The Smashing Pumpkins: Drown

singles smashing pumpkins drown (full version)
From the soundtrack Singles (1992)

This song is among the earliest in The Smashing Pumpkins catalog, recorded in 1992 for the motion picture soundtrack Singles. The film takes place in Seattle and heralds the coming of that city’s grunge music, using the local scene as a persistent backdrop the personal and professional turmoil of a bunch of twenty-somethings. Allusions and references to the burgeoning scene abound within the movie. Soundgarden makes an on-stage appearance and members of Pearl Jam have a cameo as members of Matt Dillion’s fictional grunge band, Citizen Dick.

It been more than ten years since I saw Singles and I don’t really remember if it was good or not. I was a teenager enthralled by the music; the rest of the story mattered little to me. Once thing I do know for sure though is that the soundtrack is phenomenal. Not only is it a definitive statement about what the “grunge sound” was (and thus make it marketable to the mainstream), it features some of the best songs in the respective catalogues of the artists that appear on it.

Pearl Jam’s State of Love and Trust is easily one of the group’s finest compositions. Seasons is surely Chris Cornell’s greatest non-Soundgarden work. Screaming Trees’ Nearly Lost You, well, it just rocks. The real gem on the soundtrack though, is its closer: The Smashing Pumpkins’ Drown. It’s ironic that the album’s superlative song would be from a band that lives 1800 miles away from Seattle.

I’ve loved Drown since the first time I heard it. The song is so dreamy and peaceful, evoking a wistfulness which is surprising, considering the massive amounts of layered distortion that is piled on top of itself. It’s classic Billy Corgan, intimate when it needs to be, crashing to life at just the right moments. At more than 8 minutes long, it is an epic mind-bending journey.

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What I Love: Billy’s soft but confident vocals. The distortion-steeped solo/outro.

drown short at itunes short version

drown full at amazon full version

Best of tunequest: Top 10 discoveries of 2006

When I began the original tunequest in February of last year, I had ~6000 songs in my iTunes library that had a play count of zero. Part of that list consisted of old CDs that just hadn’t been played since they were digitized. A good number of them were the result of over-zealous music collection and exploration. That was one of the reasons I decided to undertake the endeavor in the first place.

By the end of the journey, every one of those songs had been played and a good number of them had been rated as well. Of those, 122 songs received a five-star rating after only a single play. About half of those were well-known songs from yesteryear. From those remaining, I whittled down the ten newly discovered or unearthed tracks over the course of the tunequest that had the highest impact on me.

Here they are in no particular order.

Ratatat – Noose – Live at Lee’s Palace Toronto 2004

I first heard this song on a CBC Radio 3 Internet stream, which is the version presented here. It’s the b-side to the Germany to Germany single and I liked it so much, I, a) captured the entire show and, b) instantly bought it from iTunes. Along with Ratatat’s Wildcat, the single from their 2006 album Classics, this is probably my favorite track of the year.

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Ratatat - Germany to Germany - Single - Noose

Sonic Youth – Incinerate – from Rather Ripped

Rather Ripped is Sonic Youth’s latest new release, having come out last summer. This song is the perfect example of the ” radical adults’ ” effortless melodies and

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Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped - Incinerate

Pearl Jam – World Wide Suicide – from Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam came back into my life last year, after having been relegated to background noise for many many years. It comes in the form of renewed appreciation for the group’s back catalogue as well as the latest album, the self-titled Pearl Jam, and this, it’s lead single.

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Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam - World Wide Suicide

Les Baxter – Oasis of Dahkla – from Tamboo!

A song I’ve had digitized for a while, but somehow never listened to. Les Baxter’s smooth and exotic compositions and arrangements have been perennial favorites around here. Oasis of Dahkla is lush and melodious, just like I like it.

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Titel – Klaus Doldinger – From Das Boot

A soundtrack that I acquired several years ago, but resisted listening to it for fear that I couldn’t relate to it. What a mistake! Methodic, pulsing and indelibly thematic, Klaus Doldinger’s main title score to this 1981 film is captivating.

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Klaus Doldringer - The Longest Day - Music from the Classic War Films - Das Boot (The Boat)

Stereolab – Pack Yr Romantic Mind – from Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements

I’m a big fan of Stereolab’s later releases with their heightened pop sensibilities and have traditionally shied away from the groop’s more expressly noise-influenced early records. Though the production value isn’t quite what I expect from the band, the somber beauty of this song, from their first proper album, quite surprised me.

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Stereolab - Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements - Pack Yr Romantic Mind

Joe Hisaishi – Sootballs – From Spirited Away

Hisaishi’s score are as breathtaking as Miyazaki’s animations. This song from 2001’s Spirited Away is full of playful mischief.

