HI, MY NAME IS LARRY, AND I USE SP***FY
Hi, my name is Larry, and I use Sp***fy. I feel like I should confess this right away, and apologize for it, because I really do use it all the time, while fully acknowledging its awfulness for artists and culture (an awfulness very well-researched and articulated by people like Damon Krukowski and Jenn Pelly) (if I may also have that cake I just ate, thank you soooo much, gimme gimme gimme, I need some more).
It’s similar to how I still buy things from Amazon.com practically every week, and, dare I say, you do too. There’s no pride in it, but I don’t know how to stop either. There has to be a critique of capitalism while we’re given so few viable alternatives to capitalism that can also maintain the thousands of moving parts required for lowest-common-denominator mass modern convenience that we all insist on (admit it) from capitalism.
What about a gradual exit strategy that doesn’t require a(n apparently impossible) sudden cut-off from capitalism? Is that, in fact, also impossible? Does it just serve the masters? Give them time to properly disinvest and reallocate? Is crying “impossible” the most poser copout an amateur (not to mention white-male-privileged and quite physically comfortable) would-be leftist like myself could possibly use at this point? Surely Marx already covered this 150 years ago, that capitalism seems to have no “off” switch, or even “opt-out” switch?
Unanswered questions that leave me here, sitting at my $419 laptop, deep in the throes of late capitalism anyway, making this “GOOD TRACKS” series of 90-minute playlists on Sp***fy aka The Enemy Radio, the premise being that each one is either a killer Maxell XLII90 mix tape, or a 2-hour block of community free-form radio (allowing for the requisite 30 minutes of station IDs, PSAs, mic breaks, and general community-radio weirdness, and also for having its own occasional theme song in the absolutely massive “New Special Squad” by Guido & Maurizio De Angelis). I recently finished my 15th GOOD TRACKS playlist, and I also just relistened to the very first one of the series, aka “GOOD TRACKS 1 (Radio Blastitude WBLSTD 66.6 FM Chicago - Pirate Station Playlist),” and man, it holds up! Good tracks, indeed! You should check it out if you like good music! It’s even embedded below with notes on selected tracks, right at the end of this paragraph, or just go directly to my Sp****y profile to see not only this playlist but the entire GOOD TRACKS series, 1 through 15 and counting (EDIT: now up to 17), and all kinds of other messy, half-finished, fully-finished, and often frankly amazing playlists I’ve been goofing around with over the last several years.
NOTES ON SELECTED TRACKS FROM “GOOD TRACKS 1 (Radio Blastitude WBLSTD 66.6 FM Chicago - Pirate Station Playlist)”:
Okay, I’m particulary proud of that Cos > Ludus > Angel Bat Dawid run right towards the start. Cos are an amazing female-fronted prog-rock band from what sounds like the 1970s, and from Europe, and I have no idea who they are or were, having still only just heard of them a couple months ago, from a random social media posting of this song “L’idiot Leon.” OK, just looked ‘em up and learned they were from Belgium and active from 1974 to 1984, and if you weren’t aware that you can leave comments on Substack posts like this one, I ask anyone reading this: do you know of any other European prog bands that sound like Cos, and are as good as Cos, or maybe even better than Cos? If so, please tell me their names in the comments! Ludus aren’t quite better than Cos, but they’re great, and sound a little bit like Cos, though I think they’re 1980s England, which might automatically make them “post-punk” instead of “proto-post-punk prog” (which is definitely a thing, a thing I explained in a recent post, I mean newsletter, and a thing that Cos is). Ludus’s vocalist Linder Sterling even designed the sleeve for the Buzzcocks’ Orgasm Addict 7” (a pretty shocking image, by the way), so her band has gotta be (post-)punk!
After Ludus comes Angel Bat Dawid, and after Angel I keep it in Chicago for a track by Beau Wanzer, another transition I like, this one taking similar extended soft electric tonalities into some other types of possibilities. For example, from a soul/jazz/spiritual possibility to a more “electro” or “techno” possibility, which I feel I then lose a little by transitioning from Wanzer into Dome, as those two Dome tracks (which originally appeared back-to-back just as they do here, at the end of the first side of their self-titled 1980 debut) are maybe more like great classic pop songs (that happen to be somewhat electronic) than they are proto-Wanzer proto-21st-C. electronic music.
