I Don't Hear a Single 03
Track-surfing the old-fashioned way
I've always been suspicious of singles, not to mention A&R men; I don't like to be told what to listen to, and I've always found the release of singles in itself to be a redundant way to peddle one's audio wares. With that in mind, I present I Don't Hear a Single: a round-up of non-single tunes that were either (a) too long to be a single, (b) too good to be a single, (c) too obscure/unreleased to be considered for single status, or (d) too jarring in one way or another to be singled out for mass consumption. Let's F-ing do this.
Damn, do I have to write an intro every time I throw down one of these mamma-jammas? Shit, Mr P is nodding ‘yes' and brandishing a dull, blood-stained bowing knife... Sooo, I guess I'll just shut my big mouth and welcome you into my world, where a single song can right a litany of wrongs, cure a string of terminal diseases and end a parade of unnecessary wars.
Within the confines of this column I attempt to unearth the Best of the Forgotten: the tracks Mother Nature forgot, if you will. As usual, 90% of these tracks were NOT designated as singles. I'm writing about them because they're important TO ME, and thus must also be salient to you if you want to live a full life of happiness, warmth and fresh goat cheese straight from the teet.
Unfortunately I'll probably be losing 80% of my readership this time around, as I neglected to spotlight Petra and didn't get around to blurbing Stryper. BUT THAT'S OK! God will still love you, even if you peruse this list of secular — a.k.a. bad-ayse — tracks. And here we go, another titanic 10-track tote for you to read about and download as soon as F-in' possible. What's this? You doubt my track-seeking abilities? Well maybe you're just one of the throwaways yourself...
“She's Not There,” by Vanilla Fudge, from Vanilla Fudge, 1967
When I lived in Ft. Lauderdale, a neighbor of mine used to come to my poor man's bungalow and tell me that hearing my crappy drumming reminded him of the ‘old days.' He'd look off into the distance like in the movies and at times it seemed he was almost in tears. He'd talk about jamming with his brother and rock 'n' roll, but what stuck in my mind were his vague, defeated references to the “old days,” which I interpreted as “before I had lost what I can't seem to find at the present.” Time passed and after a hiatus he made one last visit. He was moving out of the complex and needed to sell most of his stuff. Since I knew deep down he was resigning himself to a homeless life of crack addiction, walking with him to his place to buy his stuff — his pad akin to my own personal pawn shop — was one of the worst experiences of my life. All I had to offer was $18 for a half-dozen-odd LPs and a few tapes (one of which, Beatles Love Songs, I would play the HELL out of years later). He took it gratefully and sent me off. I never saw him again, but at least I had his last artifacts of civilized life to remember him by. One of the records he sold me was Vanilla Fudge, and when I first placed the needle to wax I thought it was playing at the wrong speed. It seemed so slow and labored, like Fat Albert ‘Hey-hey'ing through a Cali tar pit. But that's how 'nilla Fudge rolled, playa! This self-titled album dipped old rock standards of the time in molasses, most prominently “She's Not There.” Stuffing a tinge of psychedelic funk in its trunk, VF took the tune to new avenues and bawdier boulevards. If The Zombies' Rod Argent, the song's original composer, was a young pup telling his bestest buds about his latest gurlfriend's deplorable exploits at a laundromat, the VF version sounded like a laid-back hustler telling his hep-cat buddies about a way-gone lass at an after-hours pool hall. If you haven't ascertained it for yourself, the latter is — if not superior — much, much cooooler.
“All is Forgiven,” by Red Siren, from All is Forgiven, 1988
Oh Red Siren, what ever happened to thee? A band that absolutely NO ONE remembers, RS wrote and recorded one of the coolest — and most flexible as far as crossover appeal is concerned — pop-metal songs of all-time, “All is Forgiven.” And yes, forgive me (a.... HA.... ha); this was indeed a proper single. However, of all the one-hit-wonders of the late '80s, it seems few have faded more completely from view, save Martika (read the next IDHAS entry for more on that). Sort of like Heart's “Barracuda” streamlined down to a slow boil, “All is Forgiven” toted one chunk riff through the majority of the song and made it stick to the wall with sassy verses and a catchy and haunting chorus. With few truly ‘heavy' artists making it to commercial radio at the time, Red Siren used their dark-but-melodious dichotomy to garner spin after spin from DJs hungry for the next big thing ... which RS never became. But hey, this is their 15 minutes, compacted into a length fit for airplay; have you enjoyed a moment this pure? No? Oh... well I'm sure you're, you know, doin' alright...
