Talkhouse Playlist: Songs That Inspired The Cairo Gang’s Untouchable

Emmett Kelly dissects Guided by Voices, lost-love songs, and "a teenage bodhisattva on the edge of oblivion"

The Cairo Gang is the brainchild of the singer, songwriter, and guitarist Emmett Kelly, whom you may also know from his regular collaborations with Ty Segall. The Cairo Gang’s killer new album, Untouchable, was released last week on the Drag City imprint God? Records, and Emmett’s created a guide to its greatness in this Talkhouse playlist about his musical and lyrical inspirations. 
-Keenan Kush, Talkhouse Marketing Manager

Ronnie Wood – “Far East Man”
George Harrison wrote this song while he was blowing tons of coke, screwing two of his closest friends’ wives, and breaking up with his wife, who was leaving him for the person playing it here—it was a spiritual low point. Amazing song.

Joan Armatrading – “The Weakness in Me”
This song was written from the perspective of someone who loves a person who loves them in return, despite the fact that a past lover, whom the protagonist still loves and even needs, continues to appear.

Chris Bell – “I Am The Cosmos”
It never will matter, all that you can say to yourself, or that others can say to you,  to bolster you and bring you up. It doesn’t matter. You will still have to surrender and release. The first lines of this song are, “Every night I tell myself / ‘I am the cosmos / I am the wind’ / But that don’t bring you back again.” It breaks my heart every time I hear it. And I am telling you: Every time.

Dick Gaughan – “Craigie Hill”
This is a crushing tale of two lovers parting ways amidst a climate of total devastation and despair. A man is leaving Ireland in the vain hope that, if he takes to the violence and bleakness of the sea, his life might be saved in the near-mythical new land of America. This performance, so free and languid, was first recorded with live guitar and voice, and then each part was replaced.

The Fall – “An Older Lover Etc.”
The recordings from this Fall EP, Slates, have a quality that throws me off. It’s hard to find the beginnings and ends of things and place them as pieces of a whole. This song sounds as if it were recorded in a vacuum. My favorite thing about it is its static quality. Only the vocals are dynamic.

Guided By Voices – “Motor Away”
After Goes Missing came out, many people told me that I should listen to Guided By Voices if I hadn’t already. Kyle Thomas [of King Tuff] turned me on to them, for which I’m thankful. “When you motor away / From the once-red lips”—so good.

Hickey – “Make Sure There’s No Squares At My Funeral”
When you are faced with opposition, what do you do? You stand up and give them what they want. You say to yourself, I may go down, but some of you are coming with me. And look at this shit-eating grin! [Hickey’s singer and guitarist] Matty Luv is an inspiration. RIP.

Mekons – “Only Darkness Has The Power”
It’s all in the lyrics. I always imagine myself as the paratrooper jumping out of the plane and suddenly realizing I may have fucked up my parachute pack. I’m noticing the world beneath and the wind, feeling sublime beauty and weightlessness, while plummeting to my certain death.

The Who – “The Kids Are Alright”
A teenage bodhisattva at the edge of oblivion. The future churning. Beating out a rhythm, slow and powerful. Snapping into reality. Loud music, the girls, your friends. Nobody knowing, all knowing, and full of innocence. I have no idea what this song is about or what inspired it, but it could be the best pop recording ever.

The Red Krayola with Art & Language – “Keep All Your Friends”
I thought a good close to this playlist would be this song, from the album Corrected Slogans. The people who made this are amazing.

(Photo Credit: Rachel Cassels)