Steinbeck on Random — 10.27.06

Guess what’s back?!

Steinbeck! I’ve missed you!

(Actually, I haven’t ‘missed’ my iPod. I just haven’t remembered to do Steinbeck on Random since, well, August.)


1. Radiohead – “Idioteque (live)”
I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings

This song, which starts off with a frenetic electronic riff, gets more and more hectic as it goes on. It leads to crescendo with a wonderful breakdown, one that is simply amazing when heard live. Every person in the crowd is singing along, apparently, and it makes a live Radiohead show seem a lot cooler than it probably is.

Sorry, to all of the superfans out there, but I just don’t see Thom Yorke rocking it out enough to be interesting, though I’d love to go see the band if they ever came near Sioux Falls for less than $7000 a ticket.

Here’s the weird thing: I can understand the words to this song. I think that’s a Radiohead first.

2. Bruce Springsteen – “Lucky Town”
The Essential Bruce Springsteen

I don’t give this song enough credit, usually, but it’s a good 90’s-era Bruce classic. This was the title song from one of his two 1992 releases (Human Touch being the other one) and the beginning of his “maybe I’m a little washed up” period, a timeframe that ended with The Rising.

Still, I like “Lucky Town.” It’s everything that John Cougar Mellencamp tried to be, except ten years later and a thousand times cooler. Street cred goes a long way, I’d say.

3. Pixies – “Wave of Mutilation (live)”
Death to Pixies 1987-1991

My love affair with Pixies has an interesting beginning. I, being a student of mid to late 90’s college and indie rock, missed out on the Pixies revolution. I was a fan of Frank Black before I was a fan of him as the Pixies’ singer, Black Francis.

My discovery, then, was backwards in several ways. I went from the solo act to the full band – Frank Black to Pixies. I became a bigger fan after Fight Club (as many probably did after hearing the perfect ending song, “Where Is My Mind”). I bought my first Pixies cd only after becoming familiar with their tribute album, featuring The Get Up Kids and Braid.

So, you see, I came into it completely backwards. But I still like them, regardless of how “OG” I am about it.

4. Elliott Smith – “Son of Sam”
Figure 8

Whenever I think I’ve started to forget about how good Elliott Smith was, I hear one of his great songs – “Son of Sam,” for instance, and I remember.

This exact thing happened over the weekend, when this came onto the radio. Kerrie and I have the same reaction every time – a sudden silent attention, followed by one of us saying, in some form or another, “boy, I miss Elliott Smith.”

5. Faith No More – “Digging the Grave”
King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime

I was in high school when this came out. Both Eric and I were at the peak of our “Faith No More phase,” and Eric found a promotional copy at KAUR. He played it during his radio show, and we both geeked out about it for weeks, or at least until the album came out.

Overall, King for a Day is the weakest Mike Patton-era Faith No More cd I ever owned. But it’s got some of the best songs, this one included. No one sounds more deranged, yet so serious and soulful, and pulls it off quite as well.

6. Bob Dylan – “Subterranean Homesick Blues”
The Essential Bob Dylan

This song spawned maybe the first hit music video. It’s also one of my favorites, a tight, syllable-bouncing trip through paranoia, governmental worry, hard and soft drugs, crooked law enforcement, and everything else that helped make Dylan’s songs both revered and reviled, depending on the group. Of course, that’s my personal take on the lyrics. For all I know, he was writing and singing about some movie he just saw, or about the guys down the block who owned the nice house and had great parties.

Somehow, I think I’m closer to the point.

7. Atmosphere – “Panic Attack (live)”
Live on MPR 10-03-2005

These songs, recorded live from The Current on Minnesota Public Radio, sound great. But they don’t sound live – they could very well be the exact same recording from the original cd. That’s the bad thing about having a crystal clear recording – it all sounds too good to be live.

I have a different live Atmosphere bootleg that sounds a million times different – it’s raw and it’s sloppy, but it’s a great representation of a live show. This, while impressive, isn’t anything I’d get excited for if I hadn’t come across it for free. The same thing applies to Jose Gonzales’ The Current recording – too clean to sound live.

End complaining. I like this song.

8. Beck – “The New Pollution”

Ah. Beck. My favorite musical act that I never listened to.

For a long time, I meant to get into Beck. I even implored my friend Doug to burn some of his songs for me – a greatest hits cd much like the one he created for Ween, a cd that launched my life into the perilous zone that Ween fans occupy. But, I never received that cd. And it was years later that I finally got a hold of some Beck.

This won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but Beck is good. Even his really popular stuff – it’s smooth and hilarious and it rocks with a classical sauce. I always knew this. I considered myself a Beck fan. It’s just that I never bothered to go out and actually listen to him.

Doug (the same one I mentioned above) listed Beck Hanson as one of his influential authors. I can’t do anything but agree. Unfortunately, it took me too long to understand his brilliance. Because, you know, I was oblivious.

9. Less Than Jake – “Happyman”
Losing Streak

This entire anthem served as an anthem for my freshman year of college at Southwest State University in Marshal, Minnesota.

I worked at a bowling alley there: Marshall Bowl. Once, one of the machines wasn’t spitting the bowling balls back out to the bowlers. It was league night, and they needed their balls spit out, or something. So I sat in back, by the broken machine, and manually pushed the bowling balls through. For three hours.

While I was doing that, I sang this entire cd to myself. Three times. It’s my fondest memory of that damned bowling alley.

10. Mason Jennings – “New York City”
Century Spring

Who can start their songs with the words, “New York City, you’re so pretty” and still be taken seriously? Mason Jennings can, apparently, because this song stuck in my head and clung to me like no other from his repertoire.

I think it’s the sudden chorus break, with some of my favorite lyrics on love: “I wrote our initials in the sidewalk cement/Tattooed your name across my arm for all to see/I wanna sing about it, sing about it, sing about it/I’ve got your back from now on baby, you can count on me.”

This was lovingly handwritten on October 27th, 2006