Posts Tagged ‘Stone Temple Pilots’

People give me things. Gift certificates, books, meals, ceramic corgi figures, opinions. On my 50th birthday, whooping cough. Recently, two people gave me a stack of CDs. Because one of these two people is my boss, I will refer to them by the code names I just invented: Thing 1 and Thing 2.

Thing 1 left the CDs on my desk. There in one neat pile I saw Thing 2’s testosterone-soaked, gasoline-fumed, 1990s adolescence: Stone Temple Pilots, Radiohead, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., the Dropkick Murphys, and…Simon & Garfunkel?

The Best of Simon & Garfunkel
1999

This disc was in excellent condition, even though I had to rescue it from a plastic baggie, which I assume the Thing family brought home from a shopping expedition to Budlandia.

You could argue about the selection of songs in this lineup. What, no “Bleecker Street”? But the 20 songs that are here will impress you yet again with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s harmonies, which lock together like Legos, with Simon’s exact enunciation, right down to the final t and d of every word, and with the duo’s blending of folk and rock like peanut butter and chocolate.

On “The Sound of Silence,” Simon predicts Donald Trump (“And the people bowed and prayed/to the neon god they’d made”), while on “The Dangling Conversation” he writes a New Yorker story in 160 words that’s every bit as soul-killing as a fully inflated New Yorker story:

And you read your Emily Dickinson
And I my Robert Frost
And we note our place with book markers
That measure what we’ve lost

“Homeward Bound” is a dues song. Most bands that sing about paying dues should be paying fines instead, but this one is perfect. Unlike other dues songs, “Homeward Bound” has a happy ending, because the viewpoint character is – well, it’s right there in the title.

And waiting in the middle of this platter we have “The Boxer,” one of the signature songs of the ’60s, with that chilling moment when we stand in the clearing with the fighter by his trade. The critic Tim Appelo once wrote that Paul Simon was our only songwriter literate enough to get writer’s block. I’d add Joni Mitchell. In fact, given the self-revelations and the experiments that have marked Simon’s solo career, I’d call him the male Joni Mitchell.

It’s not every album where you can sing along with the first 10 songs.

Radiohead, Pablo Honey
1993

The sum total of Radiohead’s musical ideas on their debut album would fit inside the walk-in closet of a Barbie dollhouse. I heard almost every note on this disc in the 1980s, on records by The Stone Roses, Dream Syndicate, and U2. Radiohead on Pablo Honey are like an alt-Monkees who turn on, tune in, drop out, and play sorta loud.

But attention must be paid. Track 2 is “Creep,” the male emo anthem of the ’90s and the call-and-response to Simon & Garfunkel’s “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her.”

Emily walks on frosted fields of juniper and lamplight. The woman stalked by the Creep floats like a feather in a beautiful world. She’s so fuckin’ special! Emily has honey hair (yum), and when you wake up beside her she’ll let you play with it. Unfortunately, our poor emo boy is not waking up beside his chick anytime soon:

But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo.
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.

I’m sick of “Creep,” but when it comes on even I wait for the guitar that sounds like my neighbor trying to start his lawnmower with a pry bar. Radiohead improved as the decade went along, and I started to like them. I wouldn’t buy this thing, but lots of people did. Put it in your pantry with your cupcakes.

Stone Temple Pilots, No. 4
1999

Hello darkness my old friend. This shit is so heavy, it should be lead-lined and under glass at the Centers for Disease Control. That cover art is so bitchin’ – a white star on a black background – that David Bowie reversed it for his final album – a black star on a white background. These boys are so lawless, they began this set with a riff they swiped from Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well.” STP just doesn’t give a darn what anybody thinks.

Is it my job to disillusion you? Of course it is. Listen up, Hobbits: Stone Temple Pilots were four stuntmen hired by Soundgarden to play Soundgarden’s leftovers. It worked! In the ’90s, STP was more popular than multiple sex partners. If there’s an action-adventure movie of the past 20 years that’s aimed at teenage boys and that doesn’t have STP on the soundtrack, I don’t know it.

