April 9, 2001
THE LINER NOTES:
It’s taken me a while to write this post for a few reasons.
First, my present-day life took an uptick. Things got busy and free time has been hard to come by.
Second, this earlier period of my life has been a bit hard to pin down.
Carrie was gone. After nine months of getting to know her, she left Boston and moved to Los Angeles. It was expected, and if you’ve been following this blog, you know that we had put a plan in place to stay close. Not as boyfriend and girlfriend, but as good friends.
She was gone and I was a bit lost. The job was going well (I had been promoted to a manager), but it wasn’t a job I really wanted. I still had visions of entertaining people, and with Carrie’s encouragement, I tried out for a Cambridge-based comedy troupe. And I made it! I think it helped that very few people actually knew there were tryouts being held. And by “tryouts,” I mean I met with the guy who was forming the troupe, told him I liked Monty Python and he gave me the date and time of the first rehearsal.
So now, with Carrie in California, I was filling my nights with awkward improv with people I didn’t know. It didn’t go well. We had a few good moments here and there, but ultimately we never gelled. And, like my post-college comedy troupe in Los Angeles, I never performed with them publicly.
Before my time with Carrie, I was out there successfully sowing oats. With her now living across the country, I figured I should probably be sowing again. So I flirted and canoodled and went out and threw parties. But none of this went as well as the Pre-Carrie/Basement-Apartment shenanigans of yore. There was doubt and confusion and guilt.
Carrie and I had officially broken up, but it was the “friends-with-benefits” kind of break up. She flew back once. I flew out there once. And we were constantly in touch via phone and email. She reached out to me for support when the unknowns of her big move started to bring her down, and I would reach out to her when I needed to fill my heart with joy and happiness.
Eventually– as much as I was trying to prevent this from happening– eventually I realized why I was feeling so lost, why nothing seemed to be falling into place.
I was utterly, wholly, emphatically in love with Carrie.
Distance be damned.
So at this point, any personal decree of never again returning to California was moot. California was where the love of my life was now living, and California is where I had to be.
THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:
- “Untitled” – Neutral Milk Hotel
- “Up in the Sky” – Oasis
- “Big Dipper” – Built to Spill”
- “Homegrown” – Dodgy
- “El Scorcho” – Weezer
- “Twisted” – Sleeper
- “Mrs. Robinson” – The Lemonheads
- “Ruby” – The Apples in Stereo
- “Optimistic” – Radiohead
- “Hoodoo Voodoo” – Bill Bragg & Wilco
- “Give Me a Letter” – Ocean Color Scene
- “Sparky’s Dream” – Teenage Fanclub
- “Victoria” – The Kinks
- “Janie Jones” – The Clash
- “Round the Bend” – The Beta Band
- “Problem” – Remy Zero
- “Hit On the Head” – Gomez
- “All Up” – Ocean Colour Scene
- “Gasface Refill” – KMD
- “G-Song” – Supergrass
- “When I’m Feeling Blue (Days of the Week)” – Travis
- “Try to Remember” – The Apples in Stereo
- “Hail, Hail” – Pearl Jam
- “Making the Most Of” – Dodgy
- “Lost Myself” – Longpigs
- “Car” – Built to Spill
- “Password” – Cotton Mather
- “Get Blown Away” – Ocean Colour Scene
- “Shake Your Rump” – Beastie Boys
- “The Pain Inside” – Cosmic Rough Riders
- “Video” – Ben Folds Five
- “Ripcord” – Radiohead
- “Lola” – The Kinks
So, clearly, this tape comes at a transitional part of my life. My world was spinning and would definitely, maybe be coming to a stop in Southern California. And while many decisions were left to be made, I still needed music in my headphones.
I had to have a new mixtape and Lola was it. And as you can tell from the lack of cover art or handwritten track listing, I wasn’t putting as much care and effort into the compiling of this mix as I am known to do. I had grown my collection enough to not have to repeat artists, and yet… here’s two from Built to Spill, two from Radiohead, two from Dodgy and others. And we have three songs from Ocean Colour Scene! I mean, I like Ocean Colour Scene, but three?
“Give Me a Letter” was from their most recent release, Mechanical Wonder, and perhaps I was on an OCS kick due to the new album. This song has a decent, mid-tempo groove to it, but it doesn’t quit match the earlier rock charm of “Get Blown Away,” from their 1997 release Marchin’ Already. Melodically and lyrically, it’s the superior song.
