Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Blue Őyster Cult Song for Every Episode of I Don't Even Own a Television, a Podcast About Bad Books

As promised, or maybe threatened, here is a comprehensive compendium collecting the collated correspondences between the I Don't Even Own a Television podcast and the works of Blue Öyster Cult. This document will be maintained, so please do check back often.

w/ Jeb Lund

Coming soon! One issue with trying to cross-reference IDEOTVPOD and BŐC is that BŐC is kind of short on songs pertaining to romance-gone-wrong topics—and romance doesn't go much more wrong than in IDEOTVPOD's kickoff episode, Pregnesia. But I'm working on it.

w/ Dave Stattler

For a book about the virtues of willing yourself to power, about selfishness raised to the level of moral imperative, no song is better than the leering, sneering ode to the 70s, This Ain't the Summer of Love.

3—The Dirt
w/ Jackson O'Brien

I mentioned earlier that BŐC's catalog doesn't give a person a lot of options when it comes to songs about love and romance. If it's time to talk about talking about being a rock star, however, nobody did it better (or funnier) than these guys. The weirdness and romantic power of people playing loud music in front of people was a fixation for this band and their songwriters, and maybe their best statement on the topic was 1977's robotic stomper, R.U. Ready to Rock.

Some of the band's best harmonies shine over a deliberately held-in-check riff and Eric Bloom gets to declaim about the stations of night, about living only to be born again, and those "countdown blues". None of it makes a whole lot of linear sense, but there's a lot of menace, making it a perfect fit for a hazy melange of overlapping, sometimes contradictory stories from some of the 80s/90s biggest, and most violent, rock stars.

4—The Rules
w/ Rachel Millman

A book by the aggressive Jersey Shore star J-Woww!? Demands nothing less than Dragon Lady:

Out of the flames of a man's desire
A hair-raising voice from an evil choir
Raining down like a freezing fire
Dragon Lady

She appears mysteriously
You don't take her seriously
Until you're under her spell

5—Princess of Mars w/ Centa Schumacher
Coming soon!

6—Michelle Remembers
w/ Poncho Martinez

For Michelle Remembers, a harrowing tale of ritual satanic abuse and repressed memory, a harrowing Richard Meltzer lyric about horror and the failures of memory, a thing called Veins:

I open my eyes
From a dreamless night
With a sense of dread
You could cut with a knife
So I'm thinking that
Maybe I killed somebody
You never know—you never know when
You might have killed somebody

7—Let Me Tell You Something
w/ Amanda Brand

For Let Me Tell You Something, a book by a Real Housewife of New Jersey, I have to confess: I don't speak Jersey. For me, this book is written in an Unknown Tongue for sure.

8—Backwards Masking Unmasked
w/ David Thorpe

A book about satanic panic? Count me in! As long as I still get to listen to this rewritten and extended jam, all piano flourishes and choruses built to intimidate. If you're going to name a song after your band, and write yourself into a conspiracy theory about history, you might as well do it this well.

9—Veeck As in Wreck
w/ Tim Harrison

Get fired up for baseball! Don't hold back! Let Go!

10—Ready Player One
w/ Mike Sacco

A book that's a pandering pastiche of popular culture has the benefit of being at least easy to sit through. No matter how bad it gets, at least you can think about things you actually used to like! So for the dumb quest story / awful artifact Ready Player One, I propose the little-known BŐC quest epic The Vigil, a multi-part ride that's every bit as enjoyable as the few good bits in RPO with the added bonus that it's definitely not trying to get an elbow into your ribs to remind you of something you used to like.

11—Left Behind
w/ Leeman Kessler

When the rapture comes and all the good people are harping it up in the infinite, I for one plan to be singing along loudly to this Patti Smith lyric about the aliens or UFOs or whoever the hell it was that "took my baby...took my baby away" Man do I like this song. Fire of Unknown Origin.

12—Dude You're Going to Be a Dad
w/ Klopfenpop

Coming soon!

13—Those Who Trespass
w/ Jeb Lund

Don't Turn Your Back is a good message for anybody dealing with revenge-taker Bill O'Reilly.

14—Chariots of the Gods
w/ Centa Schumacher

Chariots of the Gods posits that aliens did a lot for us poor humans. And noplace does BŐC handle that theme more interestingly and funly than in the concept record Imaginos and in that record's title track.

15—Stranger in a Strange Land
w/ Adam Marler

Stranger in a Strange Land is about a telepathic alien who founds a church and such, written by a pal and a confidante of L. Ron Hubbard, who founded a church based on aliens and telepathy in order to make a huge pile of money. Flaming Telepaths tells a parallel story—and tells you, again and again, that the joke's on you.

16—Covert Conception
w/ Mara Wilson

Coming soon!

17—A Spell for Chameleon
w/ Jesse Dangerously

Piers Anthony's ode to despising a woman in multiple ways deserves nothing less than this Cars parody that was never supposed to make it onto record You're Not the One (I Was Looking For). The other joke about this song is that it was legendarily directed at the man who produced it, who understood roughly nothing about what BŐC was good at/for.

18—Super Sad True Love Story
w/ Poncho Martinez

Coming soon!

