15 July 2006

Cyclical Headaches: DOTW and "Dad Rock"

Title: Feels Like Friday!
Format: CD-R (80 min)
Date: Thursday night, 13 July 2006
Packaging: white sleeve with "weekly calendar" artist list on back; tracklist inside written on guest checks from petit 4.
Notes: made for Katie for her last Friday at p4 (our last day working together.)

Contents:
1. I Met Him On A Sunday - The Shirelles
2. Welcome to the Working Week - Elvis Costello
3. St. Monday - Billy Bragg
4. On a Monday - Ry Cooder
5. Tuesday Morning - The Pogues
6. Hooray For Tuesday - The Minders
7. Why Don't You Write Me - Simon and Garfunkel
8. This Time - Los Lobos
9. Six Days - DJ Shadow
10. W.E.E.K.E.N.D. - Arling and Cameron
11. Friday On My Mind - The Easybeats
12. Friday - Joe Jackson
13. Friday Night - Lily Allen
14. At The Club - The Drifters
15. Friday I'm In Love - The Cure
16. Dancing Alone - Ashlee Simpson
17. Friday Night Saturday Morning - Nouvelle Vague
18. A Roller Skating Jam Named "Saturdays" - De La Soul
19. Sunday Morning - Margo Guryan
20. Every Day Feels Like Sunday - Of Montreal
21. Seven Day Weekend - Elvis Costello and Jimmy Cliff
22. Wishing the Days Away (Ballad Version) - Billy Bragg
++ Creating Cyclical Headaches - Prefuse 73 + 4 Tet [prefuse 77 tet?]

(you might have noticed...*)

at first the days of the week theme was just going to be a loose concept that not necessarily all the songs would fit, but i came up with so many appropriate songs that it basically became the strict theme. most days-of-the-week songs are about working or partying or both, which are both relevant things for katie and me, plus she likes to talk about days feeling like other days (i.e. "it feels like a thursday"), and we always talk about "fun friday," with greater or lesser irony, depending. so anyway, this was her going-away present.

"i met him on a sunday" is a classic of the "days-of-the-week song" genre (that is, songs where they list all the days, not just songs about one specific day) that happens to start with the first day of the week. i thought about using laura nyro's awesome cover, but then, the original is perfectly fine.

"welcome to the working week" is practically synonymous with "intro track" in my book [being the intro track of e.c.'s entire career] - so much so that i could hardly let myself put it as track one - also, it doesn't mention any days, but it's clearly a week-cycle song, and an ironic song for an end-of-job mix. it's so fraught for me that i can't actually comprehend how well it works in this context, since the weirdness of its failure to be followed by "miracle man" is just too glaring. but that's me, not katie. (who, btw, sort of dislikes e.c. but the song's short too!)

three intro tracks in, "st. monday" kind of starts things off in earnest - a song about not working on monday, which is appropriate because the shop is closed then. luv this tchune too, even though the rest of the album (england, half english) is a bit naff. "on a monday" isn't really a monday song - not that there aren't other obvious ones by the bangles, mamas and papas, new order, etc. - or a work song for that matter, but it is a classic "days of the week" song (that is, mentioning all the days in order, DOTW from here on), which is a form that could easily fill its own mix cd and more.

for some reason tuesday has two of the best songs about it, and they really seem to be reasonably about it, which is even weirder. (i forgot and/or declined to include men without hats' "on tuesday," though it is also pretty great.) i was stumped for wednesday and thursday - apart from duke ellington's "zweet zurzday," which i had on but then took off - but an amg song title search i did after completing the mix revealed some things i'd overlooked in my own collection - one "thursday" by morphine and another on goldie's incredible dj-mix; the undertone's "wednesday week" (i thought of e.c.'s but didn't choose it for obvious reasons), and fischerspooner's "wednesday." none of that matters much, but i did kick myself for forgetting tori amos' "wednesday," which is one of the better songs on an album i like very much (scarlett's walk), and, upon consideration, is more or less about the day. [and so, i included it, in between tracks 6 and 7, on the amended version of the cd i just burned myself. there's enough room too!]

well anyway, it's no great mystery why everyone writes songs about sunday and saturday and friday and monday instead of thursday and wednesday. (because they're kind of boring, and run together, even if one of them is the fake weekend.) and so instead i included a string of DOTW songs, which are always kind of about the humdrum doldrums of waiting for the weekend to arrive. "why don't you write me" only qualifies because of the bridge - but that bridge is totally classic, with each day bringing the contemplation of a different form of suicide. (also, the "writing" theme nicely follows up the bit in "hooray for tuesday" about letters and postcards.)

