All Hallow’s Eve is just a week away, so the Popnarcotic 2008 Halloween Music Mix arrives just in time for your listening pleasure! Once again, I should probably explain some of the criteria for songs that make it and songs that don’t. Metal and goth? No thanks. As far as metal goes, I want to point out that this is a party mix. Presumably, there are chicks at your party. Ever see what effect Blue Oyster Cult, Iron Maiden, or Judas Priest has on the ladies? It’s like hot babe Deep Woods OFF. Suddenly every female at the party has to go to the bathroom/go outside to smoke/take a phone call outside/leave for a better party. Away with the over-obvious metal then. Goth is right out too. Again–party mix! I want a bunch of aging Peter Murphy wannabes stumbling around my party about as much as I want hot oil dumped on my head.
No, the idea is that Halloween is good creepy fun. I used the example last year, but I think it gets to the heart of this: there’s two vignettes that open and close the otherwise-mediocre Twilight Zone movie from the 1980′s that feature Dan Aykroyd. In the last one, he’s the sinister ambulance driver who puts a cassette with “Midnight Special” on, and John Lithgow blissfully remarks “Creedence? I love Creedence…” You know he’s gettin’ a one-way ride, and maybe this mix is the rest of Aykroyd’s cassette brought to you for your listening enjoyment.
Now, I recommend you give it a listen without knowing the track list in advance…but if you’re impatient, here’s some liner notes-y type stuff about the songs:
1. “Psychotic Reaction” by the Count Five: This one seems so obvious, I was sort of surprised that I’ve never thought to use it before. Along with the Sonics, these fellas were the pioneers of the kind of Cave Stomp garage fun that defines the kind of sinister goofy fun I look for in songs I consider for the Halloween mix each year.
2. “Raise The Dead” by Phantom Planet: While no one was paying much attention, these guys booted Jason Schwarzman from the band and set about making the best 1996 Radiohead album that Radiohead never made in 1996. This is the title track, and it neatly stomps on the accelerator just a bit from where we were with the Count Five…
3. “Dark Side Of Night” by The Foxboro Hottubs: This probably is news to no one, but the Foxboro Hottubs are better known by their other nom de rock, Green Day. Recording under the FHT moniker, they also put out an ace album of retro-sounding garage rockers, with this song (and the obvious nod to the Yardbirds’ “Heart Full Of Soul”) being their foray into some sort of Zombies meets Shadows Of Knight thing. Awesome is what it is.
4. “Is She Weird” by The Pixies: This song is one of two “repeats” from previous mixes (in both cases, 2003′s Halloween mix). I haven’t foggiest notion as to what this song is about, but it sounds creepy and sinister with the minor key verse melody and the descending, evil-sounding chorus.
5. “Mystery Train” by Elvis Presley: I actually almost used an earlier, Sun Records version of this song (maybe the original?) by Little Junior Parker, but hell…why not just use the Elvis version everyone knows? At any rate, what you need to know is that trains are cool, funeral trains are creepy, and black, ghostly funeral trains are the stuff of legend that get you on this mix.
6. “Zombie” by The Fallouts: These guys at one point in the mid-90′s sure seemed like they had something going on. Unfortunately they never rocked out as loud as Green Day or Offspring, and never had the pop smarts of Fountains of Wayne, so they sort of fell in between the cracks. At any rate, this is a nifty lift on a classic Flaming Groovies riff, and it totally gets us from Elvis to Beck in 3 easy minutes.
7. “Strange Apparition” by Beck: One thing that I try to avoid with a Halloween mix is making every damn song sound creepy and evil. At some point about 15 minutes in, listener fatigue sets in. Yeah yeah, we get it: trains, zombie songs, minor keys…whatever. You gotta drop a little bit of a changeup in here and there, and Mr. Hansen does that here while stayin’ on topic.
8. “What Is And What Should Never Be” by Led Zeppelin: Another thing I do on the Halloween mix is go by “feel”. I can’t tell you that REM’s “Feeling Gravity’s Pull” is meant to be a scary song, but it sounds damn creepy. That goes with this song, too–I haven’t the foggiest what this song is about, and I don’t think Robert or Jimmy knows either. But Plant’s croon on the verses ends up sounding downright freaky when he loses it on the choruses and when he tells his “pretty baby” that before she goes home with him, she better know the difference between what is and what should never be….well, it just works. Add to that that any mix benefits from having Zep, and here we are.
