Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Manly Man's Guide to Music Appreciation

"I walked 47 miles on barbed-wire,
I wear a cobra-snake for a necktie.
I built a house by the roadside,
Made of rattlesnake hide."
- Bo Diddley

Not every man has musical taste. He may think he does - but he doesn't.

You’ve seen those types of guys before; driving the streets with their windows rolled down, blasting Eminem on his car stereo while flipping himself gang signs in the rearview mirror as he raps along like a real, live, OG Gangster. Except that the guy is 33, wearing a collared shirt with an alligator emblazoned on the breast, and is about as white Christmas snow. Middle-aged, Anglo-Saxon momma’s boys shouldn’t be listening to ghetto music while out cruising in daddy’s Escort. That’s just not how they roll.

Or, how about the poor bastard at the your local bar who knows all the lyrics to the latest Justin Timberlake song? Somebody, please do this guy a favor and take him out back and put him out of his misery. Real men do not know the lyrics to ‘Rock Your Body’; much less sing them out loud. That's about as masculine as an Annie Lennox video.

And then, of course, there’s guys like my idiot landlord. The late night drunken, stubborn, cultural vacuums and sole harbingers of AM radio’s fading light. Because of these guys, we have a rebirth of cheesy 80's music every six or seven months - or so it seems.

They all make me so mad I could punch babies.

Fortunately for you poor, pathetic, nancy-ass, bebopping, girly-men, I happen to be a manly man’s music aficionado. And I am here to help you. So just as I did with the Domestic Arts, I’m going to detail for all you helpless schmo’s out there, how to man up your music catalogue as well as attempt to etch upon that grey lump of oatmeal that you call a brain the making of a real manly man’s appreciation for the musical arts.

So put away your Beyonce albums, sissybitch; I’m going to get you in touch with your musical manliness.

Music is the soundtrack to your life. And as such, it should as closely as possible, reflect your inner stud at all times. Whether you’re doing housework, out playing pool with friends, or entertaining lured sluts at home after the bar, your manliness is on display - don’t fuck it up by playing the Spice Girls! Nobody really gives a flying shit what you want, what you really, really want; you wanna, you wanna, you wanna, you wanna, you wanna really, really, really, wanna zigazig ha - you Judy.

After all, would you want your friends and family to associate their last memories of you with Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colors’ after you stupidly requested it to be the final song played at your funeral? That’s not very manly; that’s exposing your ‘True Faggot’ too matter of factly I'd say. A real man’s man would have requested Led Zeppelin’s ‘Your Time Is Gonna Come’, or anything off Tom Wait’s ‘Closing Time’ album. Something sad; but with balls. Not some orange-haired circus clown crooning in ripped lingerie and stilettos.

Okay - you have to start somewhere. So here is a quick list of ten readably available albums you can seek out that are an absolute must in any real man’s music collection:
  1. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
  2. Johnny Cash – Live at San Quentin
  3. Pink Floyd – Dark Side the Moon
  4. The Clash – London Calling
  5. AC/DC – Back in Black
  6. The Allman Brothers – Eat a Peach
  7. Black Sabbath – Master of Reality
  8. Tom Waits – Bone Machine
  9. Cream – Disreali Gears
  10. Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland
The above albums are the necessary “base core” from which you can build any great music collection; a manly man’s ‘Desert Island’ picks so to speak. Already, you have the appropriate manly man's tunes to which you can drink, work out, barbecue steak, engage in auto repair, seduce young honeys, or just do the dishes. Whatever the situation, there is a suitable select of tunes in this list to accomodate it.

Firstly, notice that there is no Cyndi Lauper or Sarah McLaughlin on that list; in fact, there are no chicks on it at all. Now that’s not to say there are no acceptable female leads in a manly man’s music collection. Some possible strong female inclusions in a manly man’s music collection may be either Janis Joplin or Patti Smith. However, a traditionalist like myself would still never expose my inner Martha Brady by allowing any such tainted AM “Clit Rock” to pollute his base core albums.

