Exit Music

DATE:

October, 1999

COVER:

IMG_9632

THE LINER NOTES:

This! This is the tape! This is what The All-Star 25th Anniversary Mix Tape Spectacular should have been. It’s all hits (personal and popular) and it’s a blast to listen to. Side A alone is nearly perfect.

But… I’m getting a head of myself. Let’s first talk about the Monday after my birthday party bash.

Let it be known that I am not entirely an asshole. I think of others before I think of myself… most of the time. But on this Monday, I was mostly an asshole. I showed up at work feeling fantastic after Sunday’s hangover, and all I could talk about was Carrie. And the person I talked to most about her was Daniele.

Yup. I was telling the girl I had made out with towards the end of the party how excited I was to meet up with the girl I had made out with earlier at the party. And Daniele was a peach about it. She should have told me to shut the hell and ignored me the whole day. Or, really, never spoken to me again. Instead, she was kind and generous. I was asking for advice and she was happy to give it. I really wanted to see Carrie again and I somehow got it into my head that I should show up at her apartment after work that day. I wanted it to be a big gesture, with flowers, maybe some chocolates. I was trying to figure out where I could buy a Labyrinth game on my way to her place. Daniele talked me down from all that.

Truth be told, Daniele was trying to talk me down entirely from showing up unannounced at some woman’s apartment two days after drunkenly rubbing our tongues together. But nothing was going to change my mind. I was too giddy. I felt like the universe was pushing us together. Maybe I was still a little drunk. Whatever the reason, I could not wait for 5:00 to roll around.

So I did it. I left work and headed to the North End. I walked up Salem Street, past the Old North Church because I remembered we had walked up Salem Street past the Old North Church the last time I had been to Carrie’s apartment. Which was also the only time I had been to Carrie’s apartment. Which was two months ago. After the church, I survived on instinct (and muscle memory). I reached the end of the street, took a right and there was a door on the corner to my left. I was pretty sure that was her door. So I stood there, with no flowers, candy or maze games, and I knocked. And it was her door. And she let me in.

I don’t remember what I said or how I said it, but she was happy to see me. Surprised, but happy. I invited her out to dinner, and since we were in close proximity to all the authentic Italian restaurants of the North End, we went to Circle Pizza for a couple slices. We clicked immediately. There’s was nothing awkward about me being there, out of the blue. It felt like we were on a third date. Our conversation was easy and full of laughter. I had been sick to my stomach nervous that I was doing a stupid thing by showing up at her place, but it was clearly the right thing to do. And there was pizza.

Earlier in the year, I ended my relationship with my high school sweetheart after distance made it too difficult to stay together. And my summer fling could only be a summer fling after the states between us became too far to cross. But now, right here in Boston, only a dozen or so T stops away from my home, was a woman that didn’t mind a near stranger unexpectedly showing up at her front door. I couldn’t even imagine the possibilities.

And at dinner she told me she was moving to Los Angeles in June.

THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:

SIDE A:

  • “Got My Own Thing Now” – Squirrel Nut Zippers
  • “Pumping on Your Stereo” – Supergrass
  • “Tomorrow” – James
  • “The Gas Face” – 3rd Bass
  • “There She Goes” – The La’s
  • “Undone (the Sweater Song)” – Weezer
  • “Crowns” – Money Mark
  • “I’m All Right” – Owsley
  • “Impossible” – The Charlatans
  • “Who Wouldn’t Thought” – Rancid
  • “On and On” – Longpigs
  • “Top of the World” – Ocean Colour Scene
  • “In Hiding” – Pearl Jame

SIDE B:

  • “What You Wish For” – Guster
  • “Queue” – Sean Lennon
  • “Outtasite (Outta Mind)” – Wilco
  • “Train in Vain” – The Clash
  • “Buena” – Morphine
  • “One Sweet World” – Tim Reynolds & Dave Matthews
  • “Mellie’s Comin’ Over” – Letters to Cleo
  • “Beautiful” – Shack
  • “Baby One More Time (live)” – Travis
  • “Kate” – Ben Folds Five
  • “Goodbye Little World” – Remy Zero
  • “Superman” – Goldfinger
  • “Free to Go” – The Folk Implosion
  • “To Be a Millionaire” – Spacehog
  • “Solace of You” – Living Colour

This! This is the tape!

