Cannabis Cuts Vol. 5 – Kevin Goes Shoegazing

Welcome to the fifth installment of our (usually) bi-weekly Cannabis Cuts commentated playlist, a tribute and appreciation of the symbiotic relationship between music and Mary Jane. We’re back with an eclectic platter of chestnuts and epics bound to enrich your ears and your life:

“Maggot Brain,” Maggot Brain, Funkadelic (1971)

MC: We’re coming out swinging on this installment by kicking things off with the track that features my single favorite guitar solo of all-time. This track consists merely of a spoken-word intro and said guitar solo – which takes up just about the entirety of Funkadelic’s ten-minute magnum opus. Legend has it that Funkadelic guitarist Eddie Hazel recorded his guitar part for this breathtaking epic in just one take after Parliament-Funkadelic leader George Clinton told Hazel to play as if he had just gotten the news that his mother had died. And the way Hazel wrings every cry, moan, and contemplation out of his guitar it’s easy to believe. It’s a downright Hendrixian display of what the guitar can achieve, and after countless listens I still find myself completely in awe of its beauty and emotional scope.

KG: Actions are louder than words, and the impassioned guitar on this song conveys about as much emotion as any lyric ever could. It’s a winding journey of sound that kicks up and down as feelings swell and subside. Like the swirling tension of a contested tennis match that is only lost because I can’t serve. That’s just how I feel, ya know. 

“Race for the Prize,” The Soft Bulletin, The Flaming Lips (1999)

KG: By the time The Flaming Lips had released their breakthrough album, 1999’s The Soft Bulletin, they had already spent over a decade together as a band, dabbling in experimental art-rock productions that were a far cry from the symphonic neo-psychedelic pop they became popular for. “Race for the Prize” is a testament to their change in sound, a grandiose song made with commercial-friendly listening in mind. Highlighted by the swirling orchestral synthesizers that push the song along like a strong gust of wind, “Race for the Prize” is a blueprint for the mainstream psychedelic rock revival found in artists such as Tame Impala and Pond. Just like ogres, this song is layers upon layers deep (of sound).

MC: Each time I’ve seen the Flaming Lips, this is the song near the beginning of the set that announces that you’re in for a complete spectacle and celebratory experience. The opening drum kicks that precede that explosion of strings also announce explosions of confetti cannons, huge-ass balloons, and singer Wayne Coyne rolling all over the place in a hamster ball. It’s gleeful, psychedelic, and could make even the biggest cynic crack an unknowing smile. The first time I ever saw the Lips it was at the Del Mar Racetrack with my family and my youngest brother who must’ve been in around first grade at the time. In the joy of the moment, he wound up and kicked one of said huge-ass straight into the back of the woman in front of us’s head, fortunately balloons don’t hurt and we all shared a chuckle but that’s easily one of my most vivid memories from the first time I saw The Flaming Lips. 

“Megumi The Milkyway Above,” Forever Dolphin Love, Connan Mockasin (2014)

KG: One of the saddest moments of my concert attendance career was the night Connan Mockasin got completely rained out by a storm during Desert Daze 2018. Max and I had left our belongings in my apparently rainwater-philic tent before walking into the festival that day. It was late in the evening, Tame Impala was on stage and had just completed their dramatic performance of “Let It Happen,” with Connan Mockasin scheduled to appear soon after. In the blink of an eye, rain and lightning began bombarding the area behind the stage. Tame Impala was quickly ushered offstage and a lone stagehand made their way to the microphone. “THE SHOW IS NOT CANCELLED” they yelled out, before advising us to evacuate the immediate area. Spoiler: the show was cancelled. We lumbered through the festival grounds, absolutely soaking wet at this point, until we reached what we thought would be the warm haven of our campsite. Everything was drenched. Max and I ended up sleeping in my car that night.  The question marks still loom over my head, what would it have been like to see the enigmatic Connan Mockasin at a tripped out music festival? My day to see Connan will come, but for now, I leave you with his stoney sophomore effort that sounds like the Beatles took salvia. Good luck!

MC: This night was simultaneously the most tragic and hilarious night I’ve ever experienced at a festival. Just about everything that could’ve gone wrong did go wrong and we were just along for the ride. There could be far worse Connan Mockasin replacements than the back and forth aux cord session that occurred in Kevin’s Subaru that night. Unrelated to this tale, but my girlfriend told me not too long ago how surprised she was to learn that Connan Mockasin is alive (she must have mistook him for someone else) which makes me smile because now everytime I listen to him I get to celebrate the fact that there still is a chance that Kevin and I can get a redemption concert in with him at some point. 