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Blondie – Sunday Girl – from Parallel Lines

For whatever reason, I had never listened to the second half of Parallel Lines, other than Heart of Glass of course. This song is pure pop bliss and I’m bummed I missed out on it for years.

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Blondie - Parallel Lines - Sunday Girl

Stravinsky – Scene 1 from Petrushka – performed by the London Symphony Orchestra under Abbado

This ballet by Stravinsky, composed in 1911, is simply marvelous and the opening legerdemain scene at the Shrovetide Fair is quite engaging.

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John Barry – James Bond with Bongos – from From Russia with Love

If you thought James Bond was cool before, wait until you hear that famous theme slowly dissolve into some uber-smooth slacker jazz before 007 is put in danger once again. From THE master, John Barry, doing what he does best.

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Pearl Jam – Faithful: We all believe, we all believe

Over the years, I’ve come to understand Pearl Jam’s 1998 album Yield as perhaps the group’s finest recording. There’s not a single bad note on its entire length and it is one of but a handful of records in my library with nothing but 4- or 5-star ratings.

At the time of its release, rock music was steadily being displaced in my mind with college-era explorations of the electronic and the experimental. But Yield hung around, receiving occasional plays here and there, slowly but steadily drilling deep into my subconscious, earning its street cred in a way that no other Pearl Jam record has done, until one day I suddenly appreciated its brilliance.

To this day, I have to credit one song, Faithfull for triggering that appreciation. It’s not the group’s catchiest, or its most rocking or even especially popular, but it does have a certain spark of soul and genius that makes it one of my personal favorites from their entire catalog.

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Pearl Jam: I Got a Feeling [Beatles cover]

Back before all this digital music and internet mumbo jumbo, finding a live recording of a band’s performance was a tricky proposition. There were basically two ways to go about it. One, if you someone who was in a bootlegging circle, you could ask to trade a copy of their recording for a copy of one you had. These were the days before CD burners, so any copy you received was on lesser-quality cassette tape. Or two, you could stumble upon one in the racks at used music stores, finding a quasi-legal, imported recording.

Sometime in 1993, I happened upon a CD, imported from Italy, called I Got a Feeling, via that second method. It’s a high-quality recording of Pearl Jam, live at the legendary (and recently closed) CBGBs in New York City, November 8, 1991 (about 2 months after the release of Ten).

It was a surprise gig that ran about 40 minutes and was attended mostly by fan club members. That explains why the audience on the recording seems to know all the words, despite the fact that Ten wouldn’t enter the Billboard 200 (at #155) for another 2 months.

For comparisons sake, Nirvana’s Nevermind was already at #17 on the chart the week this was recorded.

Still, the show itself is an illustrative overview of that early period of the band’s history. The best part however is the final song of the set: a fantastic cover of The Beatles’ I’ve Got A Feeling with some nice ad-libbing from Eddie.

Download: I Got A Feeling (iTunes m4a file)


Rock for Choice: Pearl Jam in Pensacola

Rock for choice poster

On the evening of March 9, 1994 I attended my first and only Pearl Jam concert at the Pensacola Civic Center in, you guessed it, Pensacola Florida (where PJ guitarist Mike McCready happens to have been born). I was a freshman in high school at the scampy young age of 15 and, having just discovered the full breadth of grunge six months before, I reveled in the notion that one the top bands in the scene would be swinging through my podunk.

(so as not to forget my roots and to illustrate how far I had come, I’ll mention that the civic center is the same venue where I saw new kids on the block just a couple years before. Funny story there. I received tickets to the show as birthday present at the height of the group’s popularity. For some reason though, the show was postponed and by the time the rescheduled date rolled around, the group’s "Cool" Factor had dropped considerably. Still, it was fun; They had lasers. Freakin’ lasers!)

Anyway, the Pearl Jam show rocked. However, the occasion that brought them did not. This show was held as a benefit in response to the murder of Dr. Gunn by an anti-abortion nutjob in pensacola the previous year and is an early example of pearl jam’s nascent politicism. Dr. Gunn’s death was also one in a series of news stories that garnered national attention for pensacola, but always in a negative spotlight, including a second doctor killing, hurricane ivan and the pensacola: Wings of gold tv show.

I remember in the weeks before the show, there were rumors about L7, who were opening for Pearl Jam and there was a constant buzz about more religious nutjobs issuing death threats and staging a massive protest of the concert. Despite that, or maybe because of it, the show was a huge community event. I stood in line for hours on a cold february morning with my dad at a ticketing booth on pensacola nas hoping that the show wouldn’t sell out before our chance to buy tickets. We did, thankfully, manage to get a couple, even though the show was the fastest selling concert in the history of the city at the time.

