I won a contest over at The Collector's blog that was centered around my favorite kind of music, alternative rock.
The best part of my victory is I finally was able to get something out of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. For the last 30 years, I seem to be the only person who cannot grasp the RHCP's appeal. In fact, if I ever dared speak of my disinterest in the band, especially in the late '90s, I would be showered with derision. Sorry, sole arbiters of what's musically cool, they just don't do it for me.
But my guess of what song would be ranked No. 2 on The Collector's local radio station's countdown of the greatest 92 alternative rock songs was "Under the Bridge" by the RHCP because my goodness every station, TV music channel, etc., likes to overplay that song like it cures cancer by the note.
In typical, RHCP fan-boy fashion, the station's voters actually put "Under the Bridge" at No. 1, ahead of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which is ridiculous, but it still won me a mix CD from The Collector. Thanks Anthony Kiedis, Flea, etc., you have been useful. Finally.
Mixed CDs seem a little silly in this era of streamed music all the time. I have access to just about whatever song I want through whichever service I want. But I come from an era of taping songs off the radio with one of those '70s cassette players, so I still appreciate mixed tapes/CDs as a source for new-to-me music. And I was excited to get Chris' CD in the mail.
I made a couple of specific requests for Chris, but in general I just threw some bands and musical preferences at him and let his tastes be his guide. I figured I'd turn this into a Match the Song title exercise, in which I try to find a card for each song.
There are 20 songs on the CD and in true alternative fashion, many of the songs are almost impossible to decipher. So you're going to see some weird connections made. But that's the fun of the alternative scene. This ain't Katy Perry.
Match the Song Title: "The Collector's Alt-Rock Mix"
Track 1: No One Sleeps When I'm Awake - The Sounds: I've been interested in The Sounds, an indie Swedish band, ever since they released "Dying to Say This To You" and particularly the single "Song With a Mission," in 2006. I remember wandering through the Target music section looking for the CD even though nobody bought CDs, not even in 2006. I just had to have that CD. Somehow I held off, but a lot of their stuff is now in my digital library and the song "Great Day," an exquisitely aching and beautiful modern-day tale, is my favorite song of the past year even though it was released in 2013. Anyway (this is going to a long post, can't you tell?), "No One Sleeps When I'm Awake" is off their "Crossing The Rubicon" CD and a song I didn't already own. It's about how when someone is ailing, physically or mentally, it affects everyone around them. This resonates with me very much. There's no card for that, so I went with one of the greatest named minor league teams of all-time, the Nashville Sounds.
Track 2: An Honest Mistake - The Bravery: The Bravery, although they were formed in the last 20 years and are from the U.S. (upstate New York, in fact), do a good job of sounding like British alt-rockers from 25 years ago. I find their songs appealing, including this one. But I didn't go with the song title for this one either. I just think it's cool that Steve Avery pitched for the Braves. He's a "Bravery"!
Track 3: Is It Any Wonder - Keane: I don't consider Keane alternative. In fact, when I first read the song title on the track list Chris sent, I mixed them up with "The Fray," a band that I find whiny and insipid. Overall, I think alternative music died around 2000. Whenever Napster came around, that's when "the alternative" ceased to exist. Alternative music rose because of radio programming and music video programming. That music was the alternative to Michael Jackson or Madonna or whatever was playing on mainstream stations. When people stopped listening to music on radio and TV and downloaded their own songs, everything became alternative. So, anyway, "Is It Any Wonder," I believe is about confusion about a home country's politics. But let's go with the person the band was named after, former World Series manager Johnny Keane (I'm joking).
Track 4: Precious - Depeche Mode: I was big into Depeche Mode around '84 when few people outside of England knew them. Their appeal waned for me, but a song like "Precious," released in 2005, takes me right back to the mid-80s. "Precious" is about divorce and the collateral damage. When I think of baseball players divorcing, I think of that heartwarming situation of John Lackey divorcing his wife while she was battling breast cancer. And then Lackey having a fit after the news got out, like he shouldn't have to go through that. Yeah, yeah, you do, John.