“Sweet Thing,” Astral Weeks, Van Morrison (1968)

MC: Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is such an anomaly of an album. In 1968 the Irishman who penned “Brown Eyed Girl,” took a hard left turn and created a meandering jazz-folk, stream of consciousness, pastoral record that features not a single thought about radio play. This track tumbles forward with classical guitar, strings, double bass, and Morrisson’s impressionistic lyrics about love and nature. Compositionally it’s really unorthodox, but the results are positively uplifting and beautiful. Go for a walk outdoors, toss this in your earbuds, and tranquility seems to always ensue.

“Only a Fool Would Say That,” Can’t Buy a Thrill, Steely Dan (1972)

MC: Growing up as a kid who revered The Clash and all things rock n roll, I despised Steely Dan since they were always what my dad would put on when my jazz-loving grandparents came over for dinner. I always considered it schmaltzy, edgeless, and the kind of soft-rock lounge music that only old folks would ever have any inclination to listen to. I’m not sure what flipped, but my freshman year of college I had what I refer to as the Great Yacht Rock Awakening of 2016 – unfortunately one year too late to appreciate their Coachella set that I was passively watching with my friends while eating my dinner. It was a moment where bands I considered remarkably uncool like The Doobie Brothers, Hall & Oates, and yes, Steely Dan suddenly became constants in my rotation, purely off the notion that they had a damn good handle on writing a perfect pop song. While I can’t say I ever actively will throw on a full-length album from those first two artists I mentioned today, my reverence for The Dan has only grown over the years. Each of Steely Dan’s first seven albums are well worth your time, and I’ve come to view Walter Becker and Donald Fagen as the brilliant jazz-obsessed, genre smashing, pop auteurs that they deserved to be seen as. If you hear anyone ever claim that Steely Dan sucks, just remember that only a fool would say that.

KG: To label Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers as uncool is simply moronic, I’m glad that you have finally made some concessions to dad-hood and are ready to transition into a life of only wearing Kirkland brand apparel with the occasional floral Hawaiian shirt tossed in just to mix it up a little (my wife is out of town, now is a better time than ever). You know damn well that “Reelin’ In The Years” was placed at the center stage of my high school senior memoir (thanks for the props Mr. Trussel!), a generational anthem that will never ever be bad.  

“Tender Object,” You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever, Orange Juice (1982)

KG: You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever is a lost post-punk gem from the early 80’s. “Tender Object” is in some parts punk, some parts dance rock and all parts awesome. Edwyn Collins’ voice sounds like he is constantly congested, but his deep Scottish wail fits perfectly over the jangly guitar and punchy drums. This song reaches its peak at the culmination of a minute long instrumental breakdown from 2:30-3:30. These weird keyboard sounds that remind me of the noises my Tamagotchi used to make after not being fed enter the already grooving collection of instruments to create a synchronized jam. Then Collins re-enters the song and it creates a moment of pure dance-happy bliss. 

“When You Sleep,” Loveless, My Bloody Valentine (1991)

KG: This is a big moment for me. I have been a controversially ardent shoegaze denier for the past few years, harvesting bountiful amounts of joy seeing Max fume at my anti-gaze rhetoric. Well the day has come. I decided to fully do the dive on shoegaze in order to gain a proper understanding of the genre and its seminal artists. I started by listening to Loveless, My Bloody Valentine’s highly regarded release from 1991 that is on the Mount Rushmore of shoegaze albums in terms of importance. And I was blown away. First and foremost, this is 100% music that needs to be consumed via headphones. The heavy, distorted soundscapes created by the band’s many droning guitars are near indiscernible when listening via a car speaker. The only way to truly appreciate the creative guitar interplay and surprisingly gentle vocal harmonies is by listening with some quality headphones. “When You Sleep” stands out because of its irresistible keyboard loop that appears throughout the song, adding an element of brightness to the otherwise gloomy sonic backdrop. The guitars perpetually buzz all around, the vocals are so deeply buried in the mix that you’ll need to really focus in order to catch what is being said, but… it all made sense. I found myself staring straight down at my worn out birkenstocks, blown away by the overwhelming stimulation of sound. I was gazing. Shoegazing. And it felt like my feet had been neglected from my sight for too long. While I’m here, I will plug a few more shoegaze albums that I have liked so far: Souvlaki by Slowdive, mbv by My Bloody Valentine, and the latest self-titled Slowdive record released in 2017. 

MC: When you know you’re on the right side of history you can only hold fast in your beliefs and hope that those around you join you. I’ve known this day was coming for quite some time, but that doesn’t make it any less sweet – much like rattling off that debut 2K win against Kev last week. ‘Twas a good week. 