"this time" cleaves so close to the DOTW formula that it sounds, well, formulaic, but it does fit the mellow midweek mood. "six days" is almost obvious in a similar way, but it's still totally sweet. i wanted to use the diplo mash-up of col. bagshot's "six day war" (the original sample for the shadow track) with "lean back", for obscurist purposes, but the transition didn't work as well, and it's just not as musically satisfying.

"w.e.e.k.e.n.d." is both a ridiculous pastiche (i guess?) of the DOTW genre and by-default constituent. i think of it as ushering in the second (and more important) section of the mix, which is the part about friday and the weekend. the transition isn't quite neat though since "friday on my mind" starts out with "monday morning feels so bad...", and we have to go through the DOTW again to get to the partytime part, which is basically the chorus and the rest of the song. this (at least the latter part of it) and several of the songs that follow also fit into the genre of "weekend songs," a category which is discussed at the very beginning of this deservedly-lauded ilm thread, and which is worth more elaborating at some point.

joe jackson's "friday" was in some ways the genesis of this whole mix (way back in april, on good friday in fact, i wanted to make a mix for katie and petit 4 that included this but started with "the kids are alright", which sadly got dropped here for obvious reasons. but i still want to use it to start a mix sometime.) "she gets paid on friday" is a great hook line. i also like the part where joe goes through all the other days that he's "not talking about."

"friday night" by lily allen is not really a very good day of the week song, since it only mentions friday in the title and first line and is actually about her conflict with some [expletive transformed into funny boingy noise] at the club. but it does set up the next few songs which are also about going out to clubs. plus i'm excited about lily allen these days, or maybe just pop-hiphop-ska in general. "at the club" likewise only mentions friday in the first line ("well friday night has finally come around"), but i always think of it strongly as a friday song, mostly because i see at as the counterpart to "saturday night at the movies" (even though the narrator of this song says "don't ask me to go" to the movies - well, not on friday night anyway.) nice la bamba rip too.

so i guess "friday i'm in love" doesn't fit here because it's not actually a friday night clubbing song, but i wanted to delay it a bit since it is such an obvious (and essential) fun friday song. did i consider for a second not including it? even if the best thing about it is those first seven (!) glimmering notes and the half-a-beat-before-you-expect-it crash of the intro. i also thought it was a nice set-up for "dancing alone", even though that's actually more an homage to billy idol, plus ashlee shouts out a different cure song in the chorus. i definitely think of this as a friday night song too (in particular it makes me think of dancing alone at the 700 club), even though it's sequenced on the album right after "sunday morning blues", which isn't quite right. (ashlee has her own DOTW song, of course: "pieces of me." i considered including it, but it doesn't really fit the formula that well, since her week is only two days long - monday and tuesday - and i don't know where it would go on the mix.)

as a coda to the "going out on friday night" section (the strongest high point of the mix, energy-wise - which is ironic since katie and i are both typically too tired or having-to-work-saturday to actually go out on friday), we have "friday night, saturday morning." not in the jaunty specials original as made famous by rich's iPod, but the downbeat, almost hypnotic nouvelle vague rendition. either would have worked, i guess, but i particularly like this version, which might be my favorite cut on the nouvelle vague album. (did you know that if you look at the cd upside down it says "angen allannou"?), and it's nice to have down-tempo cut for saturday day.

finding saturday songs (saturday night in particular) is almost too easy, and it did seem necessary to have at least one. de la soul's "jam" is an old favorite, and it stays on topic (the chorus even includes a shout-out to the "five days to work") better than most. despite the jump in energy levels, the radio announcer intro fit well after the closing sound effects of the last song, and the awesome drum groove outro leads beautifully into the awesome drum fill intro of the margo guryan song. which also happens to be practically perfect in every way. "every day feels like sunday" singlehandedly alludes to happiness, unemployment, the smiths, and the joke in the name of this miz - and that's just in the title phrase, since i have no idea what the lyrics are about. plus of montreal are a pivotal band around here, in case you couldn't tell, and this is a fine, strong song.

it kind of feels like a last track, honestly, so i sort of hear the rest as "bonus material", or at least a postscript/coda section. indeed, "seven day weekend" was a bonus track on the ryko reissue of blood and chocolate that for some reason was not included on the rhino rereissue (annoyingly, since it means i kind of have to keep both copies) - it's not that bad. in fact i quite like it; it's totally fun, especially the drumming, and it's a perfectly adequate DOTW song with a couple great lines ("if it isn't thursday anymore it must be friday.") "wishing the days away", on the other hand, is prime DOTW song and an absolutely beautiful ballad (in this case - the original rock version was another angelliliPod favorite) in its own right, imbing the potentially bland formula with considerable emotional nuance: "on monday i wished it was tuesday night so i could wish for the weekend to come" says volumes about how we relate to time in a simple phrase. fittingly, it's also a lovely song about missing someone too (i don't really understand the political undercurrent to the lyric, so i'll just ignore that.)

