So, my shuffleathon has been received and reviewed by Kate in Brisbane. You can find her review here, but I thought I'd take the time to explain why I made the choices I made... call me self-indulgent if you must, but making a mix tape is such a personal thing, that I thought my shuffleathon might benefit from some explanation. Maybe not, but you never know, eh?
1. The Intro and the Outro - The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band
Kate said: "A great start, this track had me jiving around my kitchen straight away, but it didn't really go anywhere musically. Then I really sat down to listen to it on the bus and I realised how funny it is. 7/10"
You're absolutely right that this song ultimately goes nowhere, but it has a lot of fun in doing so. Credit to Statue John for this one... I think he included it on a compilation that he made last year, perhaps even his shuffleathon, and it's clearly a great way to get things started. Possibly not a song you'd want to listen to over and over again, but once in a while it's a real treat. I think I've used it on more or less every compilation I've made in the last few weeks, actually.
2. Gonna Fly Now (Theme from "Rocky") - Bill Conti
Kate said: "I quite like the theme from Rocky. I thought it was an odd choice for a mix CD, but it did bring back memories and make me feel all strong and empowered. 6/10"
I went through a bit of a Rocky phase earlier this year, and I trawled my way through all of the movies, which I love. This simply has to be one of the best and most memorable pieces of film soundtrack ever recorded and it will always be evocative of those training montages with Stallone running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art. It's probably a natural opening track for a complilation, but obviously here that place was taken. I thought it made a nice change of pace after the ramblings of the Bonzos. Another one that has been on every mix I've made recently. It's a cracking tune.
3. Child Psychology - Black Box Recorder
Kate said: "A rather depressing spoken word versus and sung chorus song. The chorus is rather earwormy though: "life is unfair - kill yourself or get over it". I now sing it whenever I hear someone moaning. 5/10"
Again, probably not a song you would want to listen to over and over again, but I think this is an impact tune. I'm a huge fan of Luke Haines and I usually include something by the Auteurs on compilations like this one. This time around I went for something a little bit different, and you're spot on about this being serious earworm territory. As put downs go, it's hard to beat.
4. Life on Mars? - Seu Jorge
Kate said: "This track had a very "home recording" sound, but it's a pretty guitar+vocals song. The French was a little too mumbled for me to understand what he was singing about though. 5/10"
This is taken from the soundrack to "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" and is actually a Brazilian cover of the classic Bowie track, so it's sung in Portuguese (although really it's only a cover of the tune - Seu Jorge wrote all his own lyrics, apparently, about who knows what). I like the film a lot, but for me the Bowie covers are probably the most memorable part of it and immediately made me want to buy the OST. I included it here partly for the curiosity value, partly because I genuinely love it and partly because I'm conscious that I listen to a lot of shouty guitar music and wanted to make sure that this mix had a bit of texture. I'm currently listening to Anthony Newley's version of "Pop Goes the Weasel", so perhaps it's as well you got this and not that!
5. Banquet - Bloc Party
Kate said: "I immediately recognised this song as Bloc Party - a band I don't know well, but quite like. This song was no exception and I really do think that I need one of their albums. 9/10"
Included simply because I love their spiky guitars and fantastic drumming. I usually put "Helicopter" onto my mix CDs, but deliberately opted for something different this time around. Good band. They're excellent live too, should you ever get the opportunity to see them.
6. Leaders of the Free World - Elbow
Kate said: "This song grabbed me from the first line: "I'm sick of working for a living". I'm not sure how to describe it, but I liked it. It felt kind of... anarchistic (if that's a word). 9/10"
Elbow are a brilliant band, but they are also a relatively unobtrusive one. If you didn't know they were out there, then you might not ever have come across any of their work. This is clearly quite a political song, and I love the lyric "passing the gun from father to feckless son". It's taken from the album of the same name, but all of their stuff is really, really good. They're not an obvious band at all, and they don't seem to tread the same paths as other bands do. I think they're all the better for it (although they might have been richer and more well known if they had taken a more obvious route). I'm really pleased that you liked this, and I'd urge you to check out the album, which is fantastic.
