Bishop Allen is the reason that we have You Aint No Picasso. Yes, we can take that literally and say that I stole the name from one of their unreleased songs; but there’s something more important there. Bishop Allen got me into independent music. I downloaded their album Charm School in early spring of 2004 and I’m not sure that it left my cd player for the next year. They taught me that a band doesn’t have to be signed to a major record label (or any label, in fact) to be good. Actually, sometimes they have to work harder than the U2s of the world, who can sell a million records without putting any effort into it.
Sometimes I get headaches trying to describe bands. Most often it’s because I can’t think of anything that’s that special about them. But with Bishop Allen, my headache is because they’re almost too good. Musically they’re a blend of everything from The Modern Lovers and The Talking Heads (both of whom they do fantastic covers of) to The Violent Femmes and Johnny Cash. I can honestly say that there’s no other band out there that I more strongly suggest that you listen to than Bishop Allen. It’s for this reason that I was so happy to hear that their lead singer, Justin Rice, was willing to contribute such a wonderful mix for our 10th day of Mixmas (the calander took a break, okay?)
Mix 11: “Streets of Despair” by Bishop Allen
Our band, Bishop Allen, took our name from the street we used to live on. I guess a fair number of bands do something like that, from Sleater Kinney to the E Street Band. That got me thinking of songs about streets. I realized that many of my favorite songs are set on mythical sad-and-lonely streets. Here are a few:
MP3: Robert Johnson – Cross Road Blues
A wailing song about a man abandoned, alone, and overlooked sinking to his knees on the side of the road. The legend is that Johnson sold his soul to the devil to play the guitar like that, and that transaction took place at — you guessed it — the crossroads.
MP3: Hank Williams – Lost Highway
A song of warning from a man who has been down the wrong road. Gambling, drunkenness, a woman’s lies.
MP3: Bob Dylan – Desolation Row
This one goes on and on. It seems like he was thinking about Cross Road Blues and Lost Highway. Every down-and-out character ever stuck on some dilapidated and overlooked street. The recently released the No Direction Home version sounds uncannily like one of the dronier Velvet Underground songs. I chose this over “Highway 61 Revisited”, another great Dylan streets-of-despair type song. That song gets it’s name from the highway that runs through the Mississippi delta, perhaps the very same road where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil?
MP3: The Kinks – Dead End Street
All the other songs are very American, but this one is staunchly British. They made a video for this that Top of the Pops wouldn’t play because it featured an undertaker.
MP3: Bruce Springsteen – Thunder Road
Lately, I’ve been really into this song and Born to Run in general. It’s so heartfelt that it overwhelms the cynic in me. This may be the most hopeful song on the list. But it may be the most despairing.
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 1 – Dean from the SUF
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 2 – Tapes ‘n Tapes
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 3 – John Vanderslice
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 4 – Ryan Allen of Thunderbirds Are Now!
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 5 – Dodge from MOKB
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 6 – Chris from GvB
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 7 – The Rinse
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 8 – CO from Bishop Allen
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 9 – Jay from The Light Footwork
12 Days of Mixmas: Day 10 – Becca from The Light Footwork