Welcome to the third installment of our bi-weekly cannabis cuts commentated playlist, a tribute and appreciation of the symbiotic relationship between music and Mary Jane. After selecting 20 of our hip-hop favorites last week, we’re back with a freewheeling grab bag of twenty more favorites with no regard to genre. Listen below and read through for hot-takes, banter and more in the text below, regarding Stephen A. Smith vs James Brown, how Kevin’s tennis career sailed too close to the sun, and thoughts on the greatest Elvis:
“Sunday Morning,” Take a Picture, Margo Guryan (1968)
MC: If I had no knowledge of this song and someone played it to me, I might mistake it for a banger of a new Melody’s Echo Chamber track. Margo Guryan is one of those frustrating artists that seemingly had a fully-formed sound of her own, made a single album, and then peaced out from recording music due to disillusion with the industry itself. Her voice is dreamy, melodic, and seems to drift and float over the psychedelic-funk instrumentation of the song. It’s one of those ageless tracks that sounds like it could be one of the coolest songs of either 1968 or 2020, and is a surefire way to shrink your Sunday scaries.
“5 a.m.,” Begin, The Millenium (1968)
MC: This perfect slab of sunshine pop is two-and-a-half minutes of pure bliss. Although this LA group only released one album, it’s a lost classic featuring many tracks and moments that hold up next to the psychedelic pop harmonies, orchestral leanings and melody-rich productions of the Beach Boys and the Zombies. I’d be a lot more obliged to wake up at five in the morning if the experience was always as pleasant as this song makes it sound.
KG: “5 a.m.” slides in perfectly next to its more popular contemporaries, it’s crazy that a group like this can create such a quality piece of music and simply not record anything else. Kinda reminds me of my first time beating Max in tennis, a sudden death thriller culminating in a Wimbledon-lite victory at our local tennis court. Too bad I didn’t follow The Millennium’s lead because I think we played again within the week and I got trounced. Always go out on top!
“Alentejo,” From Hank, Bruce, Brian and John, The Shadows (1967)
MC: I’d been reading a lot of Kevin Parker interviews over the past week or two in preparation for Innerspeaker turning 10 this Thursday (more on that coming Thursday), and he frequently cites this group as central to his musical development. Being pretty certain that anything that influenced the sound of the dude who made Lonerism was worth checking out, I ran through several of their albums. As primarily an old-school instrumental rock group, they were incredibly tight with impressive range from surf rock to Latin-flavored tunes like this one. This is one of those tracks that is so smooth that just about anything, from a joint to a lukewarm glass of Lysol, would go down well to it.
“Hot Hot Hot!!!,” Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, The Cure (1987)
KG: Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, The Cure’s 1987 predecessor to their 1989 masterpiece Disintegration, rightfully serves as the White Album of their respective discography. At 18 tracks long, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me is an eclectic showcase of every trademark sound The Cure had come to master through 1987. “Hot Hot Hot!!!” is a dance-rock/synth-pop hybrid that has the listener simultaneously bobbing their head to a funky guitar, wiggling their waist with the grandiose synth, and craning their neck trying to figure out what the fuck Robert Smith is wailing about. All together, “Hot Hot Hot!!!” is a conglomerate of dank that can be enjoyed in just about any setting.
“Near Wild Heaven,” Out Of Time, R.E.M. (1991)
KG: My first car was a hand-me-down 2001 Ford F-150 (in a tasteful shade of taco-bell brown) that my dad had been driving for over a decade. Upon handing over the keys, my dad seemed more concerned with me taking care of his coveted CD collection stashed in the back of the truck than potentially getting in an accident and messing up the vehicle. The CD stash is the literal embodiment of the phrase “Oh that’s one my mom/dad’s favorite albums!” featuring timeless anthems such as “Sultans of Swing” from the Dire Straits debut album, a Derek and the Dominos rendition of “Layla” and, most notably, Out Of Time from college-rock legends R.E.M. Michael Stipes’ distinctive voice shines on this gentle guitar jam, harmonizing with his bandmates to create a unique whine that pleads to be sung along to. Road-tested in my truck for over 5 years, “Near Wild Heaven” feels like a nostalgia trip of nasal-y goodness.
