Is it possible that, for once in their entire sad history, the Chicago Cubs could do something the easy way? They finally get a good lead on the Brewers, need just a couple wins to more or less cement winning the division, so what do they do? Get swept by the last-place Florida Marlins to keep the Brewers in the hunt this weekend. They even brought in Bill Murray to try and loosen the players up, which apparently worked about as well as showing Garfield to a roomful of people over the age of seven. I know the idea of a playoff run is an illusion for this year's team, but how about at least getting to the playoff part of that illusion and let me dream during their first-round exit?
Okay, music will soothe the savage sports fan…
1) “Me in Honey,” R.E.M. Out of Time always makes me think of visiting The Lovely Becky at Mizzou. We did the long-distance thing in college, with me in California and her in the Show Me State. I would come out to visit her, and we played this album and Crowded House’s Woodface to death during those visits. This song in particular, with Kate Pierson’s vocals, makes me think of that excitement of seeing her and the dread of having to leave.
2) “Ain’t No Easy Way,” Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. They have all the honky tonk pieces in place—slide guitars, harmonica, a Steve Earle-ish vocal—but I sense just a little more honky and not as much tonk. Still, a pretty good foot stomper for a Friday morning.
3) “Vincent O’Brien,” M. Ward. It still amazes me that M. Ward can sound so old when he sings, but also not seem like an affected cobag. He gets a little more poppy here, with an energetic tune that throws enough curveballs—a chirping piano, some feedback—to keep things interesting.
4) “Sing It Pretty, Sue,” Johnny Cash. How can he say so much in a song that’s less than two minutes long?
5) “Tryin’,” Eagles. Ruh-roh! There was a pretty heated debate over at Neddie Jingo’s blog about the Eagles, with Neddie blaming the Eagles for everything from destroying country music, to giving birth to Journey and Britney Spears, to killing puppies (I’m paraphrasing and possibly making stuff up). Blue Girl responded, as only she can, that the Eagles “ARE HUMANS!” The whole thread is an entertaining dive into the pool of polarizing bands. Personally, I’m in the middle. I was never a big fan, but it’s pretty hard for me to not crank “Take It Easy” and “Already Gone.”
6) “Message in a Bottle (Live),” Sting. Hey, it’s Mr. Polarizing himself. I have poked a lot of fun at Sting on many a Friday. This, however, is one of the greatest live renditions of a song ever. It’s from The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball, an Amnesty International comedy/music benefit from the early 80s. Sting did this song and “Roxanne” just on an electric guitar, and he absolutely brings the house down. One of the best things I have on my iPod.
7) “The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders…,” Sufjan Stevens. I am too tired to type out the whole paragraph that is the song title. Sufjan walks that razor’s edge between “baroque” and “twee,” but I always like his arrangements and song structures. There’s almost a filmstrip feel to this, yet it manages to not suck the way every filmstrip ever made did. For those of you not born at the same time as the Geico Cavemen, filmstrips were a mind control device used by schools during the 1950s through 1980s. Still pictures would illustrate an important event in history, while the warbled audio coming from the cassette tape would mask backward messages: In 1820, the Missouri Compromise allowed Missouri into the Union as a slave state EAT YOUR VEGETABLES SIT UP STRAIGHT YOU’LL GO BLIND IF YOU KEEP TOUCHING IT SO MUCH!!!
8) “Heaven or Las Vegas,” Cocteau Twins. Another Brando/TLB kollege klassic. TLB always sings along very well to the incredible harmonies here. The title bothers me, though: are they suggesting that Las Vegas cannot be part of Heaven? If that’s true, does it mean that heaven will be like Branson, Missouri? Because if it is, I swear I’m turning around and heading the other direction after I die, if I’m not already where Las Vegas is.
9) “Magic Man,” Heart. Since we’re going back in time, here’s a fun family fact: Magic Man was my uncle’s CB handle. Our family had our brief six-month flirtation with CBs around the time Smokey and the Bandit came out. And thankfully it ended long before Smokey and the Bandit II was released. Every time someone goes off on how annoying cell phones are, just be thankful you don’t have to say breaker breaker before you call home to ask if we're out of milk. As for the song, the decent beginning and end are assaulted by the marshmallow fluff synthesizer noodling in the middle.
10) “I Can’t Get Over You,” The Queers. Immature? Yes. Original? No. These guys were so much like The Ramones that they did a complete cover of the Rocket to Russia album. But good? Hell yeah, at least on the one album of amazing Beach Boys punk they produced, Don’t Back Down, which this song is from. This is a sunny, catchy tune featuring a female vocal from Lisa Marr (of Cub). Good stuff.
11) “Crummy Lovers Die in the Grave,” The Fucking Champs. Three guys cranking out retro instrumental prog metal. They sling crazy 80s metal riffs like short-order cooks working the batter at a Waffle House, channeling Iron Maiden without the Bruce Dickinson howling about secret Satanic rituals and cavalry charges. Plus they have song titles that tickle my inner 14-year-old: “Thor Is Like Immortal,” “These Glyphs Are Dusty,” and “Esprit de Corpse.” So up my alley they should be called The Fucking Brandos. And yes, my poor wife went through years of long-distance romance to wind up with a grown man who loves this stuff. Pray for her.
Have a great weekend. Go Cubs, damn it!