“Mega” by Antipop Consortium, from Arrhythmia, 2002
I'm in Amsterdam, and mang I been gettin' high all week. A few friends and I are taking a cruise on an oddly-shaped boat through city canals and such. Isaac, on mushrooms and obviously wanting to blow my mind, stuffs waxy headphones into my ears and plays “Mega.” And with that my perception of hip-hop is, short of altered, augmented. HOLY CHRIST. The astray ‘blurps,' sequenced pins-falling-on-a-metal-table blips and odd, gurgling drones draw me in like a kite master reeling in a prize-winning Winged Box model. And the raps are tastier than a trip to a Pike's Market donut shop: A&R sellin you cars / sellin you stars / round trip ticket to mars / so I picked it apart / spit it, hit it, get it / pivot, swivel and dribble / twist with the sparks ... From there, references to “hemoglobin,” “brolic” and, to top it all off, claims of footing the dance with the artform / I put cats in backbraces sealed the deal. This was a group I was going to be following very carefully. Then they broke up after two proper albums, a collab with Matthew Shipp and a Japanese-only import. Beans put out a solo joint with one good smoke; maybe two. FUCK ME. Who knows what this quartet could have produced had they soldiered on? Never had a band bridged cold, clammy IDM and from-the-block hip-hop so expertly, their production prowess equally impressive as their lyrical flow. From then on hearing a rap construct with a repetitive, milquetoast beat was never the same — why go barebones when you can go “Mega”?
“Run Away Into You,” by John Frusciante from Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt, 1995
Ever seen that Behind the Music episode on the Red Hot Chili Peppers? There's that part where they talk about John Frusciante's descent into heroinism (look it up, cracka) and show pics and video clips of him looking all spider-monkey-ish and ready to scratch-scratch-scratch his forearms raw. OH, SWEET SMACK indeed; as bad as those years were for Frusciante as a person, he made wonderfully jittery junkyard music that perhaps only emerges when one's veins are full. “Running Away Into You” represents a future genre that I can only imagine will be HUGE someday. It starts with Frusc's pale, frail voice purring over an acoustic guitar. Pretty, sure, but then he starts fruit-looping his voice up, down and sideways while the guitar dutifully keeps time and things get dank and disturbing. As his now-Alvin & The Chipmunks voice sprawls, it suddenly stops and repeats several times. Then a little more guitar and we're done. Although it only employs a few minor tricks to get its point across, “Running Away Into You” is so much different from just about anything else out there I'd shudder to even call it music. But music it is -- albeit music that shuns history and looks unflinchingly into what the kids might be listening to in 2222 if technology regresses over the coming decades. Much like “My Smile is a Rifle,” this Frusciante track held my attention so steadfastly I wondered what planet he was from ... and where I could get some of the shit he was on when he made this.
“For the Turnstiles,” by Neil Young, from On the Beach, 1974
Ever one to change stripes just when the hordes get a taste of something they like, Young released On the Beach after Reprise gave his somber Tonight's the Night album the big ‘F-yu.' Although OTB is somewhat savage in its own way, if you chisel through its barbs you'll find a warmth cradled tight and just burstin' to get out. I always saw “For the Turnstiles” as the centerpiece of this album because it's just a song. It's not a call-out (“Walk On”) or a reference-heavy sendoff (“Vampire Blues”); what's more, it's a timeless tune, lifted from a time when music was meant to brighten one's day rather than detail the innermost musings of a rock star's lot. Singin' 'bout pimps, sailors, and baseball players, “For the Turnstiles” could be about a lot of things and just as easily could be about not a goddamn thing, and sometimes that's best. Clump a tailor-made banjo line on top and you have one of the most understated, brilliant works of Young's long career.
