Let’s pay tribute to a leader of a legendary Chicago band. David Yow first came to prominence with the noise rock band Scratch Acid. Scratch Acid quickly built a reputation for its visceral music (one journalist compared them to The Birthday Party) and Yow established himself as one of the most unhinged frontmen anywhere. After Scratch Acid dissolved, Yow and guitarist David Wm. Sims hooked up with Duane Denison to from The Jesus Lizard who came from a similar place, but developed a more sophisticated musical approach, with Yow’s antics contrasting increasing intricate (and somewhat arty) noise. I’ve seen Yow stage dive off the Metro stage with no one to catch him. A July 3 Didjits show at the old Exit found members of the audience wielding protest signs that said F— The Pigs, while Yow came out to introduce the band wearing a Nazi uniform and then gave a speech in convincing German (or something that sounded like German). This same wild man is an accomplished cook, who has worked at restaurants here and in Austin, Texas. Earlier this year, he released a limited edition solo LP of experimental music that was packaged in a concrete monolith. Yow is a true original. Let’s wish him a happy birthday by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
Death Grips – Lost Boys (The Money Store): If you’ve heard the new Kanye West album and dug it, you might want to take a flyer on this modern hip-hop/rock band that includes Zach Hill of Hella. The band relies on harsh beats, harsh keyboards, lots of percussion embellishments and in your face rapping. This song has an industrial meets hip hop vibe that is fascinating.
Sparks – Hospitality On Parade (Indiscreet): A wonderful opener to Sparks’ most varied album, as Ron Mael tries to comment on the evolution of the United States in his typically skewed fashion. Russell Mael is in fine form as the song builds to a rocking marching band-ish climax.
Little Richard – Good Golly Miss Molly (The Georgia Peach): One of the foundational songs of rock ‘n’ roll. The band is swinging and Little Richard is the first rock ‘n’ roll screamer, influencing so many after him.
Sam Cooke – Please Don’t Drive Me Away (Night Beat): A slinky R & B track, with the bass and piano both strolling along while Cooke pleads to his woman. A great track from an essential soul album.
The Wombles – Remember You’re a Womble (Bubblegum Classics Volume 3): The Wombles were British story characters who, in the ‘70s, were the subject of a hit live action kids show. They had a band (such a ‘60s/’70s kid show thing) and some real talent behind the scenes, especially songwriter Mike Batt, who conjured up this catchy UK hit which mixes Beach Boys cheer with really cool violin part.
Hawksley Workman – (The Happiest Day I Know Is A) Tokyo Bicycle (Meat): The lyrics of this song are surreal, but the song is certainly happy. With an awesome bass line and an undulating melody, this is an odd pop gem.
The Shangri-Las – Never Again (The Best of the Shangri-Las): Of course this a slice of teen drama from the Queens of Girl Group Drama. Beyond Mary Weiss’s fantastic vocals, I am always amazed at how concise the songs are and how they immediately establish the mood and negotiate their way to the choruses and middle eights, seeming epic in just over two minutes.
Steve Dawson – Preaching To The Choir (I Will Miss The Trumpets and the Drums): While on both of his terrific solo albums, Dolly Varden frontman Dawson takes some detours from the band’s approach, many of the songs could have made Dolly Varden albums. This sounds like one of those, but working on his own, Dawson takes a bit different instrumental approach, and his mid-fi production gives this wonderful song a cool texture.
De La Soul – Eye Know (3 Feet High And Rising): One of the signature tracks from my favorite hip hop album ever, it is pure pop magic (and went to number 14 on the UK singles chart). The De Las and Prince Paul meld samples from Steely Dan’s “Peg”, Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On the) Dock Of The Bay”, Sly and the Family Stone’s “Sing A Simple Song” and The Mad Lads’ “Make This Young Lady Mine” to create one of the happiest love songs ever.
The Futureheads – A to B (The Futureheads): A bracing shock of poppy post-post-punk from this Sunderland band. Right away they had the herky jerky sense of rhythm that typified mid-period XTC mixed with great guitar power and a little Gang Of Four. Add their outstanding harmony vocals and you have a great track.