Steinbeck on Random – 12.11.06

I really should be doing this more often – it’s a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I forget all about it.

Oh well. Let’s shuffle.

1. Metallica – “Ride the Lightning”
Ride the Lightning

Oh, what a pleasant surprise! The same day that Eric of Letters to Keith Law brings up one of our oldest inside jokes – a hilarious, drunken line from James Hetfield himself (courtesy of A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica), I am treated to one of the oldest (and, admittedly, the cheesiest) of Metallica’s catalog, the brilliant “Ride the Lightning.”

RtL was always one of my favorite Metallica albums, primarily because I played dorky games like Final Fantasy and loved the idea that the first three songs dealt with Fire, Ice, and Lightning – the three magic classes of…blah blah blah. Sorry. I just realized what I was typing about. And how lame it sounds.

Um… Long Live Metal!

2. Utah Phillips & Ani Difranco – “Direct Action”
Fellow Workers

The voice of grizzled folkster Utah Phillips, when combined with the music of Ani Difranco, gives life to hundreds of Guthrie-esque stories about unions, the dusty California legacy, and the plight of a downtrodden working class. You’re just as likely to hear something seemingly ripped from the pages of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle as you are to hear a story about a drunken bum.

Either way, it’s a great combination that I don’t listen to often enough. Unfortunately, these songs often get skipped when they show up on random. That’s too bad – I should be enjoying the voice, both of Utah Phillips and of the characters he brings to mind.

3. Bad Religion – “The Gray Race”
The Gray Race

This is the second titular song to be featured today. Amazingly enough, it comes from the band I called my “favorite” after growing out of my previous “favorite” band – Metallica. So, naturally, the next titular song will be from The Get Up Kids, and then after that, Modest Mouse.

Boy, I’ve had a wide array of favorite bands, and I’m not all that proud of The Get Up Kids.

Oh. This is also the only Bad Religion album I ever possessed on the release date. Everything else I picked up years after it had been released. Such is the life of liking a band after their major label debut, then scrambling to pick up everything the band had recorded.

4. The Soundtrack of Our Lives – “The Flood (instrumental)”
The Flood

I’m not sure I’ve ever listened to this song. TSOOL was offering songs from their older singles and EPs for free on their site, so I downloaded them. And now, here it is.

5. Gorillaz – “Every Planet We Reach is Dead”
Demon Days

The Gorillaz. Or, as I call them, That Other Band with the Guy from Blur.

I’ve always liked the radio hits – the upbeat, fun songs that, without fail, get stuck in my head for days at a time. The Gorillaz, as a band, has the ability to be impossibly catchy and addicting. However, sometimes they throw a slow yawner into the mix, and this is one of them. It picks up at the end, but it’s instantly forgettable.

6. Van Morrison – “Here Comes the Night”
The Best of Van Morrison

Van Morrison is one of those “Musicians I Know I Should Appreciate More,” and this album was supposed to be my guide down that path of appreciation. Unfortunately, I haven’t spent much time with it, and I’m still as empty with awe as I originally was.

It’s not like I don’t like Van Morrison…it’s just that I don’t know anything about him. I like a few of the songs, but when a song like this comes up, and I’m hearing it for what seems like the first time (even though I know I’ve listened to it before) I realize I have a lot of work to do. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll never capture the awe.

7. Blackalicious – “Ego Sonic Wardrums”
The Craft

Blackalicious is one of my favorites when it comes to lyrical quality. With that said, this song is annoying. It’s filled with clever lyrics, but it’s so droning, so long, and doesn’t even really pick up until about four minutes in. There’s a difference between being a lyrical master and being a guy that crafts long masturbatory songs just because you have the talent to do it.

8. Van Morrison – “Wild Night”
The Best of Van Morrison

A repeat from an album already mentioned. I don’t need to say any more about it, except that this song became wildly popular as a John Cougar Mellencamp song (or had he dropped the Cougar by then?) and rocketed Me’shell Ndegeocello into the Name Recognition category.

And then, just like that, she dropped back out of it.

9. Cat Power – “Lived in Bars”
The Greatest

Cat Power (Chan Marshall), for all her beauty and soulful warbling, can come across as a rather depressing songwriter. “Lived in Bars” is a perfect example. It’s beautiful. It’s soulful. It’s a little depressing.

I’d like a description of the lyrics – the song seems to reference a great deal of “I’m so sorry you’re old, here are thoughts on growing old and not living your vital life anymore,” but the meaning could be much more complex. If anyone knows, let me know.

10. Atmosphere – “Gotta Lotta Walls”
Seven’s Travels

Seven’s Travels, I’ve realized over the past couple months, is twice the album that its follow-up You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having.

This song, as any good Atmosphere track, delves inside Slug’s head, constructing yet another metaphor for his complicated mind. We all have problems, but very few are willing to talk about them, let alone lay them out for all to see and match them to a beat. “Gotta Lotta Walls” is one of my favorites from this album for that reason – it’s so open, yet so oppressive, as if we weren’t supposed to be viewing Slug’s problems. I almost feel like apologizing.

This was lovingly handwritten on December 11th, 2006