By the day the show arrived, the excitement was palpable. There were additional rumors that the band had been spotted at a local guitar shop. This was never confirmed though. That afternoon brought one of Pensacola’s notorious thunderstorms, which continued until almost show time. This had the effect of dampening the enthusiasm of any would-be protesters. However, security at the Civic Center was still heightened; Everyone going in had to show their ticket and empty their pockets to prove that they were not carrying any weapons.

I had arrived late, taking my seat at the rear of the venue as the first opening band, Follow for Now, concluded its set. My seat may have been in the back of the venue, but I had a direct view of the center of the stage and a wide vantage point from which to observe the entire experience. I swear I’ve never seen as many people inside the Civic Center as I did that night at the largest Rock for Choice concert ever held.

Most of my memories of the show are a blur, these 12 years later, but I still sharply recall the iconic image of Eddie Vedder, lit by a single spotlight, gently singing Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down. Fortunately for my memory, I found a bootleg recording of the show a number of years ago (the date on the files say september of 2000. It’s a little disconcerting to think that it took me six years after the show to find the recording, and it’s been another six years since I found it). It happens to be the only recording that I own of a concert that I’ve attended. The sound quality on the recording is quite good, the only unfortunate part being it cuts off 54 seconds into Porch. Still, whenever I want to travel back in time, all I have to do is press “Play.”


Download pearl jam live in pensacola.

second coming of pearl jam

pearl jam 2006

pearl jam on itunes

so all the pearl jam i’ve been listening to lately is leading to a kind of renaissance for the group as far as i’m concerned.

my fandom was huge in high school, basically through the release of no code. i was involved with some tape trading over the internet and regularly participated on an early mailing list dedicated to the band (which i had to telnet to tallahassee freenet in order to receive). i was a member of the ten club for a couple years and soaked up as much information about the band as i could get my hands on, keeping track of such minutia as who the current drummer was. i even managed to go to a concert once.

but as time went on, life found ways of distracting me. i kept up with the band less and less. no code didn’t capture my attention for very long and didn’t get much play. and while i’ve come to consider yield to be their best album (well-written, expertly executed and compellingly packaged), at the time of its release, i was well into diversifying my musical interests and there was much competition for my considerations.

after that, it was sheer momentum. i picked up a couple of the official bootlegs but barely listened to them. binaural and riot act barely made a blip on my radar, each receiving only cursory listens.

in retrospect, that’s most unfortunate. how i could have gone all these years without fully appreciating ‘god’s dice,’ i’m sure is a musical tragedy on my part. but if there’s one thing the tunequest is teaching me, it’s that this personal "second age of pearl jam" (defined as everything since 2000) is awesome.

my renewed interest inspired me to pick up the band’s latest, their eponymous albumpearl jam. i added it to my iTunes library last night, and "surprisingly," my ipod *randomly* chose to play it this afternoon, which i think settles the notion that it has its own favorites. (quick aside: my previous ipod committed suicide rather than play one more song by jet and all these years later, i don’t begrudge it one bit.)

anyway, this thing rocks! no gimmicks. no fluff. just straight-ahead sound. ‘world wide suicide’ earned a 5-star rating by the end of the first minute. and once more, here’s yet another record that i can’t wait to hear again. after the tunequest has finished.

Another day of seemingly non-random iPod

As if to prove my previous post for me, the tunequest-pod offered me these selections today (in order):

  1. pearl jam-live at the fox theatre in atlanta (which i skipped because i had just heard a live show yesterday)
  2. vince guaraldi’s oh good grief (a decent jazz album)
  3. sonic youth experimental jet set trash and no star (my first sonic youth record and, for lack of a better word the group’s most "quirky." to this day, ‘self-obsessed and sexxee’ remains one of my favorite songs.)
  4. tchaikovsky’s symphony 4 (ooo, the lush strings of its marvelous second movement)
  5. spiritual vibes’ newly (more work from the ever-fascinating nobukazu takemura. before tunequest began, i would have named his songs as top candidates for removal from the library, but now i’ve a much renewed and invigorated appreciation for his musical talents.)
  6. john williams’ score for the 70s disaster film earthquake (skipped because i wanted to pay extra attention to it and couldn’t at the time)
  7. a pearl jam single (hail hail, b/w black red and yellow. that one’s a good b-side)
  8. two beck singles, then a beck album (mutations. all of which were skipped because i wasn’t in a beck mood)
  9. two more symphonies i didn’t feeling hearing at the time
  10. finally, the 1992 re-recording of maurice jarre’s lawrence of arabia. (fine stuff there)

So despite the fact that albums by Beck, Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth have only a roughly 10% chance, combined, of being the next one played, we see here that, in fact, said artists account for 6 of 11 “randomly selected” albums for the day, or 55%. My iPod choose them at 5 times the rate I would have expected.

