May Music Challenge 2020

Week 18 – Manu Chao – La Radiolina

Manu Chao is the shit. I’ve been referring to him as my generation’s Bob Marley since listening to his first album, Clandestino. That is a statement I am willing to stand behind. His music is always satisfying, catchy and cool. The fact that he pulls off an album in which he bounces around 4 or 5 different languages is fucking fantastic, and something that just fucking does it for me.

Manu Chao is just kind of my bag.

However, I am not one to let my fanboying blindside me. The fact is clear that there is a clear downward trajectory between his albums. Clandestino is fucking stellar in its fantastic-ness. Proxima Estacion: Esperanza is fucking great. I’ve not listened to his third album, so ? But La Radiolina? It has really curved that graph downward.

I shouldn’t be so mean. Its still Manu Chao, and it is still pretty fucking cool. But the magic at this point is just gone. Manu Chao frequently came back to the same music with different lyrics throughout an album to kind of bring a point. It gave his album a theme of sorts, or a feeling of such. But here it really felt like some of the songs were just repeated. They weren’t bad songs, but the trick just wasn’t working this time. Like I said, the magic was gone.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up how dated this album feels. It literally happens with one line – a reference to George W Bush. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because thirteen years have passed, we live in the times of Trump and plague, but this really gave me an eyeroll. It isn’t that I now think Bush was a good president, I still think the Bush presidency was horrific, but hearing it in this song reminds me of the less skeptical and more paranoid version of myself I was back then. I was a person who was convinced with no evidence that Bush would overshoot his term limits, while in reality he left the office quietly dodging Iraqi shoes.

I’d rather not be reminded of that. I’m good, thanks.

The song ‘Politik Kills’ also seems to have the same political sophistication of a younger and dumber version of myself. Not good vibes from this one.

And I know this is a really nit-picky note, but Manu’s Italian comes across as a person who knows Spanish and is just phoning-in the differences between the two languages. I listen to him and feel like I now owe a hand written apology to every Spanish speaker I have ever met.


Week 19 – MF Doom – Madvillain

I listened to this album once. It didn’t stick.

I listened to this album twice. It didn’t stick.

I am now listening to this album a third time…. and it still isn’t sticking.

I don’t know what to think. I really love MF Doom’s first album, Operation Doomsday. It is an album from my childhood though, and there may be some nostalgia involved. Still I googled recommendations and Madvillain is often referred to as MF Doom’s best album. So why am I just not feeling it?

Was the album bad? No, that isn’t how I would call it. It just doesn’t seem very… exceptional? I really don’t know. Maybe I am just under too much stress to enjoy music right now.


Week 20 – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – The Best of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is almost the opposite of the reason of why I do this exercise. When someone says “It was like a Prince song”, I really didn’t know what the fuck that meant, or what the fuck that would sound like. But if someone said to me “Hey I went to a concert last night. Band was cool, they had a Nick Cave thing going”, I would know exactly what they were referring to. But here is the weird thing – I had only ever listened to three Nick Cave songs in the whole of my life.

All three of those songs were on this album.

I don’t think this is bad music. That would be a bridge to far. Hell, I liked a lot of it. But after listening to it for a while I really got the impression that if you weren’t blown over by the ‘murder-ballad’ of it all, much of the shine is gone.

Oh, it is spooky music. It talks about Satan and murder and what not.

This music is nice, but it feels like a counter-culture to the 1980’s Satanic panic, and that context to me is long gone. Oh, so your duet with ol what’s-her-name ends with you singing about murdering her? Yawn. But hey, it is a catchy tune.

Meh, I don’t know. This has been a stressful month.

Just as a note, I didn’t bother to listen to the second CD of this album. I read that it was mostly live tracks, and I don’t care. That isn’t what this is about.


Week 21 – Girl Talk – Feed the Animals

While I listened to this album, my first thought was that I may be getting burned out on this whole project.

When I started this project I was doing an album a month, and I had a 45 minute bike commute to work every day.

I miss that commute, by the way.

It was not only easy to an album in that time, but it was also easy to listen to it multiple times. Currently, I am struggling to get a listen in once before trying to write about the album. The circumstances of my life have changed greatly, and right now time is at a premium.

How is this at all relevant?

I really liked Girl Talk‘s album All Day. It was a really solid album that I put on whenever I need good background music. I had high hopes for this one.

So I put it on, went about my life, and immediately thought that the album was pretty meh. I decided pretty quickly what I wanted to write here, and thought to myself that I didn’t need to think to much further, or listen to the album a second time.

And then I had more doubts.

What if I was obliged to this album for a month? What if I put it on a second time, or multiple times over the course of several weeks? Would it grow on me? Does this album feel inferior simply because I have strong emotional ties to the one I knew previously?

I did put it on a second time. I didn’t find the album to be as catchy as the previous one.

But the doubt lingers. And here is the worst part: everything I have written here could also apply to the MF Doom album.





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