"Lovin Touchin Squeezin" - Journey. When I was in 9th grade this song came on the radio while my mom was driving me to the store or somewhere. A quieter and more awkward silence between a self-conscious teenager and his mom there never was, trust me. I loved this song then, and I love it now. And with Steve Perry's pipes, this is one of the few songs (as are most Journey songs when I listen to them) that I not only air guitar to but lip-synch to as well. [NOTE: If you haven't noticed by now, I'm not into "Vanilla Ice"-like revisions in my musical tastes. And that makes me better than you because I KNOW you. You loved Vanilla Ice back "in the day," when Rolling Stone proclaimed him the "White Elvis" (no kidding) and then had the typical corporate two-faced temerity to insult him years later. But I liked "Ice Ice Baby" then and can still recite the whole damn thing from memory. Remember: me = too cool = better than you.) :-)
"Strung Out" - Steve Perry. See above, ("Lovin Touchin Squeezin") since Steve Perry is/was Journey's singer.
"For No One" - Beatles. I've had a copy of Revolver for how many years now? And I'm just now spotting this tune? The hell's the matter with me? "For No One," like "Yesterday," is essentially Paul McCartney accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. It's sad, something else it shares with "Yesterday," but for a treat, find the studio demo version. (In it, Paul has worked out the arrangment and is explaining it to John by playing it solo, inserting french horn here and there -- but not everywhere -- with just his lips. Funny, and you can even "hear" Paul smiling while singing.)
"Helpless" - Josh Clayton-Felt. I read that this guy died. I don't know when. He used to sing for School Of Fish. Remember "Three Strange Days?" That was him. He put out a solo album in 1995. I guess I have a hint when he died. Anyway, what gets me when I hear this song is the vocal melody during the latter stages. Nothing dramatic, just engaging. Sigh.
"AM Radio" - Everclear. We love pop! Especially pop that has a lot of guitar and an insanely catchy chorus. As it happens, this song captures my late childhood almost perfectly. When I was first getting into music -- diving in -- it was via an AM radio about the size of a pack of cigarettes, often hidden under my pillow at night.
"Tree In Orange" - Walt Mink. After four albums Walt Mink, intermittenly and interchangeably a trio or duo (but at heart the duo of John Kimbrough and Candice Belanoff) is folding the tent, which, CRAP. I love this band. They had aggressive yet melodic and occasionally complex guitar rhythms combined with Kimbrough's almost teenage sounding vocal style. This supple song is from their second album Bareback Ride and is initially and essentially Kimbrough accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. The band jumps in at the end, but only for a wave from the wings. Still, with the flute or flute sounding keyboard flourish, the song reminded me of XTC's song "Millions" from their Oranges And Lemons album. (8/9/00)
"ThongBongSong" - Crisqo. A parody of Sisqo's still-catchy-despite-having-been-hammered-to-a-bloody-pulp-by-radio-and-MTV "Thong Song," "ThongBongSong" is a lot shorter--less than 2 min.--and a LOT damn funnier (even if, like me, you don't smoke.) Not only that, but it's not a hack job musically, as are many parodies. (Although, they did omit the harmony line from the "bong b-bong bong BONG" line in the chorus, which is something about the original that I like quite a bit. (9/9/00)
"How Soon Is Now" - Snake River Conspiracy. The Smith's song "How Soon Is Now" is a song that despite it's age remains so good that I frankly didn't think it would be wise for anyone to cover it. But aside form having the coolest band name since Wichita Caravan, SRC here has done something quite remarkable in that they've taken a song that is still fresh and exciting (to my ears anyway...Jonny Marr's killer tremolo never gets old) and reworked it completely, adding something new to almost every aspect of the music. And I like it sung by a woman, or maybe I just like it sung by THIS woman, whomever she may be. (8/18/00)
"Pink Moon" and "Black Eyed Dog" - Nick Drake. Just a man, his voice and his acoustic guitar. Oh, and his demons and phobias and neuroses and chemical imbalances and consciousness altering drugs. Both songs are sparsely composed, both musically and lyrically, yet these are probably my two favorite new songs this year. (As new as 28 year old songs could be.) (8/10/00)
"Rhinoceros" - Block. The guy sounds like some sort of amalgm of some Bob Dylan, and maybe a touch of Bruce Hornsby. I guess. [Summarily inaccurate ergo foolish comment deleted.] When I say the instrumentation is sprinkled over the mix, I'm not exaggerating: a guitar will appear in the right channel, then vanish only to reppear in the left moments later playing the same thing. And there are about three or four other instruments that behave this way as well. And the way the guy (Jamie Block) sings it though, it's catchy. It's poppy. (8/5/00)
"American Girls" - Homie. It's Weezer and Soul Coughing, I think, in a song from the Meet The Deedles soundtrack, Meet The Deedles being a kids show, again, I think. It's (the song is) a tasty example of unplugged economy: Piano, acoustic guitar, bean shakers (or maybe just one), tambourine, a honking little hint of harmonica, and what sounds very much like an electrically amplified stand up classical bass. They toss in a discreet bit of electric guitar about half-way through, and it's not out of place. (8/3/00)