Track 5: Slunk - The Smashing Pumpkins: While others got into Nirvana and Pearl Jam in the early '90s, I got into Smashing Pumpkins. Siamese Dream, in particular. Since I own most of their mid-to-late '90s stuff, I requested something earlier. Chris went waaay early, selecting something off the Pumpkins' 1991 EP, "Lull". The song rocks, although there isn't a lot to it. Definitely not enough to get a card out of it. Instead I thought about how dramatically the music scene changed in the early '90s. It kind of correlates with the baseball card scene at that time. At the start of the decade, you're getting stuff like 1990 Donruss and a few years later Pinnacle's covering everything in gold.
Track 6: Youth Against Facism - Sonic Youth: I once owned the Sonic Youth cassette, "Dirty," which features "Youth Against Facism". It's one of the few songs on that LP that I found semi-pleasant (an odd term to attach to Sonic Youth). I try to be open-minded when it comes to music but Sonic Youth just sounds like noise to me. Also, with the a song title like that, you can guess what the comments on the video are like, most likely from a bunch of people who weren't alive when this song was created. As always, don't read the comments.
Track 7: Burden In My Hand - Soundgarden: When people argue over the greatest "grunge band," I can't dispute anyone who says it's Soundgarden. Chris Cornell was an absolute master. The best from that era. I didn't buy much music from that genre. One Pearl Jam CD. Nothing from Nirvana. Nothing from Alice In Chains. But Cornell I followed from Soundgarden to Audioslave. If it's not the overplayed "Black Hole Sun," I will listen. "Burden In My Hand" is about the realization that you've done something terrible and you're lying in the dirt wondering how to get out of it. Let's just say that's where I was last summer when I realized I still hadn't completed the 2018 Heritage Dodgers set (still a couple blasted high numbers left) and I can't continue like this anymore.
Track 8: Snakecharmer - Doyle Bramhall II: Ha, ha, this song ain't alternative. This was a special request as I was way into this song when I won the contest. Doyle Bramhall II is a blues rocker who has worked with people like Eric Clapton and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Anyone watch videos by Rick Beato, the music producer turned youtube music god? Beato turned me on to the insane drumming in Snakecharmer and I was hooked. As for the card, did you know that Jhoulys Chacin owned the Diamondbacks last year while pitching for the Brewers (sorry I don't have a Chacin Brewers card)? They batted like .100 against him. I don't know how Chacin did it last year. I don't expect it to continue.
Track 9: Suedehead - Morrissey: That Morrissey and his cryptic lyrics. "You had to sneak in my room, just to read my diary." I remember this song as it was during all the freaking out about The Smiths breaking up. This was Morrissey's first post-Smiths single. It's impossible to find a card to go with this song (did you know "Suedehead" is a spin-off term for skinhead? Sheesh). So let's go with this nugget: Morrissey's video for Suedehead was filmed in Fairmont, Indiana, the hometown of James Dean. If Dean sold sausages, he'd be "Jimmy Dean," and he'd issue cards like this. Cool oddball but kind of ruins the '50s rebel image, huh?
Track 10: A Forest - The Cure: Going early, early, early Cure with this song. I believe it's the first Cure song to ever chart. And that right there in front of Juan Rios is a forest -- a forest of bats.
Track 11: Let Them In - PVRIS: The newest band on this CD, I think PVRIS has been around for only five years or so. I like rock bands fronted by female singers a lot, so I gave this band a long leash. Lynn Gunn has a terrific voice and I love how she uses it. But mostly what I see when I look at videos of them is how I could be all of their fathers. So, so, young. Gunn is four years older than my daughter. "Let Them In" is pretty cool, but in general, I put them in that category of music I call "Despair Rock." Everything is mournful and moody and all the videos are in black and white and the singer sounds like she's 5 seconds from throwing herself off a cliff. This has been going on in rock music for more than a decade. Is anyone ever going to make happy music again? (I do like it when PVRIS plays up the electronica/funk-filled aspect. "What's Wrong" is terrific). So, ANYWAY, the song is about not being able to get rid of something/someone that was once a big part of your life. I've used this card analogy before, but the Mets are still paying Bobby Bonilla's salary.
