Thursday, March 08, 2007

Non Corrosive

Having just moved into a shared flat with brand new folks, in a brand new land and currently lacking sufficient language skills to charm said flatties with my natural charisma I have, of late, been looking for ways to infuse some warmth and friendliness into my homelife. Mauricio, the rapid-speaking Columbian, I successfully offered vegetable curry to. Then, take note, the very next morning he asked me how to work the washing machine, even though he’d been living in the flat for much longer than me. Maybe he thinks I’m his maid rather then his friend, but it’s a start, even if we communicate like mimes. Vincente, the Spaniard, is tougher. No naff curry for him: he’s the nephew of a pig farmer. So, how to extend the hand of friendship?

Sporadically, from behind the closed door where he works on his architectural sketches, comes the blare of guitars. One time whilst paying the rent, waiting for a receipt to be written my eyes fall on a pile of CDs. What could be better to communicate with than a salve of well-applied, winsome ditties? A raggle-tag collection of tunes to introduce you and your arcane preferences, but also carefully implies you’ve been paying attention to them. A simple CD to locate the small bubble where tastes can overlap and friendships can blossom…

If this is sounding baroque and idealistic, you’d be right. I only did a precursory scan of the shelf before scrounging around for enough Spanish to say, rather formally, something along the lines of “Do you like to listen to music? I do, I have music on my computer if you want some new music.” There was a best of Bowie and also a Blondie album, surely I could trawl through my tunes and manufacture a dancey, art-pop something with a synth beat. Vincente looked up, guardedly interested “Me gusta metal.” A pause. “Te gusta metal tambien?”

Did I like metal too? My eyes had gravitated towards the names that stood out; a second inspection revealed Sepultura, Metallica and black boxes adorned with skulls. He paused and pointed to a double-disk compilation. “Carnage!” he enthused. “But Bowie?” Only a very small percentage it seemed, yet I’d already opened my big mouth and I wasn’t about to let dudes with big riffs and long hair get the better of me. I hastily I asked for some time to sort through my music.

The less fey the better: anything with jangles, xylophones, two-way harmonies and tambourine solos was strictly out, cutting down my choices immediately by at least half. So, what songs from an incomplete and hastily assembled collection of generally wussy music would you put on a mix CD designed to help you befriend your uncommunicative Spanish flatmate with a taste for Danzig?

To Hell With Good Intentions - McLusky
Public Witness Program - Fugazi
Pink - Boris
Orange Rolls, Angel’s Spit - Sonic Youth
Graveyard Etiquette - Aleks and the Ramps
Take The Bit Between Your Teeth - Electrelane
Glasgow Mega-Snake - Mogwai
Blues From Down Here - TV On the Radio
Nine - ¡Forward Russia!
Monkey - Low
No-Ones Wrong (Giricocola) - Scout Niblett
Hey, Hey - Blood on the Wall
The This Many Boyfriends Club - Beat Happening
016 - Christian Fennesz
Ennio Morricone - Les Georges Leningrad
Snakedriver - The Jesus and Mary Chain
If You’re A Wizard Then Why Do You Wear Glasses? - Liars
Little Mouth - Sonic Youth
I Was The Fool Beside You For Too Long - Yo La Tengo

Admittedly from the outset there was no chance of this actually being a CD of top metal tunes. To me that would undermine the established purpose of a musical bestowment. I’m having fun predicting which song will be my undoing - Aleks and the Ramps don’t stand a chance unless Vincente deploys his attention span and I’m sceptical than menacing drums and fuzzy guitars in the Low and Yo La Tengo songs respectively will be enough to toughen up the innate loveliness that lies at their hearts. He might never speak to me again after he sits through the processed static and pops of the Fennesz track or primitive squeals that accompany a heartbroken Calvin Johnson on The This Many Boyfriends Club.

The songs sit messily next to each other. I can’t pretend there’s a particular logic to my assembly. I scanned and sought out anything with a prominent guitar line, a howling vocal, an abrasive, feedback section or enough going on to justifiably be thought of as ‘big’ sounding (thus TV On The Radio makes the grade - that and the Bowie connection). Extreme obscurities were ditched in favour of the hits, the songs with more swagger. From my point I don’t half mind what I came up with and am pleased with the new, tenuously metal related territory it treads. I like the idea of presenting a committed metal head with lo-fi, with ferocious female vocals, shoegazer guitars, with songs that lack choruses and yes, with pop.

Oops, but best avoid come kind of creator complex - there is the possibility that Vincente spent his former years in indie obscurity before finally giving into the callings of his heart and feeding his Folk Implosion records to the pigs. I doubt it, though, and on reflection, for what was an abortive project from the outset, I’m still excited about the potential reactions this CD could garner. Here’s hoping next week me and my new buddy are swapping spanglish Sonic Youth b-sides and not ducking our heads the other way should we meet in the corridor.

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