"Weekday" - Toni Halliday. She used to sing for Curve (and maybe she still does since I think they have a song on the X-Men soundtrack) but this song is from her 1989 solo album Hearts & Handshakes, although, come to think of it, "Weekday" was released as a single the year before that. She has an incisive singing style with Pat Benatar range, getting down into the low registers with ease. Also, she's fond of using the 7th as a grace note (or an outright harmony, a technique she employs to remarkable effect in Curve's song "Frozen.") (8/2/00)
"Dirty Work" - Pointer Sisters. Both this version and Steely Dan's original version are terrific, and Steely Dan wins in an A/B comparison (my opinion, of course) but the Pointers found a tight band and injected tremendous energy into the song. And their soaring three-part harmony don' hoit none, neitha. (8/2/00)
"I Love You To Death" - Type O Negative. Queensryche, Pink Floyd, Marillion...all these bands and more - Nine Inch Nails - leap immedately to mind as one listens to this soaring 7+ minute magnum opus. It has an orchestal feel to it though I 'd be hard pressed to spot a single traditional orchestra instrument in the mix. And more surprising, this lushness is despite (or perhaps because of) the most distorted rhythm guitar I can recall hearing on record. (7/19/00)
"Germ Free Adolescents" - X-Ray Spex. Caught the tail end of this on a college station about six years ago, but was never able to find the CD anywhere. Then comes MP3, and boom, the thing turns up like ten copies on the first search. Sheez, mon! This song is, I think, from 1979 or 1980. It's a mod dirge that holds up, more or less, to the test of time: In 1980, I'm sure it was looked at as the very cutting edge of new wave. Now, it still qualifies, but doesn't feel quite as cutting edge, which, it's 20 years old so I'm cutting it some hard-earned slack. (6/7/00)
"No Man's Woman" - Sinead O'Connor. Yay! It's about damn time! (5/22/00)
"Take A Picture" - Filter. Not quite "Hey Man, Nice Shot," is it? But then, it's been four or five years since that song and the album whence it came, and a lot can happen in five years. And to the smartass who gave me grief for calling them "albums" instead of "CDs"...go withdraw your life savings and buy a damn life. An album is a collection. This collection can exist on a number of media, vinyl LPs (any idea what LP stands for, rocketsauce?), analog cassettes, DAT, compact discs, or a big book with scotch tape and Dymo labels. (5/21/00)
"It's Digestible" - Ernies. YOU MUST MOVE TO THIS!! Essentially the same message as the Shootyz Groove a few slots sub ("Call it what you call it, we'll throw anything and everything at you and as long as we make it "digestible" you'll have no choice but to love it," and they do and I do.) Peppered with horns, a wicked little rap break, and AHHHH...my beloved crunchy guitar! You can't NOT move to this, I'm telling you. (Next generation Fishbone, if forced to compare.) (4/15/00)
"Sloop John B" & "Good Vibrations" - Beach Boys. Oldies, of course, but WHAT LEGS. If I never thought Brian Wilson was a bona fide genius before, I certainly have changed my tune because, while I realize the Beach Boys have countless other fantastic songs in their (excuse me) oeuvre, these two carnivalic masterpieces seem, to me anyway, to rise above them. "Sloop John B" is a wonderful contradiction: the singer is miserable but the music is exuberant. And that UNBELIEVABLE a capella break is worth the price of each and every CD on which you can find it (and there are many.) As for "Good Vibrations," that this experimental and completely original and in all other ways PHENOMENAL song is one of the most popular pop/rock songs ever recorded while also being widely regarded by not only the public but by musicians and scholars as one of the finest is, to me, one of the rare visible suggestions of the existence of an Almighty Being. The truth is of course that it is hardly a single song but about five or six, the segues between which are sometimes subtle, sometimes absent. My favorite part is, I think, the "I don't know where but she sends me there" chord shift, followed by the "na, na-na, na-na....NA, NA-NA" part, which would be just ahead of the "staccato cello + whistle" thing that ends the song, or maybe even the quiet "tambourine and slide whistle" part (better known as the part that immediately precedes the "Gotta keep those lovin' good / Vibrations a'happenin' with her" part.) (2/23/00)
"Goodbye Earl" - Dixie Chicks. For all the hoopla about the violence depicted in this song, I think the girls got it right: You "walk right through a restraining order" and put your wife in intensive care, you got to GO: AMF. (2/21/00)
"Mad For It" - Shootyz Groove. A man professing that he loves his music regardless of how it is labelled. I suppose this is the Rap/Metal realization of the quote from Romeo & Juliet: "Would not a rose by any other name still smell as sweet?" Check out their page and hear snippets of each song on their CD. It has this song as well as "L-Train", which I mentioned in the 1999 section. (2/12/00)