No. 4 also includes “Sour Girl,” with its heartbreaking refrain, “She was a happy girl the day that she left me,” which is probably why Thing 2 – who was a moody 15-year-old back then – bought this album. I’ve bought albums just to get one song, and though I wouldn’t buy No. 4 just for “Sour Girl,” I can imagine myself standing in an aisle at Music Millennium with the gift certificate somebody gave me in one hand and No. 4 in the other and considering it.

Note: STP can also play ballads that will make you cry over the smallness of humanity in the vastness of space and the infinity of time: “I Got You,” which is not a remake of the Sonny & Cher hit but a love song (to heroin). Simon & Garfunkel never got beyond parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

Dinosaur Jr., Ear Bleeding Country: The Best of Dinosaur Jr.
2001

Former punks who became underground alt legends and big guitar gods. Major street cred having this in your collection, Thing 2, and a strategic move to buy the best-of and get it over with. Dinosaur Jr. fought the big hair and shoulder pads of ’80s music and left us a catalog that rarely gets played on Classic Radio or college radio because, frankly, Depeche Mode are better.

Dino’s singer/songwriter, J. Mascis, plays some Neil-Young-and-Crazy-Horse guitar but sings like a too-tired-to-live Art Alexakis from Everclear or Dave Lowery from Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. He can also invoke Bruce Springsteen, but I wish he wouldn’t.

Mascis’ overriding theme in most of his songs is his own incompetence, as in “Not You Again”:

If I say a word just stop me
Cause I really should shut up
Guess I’ll split now
Just forget you met me
Sorry I fucked it all up again

You think Simon & Garfunkel celebrated their own incompetence? If a girl wanted to leave them, they didn’t slink away, they refused to lose:

Oh, baby, baby
You must be out of your mind.
Do you know what you’re kicking away-yay?
We’ve got a groovy thing goin’, baby,
We’ve got a groovy thing.

Ear Bleeding Country doesn’t compare well with other underground acts of my acquaintance, such as Big Star from the ’70s or The Velvet Underground from the ’60s. But it sounds passable when you play it loud. Also, Dinosaur Jr.’s drummer, Murph, came from a band with a name that belongs in the Top 10 band names since the beginning of forever: All White Jury. That’s not nothing.

Sonic Youth, Murray Street
2002

The perfect record for a college kid like Thing 2 discovering his intellectual side. Better this than Jean-Paul Sartre. Been there.

Sonic Youth (there are only two heights in this band, tall and short) got their start making noises. Over time they made noises inside songs that approximated Western ideas of songcraft. They were a cult but they had hits, such as “Teenage Riot,” which I like though I wish it were a minute shorter because it’s actually kind of monotonous and anyway it’s nowhere near as good as The Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks.”

Murray Street has songs, song experiments, and the kind of noise that makes me wonder if something is wrong with my car. Actually, I was listening to this disc while driving and at one point I wondered if something was wrong with my car.

I welcome music that elbows you in the ribs and checks you behind the goal. I love Gang of Four. But G4 also knew how to write a song that I recognize as a song. I’m glad that bands exist who are willing to live on an edge, especially an edge I didn’t know existed. Sonic Youth never produced even one song as strong as “I Love a Man in a Uniform” or “Love Like Anthrax,” but I’ll bet they’re the perfect band to keep you company if you’re ever awake Wednesday morning, 3 a.m.

The Dropkick Murphys, Live on St. Patrick’s Day
2002

I hesitate to disparage Live on St. Patrick’s Day, because between songs a guy got up on stage and proposed to his girl (she said yes), plus the grandparents of one of the musicians were in the balcony one night and in their honor the band played “Amazing Grace.”

The Monkees were too busy singing to put anybody down, but I’m not.

Special D once summed up AD/DC by saying “they’re really annoying if you’re not drunk.” The Dropkick Murphys would transform her into Mr. Furious. Even I struggled to survive this set, the musical equivalent of one of those day-long corporate off-sites on process and collaboration with names like “Day of Engagement” (which are always followed by “Night of Extreme Drinking”).

