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Friday, November 14, 2003
Songs from a Life
So I put together a mix CD, which was supposed to be done around the time of my birthday. It was going to be a CD of my favorite songs, and then a CD of songs by my favorite bands (not necessarily the same thing at all). But now it’s a combination of both, and I’m sort-of looking at it as a soundtrack—a soundtrack to my first 32 years.


1. “Greet Death,” Explosions in the Sky
Really, could you have a better opening song than this? Seeing them play this song live really blew my mind. And eardrums. In the soundtrack scheme, this would play over the opening credits. And, fuck, that would have to be a killer credit sequence.

2. “Dead Disco,” Metric
This is too new to be really influential and/or sacred, but I can’t get it out of my head. It’s so catchy and engaging. Yeah, I loves me some retro pop; the sexed-up lyrics (“Tits out, pants down, overnight to London . . .”) are just a bonus. For most of you, this song is worth the price of the CD alone. And when that price is free, well, you can’t complain, can you? (The answer is “No.”)

3. “Icicle,” Tori Amos
The tawdry theme continues. This time, it’s quasi-sacrilegious masturbation fantasy. I remember when Under the Pink came out, Tori performed this song on MTV’s 120 Minutes. Strangely beautiful and powerful. And erotic. I don’t know how any of that fits into the soundtrack idea, but it’s definitely a favorite.

4. “A Night Like This,” The Cure
There are a dozen or more Cure songs I could’ve used. Let’s be honest . . . from the ages of 16 to my early 20s, The Cure was the Biggest Band in the World™. (Just look at the cover of the CD. That picture was taken within the past two months.) Anyway, I chose a “lighter” Cure selection because, really, the playlist was getting pretty dark and heavy. You’d be hard pressed to find a better love song in Mr. Smith’s extensive repertoire. (“Lovesong?” Yeah, nice try. That song is too one-dimensional.) And this song accurately sums up my melodramatic late 80s / early 90s.

5. “High Rising,” (The London) Suede
Suede has proven (for me, anyway) to be a fairly consistent band . . . always capable of putting out listenable albums and anthematic swan-songs. This song isn’t my favorite of theirs, but one I particularly enjoy. (In hindsight, I should’ve included “Asphalt World” instead.)

6. “The Ship Song,” Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
There were a few songs that I could’ve included here, but I chose this one because Michelle and I used it during our first dance at our wedding. It’s a really beautiful song but, at around 5 minutes long, not the best pick for a solo first dance.

7. “Medicine Bottle,” Red House Painters
The Best Song Ever Written™. Even though I’ve gotten into more bombastic, over-the-top post-rock / shoegaze music, the textured melancholy of this song is top-notch. And not much can touch the lyrics. I latched onto this song as an introverted, introspective 23-year-old . . . and never let go.

8. “The Pink Room,” Angelo Badalamenti
This is from the Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me soundtrack. This has historic significance in that I went to see this with two friends on my 21st birthday. We had already been to a few bars for free pitchers and we may have had a smoke in the car on the way to the theater. (That would explain the tray of nachos and additional beer at the movie theater . . . yes, I.C. Flicks was one of those second-run theaters that sold beer and food. That also might explain why I fell out of my chair during “the pink room” scene, although that could have been attributed to the unexpected shot of bare breasts.)

9. “The Chauffeur,” Duran Duran
First of all, I probably wouldn’t have started playing music when I did had it not been for Duran Duran. They were the first band to really have any affect on my life. This is far and away my favorite song by them, and one of my favorite, period.

10. “Without You, I’m Nothing,” Placebo
Much like its melodramatic title, this song sweeps emotionally from tension to a cascade of feelings, expressed in a torrent of rushed lyrics. One person’s “devastating” is another person’s “Dude, get some prozac.” But I’ll be damned if I haven’t felt like this song several times in my life (so far).

11. “Freestate,” Depeche Mode
This is far from a typical song by this band. But with its heaps of emotional outpouring (read: more melodrama) and guitar-work reminiscent of everyone from The Cure to The Chameleons to Pink Floyd, this song has a unique place in the Depeche Mode canon. I mean, Christ, you can’t really even dance to this or sing along in a playful way. Really, I mean, what the fuck?

12. “Virus Meadow,” And Also the Trees
When you think of “goth” music, there are generally two types: the gauzy Stevie Nicks / Bela’s-undead type that lingers on bats and vampires and darkness (e.g., Bauhaus, Switchblade Symphony), or the driving mock-industrial type with 4/4 bass-lines and drum machines (e.g., Sisters of Mercy). Well, AATT specialized in a more romantic kind of “goth” music early in their careers (before they became a lounge band), where pre-Romantic poetry met with spindly guitar lines and complex rhythms. This song (the title track from their amazing second album) aptly represents the dark tension under the surface of the younger, broodier Scott.

13. “Leif Erickson,” Interpol
I like how the lyrics to this song are obscure enough to hit on multiple levels, but the sound and feel of the song is very direct and tangible. It starts out tightly wound but ends in a climax of mournful hope (does that make sense?).

14. “Helicon 1,” Mogwai
I tried to clue CW in to this song’s perfection, but I don’t think he was buying it. What a fuckin’ slamhound that guy is. Anyway, just awesome.


Yeah, I know . . . I left off a boatload of great bands. Joy Division has several great songs, but none that stand out as the greatest or most representative (for me, anyway). The Chameleons were shamefully excluded, but they fall into a similar trap as JD. There are several others who just missed out . . . Death Cab for Cutie, Siouxsie and the Banshees, New Order, Mira, Sunny Day Real Estate, Nine Inch Nails.

Now, I’ve mentioned CDs. Well, this is what I’ve been working on for the past week or so (in between my real work). I’ve already sent out a couple, and many (most? all?) of you regulars will be getting one . . . whether you want one or not. Actually, I have another CD completed, and details on that one will be coming soon . . . perhaps next week.

(Hint: There will be a Choppa-rific quiz, so put on your thinking knit-caps!)