Monday, January 22, 2007

Mixtape Monday: Manic Pop Thrill, Side Two

(What is Mixtape Mondays?)

(notes on Side One here.)

Everything was tape, in 1987. I was studying audio production in one of the best-regarded communications programs in the country, and in all our “state-of-the-art” editing suites I never saw a single CD player. Radio stations still operated on ancient cart technology. The big Boston AOR station used to announce its “CD Play of the Day,” and it was a mini-event every time. Back at school, I had my tape and my razorblades, and was livin’ life in analog.

Sometime in between the recording of sides 1 and 2 of this tape, I got hold of a dual deck; whereas everything on side 1 was recorded from vinyl, most of the songs on this side are dubs from cassettes that I bought cheap from cut-out bins and student-union trunk sales. You could get dubious tapes for two or three dollars a pop, in those days, and given my limited pocket money, the hours spent sifting diamonds from the rubble seemed like a good deal.

There was a lot of recontextualizing of Irish folk music going down in those days; The Pogues had snagged a major-label deal, The Waterboys would soon make Fisherman’s Blues, and this tired old fucker out of Thin Lizzy made a shameless land-grab—and I do mean shameless; listen to that voice-and-drums breakdown in the middle and tell me he’s not essentially begging the fans to oput their cigarette lighters in the air—borrowing the title of one old song and the plot of another, slapping on a happy ending (!), and setting it all to a soundtrack of hyperactive cod-Celtic cock-rock. It seemed new and interesting, God help me.

O Positive was an interesting band out of Boston. Like so many others, they got snatched up by a label in the speculative boom that broke out once “alternative” became a viable marketing category, only to be buried in the explosion of grunge. This is from their first indie record. I remember seeing the video for this on V-66. their lead singer is a leading entertainment lawyer these days.

The Springsteen tape was my brother’s, which leads me to believe I got the dubbing deck over winter break.

I still like Todd Rundgren’s A Cappella record, mostly because the (admittedly impressive) production gimmick isn’t expected to carry the record, but is instead put at the service of some surprisingly solid writing. It’s a series of genre exercises, really—doo-wop, cadence, folksong, chant—but it’s got enough twists to keep it fresh. And there’s a real liveliness to the performances, too, despite the hermetic nature of the production. A couple of years after making this mixtape, I saw a Cornell a cappella group performing an arrangement of “Hodja.” It was a lumpy, clumsy thing, learned from sheet music, without the swing of the recording.

Lastly: The stuttering vocal sample was a new innovation, in those days, but not so new that the Eurythmics couldn’t run it into the ground in the space of three-and-a-half minutes.

Download Side Two (46 minutes, 41.9 meg file: YouSendIt link good until 29 January), and live the shame.

[ MP3 expired - so sorry ]

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