The veteran keyboardist shares a dozen tracks that impacted his playing style and social consciousness.
Throughout the media blitz surrounding the July release of the Julie Ruin’s Hit Reset, much of the spotlight has been on singer Kathleen Hanna and bassist Kathi Wilcox. The former Bikini Kill bandmates deserve an immense amount of credit for the funky, danceable vibes and sociopolitical stances captured on the album and replicated during the band’s fun and inspiring live sets.
Among their bandmates is keyboardist Kenny Mellman. He’s a punk and indie force for social change in his own right, dating back to the 1989 formation of cabaret duo Kiki and Herb.
Mellman shared a 12-song playlist with Myspace earlier this summer. It’s a brief glimpse at how deep cuts from his record collection and the music of such peers as Mecca Normal and the Geraldine Fibbers have impacted him as a musician and entertainer. Sink your teeth in below.
Van Morrison — “Listen to The Lion” (Live Version)
From the greatest live album of all time (Too Late to Stop Now). Van has continually taught me how to work the ebb and flow of a song. The version on Saint Dominic’s Preview is good, but this live version takes the song into the quiet center of a storm.
Mecca Normal — “It’s Important”
Jean Smith and David Lester taught me so much about the interplay of one instrument (in their case David’s guitar) and a vocal. Their synergy is something I have always been thrilled by. The amount of energy and noise they make with just two people is completely inspiring to me.
Pulp — “Countdown”
An early song from Pulp that has the blueprint for every other great Pulp song. Jarvis is probably my favorite frontman of all time.
The Geraldine Fibbers — “Lilybelle”
I can’t tell you the number of times this song starts and I am still surprised with the direction it takes. The build from quiet violin to punk rock squall still makes me astonished.
PJ Harvey — “Goodnight” (Demo)
There is something about the rawness of this version that excites me more than the one that ended up on To Bring Me Your Love. I saw her on that tour, and she stood on stage and pounded a huge stick on the floor to create the drum sound on this song. It was mesmerizing.
Kate Bush — “And Dream of Sheep”
It is hard for me to pick a favorite Kate Bush track. She has informed my life in so many ways. “And Dream of Sheep” is so simple but is the perfect opener to her side long suite “The Ninth Wave.” It lulls you into its world so beautifully.
X — “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts”
The interplay between Exene and John Doe’s voices inspires me to no end. Their harmonies seem like they shouldn’t work but oh do they!
The B52s — “Song For a Future Generation”
The instrumentation is almost as sparse as Young Marble Giants but then the vocals adds a grandeur to the song. Like X, the B-52s taught me so much about intertwining vocals on a song.
Low — “Mom Says”
This song, and Low often in general, stretches time in the most exquisite way.
Prince — “Do Me Baby”
I first heard this song in high school and the sheer sexuality of it set against the almost metronome-like beat opened a world to me. Prince was a master of ramping a song up. And that falsetto is stunning.
Sparks — “Angst in My Pants”
I could have picked basically any Sparks song. Their use of keyboards whilst still sounding punk as all get out is the best. And those vocals? Maybe the best in punk — And yes, I think they are punk.
Otis Redding — “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”
The way the band and his vocal builds this song is perfect. I was always sad when the 45 version would play because it fades out before he really finishes the build of the song.