two full album tributes escaping from 39-40's gravitational pull at the last minute is a lot of fun... one might even hope they could have a life beyond March 2011. One might also be deluding oneself; one is good at that.

Oh, and by the way, yes, that is a completely different LEGO recreation of the FBA cover up there. By someone completely else. I don't have anything to do with either of them other than finding them amongst the Series of Tubes.

Jeremy Osner & Dan Rosen

Friday, February 18, 2011

337. "Rain" by The Beatles

Another cover that ended up miles from where it started. "Rain" was the song Miranda was learning on bass for her lessons this week. It also happens to be my very favorite Beatles song ever, being that one Revolver song that isn't actually on Revolver every time you listen to it. Last night Eden was doing a uke performance at the intermission to a poetry reading (just because, okay, no need to make a big deal out of it) at Burbank Music Academy. It was just her and Miranda and myself, and while we were waiting for things to get started, Miranda decided to work on the song with one of the Academy's basses. I ended up picking up a guitar and working on it with her, and Eden hopped in on uke, and it was all good.

So I was going to use that framework as a springboard, inasmuch as one is allowed to use frameworks as springboards, to a version of "Rain" with Miranda and Eden also performing a rudimentary string arrangement on cello and viola. I worked up most of the track you hear on the final version, coming to realize along the way that this really should be a purely wood version of the song, which is why the mandolin snuck in in place of the guitar lead. Miranda laid down her bass part and Eden did the uke, and then we sat down to dinner, at which point Eden pretty much bailed on playing the viola. Which made Miranda's planned cello part a moot point and left me with a track I never would've arranged this way if not for the string parts that now weren't going to be on it. As I sat down to record the vocal, Gen, who hadn't been thrilled with her vocal on "Waterloo Sunset" mentioned that she'd once sung the song in one of her bands and offered to do the lead vocal. Which saved it, but left it resembling my original concept in almost no way whatsoever.

Anyway, tomorrow's a day off of school for the kids... I'll get my string arrangement out of them yet!

Gen Broome ~ Lead vocal
Rex Broome ~ Guitar, mandolin, backing vocals
Miranda Broome ~ Bass
Eden Hain ~ Ukulele

Thursday, February 17, 2011

336. "My Hope" by Molly Lewis

This might've been the least fun Eden's ever had doing a 39-40 contribution... she just had a frustrating time doing the song. I was cooking up a killer chicken and mushroom masala for most of the time she was working on it (that's the type of hands-on control I exercise over the blog these days) and it turned out that what she really needed was someone to scroll they lyrics down for her while she was playing. I still managed to make things difficult by not doing it right, which is why you can hear her whispering "Down!" and "Up!" from time to time. In the end, as always, she nailed it to the ground.

It's a very cute song by one of her latest YouTube uke artists (there should be a sub-area of it called UkeTube, honestly). I have a little bit of a hard time parsing exactly what demographic she's taking to task here: I don't typically think of Jonas Brothers fans as the worst offenders in terms of MySpace self-humiliation, but Molly's probably just a little, well, young. The song dates back all the way to 2008, which is staggering in a way... was it really only two and a half years ago that MySpace really had enough cultural currency to be worth mocking? In fact one of the slightly vexing things about the YouTube musicians, who are damned straight by and large more interesting and engaging than most of the "regular" pop music the "regular" kids are into these days, is that it's so tied to current tech and pop ephemera that it's not likely to age so well. Yes, occasionally some nods to contemporaneous tech become transcendent in the long run-- The Modern Lovers' power of the AM, Kraftwerk's homecomputer, Mark E. Smith being into CB, and 808 State's... erm, 808-- there's a far greater likelihood of ending up with a "Pac Man Fever" or "Convoy", isn't there? Going for today's kids is that they're doing this stuff with a serious panoply of timeless musical settings... I mean, ukulele, for Bowie's sake, how can you beat that for old tech?

Oh, another weird little generational-nomenclatural divide: the kids all say that they have "a MySpace" or "a Facebook", whereas most adults would either say they have a "Facebook" account, or that they are "on Facebook". I have no idea what that signifies, but listen closely and see if I'm not at least a little bit right about it.

Personnel: Eden

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

335. "So. Central Rain" by R.E.M.

Okay, I'll admit it: some part of me has been waiting to make the "R.E.X." joke on a fake record sleeve since 1986 or so. It seems somehow anticlimactic. But it's almost made up for by the fact that I'd somehow never seen the actual 45 sleeve for this song before today, and it's fucking rad is what it is.

