Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I have returned. Let us cease with the formalities and the throngs of adulation from a grateful nation and get on with this: a list of some of my favorite moments in music. Leonard of Ludic Log fame did one and Nate of Hipster Detritus fame did one and now I'm blatantly stealing this great idea. I'm sure I'm forgetting hundreds of great moments that I will regret not mentioning after I post this, but this is a decent compendium of Great OMGTHAT'SFUCKINGAWESOME Music Moments I Have Known:

- The dual guitar run at the end of "Timorous Me" by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists.

- The "swing down, sweet chariot, stop and let me ride" outro of Parliament's "Mothership Connection (Star Child)."

- The way Charles Bissell's voice gradually changes from cocky self-assuredness to pleading desperation during the Wrens' "Surprise Honeycomb."

- The keyboard part on Destroyer's "An Actor's Revenge." Who knew that synth horns could be so moving?

- Damo Suzuki's incantation of "you just can't get that no more," rising from a whisper to a obsessively chanted scream, on Can's "Paperhouse."

- The groove of "Doing It to Death" by James Brown. Unstoppable - even the 10 minute version seems too short.

- When 60's garage bands filled with kids who barely knew how to play their instruments somehow stumbled onto one perfect riff, chord progression or beat that they could never again recapture. Examples: "Be Forewarned" by Macabre, "Voices Green and Purple" by the Bees, "Bad Girl" by the Zakary Thaks, "1523 Blair" by the Outcasts.

- Howlin' Wolf's voice.

- The way that Joe Pernice steals the lyrics from Bread's "Make It With You" for the chorus of the Scud Mountain Boys' "Grudge Fuck" and reframes them into the last desperate plea of a man who knows it's all over but can't yet face the end.

- The intro of "Gimme Shelter" - the guitars interlocking, Keith's string bending conjuring the turmoil under the bright facade of the late 60s, then Charlie's drums come in at the exact correct moment. Classic rock radio has not, could not, kill the power of this.


- "Walk On By," Isaac Hayes, in its full 12 minute glory. That slinking fuzzed out acid guitar, those slowly creeping lonesome strings, the background singers pushing along Ike's pleading vocals during the chorus, all building to that gloriously-epic-yet-incredibly-funky breakdown at the end.

- "Vacuum Cleaner" by Tintern Abbey - the beautiful vocal harmonies, the e-bowed guitar solo, the fact that it is a plaintive and oddly moving song about helping your girlfriend clean the apartment after she fixes your needle.

- The part during "We Are Time" by the Pop Group where Mark Stewart yells "you, I, we are time" as the band completely drops out for a split second before the pulsing bassline returns to lead the rest of the band back in for the apocalyptic, crashing noise of the song's finale.

- The careening wreck of "O My Soul" by Big Star, a song that threatens to come unglued throughout, barely holding together through the weight of its own momentum. And Alex Chilton's clearly ill-fated call to "never you mind / so go on and have a good time."

- Janet Vogel's otherworldly tenor, turning the Skyliners' "Since I Don't Have You" and "This I Swear" from straightforward doo-wop love songs into something that taps into something hauntingly melancholy.

- The combination of Thom Bell's production and the Spinners' voices on "One of a Kind (Love Affair)" and "Could it Be I'm Falling in Love," two of the most effortlessly uplifting songs ever recorded. Hearing the Spinners' classic singles makes even an errand to the grocery store seem like an afternoon at the park with your best girl.

- "Sing Me Back Home" by Merle Haggard - a song that connects with everyone's desire for home so convincingly, it somehow even makes me nostalgic for my hometown.

- The part at 4:20 of Neu!'s "Negativland" where the old tempo stops abruptly and restarts at twice the speed, with Michael Rother's stun-gun guitar taking over the song. And the part at 8:01 where it happens again, but even faster.

- An abridged list of Fall moments: The "Human ra-ace-ah / Don't think, ask him" chorus of "Various Times," a bleak assessment of mankind that makes the rest of punk's nihilism seem like child's play in comparison. "The Classical," from the all-encompassing rant to the pummeling barrage of the bass-and-two-drums attack to the spittle-flecked conclusion where Mark E. declares "I've never felt better in my life" while interjecting cryptic curses. MES yelling "Shift!" to change from the first part to the second part of "The N.W.R.A." "Middle Mass," for the lurching main riff, the cymbal crashes at the end of every line, and "the Wehrmacht never got in here."

- El-P's production on Fantastic Damage and Cannibal Ox's The Cold Vein, a suffocatingly dense atmosphere from which no light can escape.

- John Cipollina's Hendrix-meets-Morricone guitar soloing during Quicksilver Messenger Service's "Calvary."

- The drumbeats punctuating the chorus of the Gap Band's "Early in the Morning."

- The Asheton-Alexander rhythm section throughout the Stooges' Fun House.

- Clint Conley yelling "I'm not judging you, I'm judging me!" at the end of "Academy Fight Song", with Peter Prescott slamming the cymbals on every syllable.

- The penultimate verse of Teenage Fanclub's "Alcoholiday" - "All I know is all I know / What I've done, I'll leave behind me / I don't want my soul to find me." Probably my favorite lyric ever - an existentialist statement of purpose set to an ascendant yet wistful melody and gorgeously languorous chords, capped off with a soaring guitar solo that defiantly stomps over the regret-laden reflectiveness of the first four minutes of the song as if to squash any notions that the narrator will keep on living in the past.

- Billie Holiday singing the line "crop" at the end of "Strange Fruit" with a mixture of pain and weary anger that sounds like 200 years of torture and oppression being released in one short phrase. Nothing else in music is remotely like it - the rawest, nakedest emotional display ever recorded.

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