Author Archives: Cole Odell

101 Middlebury Music Memories

  1. 28-29-12 (WRMC-FM mail drawer combination)
  2. Discovering Nirvana via a “Smells Like Teen Spirit” CD5 in the ‘RMC office discard pile
  3. Hardcore fan Jon D. only listening to Quiet Riot and The Cars when drunk
  4. A pair of size infinity white men’s briefs tacked to the wall in the ‘RMC office
  5. The guys from mid-Atlantic shoegazing outfit Smashing Orange chasing each other around McCullough in a snowball fight before their show
  6. Jesse C.’s black, high-top Reboks
  7. David A., AKA Wishus, performing Q-Tip’s rap during TBA’s cover of “Groove is in the Heart”
  8. A summer job at ‘RMC that in practice consisted of sleeping off the previous night’s errors in judgment on the station lounge couch
  9. Pocket Monster, LOUD, in the basement of the Mill, with future star Kid Millions on drums
  10. “Dis iss Entombed. You ahhr lissening to W-AHH-MC, de sickest station in de nation!”
  11. The mixtape from Matt H. that first introduced me to the Wedding Present and other strains of MattMusic
  12. Despite my newfound immersion in college rock, picking the Stones’ Sticky Fingers as the best ever all-around rock album for a Middlebury Campus story; on 20 years’ reflection, it would still rank in the top 5
  13. Watching the blizzard of ’92 from my top floor Voter window, soundtracked by Galaxie 500’s On Fire, esp. “Snowstorm”
  14. Walking down to Sound Source to buy Nevermind, then ripping it out of the cardboard long box and turning it over in my hands as I returned to campus
  15. Taking a sad field trip to the local classic rock station to help pick up their turntables after they “upgraded” to a satellite feed and 100-disc changer filled with greatest hits collections
  16. Falling in love with the Mancini soundtrack to Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil
  17. Playlists, with a request to spin at least 30% new music
  18. A bag of vacuum-packed cow meat sent as a promotion for the Eugenius album Oomalama; seeing it tacked to the office wall and watching it turn blue with rot over the course of a semester
  19. The blue eyed soul of ‘RMC Classical manager David S.
  20. Staring at my lava lamp to the tune of “Higher Than the Sun” by Primal Scream, on repeat
  21. Absorbing everything by the Replacements and Red Hot Chili Peppers in Dave A.’s room in the Allen pit
  22. Gordon Gano in the UVM gym bitterly complaining, during the set, on the injustice of the Violent Femmes opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers
  23. The 10 seconds it took to figure out that the new, anonymous white label 12” we were playing was in fact “Gett Off” by Prince
  24. Jane Voss & Hoyle Osbourne’s “Sparkle and Shine”
  25. Being called at 2 AM by Shawn H. to get up, come across campus to drink with him and listen to Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss; doing so
  26. Putting the final Replacements EP Don’t Buy Or Sell It’s Crap in the studio new bin only to see it stolen within 2 hours
  27. Hearing the Indigo Girls “Closer to Fine” everywhere I went, despite all efforts to avoid it
  28. Memorizing the lyrics to Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise”
  29. Sa-Sa-Samantha Fox, in a chain mail minidress on a memorable office poster
  30. Fulfilling my responsibilities as ‘RMC Rock Manager by listening to 30 seconds of two tracks on an album before declaring it awful and using it as a Frisbee—times 1,000
  31. Making out with a girl on the studio lounge couch after getting caught in a rain storm together
  32. Damon H.s’ hip hop show
  33. My post-Rattle & Hum disdain for U2 slowly melting before the undeniable power of Achtung Baby
  34. Dickie Barrett of Mighty Mighty Bosstones starting their McCullough show by sneering that he liked playing for real people, not college kids
  35. Jon D.’s punk rock friend Tim from Boston, who loved the band The Cows so much he had a Holstein tattooed across his entire back
  36. Hevvy Haig
  37. Campus hardcore band Viet Nun playing “Breed” by Nirvana in the student center
  38. Jesus Cricket’s “I’m In Love with the Phone Mail Lady”
  39. Giving records a 1/3 turn back to cue them up
  40. Dan H. in the ‘RMC lounge, debating whether he’d prefer a tattoo of the Underwood Deviled Ham devil or the Fresca logo (that’s not him in the photo, BTW, just proof that this is a big, big world)
  41. The Goo Goo Dolls concert in the SDUs; openers Jesus Cricket covering Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film” complete with camera sfx, and “Step On” by Happy Mondays
  42. Three years on the air with David A., in progressively more humane time slots
  43. My first baby steps into jazz appreciation
  44. Being impressed that classmate Bill O. quit football for rock and roll
  45. Getting a 5 lb bag of soil from the band Alice in Chains, and only realizing weeks later that buried inside was their new album Dirt
  46. Embarrassing clothes worn to dance parties in McCullough; trust me
  47. My first CD shelf, made for me out of pine by Shawn H.
  48. Matt H. DJing dance parties in that awful bunker connecting two of the New Dorms (before the renovations)
  49. Watching in astonishment as the guys from Phish bounced on trampolines while playing in perfect time
  50. Guy from Fugazi biting down and singing through the pickup in his guitar, at a road trip show to Bennington College
  51. Playing Gene Pitney’s “A Town Without Pity” as the last song on my last undergraduate show at ‘RMC
