Toilet Guppies Tries to Connect with People via Mixtapes, No. 5: «Elitist» Just Another Word for «Better»

A few weeks ago, a wine importer/amateur chef served yours truly a
luncheon of exquisite Spanish sausages and rather civilised French cheeses, followed later in the day by a two-course dinner with his own metaphor-laden composition for starters: sliver of whale served on a purée of green peas. All the while, we were sipping the finest wines I've ever sipped. (Including one from 1930, the name of which I've forgotten. But who cares, it was 81 years old.) Let me tell you, snobbery doesn't get much better, people.

Of course, my palate is that of a senseless zombie brute who smokes, to boot, and I have no head for wine, but Toilet Guppies does consider it-
self something of a connoisseur when it comes to music. And so, as a token of gratitude to the distinguished gentleman who took me on a trip through my own taste buds, I've compiled a collection of music snobbery. Listening to my acquaintance rail and rant quite unreasonably against culinary mediocrity and the common man's ignorance of œnology almost brought a tear to my eye, as I could hear in them my very own words—only his were about French wine rather than music. How sweet is arrogant rage! With the spittle of misguided ire dribbling down his chin, he was like my brother from another mother.

I also want to save him—as he saved me (from inferior ingredients, cheap wine and an unawareness of the pleasures contained within my very own tongue). He mentioned plans to attend a Foo Fighters gig. Which, as we all know, is the musical equivalent to a bottle of 2007 Berberana Evergreen Dragon Tempranillo Shiraz. It simply won't do. Foo Fighters is frozen pizza, sprinkled with E. coli. They're not even worth mentioning, so let this be the first and last time their moniker appears on this blog. (Toilet Guppies hereby refuses to participate in any activity that might lead to their being remembered in any way by future generations, should future generations survive in the kind of culturally vacuous environment that would permit such a group to be curated once they're too old or dead to personally push their insipid stadium plop on us.)

Also, the wine importer my acquaintance works for had installed a CD player that automatically started up every time someone entered the toilet. Its CD was a compilation of the most predictable common denominator hits of the '70s and '80s you could think of, if you weren't already trying so hard to forget them. It made the whole toilet experience even more objectionable than it already has to be. (More crap, as it were.) Imagine the jukebox in a small town gay bar run by a portly, old queen with no head for music, but a nose for youngsters passing through, playing them the hits of his own youth simply because he hasn't really heard anything else. I could scarcely believe that æsthetes with such impeccable taste could sabotage their own ambitions of sensual refinement with this merde! 'Twas a disgrace. You can't listen to ABBA whilst drinking superior wine. Nor Foo Fighters, for that matter.

So I've mobilised my already considerable elitism towards compiling the most snobbish collection of rock the genre will allow and still shimmer with excellence: Refined lyrics replete with astute observations and complex emotions set to subtle musical accompaniment, mixed to reveal delicate aural textures, with both style and substance rich in detail! These are intelligent and sensitive words brought to life by stately arrangements (preferably with strings, or at the very least a piano).

Prepare yourselves for pompous music that manages to avoid being pretentious, simply because the artists are able to pull it off. This is high class, people, from the few singer-songwriters who actually drop in to see what condition the human condition is in without utterly embarrassing themselves. Best enjoyed with a tongueful of decent wine or whiskey.

Speaking of elitism, Toilet Guppies' favourite, most liberatingly snobbish quote of late is DFA/LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy pointing out, quite rightly, that «That black eyed peas [sic] dirty dancing thing is worse than raping a cat. What is wrong with people? Do they hate ears?»


Toilet Guppies Tries to Connect with People via Mixtapes, No. 4: Blues for the Legless

A friend of mine back home was a a klutz the other week and slipped and broke his leg. Now he's probably laying about doing nuffink, bored out of his wits. So I made this compilation for him, to distract him from the stasis.

Besides being a fan of hip-hop, dub/reggae and afrobeat, our friend is a bit of a pervert (with a cheeky chauvinist twist, natch). It's not your typical Toilet Guppies fare, but should you like syncopated grooves with a frisky (at times wrong) edge, this collection could be for you, too.


Singing through the Dark—Blind Blues & Gospel

You can't trust anyone in the music business. And by that I don't mean the record companies. As a music lover who turns to words and sound with which to harmonise your feelings, you can't trust the impulse of artists who may, for all you know, only be in it for their name in print, face on TV, free drugs, easy sex, the roar of the crowd, assistance with their hair and money. Perhaps they just want to be better than people like you (nevertheless having the nerve to ask you to worship them). You can turn to the underground, but there's absolutely nothing to support the prejudice that the indies are any more sincere than the hit list whores.

And, you may ask, where is the music in all this? Remember music? That primal energy conjured to comfort you, cheer you up, transport your mind and bring you closer or even at one with eternity? Yeah, I'd forgotten it, too…

So no trendy, possibly phony recordings for this post. The artists on this comp recorded music in a time (1927-1957) before such massive attention and cash was lavished on song and dance men and women as it is today. In fact, they made music because they had to: being blind, they had to work for their food somehow. And so the history of country blues and gospel is littered with blind singers and players. They'd busk from town to town, playing sinful blues for the adults and switching to gospel whenever the constable was near. (Doesn't look good to arrest a man or woman of God.) Many recorded songs and even had modest hits that since have become legendary among academic blues listeners. And though they might not have been nearly as pious as they often pretended to be, this music has soul.

There's barrelhouse song and piano pioneer Arizona Drane, husband-and-wife teams AC & Blind Mamie Forehand and Blind Benny & Pauline Parrish. There's Blind Willies Johnson and McTell, Blind Joes Taggart and Reynolds, and Blind Boys of both Alabama and Mississippi. Blind Gary Davis was a reverend and street corner preacher. Harmonica whooper Sonny Terry was blind, as was white fiddler Alfred Reed. Of course, legends Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Boy Fuller are on here, as is the obscure Blind Teddy Darby, for good measure.

This is not charity music for your sympathy vote. This is deeply heartfelt singing through the dark. Music you can trust… in chronological order.

Shut yer eyes and listen.


While We're Waiting for the War On Drugs

… to release their new album next month, here are some old & new, free & legal mp3s for the uninitiated:

There are the four mp3s courtesy of label Secretly Canadian:
1. «Taking the Farm»
(from Wagonwheel Blues)
2. «Comin' Through»
3. «The History of Plastic»
(from the «Future Weather» EP)
4. «Baby Missiles»
(from «Future Weather» and Slave Ambient, out 16 August)
Also, Pitchfork is currently offering a free download off Slave Ambient, «Come to the City»

Then there's Rcrd Lbl's free mp3 of Wagonwheel Blues highlight «A Needle in Your Eye #16»:

Taken together, that's one hell of an EP, all for free.

You know that insanity you slip into when you fall in love that feels so great you don't care it's stupidly delusional? Perhaps it's even in summer, when the climate is carefree and everything is bright and buoyant. MDMA can't recreate this ecstasy, nor can the War On Drugsquite. But they're as close as sound can come. These songs will lift you up when you're down, convince you you've nothing to lose when you're worried about gain. Make you feel like you're free. They're the wind beneath Icarus' wings. Which is only a temporary escape, of course. But what do you expect? Songs don't last forever… What are they, three to four minutes?

Slave Ambient is out 16 August. Should be good.