I’m not railing against it, since it doesn’t really bother mean though; just pointing it out.

putting mothballs in the beef stew

my ipod loves it some sonic youth. and beck. and pearl jam.

one of the recurring subplots here at tunequest has been the tracking the seemingly non-randomness of the selections my ipod chooses to play and lately it’s starting to draw my aggravation. you see, part of my goals for  tunequest is to get to know some of the vast swaths of under-appreciated tunes resting in my library. so i made it a policy that my most listened to artists wouldn’t be eligible for play.

it’s july; there are six months left in the year. filtering my top five artists, in terms of total playcount, should help ensure that those lonely souls get the attention they deserve. this is a recent change however. for a while, i just excluding the blanket top 10 from my profile at

But I eventually realized that i’d eventually get to the point where i’d have left nothing but those top artists and i’m pretty sure that i’d get sick of listening to the same things for a couple weeks toward the end of the year. so i adopted a new method. using both and super analyzer (at least until the iTunesregistry is functional once again), i’ve put stitched together a new list of exclusions. the result being that a lot of formerly mothballed titles were now available for play, including a bunch from sonic youth, beck and pearl jam. (radiohead was available, but quickly earned its way back into the exclusion list).

and this turn of events apparently pleased my ipod to no end, because all of the sudden, it’s been one those three bands played every other album, usually as the first or second random selection. i’m not really complaining about it. i do, of course, enjoy the music. it’s just that i’d rather not have it all crammed together.

at any time, the tunequest pod holds about 300 separately tagged albums. in aggregate, including singles,
live shows, albums proper, etc, those 3 have had about a 10% chance of being randomly selected as the next album played and i’m telling you it certainly feels like they’ve been getting more they’re 10% lately.

of course, each time one of those heavy-hitter does get played, their chances for future play drops.

here’s to a more diverse listening experience.

Mudhoney – My Brother the Cow: mmm mmmm angst

my brother the cow

Mudhoney’s My Brother the Cow, I think, is a fitting bookend to the “grunge” era. And though I didn’t get into Mudhoney until the waning days of the movement, in retrospect it seems as though it was the most quintessentially grunge of all the big bands to come out of Seattle during that time. Nirvana was more pop friendly; Pearl Jam leaned toward hard rock; Alice in Chains and Soundgarden were imbued with a metal sensibility; but Mudhoney was the band the best encapsilated the grunge ethos.

My Brother the Cow was released at a time when the music world was leaving grunge behind. It was spring of 1995 and Cobain had been dead for a year. Post-grunge acts such as Better Than Ezra and Live were bringing a kinder, gentle form of rock to the masses.

But Mudhoney continued doing its own thing and produced this great album. I remember waiting especially eagerly for this record to come out.

In January of that year, I obtained a recording of "self pollution radio," a sprawling 4 hour radio show hosted by Eddie Vedder and friends. They had gotten together to spin some records and engage in intelligent conversation.

Those tapes three ninety minute maxells became my musical divining rod for nearly 2 years. The first song played was Sonic Youth’s Teenage Riot and I was instantly transformed from casually interested in the band to hardcore fan. As the set progressed, I was introduced to forms of music both new and strange.

I heard songs months, and in some cases, years before they were officially released, including some Dave Grohl demo songs that would eventually be released as Foo Fighters.

The best part of the tapes, however, were the live sessions. Besides all the vinyl spinning, Eddie and company had arranged for a bunch of their friends to play a handful of songs in a make-shift studio.

  • Pearl Jam itself put in 2 sets with mostly material from Vitalogy.
  • Soundgarden put in a set, delivering Kyle Petty, Son of Richard and No Attention, both of which sound better on this performance than the studio versions released 2 years later.
  • Mad Season was there too and their performance inspired me buy their album when it was released a couple months later.

Which brings me back to Mudhoney, whose performance really kinda blew me away. I hadn’t given the band much attention beyond their song on the seminal Singles soundtrack. but by the time the strutting bass line of What Moves the Heart had finished, I knew that I had to add this band to my collection.

I picked up Piece of Cake shortly thereafter and waited a couple months for My Brother the Cow. When I finally received it, I deemed it awesome and it quickly made its way into my frequent rotation. The music was great, but the thing that made it characteristically Mudhoney was the prankish sense of humor. My favorite part of the record was waiting for the last song to drain away to nothing, then come roaring back as the album started to play itself backward.

But just as this record seems to be the last defiant gasp of grunge, it was also Mudhoney’s last hurrah for me. I listened to them vigorously for a couple years, but by the time the group’s next album, Tomorrow Hit Today, was released in 1998 I had largely forgotten about them. But listening to My Brother the Cow again reminds me why I liked them so much in the first place.