  52. Getting lost for hours in the ‘RMC record library’s 25,000+ record vinyl collection
  53. Returning to campus to teach a J Term class in 2006, and getting a weekly slot at the station
  54. Heartbreak in ’06 upon learning that most of the station’s vinyl collection had been thrown away the previous year
  55. Joy in ’06 upon discovering—and ripping to my computer–dozens of fondly remembered CDs that had mercifully not been thrown out, in the station library
  56. Serving as ‘RMC Fashion Director (I was tasked with making a station tee shirt, which I did, badly) just to hold onto an office key
  57. Matt H.’s epic 80s shows at ‘RMC during finals weeks, which could stretch for many hours as he took requests and played obscurities
  58. Using my cheap double tape deck to mix the end of “Purple Rain” into the intro of “Alphabet Street” on the fly
  59. The fall of ’91 when Nevermind spread from room to room and dorm to dorm like an STD
  60. Seeing Robyn at Higher Ground with Tim and Nancy Spears in 2010
  61. The minor wonders of the ‘RMC record library’s 7-inch shelves (mercifully, among the only vinyl not tossed during the vinyl purge, although the studio no longer had a 45 adapter for the turntable)
  62. The D8 singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”
  63. Getting put in the wrong line with comp tickets to see Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and RHCP in Burlington; getting in just as Vedder was wrapping up his last song and climbing down from the rafters
  64. Hiding from campus security in the dark under the ‘RMC studio soundboard, alongside Matt H., on a night when many mistakes were made
  65. Thinking that the guys from Buffalo Tom, who lugged their own gear, were really nice and down to earth—particularly after the Bosstones fiasco
  66. Believing that Loveless would be the future of rock and roll
  67. Screwing up on air regularly
  68. Pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) in Mead Chapel
  69. Having a strong opinion about Pearl Jam
  70. Going to Starr Library just to read Billboard
  71. Walking out of a Rollins Band/Beastie Boys show in the UNH gym because the sound was so goddamned terrible
  72. Keeping certain CDs in the station office in an attempt to keep them from being stolen; titles included Wish by the Cure and Between 10th and 11th by the Charlatans UK
  73. The glee upon the arrival of the monthly Rockpool Rock Box, filled with glorious indie CDs and records
  74. The Replacements on their final tour, in Boston
  75. The Vermonstress festival in Burlington, headlined by Beat Happening
  76. Putting a big WRMC sticker over the cover of The Dwarves’ Blood, Guts and Pussy album in a moment of censorious anxiety; getting lots of shit for it
  77. Being instantly smitten with the lead singer of Burlington band Hover, and getting up the nerve to ask her out on the spot, which she actually accepted
  78. Matt H.’s 37-foot by 37-foot Kitchens of Distinction poster
  79. Josh B. regularly calling into the show for his Juliana Hatfield request fix
  80. Dinosaur Jr. and My Bloody Valentine double bill at Avalon in Boston
  81. Dinner in Lower Proctor with Stephanie J. and other radio station folks following staff meetings
  82. Renaming my friends’ band Adhesive X, after the super glue invented by the evil Baron Zemo in Avengers comics
  83. Banging my head into my roommate’s concrete floor while spazzing out to “Monkey Gone to Heaven” just before a party
  84. Dave A.’s little sister’s friend getting hit on by Ice T’s DJ Evil E at a show on the first Lollapalooza tour
  85. Realizing it must be past 3 AM and the beverages were almost gone whenever The Pogues came on, usually via Tom L.
  86. Monster Magnet at a tiny little bar in western Mass; Blake Babies on the deck in Jon D.’s hearse late at night on the way home
  87. Being told in all seriousness by David F. that the live album Hard Rain was inappropriate listening for a Bob Dylan novice
  88. Finding comments from me and my friends on CDs in the station library on my return in 2006
  89. Riding with Jon D. when he picked up the town’s Elvis impersonator and gave him a ride down Rte. 7; Elvis thanked us kindly and explained that the Colonel had his Cadillac in for service, he said that Vermont had been a wonderful place to lie low since the 1970s; hearing incredulous workers in the dining halls insist that he couldn’t be Elvis because they went to high school with him
  90. My mild-mannered freshman year neighbor Tim’s starry-eyed crush on Natalie Merchant: “She’s so frumpy” he sighed longingly
  91. Lusting over the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz box set carried around by students in the Jazz class
  92. Making unfortunate but all too often accurate snap judgments of people based on the presence of Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits and Bob Marley Legend in their collections
  93. The ancient ‘RMC studio soundboard with pots instead of sliders
  94. The reel to reel machine (and piles of tapes) in the back studio
  95. The colored vinyl decorating the ‘RMC lounge walls
  96. Helping to hide a secret time capsule behind the bulletin board in the ‘RMC offices before graduating
  97. My Black Crowes cassette
  98. The two heavy-set guys from dining services who played in a local hair metal band
  99. Puzzling over the utter enigma that was the band Pavement in the wake of Slanted & Enchanted
  100. Late nights rewatching tapes of MTV’s 120 Minutes recorded on VHS at home during breaks

