CHICAGO—Josh McCue, 26, expressed deep pride Monday in the liner notes he penned for his latest self-burned compilation CD.
"I really wanted the liner notes to capture something about the songs and help put them in their proper context," said McCue, a clerk at Lincoln Park Liquor. "I think I've accomplished that."
The 22-track CD, titled Opium Of The Masses, features an eclectic mix of music that McCue dryly describes as "your typical elitist hipster fare." The liner notes offer a wealth of information on the bands, which range from The Soledad Brothers to Six Finger Satellite, as well as McCue's own "personal history" with the music.
Using the graphic-design programs Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, McCue painstakingly spent 15 hours laying out what eventually became an eight-page CD booklet.
"At first, it was only going to be four pages including the cover, but doing that small a booklet would've meant giving some of the artists the short shrift informationally," McCue said. "I mean, everyone knows the basics about [the bands] Can and The White Stripes, but people may not be as familiar with the histories and personnel of such lesser-known groups as Tuxedomoon and JJ72."
He then opened the CD booklet and began reading aloud.
"'My Dad Is Dead is a versatile group (actually one guy, Mark Edwards) from Ohio,'" McCue said. "'From the swooping highs of my best days to the crushing lows of my worst, I've always been able to relate to MDID. This song, 'Where's Our Reason,' from the Shine(r) CD, was actually released in 1993 as part of the limited-edition Working Holiday series of 7-inch singles.'"
Though the liner notes are rich with details about the most of the songs, they are occasionally brief and to the point. For instance, McCue describes Killdozer's cover of EMF's "Unbelievable" with just two words: "Fuck, yeah!"
McCue went on to explain his choice of images for the CD's cover art, saying, "It's a picture of a crashing speedboat I got off the Internet. Very chaotic and random, much like the music itself."
McCue said he plays the CD at work several times a day, propping the jewel case against an eye-level row of DeKuyper Schnapps bottles to maximize its visibility. Thus far, no customers have asked about it.
"I took a few chances on this mix," said McCue, attempting to explain the lack of interest. "For example, I kicked it off with Martin Denny's 'Quiet Village,' an unorthodox first song if there ever was one. Why did I do so? Because it's an ideal musical metaphor for my life, seemingly uneventful but filled with wonder and strangeness. And while it's the only exotica on the CD, it perfectly sets the stage for an eclectic voyage through my life, starting with the 'Quiet Village' of my birth."
McCue burned the CD for his own personal enjoyment, but said he would be willing to lend it to friends. Should a loan occur, the liner notes are a vital means of ensuring that every track is given the due it deserves.
"I wanted to make sure no one skipped a track," McCue said. "For example, most people would think a transition from Neu! to Afrika Bambaataa to Aphex Twin would be a little jarring or awkward, but it actually flows quite nicely thanks to the unity of influences. I make sure to point that out in my liner notes, discussing the heavy debt that both ambient and hip-hop owe to Krautrock."
As of press time, McCue is working on the liner notes to the as-yet-unburned Opium Of The Masses Vol. 2, which he promises will clear up any lingering confusion from the first CD, as well as explain his longtime fascination with both Ray Conniff and Julian Cope.