Monday Mixtape July 9 2018: Drake, Prince & The Innocence Mission
Every Monday, Up All Afternoon delivers the Monday Mixtape. It's six tracks to start your music-consuming week off the right way.
Drake's new album Scorpion would be an old-school double-CD should it ever arrive in that format, and it even divides the two sides of Drake that have often been in conflict (both on record and within his audience). The first half focuses on the type of bar-spitting sorta-battle-rap that defined the early part of Drake's mixtape career, while the second steers more into the druggy R&B croon that launched an entire subgenre and made Drake the biggest male pop star on the planet. I don't care for Singing Drake, but Rapping Drake still gets me. There are gems all over the first half of Scorpion, with its unfussy production that allows Drake's lines to breathe. There's an objective part of me that knows that Drake's line about his Mount Rushmore being his face with four different expressions (which pops up on the album-opening "Survival") is crazy-corny, but Lame Drake is somehow cooler than Cool Drake, if you catch my meaning.
The Innocence Mission, "Look Out From Your Window"
I'm not sure if it still happens, but there was a phenomenon that occasionally ran through the music of the '80s and '90s wherein a single from a new artist would become huge and then everybody would realize that the song in question was an outlier on the rest of said artist's output. Case in point: Sugar Ray first became big with 1997's "Fly," a breezy bit of poolside pop that featured a guest spot from dancehall toaster Supercat and a mildly stoned hook in the chorus. But when people got around to snagging Floored, Sugar Ray's second album and the one that birthed "Fly," they realized that the balance of that collection was all vaguely mookish pop punk (like, what even is this piece of trash?).
Of course, Sugar Ray leaned in and ended up cultivating the sound of "Fly" for the rest of their (still-ongoing) career. This is all to illustrate that I was initially deceived by the Innocence Mission when I first heard their song "Bright As Yellow" on the soundtrack to the 1995 teen cult classic Empire Records. Its lovely low-key drone made it sound like the band was the Jesus & Mary Chain with a feminine kick, but it came from the one album of theirs (1995's Glow) that has a more rocked-up sound. The Innocence Mission exist primarily as a mildly trippy folk pop experiment, with the whole thing held together by Karen Peris' dangerously pretty warble. Their new album Sun on the Square is lovely, and "Look Out From Your Window" captures the struggle between anxiety and contentment that constantly rages in my soul.
Guns N Roses, "Shadow of Your Love"
Appetite for Destruction is the greatest debut in rock history, and Guns N Roses just gave it the deluxe reissue treatment. There are some high-end editions with a whole bunch of live stuff and probably unnecessary demoes, but the only thing you really need is the one song from the Appetite era that has largely been missing over the past three decades. "Shadow of Your Love" has shown up in live sets, and I know I had a rough version on a bootleg at some point, but this slick studio version is the best it has ever sounded. It has everything that made GNR an unstoppable force back in '87: Axl's jungle snarl, a high-speed machete of a riff care of Slash, and a deceptively funky rhythmic underbelly laid out by Duff McKagan. "Shadow of Your Love" absolutely rules, and it makes me wish there was an entire album of discards like this in the vault.
Barenaked Ladies, "In the Car"
Last weekend saw the 20th birthday of Barenaked Ladies' fourth album Stunt, aka The One With "One Week" On It. It's still bonkers that "One Week" got played on the radio at all; the fact that it ended up at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 is cosmically inexplicable. That's a song I used to adore when it first came around, and I still know all the lyrics to Ed Robertson's goofball rap. But I find "One Week" embarrassing now, largely because I'm a grown up.
I also don't have any particular attachment to Stunt. It has some pretty decent songs, but my favorite version of the Barenaked Ladies steers less towards band geek tomfoolery and more into stealth melancholy mixed with torrents of regret. For that reason, the superior BNL record is 2000's Maroon, which is alarmingly sad even when it's trying to be goofy. But there are heartbreakingly honest moments on Stunt, particularly on a track called "In the Car." Over a simple strum-and-hum melody, Stephen Page crafts a tale of teenage romance that wrings universal truths (the inevitability of young heartbreak, particularly surrounding the specter of sex) out of surgically specific details (the bit about making a dub of the Clash's Sadinista! may be in my top five lyrics of all time, both because I love that album and because Page alludes to the point that you couldn't fit that entire album on a single car-friendly cassette). I also love Page's love songs because he always sounds like a guy who often beats himself up for being a dirtbag with girls when he was 15 years old, a sentiment that could easily be my epitaph.
The Acid, "Tumbling Lights"
As heard on the series premiere of Sharp Objects on HBO. I have no idea why, but I have recently become obsessed with sinister-sounding downtempo electronica. My thirst for it has sent me searching through old Tricky records and found me clicking through All Music for stuff related to Roni Size. After two minutes of nothing, "Tumbling Lights" drones and mumbles like turn of the century Radiohead, which is all I'm ever really looking for.
Prince, "Darling Nikki"
My favorite Prince lyric is "Your face is jammin'/ Your body's hecka slammin'" which is a note-perfect compliment paid out to a female companion in "U Got the Look." But my second favorite Prince lyric comes from "Darling Nikki," which finds the Purple One introducing the woman he first met masturbating in public and noting, "I guess you could say she was a sex fiend." How surprisingly non-committal!
Reasonable Human: "Hey Prince! That Nikki woman who is reading Penthouse Letters and rubbing herself next to the check-in counter at this Marriott—is she a sex fiend?"
Prince: "I mean, I guess, if you want to put a label on it, then yeah, I suppose you could say that."
This is my wife's favorite Prince song, and I wanted to dedicate it to her on our seventh wedding anniversary. Her name is Nicole, and I think if somebody called her "Nikki" she'd throw hands, but she'll always be my darling.