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“My Album Lineup for Work, 07/08/2018”

With restaurants it can be funny business playing music at them on a Sunday because the two entities, restaurants and Sundays, are almost antithetical to each other. Many eateries close themselves on this day of the week, to let people cook out, obsess themselves with sports and munch on Frito’s or actually eat at a ball park — whatever the masses will do.
And yeah I live in Terre Haute now which isn’t a very sports-oriented town compared to my hometown of South Bend — honestly if they even had an ESPN Radio here (I think they used to and it got disco’d) I’d just put baseball on every Sunday. As it stands, I’m left to my own devices, there’s male dry humping on the TV (also known as ultimate fighting and any number of other monikers with none of which I ever concern myself) and I’m left to soundtrack this ironically rendered and juxtaposed atmosphere to the best of my ability.
Traditionally, some Sunday songs I like are “Details of the War” by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, “Someday” and “Under Control” by The Strokes and “Pulling Levers” by Hot Hot Heat. But I happen to work EVERY Sunday even though we’re not usually that busy although as we in the industry all know people can make a mountain out of a molehill pretty easily, and whatnot.
Well, today I had a special premonition where I’d set forth a specific set of albums which would soundtrack the day, and they go a little something like this:
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R.E.M. – New Adventures in Hi-Fi
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I’ve heard a couple of people deride R.E.M.’s 10th album, from 1996, although they didn’t really say WHY — they just said they didn’t like it… invariably they’re old, music snob types, whereas in many sectors this LP is well liked as I believe it should be. My older sister would make the finale “Electrolyte” a routine mix tape staple and elsewhere Vinyl Me, Please and Pitchfork have each gone to great lengths to sing its praises. It’s the last R.E.M. project to feature original drummer Bill Berry, who suffered a brain injury in a concert around this time. I put it on at work and the link sucked so I had to end up changing it but that opener “How the West Was Won and Where it Got Us” will always just be beyond classic, harping in methodically and deliberately with some undeniably spooky grandeur.
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Califone – All My Friends Are Funeral Singers
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Just to get this out there right away: I’m probably a bigger Califone fan than most lay everymen out there. Something about, you know, they’ve been my favorite band on the planet for 11 years and counting now, that old chestnut (I think Nirvana was my favorite band in high school and college and then Pavement enjoyed a brief one-year stint at that glorious position). All My Friends Are Funeral Singers is Califone’s last album with percussionist Ben Massarella, materializing in 2009, before they’d issue the albeit stark and arguably even better Stitches in 2013. Appropriately enough, the LP begins with “Giving away the Bride,” a song of departure, and big, booming, dominant drums which fill the restaurant room with a sound scape that is slow but full and purposeful. On the whole, All My Friends Are Funeral Singers is a seven-course meal of slow, vaguely Wilco-like acoustic rock, which will always be quirky in my mind for that close juxtaposition of that atonal rancor.
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Grateful Dead – Europe ’72
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Now, just as a disclaimer, I didn’t originally intend to put this album on at work — I’d been, or so I thought, sold on Pavement’s Terror Twilight, which I typically name as my least favorite Pavement LP, somehow finding it pithy for this particular occasion. Maybe I’m in a “major leagues” stage of my professional career as a cook. Ok, that’s pushing it.
But anyway, good God I put this double album from the Dead on and it was just sheer perfection — it delivered the guitar soloing glory I’d achieved the Sunday prior, as I state in post, with The Very Best of Cream (it’s amazing how soothing these just mind-bogglingly verbose guitar solos can be sometimes, especially in a Sunday restaurant setting). As with always, my choice cut on this collection is “Ramble on Rose,” usually liking “Jack Straw” a lot and on this particular day finding the backing vocals in “He’s Gone” to be undeniably permanent and essential music in American culture.
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Pavement – Terror Twilight
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As I state before, this, and every subsequent album I have on this list didn’t actually get on (I only worked a five hour shift), but I’d originally slated them for play, encountering the unexpected element of working with a coworker for part of it. Pavement’s final LP, Terror Twilight doesn’t have quite the poignance of a “We Are Underused”; “AT&T”; “Gold Soundz” or “In the Mouth a Desert”, but it’s still… well.. better than every other band out there. Sorry to be an a**hole, but I said it anyway dog gone it.
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Frank Black and the Catholics – Black Letter Days
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There’s something vaguely psychedelic about the way that Frank Black plays with pop songs here with such a conventional take on structure, melody and key. The operative word would have to be “inspiration” — it’s infectious in tone and also the very subject matter on songs like “California Bound”; “How You Went So Far”; “End of Miles” and “The Farewell Bend” (which reminds me of the song “Farewell Ride” by Beck, another LA rock musician). My whole walk to work I just kept thinking about Lou Barlow’s incredibly hateful anti-Black-Francis rant in Nirvana: the Biography, where’s he’s railing on how anyone could be influenced by the Pixies… maybe not sonically but I don’t think there’s any indie band from the last 20 years that didn’t pick up on something that Francis, Deal and the gang did in terms of structure, phrasing, personality and generally just how to put a song together, from the three-beat pattern of the chorus in “Wave of Mutilation” to the truncated verse length in “I Bleed,” etc. And how ‘bout that vocal in “Debaser”? Who would listen to that and not think it was weird? Anyway, like I allude to, it’s ironic that on Black Letter Days, Black seems to need none of this, shedding all this quirk and idiosyncrasy for a pop/rock album so catchy yet regular that it sounds like he’s covering Neil Young’s Harvest, but doing so in a way that really sells it and makes it homey.
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The Velvet Underground – Loaded
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Loaded I feel like is sort of the satyr VU album, although certainly a good satyr album it is, especially if you get to side b with “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” which is the initial summery impetus behind this final VU album’s selection, along with the absolutely classic two-song finale, the whammy-bar wielding and city-sneering “Train ‘round the Bend” and mostly the narrative, humanistically epic closeur “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’.”
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And as a closing note, and I realize this is solipsistic, but I’d just like to add a general piece that today I had a bittersweet feeling pretty much the whole day — it got up to about 88 or 89 here in Terre Haute but the heat was dry, which made it thankfully very bearable and pleasant, a great day for eating outside or playing disc golf or what have you. Sadly, though, I did hear an incredibly unfortunate tale of this woman getting mauled to death by a pit bull at an animal care clinic in Louisiana, in the year 2017. This put me in a sour state for about half an hour or so but then I was again overcome with the sensation that I myself am incredibly lucky to be alive at all and that I shouldn’t dwell on sad things at all. I’m not a fan of The Cure at all but I saw their 40th anniv. celebration on Rolling Stone’s Facebook feed and I was just somehow, on this nice day, filled with the notion of being proud of them, of just really appreciating musicians for being themselves, in their own way, and just getting up and doing it. What’s the meaning of life? Get up and do it. There. That’s it, plain as day. I had the incredible feeling of trying to nurture whatever entity I could, of trying to help people, but help them to be themselves, not trying to pigeonhole them into what I thought they needed, or be condescending in any way. D.H. Lawrence once said something like, “To truly ever really be yourself at any moment in life, that is the real miracle.” The problem is, lots of times to me in life being myself involves being dark, scathing and antipathetic, but on this day I ordered a salad at work for my free meal, being loath before the thought of animals being killed for my sustenance, and in general everything seemed to click in a way that was certainly unexpected and in a way that was, for me, most importantly, very selfless, worldly and conscious.

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