Adventures of a University Finalist

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Ipod Maths

Chilton + Cary = Westerberg

Regina Spektor - Ode to Divorce
Paul Westerberg - Boring Enormous
Nicolai Dunger - Hey Mama
Sloan - Chester the Molester
Culture - The International Herb

I have finally found my own special game to occupy myself whilst playing around with Maybellene (my Ipod, for the uninitiated) and her lovely shuffle function. It's the sensation that will soon be sweeping the nation! Ipod Maths! Well, it'll shuffle around my creatively dulled cerebellum for at least a week before I brand it a folly and run back to the sweet comforting bosom of the mix tape.
Ipod Maths starts with kicking your Ipod into shuffle mode and jotting down the first ten tracks to appear (which can also be used in Ipod Wars). Here's the ones that I got:

1. Joni Mitchell - In France They Kiss On Main Street
2. The Pine Club - Straightaway
3. Jason Falkner - Mr Future
4. Essex Green - Chester
5. Wire - Outdoor Miner
6. Van Morrison - Redwood Tree
7. Edna Wright - Oops There I Go Again
8. Cary Brothers - Skyway
9. Pearl Jam - Brain of J (Live)
10. Alex Chilton - Can't Seem to Make You Mine

What then happens is an arbitrary selection process pairing up each of the ten tracks until you have five pairings. I did this off the cuff looking to put together songs with disparate influences so that I could have more fun later on. Having paired up, comes the ultimate purpose of Ipod Maths: if you put these two songs together, taking in their influences, the band's background, the tempo, the lyrical content... what bastard creation would emerge. I think it's brilliant as not only do I get to pour over music lists but I also get to justify my idiotic beliefs. Mariah Carey + Lindsay Lohan = Ice Cube? Why the hell not. So without further ado, here are the pairings that I came up with to decide what I'd let you have a listen to this fine summer's day:

Joni Mitchell + Wire = Regina Spektor
Alex Chilton + Cary Brothers = Paul Westerberg
Jason Falkner + Essex Green = Sloan
Pearl Jam + Edna Wright = Culture
The Pine Club + Van Morrison = Nicolai Dunger

For starters, yes, the Falkner/Essex Green is a cop out. Pristine power pop sprinkled with a piano led ditty named 'Chester' was always going to result in Canada's finest wasn't it? I won't elaborate really other than to say firstly that The Essex Green are certainly worth investigation on their own and that I have this theory that 'Chester the Molester' was inspired directly by John Irving's 'Prayer For Owen Meany' and the narrator's cousins habit of calling their female counterpart, 'Hester the Molester'. Just an idea. Maybe it's a coincidence brought about by the wonders of rhyme.
Wonders may be abound as a result of Pearl Jam's more bruising screamathons being married to coy bubblegum soul and birthing one of roots reggae's more radical outfits, Culture. Culture take Pearl Jam's left wing populist politics and wrap it in penny whistles, horns and falsetto harmonies. Gil Scott-Heron or The Impressions would have been other possible results of this particular equation but the clincher was the fact that I not only get to mention that I saw Culture live at Womad (they were brilliant) but that I also recently purchased the essential four CD 'Frontline Box Set' which tells the story of Richard Branson's short lived Virgin reggae affiliate. I also wish to push forward the maxim of: the kookier the result, the better.
Cary Brothers/Chilton was another gimme that meant such a maxim had to be ignored because any chance to play The 'Mats or their offshoots must never be passed up. If you have a 'Mats cover and their greatest influence (so much so that they named a song after him) then it would be criminal to not instantly reach come to such a conclusion. Admittedly, anything from 'Pleased to Meet Me' would be a far more conventional choice than Westerberg's solo 2002 effort, 'Stereo/Mono' but "Boring Enormous" has everything. It has that delicious acoustic cantering rhythm which is so similar to 'Skyway' although clearly not as magical. You can no longer hear the snow crystalissing on Paul's brow but you can hear him growing older much as his idol did. He fails to recapture the heavy rock n' roll strut that Chilton carries off on "Can't Seem..." preferring to take on the role of the man has tried on such a persona before and ultimately been crushed by it. The bubble and hiss are restrained; dormant before being unleashed at a more appropriate juncture.
Joni/Wire leading to the queen of anti-folk, Regina Spektor, also has the feeling of the inevitable about it too. Now, Wire are a band who have never taken my fancy before. 'I Am the Fly' annoys the crap out of me to be perfectly frank. 'Outdoor Miner' is completely different. It is one of the only songs that I've ever heard that sounds like it's ripping strips from music history as it goes and in doing so creating a new future in the process. It's a song that you hear in so many others; a perfectly shaped Jungian archetype that gives me chills. Joni's has more than achieved the impact of "Outdoor Miner" on me but not in such a clinical way. Her songs manage to maintain a scruffier, more individualistic existence even her more poppier, jazz-lite songs such as "In France..." the opening track on what Prince would term "The greatest album of all time", 'The Hissing of Summer Lawns'. Regina occupies an earlier incarnation of Joni, around her sparser 'Blue' period, with her preference for sparse instrumentation subsidiary to Regina's voice and piano. It's all rather a case of the life of the narrator of "Last Time I Met Richard" thirty years on. Still mourning that last night in the cafe as she, like Wire, seeks to dissect an increasingly complicated musical vision to its spare parts. As a result, "Ode to Divorce" is an intoxicating concoction.
So, finally, we come to the meeting of minds between Van the Man and the Louisville art pop of The Pine Club leading to a goalkeeper turned Swedish folker. How? "Straightaway" skitters around like a cat through a side alley pakced with trashcans (introduced to me by Dodge at MOKB). All snare and stratch. "Redwood Tree", on the other hand, is Van at his most mellow filled with soft jazz percussion, acoustic cuts, and marauding soft rock piano. It's like The Band on downers accompanied by a gospel choir which just fell out the back of a van. What Dunger does is take Van's legendary scat ramble and slows it down into a belligerent honeyed drawl and mixes it up with snare and post-punk guitar uppercuts creating his onw hybird of country punk.
So there you have it: Ipod Maths. Go try it at home. You'll enjoy it much more than sunbathing in the hot sun.

Buy - Sloan - Navy Blues
Buy - Regina Spektor - Soviet Kitsch
Buy - Nicolai Dunger - Tranquil Isolation
Buy - Paul Westerberg/Granpaboy - Stereo/Mono
Buy - The Frontline Box Set
Buy - A 1Gb Ipod Shuffle!