38. another song to sing

Johnny Cash is right. The world’s always bigger than you thought it was. And weirder, more wonderful. There’s always a reason to crawl out of whatever hole you’re in, get up, try one more time. Because there’s always another song. I guess I don’t really know Johnny Cash’s story as well as I should. I know he had some hard times. I know he got himself saved by the Lord Jesus. I know he gobbled a lot of pills for a while, mixed them up with moonshine or whatever. I know he managed to burn down a forest in California. A thick and complex volume, that man in black. Thank all gods (or whatever) that he found so many songs to sing. Including this one, all (almost) two minutes of it, that I have no memory of adding to my collection, except there it was one day, stuck on side two of an album called From Sea To Shining Sea. About America, I guess. Which goes without saying. Johnny Cash is always about America, one way or other.” (Philip Random)

(Morrison Hotel Gallery)

40. close to the edge

“So here we are, decades after the fact and it’s still difficult to discuss the music of the band known as Yes without somehow disparaging it as overwrought, pretentious, guilty of trying too hard. To which I say, f*** that (unless you’re talking about their later stuff – the 1980s and beyond, some of which I’m pretty sure is on perpetual repeat in hell’s jukebox). Because the good stuff, the grand stuff, the vast and virtuous and ambitious stuff of their early-mid 1970s phase, we need that stuff, particularly Close To The Edge (the song and the album, but particularly the side long song). Because it’s true, I think, the edge isn’t a place, the edge doesn’t exist. You’ve either gone too far and you’re falling the long fall into oblivion, or you’ve found that sweet spot just short of it where everything opens up. All those BIG unifying passions and ideas that have been floating in and around you since before puberty even – the idea of indivisibility. Jehovah and Allah and Jesus and Muhammad and Krishna and every known and unknown god or whatever, all one big happy. Bigger than any cathedral, that’s for sure. Because every church, every creed, every ideology gets it wrong the instant it claims to have gotten it all right. Because even if you have vast chunks of the truth, you can’t have it all. It’s the nature of it, beyond mortal comprehension. So the very claim of TRUTH divides us, sets loose corrosive elements, brings the f***ing roof down.

Which is what’s going on in the middle of Close To The Edge, I think, the part where the church organ kicks in. That’s the capital T Truth failing. That’s the cathedrals all collapsing, and the mosques, the temples, the synagogues. That’s the outside crashing in, the inside gushing out. Now that you’re saved, now that you’re whole. Seasons will pass you by. You get up. You get down.  It’s all so clear once you stop trying to make sense of it. Just smoke a doob, put on the headphones, stretch out and let it all be … for eighteen and a half minutes anyway. Maybe the best damned band on the planet. Ever. Or certainly close to it. Hell even Led Zeppelin had to be looking over their shoulders by 1972. Because Yes simply had more going on. Hell, they had Rick Wakeman and his mountainous stacks of keyboards, conjuring choirs and orchestras and all manner of big and mysterious colours and textures and everything really, or damned close to it anyway. As close as anyone got at the time, and maybe ever since. Because has there ever been another time like it? We were definitely close to something.” (Philip Random)

95. just like honey

“If you want to know what the mid-1980s really sounded like, slap on The Jesus And Mary Chain‘ s Psycho Candy and it’s all there in the (sort of) Phil Spector melodies channeled through not a wall of sound, but a god damned holocaust of it. And yet there’s a sweetness you can’t ignore, perhaps more obvious in Just Like Honey than most of the rest of the album. But be careful, it’s a dangerous sweetness, because this is an outfit that call themselves The Jesus and Mary Chain, more than just suggesting a pure and fierce and superlative purpose that will destroy the unrighteous. And many were destroyed in 1985, the battle lines being drawn in what would come to be known as the Winter of Hate (by a few of us anyway). And you could even sing along.” (Philip Random)