The 13-string makes a return here, after being temporarily demoted to a regular 12-string for live purposes. In fact it's doubled here, once played through my Twin and once played through the DeVille, just to see how that whole thing worked. It's neat, but somehow, as much as I kept turning the trim knobs down take after arduous take, both tracks managed to peg the meter at at least one point without my catching it until a day later. The Rick 12 has a tendency to do that fore reasons that aren't totally clear to me. It's a sign of growth, in a way, that these three little hits bug me so much when a year ago I would have totally let them slide, but such putative maturity doesn't make those moments any easier on the eardrums.

Personnel: Rex

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

334. "Go Tell It on the Mountain (Live)" by The Thunder Hill Singers

So now we're oscillating wildly between the different ongoing subprojects, and I'm really cracking into finishing up the unreleased tracks for the Thunderhill compendium. This might be the trickiest one of the lot, although even the best case scenario won't see me cleaning it up as well as I did with "Take Her Out of Pity". It's a live performance from what my previous labeling has as a 1974 show in the old Keyser High School auditorium... seems to me it would have been earlier than that, but when I researched all this stuff before I was pretty scrupulous about the dates, so I was probably more correct then than I am now.

Anyway, it is a pretty nifty performance, but the original recording is way muddy. Dad really wanted me to see if I could clean it up, so I did my painstaking best here. There was just a hell of a lot of midrange mud in it, so I really busted out my whole arsenal of equalizers and filters, none of which I really know how to use, and scrubbed as much of the mids and lows out of it as possible, and then flew in a very narrowly filtered track with just the cleanest version of the low harmony as I could isolate, panned off to the side a bit. With the bass part pretty much gone, I played a new one, and also added a new acoustic guitar to give a little definition to the rhythm. These both then had to be, ironically, muddied up just a little bit so they didn't poke out at the listener as unnaturally sharp compared to the rest of it. I also tracked in a distant tambourine... there is a pretty serious need for something to keep the beat, especially in the middle where some extraordinarily white people make a desperate attempt to clap along in time and fall sadly short.

I've spent so much time on it and heard it in so many iterations that I can't tell if I've improved it at all, although I'm pretty sure I managed not to make it worse. Unlike previous retro reinventions on 39-40, I'm not digging up another artist's version to post as the "original", partly because I couldn't recall or discover whose arrangement the guys were using as a template for this version, but that's probably for the best... in this instance I would rather post a "before" and "after" anyway. It's again a pretty loose definition of a "cover", but it was quality time spent with grappling and modifying someone else's material, so I say it counts. And in this instance, any feedback on how it worked out is very welcome.

Jim Broome ~ Guitar, lead vocal
Ed Jordan ~ Banjo, vocal
Jerry Marsh ~ Bass, vocal
Unknown (pending Dad's feedback) ~ Harmonica
Rex Broome ~ Retcons
Recorded live in the KHS Auditorium, 1974 (?)

Monday, February 14, 2011

333. "Waterloo Sunset" by The Kinks

Catching up on old promises again, here's Gen doing "Waterloo Sunset". And I got her to play lead guitar as well! She's been idly playing that riff and singing the song since I met her, and a recent Facebook discussion of how perfect it is prompted me to bring this into the world. I mean, who better? I have the blog, the gear, and most importantly and in contrast to everyone else, I have Gen. And even then, in terms of her voice, I barely made it... she had a tooth pulled this morning and I don't know when she'll next be able to speak clearly, much less sing this well!

The backing track didn't quite hit my mark, mostly because I recorded the rhythm guitar while Eden was home sick and I didn't want to fire up the amp while she was trying to rest, so it's all amp-modeled, and I really couldn't find or fine-tune the sound I heard in my head for this. It's mitigated in the final mix by the contrast with Gen's lead on acoustic.

The basic drum groove pleases me, though; it's a sample from "Bonita Applebum". A few weeks ago, probably leading up to the cover of "Violet Town" (although I wouldn't swear to it) and after listening to a lot of old 39-40 on CDs in my car and being a little let down at the familiarity of all the drum loops, I decided I needed some new ones and decide to go jackin' for beats, and to do it where I oughta. So I went trawling through my old school hip hop and some of the artists famous for providing the beats upon which hip hop was built. Got some great stuff, but halfway through the Incredible Bongo Band's oeuvre I realized I didn't truly have enough days or songs remaining in the project to use all that stuff, especially considering how many of the upcoming slots are reserved for live band stuff. And after 39-40 wraps I don't see me doing much loop-based recording in the immediate future, so I should really use this stuff now. If that makes your experience of the final month just a bit funkier, then so much the better.

