SYNOPSIS: Oh, you kids probably think it’s all sweetness and light up here in Uncle LD-land. And truth be told, it often is. It’s easy to feel superior when you are, someone once quipped. But sometimes we find it really hard to swing out of the old hammock and face the bright new day. So sometimes we don’t. Instead we pull down the shades, whip up a nice pitcher of iced something, pick out a conducive volume from the dusty shelves, and settle back with some excellent music. Of course, you know that our tastes tend to run towards the dark and dour—and if you look up “black humor” in some dictionaries, you just might see your Uncle LD’s ugly mug there. And so it all might seem a bit gloomy to some, but to us it’s just heaven. Or the secular version of heaven, anyhow. Some of the tunes that follow are topical, some are irrelevant, and most are irreverent in some way. So if you’re easily pissed off about stuff like this, all we can say is: “Toughen up, kiddo!”
NEXT WEEK: No, really—some of the stuff that’s been piling up on our desk for months.
Intro: “When the World’s On Fire” by the Carter Family, (Victor, 1930) This gem was recorded in Memphis for Mr Ralph Peer, and even for aging atheists like your Uncle LD, it provides some comfort. Maybe it’s the autoharp?
“This is the Day” by The The , from 45RPM (Sony, 2002) When this came out, who knew that the mere mention of the words “plane” and “clear blue sky” would someday make people burst into tears. Still, it’s a gorgeous thing, this song—which was a hit single in the UK for the The in 1982, culled from their album SOUL MINING. We do wonder if it was on Clear Channel’s banned-song list in 2001.
“Faint Hearts” by the Colourfield, from VIRGINS & PHILISTINES (EMI,1985) We say it and say it, and we mean it: There’s never enough Terry Hall. This always calls to mind images of the Kent State shootings—something about “soldiers with flowers in their holsters.” This version from the rare CD features an intro not found on the old vinyl version. Oh, and sleigh bells always work, don’t they?
“The Swan” by Julee Cruise, from FLOATING IN THE NIGHT (Warner/WEA, 1990) Sad sad sad… Perfect music for wallowing in despair. This is the goddess who sang those creepy David Lynch theme songs. Her husband is editor of GUIDEPOSTS, incidentally.
“Amelia” by Cocteau Twins, from TREASURE (4AD, 1984) Happily for you, listener, you don’t have to be a goth to love this classic cut from a classic album that helped define a sound and a scene in the early 80s. So even if you’re not 17, waif-like and misunderstood by all and sundry, you can still hug yourself and rock back and forth to this.
“Listen On” by the Railway Children, from REUNION WILDERNESS (Factory, 1987) Smithslike in its chiminess, blissful in its bittersweetness. Not sure what’s he’s singing about, exactly, but it’s so soothing in a desperate, plaintive way.
“Faith and Healing” by Ian McCullough, from CANDELLAND (Warner, 1989) Almost happy plea for help from ex-Echo heartthrob, here in its 7-inch remix state.
“Help Yourself” by Sam Phillips, from OMNIPOP (Virgin, 1996) Not soothing is this tortured tune from ex-xtian diva, Sam Phillips, aka Leslie Phillips.
“Random Butter” by Orso, from ORSO (Perishable, 1998) Oh, Phil! This project stars ex-Rex bassist and adorable bear (get the single-entendre name, kitten?) Phil Spirito. Even bitter jaded queens like ourselves melt when he croons “lay your head sideways…” And listen up for those backwards loops and that tenor banjo.
“Am I Wrong” by Love Spit Love, from LOVE SPIT LOVE (Imago, 1996) Gravel-voices genius from the Psych Furs had a hit with this song from his then-new band. This was ideal for late-night drives and train rides. Incredibly sad lyrics, in his typically oblique way.
“O Superman” by Laurie Anderson, from BIG SCIENCE (Warner/WEA, 1982) We saw Miss Anderson perform this at New York’s Town Hall on September 16, 2001. It was just devastating, and the audience was awash in tears and snot within seconds. Somehow we all got through it and were perhaps better for it. But it’s still reallyreallyreally hard to listen to.
“My Mother the War” by 10,000 Maniacs, from THE WISHING CHAIR (Electra, 1985) People hate Natalie Merchant, but we bet she does care one bit. Note the gorgeous venom in her voice when she sings “Five black stars!”
“What a Fucking Lovely Day” by Stephin Merritt, from SHOWTUNES (Nonesuch, 2006) Ah, meglomania! Three guesses to whom your Uncle LD would dedicate this giddy little ballad of mass destruction if thought he could do so without feeling even more paranoid than he usually does.
Five Songs We Might Have Played If We Thought We Could Stand It
1. “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” as sung by James “Dump” McNew
2. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys
3. “Don’t Worry Baby” by Ronnie Specter
4. “60-40” by Nico
5. “Looking from a Hilltop” by Section 25