Day 4D: 9th and Penn, Round One
And we are into the second half of the Final Ninety-Six, and in this bracket, the following musical numbers will be paraded shamelessly before you:
#1 Pray for Teeth, “Puritan Eyes”
#16 Tex and the Horseheads, “Oh Mother”
Tex and the Horseheads, an LA institution who redefined the post-punk movement, are a wonderful, wonderful band who should be much better known outside their native California. Pray for Teeth, on the other hand, are refining the post-Victory hardcore ethic in much the same way, bringing a power and energy to it that puts me in mind of the old days of hardcore…right about when Tex and co. were just kicking off their minor revolution as well. I just dig what Pray for Teeth are doing slightly more than I dig what Tex and the Horseheads did, emphasis on “slightly”, and Pray for Teeth are safe. For the moment, anyway.
#8 Jesus Lizard, “Boilermaker”
#9 Pigface, “Tonight’s the Night”
Welcome to the single hardest Day 4 matchup, the two best songs to come out of the early nineties going head to head. Had I thought about it a little more, there is no way I would have put these two up against one another, but there you go….and now, this is the final write-up of Day Four. I know where I should be looking and how I should be looking at it—the Pigface track is an anomaly (though it is an anomaly that would drive the band’s sound for a while, once they realized how popular it was), but in some ways, “Boilermaker” is also an anomaly; it’s the last great
old-school punk single, especially since Jesus Lizard themselves would abandon punk with their next album in favor of a more free-jazz skronky approach that sounded a lot more like Scratch Acid than Jesus Lizard. (That happened in 1994; by 1996, Mac McNeilly was gone, replaced by Jim Kimball of JL side project Denison-Kimball Trio. But by then it was too late, and Jesus Lizard dissolved in 1999, save a few reunion tours.) Both of these have been standards in my collection for over twenty years, and I am willing to bet that both of them have logged over two thousand plays in that time…so I go back to anomalies, and Pigface hits the bench. Which are words that I never thought I would say. I’d have predicted Merzbow or Leslie Keffer would drop before Pigface.
#5 Paul Giovanni and Magnet, “Willow’s Song”
#12 Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Cities in Dust”
Siouxsie spent a long time out of my collection. I realized at one point last year I didn’t have a copy of “Cities in Dust” and hadn’t for probably fifteen years, so I grabbed a best-of comp and boom, there it was, and it was just like one of those old friends where you run into them on the street after not seeing them forever and you just pick up wherever you left off. But as I’ve been listening to it many, many times over the course of this competition, I have realized that one of the things about those friends that makes them so special is that when they’re not around, you think of them fondly and remember all the good times, but you don’t actually miss them all that much. This is not a bad thing at all, and it makes them all the more precious (at least if you’re me). It also makes me much more capable of letting go of them in a situation where one must fall. It would hurt to get rid of “Willow’s Song”. It doesn’t to get rid of “Cities in Dust”. Magnet dance their way to the next round.
#13 John Trubee, “A Blind Man’s Penis”
#4 Indian Jewelry, “Warm Boxcutter”
I mentioned the surprising (to me) preponderance of joke-rock remaining in the competition a while back. John Trubee’s “A Blind Man’s Penis” was revolutionary on so many levels, and has had all sorts of wonderful side-effects on the music industry, including the recent resurgence of interest in the song-poem industry. But in the end, it is still a piece of fluff, however influential and well-meaning. Indian Jewelry’s song has the same brevity (it is three seconds longer than Trubee’s track), but it feels like anything but fluff whenever I listen to it, and over the past eight years, I have listened to it one hell of a lot. It is an amazing piece of work, and it works its way through the epidermis and onto the next round, while Trubee heads for the showers. Probably the dingy ones with the glory holes.