“Just,” The Bends, Radiohead (1995)
KG: Modern music’s best kept secret, Radiohead stumbled onto the scene with their spotty debut record Pablo Honey. While this album was responsible for Radiohead’s most recognizable tune “Creep” (which is about the farthest thing from anything else in their discography), holistically it was a failure and had the band keen to come out swinging with their follow-up record. And boy did they succeed, The Bends is a 90’s Alt-Rock nugget that captured the wild sound of Pixies and packaged it in a tighter indie style. “Just” is a glorious example of that, teetering between brash hard-rocking guitar and Thom Yorke’s gentle croon. Radiohead would go on to have one of the most acclaimed careers of all-time, and The Bends is an excellent entry point for any prospective fan.
MC: One of those rare festival headliners that is vastly misrepresented by their most popular song. This song and album are pretty indicative that Radiohead could’ve gone on to rule the post-Nirvana world of alt-rock if they were content to settle on that. Fortunately for us, they continued experimenting, developing their sound and have since amassed one of the finest discographies in the history of modern music. The Bends is where the magic really begins though.
“Uncontrollable Urge,” Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, Devo (1978)
KG: Musical auteur Brian Eno produced Devo’s post-punk jam in between his commitments to David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy. “Uncontrollable Urge” is one of those culturally relevant songs you’ve probably heard somewhere along your venture through life, but remains just as hype after every listen. A buzzing chorus comprised of many repeated “yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeah yeah’s” means it doesn’t take too much work to become familiar with the lyrics and is a worthy shout while driving down the coast.
MC: Unfortunately, you’ve probably encountered it as the warning siren that you’re about to be subjected to a barrage of real-cool-skater-guy Rob Dyrdek’s “jokes” and Chanel West Coast’s banshee war cry of a laugh as it’s been the theme song for 16 seasons of MTV’s crown jewel of programming, Ridiculousness.
“Harrowdown Hill,” The Eraser, Thom Yorke (2006)
MC: On multiple occasions, Kevin and I have thrown on this song mid-sesh only to then put our heart and souls into channelling our favorite five-foot-five, English-but-maybe-from-Mars frontman in belting the chorus on this thing. And oh what a chorus it is. This glitchy and funky track is Yorke at his finest: conjuring spacey electronic soundscapes for his paranoia-laced lyrics. While he’ll rightly always be best-associated with his Radiohead material, this is a friendly reminder that Yorke maintains a pretty remarkably high level of quality for his solo material as well. Also here’s a dope video of Yorke playing the track with his Atoms for Peace bandmate and known Californian, Flea.
KG: Am I Flea or Thom Yorke in our friendship?
MC: Probably Flea by virtue of just making more Staples Center appearances.
“Spit on a Stranger,” Terror Twilight, Pavement (1999)
MC: I’m not totally sure how, but at some point over the last few weeks I found myself watching this slightly uncomfortable video of Stephen Malkmus dressed like a flamboyant Miami coke dealer playing a solo rendition of this track in a cafe in France. Even in its most bare-bones form, it reminded me what downright well-written and yearning indie tune this is. Culture Blogger does not condone the act of spitting on strangers during this pandemic climate, but we do condone this track.
KG: Malkmus’ shirt is absolute fire in this video. Would 100% rock that thing the first night out of quarantine at the bars. I only spit facts, not saliva.
“History Lesson,” Sirens, Nicolas Jaar (2016)
MC: Chilean-American composer and electronic artist Nicolas Jaar gives his take on the classic jukebox doo-wop sound with this eerily gorgeous and minimalist recounting of the history of America’s interventions in the country of his heritage summarized succintly: “We fucked up.” And did it again, and again, and never owned up to it. Jaar cracks the code on anti-imperialist doo-wop while reminding us of the political potential of electronic music in the process.
“Lady Day and John Coltrane,” Pieces of a Man, Gil Scott-Heron (1971)
KG: Gil Scott-Heron’s special brand of woke spoken word poetry and jazz-funk instrumentation make this record a smooth dip into the early 1970’s civil rights movement. “Plastic people with plastic minds/Are on their way to plastic homes” is a brief line that couldn’t be more accurate in modern times due to the meteoric rise of the Internet of Things. It feels like Scott-Heron was constantly a step ahead of his contemporaries, making his insightful music something that can be forever enjoyed by culture fans to come.