KG: Oops shoegaze sucks again. 

“Computer World 2,” Computer World, Kraftwerk (1981)

KG: August 4th, 1981: It’s 5:36 AM. You’ve been dancing in a back-alley Berlin club for the past 4 hours. The venue is dimly lit, with only a bright flashing strobe-light briefly illuminating the room to the beat of the song.  Your body is weighed down by the lingering dehydration of a long night fist bumping in a sardine packed room, pushed to exhaustion from the collective warmth emanating off the local dance music scene abound. You struggle to make your way out of the dance floor, forced to duck and dive between zonked club-goers flailing in the pulsating air. Finally, you arrive at an isolated barstool placed precariously at the end of the bar. With a raspy groan, yearning to be quenched, you alert the bartender of your urgent need for water. Upon handing you a room temperature, mouth-wash sized, cup of water, you take a prolonged gulp to douse the arid condition of your throat. Satisfied, you signal the bartender back over to ask a question. Roaring like your dad trying to answer a Jeopardy question before Alex Trebek has completed reciting it to the contestants, you shout over the deafening music “Do you know the name of this song?” in garbled German poorly learned from Rosetta Stone. “I don’t know. It’s some weird computer shit, I kind of like it” they exclaim back. You dejectedly lean back against the bar and attempt to wipe the sweat from your brow… but something is wrong. Your forehead is metallic in texture and feel. The warm perspiration accumulating on your forehead is black. It’s motor oil. You were a robot this entire time. The sounds of unrefined musical machinery have seeped their way into your unsuspecting conscience. The computer world is now. 

“The Big Ship,” Another Green World, Brian Eno (1975)

MC: The opening track to one of my all-time surf flicks, Kai Nevile’s Dear Suburbia, this song has this intangible emotive hugeness that makes anything it soundtracks, from taking a flight to a foreign land to wheeling the trash bins out to the curb, feel like it has all the weight, importance, and beauty of The Grand Canyon. It just sounds fucking massive. Over the past week or so I’ve been doing a deep dive into the Brian Eno discography and it’s stacked with interesting soundscapes, art rock classics, and the type of sonic ingenuity that has made him one of the single most influential figures in modern music. However, despite all the brilliance I’ve encountered throughout the time I’ve spent with his catalogue, nothing quite manages to floor me time after time like this track – but then again few tracks ever have.

KG: I would strongly advise any music fan to do the dive on Brian Eno’s solo record discography and all records that he has been a part of as a collaborator (Roxy Music) or producer. He is a musical auteur, an artist in its truest form. You can hear his artistic impression on almost all of the music he is a part of, it’s incredible. There is music for more casual settings, like “The Big Ship,” or maybe one of Eno’s ambient music selections for quiet studying. The options are endless! 

“Pigs (Three Different Ones),” Animals, Pink Floyd (1976)

KG: The charged lyrics on Pink Floyd’s 1976 release, Animals, perfectly capture the feeling of downright discontent towards politicians and institutions of power in England and the greater Western world at the time. And boy do those lyrics still ring true today. It would be ridiculous for me to sit here and interpret Roger Waters’ brash vocals to you, it is abundantly clear the message he is sending. Let it resonate with you now as much as ever, “Haha, charade you are.”

MC: It’s one thing to make a politically charged rock and roll song, it’s another to make a politically charged space rock epic. The middle portion of the song settles into one of Pink Floyd’s trademark prolonged grooves and lets David Gilmour run wild with his guitar and a talk-box creating a much more menacing atmosphere with the effects at his disposal than Peter Frampton ever quite managed to convey. Like each of the epics on Animals, this track is right up there with Floyd’s best.

“Needledrop,” Needledrop, Session Victim (2020)

MC: German house duo Session Victim traded in their typically vibrant disco sound in favor of a more chilled-out and downtempo palette for their latest full-length LP. The result was one of my favorite electronic albums I’ve heard all year. It’s stacked full of songs like the title cut that bring to mind the vaguely psychedelic, blissful, crate-digging sounds of The Avalanches and Air. The track’s long-building intro sounds like you come off a crowded street and accidentally stumbled into the world’s coolest hotel lobby, filled with cocktails, velvet, and a concierge that hands you a complimentary joint on arrival. It’s certainly not the Hotel California.