#3 Natasha’s Ghost, “Falling Up”
#14 Hedningarna, “Räven”
I was listening to “Räven” on the way into work this morning, vaguely remembering that it had gotten a bottom-50%-ranking and building a pretty strong case for it in my head. Then I got here and started writing, and I opened up this bracket and saw what it was up against, and all those arguments went out the door. “Räven” is a phenomenal piece of work. On a hundred-percent scale, it’s probably a 97 or 98. “Falling Up” is a hundred. This was the closest of battles, but despite that, there was never a point where the winner was unclear; Natasha’s Ghost advance, as usual.
#11 Brian Straw, “Veins”
#6 NON, “A World on Fire”
“A World on Fire” is a very, very important song to me…and one I truly wish Boyd Rice had re-recorded on another album with way better production values than we got on In the Shadow of the Sword. I hate the idea of losing it, but I also hate the idea of devoting almost three and a half of the eighty minutes I would have left in the world of music to something so godawfully-recorded as this was. In comparison, the murk that seems to constantly surround Brian Straw’s guitar seems bright; it was a tough call, but Brian Straw pulls the upset here and sends NON to the roundhouse.
#7 Retch, “B”
#10 Bruce Cockburn, “Sahara Gold”
I mentioned back in PainKiller’s Day 4A title defense that I thought it and “B” were going to get free rides through till the end of the competition. “TrailMarker” had the easier of the two bouts by far…but then one of “Sahara Gold”’s closest contemporaries, Death in June’s “Come Before Christ and Murder Love”, was eliminated in the very next battle. The Holy Three of eighties love songs is not, it seems, unassailable. That said, of the three, “Sahara Gold” is the best, albeit by the barest of noses. “B”, however, has one quality about it that is unassailable; a six-second song leaves a helluva lot more room to squeeze in another entire act than does one that runs four and a half minutes. It was an ugly battle, and either side winning really would have been able to be called an upset, but I ended up giving this one to Bruce Cockburn, mostly because Roman J, the brain behind Retch, still has another horse in this race (he’s also Plague Mother). And “Sahara Gold” is one of the best love songs from any decade, not just the eighties.
[I won’t be able to upload this one until I get home.]
#15 The Tear Garden, “Dèjá Vu”
#2 Robert Turman, “’al-Qaida”
I didn’t realize it until “Dèjá Vu” came on in the car the other night, but when I did, it struck me as huge: of all the 688 songs that began this journey, the number of actual artists represented more than three times in the competition is extremely small; I counted nine. (Paul Barker showed up the most times, in six different acts; Greg Mairs and Chris Connelly came in at five times apiece, cEvin Key and Roman J appeared four times, and four artists were on the list three times.) Of those nine, only a single artist had a 100% hit rate in the final ninety-six: Edward Ka-Spel, whose solo track appeared (and won its battle) on Day 4C, and whose Legendary Pink Dots will be fighting the good fight again on Day 4F. Of the three, The Tear Garden probably has the roughest battle in this round, going up against Robert Turman. “’al-Qaida” is a wonderful, wonderful piece of music that evokes a mood better than much of what remains in the competition, and “Dèjá Vu” is my least favorite of the Ka-Spel tracks in the competition…so while I was thinking when I started this paragraph that The Tear Garden were going to have a relatively easy time of it here, I’ve reversed that decision, and Edward Ka-Spel’s other two entries in the Final Ninety-Six are going to have to do battle without this one, as Robert Turman heads on to Day Five.
(For the record, of the nine, Ka-Spel is tied for most appearances in the Final Ninety-Six; Greg Mairs also made it three times, with Submachine, Caustic Christ, and Short Dark Strangers.)
And with that, the fourth division of Day Four is in the books, and when these tracks return, this nastiness will vomit forth the following gorefests…
#1 Pray for Teeth, “Puritan Eyes” vs. #8 The Jesus Lizard, “Boilermaker”
#5 Paul Giovanni and Magnet, “Willow’s Song” vs. #4 Indian Jewelry, “Warm Boxcutter”
#3 Natasha’s Ghost, “Falling Up” vs. #11 Brian Straw, “Veins”
#10 Bruce Cockburn, “Sahara Gold” vs. #2 Robert Turman, “’al-Qaida”