“Bewildered,” Sex Machine, James Brown (1970)
MC: The hardest-working man in show business gives a dynamic live performance on this classic soul cut. The horns section acts as the track’s serotonin-producing hook, but Brown’s wails, begs, and pleads do the heavy lifting through the six-minute duration of the track. It’s easy evidence as to why Brown is credited as one of the greatest live performers of all-time and revered as the Godfather of Soul.
KG: Max “The Controversy” Chacon is back at it again, this time discrediting Stephen A. Smith as the hardest working man in show business. Balancing a schedule of ESPN’s First Take with the naw-inspiring Max Kellerman, radio shows, breaking news reporting, and even working the Sportscenter desk once a week is nearly impossible. Remember kids, you can work hard, but Stephen A. is working harder.
“The Beat,” This Year’s Model, Elvis Costello (1978)
KG: Heard this song for the first time last week when I was digging through Elvis Costello’s extensive discography. Mans has five albums that are regarded by critics to be absolute classics, including This Year’s Model, and has more than his fair share of good-great albums just below the classic designation. If you are looking for perfect power pop music, this is your stop. The greatest Elvis?
MC: An Elvis Costello vs Elvis Presley WWE Smackdown article may just have to be on the horizon.
“Rock & Roll,” Loaded, The Velvet Underground (1970)
MC: My all-time favorite rock and roll song about how great rock and roll is (sorry Joan Jett), this is one of the Velvet Underground’s most accessible, feel-good, and instantly infectious songs. It’s a propulsive track that features one of Lou Reed’s most animated vocal performances and shows that while the Velvets might be known for the way they pushed the boundaries of experimentation in rock music, they could also step back and write a damn good rock and roll tune too.
KG: I can’t help but describe this song as the epitome of a vintage track. Something about it screams flying down the coast in a 1970 Pontiac Firebird with the wind in your hair and not a bad thought on your mind. More importantly, what happened to painting giant flaming birds on the hood of your car? That shit is awesome, I want one on my PT Cruiser.
“Heart of Grass,” Heart of Grass – Single, Silk Rhodes (2015)
MC: The first installment of Cannabis Cuts highlighted a track from Drugdealer, a project spearheaded by Michael Collins. Prior to using the Drugdealer moniker to create Laurel Canyon-worthy psychedelic pop and singer-songwriter albums, he made up the production half of the duo Silk Rhodes. Much like Drugdealer, this project has a surreal and mind-bending aesthetic to it, and isn’t all that subtle on the drug references. The tracks under this moniker, however, are minimalist funk and soul gems that recall the stripped-away brilliance of Sly & the Family Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On. The man doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page, but Michael Collins is a name that consistently has been behind some of the best psychedelic music of the last half-decade. Also, is “Heart of Grass,” just a weed pun on “Heart of Glass?” For the sake of this feature, we’ll say yes.
KG: Being a fairly popular/relevant artist in the year 2020 without a wikipedia page is actually shocking to me and might be the most impressive thing on this list. Literally everything has a wikipedia page nowadays, including this list of animals with fraudulent diplomas I found. Maybe I’ll get a wikipedia page for being the first human to receive a Dogtorate. I’ll see myself out.
“Long Hot Summer,” Introducing The Style Council, The Style Council (1983)
KG: A Tyler, The Creator recommendation during one his hilarious Nardwuar interviews, The Style Council is a blue-eyed soul group from the early 80’s that creatively mixed the synthesized tones of the era with traditional soul vocals to craft an easy listening classic. I envision “Long Hot Summer” as the ideal song for an 80’s montage of Miami’s sunny beaches. Long panning shots contrasting the beautiful blue ocean with vibrant yellow sand, jump cuts of bright (awesome) neon outfits, and a slow zoom-in on a refreshing mojito. Is that DJ Khaled in the background?