9. “My Beloved Monster” by The Eels: Again the idea is to shake things up a little at this point in the mix, and so I figure most folks if they know this song, know it from the Shrek soundtrack. Here we yank it out of that context, and give it back its ambiguity.
10. “Ghost Under Rocks” by Ra Ra Riot: Critical darlings of the moment, lemme tell you why these guys aren’t as good as Vampire Weekend, the group they get compared to a lot: the lead singer sounds way too much like Sting for anyone’s comfort. Putting that aside, this is still a cool melody (dig what the strings do here) and it works for shaking the rest of the cobwebs loose. This song should have us amped and ready to get back to the sublimely silly….
11. “Zombie Graveyard Party!” by Be Your Own Pet: Hated to read in August that this band was calling it quits, but lead singer Jemina Pearl is going to be a superstar at some point no matter what, so there’s that consolation. This song (don’t blame me for the “buried in the red” recording quality–that’s all on them!) just cranks and wails and threatens to come unglued.
12. “Lonely Is the Night” by Billy Squier: For reasons I can’t fathom, a month ago this song started running through my brain…I mentioned it to some friends, who thought “who the hell is Billy Squier?” and then a few days later the excellent show “Supernatural” opened with–you guessed it–this song. Does it belong here? Hell yeah. Listen to those lyrics and wonder what kind of psychotic episode preceded them. Plus the guitar solo that opens this song is one of the most underrated and brilliant riffs from the 1980′s.
13. “Chicago At Night” by Spoon: This is another “feel” song. It just feels like it belongs on the soundtrack of a black-and-white film noir with rain-slick streets and people following a heroine down dark streets with long shadows. The echo effect on the guitar totally makes this song work.
14. “Mystery Plane” by The Cramps: It ain’t a Halloween mix without at least one Cramps song on it. Since we’ve already gone through the real obvious picks in previous years–”Goo Goo Muck”, “Human Fly”–I’m going for a few less obvious but still gems. Nobody gets to the heart of what I want my Halloween mixes to feel like quite like the Cramps, god love ‘em.
15. “Chainsaw (Denn Die Toten Reiten Schnell)” by The Deathray Davies: One of my favorite things about this mix is finding a band you’d never expect to be able to pull off a Halloween song that actually does it better than anyone else on the mix. Without a doubt this is my favorite song on this mix (the German text I think says “Because the dead ride fast”), and it comes from a normally goofy, sunny, funny bunch of Austin pop dorks headed by John Dufhilo. “I’ve got a fast car/It’s hot as rooftar” is the best couplet on the entire mix, bar none.
16. “Skin Man Palace” by The Grifters: This might be the most evilly unhinged song on the whole mix. With that crazy ass declaration of “I AM THE MAMBO KING!” this song goes straight over the top, the singer sounding like a more evil version of Hannibal Lecter. A friend heard this tune a few years ago and wryly remarked: “Jesus, this sounds like Jon Spencer without the restraint.” Yup.
17. “Witchcraft” by Frank Sinatra: Just keeping everyone on their toes, changing the pace, and staying on topic. Every mix needs the Rat Pack. Just saying.
18. “Gimmie Shelter” by The Rolling Stones: The Stones are always in the Halloween mix. I’ve used “Sympathy For the Devil”, “Midnight Rambler”, and “Monkey Man” in years past, but this time I went for “feel” again. There’s just something….wrong about this song. That honking blues harp, the wailing backing vocals, Watts’s unbelievable whipcrack snare, Richards’s sleazy guitar, Mick’s shamanistic vocals….the whole enterprise sounds like an invitation and invocation of Armageddon.
19. “Long Black Train” by House Of Freaks: If there was any justice in the world, Stella and Ruby Harvey would’ve grown up having their dad whip out his guitar on camping trips and backyard cookouts and wail a song like he does here. It’s only been recently that I’ve been able to listen to Bryan Harvey and House of Freaks without being overwhelmed by the tragedy that befell the family 2 1/2 years ago. At any rate: black trains and ghosts and a band that deserved a better fate on about a thousand different levels.