Let’s talk about Side A. Fantastic opener with “Got My Own Thing Now.” Peppy, punchy and positive. The party continues with Supergrass’s “Pumping on Your Stereo,” where they are famously (or maybe not so famously) actually singing “humping” on your stereo throughout the song. Take a listen.

They don’t even try to hide it in the video. Nobody’s mouthing “pumping” in those opening seconds. The rousing, thoughtful “Tomorrow” follows, bringing a little class back to the proceedings. But that’s short lived as “The Gas Face” comes next. You know, the song about making a silly face when somebody’s being a dumbass. I prefer this kind of rap put downs over the stuff involving A-Ks.

This song transitions perfectly to “There She Goes,” whose joyful pop segues beautifully into the darker opening tones of Weezer’s “Undone (The Sweater Song).” And as that song ends with a cacophony of feedback and swirling sounds, the next track opens with a similar hodgepodge of noises. It’s a perfect transition into smoothest cut of this mix: “Crowns.”

Doesn’t matter where I am or who I’m with– whenever I hear “Crowns” I automatically engage in pulling off a complicated heist.

Song for song, this tape is perfectly me in the fall of 1999. And maybe no song represents that better than “Impossible” by The Charlatans. Us and Us Only, their sixth album, was released days before this tape was made, so anytime I hear a track of this record, I’m immediately returned to riding the Green Line to and from the city. “Impossible” was the standout track for me. It’s one of those songs where the vibe of the tune, combined with the indistinct lyrics, can generally fit any mood and any environment. It’s upbeat yet tranquil. Uplifting and sad. It’s almost everything.

And Side B is just as strong. Guster opens the second half with their standout “What You Wish For.” And there are hits from Wilco, The Clash and Ben Folds Five. We also have a couple of fine live tracks here, including Tim Reynolds and Dave Matthews acoustic rendition of “One Sweet World,” and Travis’ take on the ubiquitous Britney Spears debut, “…Baby, One More Time.”

And this is just another reason to love Travis. This wasn’t a jokey mockery of the song (though there is still some fun to be had), they truly gave the tune respect. It became a regular in their live shows at the time, played without irony. Because it’s actually a decent song. I love the sincerity of Travis.

The last several songs on Side B, though strong tracks, don’t quite gel as well as the rest of the mix. The low key vibes of “Free To Go,” “To Be a Millionaire,” and “Solace of You” are too similar, making the tape just sort of peter out here at the end. But it’s a small misjudgment compared to the rest of this mix. Going forward, Exit Music has set the bar.

PLEASED TO MEET YOU:

I read about Shack before I heard Shack. Their album, HMS Fable, was receiving rave reviews in Q and NME and with its Britpop ties, it was an easy choice to pick it up. The album presented as more melodically refined than the Blur and Oasis standards, and I loved it. It opened my palette up to a wider range of musical influences, certainly more than I had been open to leading up to this point in my life. I’ve been with the band ever since, picking up previous and subsequent releases. HMS Fable remains their best.

WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:

There’s not really a horrible, terrible surprise on this tape. All the songs are relatively solid, even with the poorer collection of choices at the end of Side B. If anything were to stand out, it might be using “Solace of You” to close out the mix. This tape was generally a very uptempo affair, and I could have used Living Colour to end this set of songs with any number of rocking selections. But for some reason, I went with their love song from 1990’s Time’s Up. A pretty song, but a terrible fit.

THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:

“Impossible” would have been the Super Ultra Mega Song f this tape didn’t also include “Kate.” I mean, this song is pure, simple, unadulterated joy. It’s the musical embodiment of a killer crush. Kate is everything. She’s sunshine and rainbows and mix tape perfection. She’s the girl we all want to know. And her song is my favorite Ben Folds tune by miles.

And in October of 1999, Carrie was my Kate.

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