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Friday, May 15, 2009 

Against Waste

So a while ago, maybe even a year ago at this point, I went to some local show. Who played wasn't really important; they weren't horrible or anything, but I was in a foul mood and something about the three or four incestuous bands that played that night and their overall aesthetic approach (i.e. their music, but not just their music; their clothes, their stage presence, the whole gestalt) made me feel extremely reactionary.

There is something to be said for musical/aesthetic sloppiness, don't get me wrong, but that evening as I walked home I was seething for some reason. The whole idea of dressing like a thrift store hobo, of gurning endlessly as you played because the music was just so full of emotion, man, of making music that mostly draws on classic rock as subsequently homaged by recent Canadian indie rock, of being 'artistes' - the whole thing just seemed so awful, so bankrupt (whereas normally I would have thought the band was middling in the "well, they do it nicely but it's not my thing" sense) that it needed to be destroyed.

I have never played an instrument outside of grade school music class (I was a poor baritone player and a better bass drum one, although I didn't care about music back then), and I have no idea if I have any talents along those lines, but that night I wanted to form a band. I wanted us to wear severe, stark suits, to barely move when playing and to speak little between songs, and to have those songs exhibit a quality I often love in music, a kind of ferocious control that means that even if a song sounds unhinged it also sounds like it's being sung from between clenched teeth. Part of the appeal of all that rigidity and repression, engaged in deliberately for aesthetic reasons, for me is that in my everyday life I often wish I was more reserved, more 'cool,' less high strung and less prone to, plainly, reacting to things. I don't think that sort of thing is the way you ought to live you life every day, of course, and I don't even like it in all of my music, but something about that kind of austerity appeals heavily to me.

So while the feelings of that night didn't last, I did idly toy around with the idea of making a mix along those lines, mostly because as I walked home I had "Closed Groove" by Stiff Little Fingers in my head (perhaps the paradigmatic song in the area that I'm talking about, partly because it uses repression to criticize repression, if that makes sense) and I wondered if I could find a mix of songs like it. I couldn't, not quite, at least in the sense that you might want to argue that some of these are ringers (Free Blood in particular), but I settled on a set of songs that in my mind at least seem to exemplify the kind of control and discipline in either/both of their musical or vocal performances, regardless of the song's subject matter or the band's other work (although in the majority of cases here, the songs 'fit' lyrically as well and the bands have other songs I could have used). But a song didn't make this mix unless I could imagine the band in my head playing it. The result is one of my favourite of my own mixes, and I really hope the person I sent it to (via the IMP) got something out of it.

Ultimately, what I came up with is the CD-R I'd give to someone who wanted to join my imaginary band if I learned to play guitar and started actually assembling it. Some of the songs are more laid-back or more feel-good that my initial furious conception would have allowed for, but ultimately this was about sketching out the limits of a sound or a style or an aesthetic. I don't know what the band would be called, but the phrase that kept popping into my head, and thus the title of the mix, was "against waste."

01. Manicured Noise – Faith (Cassette Version) (3:38)
02. !!! – All My Heroes Are Weirdos (3:04)
03. Free Blood – Quick and Painful (3:39)
04. Talking Heads – Cities (4:10)
05. Life Without Buildings – 14 Days (3:12)
06. The Whitest Boy Alive – Figures (3:57)
07. Ikara Colt – May B 1 Day (4:33)
08. The Wipers – Wait a Minute (3:05)
09. Liquid Liquid – Cavern (5:22)
10. Elvis Costello – (I Don’t Want to Go To) Chelsea (3:10)
11. The Futureheads – Man Ray (2:20)
12. British Sea Power – Something Wicked (3:12)
13. The Chameleons – Soul in Isolation (7:20)
14. Stiff Little Fingers – Closed Groove (4:21)

Total: 55:03

And NOW you gotta do what your friend at the Mondrian site does and put this into an MP3 an unsavvy bastard like me can download straight from the blog, instead of searching for all the songs online and failing to find them. :-)

Unlike Todd I don't have any space to put such a thing up; but drop me an email and I'll set something temporary up.

My brother correctly pointed out that the Hives would fit in here; in retrospect, I probably should have found room for Clinic and Mclusky as well, but I wanted to keep this one concise.

Your inclusion of The Wipers song makes me think this band might be awesome. Get learning that guitar, son!

Wipers are, indeed, awesome.

I'm trying to think of more in this vein...does Devo count or is that too obvious?

I have heard exactly two Wipers songs, and I love both of them (this one and "D-7" which might have worked even better: "Not straight! Not straight! Reject! Reject!"). Given that they both appear to be on Is This Real?, is that where I should start?

Devo would work, but I don't really know their stuff (a shameful gap) so I didn't think to include them. Honestly when I do think of people I should have thought about in terms of this, it's stuff like Maximo Park that comes to mind first.

Or should I just buy this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wipers_Box_Set

Hmmm, let's see, the money albums are Is this Real? and Youth of America, IMO. They're both in that box set you referenced.

I think Gang of Four is sort of a natural for this stuff, too. Have you ever seen Andy Gill perform? He's like a statue. Hardly even moves his eyes.

I've never seen Gang of Four live, but then again I was woefully underwhelmed by Entertainment! when I got around to listening to it.

That description sounds perfect, though, and if I didn't find them kind of overrated as well I think Mission of Burma probably possess the kind of spiky misanthropy I was thinking of too.

I'm amazed that I even recognize two of the bands. I wouldn't mind a copy of this, if you do set something up temporarily.

I'll get something going for you dad, but not this week... anyone else who is going to want the full thing, let me know (here or in email).

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Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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