The recently launched Fugazi Live archive, where 800 of their shows from 1987 to 2002 will eventually be made available to download, has lots of people reflecting on their past experiences with the band. And so now I will too: This one time, in high school, my art teacher, an attractive young creative type stuck in the hell that was a straight-laced all-boy Catholic high school, asked me and my friends to get her a ticket to an upcoming Fugazi show at a long since closed Long Island venue called the PWAC. We met her there, and I smoked a cigarette as I spoke to her outside afterwards, so that was really cool. Then this other time, also in high school, I saw them at Irving Plaza on tour for Red Medicine, and MCA from the Beastie Boys stood behind me for the whole show, apologizing each time the movements of the crowd caused him to bump into me.
Another time, in college, I saw them play the last show ever at the Palladium. Ian Mackaye was annoyed by the over-zealous guy operating the lights—kept telling him to tone it down, threatening to walk off the stage if he didn’t. The following night, they were playing NYU’s Loeb Center. I didn’t have a ticket, wasn’t a student at the university, but I went down there anyway. I still don’t know how I got in, but I did, and the show was the best I’d ever seen: Still angry about the previous night, Ian told the story of the cheeseball lighting guy and requested that the house lights be turned on. And so they played the whole show with plain, harsh room lighting shining down on them just as it shone down on the rest of us us. I thought it was the perfect Fugazi experience. Still do, actually.
I wasn't at this show, but there's somehow not a single video from any Fugazi show I've ever been to.
As if Girls frontman Christopher Owens needed to do anything else to endear himself to me, as if his effortlessly perfect classic-pop songs I’ve been listening to all year weren’t enough, now he goes and releases a single called “Lawrence,” which, yes, is a reference to the Lawrence, leader of the terminally underrated 80s British band Felt.
The Mountain Goats — “A Case of You”/“The Raid on Entebbe”
I’ve been yelling all year about the fact that no one seems to be acknowledging just how good the new Mountain Goats record, All Eternals Deck, really is, and you’ll you’ll be hearing more about that in a few weeks when our year-end issue comes out.But for now, let us focus on something a bit older: In 1997, John Darnielle performed at the Yo-Yo a Go-Go fest in Olympia, highlights of which were released on an excellent 2xLP called Yo-Yo a Go-Go ‘97: Another Live Compilation. The Mountain Goats track included is “Raid on Entebbe,” from an aborted 7” single that was supposed to come out in 1996. It’s a great song, as energetic and unhinged as most everything else Darnielle was churning out those days. But the most notable thing about this particular version (which, sorry, is not the one above) is that right before it, he does an a cappella run-through of the first verse from Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” and somehow winds up not sounding like an asshole, his bold, staccato vocals still managing to convey the melancholy of the original.
The Clash—“Stay Free”
Not exactly an earth-shattering choice here, I know, but Give ‘Em Enough Rope standout “Stay Free” has always basically felt like a Christmas song to me, insofar as it makes me think about people I’ve fallen out of touch with for no good reason, which is exactly the type of thing I like to think about around the holidays. Granted, none of my friends have ever been sent to prison, and I never would have smoked menthol cigarettes, but I have always sort of wanted to get “Go easy, step lightly, stay free” as a tattoo.
It’s coming out way too late in the year for this, the 13th full-length by The Roots to pop up on more than a few year-end lists—people generally need to spend a bit more time with an album before giving it the honor—but it might wind up being a terrible mistake. Clocking in at less than 40 minutes, the awkwardly titled Undun is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it affair that nonetheless packs in an awful lot: the story of a 25-year-old who gets caught up in the drug game, for starters, but perhaps even more importantly, ?uestlove’s pitch-perfect production, which has grown far more adventurous since last year’s How I Got Over.
The Cure—Bestival Live 2011
You may not think you need a two-and-a-half-hour, 32-song recording of a Cure show from just a few months ago, but you’d be wrong, actually. Bestival Live 2011 captures the band’s headlining festival set from September, and though it’s appealing as a remarkable greatest hits collection in its own right, it’s also a hell of a performance by a band energized after two years of downtime. Maybe you don’t take them for granted the way I apparently do, but this served as an unsubtle reminder that these guys have a downright laughable number of good songs.
The Rolling Stones—Some Girls Deluxe Edition
The established narrative around the 1978 release of Some Girls was that after a few unfocused years, with Keith’s drug habit (not to mention legal trouble) getting out of control and Mick’s obsession with celebrity doing the same, they got things back on track with an album that took its inspiration from the ideologically opposed NYC punk and disco scenes. I’ve always thought the press overstated those aspects a bit, but it’s still a monster of an album that, aside from “Beast of Burden,” prominently features the biggest chip these guys ever had on their collective shoulder. The deluxe edition has a bunch of extra crap, but, as always, opt instead for the vinyl and consider (nicely!) asking the internet for the other stuff.
Bruce Springsteen—“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”
There are probably some good reasons you could give me for not liking this version of the holiday standard, but I’m not interested. Not this year. Listen to the silly spoken intro, when Bruce asks Clarence if he’s been practicing real hard so that Santa might bring him a new saxophone, then listen to Clarence’s solo. Glorious. Heartbreaking. (There's another really great live version here.)
The Promise Ring Reunite!
You have to have been born within, like, a three year window for this to mean anything to you at all, but whatever. I was born in that window, and I’m super excited at the prospect of these guys, wrongly lumped in with the worst of late-90s emo, playing a show here in the city. And I’m super super excited about the possibly non-existent prospect of it being at Northside 2012.
NPR’s “You’ve Never Heard” Series
I’m about two years late to this party, at which the NPR editors ask their “unimaginably young” interns to write about a classic album they’ve never heard. Recent entries on Horses and Blue are particularly enjoyable—much needed reminders that professional music critics are often the worst.