It’s one more random than 10!
Barack Obama came to Iowa City this week and The Lovely Becky and I weren’t there. He even went to Prairie Lights bookstore and I missed an opportunity to press a copy of Icebergs by Rebecca Johns into his hands. He would have given it to Michelle, who would have recommended it to Oprah, and who would have made me a kept man. The only thing worse is finding out Stephen Colbert was in the neighborhood when I was out of town, missing my chance to land a gig on The Colbert Report by giving him my best dick joke puns.
The sad thing is, I don’t think the president stopped at the Hamburg Inn for a pie shake. If you come to Iowa City, you have to go to the Hamburg Inn for a pie shake. It’s pie, it’s a shake, morphed together into a super dessert alloy that would make an Al Qaeda operative spill every single secret they’ve ever learned. And now that we’re all getting health care, there’s no reason not to enjoy this cold, creamy cobbler bomb. Hell, order four, one for each chamber of your heart. The pie shake is a sign God loves us and wants us to be happy.
1) “Destroyer,” The Kinks. A classic Kinks song, with Ray Davies doing a terrific job sounding like he’s losing his mind. My only wish is that the guitar had been turned up. It sits a bit in the back like it’s stalking the listener instead of breaking down the door.
2) “Our House,” Madness. Not many 80s hits sound timeless, but this is an exception. It avoids a lot of the reverb/synthesizer/electronic drum issues that date even awesome 80s songs, and in fact sounds less 80s than some new stuff like The Killers.
3) “Glad Tidings,” Van Morrison. I am a recent member of the Van Morrison Appreciation Society. My only real previous contact had been drunken sing-a-longs to “Brown Eyed Girl” in various bars. Once I sat down and started to really listen, I understood what all the fuss was about. He has one of those voices that’s both warm yet powerful, like a hug from your dad when you’re a kid. Surprisingly not on YouTube.
4) “As Ugly As I Seem,” The White Stripes. Bongo time for Meg. Also, the title would work as the theme song for Bill Donohue. While I never advocate murder outside of traveling back in time to kill Hitler, there are some people who I would enjoy seeing die. Bill Donohue is one of them. How can someone take the awful, awful news of the Catholic Church keeping a serial abuser of deaf children in the priest business and twist the story around into some anti-Catholic bigotry by the media? That’s exactly what this puffy, red-faced taint has done. So fuck him, I hope he dies, and better yet, I hope I get to see it, at least on YouTube. I hope it’s one of those great ironic deaths, too, where a sex toy factory explodes and he gets crushed under a hail of falling dildos. And if I’m lucky enough to walk by a burning building and learn that the only person trapped in it is Bill Donohue? Damn if I’m not pulling up some curb to make sure he doesn’t get out. I may even start a chant of “The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire….”
5) “Dodging Invisible Rays,” Guided by Voices. Even as a pretty big GbV fan, I admit they recorded way too much shit. They could have been a huge band if Robert Pollard had any ability to edit himself. Having said that, though, they have more hidden gems than any band in recent memory. Combing through their various albums, box sets, and EPs is like Antiques Roadshow: amid the stuff that’s not worth as much, you find a shiny heirloom like this bit of sunny guitar pop.
6) “Monty Got a Raw Deal,” R.E.M. (good cover since YouTube is cockblocking me today) I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I think this is the best R.E.M. album. The early rock albums on IRS have a ton of classic tracks, but I always found the actual albums somewhat uneven. Out of Time is terrific, but it sounds dated to me, like it was custom-made for MTV Unplugged. Automatic for the People, though, takes all the stuff that made R.E.M. great up to that point and pours it into one pristine album. Dark, hopeful, quiet, strong, serious, silly…it’s about as complex of a rock record as I’ve ever heard, like a person you’ve known all your life but who you still learn a little bit more about every time you talk to them.
7) “Day Tripper,” The Beatles. The riff is definitely the meat of this song, one of the best and most memorable that The Beatles ever recorded. It’s like finding a pinky of some ancient human ancestor: you can trace almost the entire lineage of jangle pop to that intro. But Ringo is the bread holding this together. The beat and those little fills were just perfect.
8) “Professional Againster,” New Bomb Turks. Seriously, it's like it's Shitty YouTube Clip Day. This doesn't really do justice to the studio version of this song, which is revved up to 7000 rpms with a bit of crazy piano that sounds like a coked-up Jerry Lee Lewis sitting in with a punk band. Never get tired of NBT’s Scared Straight, best 90s punk album after Rancid’s And Out Come the Wolves.
9) “Reach for Love,” Ollabelle. Conflict of interest disclaimer: The bass player is an old friend. Having said that, Ollabelle is a terrific Americana rock band who sound like the offspring of The Band, which is unsurprising since Levon Helm’s daughter is in this band. This is one of those laid-back Seventies-style songs about love troubles that manages to sound sexy and woeful at the same time. No YouTube clip, but check out “Blue Northern Lights” from the same album.
10) “Blue Monday,” New Order. I have probably danced more stupidly to this song than any other because I love it so, and that love floods my usual self-consciousness about dancing. Best dance drums ever, as if the drum machine is a machine gun, shooting at the ground and forcing me to dance, only without the sadism and possibility that the next last shot is for me because I’m a dirty, backstabbing narc. All of the excitement without the pain and annoyance of exit wounds! It also helps that the main beat is tailor-made for the White Man Shuffle.
11) “Move On,” Chris Knight. (Drunken Redneck Hootin' YouTube Mix) Holy shit, this guy is terrific. A random Pandora discovery that has left my ears in better shape. This is from his album The Trailer Tapes, which Knight actually recorded in his trailer in Kentucky. He channels Steve Earle here, but his studio work also had the best John Mellencamp qualities to it. He’s one of those, “Wow, how have I not heard this guy” kind of discoveries, and well worth checking out.
Bonus clip: What better way to head into the weekend than a 1976 interview with AC/DC where Bon Scott is rocking a mullet, wearing shorts that Freddie Mercury would have found too tight, and has a banana sticking out of his waistband?