The musical baton

Sunday the 30th of October, 2005

Back when I was still known as Stevie ‘no blog’ Marshall, Ben passed me the musical baton. Well, I’ve finally decided to pick it up and run the final stretch.

As Ben noted, all those months ago, the baton is something akin to a chain-letter but, via the medium of blogging, seems rather pleasant, as opposed to the innumerable forwarded e-mail quizzes that garner instant deletion. I also think it would be rather intriguing to have some kind of auto-generated map of who passed this to whom. Granted, that would be hard to manage when Johnny-come-latelys like myself are involved, but it would be interesting, all the same.

As I’m so late to the party, I’ve decided to take a little more time and care over this, with a little more detail and information.

Anyway, here’s the meat:

Total volume of music on my computer

I currently have 38.95GB of music on my PowerMac, which I manually copy to my iBook whenever the whim takes me. If iTunes is to be believed, that’s about 20.2 days’ worth of non-stop noisemusic. That’s mostly made up of 192kbps-encoded mp3s, with the occasional non-conformist track from other sources.

That’s enough that I can’t quite fit it all on my 40GB fourth-generation iPod (black and white screen with click-wheel); this is a source of much discomfort.

The last CD(s) I bought

I’ve actually not bought any music within the last fortnight or so, which is incredibly uncommon for me.

The last CDs I bought, though, were Fighting With Wire’s ‘Cut The Transmission’ EP and their ‘Machine Parts’ single, when I saw them live at the Wedgewood Rooms on the 10th of October.

As I was able to buy both of those for a handful of change, though, I feel compelled to include my next-most-recent full-price purchase: Jimmy Chamberlin Complex’s ‘Life Begins Again’.

Fighting With Wire

The two Fighting With Wire CDs comprise 6 tracks, which sound somewhat akin to a combination of Foo Fighters and another, more metal-y band I can’t quite remember the name of.

Considering I hadn’t even heard of Reuben, the act that they were supporting when I saw them, until the day before the gig, I’m very impressed to have come across such a promising group. I was also suitably impressed by The Mascara Story, but their CDs had sold out by the time I went to get one.

Jimmy Chamberlin Complex - ‘Life Begins Again’

The Jimmy Chamberlin Complex album is an altogether different beast: the debut album of Jimmy Chamberlin, the former Smashing Pumpkins and Zwan drummer, was something for which I had very high expectations.

As a huge Pumpkins and Zwan fan, I had many preconceived ideas about what a Jimmy Chamberlin album might be like. This album broke all of my preconceptions, and it broke them beautifully. Whilst the album has echoes of his contributions to the Pumpkins (and highlights his input on their style or, perhaps, the effect his time with them had on his style), it is very much distinct from their works.

A word of warning, however: this album is a little more prog-rock than that of the Pumpkins - it focuses heavily on Jimmy’s work on the drums (obviously), and is very instrumental. If you need something to sing along to, this isn’t necessarily the best choice (or give this a try and see if it changes your perceptions and tastes; either way is good).

All that said, I love this album.

The song I’m playing right now

Portishead’s ‘Sour Times’ has just started playing. I was introduced to Portishead a few months ago when a friend sent me their debut album, ‘Dummy’, as a gift for no apparent reason (not that I’m complaining - any CD I don’t have to buy is fine by me).

Whilst I didn’t actually choose to play this song (iTunes party shuffle, how I love thee!), it’s a bloody good choice, all the same: haunting, melancholy, ethereal, and, at the same time, soothing and refreshing.

FiveSixSeven songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me

Writing this list is incredibly difficult for me. As with most people who are passionate about music, pinning myself down to a handful of songs that I would find it hard to be without usually results in a list that’s longer than my actual music collection. Also, this list will probably change to some degree if you were to ask me the same thing next week, or in a year’s time, so don’t hold me to it. Make that ‘this list will change within a minute of me posting it’.