“Miranda May,” by Silver Sunshine from Silver Sunshine, 2004
With one song — tamped all the way down at slot 10 — Silver Sunshine prove that if you're going to imitate a great band you might as well go all the way. “Miranda May” is a strange, quirky “Arnold Layne”/“7 & 7 Is” combo that comes piping-hot with production that edges close to the '60s sound without the pathetic preening that often accompanies such a venture. I'm not going to pretend that a single original idea exists between the nooks of this song, but resisting such a wonderful throwback is the listener's loss. In other words, this is not the greatest song in the world, it's just a tribuuuute...
“Show of Strength,” by Echo and The Bunnymen, from Heaven Up Here, 1981
Every indie-rock nerd I've ever met has tried to show me Echo & The Bunnymen by playing “Lips Like Sugar” or “The Killing Moon.” So exactly what the hell were they thinking? “Show of Strength” is big, bodacious and will bowl you over with its romping, high hat-less beat and locked-in bass. What's more, it leaves the above-mentioned ‘hits' choking in the dust every time. Ian McCulloch sounds as great as he thinks he is, and the track is indicative of the '80s in the least derogatory way possible; “Show of Strength” — and the entirety of Heaven Up Here, for that matter — has aged so well it renders new technology impotent. What's most important is, how can Your Band turn back time and sound this urgent? The answer? It can't, so don't try. Just buy this and finally get the Echo and The Bunnymen phenomenon without resorting to picking through the Donnie Darko soundtrack.
“Nothingness,” by Living Colour, from Stain, 1993
The LAST thing you'd expect from the group most of you know for boot-stompin' rocker “Cult of Personality” is an amazing ballad in the vein of Terence Trent D'Arby, but that's just what “Nothingness” is, and it works. How did this lovely tune not become a hit? Accented by warped key lines, free-jazz bass meandering and too-funky-for-a-ballad drums, “Nothingness” is the most cheese-dick song you'll ever listen to, and as Of Montreal have shown us, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. You'll never look at Living Colour in quite the same way after hearing this prescient little ditty. Then again, you probably weren't thinking about them before you read this anyway, so... for now just think about them and grab Stain for $1 at yer local Pawne Shoppe on the edge of town.
“Opium” by Marcy Playground from Marcy Playground, 1997
While no. 1 single “Sex and Candy” seemed to work for pretty much everyone, Marcy Playground as an album worked for very, very few. Confused as to where to go with my listening habits, the time of this self-titled debut album's release was just right for me. I bought it and was disappointed. But much like one John H. Pinkerton, I found that repeated listens instilled new beauty in the tunes, which greatly varied from track-to-track. MP was a decent little rock album with flecks of folk and wayyy less Nirvana influence than you might expect if you read a review or two. The best of the bunch was the track that cut the deepest and lingered the longest, “Opium.” Beginning with just frontman John Wozniak on guitar and gaggin, I'm sooo happy / sooo happy, riiiiight, the track bursts into bass-drenched heaviness soon thereafter and stomps its point home for the remainder. No verses, no chorus, no structure, just depressed, anxious rock working its issues out under a foggy wave of distortion. There are better ways to resolve one's problems, but I can't think of any when I'm listening to this song.
“Ram On,” by Paul and Linda McCartney, from Ram, 1971
For all the flack (Sir) Paul gets for not being the Craziest, Most Obscure, or Most Revolutionary Beatle, his solo work contains a bevy of interesting detours into White Album-ish territory. Ram contains both good and bad examples of his exploratory side that are best represented by the pseudo-title track, “Ram On.” Using his voice as more of an instrument than a mouthpiece, McCartney croons a simple, eerily familiar declaration while a funhouse of distractions fights for purchase in the background. Sure, it's no “Revolution No. 9,” but it's about as far as you could expect a performer that once hoped to make Yellow Submarine into a Disney-esque cartoon to go. Insert insult of his most-recent work... HERE.