Artwork note: I like to include the cover art for the original 45s of the songs being covered when possible; it's just a little more interesting than seeing the cover of Something Else by The Kinks for the millionth time. But I was surprised to find a sleeve for "Waterloo Sunset" showing the boys still wearing the hunting togs-- as much as I like that gear, it didn't seem period-appropriate. Turns out it's the German single cover and so a little behind the times, I suppose, but I kept it anyway.

Genevieve Broome ~ Lead vocal, lead guitar
Rex ~ Everything else

Sunday, February 13, 2011

332. "A Month of Sundays" by The Church

In case you were worried that I'd forgotten the other album I'm covering in its entirety, here's another step toward the completion of Remote Luxury as reimagined (<-barf term) by Skates & Rays. There's another one partially finished as well... this will get done.

Hearkening back to my conception of the record as a "coming of age" type deal, this track is one of the key elements in that theory. The scenario is sort of the thing I liked to daydream about as one of those weird loner kids: meeting an exotic woman who not only validates one's romantic self but also opens the door to a new and invigorating social world. Although on some level I recognized the druggy implications of the friends as having "good things to add to the blend", I seem not to have registered at the time that the whole thing is a sham, that in the end the woman seems to be trying to take something from the narrator, and certainly using him somehow... she is, after all, a "bad man's woman", probably sent to seduce the singer for unclear reasons. It's all there, but what I heard instead was the chorus's insistence that the singer had felt as if he belonged with these new people, departing slowly and hoping to be asked to stay. I tried to put some of that earlier, naive perspective into my performance of it, vocally, but the arrangement is supposed to suggest the creakier, more world-weary viewpoint: this is now not what happened yesterday, but a long time ago, the bitterness now difficult to sort out from the rush of discovery felt at the time.

SKATES & RAYS as embodied by just Rex this time

Saturday, February 12, 2011

331. "Wilson" by Saint Etienne

The endgame for 39-40, a multi-artist guest star extravaganza covering every track on Saint Etienne's classic album Foxbase Alpha, commences here. Sort of. The truth is, it actually commenced with the very first 39-40 post ever, which was, ironically, the very last track on Alpha. Some would call it destiny.

This track being an audio collage, I again called upon my long-standing partners in experimental noise, Butterfly Distraction. In fact, the Beefheartian guitar and bass bed for this track is extracted from the same recent longform BD performance as used for this track, although you'd never know it: an average Butterfly improvisation goes one for well over an hour and wends its way through so many permutations that you could easily chop it up into far more than just two dissimilar sounding selections.

It was clearly the right thing to do to bring Anjali around one more time to provide the spoken word sample. Matching the male voices was a little tougher... there wasn't a "UK Male Child" voice available in the voice synthesis engine that brings Anji to life, so "Come on Auntie, we'll miss the bus" is actually the same voice as "It's the new money, you know", just repitched and sounding, if possible, even more unnatural and disturbing.

Rex Broome ~ Guitar
Miranda Broome ~ Bass
Derek Hanna ~ Guitar
Clifford Ulrich ~ Guitar
Anjali and friends ~ Vocals

Friday, February 11, 2011

330. "Transmission" by Joy Division

This may sound in some ways like a mashup, but it isn't. It does employ some elements of the original Joy Division recording, but the lead vocal and the approximation of Barney Rubble's guitar scratchery are all new performances by me. Meanwhile, the pieces of the... other song... that you think you're hearing are actually radically reworked bits of a karaoke rendering of it, making this less of a remix/sound collage than the culmination of my various experiments with karaoke tracks, which have included writing my own new lyrics for a song, singing the lyrics in Esperanto (and I have to admit I'd totally forgotten that one), getting crazy with the kids, singing the lyrics to a completely different and much weirder song, and most pertinently to this track, who could ever forget this thing.

As to that other song, as most people who know me are aware, I've long held "Don't Stop Believin'" to be in a dead heat with POD's "Youth of the Nation" for the title of Most Offensively Bad Song Ever, and this has only become more vexing as it inexplicably rises year by year higher into the stratosphere of Universally Treasured Cultural Artifacts. So I did want to piss on it. The inspiration for the use of "Transmission" came from the recent appearance of this piece of genius, which is somewhat funny, but also really gets me excited about just how damned awesome the song is, probably one of the most stirring pieces of minimalism I can think of, the very essence of what was and is so great about postpunk music and the antithesis of the bloat personified by the Journey song.

