The Tremendous Nausea
By: Danielle Woodrich
Pull up a bucket and sit down. I have a story to tell.
It starts commonly enough: my library contained meager and tired music and a friend, Bud, had a lot that was new to me and he was looking to share. He asked what I wanted. Pearl Jam, I said, anything unusual because all I have are their albums. I don't think Bud knew, for I certainly didn't, that we would begin a year long Petrie-dish experiment, using just our selves and music, that would burst it's little lid almost immediately, infecting nearly everyone we touched.
This infection has warning signs the especially vulnerable should note. If when you hear great music, no matter what kind or by whom, you have a mental swoon, You may be at risk. If when you have headphones on and hear something for the first time that soul-grabs you so hard that secretly, maybe behind closed lids, the eyes roll back just a little, You are definitely at risk. If, poor child, the eye roll is accompanied by either gooseflesh or a severe flush, You have already been infected. Stop reading and go directly to your stereo. Turn on some sonic splendor, light a candle and thank whatever entity or nonentity you want that Music Exists. Only your gratitude will ease the symptoms, albeit temporarily. See, once exposed, one is NEVER immune.
The swoon is degenerative and leaves us with weakening immune systems. The manifestation of this erosion is not that less and less quality music affects us. On the contrary - music has to be as fine, all the time. If anything, we become more selective. However, as we get increasingly overwhelmed, as is our nature in the face of the best art, the swoon evolves into a powerful nausea that originates not in the stomach but in the chest. Left side. It is probably a rare heart condition? Yup, a condition of having the organ ripped out and tattooed upon with abandon notes of flying music.
Excuse me while I hold my head and ponder for a minute how much incredible shit has taken (and continues to take) place with the booty from this mad and ever-guitar-heavy Show and Tell playing in the background. Amazing.
Before I begin, I'd like to tell You that any of these tapes are available for free to all readers who wish to trade one book that will make me this gloriously sick (including recommendation) per tape.
We're ready, then.
The first tape Songs (so good) That (they) Make You Puke, Volume One, had no name when it arrived. Its cover was blank and no song revealed. As promised, and like a 20-part birthday present with each part individually wrapped in it's unlabeledness (I know that's not a word, carry on), rare Pearl Jam took my breath away, bringing on my first episode of the beautiful nausea.
'I Got Shit', a live and acoustic 'Porch,' and a dreamy 'Hard to Imagine' stripped me down till I was just a dirty child, a warwaif who watches troops burn her town and obliterate everything, and who standing on a dusty road helplessly awaits the personal assault. The attack did come but it was fair and just -- 'Baba O'Riley', 'Once', 'Rats' and 'Blood'. I had it coming. One version of 'I Am a Patriot' followed another and I was just as glad to be already naked for I wore my filthy survival, my dirt, like a flagrant and flowered cabana shirt.
'Present Tense' and 'Sometimes', live and sweet like black tea with edible violets, played next, chased by 'Brother' and another 'Hard to Imagine'. Not so hard to imagine though, Ani DiFranco's 'Buildings and Bridges' slipped into the party with no disguise and thus fit right in with all the men's masks. From again Pearl Jam, a fetal new song and the cutest cover I ever heard in my life, 'Throw Your Arms Around Me', as well as the blanket puke-inspiring 'Little Wing' and 'Voodoo Child' wrapped up the show, I mean tape. There was just one encore, 'The Kids Are Alright'. It mattered not that Ed screwed it all up, I ate it up.
Bud sent me several more Volumes for the collection. Unplugged Puke (Vol. 3) is a joyous tape to behold in the velvet canals, 'neath the hair, where it's dark and strange things are percepted, your ears. (You pigs, I know what you were thinking.) 'Oceans' and 'Wash', a creepy and beautiful 'Corduroy', and 'Walking the Cow' could each, any, all, set the mind spinning and the walls and floor and ceiling rushing off into the furthest distance, depositing the wavery sensation already much described. 'Footsteps' and 'Let Me Sleep', 'Nothingman' and 'Yellow Ledbetter' left me stunned and unable to work for two days. Good thing it arrived on a Friday.
So, I had enough Pearl Jam to choke an orchestra. By Volume 5, Bud was giving me anything that had even most remote puke tendencies. Instead of the "look at my bleeding cut" feeling hitting me in the face, I found myself actually searching it out, which must have some masochistic meaning, but I don't want to get into that here. Howlin' Maggie's 'Easy To Be Stupid' represented the humor as it began to make more frequent appearances in the series. The All-Day-Long-I-Can't-Speak-It's-So-Good 'November Hotel' from Mad Season, and a 20 minute 'Hard To Imagine' from a Spanish soundcheck, were the obviously disabling songs. Like I mentioned, it took some listening, some acceptance of the annoying, but eventually Three Fish's 'Zegreb', Hovercraft's 'Zero Zero Zero One,' and a really weird 'Run Through the Jungle' with Pete Droge joining Mad Season all revealed elements that bring on the queasy stupor.
