This is a new column/series on Parisnormale, which will feature rotating contributors. We will also allow some of you to post from time to time. Just email me (email@example.com).
What is it?
It's an MP3 peep show (curtsies and bows to Siouxsie Sioux): I give you the voyeuristic pleasure of peeping into my MP3 player or old school cassette-walkman and -woman, and also hearing why I find the lineup worthy of a short-lived rotation--all in the context of my morning metro ride to work (in Paris).
Here's what I'm currently listening to, some new, some old school (sorry, I'm too lazy to provide the links to myspace or allmusic, so you'll just have to eat your Cheerios and find the getupandgo to do your own search if need be):
- Joy Division--Failures. Punky, garagey, influencing, like the VU, a legion of followers, and it still holds up. It's a good way to get started in the morning, running to the metro. Who's on time in Paris (that's right--I conveniently use it to conceal yet another of my flaws)? Missed it again: failure. But man, am I charged now to sprint up the escalator five minutes later at the Gare du Nord correspondence. I think I'll have to repeat that one for an extra burst of energy.
- Sufjan Stevens--Chicago (acoustic version from Blizzard). My adoration of this song has taken voice elsewhere...It's going to stay in the rotation until I just can't take it any longer. Let's see, shall we, how long that will be. I'm betting a month--you? Now I've lost all that momentum I was reserving for my correspondence.
- Buffalo Tom--Torch Singer. As I've also said elsewhere, this guy wrote great pop songs with heady lyrics, especially about relationships. Perfect for certain moods. Those of you who know it understand; those who don't will soon understand after you listen. Uh, is it possible to bop your head and weep profusely, simultaneously?
- Peter Bjorn and John--Let's Call It Off. Calypso meets mod and new wave; also spaghetti Western guitars, with echoing vocals. Very 80s and yet experimental and fresh--which is to say, it's postmodernism at its best. These guys are fun, smart, creative--in a word, Swedish. The lead singer (Peter) has a voice that recalls GBV's Robert Pollard, but with a healthy dose of estrogen. In that sense this group moves interestingly beyond a hybrid of influences that surely conjure the Kinks, GBV, Belle and Sebastian and Sonic Youth. It's sweet, it rocks, it's weird. It's not "a sound"; it's musical creativity at it's best. (And yes, their honey-drippin' "Old Folks" smash is on there too).
- Kim Wilde--Kids in America (1981). A major underground classic for a generation of post-punk, new wave American 80s rebels, which I've returned to with immense pleasure. It goes down like caffeine and sugar. But it also makes the passengers on the metro laugh at you--no there's no booger on your cheek; your fly is safely zipped; your body is just taking orders from Kim Wilde.
- Dwight Yoakam-- It only hurts when I cry (acoustic version from the Acousticnet album). Nice playful ironic lyrics to treat heartache and rejection: "The only time I feel the pain/is in the sunshine and the rain/I don't feel no hurt at all unless you count when teardrops fall/I tell the truth 'cept when I lie/And it only hurts me when I cry." A great alt-country songwriter with a distinctive voice. True to the genre, D's songs are beautiful explorations in heartache, in cowboy boots and bolo ties, definitely free of Nashville's right-wing corporate yokes. So now I'm cryin, and the septuagenarian across the way is looking confused, worried, scared. What is 911 in French?
- Ramones--I don't want to grow up. I dig this rockin' cover of Tom Waits' excellent commentary on modern hardly-advanced everyday life. When I hear my parents fighting, when I look in the medicine cabinet, when I turn on the TV set...I don't want to grow up. It makes the singer long for a dog's life. Indeed, the adults of several generations continue the errors of the past. Even we romantics/idealists need a dose of escapism and cynicism. Old blue hair is soothed by drying tears.
- Mojave 3--Breaking the Ice. Such sweet indie pop, a la Posies, with well-wrought lyrics. I find my head swaying from lateral side to side on the metro...until I notice the septuagenarian seated across from me cracking up (only 8 minutes after she was busting a gut at me during the Kim Wilde selection and very afraid at the abrupt turn I took at Yoakam).
- Wolf Parade--Modern World. Methinks me likes this syncopated acoustic-guitar and keyboard-driven angsty condemnation of the ant-hill everyday life of most "modern" cities. Go to Gare du Nord, the busiest subway stop in the world, between 5 and 8pm, stand in the segue between line 5, line 4, and RER B, watch and listen (and see how many times your shoulder gets slammed--just like high school football practice all over again). Can you tell I have a nasty tragi-comic streak? Standing there, taking the hits in the station: it's my form of non-violent protest. Thank you, Wolf Parade.
- Wreckless Eric--Whole Wide World. This great little ditty (covered by at least eighteen major bands) does a nice job quoting the Cars in an ode to the love out there somewhere. Or so it seems. Actually the Cars "Just What I Needed" new wave hit came out in '78 and WE's "Whole Wide" came out in '77. But no matter. The Cars is better known. I'm sure a lot of other bands begin that way, too. But you're talking to a guy raised on late 70's and 80's radio, then punk. It's all relative, or cultural. But customarily, I digress. In the first few bars, I'm ready for Ric O'Casek to belt out "I don't mind you coming here," even if it is acoustic. Instead, you get: "I'd go the whole wide world just to find her...to find out where they hide her...Is she lying on a tropical beach somewhere...I should be lying on that sun-soaked beach with her..." and so on. Maybe he married her and lost her? But yes, you're right: I just saw the heartwarming Stranger than Fiction featuring this song performed by the lovable Will Ferrell. Enough already: of course I'm a sentimental sucker. I'm finished taking the hits, I'm descending back into the bowels of the metro, steeled to absorb its unforgiving flourescent lights and wreaking rat dung. Gotta chill a second and nurse that Charlie Horse I picked up on the way up the escalator a few minutes ago.
- Uncle Tupelo--No Depression. Both senses of the word. This punky bluegrass is to me what Metallica is for some others. It appeals to my inner Bojangles. And I like its politics. I'm going where they're going. Now what stop was "No Depression?" Must've missed it...again.
- Tapes'nTapes--Cowbell. Violent Femmes but better, revved up and ready to go. A couple of bridges that remind me of the B52's classic Rock Lobster. I'd add to this TnT's Insistor, also in the peepshow and I dare you to try resisting the notorious accelerated "rock head nod" (or indie head bang) with that one. I'm abetted by a bad coffee I picked up on the RER track in wait, while the Dilbert ants scurry about me. I'm worried they'll whisk me away to their data entry desk jobs and make me turn off my MP3 player: "my preeecccccious, my precious."
- I'm also listening to a slew of Sunset Rubdown and Wolf Parade songs. One of my friends says he dislikes Connor Oberst because the dude constantly sounds on the verge of tears. But actually that's why I like him. Ditto for Spencer Krug of SR and WP. Very heady lyrics and unique vocals within expressionistic musical arrangements. Highly recommended. Also getting my Art Brut on, more about which next time. Now, I'm being belched out of the bowels of the metro beast. No more in the belly of the whale. I'm re-charged to spread the good word: is "peep show" one word or two? Doesn't matter: the French don't listen to anyone to whom they're not introduced anyhow.
Ciao Ciao for now.