Now, I know what you're thinking, and if it's not "What the fuck is this asshole talking about?" it's probably, "Oh, God, the tired reductive myth of punk rock nobly slaying the dinosaur-dragons of commercial arena butt rock", and I'm right there with you and would tend to shoot down any such simplification, but hear me out. The years have had their say, and I could really care less about the larger issues. I might once have done, decades ago, but I've long since become a basically punk rock dude who unironically loves Cheap Trick and Glen Campbell whilst despising Smashing Pumpkins and GG Allin. I couldn't care less about the broader cultural implications of music; I like what I like.

But for the moment, with regards to the artists at hand, I'll play the game with slightly more nuance. Even as a kid, the likes of Journey struck me as pablum. The zeitgeist seems to have started to agree with me, and then slowly and insanely to reverse itself, first ironically and then with greater and greater sincerity, to the point where expressing a dislike for stuff like this is viewed as humorlessness or not having gotten over oneself. A tortured path, sure, but hardly less so than what's happened to Joy Division, who cynically might be viewed as an avatar for depression and suicide fetishists, and if it helps I'll admit that I had my prejudices against them once long ago for that very reason. Factor in the complications provided by the entire career of New Order-- probably a lot of people have "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Blue Monday" on the same '80s classics playlists, and there might be as many kitsch-centric reasons to love New Order as there are goth-poseur excuse for blindly idolizing Ian Curis-- and the rise over the last decade of postpunk revivalists running the gamut from the sublime Bloc Party to the execrable She Wants Revenge, and you've got a tough text to parse. But I really think, and maybe I'm just nuts, that if you cast aside nostalgia and peer pressure and listen to Substance back to back with Journey's Greatest Hits, which appears to be the 24th best-selling album of all time in the US, you'd be hard pressed to come to any conclusion other than the obvious: Journey sucks, and Joy Division is awesome.

And so I jammed them together, and if that reeks of novelty, so be it. If you can't smell the sincerity wafting off of my vocal and guitar here, it's not for lack of trying; I simply fail it. It works for me... it's one of the very few 39-40 efforts I've instantly wanted to listen to again and again, and it actually moves me. Maybe that's narcissistic, but you'd have to hope that out of 330 efforts I'd be able to please myself every once in a while.

As a side note, the cover art for my version is a little off the mark for what I really strive for in terms of these things-- they've evolved to be generally intended to function quite literally as virtual 45 sleeves-- but it just amuses me to think that some day someone might run across this image devoid of context and have to figure out what the hell it's on about. At the same time, it occurs to me that, statistically speaking and given the rarely acknowledged real-world eclectic musical tastes of most people, there are probably a lot of Journey and Joy Division CDs rubbing up against each other in a lot of peoples' alpha-by-artist record collections. Not mine, though.

Personnel: Rex

Thursday, February 10, 2011

329. "Weasley's Wizard Wheezes" by Eden Hain

I did some quick math today and realized that there are only 37 more songs to go before the end of 39-40, and almost all of the slots are occupied by subprojects and obligations, so from here on out it's a parade of "last evers". This one marks the second and last appearance of Mandolele, the super-high-end duo Eden and I formed as a semi-joke around the time I got my mandolin and she took up the uke. Here we're doing a new wrock tune of Eden's, which was fittingly written as a duet by Eden and her friend Eden (not making this up) around the idea of the Weasley twins, Fred and George, trying to sort out their future plans in what I think is the fifth Harry Potter book. I'm George and she's Fred. It's a damned sophisticated piece of writing, and Eden's uke chops now clearly eclipse my mandolin skills, but the harmonies and Eden came up with work just fine in our arrangement. We actually performed this as a segue between her set and the Skates & Rays bit at the last gig, and I'm afraid I botched my bit up rather badly. This version is a sort of apologia.

Eden Hain ~ Ukulele, vocals (Fred)
Rex Broome ~ Mandolin, whistling, vocals (George)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

328. "Twenty-Five Forty-One" by Grant Hart

Listening to the beginning of this, you might conclude that it's become a bit of an ideé fixé of mine to do Grant Hart solo songs on mandolin. This one eventually moves on to broader territory, though. One kind of neat thing happens here: on that ever-recycling chord sequence, the voicing I used for what's supposed to be an A minor on the mandolin turned out to be a power chord instead, and the melody barely suggests that it's a minor. So the two or three times that overdriven guitar actually plays the full chord during the playout are effective the first time the "real" chord progression reveals itself. Some call it accident, but I like to describe it as retroactive genius.