The above should be the only Ocean Colour Scene needed for this tape. But I can understand why I tripled up here, and doubled up on so many other bands. As stated, I was growing my collection, loading up on “new-to-me” albums from bands I’d recently discovered. So while my first Built to Spill purchase was their fourth– Keep It Like a Secret— I was backing up trucks of bucks to backtrack their back catalogue. This mixtape comes post my There’s Nothing Wrong With Love purchase, which turned out to be one of my favorite albums of all time. I honestly don’t think there is a song on the album I do not love. “Car” is a classic for all Built to Spill fans, and rightly so.
I’ve also picked up more from Dodgy by this stage. This is another band where I started with a later release (in this case, their 1998 singles and B-sides collection) and was inclined to collect all other known works. Both tracks on this tape come from their second full length, 1994’s Homegrown, and both are chill representations of this band. “Making the Most of…” is the peppier of the two, with soaring vocals and just the right amount of horns. But it’s the laid-back title track that we should all try to emulate. This song doesn’t have a care in the world. I imagine it’s all marijuana related, but I’m naive to that sort of thing. For me, the explicit message of the song works just as well as the implied:
“Step further down the line, carry on, everything’s just taking time/Step further down the line, carry on, everything’s gonna be just fine.”
While I was doubling up on the new, I made sure to fill out the tape with some singular tunes from tried and true favorites. There’s “El Scorcho” from Weezer, “Shake Your Rump,” from the Beastie Boys, and “Up in the Sky” from Oasis. This Oasis choice really pleased me on this tape. From my personal mixtape collection perspective, it is an underutilized Oasis tune, so every time it started in (especially after Neutral Milk Hotel’s far more eclectic instrumental soundscape of “Untitled”) I reacted with surprised excitement. Even after the 12th or 15th play through of this tape in my car.
PLEASED TO MEET YOU:
By the turn of the century, I had gone through enough music and mixtapes to know what I really liked. This made it easier for me to read about a band and be fairly confident I would enjoy them. Plus, I wasn’t too concerned about throwing money at untested bands. So this is way I have the Cosmic Rough Riders in my collection (play song above). The British press hailed them as the second coming of something, their label was Creation Records, they have a song about Glastonbury– I was destined to love them. And I do like them well enough. (Not enough to pick up any of their subsequent albums, but still.)
I was also taking advantage of Q magazine’s quarterly (it seemed quarterly… maybe it was just annual) “100 Greatest Albums of All Time.” Or “British Albums of All Time.” Or “Britpop Albums of the ’90s” and so forth. And one album that was always popping up on those lists was Grand Prix by Teenage Fanclub. Now, I don’t know the root cause of it, but somewhere along the line, before 2001, I had it set in my mind that I couldn’t like Teenage Fanclub. I had likely associated the band name with some other band at one point and moved forward in my life thinking I shouldn’t waste my time with Teenage Fanclub.
But they kept coming up, and this album in particular. So with no pre-listen, and likely on sale at Newbury Comics, I bought the album. Maybe I even found it used at Second Spin. However it came into my possession, I was able to listen and realize how very wrong I had been. The immediate guitar jangling and harmonies of album opener “About You” instantly grabbed me. Then the angular power pop of “Sparky’s Dream” hit. Two songs in and I LOVED Teenage Fanclub.
Grand Prix was their third album of four at the time. I had them all by August.
WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:
So, yeah, it’s clear I haphazardly threw this mixtape together, with an emphasis on repeating bands I was really enjoying at the time. And while this isn’t generally how I like my mixtapes, the songs at least play well together and keep things upbeat.
Until you hit the Travis song. “What?! The Travis song? But you love Travis!” Yes, I do. Indeed, I really do. And I really like this Travis song. But its melancholy is poorly timed and poorly placed here. Overall, its a poor fit.
Enjoy it now, won’t you?
THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:
We can all agree that The Kinks are great, right?
In my “new music” quest of this era, I rarely went that far back in time. The Beatles were an exception. The Clash, too. And I picked up The Jam based on Noel Gallagher’s fandom. I also knew I had to get The Kinks and I started with a greatest hits collection. (Not sure if it’s the one I still have or not.)
I remember hearing “Lola” for the first time at summer camp, when I was at an age where a song like “Lola” felt dangerous. I remember the older counselors talking about what the song meant (or might have meant) and felt like I was joining a secret club. This was also the year the counselors were sharing bootlegged bits from new comedian Andrew Dice Clay, so it was a very pivotal summer.
But I’m not choosing “Lola” as the Super Ultra Mega Song. No, I doubled up on The Kinks here, too, and I’m going with “Victoria.” While “Lola” has the wink and the groove, “Victoria” taps the toes. The fondness of Queen and country swells, the guitar solo shimmers, the lyrics charm. It’s everything a Kinks song should be.