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Jul 2015

Misdemeanors Against Music: Transmission 218, 2015 July 5

July 13, 2015

robinguthriecrushed.jpg"Do you think it's a bad idea," asked Miss Andrea, "to play the same artists every week?" We were having this chat as her show was ending and mine was beginning, you see. Disclosure: she plays Dolly Parton every week, and I feel sad when I miss it. THIS NEGRO LOVES HIS DOLLY PARTON.

You know how sometimes you can't answer a question honestly without revealing something about the past that is so deep it affects the present? This was one of those times. "It's fine for you," I said. "It wouldn't be fine for me, because that was a thing I used to do when I was young, and I think it was a shortcoming of those shows, and I try to use BOMBAST to correct those mistakes, but that's my personal hangup which I'm sure no one else shares."

Let's rewind. It must be 1984ish, and this girl with whom I'm trading mixtapes [it didn't work out, of course] gives me one with "The Spangle Maker" and "Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops" on it. I can't recall anything else from the tape, despite having an amazing memory for the numbingly trivial. The songs' lyrics I could take or leave: "It's the chocolate on my tooth-ah"; "Penny bicycles in tulip sauce," and so on. But the music sounded great. I remember liking the band's drummer.

Fast-forward: It's October 1986. I am a college freshman and I am doing my first on-air training at KDVS. The very first record I cue up to play is Love's Easy Tears, which, as you can see on the other end of the hyperlink, was brand new then. [Currency! My albatross.] I remember noticing how loud the pressing was, crushingly loud, as all of those Cocteau EPs seem to be.

Fast-forward a bit more: it is Spring 1987, and "Friend of Bombast" Mr. D and I have decided that we are a band, for some reason. We have a keyboard and a guitar and a bass and a drum machine and a borrowed four-track. We are listening to a lot of post-punk: Joy Division, Cure, Banshees, Sisters of Mercy--stuff that is easy to play, because I am not very good! But especially Garlands and Head Over Heels and It'll End in Tears [NOT A COCTEAU TWINS RECORD, I AM AWARE OF THIS, NO NEED TO "CORRECT" ME, THANKS]. "Do you guys, like, take a lot of drugs to listen to this music?" asked an aspiring pop star who lived in our dormitory (seemingly, it was crawling with them--this one was all about "getting hits first," and then working on "artistic integrity" later, but who am I to judge?). I felt that the music obviated drug use, which was handy--more money to buy effects boxes, of which I could not get my fill. String enough of them together, you see, and you can hear your technical shortcomings disappear in an ocean of fuzz and modulation and echo, as "shoegazers" the world over have discovered. We also needed to get a digital reverb processor to make our sad drumbox go Boom, so it was all for the good that the music sufficed, without chemical enhancement. There were other people I wanted to be, other ways I wanted to sound--A Certain Ratio, A.R.Kane, Dif Juz, Dub Syndicate, etc.--I could never rise above dilettante status. But I didn't study anyone's music as closely as I did the Cocteau Twins records of that time.

Summer 1987 was the summer of Lonely Is An Eyesore, so "the 4AD thing" was becoming a full-blown, unhealthy obsession. I was living with mixtape girl and yet another "ex" (this Catholic enjoys his punishment, that is all), who, between them, seemingly had ALL the Cocteau Twins records. I got lost in them. They were drugs.

My memory of those radio programs of the time--I only have about a half-dozen tapes--is that I would play the Cocteau Twins every week. This went on for a long time. I didn't just go through the catalog once. I would keep coming back to things. Other people remarked on it. I don't think they meant to criticize. They were just making observations, and why not? It was perfectly cool; Cocteau Twins were perfectly cool. When your records have no barcodes, no one questions your indie cred. Still, I found a way to take it badly--I find ways to take everything badly. I was not realizing my full potential as a deejay, I told myself, yet I didn't care. It was great to hear the music on those big studio monitors, absolute thundering bliss.

Fall 1988: there's a new Cocteau Twins record, Blue Bell Knoll. There's also a new "smooth jazz" radio station in Sacramento, calling itself "The Point." Blue Bell Knoll is in the airplay rotation, god knows why. A Cocteau Twins song segueing into a Kenny G song is something one can't really un-hear. It seems arbitrary and stupid now, but to finish with this lazy "drug" metaphor, I was "cured." Sort of. The spell was broken, let's say that! [And let's trot out another terrible metaphor!] I still can't really listen to that record. I have problems.

