01 May, 2014

The Desert Island Post or Life-Affected Albums - Part Four

This is likely the final installment of this thread. I've perused over my list endlessly, and revisited many of the notes I've etched upon it, and honestly, these are the most challenging of my choices thus far. While listening to the albums, I try to transport myself to that moment of discovery and then weigh that effect. I then realized there were an equal number of discoveries that have occurred since my life became intertwined with the world network. Perhaps that's a another list? But the web, and the friends discovered therein have brought Zola Jesus, Austra, Die Antwoord, A Place To Bury Strangers, The December Sound, San Antonio's Guilty Strangers and Veronica's Veil, Audra, Akubi Object and so many more. Often that has ignited the same kind of fervor that picking up something completely foreign in a record store can create, but I think it's different in the visceral effect. Nothing really compares to sitting down to something new and pondering over liner notes, lyrics, artwork, and photos; not to mention that all senses come into one succinct investigation: the smell of the packaging, the texture of the material, the etchings in dead wax, the mysterious lyric unfolding into the ears. Oh, but what about taste?! Well, if you are me, you're teeth make quick work of shrink wrap.

With all of that said, the final 5 (or is it 6)?

Discovery came via a friend of my ex-wife, and I was immediately scouring my old friend, Napster, for what it could share. The only complete album I succeeded in obtaining was Agaetis Byrjun, and if I had never heard anything else, Sigur Ros would still haunt me unyieldingly. I was lulled into a web that vibrated with familiar shoegaze textures, and as if a sedative, the breathy Jonsi desiccated my apprehension. I did not know what was being sung, it was Icelandic for all I knew, it was some years before I learned that it often wasn't lyrics at all. There is not a more intoxicating beauty than what  washes over this album. It at times recalls Pink Floyd, but they are subtle glimpses. In sharing this album with others, what I've come to realize is that it somehow evokes an emotional response particular to the listener. Whereas I might hear sadness and desolation, someone else finds warmth and beauty. In my experience, that's a remarkable and unique feat whether intended or not. Perhaps it's picking up on the different textures, translating rhythm as revisited memories. When I hear the percussion of "Staralfur", I am with Hannah and Ethan at Lake Eola watching 4th Of July fireworks. Up until their final moments, Sigur Ros remained inventive, unique, and a benchmark for being non-conformed.

I think this is the only entry precipitated by a live performance. I was essentially oblivious to the career of Bill Callahan, and barely cognizant of Smog. One chilly, Orlando night all of that changed quite profoundly. This seemingly annoyed, older gentleman in blue jeans with a beat acoustic guitar took the stage and unloaded glorious poetry that gave me chills. Every dormant creative synapse that lay languishing in my frontal lobe was lit aflame. Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle is perfectly executed to entice the dreamer; offer itself as a muse to the writer; provide the scenery on extended stays in the car; or present itself as the maitre'd to your romantic evening. This wasn't an album that lead me on a journey of other musical discoveries, but it was the barrister who unlocked my love of writing.

Late, very late to this party. This album was my introduction to JAMC. Sitting in Physics class, a kid I wasn't so fond of, had perfected the drum machine tempo of this entire album onto the cover of his textbook, it was pure coincidence that I would buy it a couple of weeks later and unravel the mystery of his epilepsy. You couldn't have baited me any quicker with lyrics like, "I got the junk-gun fever sinking to my brain", "I got my senses strung out to the sky", "come on little sugar let me get your soul".
Coupled with the frantic, unrelenting drum machine rhythms, I think I was in teenage boy shangri-la. Automatic may not be the finest or most respected release, but it was their shiniest and most decadent. They fell like acid rain on America's collegiate and helped usher the tidal wave that was to follow. The Reid Brothers were sugary enough to give you diabetes and vicious enough to give you cancer, but talented beyond their years and they influenced countless bands in the decades that followed. Bands like A Place To Bury Strangers, Ceremony, The December Sound owe a lion's share to JAMC, and I imagine, like myself and that kid I didn't like, they were beating out "Blues From A Gun" on a textbook somewhere.

This was another impulse buy, purely initiated by the cover art, and another deleted release that I was lucky enough to find at Tracks. I expected more goth-rock bliss a la Catastrophe Ballet, but instead, I was drawn into the world of deathrock. My purchase of this preceded Enigma Variations and Hell Comes To Your House and Only Theatre Of Pain, so it truly was a brand new landscape for my senses. Much unlike the 80's punk crawling out of valleys of Los Angeles, 45 Grave was a collective of seasoned and talented musicians. If the Hammer films deserved a soundtrack, then certainly the banshee-like wail of Dinah Cancer fit the bill. Recorded in musical history with a song about the rape and torture of a child, 45 Grave was a mocking sneer wrapped in a pop-horror freak show. They gave depravity an infectious heartbeat, and set the bar for the deathrock genre that still thrives today. It still fascinates me to see Pat Smear performing with rock's most successful bands, because my introduction to him came via 45 Grave. Paul B. Cutler was revered in his scene, but outside that, he remains a tremendous talent relatively unknown. Rob Graves, Don Bolles, Paul Roessler - brought pulsing depth, macabre instrumentation, and levity to the wickedness. Sleep In Safety, hardly... unless you were a 13 yr. old that sought the carnival leaving town. I met Dinah when I was 13, backstage, she gave me a pinback which I still have. She didn't bat an eyelash as to my presence, but did leave me with memories that exceeded anything a teenage boy can ponder.

I debated the inclusion of these albums on this list... repeatedly. They are, without any hesitation, two albums I love and will keep in my collection forever. What took time to determine was their effect on me, if any at all. I'd come home very late after a night at The Masquerade, and turned on MTV to wind down. You could do that then and see actual videos. As I relaxed, "Gonna Get Close To You" came on, and within seconds, I was transfixed. I really had no idea what to make of it, appearances aside, I don't think the thought, "metal" came to mind, it was just different. I had no concept of progressive metal, but it was the elements of romanticism and this bizarre song about stalking that propelled my intrigue. Geoff Tate's range was mesmerizing, and musically, Queensryche

weren't trying to beat me to death with guitars and flashy drum tricks. I decided waiting for Peaches to open was more important than the first 4 periods of school. As the vinyl spun, I was captivated; songs about revolution, an Ayn Rand imagined future, Victorian-era London, and the perils of war. This was not what I prepared for... a metal band more interested in musicianship as a whole and writing songs with substance instead of substance abuse and misogyny. I decided, going back to Peaches was more important than the next 4 periods of school and bought The Warning. Again, biting and complex, throwing in themes of a mechanized race, and embracing intelligence over brawn. If this album is the war, then Rage For Order is it's epilogue. I've tried for years to determine which album  I preferred, and I simply cannot choose. Both of them are simply remarkable with no flaws. When my collection was filling up with The Smiths, The Cure, Depeche Mode, goth-rock and post-punk, these two albums served to remind me that I should leave the door ajar to the music I loved in my younger days. Seeking out other progressive metal acts led to King Diamond, Tool, Fate's Warning, Flotsam and Jetsam and a rekindling with Black Sabbath. So, thanks to MTV for helping keep me grounded and realizing that there's a place in my heart for all music, not just that narrow shelf of cassettes at Tracks of a whole host of bands I was just discovering. at $9.99 a pop.

So... there we are. Twenty (1) albums. Unfortunately, I have 5 more. Sorry... but there will be a Part 5. That will be it. But I overlooked some important releases, and this list is incomplete without them.