“Eyes Without a Face,” Rebel Yell, Billy Idol (1983)
MC: Towards the beginning of quarantine, with what felt like infinite free time on my hands, I started to binge-watch a bunch of Thrasher street skating videos. Am I lanky, uncoordinated and awful at skating? Yes. Does the seemingly endless variety and combination of tricks, ability to turn concrete-jungles-where-dreams-are-made-of into skateparks, and balls to the wall sendiness/expression of skating fascinate me to no end? Also yes. At some point down the wormhole, I got hooked on videos from Mark Gonzales, aka the Gonz, a stylish and enigmatic LA County skater who, from my understanding, is a pioneer and arguably the most influential figure ever in the world of street skating. All of this seemingly unrelated set-up leads us to this video of his that I was watching, when all of a sudden at the half-way mark Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face,” seemingly descends from the heavens into the video like a message from a leather-clad, bleached-hair angel of the MTV era. This is a song I had heard several times prior, but never paid much attention to. Outside of the refreshing novelty of watching a skate video that wasn’t soundtracked by a hardcore punk track (no disrespect to the genre, but variety is dope), I realized for the first time in my life that there was beauty even to be found in Billy Idol tracks, an artist who I had previously dismissed. It’s the kind of gorgeous and emotive synth ballad that slowly washes over you that bands like Cut Copy owe a good chunk of their existence to. So shout out to the Gonz and shout out to Billy Idol.
KG: Hey little sister, what have you done? I want to watch a supercut of the Gonz and Rodney Mullen going back and forth with White Wedding blasting in the background, I feel like it would liven up the scene a little bit. Seriously though, Rebel Yell is a pretty damn good album. I always slept on Billy Idol, but maybe my ways will change.
“This Is The Day,” Soul Mining, The The (1983)
KG: Of the songs listed so far, this one easily had the biggest impact on my life. Coming out of a rough few months of existence, I was feeling a bit low and wanted to lean on some new music to help me get through the bad blip. I don’t exactly remember how I stumbled upon this song, I think the band name The The caught my eye due to its subtle pretentiousness and artsy aesthetic, but the moment I heard “This Is The Day” I was blown away forever. This song created what I affectionately refer to as my “80’s nightmare” being I didn’t listen to anything but 80’s synth-pop for over 3 months. Every single day was a glorious adventure into music’s earliest electronic endeavours, making me smile with every new beep-boop I discovered. A testament to music and mood, this song holds a really special place in my heart because of the catharsis it brought me. Is the stunning melody played on an actual accordion or a synth creation? Who cares, I fucking love this song and I hope you do too.
MC: This track feels like every John Hughes coming-of-age film from Ferris Bueller to The Breakfast Club rolled into a perfect five-minute pop song. It manages to be one of those feel-good, seize-the-day jams that somehow is too euphoric and earnest to be bogged down by corniness. Carpe diem, baby.
“Sooner Than You Think,” Low-life, New Order (1985)
KG: A favorite from my aforementioned “80’s nightmare,” New Order is an English rock band created on the heels of the stunning loss of the lead singer from their previous band Joy Division. Cultivating their post-punk background into a new-wave synth inspired arrangement, New Order became one of the flagship groups of the era and defined cool in a way few bands have done before or since. Peter Hook’s dropped bass is low and rattling, providing one of the most iconic bass sounds ever. “Sooner Than You Think” begins with a minute of Hook’s mesmerizing sound weaving over a beat, but the song suddenly shifts into a club-bouncing banger of a synth-pop track. Bernard Sumner musing over a glammy synth sound is perfectly juxtaposed with the heavy bass and creates an excellent venture into 80’s club scenes.
MC: New Order has to be undoubtedly one of the most influential groups on modern “indie” music. Every group, from Hot Chip to Gorillaz, that decided to piece together dance grooves with indie-rock songwriting can be directly traced back to this group. They managed to spruce up the typically frustrated and angular template of post-punk songwriting with layers of synths and basslines and consistently made music that soared in all environments from clubs to arenas to headphones.
“I Want To Be A Machine,” Ultravox!, Ultravox (1977)
KG: An absolute epic, “I Want To Be A Machine” deserves to be listened to with headphones and a blunt. Floydian in the best way possible, the opening to this song sounds like Peter Gabriel doing a Roger Waters impression. The eery guitar and soft singing set the stage for a dramatic instrumental, making me want to literally transform myself into the most compatible machine for my personality (a keurig).
MC: After years of hooping with you, I could’ve sworn you’d be most compatible with one of these bad boys.