and it's a shame that "sunday night just keeps on rolling" is not the name of the really cool 8-minute instrumental track at the end of the first múm album, but is instead the kind of boring 8-minute instrumental track that comes right before it. because i would have used it to close this mix if it had a different title. (though "slow bicycle" is fitting enough for katie, i suppose.)

one comment - i notice that this cd is fairly heavily slanted towards music i associate with my dad: artists i first heard from him (elvis, billy, ry, the pogues, lobos, joe) and even songs i know he particularly likes (the drifters tune.) not sure why that is except that the DOTW formula tends to be employed by rootsy rock songwriter types, which is to say what i guess some people call "dad rock" (a la the pfm, i think, review of wilco.) if that's a negative stigma then i don't quite agree, although i have learned that listeners of my demographic tend to have some critical difficulty with it.

i particularly recall, the first time tara came over to my house, playing her los lobos' kiko and her being pretty much bewildered and weirded out by it, probably saying something about how it's music her dad would like. that's an album i cherish and have for a long time, but i think that experience substantially changed the way i hear it.

i'm curious, actually, what the critical consensus of the indieocracy would be on, say, mitchell froom's work of the late '90s, which in a sense bridges the xpn-style rootsy "adult" rock of lobos and bonnie raitt and indier-friendly songwriters like lisa germano and mark eitzel with more overtly experimental "hip" stuff like soul coughing and cibo matto (all of whom MF worked with), and which is totally a recognizable and innovative production aesthetic. (actually, S.T. Erlewine's crush on Sheryl Crow is rather relevant here.) this stuff was all, to my knowledge, critically well-recieved to the point of adulation at the time (and by audio geeks too, fersher) - and i was pretty into it, through the influence of my parents and uncle, as well as the e.c. mailing list (significant: froom and his sidekick tchad "tchad?" blake also worked on elvis' great albums from this period, and took then-attractions/now-impostors drummer pete thomas with them for many of the other things they produced) - BUT nobody really talks about it these days, and i don't know if that's because it's so obvious that nobody needs to mention it (as i always assumed, since it was obvious to me) or that people think it's bad, or that people are unaware of it. or what.

i don't think this is dad rock, exactly. people at this site have suggested three pretty completely different definitions of the term, none of which have gotten many thumbs-up as being accurate - so the meaning may be somewhat up for grabs. anyway, there is clearly a large blind-spot in this area for the critical community as i've experienced it, which is happy to embrace soul and country and, of course, the "classic" 60s-70s rockers of the third dad-rock definition, but is either disdainful of or uninterested in "mature" rock songwriters from, say, the 80s onward unless they're young on and on indie-rock labels (richard buckner, m. ward, beth orton though maybe not anymore) or had flagrant punk roots (nick cave, patti smith, tom waits arguably.) amg is an exception because they _have_ to cover all that stuff, and of course their reviewer base definitely has broader tastes than your standard music webzine. but in general i see this as a situation quite comparable to the indifference/disdain towards teenpop.

this should probably be its own post. but i do like how discussing mixtapes like this leads naturally into a discussion of more general themes in my musicmind. although these posts are way too long and splintered to work well as discussion-starters. but whatever. now for the asterisked disclaimer you've all been waiting for....

------

*so, on the first mix that i've made since writing out my list of constraints for mixes, i have neatly managed to break every one of the rules. (1) elvis costello and billy bragg each have two songs on here, although i rather like how they're grouped together both times, at the beginning and end of the cd, as if it was cycle starting over (like the days of the week, hah!) (2) she obviously knows the cure song, definitely knows the of montreal, and probably a few of the others - but i wasn't really stressing that point; she's the sort to appreciate some familiar songs mixed in - besides, how can you have a friday-themed mix without the cure? (3) again, who cares, but i've totally overused "sunday morning" recently (on 50's-60's vs. '05-'06, and, embarrassingly/unintentionally, on vulpine valentine) - with good reason, considering it rulz - and no i haven't forgotten that the de la soul song was on beauty will save the world either. i especially wanted to adhere to rule (4) (tet) on this one, b/c cakie likes him, but couldn't find a good way to open with it, so instead there's a tacked-on bonus track. ("creating circular headaches" being an apt description of the song itself, but also, i suppose, of the weekly cycle, if you want to go there.) all of this is fairly irrelevant, so i'm shifting this paragraph to the end of the post.

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