20. “My Wife & My Dead Wife” by Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians: Maybe as a palate-cleanser to follow that last song, we get Mr. Hitch bringing a wonderfully macabre short story to life in music; while most of the song is delightfully weird and funny, the wide-eyed sincerity with which Robyn sings the whole part about “I’m such a lucky guy, cos I got you babe and I’ll never be lonely” is either gloriously touching and charming or creepy as all hell. Depends on perspective, I guess. By the way, I used the live version of this tune (from the incredible live lp Gotta Let This Hen Out because there’s way too much compression in the drums in the studio version, and far too much chorus pedal too. This version is in every way superior to the other.
21. “Voodoo” by The Cripples: Changing the pace again with these punky new wave freaks. This nifty stop-start rhythmic song alternates creepy and sublime in equal doses and has a terrific Addams’ family with synths bridge.
22. “Tell Me Leza” by The Living Blue: This is yet another “feel” song–something about Joe Prokop’s snarling, swirling guitar wailing here feels like a monster chasing you through a bad dream–and the bass and Stephen Ucherek’s vocals complete the noir feel of this darkly catchy song.
23. “Bete Noire” by The Gutter Twins: You just cannot go wrong by putting any song Mark Lanegan sings on into a Halloween-themed mix. This darkly beautiful song sounds like a garage rock version of Calexico, with all the implied, understated macabre glory preserved intact.
That’s it kids! Have a happy and safe Halloween!
“Suppose my neighbor’s home catches fire, and I have a length of garden hose four or five hundred feet away. If he can take my garden hose and connect it up with his hydrant, I may help him to put out his fire…I don’t say to him before that operation, “Neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15; you have to pay me $15 for it.”… I don’t want $15–I want my garden hose back after the fire is over. ” –FDR, explaining Lend-Lease in WWII to the American Public.
What I’ve had on my mind the last few days are probably the same things you’ve had on your mind: the crashing and failing US Economy. Whether you understand what’s going on or not, (and it’s taken me a while; Walter Johnson’s Econ 51 scarcely prepped me for this), I hope there’s some sort of realization that we’ve gotten ourselves into a giant mess.
It is a mess that we have to fix. Like a good liberal, I’ll state the obvious: we have to fix it by (holding our noses) and throwing money at it.
The causes for how we got ourselves this far stuck in it are fairly complex, but what we face currently happened after Lehman Brothers collapse last week. At this point, I’ll turn it over to an internet friend who knows what he’s talking about, is smarter than me, and with whom I disagree fervently and frequently over politics (but not this time, and not on this). Grifman, take it away:
“First, a little background on a key component of the financial system, money market mutual funds. Money market mutual funds are like saving accounts, except they are not FDIC insured. They invest in short term commercial paper which allows them to generally pay a bit more than bank savings accounts, which make them very popular. They are also considered very safe. When you buy a money market mutual fund, you are actually purchasing shares, which are valued at $1.00 apiece. You invest a dollar, you get a dollar plus interest back. This market is huge and supports most of the short term commercial paper market of $1.7 trillion dollars. Corporations use this for short term funding purposes and it serves as oil to the financial system. It keeps things going on a short term day to day, week to week basis.
However, late Tuesday, two money market mutual funds “broke the buck” and that’s what started the collapse of the system. Reserve Primary Fund suddenly announced that because they were holding short term paper of Lehman Brothers, which had declared bankruptcy and that $1.00 invested in them was only worth $0.97. BNY, the other dropped to $0.99. On Wednesday we started to see massive withdrawals of funds by investors from these accounts. Normally weekly redemptions total about $7B, but last week by end of day Wednesday, over $173B had been withdrawn. One fund even shut down due the volume of redemptions requested. So much money was pouring into US Treasury investments that the yield on Treasuries had dropped to zero – people didn’t care about a return, they just wanted safety.
Another problem is that people wanted their money immediately, yet these funds invest in commercial paper up to 90 days in term. If enough people demanded their money, funds would be forced to put their paper on the market, depressing prices further, causing further losses. It was the beginning of a vicious cycle.