I'm not the only one who believes that the music you embrace as an adolescent does different things for you and to you than the music you adopt later. And you can't really have a Damascene episode more than once. I tell myself I've moved on. I'm not on any relevant forums or Facebook fan groups, have never been to "Cocteaufest" and wouldn't relish the chance, am kind of glad they didn't reunite, and don't care if Liz Fraser's record ever materializes. But I haven't moved on. I will never love any body of work more than I love the Cocteau Twins' records from Garlands through The Moon and the Melodies [AGAIN, I KNOW THIS IS NOT TECHNICALLY A COCTEAU TWINS RECORD, MANY THANKS FOR YOUR CONCERN].

So I see that "4AD"--one can't discuss the present label without irony--will reissue The Pink Opaque and two EPs from 1985 later this month. And because I obsess over currency, another one of my hangups, and because I treat reissues as "current," yet another uncorrected personality trait, I'm faced with a choice. Do I play a Cocteau Twins song every week for the next four months, like the old days, or do I get it all out of my system in one go? Keep scrolling.

BOMBAST playlist, 2015 July 5, 1700-1900:

  1. "The Spangle Maker" | Cocteau Twins | The Pink Opaque | 4AD
  2. "Great Spangled Fritillary" | Cocteau Twins | Tiny Dynamine / Echoes in a Shallow Bay | 4AD
  3. "Five Ten Fiftyfold" | Cocteau Twins | Head Over Heels | 4AD
  4. "From the Flagstones" | Cocteau Twins | The Pink Opaque | 4AD
  5. "Pink Orange Red" | Cocteau Twins | Tiny Dynamine / Echoes in a Shallow Bay | 4AD
  6. "Ooze Out and Away, Onehow" | Budd / Fraser / Guthrie / Raymonde | The Moon and the Melodies | 4AD
  7. "Wax and Wane (remix)" | Cocteau Twins | The Pink Opaque | 4AD
  8. "Donimo" | Cocteau Twins | Treasure | 4AD
  9. "Eggs and Their Shells" | Cocteau Twins | Tiny Dynamine / Echoes in a Shallow Bay | 4AD
  10. "Aikea-Guinea" | Cocteau Twins | The Pink Opaque | 4AD
  11. "Shallow Then Halo" | Cocteau Twins | Garlands | 4AD
  12. "Sultitan Itan" | Cocteau Twins | Tiny Dynamine / Echoes in a Shallow Bay | 4AD
  13. "Hitherto" | Cocteau Twins | The Pink Opaque | 4AD
  14. "Lazy Calm" | Cocteau Twins | Victorialand | 4AD
  15. "Millimillenary" | Cocteau Twins | The Pink Opaque | 4AD
  16. "She Will Destroy You" | Budd / Fraser / Guthrie / Raymonde | The Moon and the Melodies | 4AD
  17. "Pale Clouded White" | Cocteau Twins | Tiny Dynamine / Echoes in a Shallow Bay | 4AD
  18. "Plain Tiger" | Cocteau Twins | Tiny Dynamine / Echoes in a Shallow Bay | 4AD
  19. "In the Gold Dust Rush" | Cocteau Twins | Head Over Heels | 4AD
  20. "Feathers-Oar-Blades" | Cocteau Twins | Lullabies | 4AD
  21. "Ivo" | Cocteau Twins | Treasure | 4AD
  22. "Love's Easy Tears" | Cocteau Twins | Love's Easy Tears | 4AD
  23. "Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops" | Cocteau Twins | The Pink Opaque | 4AD
  24. "Kookaburra" | Cocteau Twins | Aikea-Guinea | 4AD
  25. "Laugh Lines" / "Hazel" | Cocteau Twins | Peppermint Pig | 4AD
  26. "Memory Gongs" | Budd / Fraser / Guthrie / Raymonde | The Moon and the Melodies | 4AD
  27. "Pepper-Tree" / "Musette and Drums" | Cocteau Twins | The Pink Opaque | 4AD

not the ultimate playlist, just my playlist. Get your own show and do better.

also: "Ivo" is Ivo, the guy. I lose my mind in the control room sometimes.