If Grant Hart had done nothing after Hüsker Dü other than writing this song (and compared to the output of a lot of people, including Bob Mould, over the last twenty years, that's not for from the case), it would still constitute a brilliant solo career. It's just a fantastic song, also covered by the amazing Robert Forster, and a few others, I believe.

Personnel: Rex

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

327. "Here Comes A Regular" by The Replacements

Continuing on with my efforts to catch up to where I'm supposed to be date-wise and the uncertain functionality of the MOTU unit, this one's another literal bedroom recording... I was even mostly lying down when I recorded it. The very essence of unpremeditated... a first take, although admittedly this, like much of this entire project, would not have been possible without the miracle of having the lyrics instantly available on the same device on which I was recording.

This one goes out to Megan Lahman, who's been an avid supporter of the project since it began.

Personnel: Rex

Monday, February 7, 2011

326. "Dennis and Lois" by Happy Mondays

See, I know this recording sounds weird. At this point the MOTU unit only works about 75% of the time, and certain things will make it crap out not to be revived for several hours. And right after I got everything ready to do this tune, I stupidly did one of those things. There was nothing for it but to proceed using the condenser mic on the Mac, and that meant that a lot of stuff I normally would have played, er, analogically, like bass and electric guitar, got ditched or replaced by sequencing (which might sound good, but programming bass takes me a lot longer than playing it). And then when I started to record the acoustic guitars, for some reason I couldn't get them to stop phasing. There didn't seem to be any electronic reason for it, so it was really puzzling. Thinking about it later, I guessed that the phasing was a natural, physical acoustic thing relating to the room in which I was recording and my position within it: I was dead center in my living room underneath the seam of its rather large cathedral ceiling, and I think the sound waves were just bouncing around in there canceling each other out. The vocals weren't affected nearly as badly, so of course I added some artificial phasing to those.

Jim Poe said to me once long ago, "One thing I really like about the Mondays is that they're kind of total dicks", and I completely knew what he meant. It resonated years later when I was talking with Skates & Rays bassist Cliff about the Stones, and how there was something truly seductive about evil as they portrayed it, much more matter-of-factly than your average faux-Satanic or ultra-hedonistic metal band. Those kinds of bands are off-putting to me because they're really just about establishing their own badassness over and over again, never really getting to anything else. The Mondays and the (interesting, evil iteration of) the Stones don't take much time to posit their own evil or threateningness: it's just there, and then they're on to the next thing. The Cult of Badassery seems to have grown to new levels of all-pervasiveness in recent years, and it's hard to imagine a "bad boy" group being as totally weird as the Mondays in this Michael Bay world... nobody hoping to look threatening to your mom would bother to be as goddamn groovy, or to spew forth lyrics about whatever the hell it is that Sean Ryder's on about when some gothy makeup, a scary logo and a broody, sharp-sounding name will do the trick. And I loved the Mondays for it, bastards though they were and are. In some ways, it was a dry run for my later mania for The Fall (whom I actually heard and liked well before Happy Mondays existed, but didn't become pathologically obsessed with until much more recently)-- it's beyond imagination that Mark E. Smith and Sean Ryder appeared at the same spot on the map, because while they're really two of a kind, the parallel only really holds on paper, and hearing either man at work you'd never begin to get them confused.

One last piece of Fall-related trivia: a few years back I was following a Fall discussion group trying to piece together the sordid tale of the backstory and fallout of the infamous Brownies gig, with then-Fall-member Julia Nagle relating her side of the story. Julia referred a few times to a NY couple who'd helped to organize and promote the doomed tour and with whom she'd corresponded about trying to get some of her gear shipped back to the UK, and at some point I realized that she was referring to them as "Dennis and Lois". And yes, they turned out to be the Dennis and Lois of song, about whom I'd previously known nothing, and who are pretty damned fascinating. Above all I was surprised to learn that they were American.

Personnel: Rex

Sunday, February 6, 2011

325. "The Spinnin' of the World" by John Stewart

Today I'm really not feeling well at all, and it is also Superb Owl Sunday as well as the centennial birthday of the late, meh-at-best former President Ronald Reagan, most fondly remembered as a prior contributor of really bizarre 39-40 source material. More importantly than any of that, it's the birthday of my brother, Dr. Jeffrey L. Broome. As a tribute, I present a recording of a song I played as the toast at his wedding to his wonderful and amazing wife Monica, some 12 or so years ago. It's a low-fi outing, owing to my illness and also the fact that half of my gear is still wedged into my car and unlikely to make it out of there until I feel slightly human again, but it is a song that I really love and which comes from the Broome family favorite LP Bombs Away Dream Babies by John "not the guy from the Daily Show although he's cool too" Stewart.

