Mating Season (the mix)

As the weather is getting warmer, we see the flowers opening up for pollination. We see the animals preening themselves so as to be most attractive to a desired mate. And we hear those animals making the noises they think will draw the right attention. Unfortunately, in the area where I reside, those sounds are largely the revving of car engines and the screech of tires as hormonal males burn rubber.

I’m amazed by how quickly some people become deeply stupid as we transition into spring. Really, the hormonal imperative doesn’t just short-circuit human brains, as evidenced by the increased animal corpses littering the roadways.

So, I now present the opposite of my Valentine’s Day mix, where I had presented some songs for those who weren’t feeling the spirit of that corporate-designed holiday. Some tracks make me think more so of spring as a season, while others feel more like a call to get it on. As one of the tracks here puts it, “The time of the love is now…”

“I’m in Love” by Teenage Fanclub

I now find it hard to believe I used to hate this Scottish band, as I am now a huge fan of theirs. While they wouldn’t be the last 90’s alternative band I expected to last this long, their longevity is startling. Even better is their graceful transition into middle age, where their lyrics have matured without becoming entirely maudlin. This paean to love scans as believable for a song from a man of the author’s age, while still being incredibly uplifting. It is joyous enough to feel like the listener is actually being carried away on a strong spring breeze.

“Playground Love” by Air

Quite simply, the best song from one of the greatest soundtrack albums ever made, which accompanied one of the very best films of the 90’s.

“The Time Of Love Is Now” by T. Rex

T. Rex is almost exclusively summer music to me, and one should expect at least one track from them in a mix in that season. Most listeners seem to only know them from “Bang A Gong (Get It On)”, but their catalog is a deep trove of treasure waiting to be discovered, even if there isn’t much breadth. Still, there is some variety to their formula, especially in their earlier, Tolkien-inspired years, which is where we find this track. The sparseness of this arrangement establishes a sense of anticipation, where the only payoff is the occasional handclap that falls on the beat one might not expect it to be.

“A Girl Like You” by The Wolfgang Press

Given this group’s abrasiveness in its formative years, I am forever trying to detect any trace of insincerity in this track. I have yet to detect that in the three decades I have been in love with this song. And that shimmering production is simply gorgeous.

“Love Songs” by Margo Guryan

This might have been better suited for my facetious Valentine’s selection, but these are my mixes, so tough. Beck has cited this album as an influence on his own low-key album Sea Change, and I feel the DNA of that work in Guryan’s. What is astonishing to me about this track is the chorus, as it ascends one step to the next through the lines of, “And someone said/is something wrong/and I said, ‘No,/it’s just a song'”. Next, it plateaus with, “And I can’t tell you why”, before gently falling to the ground like a leaf off a tree: “Pretty/love songs/always/make/me cry”

“I Love You More Than Words Can Say” by Otis Redding

There is nothing I can say about this performance that would possibly add anything to it. Simply stunning. I especially love that final “So…”

“Not Enough Time” by INXS

Few grounds wrote ballads as solidly as INXS did without resorting to clichΓ©. This was from woefully underrated 1992 long-played Welcome to Wherever You Are, where they were trying to maintain relevance in an era when grunge and Britpop were in ascendance.

“Five More Minutes” by The Royal Crescent Mob

This Columbus, Ohio, band was signed to Sire Records in the late 80’s / early 90’s. Despite opening for many of that era’s biggest alternative rock acts, they struggled to gain traction nationally. This is one of the major label acts from alt-rock’s key years that is ripe to be rediscovered.

“Beautiful Girl” by Robyn Hitchcock

I have written before about the sole, unfortunate time I met Robyn Hitchcock, yet I still feel I the need to take the high road and include in a mix yet another track of his that I believe is perfect for it. And yet, doesn’t that creepy-ass ventriloquist dummy he uses in this film suggests the man is perhaps a bit more off than how he usually presents himself? This mix is largely meant to be about bringing the wood, but not quite so literally.

“Wild Mountain Thyme” by The Byrds

Odd how agrarian times seemed to be so readily conducive to songs about the birds and the bees. Take, for example, this one, where The Byrds perform an old Scottish folk number. This track uses a thinly veiled metaphor of going to “pull wild mountain thyme”, when it is really talking about tugging on something else. One line in this that has always left me bemused is, “If you will not go with me/I will surely find another”. I guess that, even back in 18th century Scotland, the general sentiment was “Love the one you’re with” (note: the Stephen Stills song of that title is not on this mix, and I hate it so much that I suspect it is why Primal Scream had to write a song named “Kill All Hippies”.

“Willow’s Song” from the soundtrack to The Wicker Man

Another folksy number about rutting like livestock, this has a truly shocking line not in the film version: “Like a maid milking a bull/every stroke, a bucketful”.

“My Heart Is A Flower” by King Missile

I promise to the end the literally flowery thread here, with this wry little number from one of the many “funny” bands major labels signed in the late 80’s and early 90’s when nobody could foretell the direction popular music was headed.

“Thin Line” by Jurassic 5 (featuring Nelly Furtado)

It’s tracks like this that show how great J5 were, though rather underappreciated in their time. I remember some people at the time derided them as “retro”, but I’d like to know what rap track from the 80’s sounded like this.

“Wasting Time” by The Judybats

The best moments of a great relationship are often the most mundane ones. Wasting time with the one you love might just be the best use possible of one’s time.

“Let Me Be Good To You” by Carla Thomas

‘Nuff said. Rivals “B-A-B-Y” as my personal favorite of her oeuvre.

“Almost Gold” by The Jesus & Mary Chain

A gorgeous ballad somehow made even more beautiful by the cascades of feedback.

“Afterglow (Of Your Love)” by The Small Faces

This track is a solid example of why The Small Faces were so great–even greater in my esteem that the Rod Stewart era when they became simply The Faces.

“Come To Me” by The Association

It may not be readily apparent, but this song was written in the “modal” style of tunesmithing, something which is normally associated with jazz. Essentially, the verses are just one chord. I think the chorus is two. Listen closely, and you’ll hear what I mean.

“Hallelujah, I Love Her So” by Ray Charles

Early Ray Charles, sans chorus and strings, is so purely beautiful.

“Fresher Than The Sweetness In Water” by Honeybus

Honeybus was a one-hit wonder of the 60’s, and this wasn’t that hit (that would be “I Can’t Let Maggie Go”). I’m not sure what kind of water they’re drinking that tastes sweet. I only know this song is incredibly infectious and lively. Oh, and bit randy, too: “What could I do?/The thought was in your naughty head”.