Track 12: Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money) - Pet Shop Boys: Old school! The Original Alternative Music! I have this song on a CD somewhere. I imagine the lyrics for this song: "you've got the brawn, I've got the brains" are uttered by Scott Boras to Bryce Harper almost every day.
Track 13: Ceremony - New Order: A favorite, favorite band from college days. "Ceremony" is a holdover from New Order's Joy Division beginnings. It's often called a transition song between the two bands and always carries the shadow of the suicide by Joy Division singer Ian Curtis. So there's a "carrying on" aspect of the song. I guess that's what you do when you're Dave Roberts and your team has lost back-to-back World Series. It seems a little ridiculous to keep playing, but that's what you gotta do.
Track 14: Speed the Collapse - Metric: Metric's tunes and Emily Haines' voice appeal to me. I loaded up on many of their tunes a couple of years ago and keep adding. Their 2018 album, "Art of Doubt," rules and is my favorite from the entire year. "Speed the Collapse," is from 2012's "Synthetica," another cool one. The title reminds me of what the Mariners' front office is doing to the team: speeding the collapse. 100 losses in 2019? Seems likely. Poor King Felix.
Track 15: Girl Afraid - The Smiths: More Morrissey lyrics. Relationships. Gender stuff. Everyone's miserable. How about a guy named Smith? Not only just Smith, but Will Smith. Did his parents ever watch Fresh Prince of Bel Air? Any of those Men In Black movies? Could've named him Billy. Then he'd have to counter only that '70s Orioles infielder who couldn't hit a lick.
Track 16: Enough Space - Foo Fighters: Love some Foo Fighters. Were they ever alternative? Flat-out rockers to me with all those goofy videos. Dave Grohl is genius. "Enough Space" is from the late '90s "The Colour and the Shape" album. To merge it with a card, I read it as "Enough Space?", as in these stupid 2005 Donruss Classics cards. Is that Enough Space on the right side of the card???
ENOUGH SPACE????? That's just a travesty. Although rather mesmerizing.
Track 17: President Gas - The Psychedelic Furs: Richard Butler's voice sounds like home. Such a big part of my college soundtrack. "President Gas" is an indictment of the political system. Some have said the song was specifically ripping President Reagan, who was in power at the time of the song, and the Furs probably were. But the lyrics say: "He comes in from the left sometimes, he comes in from the right." I prefer that interpretation. Politics is pointless and putting all your beliefs in one party, no matter which one, I will never understand.
Track 18: Lazy Eye - Silversun Pickups: The only song on the mix CD, outside of "Opportunities" that I owned already. "Lazy Eye" was an early digital download, one of the first. Nice song to get absorbed in for six minutes. Rather than offend anyone with a lazy eye, I though I'd go with this fantastic Jim Fregosi card with the pickup in the background. I don't have this card yet. I most definitely will.
Track 19: Mine For Life - The Sounds: Awesome, two songs from The Sounds. This song is from their U.S. debut, "Living in America". Lead singer Maja Iversson and the band are often compared to Blondie and Missing Persons and termed "new wave," and those are all ingredients for my undying devotion. For "Mine For Life," I thought of a card that would be mine for life. Well that would be a 1975 Topps card, mini version, of my all-time favorite player, autographed by my favorite player. Why would I ever give that up?
Track 20: "Sappy" - Nirvana. Chris selected a rare tune by Nirvana that didn't appear on their albums but was on an AIDS charity record as a hidden track. Even the title is in dispute as it's often referred to as ""Verse Chorus Verse". I'm sure that's how Nirvana would want it if they found out that "Sappy" is causing Michael Bolton to be associated with them. Every one of Michael Bolton's songs is sappy.
And that's where the needle comes off the record.
This was great fun. I have a few new tunes that I'll play over and over. Even though just about everyone's playlist these days is a mixed CD, it's still cool to be able to pop this in the car and play away. And discovering new songs is always a hoot.
Chris also sent a smattering of cards with the CD, including two cards for my 1985 Fleer completion quest:
I probably should have worked one of these into the Match the Song title.
Thanks to the three of you who got through this whole thing. Maybe you found a song or two you like, too. Except for you RHCP fans. But don't worry. I'm sure they're playing "Under the Bridge" somewhere right now.