Also notice that there is no “whooping” or “whooting” of any kind, anywhere!

Of course, with only ten albums to listen to you’re bound to get bored eventually and therefore unwittingly subject yourself to listening to more Top 40 bubble gum crap on the radio. So as such, here’s a list of other off-the-beaten-track albums that would serve to beef up your manly music collection:

1) Yo La Tengo – The Sounds of the Sounds of Science

Yes, you read that right. Firstly, let me state for the record: if you do not know who Yo La Tengo are or already appreciate what they do for music, you should stab yourself in the eye immediately. You don’t deserve music.

The Sounds of the Sounds of Science features 78 minutes of instrumental landscapes by Yo La Tengo. The CD contains the entire score written and performed by the band to accompany eight legendary but rarely seen undersea documentary shorts by influential French avant-garde filmmaker Jean Painleve. Does that sound like the sound of being fucking cool or what?

To fully appreciate the music, one really should see the accompanying films of octopus fucking, sea horses in labor, and sea urchins doing…well, sea urchin stuff. But even if you don’t have the chance, the album itself is pretty hauntingly surreal. Not that octopuses fucking isn’t already hauntingly surreal enough.

Here’s an album you can pull out to wow all your more artsy-fartsy of friends and give the illusion that you somehow also have your finger on the pulse of the underground art scene. If that doesn’t work magic on drunken flaky yoga chicks – I don’t know what will.

2) Dr. John, the Night Tripper – Gris-Gris

By now, I’m sure everyone recognizes the fedoraed New Orleans piano player; but back in 1968, this guy was about as out there as the moons of Jupiter on a cold Decembers night. At only 33-minutes in length, this recording of weird spatial sound effects will make the hairs on the back of your neck rise up and take a bow.

The blend of druggy deep blues, incantational background vocals, exotic mandolin and banjo trills, ritualistic percussion, interjections of free jazz, and Dr. John's own seductive-yet-menacing growl was like a psychedelic voodoo ceremony invading your living room. The opening track's title, "Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya", was itself an indication of the record's homage to New Orleans eclecticism: the gris-gris voodoo, the gumbo, and "Ya Ya", the title of one of the biggest hits to ever come out of the city (by Lee Dorsey). From the albums opening line “they call me Dr. John, known as the Night Tripper”, the album progresses to get spookier and spookier.

The first time I heard the snaky rhythms, soulful backup choruses, and ghostly echoing percussion of this album I was passing out in a drug stupor in my dorm room back in University. It set an eerie tone that evening and ended up with me waking up in cold sweats after a vivid nightmare of being boiled alive by natives sporting bones through their noses - always a sign of good music, and a good trip.

3) Alexander “Skip” Spence - OAR

Alexander Lee "Skip" Spence was a former member of the Jefferson Airplane (back when they were cool and the whole Starship fiasco) and founder of the goopy 60’s psychedelic juggernaught known as Moby Grape. The man was also notoriously nuttier than squirrel shit.

During the recording of "Wow," Spence, who was by now injecting massive doses of speed to bolster his confidence, snapped in New York, and tried to attack bandmate (Don) Stevenson with a fire ax ("I thought he was possessed by Satan and I had to save him," Spence said later). He landed in Bellevue Mental Hospital, and was out of the Grape.

Like Nick Drake or Syd Barrett, Spence was still able to corral enough of his feeble mental instability to produce semi-coherent, but profound music. If you had hooked up Spence’s brain to an EKG during the time of this album’s recording, the resulting mess of lines on the printout would lend credence to the term “f-u-c-k-e-d up.”

There’s no Omaha on this record, sure, but it still stands on its own as a unique insight into the mind of a burnt out hippie folkster. It sank like a stone upon release and quickly assumed a quiet position on the shelves of cult fame.

Spence never lived to see the albums release. For the last 30 years, he was indigent and drifted in and out of institutions, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who basically disappeared from society. He passed away in Santa Cruz, California in 1999. Spence had been suffering from lung cancer, congestive heart failure and pneumonia. He was about to celebrate his 53rd birthday.

