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Music That's Rocked My Ass
Dana Williams
I used to think records were hokey relics of the past. I used to tease my parents about owning them. Considering this, it's horribly ironic-- and a bit humbling-- to acknowledge that I now own dozen of records, and surprisingly, most of which are not “thrift store” records or golden oldies.

There's something hypnotizing and strangely comforting about listening to records. I think I like them for reasons not dissimilar than why I like stereos with analog volume dials. Or why I like graphic sound equalizer displays. I've purchased records from those aforementioned thrift stores, swiped a record or two from my mother (all jazz), came across a huge motherload at a yardsale for a record station foolishly selling their entire Ramsey Lewis collection, at rock-n-roll shows, and, yes, through mail order companies.

There's a few records that have completely burnt themselves into my brain, ever since I heard them-- all on wax. Here's my favorite 7” (or 45rpm for you old-schoolers) vinyl releases:

  1. Unwound - “Mkultra” b/w “Totality”. Disturbingly good. “Mkultra”, about the ultra-creepy CIA mind-control experiments, remains utterly gutteral. I've heard these songs are a CD release and they didn't compare, and I have absolutely no idea why.
  2. Faraquet - “Parakeet” b/w “Um Die Ecke”. An instrumental and a virtual roller-coaster respectively. I had no idea when I first heard “Um Die Ecke” (first of all, what that meant) when the song was going to end. They could have easily kept bringing me back to the verge of an ending, but denied me over and over and I wouldn't have minded a bit.
  3. Janis Figure/Otis - “Smooth Joey” b/w “Horn Shine”. The Otis side is good, better than I'd probably admit to most, but the Janis Figure side blew me away. A friend was spinning it during a show we were doing together on the radio. I told him I was crazy about the song, and he said, “yea, they're pretty good, huh?” Total freakin' understatement. It's about a stupid subject, but it's definitely got passion.
  4. Blonde Redhead - “Symphony of Treble” b/w “Kasualty”. Super-sweet (to my ears, at least) songs that are completely off-balance the whole way through. From the near-shreaky lyrics, the jangly guitars, and complex drumming, I loved it. I cried when I saw them live. No shit. It was so pretty and wonderful and... perfect.
  5. Shellac - “Doris” b/w “Wingwalker”. Talk about a brutal coupling of songs. “Wingwalker” threatens to drive you mad for an entire four minutes with it's tense and edgy rhythms... you can almost feel the musicians losing all mental stability as the song progresses. And “Doris”, although a song that I sort of ignored in light of the b-side, is probably an even more emotional song, complete with enthralling wordplay and spell-binding restraint.

I think these five records have two common themes: they are completely passionate pieces of music and because they have a full gamut of emotions both lyrically and musically, which reminds me of life. Songs that are lifeless and lacking in inspiration and emotion, not to mention uncreative in their full expression feel shallow and useless to me. Maybe stereotypical rock songs can be good to dance to, but they can't be good to live to.

03/01/03