Saturday, May 19, 2007

Saturday CJ Random 11

It’s Saturday, and even though I was so busy yesterday I couldn't listen to 11 songs, let alone write about them, I’m at the office today, takin’ what they’re givin’ ’cause I’m workin’ for a livin’. Oh well, at least I can crank the tunes when no one is here. Listening notes while eating my lunch...

1. “I Was Thinking I Could Clean up for Christmas,” Aimee Mann. Her biggest problem is that she is consistent, which makes it easy to take her for granted. If Aimee Mann recorded under a new identity each album, people would be falling over themselves to praise each release. Instead, you get things like Pitchfork pooping out reviews that say, “Here’s yet another exemplary Aimee Mann album to add to the pile. Ho hum.” Seriously, if you try to make sense, do you automatically get disqualified from writing for Pitchfork?

2. “Surrender (Live),” Cheap Trick. Maybe my favorite song of the 70s. The studio version is good, but like everything else on At Budokan, the live version turns it up to 11. We’re all alright, we’re all alright, we’re all alright, we’re all alright!

3. “Bittersweet Symphony,” The Verve. I’ve never hated a band as much as The Rolling Stones for what those wrinkled cobagz did the The Verve: making them pay 100% of all proceeds from this song because it samples an orchestral version of “The Last Time.” Even Metallica at the height of their Napster stupidity didn’t approach the sheer pig-fucking greed of this move. “Bittersweet Symphony” is like “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” one of those songs that was played to death, yet I never tire of hearing. One of the best CDs of the 90s, too.

4. “Streets of Fire,” The New Pornographers. Pure bliss. Awesome harmony singing to start off, then thunderous drums halfway through to close the deal. Everything goes better with thunderous drumming.

5. “The Professional,” Sleater-Kinney. I’m very sad they disbanded, because they mixed it up every album while still rocking your socks off. One of those rare bands that managed to take their influences and turn them into a unique sound.

6. “Untitled #4,” Sigur Ros. From the ( ) album, which set a new bar for title and packaging pretentiousness. All the pages were blank so you could write your own liner notes. What's that spell? L-A-M-E. The music, however, is astonishing, especially this song, which is so beautiful I don’t mind being stuck inside today while it plays. If you haven’t heard these guys, imagine a group of humpback whales forming a rock band and playing the greatest concert under the sea ever.

7. “Soma,” The Strokes. They don’t deserve the amount of scorn that they have received for being hyped up by the music press, because they are a very good band. But one of my favorite quotes from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog was when he yelled at them at the MTV music awards: “Hey Strokes, you’re like the Monkees with a drinking problem.” How is it that my current favorite comedian is a plastic dog puppet?

8. “Anarchy in the UK,” The Sex Pistols. While Johnny Rotten never sounded more rotten, I always thought this song was bit overrated. Maybe it’s because it seems a bit plodding, like it either needs to be faster or slower, not stuck in “3” on the gearshift. “God Save the Queen,” “Holiday in the Sun,” and especially “Pretty Vacant” get more fist pumps from me.

9. “Hearts of Oak,” Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. The best keeper of the old school punk/new wave flame today. Catchy, energetic, and political. I saw him play a few weeks ago, and while Ted himself was great, his bass player really distracted me with his Kip Winger hair. Here's Dave Lerner (on the right), here's Kip Winger. Even Kip Winger no longer has Kip Winger hair.

10. “The Fox in the Snow,” Belle and Sebastian. They put the twee in tweeder. There are times when even guitar heroes have to chill, but I just find them too...soft?...wispy?...doily-ish?

11. “Plastic Flowers on the Highway,” Drive-By Truckers. This is from their double-concept album about Lynrd Skynyrd, which sounds about as appealing as a symphonic tribute to Molly Hatchet. The Truckers pull it off spectacularly, however, and this song in particular has such a powerful sense of loss and despair. Definitely a case where the tribute outshines the inspiration.

Okay, my soup is gone, so it’s time to get back to it. Keep having a great weekend.


Churlita said...

A symphonic tribute to Molly Hatchet could be really awesome.

bjkeefe said...

Re: #8: We're in complete agreement, for once, here. "Pretty Vacant" was always my favorite cut. And we should all bow down to the Pistols for (1) their rejuvenation of rock and (2) their ability to make the following couplet rhyme: "God save the queen/She ain't no human being."