After that, I floor myself all over again with these two songs by Cass McCombs and Amen Dunes, “Robin Egg Blue” and “Everybody is Crazy” respectively. Both of these are artists I’d heard of, but barely (never?) actually heard, and had assumed played music that was very Pitchforktacular (which is pretty much the opposite of spectacular, if you were wondering), but then Ryley Walker covered “Robin Egg Blue” by McCombs, and I loved it so much that I checked out the original, and by god I think I love the original even more. Still haven’t really heard anything else by him. Soon after that, I came across “Everybody is Crazy” by Amen Dunes (hell, the Sp***y algorithm probably played it right after “Robin Egg Blue”), and man, that’s a pretty powerful song too. The way he sings the title in the chorus, you can really take the sentiment seriously and give it some nuanced thought and reflection.
Oh man, then I get into the “If I Were a Carpenter” section, and you can just read my recent (or forthcoming?) Songtrail post on “Carpenter” to cover that, so I’ll jump ahead to “Purple Haze” by Dion which is just a shockingly good Hendrix cover from 1968. I honestly think of it as Blue-Eyed Tropicalia, a total re-think using a light ‘n’ hazy guitar-free arrangement to shift Jimi’s outward weed/booze/acid context into Dion’s more inward and blatantly nodded-out context. Not that it has to be about drugs, but Jimi certainly left that door wide open, and you can almost hear Dion’s more languid take as “Purple haze/all in my veins” (although I believe Dion was clean at the time it was recorded).
I thought putting something from Oar (1969) right after a couple from Dion’s s/t (1968) was a nice touch. The Twink song (1970) after that killed it too, one of the few tracks I really like from the Think Pink album (heresy, I know). Great hyperdrive/blast-off move on the guitar solo entry, the type of move thee homie Ken B (the B is for “Blues Ambush”) recently used the term “assassin guitar” to describe (though it was in reference to the first track on the first Lard Free album (1973)).
Then comes what we in ‘the radio biz’ call a “jazz block,” with a couple tracks I’ll specifically mention, like the surprisingly languid “Dunce” by the Lowell Davidson Trio, from his/their superb self-titled 1965 album on ESP-Disk, some of my favorite (and suprisingly gentle) work by drummer Milford Graves, here with the always-great Gary Peacock on bass, and Davidson a fascinatingly creative pianist/composer who really didn’t do much recording other than this album, in part, I think, because of unfortunately persistent mental health issues. There’s also a duet by Archie Shepp & Jason Moran on “Go Down Moses,” from their 2021 double-LP Let My People Go, which was recorded either 2017 or 2018, Shepp playing sax and singing passionately at age 80. Jason Moran was a mere 42 at the time, what a young ‘un!
ADDENDUM: You can see an estimate of how much any artist (or their heirs apparent or other beneficiaries) makes from Spotify using this website: https://royalties-calculator.com. Relevant to this post of mine, I learned that Cass McCombs makes $21k a year from Spotify, which is pretty great, but I doubt enough for him to stop touring and releasing and grinding, while Amen Dunes make $8.75k a year, definitely not enough to stop the grind. As for Angel Bat Dawid, I hope I’m not reading this right, but I think she’s only making $847 a year off Spotify! Well, at least it’s more than Beau Wanzer, who’s raking in a solid $45 a year, as in $45.00… hey man, probably a good .0048 of one of those dollars each year is from me! Damon & Naomi make a whole $286.00 a year… on the other hand, some random look-ups like The Flaming Lips make $61k a year, and the even-blander psych (or whatever it is) of Tame Impala makes $564k a year just from Spotify???? Patti Smith makes $95k a year, which is actually encouraging… Sonic Youth makes $72k a year, not terrible and more than the Lips, as it should be… but Kim Gordon solo only makes $820.00 a year and Body/Head $180.00??