Wednesday, May 21, 2008

EAIO #1 One Foot in the Grave

The following is part of an ongoing series chronicling, in no particular order, every album I own. To learn more visit my "about" link to the right.

Artist
Beck

Album
One Foot in the Grave

Track Listing
He's A Mighty Good Leader
Sleeping Bag
I Get Lonesome
Burnt Orange Peels
Cyanide Breath Mint
See Water
Ziplock Bag
Hollow Log
Forcefield
Fourteen Rivers Fourteen Floods
Asshole
I've Seen The Land Beyond
Outcome
Girl Dreams
Painted Eyelids
Atmospheric Conditions

Format
Compact Disc

Date Purchased
Fall of 1995

Last Played
Selected tracks were played within the last two months.

Stored In
It's original CD case. In good condition.

Reason Purchased
For a time I was only familiar with, Loser off the album, Mellow Gold— Beck's first big hit single and I wasn't impressed. Like everyone else, I thought he was a stoned-out one hit wonder and I'd be rid of him soon enough. About six month's after it's release I heard the rest of Mellow Gold while driving around aimlessly in my friend Brian's Oldsmobile, and was intrigued. I went to Best Buy (what I considered my local record store at the time) but they were sold out. I did discover another Beck album, One Foot in the Grave. It featured a black and white photo of Beck standing next to a blonde haired fellow who was either: 1) embarrassed to be seen with Beck 2) in the midst of liver pains or 3) James Bertram. It turned out to be all three. I purchased it because I thought it was Beck's first album. Being the contrary sort, I had a hunch that the album no one had ever heard of was probably better than the one everyone was listening to. I think I was sort of right.

The Story
When I concocted the idea for writing these little blurbs I had a hard time deciding where to start. I could have started with the first album I ever bought, Hysteria by Def Leppard, which I still have on the original cassette. I chose One Foot in the Grave because it was, what I consider to be, a turning point for me musically. By the time I was fourteen I had decided that commercial radio was awful and anything on it was awful; this included not just contemporary rock but classic rock, country, hip hop and so on. Unaware of the booming music scene a few miles away in D.C. my tastes were greatly influenced by an older cousin who introduced me to bands like Blues Traveler and Phish. This is the style of music I listened to and enjoyed up until my senior year in high school— an overweight dude playing every note on the harmonica. The Spin Doctors, Dave Matthews Band and other various groups tied to the Horde Tour were on heavy rotation up until my senior year of high school. Then I bought One Foot in the Grave. Granted, One Foot in the Grave is not making many lists as a landmark album, but for a kid like myself who had overlooked Sonic Youth, didn't have any idea who Calvin Johnson was, and hadn't even heard of indy rock, it was pretty explosive.

First of all, it sounded like they recorded through the built in mic input on my boom box. The instruments weren't quite in tune. The musicians didn't seem particularly concerned with playing the songs correctly. The singer/songwriter was coughing right in the middle of the song. As a collection of songs it was unwieldy— jumping from slow folksy dirges into sloppy raucous punk rock and austere blues.

But it was catchy. It had an immediacy to it, as if a group of guys got drunk in a hotel one night and made an album. There was underlying loneliness to the lyrics that was very appealing to me at the time. How can any sober girlfriendless high school nerd listen to Asshole once and not play it on repeat for hours on lonely Saturday nights?

Most importantly everyone else hated it, so I knew I was on to something.

With a few missteps here and there, this record would quickly lead me to the groups that form the foundation of what I like today.

Random Associations

More than any other Beck track, I've come across more unwelcome covers of Asshole than I care to remember. It's slightly obscure, easy to play and totally catchy which apparently makes it a first choice for middling pretty boy bands who want to toughen up their otherwise banal rock sets.

It's worth noting that during live shows, Beck changed the second chorus to "He'll do aynthing to make you feel like an asshole."

Standout Lyrics
From Cyanide Breath Mint:
Definitely this is the wrong place to be
There's blood on the futon
There's a kid drinking fire

Going down to the sea
They got people to meet
Shaking hands with themselves
Looking out for themselves


From Outcome:
Riot Cops, Cheerleaders— eyebrows painted on their heads
A mouth full of rotting cavities
Drinking Coca-Cola in the Streets


Season I most associate with this album
Fall

Track I most wanted to skip
Ziplock Bag

Impressions/Notes/Etc.

• If Woody Guthrie made an album about the end of world where only a few LA strip malls survived, I think it would sound something like this. There is a definite world conjured up by this album of broken down people, city sprawl ruins and overflowing dumpsters. For me the core of the album comes from tracks like Cyanide Breath Mint, Outcome and Painted Eyelids. The album holds up pretty well. I'm not as crazy about tracks like Fourteen Rivers Fourteen Floods as I once was. It seems more like a novelty track now.

• The nonchalant rocker Burnt Orange Peels is featured on the soundtrack for a movie I have yet to write.

• Cyanide Breath Mint is a personal classic. It might be my favorite example of Beck's impressionist lyrics allowing the listener to inject their own meaning into the music. Though there's nothing concrete about the imagery, every little piece paints a picture of disappointment. It's like someone asking helplessly, "How did I wind up here?"

• That last bulleted note was super pretentious.

• I looked up plodding in the dictionary and it said: See Water. Ah dictionary jokes.

Conclusion
It's a keeper.

5 comments:

Adam Sacks said...

If you write this much about every album you own, your hands will fall off. I say go for it.

Amanda said...

I say do the Coneheads soundtrack next, then the Ted Knight comedy album, and then quit. This way we can believe those and One Foot In The Grave are the only albums you own.

Dyana said...

I <3 Beck.

Hollow Log is still one of my favorites.

I also feel compelled to note that the word verification I got this time is "gofudz."

Alex said...

I understand that Dyana is less than 3, but I don't see why she's telling Beck about it...

Mr. Larson's goal of writing about every album he owns had better include and illustration for each story! :D

Dyana said...

Let me clarify. I am less than 3 Becks.

I <3 x Beck

He is a very tiny man.