Meanwhile the attempt of the Fed to pump billions into the system was failing. Banks normally hold about $2B in US depository reserves, money that is held for immediate use. However, because the banks now expected huge withdrawals by money market funds, they now held $190B, money that otherwise could be invested to support the economy. IBM, which has nothing to do with subprime mortgages and normally has been paying 3% or so suddenly found itself paying 8% to issue commercial paper.“
Even if that went over your head, what you need to understand is this:
1. Banks are not lending money. They’re hoarding it, in expectation of “bank runs”.
2. Banks not lending money is *bad*. Lending is what moves our economy along; lending is like the oil pump to the engine of our economy–if there’s no oil pump, the engine seizes and fails.
3. Spare me the “we’re drunk on credit” speech; the credit and short-term loans we’re talking about *now* are *not* the subprime lending that kicked off this mess. Credit is a very good thing, and later I’ll show you why.
What you need to know now is this: many, many, many corporate entities do not “sit” on cash reserves. That’s a terrible way to do business! “We made $100,000 last month in profits after paying our employees and managers and meeting our obligations to cover our operating costs. What should we do with this money? I know, let’s bury it in mason jars in our backyard!” Companies that grow invest the money they carry to the bottom line. They reinvest money in themselves, they invest money in liquid investments that allow them access…they *do* stuff with their profits and incoming cash to grow themselves. With that in mind, understand that a great number of companies–in fact, the majority of companies that employ 500-5,000 employees–use a revolving line of credit to meet their payroll obligations. They get these little 7- and 15-day loans that are easily paid back in that time frame to make sure that paychecks go out when they need to, and to make sure that the company can continue to fluidly invest money instead of stockpiling it uselessly while waiting to cut payday checks.
Now understand that these little revolving credit lines are in danger of drying up and disappearing, because banks aren’t lending. That puts most of our paychecks in danger of bouncing, maybe not this week, but certainly very soon if things don’t change. It also means that companies that employ a ton of folks–think Anheuser-Busch, IBM, Microsoft, GM, Ford, etc–are hoarding their own money to make payrolls, instead of kicking that money back out into the economy. See the vicious circle there?
Realize too that “credit” is all-pervasive. When the local supermarket gets a delivery of food every day, they don’t go back to a safe and pay the delivery guy in cash. They sign a manifest or invoice with the clear understanding that the retailer will pay the supplier for the goods received in some time period–usually 30 days, but sometimes 15. That’s credit. When your cellphone bill, or your cable bill, or your electric bill arrives, the folks you have service with expect you to pay within a window of time. That’s credit, too. Credit is *everywhere* in our economy. Imagine if the supermarket had to pay cash-up-front for inventory? You really want to see “No bread today, try again tomorrow” signs in American supermarkets?
And credit is good. No really, it is. Quit thinking like a Puritan minister for a second.
I’ve seen a few folks wonder why we can’t have a credit-less, cash-up-front economy. Accountants everywhere are twitching at this, and I’ll tell you why it’s a bad idea: corruption.
People love money. We do, we can’t help it. Introduce a creditless system, and you start to undercut the paper-trail of accountability that makes businesses run efficiently. When the supermarket signs that invoice, they’ve checked off every item on it to make sure it arrived. They give no money to the driver, who carries no money on him. A few weeks later, an accountant cuts a check for the inventory they received, and only a precious few people–all of whom have oversight on one another–get access to the checkbook and bank accounts where that check came from. Our current system of little credits and “floats” throughout is set up to eliminate corruption and graft and skimming. Go to “cash-up-front” and suddenly those checks and balances collapse, and instead of worrying about folks at the top skimming for themselves, you’re now worrying about every single person along the line of getting goods to market taking a little piece for themselves. That drives prices up, which causes the kind of hyper-inflation you saw in Depression-era central Europe.
I’m usually loathe to give over great sums of taxpayer money to the greedmongers at the top of our leadership, but in this case the time for debate has passed. The economy is walking a dangerous tightrope right now, and all it’ll take is for one biggie to “blink”, and it all comes crashing down. To use FDR’s analogy here, all our houses are afire, and the time for debating what the best method of dousing the flames has come and gone. Time to just put it out, and then go back afterwards and figure out how to keep it from happening again.