168. never tell

“The Violent Femmes gave us more than their share of horny and cool party anthems on their debut album, but for me the deeper, darker Hallowed Ground is the serious keeper, if only for Never Tell. I recall hearing it’s about child abuse. But I can’t remember where I heard it, so all I’m really left with is the impression, and f*** if it’s not indelible – a sonic scar of rage, angst, pain, betrayal. Or as Jesus himself put it, don’t mess with the little ones. Not bad for a sort of indie-folk-punk party band.” (Philip Random)

ViolentFemmes-1984-promo

(image source)

176. Christianity is Stupid

“Speaking of Jesus and surrealism and full-on agit-prop satire, Christianity Is Stupid has to rate as one of Negativland‘s high water marks. I remember it being particularly useful roundabout Christmastime, 1987, peak of the so-called Winter of Hate observances. Which, I suppose, are best understood as the mirror opposite of 1967’s Summer of Love  observances, neither being exactly what they were advertising. In other words, there was more than little fear and loathing caught up in all that overhyped San Francisco hippie shit (even if some of it was no doubt wonderful); likewise, there were traces of peace and love to be found in the massively under-hyped Winter of Hate (even if much of was deliberately abysmal). And whatever was going down (or perhaps up), Christianity is Stupid has to stand as one of its key anthems, a record you generally played at people (as opposed to for them). It even caused a proper controversy, which still seems to be playing  out. And oh yeah, the whole damned album‘s a masterpiece. Assuming noise is your thing, interruption, interference.” (Philip Random)

Negativland-1987-posing

(image source)

177. the king of carrot flowers [1-3]

“I’m pretty sure this is one of those it’s-not-about-what-you-think-it’s-about songs, even if you think the ‘I Love You Jesus Christ’ stuff is just being ironic. Because there’s a level of sublime madness at work here in the Neutral Milk Hotel (call it surrealism, I guess)  where Jesus is at least as real and miraculous as any carrot flowers, but the higher reality isn’t in the words anyway, it’s where they allow the music to go, the great waves unleashed, a perfect storm, except its not wind and rain but multi-colours, psychedelic and pure … and yeah, looking down from on high, the Lord God in Heaven smiles and knows that it is good, because multi-coloured psychedelia never killed anybody, just amused and enthused and perhaps confused them.” (Philip Random)

NeutralMilkHotel-1998-live

(image source)

 

282. I am the resurrection

“Speaking of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, call this one punk rock, Ecstatically inspired. In other words, blame it on the drugs. Or whatever it was that got the Stone Roses mixing up mystical insight and balls out provocation in such a way as to declare themselves both the resurrection and the son (singer Ian Brown anyway). I Am The Resurrection being the epic final track of their 1989 debut album that really did blow the roof off of things. The whole album, that is, every song essential. Call it a masterpiece, messianic even. These Roses really were perfect, they had all the answers, they were showing the way. But then, I guess, they started doing different drugs.” (Philip Random)

StoneRoses-1989-studioLive

283. the cross

“They say there are no atheists in foxholes. Also Prince concerts back in the day. The memory is of seeing the Purple One live in 1988, the Lovesexy tour. The stage was round. The sound was exquisite. The action was non stop. It was everything a rock and roll show was ever supposed to be, and more. And the musical highlight of the evening, the song that pinned all fifteen thousand of us to the wall was a power anthem about a certain cross and the guy that had to carry it, and how we’ve all got to do the same, one way or another, up that hill to eternity. Yeah, I believed.” (Philip Random)

Prince-1988-live-gtr

306. the temple

In which Jesus loses his cool when he discovers the sacred temple of Jerusalem has been taken over by the moneychangers, goes all punk rock on things. But seriously, when this Original London Cast recording gets to humming (not to be confused with the okay-but-just-not-as-good movie soundtrack), it’s as cool as funky as rockin as any dozen satanic offerings. Of course, it helps having Deep Purple’s soon-to-be front man Ian Gillan playing the title role, leaving no sonic scenery un-chewed.

Jesus+moneyChangers