The Dropkick Murphys are for people who love First Gen punk (The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones) exactly as it was played in 1979, but who also want some Irish flavor, shoutouts to the Red Sox and the Bruins, and a bagpiper, if he’s not too talented. Thus almost every Dropkick Murphys song sounds like an Irish Sex Pistols covering “My Way,” which was just fine with the 2 million people who today claim to have filled the Avalon Ballroom in Boston for the 2002 St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

Of the 173 songs and audience-participation bits on this record, I liked “Wild Rover.” “Amazing Grace” is funny. Their cover of Creedence’s “Fortunate Son” might’ve been good if they hadn’t assigned the singing to the one guy in the band who gargles with stove bolts.

They saved the real gem for the end, which makes it easy to find if you can only tolerate about three minutes of this crud: their reinvention of The Kingston Trio’s public-transportation classic, “Skinhead on the MTA.” Gone is the hapless Charlie, short 5 cents and wailing over his fate:

Skinhead goes down to the Kendall Square Station
and he changes for Jamaica Plain,
The conductor says, ‘Skinhead, I need a nickel,’
Skinhead punches him in the brain.

And just like that, we’re right back with the folk music! What Simon & Garfunkel couldn’t do with this kind of material.

That’s it for my plunge into the formative years of Thing 2, a man I met once for about an eye blink. He’s obviously a good sport, probably more advanced that I was at the same age (there’s nothing here to rival Three Dog Night), and I’m curious to learn what he listens to today. Please, not Coldplay.

Who I want in my book group: Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth.

Book I want to read: Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon.

Who I want on my side in a bar fight: The Dropkick Murphys. They palmed handfuls of darts 10 minutes before anyone knew there was going to be a bar fight.

Who I want as neighbors: Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. They don’t speak to each other, so I couldn’t invite them both to my birthday party unless I hired the Dropkick Murphys to provide security.

In the first week of May, I made my 500th connection on LinkedIn. What does this mean?

I don’t know. But it must be a milestone because 500 is a cool number. It’s not a prime number, but it’s right next door to one: 499. So when I made my 400th connection I decided to work very seriously on my next hundred. Because these numbers look like career homerun totals, I made a game of it, announcing each stage to my wife:

407: “I’m neck and neck with Duke Snider.”
439: “I’ve got Andre Dawson in my rearview mirror.”
453: “Bye-bye, Yaz!”
493: “Did you know that Crime Dog was tied with Lou Gehrig? What? Who is Crime Dog? Why am I talking to you?”

I stood at 499 for about two weeks. I wondered if I should invite someone special for my 500th. The obvious choice was Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, but I figured he was kinda busy being a co-founder and I didn’t want to wait 200 years for Reid to say yes. I also thought it would be fun to connect with someone who had the same name as a person I admired, but either that person had no presence on LinkedIn or there were 119 of them (as with David Bowie).

Number 500 arrived when I wasn’t looking – an invitation I’d extended weeks before and forgotten about. Lucky 500 is an editor who works with a publisher I once worked for. As with many of my connections, I’ve never met this person, but if he’s one of my guys you can be sure that he rocks.

(Note: At this point I didn’t actually have 500 people in my network, because at least one had died. Her profile is still active. If we’re connected and you’re still breathing, write and say hi. I’d love to hear from you.)

When I hit 500 feedbacks on eBay, they sent me a certificate. Actually, they sent me a link to a certificate that I could print myself. I wasn’t expecting LinkedIn to give me a handjob and a parade, but still I was disappointed when nothing happened. Then I thought, maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. Maybe I’m the one who should be doing something, and not just my end-zone dance. Maybe I should be printing T-shirts for my posse. (Don’t send me your shirt size. I’m not doing this.)

LinkedIn (the site also spells it “Linkedin”) long ago transformed itself from sparkly toy to networking ninja. If I want to find out who I know at a particular company, I can do it in seconds. Before LinkedIn, this would’ve taken days or weeks, if it could be done at all.

So if nothing much happens when you make your 500th connection, so be it. In fact I’ve moved past that mark now. I believe I’m tied with Eddie Murray (504), but then, who’s counting?