7. If You Go Away - Dusty Springfield
Kate said: "Sung partially in French and partially in English, I had no idea this was Dusty Springfield. The song actually reminds me of Nina Simone. I quite liked it, but I wouldn't go looking for more. 5/10"
Ah, Dusty. She's a favourite of mine, so including a track of hers here was something of a no-brainer for me. This is her cover of Jacques Brel's signature song, "Ne me quitte pas", which I first came across through Scott Walker's cover, and then from there (and via my French wife) on to the original. This is my favourite version though. I think there's something about the melodrama of the lyric that really suits Dusty's voice. Her french is pretty good too, so I'm told.
8. Next - Sensational Alex Harvey Band
Kate said: "This track was a little bit caberet and not entirely my style, but I liked the amusing lyrics. 4/10"
Another Jacques Brel cover... this works well in the original French, but I absolutely love the way that the song is transformed by Alex Harvey's scottish accent ("a mobile army hoooooor house"). It's silly, certainly, but it's not every day that you hear lyrics or sentiments like that in a pop song, is it? (the song is about someone losing their virginity in a whorehouse paid for by the army and how that ruined their ability to form meaningful relationships with women and loaded them up with STDs). Turning all of that into a cheery tango is quite an achievement really.
9. People Help the People - Cherry Ghost
Kate said: "This track reminds me a little of Coldplay, which is never a bad thing in my book. I like it - great tune, nice lyrics - it was very catchy but not exactly ground breaking. 8/10"
This is a lovely song off a really good album.... the guy has got a fantastically rich and lived-in voice that Chris Martin could only dream of having. I put it here after the Brel songs because, although the song sounds fairly mainstream, the tone of his lyrics is quite dark and the song has something of an edge to it. I'm off to see this lot later this month, actually, and I'm very much looking forward to it. One of my favourite albums this year.
10. Love Machine - Girls Aloud
Kate said: "Before I knew who this track was by, I'd made a note that it sounded a bit pre-packaged pop - like Bardot. Which is very amusing when I discovered who it was by, since Girls Aloud were a UK Popstars group just as Bardot were an Australian Popstars group. Anyway, this is a very dance-able track nonetheless. 3/10"
Yes, it is manufactured pop, but it's irresistible, isn't it? The Arctic Monkeys have done a cover of this, and I would have included that here except that I wanted to have a total change of pace. I'm not ashamed to have the Girls Aloud greatest hits on my iPod. They're a great pop band and there's nothing wrong with that.
11. My Party - Kings of Leon
Kate said: "I was surprised when I discovered who this track was by - I usually quite like the Kings of Leon, but I found this track to be a bit homogenised rock. It reminded me of Jet or Australian Idol contenders trying to do rock. It seemed to me to have all of the right ingredients, but none of the soul. Forgettable. 4/10"
I'm not at all sure about their last album, and I agree that this isn't their finest work by a long way, but I absolutely love the way that this song takes off into a filthy sounding swamp boogie about three minutes in... which I thought would contrast nicely to the perfect pop of Girls Aloud. I'm seeing this lot live next month too, and they're always pretty good value.
12. Casimir Pulaski Day - Sufjan Stevens
Kate said: "I loved this track and I think I could become a fan of this guy. I'm a little suprised I've not heard his stuff before since it's right down my alley. This track sounds like Angus and Julia Stone with its pretty melody and poetical lyrics. 9/10"
"Illinoise" is a really good album and I think this is my favourite song off it. It's so, so sad and yet so beautiful. I know you like Snow Patrol and Stevens is name-checked in one of the songs off their last album, so I thought I'd make sure I included one of his songs here just in case you hadn't had the chance to hear his stuff before. I also know that you like (amongst other things) a lot of folky / acoustic stuff, so I thought there was a pretty good chance you'd like him.
13. The Saturday Boy - Billy Bragg
Kate said: "As soon as I heard the vocals, I thought "this sounds like Billy Bragg"... and it was. I didn't know this song, but I grew up on Billy Bragg so it brought back memories. I've never exactly been a fan though. I've always put him in the same category as Bob Dylan - a writer of fabulous songs that just call out to be covered by a better singer. 5/10"
Billy Bragg is a legend. The comparison with Dylan is interesting, but I've always found Bragg to be much more human and more humourous than Dylan. He certainly doesn't seem to take himself so seriously, anyway, and I don't think there's much danger of me falling asleep at a Billy Bragg gig. This song is so self-deprecating ("I didn't make the first team, I just made the first team laugh. She never came to the phone, she was always in the bath"). We've all been there.