“Sweet Life,” channel ORANGE, Frank Ocean (2012)

MC: “Why see the world when you’ve got the beach?” Frank Ocean ironically asks over one of breeziest, most soulful tracks in his discography, sounding just like 1970s Stevie Wonder beamed into the year 2012. Also ironically, this track is perfectly tailored for those summer afternoons lounging around in the sunshine, those afternoons where it seems inconceivable to ever want to leave the beach. The lyric of this track calls into question those whose wealth allows them to live in a bubble that causes them to not acknowledge the everyday problems of those who are less fortunate. It’s the perfect dichotomy between words and music that few current artists are able to create and is a true testament to Frank’s status as one of this era’s greats.

KG: Proper analysis on this one mate. Frank’s cool soulful beats behind him paint a serene picture of opulence, which is so cleverly ironic from his lyrics. I really like the Stevie Wonder comp on this one too. I’m not entirely sure who, if anyone in modern music, would even come close to being confidently compared to Wonder that isn’t Frank Ocean. 

“If You Want Me to Stay,” Fresh, Sly & The Family Stone (1973)

MC: A minimal funk banger of the highest caliber, this track was the biggest hit from Sly & The Family Stone’s last true classic of an LP. It’s complete with Sly’s signature wails, a killer horn section, and the type of production that changed the way music was recorded from that point on. Brian Eno said the production on Fresh marked a transition in recording techniques to where the rhythm instruments like the bass drum and bass became the most important instruments in the mix in his famous lecture “The Studio as a Compositional Tool.” Regardless of the album’s tremendous influence which has spanned from Miles Davis to Childish Gambino, the song itself is undeniably catchy, funky, and feel-good.

“Something to Rap About,” Alfredo, Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist (2020)

MC: Since his 2014 classic Piñata with Madlib, Freddie Gibbs has become a model for consistency with each of his releases since ranging from good to great. Gibbs seems incapable of delivering a bum verse, but a large reason for his success can be attributed to the fact that he’s released two full lengths with Madlib and two more with The Alchemist. That’s like the rap equivalent to Steve Kerr winning a title with Phil Jackson in ‘98 only to win another with Greg Popovich in ‘99. Much like the systems of both those HOF coaches, the smooth and sample-filled beats that Madlib and The Alchemist tailor for Freddie give him the best opportunity to shine on the mic…and shine he does. The beat is silky, the Tyler verse is fantastic, and Freddie is right on target as always, it succeeds on every front. I might even dare to say that this song even manages to surpass Freddie and Tyler’s former collaborative high-water mark, “Storage War$,” which is no small creative feat. YAAAAWW!

KG: Since his 2013 album Pinata with Madlib, Freddie Gibbs has pretty much nailed the next 4-odd releases he has had. And Alfredo is no exception at all. The stringy, sample filled beats laid down by The Alchemist are a step in a totally different direction from the often trap-beat hip hop scene that is popular today. Freddie Gibbs doesn’t need to conform whatsoever. He is the Robert Horry of our generation.

“Veins,” Some Rap Songs, Earl Sweatshirt (2018)

KG: “Sittin’ on a star, thinking how I’m not a star” Earl muses in the back portion of this track. A line that subtly tells you everything Earl Sweatshirt has been feeling since his meteoric rise to fame as part of the Odd Future collective. He’s lonely, isolated from the celebrity garnered over the years. The growing expectation to release another hit is almost impossible to endure. But, while it hasn’t been a mainstream commercial success, Earl has continued to carve out his career as best he can. 2018’s Some Rap Songs was a long-awaited return to music with some of Earl’s most introspective and lyrically complex bars yet. The beats are choppy and crude, representing a complete stylistic overhaul in Earl’s life, let alone music. His talent is upper-echelon, Earl Sweatshirt is simply one of the greatest lyricists of the past 20 years. He doesn’t have to be a star to keep on shining. 

“Is It Love?,” The Golden Age of Apocalypse, Thundercat (2011)

MC: My personal favorite track from Stephen Bruner’s first full-length is the perfect showcase for why so many (myself included) see him as the preeminent bassist in music today. It’s a psychedelic slab of jazz fusion, featuring a gorgeous orchestral outro. I had the chance to see Thundercat on his Drunk tour at the North Park Observatory a few years ago and there are very few musicians I’ve seen who have complete command over their instrument like Bruner has over his six-string bass. He’s a complete virtuoso in every sense of the word. On a more tragic note, in the midst of my awe over his God-like bass powers, I had my good friend’s wax pen yanked right out of my hand by a security guard who threatened to throw me out if I didn’t give it up. Between giving out of staters shit for their IDs and borderline groping people on pat-downs, North Park Observatory security has been known for excessively bad vibes over the years and I’d like to use this prominent public platform to convince all 14 of our readers to contact the venue and insist that their security team pulls the stick out of their collective ass. It’s a shame such a cool venue suffers from such archaic security practices.

