Last Days of Disco — My iPod’s Final Spin
This document is begun on October 22, 2018 — its purpose to document an A-Z tour through every album on my Refurbished 3rd Generation 40GB iPod (2004). Someday this iPod will die, something of a miracle that it lives.
Wilco — A.M.
This album really snuck up on us, and Tweedy knew it would all along. “We’re going to re-record A.M. with this lineup and call it B.M.!” (Tweedy, Denver 2007) This is the first time I’ve listened to it start to finish, maybe ever. It was great. So funny to think about that 1st Ave show in 1995. “I gotta box full a letters . . .” — checked out, walked over to 7th St. Entry, and all of my friends concurred that Son Volt was not only a far superior band, but Tweedy was a sellout twerp. Ooops. I didn’t catch back up with Wilco until 2000, moved to tears by Remember the Mountain Bed, and since then have seen them live at least 25–30 times. As albums catalogues go, I’d say they’ve batted around .825
U2 - Achtung Baby
A classic. I’m a little bored. Might skip ahead. Is that allowed? OK, turned it way up — that’s better. Hmmm, still bored. Just overexposure, and Bono is such a dork. The positives — Daniel Lanois is simply delicious. The drum tones on this album and Edge’s harmonies are sick (Lanois reused this exact set of techniques on Luscious Jackson’s Fever In/Fever Out, btw). And that bass. I remember Lanois said he spent some months previous in Jamaica just to absorb live reggae bass at those absurd volumes. Looking forward to the end, but it’s not so cruel. If only The Stone Roses had emerged victorious in 1990. The corporates always think they’re even better than the real thing.
John Lennon — Acoustic
Sometimes a revelation, sometimes grating. By song . . .
Working Class Hero — scathing — vain (or is it?) — pretty.
Love is Real — So simple and moving. 1970
Well Well Well — This is my buddies Flavin and Quinby in a nutshell.
Look at Me — I fucking love this song. The guitar tone on this version is heavenly perfect.
God — This version is muddy as hell, but I dig it. This song beget Father John Misty.
My Mummy’s Dead — Reminds me of Julia, the only song John ever recorded alone on a Beatles album. Also about his dead Mum, I believe. Not as moving as Julia, but spooky nonetheless.
Cold Turkey — Always love a good quitting heroin dirge. Good deterrent from experimenting with the sauce. This version kicks a bunch of ass, but there’s some Yoko influence I’m not entirely comfortable with.
The Luck of the Irish — Lyrically, it’s a refreshing bit of truth and it wants to be sympathetic, but it’s annoying and condescending, and boring. And ballsy.
John Sinclair — Dude got sentenced 10 years for 2 joints. Three days after this concert happened, Sinclair was released from prison. That is so kind!
What You Got — I didn’t take any notes on this song.
Watching the Wheels — I really didn’t like this song when I was a kid. It embodied the sad and awkward transition from the 70s to the 80s, and he got shot right in the thick of it. I love this version, and it doesn’t really dredge up any of that dystopian sentimentality of 1980. It’s mostly just fun and rich.
Dear Yoko — Another muddy version, but poignant. This song beget a lot of the 90s in the strain of Friends and Hootie & the Blowfish.
Putumayo (various)— Acoustic Africa
This is a gorgeous album, and we’ll talk a little about that, but let’s talk about the 90s and cultural appropriation a wee bit. In the 90s (my 20s), there were many things I was principled about. I wasn’t going to work for The Man — I was to be an artist. Chain stores and corporations would get none of my money. I didn’t watch television, and refused to acknowledge sportsball. I also wanted nothing to do with popular music, having seen the wretched mishandling of the “alternative” market and the willing sell outs of so many musicians to make milquetoast.
So instead, I appropriated other cultures, and was all about West African and Jazz for at least 5 years. Eventually I met a girl, and she softened me and brought me back into mainstream tastes. This album, though, has some embarrassing elements to it. Putumayo was a savvy label, and they knew their market. As gorgeous as a lot of this material is, it’s also manufactured to be easy on the ears. Udu drums, koras, nylon string guitars, tablas, and serene harmonies take the edge out, leaving behind a dulcet wake of pleasure. I still love most of the material, but it’s milquetoast in its own “world cafe” way. File under guilty pleasures.
Trip Shakespeare— Across the Universe
Oh geeze, it’s going to be hard to get past this one. To be super honest, if this was the first time I had ever heard this album, this music, I wouldn’t be into it. It’s obnoxious in ways that normally turn me off: the obviously tongue-in-cheek tone yoked to bombastic harmonies, the ironic riffs on musical tropes and cliches, the thespian quotient . . . all of those things are musical liabilities. But it works for me because it is part of who I am, almost at a genetic level.
You see, if you went to college in the Midwest in the late 80s, early 90s — it’s the only way you would know this band. And if you saw them play at your college, or in Minneapolis, you instantly became part of the coolest group of nerds to walk the planet. Trip Shakespeare was an infectious brand. Warm, fuzzy, honest, funny, literary genius for days. . . . and let’s face it: they rocked whenever they wanted. Their anthems were quirky, but gigantic. TOOL MASTER OF BRAINERD! 30 years later, I have no idea what that song is about, but I love it, wrote it in sharpie on my toolbox. That song’s audacity is matched only by the Paul Bunyan & the Blue Ox statue.
The world would come to know half of this band’s genius through the emergence of Semisonic, but Trip is no less important than any of Minnesota’s giants — Prince, Replacements, Husker Du, Soul Asylum . . . We still have Matt and Munson anchoring the Twin Cities’ scene, but Dan took off for LA — his music is everywhere. As far as I know Elaine’s back in Boston. I can’t say that I recommend this album, but I can absolutely say this band has enriched my life and everyone’s they touched back in the day. That was a really fun trip across time.