Random Pick of the Day
Various artists, The Crow (1994)
This movie is about a murdered man resurrected by a mystical crow to reign death and destruction upon his enemies. Please don’t make me write a sentence like that again. The heart of the soundtrack is “Burn” by The Cure, closely followed by Nine Inch Nail’s cover of Joy Division’s “Dead Souls,” “Snakedriver” by The Jesus and Mary Chain, and the dreamy “Time Baby III” by a band called Medicine. (The vocal on that one is by a former Bangle.)

As for the other 10 songs, Stone Temple Pilots’ “Big Empty” has had so much radio play that it bounces off my brain. The remaining nine are interchangeable, but appropriately mopey, metal.

Random Pan of the Day
The B-52s, Cosmic Thing (1989)
Why am I panning this record? I love The B-52s. Cosmic Thing was their big comeback. It has “Love Shack,” “Roam,” and one of their best lines, on the eternal topic of shaking your booty: “Don’t let it rest/on the president’s desk!”

But most of Cosmic Thing is easy-listening filler. “Roam” still sounds good, but “Love Shack” is getting tired. When this record came out, the mellifluously named Bart Becker, music editor at my paper, Seattle Weekly, wrote that this was a band that had pretty much lost it. Twenty-five years later, I reluctantly agree. By 1989, The B-52s were not even all that wacky anymore. I can only recommend Cosmic Thing to confirmed idiots such as myself. For anyone else, The B-52s and Wild Planet are all you need.

Bart Becker would’ve been the perfect name for an infielder on the San Francisco Giants.

 

Refusing to read

Yesterday I promised you a guest blogger, mystery novelist Deborah Donnelly. Due to circumstances beyond our control, Ms. Donnelly will not eventuate. Not on Day 4, anyway. She says hi.

New kids on the block
I’m speaking now to the new readers I’ve just detected, thanks to the stats dished out by WordPress. Are you lost? You’re not getting your money back! What you’ve stumbled on is a blog about popular music, but right now I’m engaged in a six-week write-a-thon that ends August 2. I don’t want to abandon music entirely, so I’m finishing each post with the musical picks and pans I wrote over the past few months. I’ve already run out of pans. And people say I hate everything!

The writing cartoons have aged for years in my lifelong collection. The cultural references may provoke laughs but the themes are timeless.

I’ve cleverly hidden indexes to the first two years of this blog (November 2010 to November 2012) in the left-hand column under Blogroll. You’re on your own for Year 3.

Not all who wander want to find their way back to the freeway
Day 4 for me was like urban in-fill in most U.S. cities: packing more people into already established neighborhoods. Yesterday I solved the challenge of the chapter that goes forever on by breaking it up. Chapter 5 became much more manageable after I evicted a third of it. That section became Chapter 6. A few stray paragraphs became the opening of Chapter 7.

My task today was to write a real ending for Chapter 5 and a real beginning for Chapter 6. I didn’t finish either but I know I’m headed in the right direction because I was surprised by some of what I wrote. “Where do I get my ideas? I don’t. They get me,” Lewis Carroll said.

The problem with writing a novel the way I’m writing a novel, with a set of ideas rather than a set of ideas and a roadmap, is that I plunge into chapters without knowing exactly where they’re going or what they’re trying to accomplish. Everything takes longer than it should, even though I’m enjoying every minute of it. Maybe I don’t want it to end?

I wouldn’t recommend my method to anyone. Maybe someday I’ll listen to me.

Box score
I’ve written for four days out of four
– 5.5 total hours

Random Pick of the Day
The Vines, Highly Evolved (2002)
These Aussies bow to Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots, but I suspect they would sell their souls to be a catchy little pop band. All the tempo changes and other experiments on Highly Evolved could’ve been Duran Duran reimagined as a grunge act circa 1992. This is especially true on my favorite tracks, “Outtathaway” and “Sunshinin.”

The real treat on this album is “Factory,” in which The Vines pretend to be Nirvana pretending to be The Beatles.

Random Rock ’n’ Roll Image of the Day
Aerosmith and J. Geils Band at Fenway Park, 14 August 2010: Steven Tyler in a Sox jersey at a white grand piano atop the Green Monster belting out “Dream On.”