I wish there were a recording of the duet my dad and I performed at the actual ceremony, of a John Fogerty tune Jeff had specifically requested of us. It was the first real such duet we'd ever done, although such things are a lot more common these days. Either way, I was mighty proud to be a part of the occasion and I hope it won't be too long before we see Jeff and his family, currently planted in northern Texas, again (and in the case of my nephew Carson, for the first time).

For those who've never heard the original, yes, it's Lindsey Buckingham, whose musical awesomeness my brother recognized well before I did so, on the backing vocals.

Personnel: Rex

Saturday, February 5, 2011

324. "That's Entertainment" by The Jam

I've always been a little leery of doing a Jam cover with Skates & Rays because, like, okay, here's me, skinny moptoppy guy with Rickenbacker fronting scrappy power trio... sounds like an invitation for unkind comparisons, and that is indeed why we're not doing "In The City" or similar. Still, I really wanted to do this one for my wife, who loves the song, and in the end I couldn't resist; it wormed its way onto our setlist in almost exactly the same was as "She Comes in Colors".

Thing is, in all its four chord, three minute majesty, it's not an easy song to learn, consisting as it by definition does of six whole verses constructed almost entirely out of non sequitirs, often two per line. I put a lot of time into trying to flat-out memorize them, and never quite nailed it, deciding eventually to rely on a bare-bones cue sheet at the show. Things can be counted on to get tight when setting up, though, especially when we're setting up our own PA in a space that's filled by dining tables right up until the moment the kitchen closes, and in this case it was well into Eden's opening set until I finally had all my guitars tuned and had a second to figure out where I was going to post my crib sheet. There being no good wall surface, I constructed an ingenious music stand out of one of those clear plastic drink-menu placards and a stack of Skates & Rays CDs.

Unfortunately, as soon as we started the song I realized that Cliff was standing unknowingly directly between me and my placard, leaving me high and dry without any help. This is fairly comical for the first verse or so, but from the third verse on it's about 75% correct, and maybe 85% intelligible. Not that anyone much cared, as you can tell... Gen hadn't been able to make it because Miranda had come down with a fever literally just as I was leaving to load in, so that didn't work, either. But here it is for you to... I dunno, "enjoy" might be too strong a term, but hey, that's entertainment. I had thought of doing a super-extended solo version of it with all of the original England-in-the-'80s lyrics followed by an equal number of new Silver-Lake-in-the-'10s verses, but things are piling up on me quickly now... honestly, less than two months' worth of songs to go? Jesus.

Rex Broome ~ Guitar & vocal and sticky black tarmac
Derek Hanna ~ Drums pounding and the cry of a tomcat
Clifford Ulrich ~ Bass guitar and thinking 'bout your holidays
Recorded live at the Oyster House Saloon, 2/4/2011 and breathing in petrol

Friday, February 4, 2011

323. "She Comes in Colors" by Love

Having just recently for the first time posted a repeated version of a song, albeit with the caveat that the artists performing the cover were different (talkin' bout this and this), here I'm taking it a couple steps further. Although the last time I posted a cover of "She Comes in Colors" it was a solo "studio" version, and this one is by Skates & Rays performing live, those aren't hairs I'm interested in splitting. It's the same guy singing and playing all the guitar, and I don't even have an alternative "original" version to post. But I thought it would be, having come this far, actually sort of fun to see, at least once, what happens when a song goes from being something I just know how to play to a thing the band can perform live at a show.

The song made it into our set pretty much by accident. We were looking to add a big bunch of covers to the repertoire in order to keep the Oyster House crowd involved, but we weren't thinking of anything quite this offbeat. I don't remember why, but I started playing it idly at a rehearsal, and the band jumped in, with Derek coming up with a very cool drum approach which was a lot different from the original but a perfect fit, and we just figured we'd roll with it. As it turns out, purely by accident, we did keep a few people in the bar a few song longer by doing it. One of them was Eden's dad, whom I did know to be a big fan of Arthur Lee, but I had no idea that he'd be just about to leave when we uncorked it, so hey... thank you, Mr. Lee.

Rex Broome ~ Guitar & vocal
Derek Hanna ~ Drums
Clifford Ullrich ~ Bass
Recorded live at The Oyster House, Studio City, CA, 2/4/2011