The High Cell Shuffle

The High Cell Shuffle is me hitting shuffle on my iPod and babbling about the first four or five songs/artists I hear. I have trouble finishing any of my more well thought-out blogs on a variety of subjects, but I have no shortage of spontaneous thoughts about the music I listen to.

Garden Grove - Sublime
I've said it before, and I'll say it again; Heroin is a son of a bitch bastard.

This song kicks off what was inarguably one of the most iconic and best selling albums of the 90's (and one of my personal favorite albums of all time), the self-titled Sublime.
Sublime's dish of influences was quite a conspicuous and transparent melting pot of rock, ska, reggae, punk, jam band and hip hop, and the music resonated with fans of all of these genres. The catchy songcraft and underrated musicality of Bradley Nowell, the trunk-rattling bass of Eric Wilson, and the metronome-sharp rhythms of Bud Gaugh, created a sound that was oh-so fresh but also eerily familiar to my teenage ears. Apparently I wasn't the only one, as the album spawned several huge hits that still hold up well today (What I got, Santeria).

Sublime had a reputation as a hard working party band around their home turf of Long Beach, California, playing countless bar and party gigs and grinding out self-funded tours in a van with Nowell's rescued Dalmation Louie tagging along as the band mascot. Unfortunately by the time all of their hard work paid off in the form of the album's smash success, Nowell was gone, having died of a heroin overdose shortly before it was released (also seven days after his wedding). While I used to feel a very reverent sadness about the club of lost talent that Nowell joined with his overdose (Morrison, Hendrix, Cobain, Elvis, Layne Staley, Joplin, etc), I've come to feel more of an indignant disillusionment toward many of my former heroes. When I was a younger lad I'd think about how sad it was that these brilliantly creative people just couldn't help themselves, and now I'm mad that they just DIDN'T help themselves. In a way I'm pissed that they didn't share more of their gifts with the world.

 
Hammer Blues - Charley Patton (Sometimes listed as "Charlie Patton")
Even the most casual of blues fans are familiar with delta blues icon Robert Johnson. He is often regarded as the father of the blues, his list of devoted fans includes crowds of hall of fame musicians (Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Bob Dylan, etc etc etc)... The legend that he sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads in return for his musical ability, and the uncertainty about the circumstances surrounding his death at the age of 27 (making him the first of the so-called "27 Club" of musicians who've perished at this fateful age) only spawned more and more interest in him over the years. To put it simply, Robert Johnson has probably been one of the most prolific influences in the history of recorded music.
But... who influenced Robert Johnson?
Charley Patton influenced Robert Johnson. And he influenced Howlin' Wolf, and John Lee Hooker, Son House, Muddy Waters, and many other highly regarded first generation Delta Blues musicians. Patton was the prototype, the OG, the paterfamilias. He was the musical alpha dog on the historic Dockery plantation in Mississippi, which spawned the careers of many a famous bluesman back in the day. Of this group of his musical influencees, Chester Burnett (Howlin' Wolf) is my personal favorite, and the connection is obvious when listening to Patton's deep gravelly voice as he commands the attention of the listener. He was known as quite the showman in his day, and the stories of his playing the guitar behind his back and between his legs during live performances encouraged a youn Jimi Hendrix to explore flashy and animated techniques with which to wow audiences.
Patton's catalogue is fairly straightforward if not a simple listen, but it should be a stop along the listening journey of any blues fan.
 
Come Back Boomerang - Time Lapse Consortium
Time Lapse Consortium was an instrumental side project of Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger, and also included Incubus drummer Jose Pasillas and bassist Ben Kenney. The band also featured a small horn and string section, and specialized in a unique brand of retro psychedelic-influenced jazzy funk. Unfortunately the project culminated in just a single concert that was recorded and released in a limited run as a live album. I don't believe it's available commercially anywhere at this time, but enterprising people with an internet connection can get their digital hands on it pretty easily. I'd highly recommend this album to fans of jazz funk outfit Soulive, as I discovered the two right around the same time a few years back.
 
The Boxer - Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
I freakin' LOVE Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. For those who aren't familiar, it's a pop-punk supergroup who records cover versions of classic songs across the entire spectrum of musical genres. There are other bands who have done it (I've even done an ironic punk cover of a few songs myself, most notably the Golden Girls theme song), but nobody does it better than these fellas. They manage to punk these songs up, yet still maintain a strange sense of sincerity that lends itself to their assertion that they are usually not trying to poke fun at the original songs. On the contrary, a good song is a good song, regardless of the genre of music it falls into. Of course with that being said, the band obviously has a wonderfully quirky sense of humor, and it shines through on everything they do. 
I have yet to play a Me First and the Gimme Gimmes song for someone and they don't like it. I've got every recording they've put out, at least I thought I did until now. I just saw that they have a brand new album out (released in May, 2014), full of punk covers of songs by "Divas" like Paula Abdul, Christina Aguilera and Celine Dion. How could it be anything but good, clean fun?
 
Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie
This will probably elicit some sass from a few people, but there are a few universally acclaimed artists that I just "don't get". One of them is Bruce Springsteen. I understand his appeal, he's simply just not for me. Another is Bob Dylan, and I think it's pretty common for people like me to appreciate his songwriting but not be able to get past his considerable case of mushmouth and his blatant disregard for the enigma that is musical pitch. They might not be "for me"(my standard way of saying I don't like them), but I completely understand why people like them and I will readily acknowledge their place in music history.
But David Bowie? I just don't get it. At all.
I consider myself a very musically open minded person, and I pride myself on being empathetic with my musical tastes. There have been plenty of artists that I haven't cared for at first, and then I revisit them later and my perspective has changed. But it doesn't seem to matter how many times I try or how long I give it, for the life of me I just don't understand all the hubbub about David Bowie. I'm fairly certain that I believe Meg White is a much better singer than David Bowie, and I've never heard her sing anything. I can say with confidence that I think the best performance of his career was in The Labyrinth. I don't want to say anything disparaging about him, that's not my style... but he's got to be the suckiest suck that has ever pretentiously sucked.
(Okay, maybe I don't feel quite THAT strongly about his deficiency of talent, but I really honestly don't get it. I'd be interested in hearing what it is that people like about his music.)      

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