And the very best one of all:

  1. Catching Bill O’s band downtown at Woody’s just before heading off unknowingly to my date with destiny where I first fell in love with (my wife today) Anne

Just don’t ask me anything about my classes.

Necessary Spinning

Here’s what’s doing it to me in my earhole these days:

Los Campesinos!—Hello Sadness

This record has been getting mixed-to-positive reviews, which I can’t fathom. It’s a brilliant leap forward in an oeuvre of consistently brilliant albums. Whereas previous LC! records have functioned as exhilarating, overstuffed collections of killer songs, Hello Sadness is a proper album, even a concept album, with a clear direction…straight downward from the first blushes of doomed romance to the bleak wreckage of the breakup. As such, the track sequence progressively unwinds from the impossibly catchy, gang-shouty, hand-clappy, tribal-drummy “By Your Hand” (possibly the band’s best-ever single) to the stark funeral marches and elegies of the record’s back half. I fell for these guys hard back in 2008, and while they continue to mine the ins and out of broken romance, my love affair with them is stronger than ever. Key tracks: “By Your Hand”; “Hello Sadness”; “To Tundra”

Real Estate—Days

I never catch up with the rock and roll until after the cool kids are already over it, which means for this and the next two entries, album #2. I’d chalk it up to my being an out-of-touch old man, but I’ve been this way forever. Nevermind, Doolittle, Loveless, etc. were the entry points to my favorite bands back in college. Perhaps this is why I’ve always been slightly confused by the myth of the “sophomore slump”—so many of my favorite bands saved their strongest work for their second go-around. Real Estate certainly have their sound figured out for their second full-length, Days. While there’s not much here as instantly memorable as their early single “Beach Comber”, the shiny, slinky production on the new release does this band all kinds of favors. Chiming guitars, loping beats and mellow harmonies want clean, clear sound to shimmy around in. Not experimental, neither adventurous nor challenging, just impossibly pretty, slightly hazy late-summer indie rock. That’s way more than enough. Key tracks: “Easy”; “It’s Real”; “Younger Than Yesterday”; “All The Same”

Wavves—King of the Beach/Life Sux EP

Brash and bratty, surf-inflected guitar rock that sounds like it didn’t take much longer to write than it does to bash out or listen to. (Which, perhaps I should explain, is a compliment.) Again, the guy has considerably cleaned up his sound from his distortion-drenched debut only to reveal some amazing hooks. “King of the Beach” from the 2010 album, and “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl” from this year’s follow-up EP are the reason I listen to rock music—that moment when you first hear a song, and it tricks you into thinking: This is the best thing I’ve ever heard. I want to hear this forever. I live for those songs, those brief bursts of irrational exuberance that are inevitably killed by the fifth or sixth listen, but man, while they’ve got your head turned….Key tracks: see above; “Take On The World”; “Bug”