14. Books from Boxes - Maximo Park
Kate said: "Once again, a song I didn't know from a band I do. Their sound is very BritPop, which I just happen to like. I found myself humming this after I had finished, but it didn't make me want to run out and listen to more. 8/10"
This is from my favourite album this year. It's not big and obvious like the first single off the album, "Our Velocity", but I think it's a better showcase of Paul Smith's lyrics.... which dare I say sometimes sound suspiciously like poetry? If you haven't got the album, then do give it a listen. I think it's ace. Good live too.
15. Batya (Bigmouth Strikes Again) - The Ukranians
Kate said: "The vocals on this track remind me of Ian Curtis from Joy Division - possibly because I only recently watched Control. But this is a far more upbeat song - both lyrically and musically. The whole song has a vaguely Russian folk dance feel to it, which I found amusing when I saw the name of the band. I enjoyed it. 7/10"
Included partly as a change of pace, but also because it's a cover of a song by the Smiths, and I could hardly let any mix of mine go by without something by Morrissey on it! The band themselves were a Wedding Present side-project, in case you're interested, and they did a whole EP of Smiths covers including "What Difference Does It Make", "Meat is Murder" and "The Queen is Dead".
16. Gone Daddy Gone - Violent Femmes
Kate said: "Ahh.. the Violent Femmes - a very nice addition. I love this song (especially the xylophone solos - I remember learning them in high school *g*) and it fitted in well with the mix. I thought there had been a recent cover of this song and a quick Wikipedia search confirmed that Gnarls Barkley did a cover last year. 10/10"
I was turned onto the Violent Femmes very late (as I recall, Cat included a "Add It Up" on her virtual-Shuffleathon to me last year, and I was unfamiliar with them then). Gnarls Barkley did indeed cover this last year, and although their version is pretty good, it isn't anywhere near as good as the original. There definitely aren't enough Xylophone solos in rock.
17. The Bridge - Scott Walker
Kate said: "A beautiful song that is sung soulfully and with great skill, but I couldn't quite get over the mental image of it being sung as karaoke. I'm not sure why. 5/10"
Scott Walker is a hero of mine, so it was never a question of if he would be included here, but more a question of what I would include. In the end I opted for this... it's a bit less obvious than the ones that I would usually include, but it has some absolutely beautiful, bleak lyrics that contrast with that wonderful honeyed baritone. I think I'd hate to see this done as karaoke - it would be a very brave or a very drunk man who thought he could take on Scott Walker..... if you want to see what I mean, listen to the Divine Comedy, for example.... (oh that was a joke Sarah, alright? A joke...)
18. Running the World - Jarvis Cocker
Kate said: "I saw the film clip for this song on JTV and thought it was clever and that I should track a copy down. Then of course, I promptly forgot about it. And now I don't have to - thanks ST! 10/10"
I initially included this because I love the song, the sentiment of the song and the passion with which it is delivered. After seeing the horrified reaction of a good friend of mine when I played it to her in the car though, I started to have second thoughts. This is one of those songs (because of its liberal use of the "C" word) that could go down horribly. I thought long and hard about taking it off the mix, but in the end decided that I thought it would probably be okay and left it where it was. I'm delighted that it appears to have been well received. God bless Jarvis though, eh? Smash the system!
19. La Derniere Minute - Carla Bruni
Kate said: "Half sung/half spoken in French, this is a cute song but not a run away hit. Before I checked the track listing, I thought the singer had an incredibly sexy voice which is almost depressing when I realised that it's by the millionaire heiress supermodel (surely one person shouldn't be endowed with so many gifts). I also liked that her French was clear enough for me to get the gist of the song. 7/10"
She is a cow, isn't she? As well as all that heiress / supermodel / millionaire stuff, she also speaks about six languages fluently and has a degree in law. What can you do? The album is good too. I always used to end mix tapes with "Please, please, please let me get what I want" by the Smiths, but this is now my new favourite. It's short, it's snappy and it's final.
So there you have it. My aim was to try to include at least one or two tracks that would prove to be keepers, and I think by that score I've done reasonably well. Thanks for playing Kate - it was a pleasure making up the CD for you, and I look forward to hearing what you think of the "bonus" disc....
Full shuffleathon round up tomorrow sometime.......
Oh, and Charlie... CD received!