19—Voodoo Child
w/ Eugene Violet

Voodoo-themed graphic novel? Song written for a segment of Heavy Metal (the movie) that, unfortunately, couldn't be used, because the song did in like 5 minutes what it took the segment like 20 to convey. Oops. Vengeance (The Pact)

w/ Chris Collision

Screams, a Doors-lite spooky number, goes well with the first episode I was ever on, the Cold War James-Bond-with-psychic-powers-against-Soviet-vampires (yes, really) horror/thriller/whatever book, Necroscope.

21—The Eye of Argon
w/ K. Thor Jensen

Not 100% sure on this, but I feel basically okay assigning a personal fave tune, with lyrics from legendary British fantasy/SF writer Michael Moorcock, to the legendarily bad self-published Eye of Argon. I guess my position is that a tribute to Conan deserves a parody of Conan, so here's the great live version of Black Blade that introduced me to Moorcock.

22—Real Men Don't Eat Quiche
w/ Centa Schumacher

In the 70s, we evidently cared a lot about what Men did and did not do. Something that goes really well with panicking about what Men can and can not eat is ratcheting up the camp levels and getting all biker-gangy, but with voices raised in song, and singing, oh, singing, of the Golden Age of Leather.

23—Scar Tissue
w/ Ben Firke

Red Hot Chili Peppers are the worst band of all time; Anthony Kiedis is the worst lyricist of all time; without reading it, I assume this book is the worst book of all time. In "honor" of this, I present BŐC's weird parody of "becoming a rock star" songs, The Marshall Plan. Weirdest/best part of the parody is that it predated Juke Box Hero, Summer of '69, etc. I guess some parodies create the conditions of existence for the thing they will eventually be parodies of. I guess some bands who could really use a hit should maybe play it straight instead of mocking the entire enterprise they're involved with.

24—The Actuator: Fractured Earth
w/ Alexander Hinman

Not gonna lie: this episode made this book sound incredibly dumb, but more than a little fun. Which is about how I'd describe this song, one of the cheesiest (and more successful) attempts at rocking this band ever put together: Siege and Investiture of Baron Von Frankenstein's Castle at Weisseria. What can I say, maybe I just like bad Dio impressions...

25—On the Brink
w/ Jeb Lund & Rocky Swift

One wildly dumb fear-mongering piece of tripe from the 70s deserves another, so...a Jimmy Carter-loathing screed by anti-abortion fanatic and former Nixon toady Ben Stein gets matched with the 'bring-it-on' message BŐC semi-explicably sent to the Ayatollah, a fairly dull number called Divine Wind.

26—Treacherous Love
w/ Mara Wilson

A high-school girl running away with her teacher? That's not just Treacherous Love, that's Sinful Love.

w/ Bill Hanstock

A workplace drama about bad people doing bad things? Sounds like a Career of Evil.

The central premise of Pines is what if a bunch of dumb shit you once liked was tossed in a blender and served up to you, panderingly what if a dipshit with no personality wanted to try to escape a place—so the amazing parody We Gotta Get Out Of This Place is perfect, as the entire band channels their inner robot and singer Eric Bloom tries out the persona "evil singer of heavy rock who cannot convincingly convey the sentiment 'little girl, you're so young and pretty'". It's basically perfect.

29—Wild Animus
w/ Tim Faust

Wild Animus is an insane / inane depiction of one man's quest to get in touch with his version of the animal we all most hope lurks within us: a mighty, majestic...sheep. Blue Őyster Cult's Born to Be Wild is a slightly sad illustration of one band's quest to throw something into their set list that's guaranteed to get a pop from the crowd.

30—Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Like most middle-aged men, BŐC and the author of Zen and blah blah blah who fucking cares have an evident fixation on motörcycles. On literally every level I prefer BŐC's Shadow of California to this "novel". Arguably a failed attempt at a multi-part epic, the song still works for me, including its weird lurches from more or less catchy rock parts to a truly disorienting time-signature lurch where the vocals are no longer tethered rhythmically to the music. Sure, everything on The Revölution by Night has some faddish and absurd-sounding drums, but the remainder of the production is appealing and the best songs, of which this is one, are all at least interesting, though not always as crafted as the band's best. Plus, the menace of the perspective, including "might makes right" and the great title, work beautifully for this particular Californian who finds no little darkness in the state.

Literally none of these things are true of the novel.

31—The Curse of Jezebel
w/ Centa Schumacher

Fallen Angel is about as close as I can come to appropriate about this Bible-based romance / fanfic that really only comes to life when it's discussing troop movements or something. I warned you earlier about this: BŐC isn't at their most robust when it comes to matters of lust. But I really like the vocal on this one, and would love to hear a version with the (admittedly delicious) keyboards and bass slightly lower and the guitars a little (a lot) louder. Similarly, I'd like to read a version of The Curse of Jezebel with about 230 pages removed.

32—Killing Floor
Goin' Through the Motions is an actually pretty funny meta-song, co-written by the greatest meta-songwriter of all time, Mott the Hoople's Ian Hunter. Killing Floor is more an example of going through the motions without commenting on it—though I do think it's entirely possible that it was a deliberate act to write it in a fully half-assed fashion, this would have represented a husbanding of resources, not a commentary on genre mediocrity. Anyway, everything Ian Hunter does is worth attending to.