4) Preservation Hall Jazz Band – Shake that Thing

If you don’t know who, or what, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band are – you don’t deserve music. Basically, it’s a rotating group of senile old farts playing traditional Dixieland Jazz on dented, tarnished instruments. Throw in a busty, handkerchiefed serving wench and you have the perfect drinking companion.

5) Critters Buggin’ – Stampede

Imagine the scene:

It’s about 300 degrees in the shade and you’ve been corralled into a broom closet-sized room at the bottom of a steep flight of rickety stairs. You’re peaking balls on LSD consumed earlier in the evening and you currently don’t know your ass from your elbow so the ebb of gathering crowd crammed into a space intended for twelve, maybe, is beginning to fuck with your equilibrium – big time. You’re getting paranoid and uncomfortable. Every time someone strikes a match (it’s Texas – so that’s every one sixteenth of a second) you’d swear that it was the last sound you’d hear before the final *whompf* of flames igniting hit this tinderbox deathtrap. And just when you think you’ve managed to harness enough brainpower to order your drink, the band comes on with a deafening irritating racket that immediately begins to burrow under your skin. It contorts the muscles in your scrotum. It sounds like a herd of giant insects stampeding through the streets of downtown Austin, Texas.

In actually, it is the opening track from Critters Buggin’ last album, ‘Stampede’, being performed by the band itself – only 10 ft away – at a decibel level on par with most International airports. This was jazz? It was like being clubbed between the eyes with an invisible mallet. My first instinct was to just start blindly kicking people in the jewels in a blind panic to get out of the room.

Some call it improvisational jazz; others call it ‘Avant Crap’. I call it organized sonic chaos. Whatever your definition, this album is unlike anything you’ve ever heard before, or will ever likely hear again.

It still makes my scrotum retreat into my chest when I play it.

6) Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads

Now here’s a work of art. With a body count on par with any Arnold Schwarzenegger flick, this 9th release from the master of macabre is a fascinating concept album that uses the narrative ballad form of the English folk tradition to tell of murder: random deaths, passion crimes, and killing sprees, all in one package.

From the opening chords of ‘Song of Joy’, Cave croons on and on endlessly about murdered families, brutal bar room slaughters, serial killers, and victimized lovers. The lyrics read like most pulp fiction novels.

Where this album isn’t likely to woo the pants of any young honeys, it sure provides the perfect way to unwind after a particularly stressful day at the office over a glass of neat whiskey.

7) Townes Van Zandt – Pancho & Lefty

Let’s not forget country. And I’m talking about the good kind of “alternative country” here – not the ridiculous new pretty country that features mulleted “cowboys” water-skiing in their ten-gallon hats on the CMT Channel. The kind of good-ol-boy music that drives you straight to drink.

Originally, Van Zandt was being groomed for Texas governorship, but he dropped out of college in the 1960s after being inspired by singer-songwriters and deciding to pursue a singing career. Following in the tradition of his hero, Lightning Hopkins, he preferred to perform only before small audiences where he could better weave song and story together for unforgettably intimate performances. Van Zandt would inspire a whole host of other newer more recognized alternative country stars such as Steve Earle, Willie Nelson, and Lyle Lovett.

Van Zandt was of MENSA intelligence and was diagnosed manic-depressive in his early twenties. He was treated with insulin shock therapy, which erased much of his long-term memory. His lack of memory and his mental condition contributed to both the passion and sense of isolation evident in his songs.

For much of the 1970s, he lived a reclusive life in a cabin in Tennessee, with no indoor plumbing or phone, appearing only occasionally to play shows.

He also struggled with alcoholism his whole life in true Texan form, and ultimately died with a flask of vodka in his hand.

The moral of the story: misery breeds good music.

I wouldn’t, however, recommend playing this album on repeat, as it’s likely to induce an unconscious suicidal impulse to drown your liver in gasoline.

