Three of the CDs came from my regular source: As mentioned in my first post, the Lotus Formula One team was giving out CDs at every race this past season to journalists and any other takers and interested people in the paddock, as they had some kind of a sponsorship deal with Columbia Records. So at the last few races of the season, including in Austin, Texas and I don’t know where else, I picked up the new crop. One of the CDs I bought myself, and the fifth I heard while staying at a friend’s place in Austin, and I also met the man who made the CD….
The Morning Exercise Music Philosophy
As a reminder to readers in this last of the year’s exercise music rundowns, the idea behind this regular post/column is that for most of my life I avoided classic daily physical exercise because I felt I was able to avoid it and it bored me to death. In recent years, I had a kind of flash of aged inspiration and realized that I might bore myself to death if I DON’T do exercises. That did not, however, alleviate the boredom. So it is that when not doing my nightly exercise of riding my unicycle around the neighborhood – which does NOT bore me – I do my exercises in the morning (sit ups, push ups, etc.) while listening to new and old CDs that I acquire from compilations of magazines like Rock & Folk, Mojo and Uncut, and that also occasionally buy or get handed from budding musicians at open mics. Then came the Formula One connection from the Lotus team, and I decided that I should occasionally share my morning exercise listening experiences with readers of this blog when I have no open mic news or videos to exploit.
I do not pretend to be a music critic, but simply to give my impressions of the music I listen to during my morning exercises. Keep in mind that my impressions and opinions, therefore, will have been formed while straining to reach a record number of push ups, sit ups, couch ups, stretch downs and simply catching my breath. So maybe my opinion will be warped.
The Foster the People Commercial Conundrum
I was enjoying this Foster the People CD from a couple of years ago while doing my exercises, taking in the new folky sound when suddenly I thought I was watching a television commercial for underwear with David Beckham. But even then I got confused and thought that I was watching the Canal Plus pay TV channel as it led into the daily weather or something. It was that, suddenly, I was hearing the music that had become associated in my mind with those two things. The song ‘Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)’ has been used by Guy Ritchie in his directing of the commercial for Beckham’s underwear as well as by Canal Plus for its rubric. Now, this, of course, is the way that musicians make money today. Selling their songs for publicity campaigns and video games and soundtracks and whatever else where in the past a top selling LP would do. The problem, for me, is that I cannot hear this music now without associating it with Beckham’s underwear and Canal Plus’s TV shows. Is it really worth it destroying a good piece of music for that? I guess I’d probably do it if someone offered me enough for one of my songs…. It brings to mind a Frank Sinatra song that I have heard upon landing in Emirates flights dozens of times in the last year or so, which destroyed even the Sinatra song for me.
The Freshness of Manic Street PreachersIf this, their latest album, were the first album someone ever heard by the Manic Street Preachers, then they would easily be fooled into thinking that it is a new young band of 2013, with fresh, interesting, inventive songs and pure, strong young vocals. In fact, it is the 11th studio album of this band, the lead singer, James Dean Bradfield, is 44 years old and their first album came out in 1992, more than 20 years ago. That’s like a new album of The Beatles coming out in 1984 or so. Having said that, if someone who had never heard any other Manic Street Preachers’ albums listened to this one and then liked it so much and found it so fresh then went and listened to the band’s third album, The Holy Bible, of 1994, they would then say, “oops.” The idea being that this latest album, out in September 2013, is really great – it’s got nothing of the astounding inventiveness of the early ones, by direct comparison. The acoustic folky stuff is brilliant, and new, and worth the album, in any case. But these Welshmen are obviously still on top of it, just not as edgy or desperate as they were in their 20s.
A Belated Discovery of a Jeff Buckley BeginningI bought the album Songs to No One 1991–1992, by Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas, during my visit to Shakespeare and Company bookstore to see and hear Gary Lucas play his guitar and read from his book about recording with Buckley. He said enough for me to want to hear this thing, which is made of studio sessions, home tapes, and club performances and which was recorded during the collaboration between Buckley and Lucas, between Oct. 1991 and Apr. 1992. It features the early recordings of “Grace” and “Mojo Pin” and the way Lucas described the sessions, I really wanted to hear what I thought would be a pure, unadulterated album of Buckley sounds before the singer made his album, at a stage where he was still in the early stages of defining himself as a musician. I listened to this on my morning exercises, but also during drives around Texas on the car CD player. That was actually the better environment to listen to it, as it is so ethereal and otherworldly that it allows for the mind to float, relax and be occupied with something else at the same time. This is not exactly “easy listening,” either. Lucas described how he basically went and played some chords and Buckley went and sang and he had no real idea at the moment it was being done exactly what was being done or coming out, and it was in listening just afterwards that he realized it was brilliant – something along those lines, anyway. The quality of the recordings is not always exceptional, but Buckley’s vocal delivery certainly is. This is the kind of album that I will actually listen to again and again over the years, despite, once again, it being a hodgepodge collection of material never meant to be an album….
The Vaccine’s Basic SoundI had heard some stuff by The Vaccines, but never a complete album. So I was delighted to receive this, their second album, Come of Age, released in 2012, from the Lotus F1 team. Still, when you look at their career – founded in 2010, opening for bands like the Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Muse and the Stone Roses, and having their first album become the best selling first album of 2011 and this album being the No. 1 UK seller – you kind of expect a lot more than what you hear. At least I do. It’s a fine album, fine music, great classic-style rock, but I don’t hear any songs that leap out and sound like future classic songs. In fact, maybe they’re the perfect opening act after all….
Die Krupps and the German Machine SoundThis album by the German band Die Krupps takes me the closest I’ve ever been in my life to understanding, appreciating and liking post-1970s machine music. This is “a German industrial rock/EBM band, formed in 1980 by Jürgen Engler and Bernward Malaka in Düsseldorf,” to cite Wikipedia. It really took only something that amounted to being just like good old fashioned PR (even though it was not done on purpose) for me to cotton on to this. While in Austin for the U.S. Grand Prix was staying at the home of a friend of mine from Paris who now lives in Austin, and who is friends with Engler. In fact, my friend, Eric Débris, is also one of the founders of machines in punk music, as one of the members of the French punk band Métal Urbain. I had seen the Die Krupps album around Eric’s place, since Eric, who is also a fabulous photographer, had done the album cover photo work. Then Eric invited me out to a meal with Engler and his wife, and we had a nice evening together. That led me to saying to Eric, “I wanted to do my morning exercises while listening to that Die Krupps album before I go.” So Eric put it on. So it was that through the introduction to the musician – Engler is a vital 50ish guy who is still very much in the midst of creative thrall to his band, which will be doing around Europe in February and March – and through me being in the environment of the founder of machines in punk, I suddenly “got” this music with its rough grunting vocals and, above all, hammering, relentless rhythm. It is remarkable that the band has been around since 1980 and is still producing great finished products like this album. Another pull from the Die Krupps entry Wikipedia to fill in from my own ignorance: “The initial Die Krupps sound throughout the 1980s combined synthesizers with metallic percussion. Die Krupps were key in the Europe wide progression of Electronic Body Music culminating with the collaboration in 1989 with British band Nitzer Ebb. In 1992, they began to utilize guitars and more sounds derived from heavy metal music, with the release of their album I and the EP Tribute To Metallica, which consisted of covers of Metallica songs.” And boy is it great for sit-ups and push ups, to say the least!
Well, that rounds that up. A small morning exercise crop of CDs, my sixth and final one of the year since I started doing this in April, or whenever it was…. I’ve done a lot of exercising since then, and hope I can continue to feed the musical habit in 2014 that keeps the exercising alive…