Tuesday, January 31, 2006

XTC is killing my ears: an introduction

My ears hurt. Badly. I blame the volume of my Titanium headphones as they pipe Colin Moulding's lithe but already loud basslines straight into my brain. Four or five days or so away from British post-punk-funky-pop band XTC, then, would probably cure the pain. But as I listen to the band's material on my iPod, my computer and my record player, and as I expect the three XTC albums I'm missing from my catalog — The Big Express, Apple Venus Volume 1, and Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) — in the mail any day now, I know that I must absorb these records as quickly as possible. I'm starting a very important project: to determine which XTC tracks are essential for a career-spanning compilation CD. Or maybe the project will be to figure out which XTC songs (and in what order) to take consistently on long runs through the city. Or maybe I'll do both projects. And why are they so important?

In his book A Cook's Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal, chef Anthony Bourdain notes that it's not just the food but the circumstances in which you ingest it that make a dining experience great. I must be in search of the perfect music. Is the perfect music when you happen to hear XTC's "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" and R.E.M.'s "Bittersweet Me" on the same radio station on the same day? Is it hearing the first movement of Mahler's Fourth Symphony with big-ass headphones on at midnight in a dark room when you're 19 years old? The fact that in the end I will never discover the "Perfect Music" shouldn't deter me in my quest. I used to listen to Sting a lot more than I do now, but his description of music as a "great mongrel" still informs my ongoing search for those monumentally moving sounds and the ways they connect with each other. That blog title will also force me to consider more than just the late-'70s and early-'80s pop that I've been hearing most in the past year or so.

In this blog, I want to chronicle the impact music of all kinds has on me on a regular basis. Expect to read my impressions of what I recently bought or downloaded, or of the shows and concerts I attend here in Philly, or of what I hear children listening to in my inner-city computer classroom, or of why Jason Falkner's power pop is the best out there, or of how I would enjoy listening to R.E.M.'s "Hyena" on repeat for several hours at a time. And look for lots of rankings of bands, songs, and albums based on no criteria other than what I like at a particular time. Also, expect similar observations from our several nationwide correspondents, whose screennames are listed on the side of this page.

And don't worry — my posts won't just be about R.E.M. and XTC. Those groups just happen to have taken turns dominating my life lately. And just bear with me if 90 percent of the next week's post all have to do with the band that put out the song ("Great Fire," off Mummer) with the single greatest modulation in pop music history.


At 2:24 AM, Blogger ryunited and it feels so good said...

Love XTC. "Then She Appears" is a classic. Anyone who watches Gilmore Girls will have heard the band adnauseum as the show's writers are huge fans.

Actually, the show has consistently good music.


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