8) Wilco – Summerteeth

What do you say about one of our generation's most defining albums when no one has ever heard of it? The music, lyrics, and that undefinable edge to this album ranks it as an all time classic, but few critics would rank this in their top picks. The reason is simple: Wilco's success has always been limited to intelligent discerning individuals looking for great music - not the next big thing.

Summerteeth is a miasma of rock, pop, and country music swirled into an amazing tapestry of sound. The songs evoke hard and true feelings: bitter anguish and bubbling euphoria – like your Prom Night. Like all truly great albums by truly great bands, they defy description and they work together.

Here is an album to impress your friends. You’re not likely to hear any of the tunes on the radio, but that’s what makes this album so fucking cool.

9) Daniel Johnston – Yip/Jump Music

Every manly man should have a sense of humor – at least that’s what the majority of chicks say anyway. And so should this humor be evident in his music collection too. As such, I recommend adding just about any Daniel Johnston album to your collection. I chose ‘Yip/Jump Music’ solely because it happens to be my favorite. But favorite Daniel Johnston albums are certainly specific to each and every fan. Maybe you like the regaling tale of having seen the country by moped or, perhaps a happy biographical ditty about Casper the Ghost.

Johnston’s unique style of stuttering folk ignited the hot, new Austin MTV scene in the early 80’s almost immediately. Over the last twenty years or so, Johnston exposed his heartrending tales of unrequited love, cosmic mishaps, and existential torment to an ever-growing international cult audience. Unfortunately for Johnston (fortunately for us), his music was inspired and fueled by his deep manic-depressive tendencies. In short, Daniel Johnston made Brian Wilson look like Carl Jung.

Some hail him as the ‘Greatest Thing That Should Never Have Been’; others hail him as an American original in the style of bluesman Robert Johnson and country legend Hank Williams. Undeniably, his songs have since been covered by other cool, manly bands such as the Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, Dead Milkmen, Yo La Tengo, and Beck.

10) Robert Johnson – King of the Delta Blues Singers

What manly man hasn’t fantasized about making a deal with the Devil at some desolate crossroads somewhere? Anyone who’s ever air-guitared has had this dream at some point. And this is the original bluesman extraordinaire from which the legend was given birth.

Eleven 78 rpm records were issued during Johnson's lifetime and one posthumously. They were just "race" records then - another casual attempt at trying to capitalize on the blues. Needless to say, they were enough to establish his identity wherever he went and afford him a degree of fame and fortune for the short time he lived after their release.

Including the material that never saw issuance on 78's, there are 29 compositions and alternate versions of nearly half of them. Including the recent discovery of a previously unknown alternate take of one of Johnson's recordings, a total of 42 recordings remain to this day - the only recordings of one of the true geniuses of American music.

This album also happens to lend itself very nicely to dusting.

Honorable mentions:
  • Pink Floyd - Umma Gumma
  • Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street
  • Tom Waits - Rain Dogs
  • Frank Zappa - Joe's Garage
  • Tenacious D
  • Van Halen - OU812
  • Who - Quadrophenia
  • ZZ Top - Tres Hombres
From this point you can branch out and assume your own unique sense of manness. Rock out with your cock out, so to speak, and be proud!

As there are base fundamentals to building a decent manly man’s music collection, there are also pitfalls along the way disguised as good music. When was the last time you actually inventoried your current collection? I mean really looking at and cleaning out all those crappy, dusty, impulse buys you never listen to anymore. Do you still have Barbara Streisand located directly next to Styx in your collection? Are all your jazz albums mixed up with your country & western? Do you even have any order at all? You’re not out of the clear yet.

Sometimes it’s just best practice to slash and burn it all and start from scratch all over again. I have done this once in my lifetime and the experience was completely cathartic. It felt therapeutic to finally weed all the old crappy Brit Pop singles I had been hanging onto and replace them with good ‘ol fashioned ground breaking classic rock power albums – the kind that’s rife with character, substance, and structured guitar solos.