That said, here goes (in no particular order):

‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye, from ‘Motown Heartbreakers’

Whilst this may not, technically, be Marvin Gaye’s best song, it was Motown’s biggest selling record. More importantly for me, however, this song reminds me very much of my childhood - it epitomises my mum’s (somewhat limited) taste in music, and makes me think of long journeys as a child to visit my grandparents.

It’s also of note that I have this song on three different albums: ‘Motown Heartbreakers’, ‘Motown Chartbusters: Volume 3’, and ‘The Very Best Of Marvin Gaye’. I chose to mention ‘Motown Heartbreakers’ specifically because that is the album I would have listened to as a child: the others are far more recent acquisitions.

‘Show Me How To Live’ by Audioslave, from ‘Audioslave’

I simply cannot get enough of this song (or, in fact, the rest of the album). I spent about 15 minutes just trying to decide which track from the album to list. Audioslave’s music is hard-as-nails, but intricately crafted and with awesome vocals from Chris Cornell. I listen to this album at least once a week and, without fail, I end up screamingsinging along.

‘Whenever, Wherever, Whatever’ by Maxwell, from ‘MTV Unplugged’

Maxwell is one of those artists that I think doesn’t get anywhere near the respect he deserves. He has one of the richest, most satisfying voices I’ve ever heard. His songs are romantic without being trite, intellectual without sacrificing accessibility, and, above all, just damn good. Not only does this song define the way I feel about the people I care about, it exudes an intimacy and tenderness rarely found in other songs (especially so in the live version I’m referring to, but the same holds for the original studio version).

‘Baby Let’s Rock!’ by Zwan, from ‘Mary Star Of The Sea’

This is another track where I could substitute it for any other from the album. Beautifully crafted, sweet with just enough rockiness, the whole album rarely has time to finish before I’m playing it again.

Zwan’s work is an altogether different beast from that of The Smashing Pumpkins, the band from which half their members originated, but just as good.

Speaking of Pumpkins…

‘Silverfuck (Live In London) / Over The Rainbow’ by The Smashing Pumpkins, from ‘Earphoria’

What can I say about a thirteen-and-a-half minute rendition of ‘Silverfuck’ that has a rendition of ‘Over The Rainbow’ in the middle, for good measure?

Fuck me, it’s good!

That’ll do just fine. When I got ‘Earphoria’, I already had most of the Pumpkins’ back-catalogue, so my expectations were high. ‘Earphoria’ delivers, and then some, until you get to ‘Silverfuck’, whereupon you spend the next thirteen-and-a-half minutes thinking “holy shit, this is the most insane thing I’ve heard in years”. Or maybe that’s just me.

‘Brighter Hell’ by The Watchmen, from ‘Silent Radar’

Another beautiful, intricate, sensual song. The story goes that, to make their ‘Silent Radar’ album, The Watchmen spared no expense, to the point that they used a $10,000 vocal microphone! That may sound excessive but, if ‘Brighter Hell’ is anything to go by, it was more than worth it. (And yes, I realise that money doesn’t equal talent, but money plus talent can often make wonderul things.)

‘No One’s Gonna Hurt You’ by James Iha, from ‘Let It Come Down’

Yet another soft one, again from a former Pumpkin. I’d explain why this one means a lot to me, but the person it’s for knows who they are and why it does, so that’s all that matters. Just trust me that it’s a beautiful song, and, as with Jimmy Chamberlin, you can see Iha’s influence on the Pumpkins, and how they influenced his work.

I could continue this list for hours, but I think it’s for the best if I leave it at that.

‘Brighter Hell’ was added to the list minutes after I originally posted it, for anyone that cares about such things.

So was ‘No One’s Gonna Hurt You’ (although significantly after the fact)…

Passing it on

As the rest of the Internet (or as near as damnit) has already had the baton, I think there’s little point in me trying to pass it off to anyone, so I won’t bother. If you feel like prising it from my hands by all means do, but leave a note in the comments so I can add a link to you as someone I ‘passed’ the baton to.