33—Candy Girl
w/ Lemon

BŐC may never have been better than when they were throwing their previous lead singer under the bus with the non-sequitur She's As Beautiful As a Foot, originally written to make him look like an asshole for singing something dumb. I would like to make the writer of Candy Girl look like an asshole for writing this dumb book.

Sadly, the dull rehash of an earlier work (itself a dull rehash of other people's earlier works) Armada sparks thoughts in me mostly of one of my favorite songs by anybody, E.T.I.. Because...I dunno, both have aliens. But only one has scintillating harmonies and maybe Buck Dharma's most transcendent guitar solo and BŐC's most breakdancing-robots riff and rhythms ever. So: BŐC 1, Ernest Cline 0.

Books about rock and roll and its attendant lifestyles are always a little tricky. Readers want prurient details and salacious gossip, but the standard rules of narrative still apply, and spending novel-length periods of time with the truly debauched is a wretched experience. Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll is also a little tricky, especially in this version: one of the band's signature numbers, this performance was taped immediately after they'd booted the song's architect, singer and drummer Al Bouchard. So it's still a great song, on some level, but the details feel wrong, and it's nowhere near the experience it could have been. Or was.

Not much going on here: a book about an airport shut down in a blizzard, planes th their wings covered in ice and snow gets Wings Wetted Down, a song about...wings...wetted...down.

Actually I have no idea what this song is about. But it's got a good sound to it, you know?

37—Doom: Knee-Deep in the Dead
w/ Poncho Martinez

In Doom: Knee-Deep in the Dead, we read of a soldier shooting his way into and through hell. It's mostly ridiculous and only intermittently entertaining. In Hot Rails to Hell, we listen to a guy freak out about being on a scary New York City subway, which plausibly could have been rattletrapping its way to the netherworld, and it's thoroughly excellent. (Early BŐC was a fairly deliberate affair, and their first three albums are mainly concerned with sketching various depictions of hell. As a tactic for a band whose creative brief was explicitly "American Black Sabbath", it's pretty canny, and the results are mostly satisfying, and almost always interesting. This one is more satisfying than interesting, which is a good first approximation to a description of rock and roll itself.)

38—Flowers in the Attic
w/ Centa Schumacher & Amanda Brand

I still think Flowers in the Attic is more interesting than not, especially as a portrait of the female experience in America. Mirrors is kind of similar: an unintentionally mean picture of the same thing, from a different point of view.

A mirror is a negative space with a frame
And a place for your face it reveals
What the rest of us see
It conceals
What you'd like it to be

Pretty girls can't look away
Pretty girls can't look away
Pretty girls can't look away
Pretty girls can't look away

39—Shadow Moon
w/ Tricia Ellis

The repetitive and incomprehensible but rocking Teen Archer goes nicely with the repetitive and incomprehensible but infuriating Shadow Moon, perhaps the most ineptly crafted artifact IDEOTVPOD ever suffered through.

40—Kitchen Confidential
Not much going on here. A book about a bunch of immature id-beasts chasing booze, drugs, and women gets a song called Hungry Boys. shrug Shit, man: you try doing this fifty times.

Not sure which song I want to use here. There are two obvious possibilities, based on how cynical I'm feeling about this book at any given time. Check back soon. I'll probably make a decision someday.

42—Casino Royale
w/ Lauren Parker

Arguably a reach, but the prototype version of James Bond we find in Casino Royale reminds me a lot of the dry run of classic BŐC banger "The Red and the Black" I'm on the Lamb but I Ain't No Sheep. The initial Bond is a sniffing, amoral middle manager with impossibly specific tastes and a distinct penchant for sadism; the debut "Red and Black" is a friendly shuffle that doesn't seem to have noticed it's about whips and pursuit. Both would be refined considerably by their creators.

43—The Alchemist
Workshop of the Telescopes is one of my favorite songs that I don't understand at all. But it is definitely about alchemy, which makes it a good fit for The Alchemist. Bonus (maybe): the song is absolutely an early example of what would come to be called steampunk, and, as such, provides a nice pointer towards a version of same which doesn't aggressively blow.

44—Callahan's Crosstime Saloon
A book about boring people saying boring things and inflicting their feelings semi-consensually on any/everybody in the vicinity? Sounds "naked, exposed, like live rock and roll" to me, which means it sounds like True Confessions.

45—Snow Crash
Snow Crash? about...Baby Ice Dog?

46—The 50th Law
w/ Centa Shumacher

When it comes to this bizarre money grab by sociopathic Hollywood climber Robert "money is" Greene and New York rapper / entrepreneur Fifty Cent, there's only one song that fits, this off-kilter ode to alienation and suspicious acts. So please enjoy Cagey Cretins!

It's so lonely, baby, in the state of Maine!

An undercooked attempt at guru-ing like Illusions merits only the overblown (but, to me, delightful) Magna of Illusion, a tale of piracy and doom.

But, then, aren't they all tales of piracy and doom.

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