“Babies,” His N Hers, Pulp (1994)

KG: “Babies” sounds like it was made in 1984 instead of 1994. The plodding guitar riff throughout the song is perfectly juxtaposed with a shining synth sound that paints a picture of the buzzy electronic 1980’s as opposed to the grunge-y 1990’s. Nevertheless, they are excellently complemented by Jarvis Cocker’s melancholic voice as he does his best David Byrne impression. It’s really fascinating when bands make music that doesn’t really fit with the contemporary music being created at the time. Is it a case of wearing past influences on your sleeve, ignoring the things that are coming out around you? Who knows, but this song bops!

“Junk,” McCartney, Paul McCartney (1970)

KG: I think this is my first inclusion of any song that is tangentially related to the Beatles and I am stoked that it gets to be from my personal favorite Beatle himself, Sir Paul McCartney. McCartney was a weird album for the Liverpool rockstar. Recorded in near secrecy due to the turbulent nature of his personal life (mostly because of the Beatles breakup and contentious relationship with his former bandmates), it features a lo-fi aesthetic that is much different from anything released under the Beatles name. “Junk” teeters the line between being an unfinished song and so sparsely recorded that it offers a larger emotional satisfaction. McCartney longingly recites objects in his life that are associated with memories, noting how they are slowly fading away and becoming “Junk.” It is a really personal song that I think everyone can relate to in some way or another. For me, that is my stuffed Los Angeles Angels rally monkey from the days of Vladimir Gurrero patrolling Right Field at the Big A and hitting dingers like it was no one’s business. Oh those memories seem so long ago Vlad, how I miss you. 

MC: Big Daddy Vlade was not who I was expecting to show up in this Paul McCartney blurb, but now I too am sentimental for the days of Angels old. Somewhere in the depths of my room lies an old Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez bobblehead that reminds me of the ghosts of Angels past as well.

“Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel,” Townes Van Zandt, Townes Van Zandt (1969)

KG: Townes Van Zandt’s life and career were anything but typical. Marred by a difficult existence due to poverty, depression and drug abuse, Van Zandt poured his heart into his music and poetry as a means of catharsis. “Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel” is a folk epic off of his self-titled Townes Van Zandt album that sends chills down your spine with its deeply sentimental sound. Would urge any listener to keep a nice piece of wood on hand before beginning the song, because the moment it starts the sudden compulsion to start whittling is inevitable. Also this song calls for a large Gandalf pipe to smoke a bowl out of. 

“Wild Horses,” Burrito Deluxe, The Flying Burrito Brothers (1970)

MC: What country rock crusader Gram Parsons managed to record, despite constantly living in excess, from 1968 until his death in 1974 is the definitive collection of what he called “Cosmic American Music,” an attempt to blend the simple storytelling and sound of country with the countercultural feel of rock music. From being the creative force behind The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, to his seminal country rock recordings with The Flying Burrito Brothers, to his solo work that jump started the career of Emmylou Harri, Parsons’ influence in the late 60s and early 70s was ubiquitous wherever country and rock aligned. His influence on the mainstream, however, was felt strongest through his debaucherous friendship with Keith Richards, whom he reintroduced to country music. Apparently in attendance when Jagger and Richards were composing “Wild Horses,” Parsons received their blessing to record and put out his cover of the track nearly a year before the Stones released theirs. It’s hard to say if the Stones would have ever gained the inspiration for their greatest country rock composition with Parsons’ influence, but it feels unlikely. While certainly less popular than the Stones’ recording, Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers’ rendition has the earnestness of his best country recordings and the piano break towards the end is haunting. As someone who loudly dismissed nearly the entire genre of country for most of my life, Parsons has been a key to understanding the sometimes simple beauty of the genre’s best recordings and I’d heavily recommend giving his works a try for anyone seeking to do the same.

KG: My friend Kiana once told me that she doesn’t listen to songs that are longer than 6 minutes, with the exception of “Pyramids” by Frank Ocean. While we are all about “Pyramids,” it would be a real shame if she passed up on this absolute doozy of a Rolling Stones cover. Does the cut off start at 6 minutes and 1 second? Are songs that are 5 minutes and 59 seconds the equivalent of edging? Please help me explain to her the heinousness of this statement. 

Published by culture blender

off the cusp musings on music & pop culture in the streaming age

2 thoughts on “Cannabis Cuts Vol. 5 – Kevin Goes Shoegazing

  1. You boys fill my heart with joy and ignite a single tear drop down my tender cheek. Peace and blessings, you hunks.

    Like

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