If you had not been to this unsettling state before, though I suspect some of You have, you now have some knowledge of being on the receiving end of the Tremendous Nausea. There is another side though, that which has up until now been Bud's side. Making the tapes, the good ones, is a powerful act, like something a fallen god or a banished angel might still be allowed to do even after a deheaven- or dehalo-ing. Sure, life is hell and every day a new form of it, but one is able to invoke laughter and little mind movies and best of all, both naturally and preternaturally, the quaking chest and the vertigo flush.
Like any worthy act, it takes practice. I admit I stumbled and fell a few times, ruining continuity for the sake of completeness, or flat out picking dumb songs because of a strange mood. It can go either way and it does. My first effort entitled Alternately Puking and Laughing, was easy and so enjoyable I knew others would follow. I stuck to a couple of bands, ones I knew Bud had not heard much of, and a few surprises I knew he'd never see coming. The bands were great and largely Midwestern. I had now-dead Loud Lucy and under a Dr.'s care Local H. I will not list the songs, there are not that many anyway. What do they have, three releases between them? But I digress. They rock. That's all you need to know, and frankly, like most Midwestern bands who don't pretend to be the Smashing Pumpkins (including the Smashing Pumpkins), that's all there IS to know.
Following in that tradition and certainly sticking to the message of the tape, I included a few tunes by a young Illinois band Just Dinner. Always keep it fresh, baby. I don't care what anyone says, it's a good time hearing lyrics like "I'm a superman, I'm an alright guy, I do what I can to get by"...or "high," you know, sometimes they mix it up a bit. Moreover, I love how young bands thrash on guitars and drums like their mothers had misspent youths traveling with Led Zeppelin and then shout in your face, "I am the Future!"
But not too much of that corn-fed freshness, so absorb the Tom Waits, GO WITH HIM and see Frank crack into his icy cold Mickey's Big Mouth as he sets his house on fire. Hear him laugh? Bwahahaha it is beautiful. Also absorb the encore, just a little thought to go to sleep upon: the Doors, but really, it is all Jim, and he is 'The Spy'.
Beginner's luck I must have enjoyed for the next one was all wrong. I'll spare you the disdain you would feel if you had to know this tape as well as I know it. Just do this - ask yourself, of the following artists, who does not belong: my brother, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, 24-7 Spyz, James Brown and Hunter Thompson. The answer is NONE OF THEM BELONG TOGETHER. It was a terrible tape. Bud, I am still sorry.
Now it's fall again and a full year has passed since the dawn of the Resplendent Regurge recordings.
So, prepare yourself for Volume 9 of Songs That Make You Want to Puke - The Howls of Heathens and Hellfire. Pretty snappy, huh? Its alternate name was "Music That Saved My Mother From Death at My Hands While I Hitched A Ride With Her to Boston to See All the Buds and Hear Brad Play", but I thought that was a little awkward and I didn't have enough room on the edge of the tape case to write it. In honor of Halloween, I delved deep and I took it personally by including lots of local (Buffalo, NY) talent as well as songs rescued from the secretive, dark, many chambered hell that is my music collection.
An addicting guitar riff begins Television's 'Marquee Moon' which goes on for ten tripping minutes of rising and falling bridges and windy lyrics. The song almost ends four or five times, but that solo guitar, like a long finger reaching, slips through the brass ring and grabs up the song again. A scratchy First Edition Woodstock album hisses onto the selection Mountain's 'Blood of the Sun'. The punk-poet folksinger Ani DiFranco, with the aid of a nightmare-inspiring loop, tells a 'round the campfire story of the awakening ghosts that girls never escape. Canned Heat delivers their hot bluesy 'Down in the Gutter, But Free' and from The Black Rider release (with William Burroughs), Tom Waits sinisterly presents 'November'. As light as it gets, 'Something Wild' by Iggy Pop and 'Shameless' by Ms. DiFranco prepare to finish the first side, but not before the creators of Buffalo's best dark-side rock, Museum Spirit, carry you, pallbearer-style, to their realm with 'Struggles of the Insomniac'.
Side two introduces Bud et al. to another Buffalo band, Grin. Grin's songs (from their virgin release no less), 'Alone' and 'No Luck,' are laden with catchy lyrics. Blasting forth with much energy from within their tight constructions are very clear sounds of my beloved rust-belt suffering. More Ani and more Museum Spirit build up to Iggy Pop's sexy yet oddly repellant 'Gimme Danger' before Screamin' Jay Hawkins describes how to make you mine with the graphically voodoo 'Alligator Wine'.
Well Darlings, that's it. I hope this story leads to other recordings, communion with more people of sensitive tastes, and the spreading of so much delicious nausea that Sartre will spin proudly in his grave.