Re: #7: Triumph rules. Don't feel bad for worshiping him. Did you ever see him when he was covering the Michael Jackson trial? Pure gold!

Re: #6: I immediately resonated with Sigur Ros. "()" is not their best. I went a bit overboard about "Ágætis Byrjun" on an Amazon review page, which you can see here, if you like (third review down, I think). And, not to keep pimping for Amazon or anything, but you can still grab a couple of Sigur Ros tunes for free from that site, here. Do it.

Re: #2: By chance, I just heard "Surrender" a couple of days ago, desperately punching the rental van's Seek button, trying to escape the tsunami of Christianist fakerock that characterizes upstate NY radio. Great song, even through shitty speakers.

Re: #1:

>> Her biggest problem is that she is consistent, which makes it easy to take her for granted.

Man. That might be the single smartest sentence of music criticism that I've ever read.

I remember seeing Aimee Mann when she was seventeen. What was that band's name again? … (clickety-clickety) … Ah, yes. 'Til Tuesday. (Thanks, Google!) They were a Boston band, just starting to get heavy regional airplay for "Voices Carry." They came into the Providence, RI, nightclub where I worked, mid-afternoon, for soundcheck. Also present were the rest of the TT crew, me (at the time chief floor mopper for The Living Room), and about three other bar employees.

Truth be told, the soundcheck was closed to the public, but the cognoscenti of the Providence rock and roll scene had all somehow managed to come up with excuses to swing by, too -- "just wanted to check details for our gig for this Saturday," etc. -- so there were actually about twenty people hiding in the club owner's office. They started drifting out, one by one, during the drum check, and oozed into discreet poses at unremarkable locations, widely scattered throughout the club. Hopper, had he been there, and had a wide-angle lens, might have done a group portrait of nonchalance that would blow "Nighthawks" away.

Then Aimee walked onto stage, to check her bass. Then the guitar player did his/her thing (androgyny to the max -- daring at the time). Then Aimee checked her mike. That contralto sounded pretty good just saying, "One, two." Then they jumped into a song.

I don't think I've ever seen a "crowd" so transfixed. You could feel the sexual desire emanating from everyone, straight women included. But it was more than that. I thought at the time, and still think whenever I remember that magic moment, that ethereal and other-worldly were words suddenly sorely lacking.

Janitor memories.

bjkeefe said...

Sorry for commenting at greater length than the original post. I probably should have cluttered my own blog, instead as I did concerning another of your posts.

Keep up the great work.

bjkeefe said...


[how my last comment should have presented]

Brando said...

Brendan, I love Triumph, it's just funny that a puppet is my favorite comic. Robert Smigel is a genius.

I agree about () not being the best Sigur Ros album, but it's still pretty awesome. I have all of their stuff, they are one of my favorite bands right now.

Anonymous said...

Great Random 11, Brando. Althought I usually don't know half the songs you write about, I'm always tempted to download them. And sometimes I have! I think you might just write the best song lists in the Appeazaphere.

I love Surrender, too.


Awesome word.

Anonymous said...

the only time i thought anarchy was better was when i saw a video of their performance. those guys were really into their performances(and their drugs, of course)

and yes sigur ros is so awesome that i cannot describe them in words.

Anonymous said...

Dude, Cheap Trick?

You should be beaten alive for that one.

Brando said...

aif, I agree, Anarchy live was what the Pistols were all about. I have a demo version of that song from Rhino's DIY collection that's better than the album version -- it's rawer and Glen Matlock could actually play the bass.

BG, thanks! I always have fun writing this. I love finding new music to listen to, it's one of my great passions, so I'm happy if these ramblings actually help folks find stuff they will like.

AG, while Cheap Trick has made many a poor career move and deserves some criticism, I will not tolerate Surrender slander! Like Kenny Banya would say on Seinfeld, "it's the best, Jerry, the best!"

bjkeefe said...

I'll second the motion to support Cheap Trick. Plenty of cheesy stuff, agreed, but they had some good songs.

They also had an album that was pretty much of a career-killer for them, but was my favorite. It came out in the early '80s. I forget the name, but as I remember, it was produced by the guy who had done the Cars albums. Now, the Cars' music grates on my ears, but he managed to get a completely new sound out of Cheap Trick -- much more sparse, and consequently, much more dynamic.

Any idea what I'm talking about, Brando?