6. only shallow

“Unlike pretty much everything else found on the My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless (which don’t get me wrong, I truly love), Only Shallow actually begins to hint at what this outfit conjured live, in a big room, with a big PA. By which I mean, maybe My Bloody Valentine in Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom, July-7, 1992 wasn’t the greatest f***ing show ever (that’s still probably Yes, 1975, the Relayer tour, because whatever blows your mind when you’re fifteen is always going to be the The Best). But My Bloody Valentine in the Commodore, 1992 was definitely the last show I’ll ever need to see. And hear.

Because that Commodore situation was proof of concept — that so-called rock music (or whatever you want to call it) really can rearrange molecules or atoms or neutrons or whatever the stuff of so-called reality actually is. Because handled correctly, these vibrations, this organized sound, this music really is the stuff of the gods. And those who deny it (for instance, the 500 or so folks who didn’t stick around for the whole gig that night), well, they can have the so-called real world, the real estate, the mortgage payments, the lawyers and accountants …. It occurs to me, I have no conclusion for this thought. I’m still confused, I guess. Years after the fact and I’m still looking for words to describe what happened that night, and I wasn’t even that high. Just a few tokes before the band came on, and then I guess I forgot. I got teleported, I got rearranged. In the meantime, there’s the album known as Loveless, the lead-off track known as Only Shallow which, on the right sound system, at the right volume, you maybe just begin to understand.” (Philip Random)

24. full metal jackoff

“One of my more dangerous friends used to say Full Metal Jackoff was the ultimate surf tune – the music he wanted playing when that monster wave he was riding finally rose into a tsunami the size of a continent and effectively removed all evidence that humankind had ever existed. What it is actually, is a hardcore supernova — Jello Biafra and DOA together (for one short 1990 album), and no question, Full Metal Jackoff is its primary reason to exist. Because it uses its fourteen piledriving minutes to put it all together for us: the monstrous evil of Ronald Reagan’s America in all of its streamlined complexity, conspiracy and cynical malevolence.

Because it really would be a little obvious to fence off all the slums, hand machine guns to the poor and just let them kill each other off. No you need to be more subtle than that, you need a plan that involves illegal cash from Iran, cocaine from Colombia, the ‘freedom fighting’ Contras of Nicaragua and CIA guns … until at some point there’s a black van with no windows cruising the various mean streets of the great US of A, sealing the deal, maybe disappearing a few of your neighbours on the side. But nobody even hears their screams. Or if they do, they’re too terrified to do anything about it. Welcome to America at the end of the 1980s. Not fascist so much as stampeding in that particular direction. Though it’s not as if serious f***ing noise isn’t getting made about it.” (Philip Random)

(Winston Smith)

80. little fluffy clouds

“The Orb‘s Little Fluffy Clouds was a hit, sort of, just not in the Americas … except for certain subterranean situations. Like that time in 1995, The Orb have finally made it to town, the club known as Graceland, surprisingly full. They play a long set, mostly texture and groove, precious little in the way of what you might call ‘song’. But it’s The Orb – so not unexpected. And then, final number, they drop the old hit, Little Fluffy Clouds, except I have no idea it’s such a hit – the whole packed room suddenly kicking up three or four gears, moving in complex unity, achieving escape velocity. At which point it occurs to me that Little Fluffy Clouds is a god damned anthem for a nation I didn’t know existed. Something to do with beauty being its own argument, its own justification, its own ideology even. Which is to say, the ends can never justify ugly means, because the means are the end. You don’t get to paradise by doing ugly things. Just a fleeting thought perhaps, as substantial as little fluffy clouds passing by. Except here I am remembering it, years later. Enough gravity for that.” (Philip Random)

112. the creator has a masterplan

“It was only a few years ago that I first stumbled into the thrall of Pharaoh SandersThe Creator Has A Masterplan. It just seems like a different age. I guess I was high. A Saturday afternoon at the flea market, packed as usual, a cacophony of vision and sound, anything and everything vying for my attention. Until rising from the far right corner, a more marvelous cacophony, saxophones and drums and keyboards and voices, yodeling even. Something about peace and happiness through all the land. It drew me to old Ike’s vinyl stand and all the wonders therein. Ike’s dead now. Cancer got him in the throat. Yet he still lives in so much of my collection, particularly the weirder, wilder, more expansive stuff, like Karma, the album in question. Apparently, it’s jazz, the free kind, a logical next step from what Mr. Sanders had been doing with John Coltrane in the last few years before his death. I just call it music, everlasting.” (Philip Random)

167. exquisite corpse

Bauhaus still had one more album after 1982’s The Sky’s Gone Out but in terms of invention and sheer sonic adventure, it’s pretty safe to say they peaked here. And nowhere are things creepier, more sonically inventive than the final track, Exquisite Corpse. Dub, oblique fragments of poetry, sheets of nightmarish noise. Needless to say, this got a lot of play through any number of psychedelic excursions in the lead up to the mid-80s. An abandoned house comes to mind, right at the seashore, a sort of lost cove off Vancouver’s north shore. The weird part is how everything was still furnished, the library still stocked with books. I grabbed one, heavy, bound in strangely moist leather. I opened it up to some calligraphy, a language I didn’t recognize and yet it spoke to me anyway, and then I realized that the ink was blood red and running in trickles to the hungry floorboards. Actually, I’m pretty sure it was all but a dream.” (Philip Random)

Bauhaus-1982-live+messianic

(photo: Fin Costello)

178. celebrated summer

“The sorta punk thrash psychedelic power pop blast of Husker Du’s Celebrated Summer was exactly what my Universe needed in the mid-80s. One night in particular comes to mind. And it wasn’t even Husker Du playing, but an all all-girl band from California (wish I remembered their name) at the Arts Club on Seymour (best live venue this town ever had). 1986 I’m pretty sure, and summertime, which meant Expo was squatting in the near distance sucking all the light and love from things. And I’d just seen Skinny Puppy up at UBC, which was a terrorizing experience, because man, the acid was particularly FUN that night. So yeah, it all came around to the song not so much saving my soul (my soul was fairly intact in those days) as reigniting it with hope, fervour, blinding white light, which is to say, celebrated and wild, erupting with summer. And as soon as we got back to the car, New Day Rising got jammed into the cassette player. Once more unto eternity.” (Philip Random)

HuskerDu-1985-posing

195. the real thing

“Wherein the Pointed Sticks (straight outa late 70s suburban Vancouver) hit the eternal pop gold standard with a three minute nugget the whole world should have heard, but it didn’t for some stupid reason (and it still hasn’t). Which puts a big loud BULLSHIT to the argument I’ve heard over the years from some I know that, despite all the music biz’s ugliness, waste, criminality and stupidity, the truly good stuff always rises, gets its due, gets heard. Yeah right.” (Philip Random) 

(image source)

230. back in flesh

Wall of Voodoo being one of the first uniquely post-1970s outfits I ever threw in with — tight, unafraid of new technology, a little nasty, full of film noir shadows and surprises, even some laughs. And they could deliver live. Which is what happened in Vancouver’s Luv Affair, early 1982, one of the great shows of that or any year. They opened strong with a cover of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, and it all peaked maybe an hour later with Back In Flesh – a song about what happens when your arm gets smashed and your salary gets cut and the corporation’s boiling over … and everything else. Yeah, it sounds a bit like the B52s, I suppose, but what the hell’s wrong with that?” (Philip Random)

WallofVoodoo-1981-promo

(photo source)

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