Monday, December 26, 2011

LINER NOTES: First Draft

First Draft playlist.

Happy Holidays! Did you enjoy celebrating a birthday in the company of a fine-smelling tree? Are you in the midst of honoring your peoples with some lit candles? Did you just start reaffirming your rootedness in African culture? Maybe you just want to stimulate the economy? Or simply enjoy your hard-earned federal holiday?

Nate and I are honoring the various winter holiday traditions by taking a little break from the LINER NOTES drawing sessions (yes, we switched up the name from the less rollsoffthetongue +DRAWING+MODEL+MUSIC+BEER+) until late January. That said, we have a backlog of playlists to post. And I'd be remiss as a music journo to not join the fracas of year-end list-making. So, all week I'll be posting past playlists (both here on the blahg and the F-book) and lists of various musical musings of mine from 2011. Here's the first, some notes from November 30's LINER NOTES: First Draft:


"First Draft," or demo night, was the culmination of a life-time of record-collecting mania. Even before I began buying my own shitty, post-new wave, alterna-jams, my older brother/first roommate introduced me to KROQ's Rodney on the Roq -- the closest thing to John Peel in early '80s Los Angeles. Sure, Rodney spun the radio staples that everyone knew. But he also broke countless bands by playing fresh, raw demos. Say whu -- a demo?

Songs and rock bands are like superheroes: they usually have an origin story. At least with comic books, origins or debuts may become rare, but were (in theory) once widely available. Spider-Man was introduced whole-hog in Amazing Fantasy #15. Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27, but readers quickly learned his roots in issue #33.

Finding the roots of a song or band can be trickier mostly due to the nature of a demo. The demo, at least pre-internet, was often a rough recording of a song, or at least an idea of what a song (and, by extension, the band could be). They were originally intended for record companies to determine whether to sign a band or to use a song. Demos could be consumed by those outside the ivory Capitol Records tower, but only the knowing few. After all, demos were not meant for public consumption.

Subsequently, demos could be mythologized, sought after and traded in semi-secret. And, like comic books, I quickly learned the class system of music nerds: those who just knew the basics; those who knew the basics and the better; and those who didn't fuck with the basics, and only fucked with/owned/collected the better.

My first job bread went to buying music, but I was never savvy or outgoing or moneybag-laden enough to land U2 demos or Black Flag bootlegs. Seemed I would always hear about the other side, but never actually know it.

It's brickinthehead-worthy to say something as pat as, "The Internet Changed Everything." But it did. Really, the last few years changed everything. Access to knowledge, more specifically streaming, listenable music, is ridiculously available. Once upon a time, I heard murmurs of Achtung Baby rehearsal tapes. Now, I can rewind Bono's admonition of Adam at any time.

Sure, not everyone jumps to hear music in draft form. Then again, considering how we carefully build up poses in a typical LINER NOTES session, such a meta theme seemed appropriate. We build up drawings from quick sketches of dynamic poses to full-fledged pictures of subtle poses, so why not simultaneously listen to some songs mid-construction?

The coincidental discovery of the early '80s R.E.M. demos practically begged us to pursue this theme. And what better way to open the session with the warped burst of "Radio Free Europe?" The Biggie and Nas demos, which have circulated for a while (by internet standards) continue to provide conversation fodder with dramatically earnest snapshots of pre-celeb DOA perennials. However, bring back a chestnut like the Artifacts' "Wrong Side of Da Tracks." It differs little lyrically from its final version, yet has a contrasting aggression simply due to the pause between "bomb like Vietnam" and "The same name Tame One..."

The commercial version of PJ Harvey's "Sheela-Na-Gig" stinks. Its air is musty, sour and thick. Yet its over-driven guitars, especially in light of its distant cousin Nirvana's "Rape Me" the following year, dates it to a certain vintage year of pungent rawk. It's too much. But in demo form, stripped of affect and strummed with a tight fist, the song slowly secretes lust and works its way around you. Ok, maybe not the best drawing song, but a slow-burner for the mid-length poses.

U2's Berlin sessions from the early '90s were legendary at the time. They marked the leaking of an album prior to the album's final completion. Hell, even little teenage me heard about it. Understandably, the band was upset, but the recordings are great. They're boring, long-winded, and seemingly endless. Bono bosses bassist Adam Clayton around, ordering him to play certain lines and where to stand. *Where to stand.* That is fucking annoying. And then you realize the work required to form these songs. For any aspiring musician or even the most passing music fan, this understanding doesn't spoil the magic of pop music -- it embellishes the greatness of each hard-earned part.

This was one of my favorite themes of the year. Any interest in revisiting in '12?

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