Shit, I’m well beyond now of putting on any of my Morrissey albums and crying myself to sleep with a bag of Oreo’s. They were great and served their purpose back in the day – but at age 34, I know enough to take more Vitamin C supplements to prevent those occasional bouts of “nobody loves me.” Besides, it’s just not as cool to hide in your room with the lights off and write sad poetry after the age of 30 anyway*.

There are a few basic rules that you should continue to apply to your new manly musical lifestyle in order to help avoid allowing your collection to slip back into total Pussydom.

1) Enya is evil.

As there are groups or artists for whom you just can’t go wrong in adding to your collection, there are also groups/artists that are the kiss of death to any manly man’s music collection. At all costs, for the love of God, avoid any album by Enya. It has been scientifically proven that prolonged exposure to Enya’s twittering voice will result in your Joey’s shriveling up and turning into ovaries. So that also means no Celtic chanting, no step dancing, and no Orinoco-nothing. You may as well do the same for Loreena McKennitt, The Corrs, Sandy Denny, Sinead O’Conner, or anything featuring Kiki Dee on backing vocals. That sappy crap bleeds the sperm right out of you.

If you do feel the need to add some sort of uteral softness to your collection, opt for some Chrissy Hyde, Etta James, or Nina Simone instead. Something floofy that still emanates balls.

2) Setting the mood.

Sooner or later, you may find yourself in need of finding some music with which to better schmooze your way into some nubile young ladies drawers. And as macho as AC/DC’s ‘Who Made Who’ is at top volume, its not exactly what you would call good “mood music”. Not unless you're dating, say, the Women's World Weightlifting Champion.

This is indeed dangerous territory. Most men would rely on their old romantic standbys learned in University dorms such as Sade, or Joni Mitchell. Believe me, most girls are onto your tactics, you smooth operator, you. They're not banging you because they think you're a sensitive stud; they're doing you because they think you're a pathetic imbecile in need of some quick pity sex. Putting on a Sade album, besides being a complete breach of manly worthiness, only signals to the waiting honeys what’s really going on in your head. You may as well just ask her what flavor of roofie she’d like in her nightcap.

Instead, why not choose something a little more testosterone-based, yet still mood enhancing? What girl could ever resist the sexy guttural urging of James Brown, or the infectious funky groove of Curtis Mayfield or Herbie Hancock? These guys will have you spanking super models in no time!

And, of course, there’s always the old tried-and-true sex classic; Led Zeppelin's 'IV'. No girl can ever resist its charms. It's like girls are immediately hypnotized by its magnificence. This album has encouraged more girls to shed their knickers than Tom Jones. In the successful manly men's music circles, it's been nicknamed the 'Virgin Crusher'.

3) Beware the unsk!

Unless you fancy yourself as one of those sweaty bare-chested dipshits in sparkly gloves and sucking on a pacifier – avoid all that Trance, Electro, Techno, Ambient, Dub, Break Beat, House, Acid House, Drum & Bass, Hip-Hop, Trip-Hop, Doo-Wop, Be-Bop, Scoodily-Wop-Bop, and Big Bam Boom bullshit.

Just take some Extra-Strength Nyquil and beat box into a running fan. It’ll achieve the same effect and leave your collection untainted. Set a chimp down at a DJ’s control consul and it’d likely pump out something repetitive and rave worthy given long enough. It is not music anymore than Ms. Pacman is an Olympic sport.

4) Classical music is for pussies. Period.

If there is any justice at all, our befallen rock heroes are up in heaven kicking the living bejesus out of histories classical composers. I hope Jim Morrison is wedgying Beethoven off his piano stool right now.

"Time to break on through, Ludwig."

Unless you're either gay or dress like the Monopoly guy, stay away from classical music altogether. Go put on some Talk Talk, or Yes, or something, and salvage what you have left of your dignity.

* It is, however, acceptable to hide in your room with the lights off and write bad poetry to the Moody Blues instead.


Blogger Superhappyjen said...

You have to admit, Annie Lennox is pretty manly.

12:06 PM  

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