Dum Dum Girls—Only In Dreams

Not a lot to say about this one, except that lead signer Kristen “Dee Dee” Gundred’s uncanny Chrissie Hynde impersonation works completely. Lyrics are a little dumb, but the music takes a satisfyingly straightforward approach befitting its obvious inspiration. “Caught In One” and “Bedroom Eyes” are both “in-an-alt-universe-this-is-a-smash-hit” songs. Key Tracks: see above; “Coming Down”

Mr. Muthafukin’ eXquire—Lost In Translation mixtape

Because I am such an old man, I only recently discovered that there is such a sea of brilliant hip hop and R&B being released online for free (I suppose both to avoid the hassle of clearing samples and to get music straight to listeners instead of chasing down Jay Z or Kanye to beg an audience for your demo tape.) In the past year I’ve swooned over Das Racist, The Weeknd and others. Lately I can’t get enough of Mr. Muthafukin’, a Brooklyn-based MC whose album recalls the very best of East Coast rap from the past 30 years. A big, confident Chuck D voice meets super-raw lyrical content rooted in eXquire’s lower-to-working class surroundings. This isn’t champagne-sipping millionaire hip hop looking back on a childhood in the projects; this music rooted in tenements, food stamps and 40s. The music is hungry, bristling with ideas and attitude like Jay Z a long, long time ago on Reasonable Doubt. The album-ending remix of paean to drinking “Huzzah” featuring El-P, Das Racist and others plays like a modern-day version of De La Soul’s “Buddy” remix featuring the whole Native Tongue posse. And the Das Racist verses are stronger than anything on their recent album Relax. Key Tracks: “Triple F”; “The Last Huzzah!”; Lou Ferigno’s Mad”

Don’t, stop

So, the news that The Stone Roses are getting back together for a “world tour” and new recording has thrown me for a loop. The Roses loom large in my musical imagination; nearly as large as singer Ian Brown’s outsized ego. Their 1989 self-titled debut album, which I first discovered in a friend’s room in Battell Hall in the spring of 1990, essentially soundtracked my life at Midd from that moment forward. A clue to its impact is that I can actually still remember that moment, hearing “Fool’s Gold” for the first time, with the Pollock-inspired CD art in my hands. My mind’s eye may have embellished the gorgeous amber light suffusing the room and rising chorus of angels. Still, love at first listen.

In the days before Nevermind swept the campus in the Fall of ’91, the Roses album was the one record that everyone I knew could agree on—from indie rockers to my pal who swore by Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss. (We all also agreed that the backwards-tape-loop dirge “Don’t Stop” could have been left off the album with few complaints. I’ve grown to like it.)

It’s fortunate the album is so good, because that was pretty much it for the band, aside from a b-sides collection and a couple of stray singles. A dispute with their label kept the group out of the studio through the rest of my college career and beyond. Finally, in 1994, the legal clouds lifted and their follow-up Second Coming was released to inevitable disappointment. There were a few good songs, but during the forced layoff their tastes had clearly morphed from lush, Byrds-inspired guitar pop to warmed-over Led Zep riffs, half-hearted rave tracks, and worst of all, the jive pseudo-funk practiced by so many of the lesser “Madchester” bands they had helped to spawn. By ’96 the band was no more, and it seemed like a mercy killing.

Now the Roses are reunited, seemingly ready to right the wrongs of their awkward, bitter implosion, boasting that they’ll finally live up to their promise. I’m not holding my breath—at least not in anticipation. In some respects, this reunion comes at just the right time, as R.E.M. gracefully folds their tent and Kim and Thurston are about to make daughter Coco’s future Christmas plans twice as complicated. There’s something nice about one of my favorite old bands burying the hatchet just as many of their 80s-era peers finally call it quits. I look forward to the chance to see them live, despite Brown’s erratic (to be charitable) voice in concert. In other respects, however, I’m 83% convinced that this isn’t going end any better than the last time around. I’m wary of having perhaps my strongest music nostalgia monkeyed with. Not every band has it in them to pick up where they left off live, like the Pixies, or even better, release more classic albums like they never skipped as beat, as with the amazing Dinosaur Jr. We’re about to find out if lightning can indeed be put in the bottle twice. If they can make some money, fine. But I don’t need them to do this. That first album doesn’t need them to do this. It’s taken on a life of its own.