Archive for June, 2012

Your extremely late post for the week of 6/18/2012…

“No No No” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Yes, yes, it’s very funny — the Yeah Yeah Yeahs wrote a song called “No No No.”  Laugh it up.

Have you calmed down yet?  Good.

I like this song a lot, and not just because I can crack terrible jokes about its title.  I read an online comment about this song in which the writer astutely noted that “No No No” plays a critical role in the structure of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ first album, Fever to Tell, as a primarily midtempo song which transitions listeners from the fast-paced, sex-crazed first seven songs on the disc to the more “serious,” less-than-blistering (but still good) final tracks.

Musically, I think the guitar and drum parts in the intro are particularly cool.  But when playing this song at full blast in the car, man… nothing rocks harder than that chorus.  I suppose that’s because it brings the guitar to the forefront, when for most of the song the bass is playing a lead part.  After the three-minute mark, the bass and drums become even more important than before, as the track becomes an extended exercise in dub.  If we view the Yeah Yeah Yeahs as part of a “post-punk revival,” the dub section offers a clear connection with the New Wave of punk/post-punk in the late ’70s and early ’80s, as it mirrors the reggae fixations of bands like the Clash and the Police.


“Most Wanted” by Cults

Cults’ self-titled debut was one of my favorite new albums of 2011.  Although the record has primarily been embraced by members of the hipster set, its sound isn’t exactly what one generally expects of contemporary indie bands; instead, Cults’ sound is straight out of the early 1960s.  In many ways, Cults is an update of Phil Spector’s wall-of-sound girl groups for the MGMT era.  Although all of their songs are original compositions, the band adheres closely to the songwriting styles used for the aforementioned girl group hits; the saccharine, sometimes almost childlike lead vocals of Madeline Follin further solidify the connection.  But their music is drenched in reverb, and the echoey atmosphere of the production is combined with creepy dialogue samples for a sometimes foreboding effect that one wouldn’t get from Spector’s records.  The lyrics touch on darker themes than one would find in early-’60s pop, as well.

One such theme is drug use, which is the clear subject of “Most Wanted,” the song I’m posting today.  The song’s music isn’t downbeat — indeed, its melody is quite sweet — and, if anything, Follin’s vocals sound more childlike than usual.  Nevertheless, I find this song rather affecting.  It conveys the narrator’s sadness over drugs’ ruinous effects on her life, at least in my opinion, almost as well as various songs on Alice in Chains’ Dirt communicate the bleak, devastating misery of Layne Staley’s heroin addiction.

Not to be confused with the similarly-titled song by Hard-Fi, “Livin’ for the Weekend” is a classic soul tune which was a hit for the O’Jays in 1976.  As one might guess from the title, the song is essentially a TGIF anthem, recounting the frustrations of the work-week and celebrating the pleasures of letting loose on the weekend.  The O’Jays released a shorter version as a single, but the album version of the track is sprawling, running over six-and-a-half minutes.  The song’s lengthy intro is relatively slow and incredibly soulful.  Then, around the two-minute mark, we’re launched into an upbeat, piano-and-trumpet-driven soul jaunt.  And then, at about the five-minute mark, the tempo suddenly slows down, and a funky bassline guides us through an extended breakdown that leads us into the eventual fade-out.

Here it is. Can you dig it?

The Dirtbombs are a band from Detroit that started to appear on music critics’ radar around 2001, when the White Stripes were spearheading a popular revival of garage rock and awakening interest in other bands from the Detroit area.  Although there are several ways I could describe the Dirtbombs, perhaps I could do so most succinctly by saying they’re sort of like the White Stripes but with a black singer and less, um, sparse drumming.  Anyway, in 2001, the Dirtbombs released an album called Ultraglide in Black, which was comprised of their garage-rock covers of songs by classic Motown artists, ranging from Smokey Robinson to Junior Walker’s All-Stars.  Among those covers was their version of “Livin’ for the Weekend,” which skips the intro and goes straight to the fast part, which in this case involves singer Mick Collins shouting over a simple punk guitar riff.  What’s kind of cool, though, is that the Dirtbombs too do the extended breakdown that the O’Jays did in the original — with the backing vocalists crooning “livin’ for the weekend…” and all.

I like the original better, but it’s worth listening to the cover:

For the week of 6/11/2012…

“Teen Angel Eyes” by Tommy Tutone

So, this weekend, on a lark, I watched a 1982 “teen movie” called The Last American Virgin; it vastly exceeded my expectations.  It was kind of like a combination of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Superbad, plus a twist ending, minus subplots about stoners and fun-loving cops, and flavored with a heavier dose of raunchiness than either of those movies.

Anyway, this movie had a pretty cool early ’80s soundtrack, including a prominently featured song that I’d never heard before:  Tommy Tutone’s “Teen Angel Eyes.”  Tommy Tutone, of course, is the band which had one of the biggest monster hits of the 1980s with “867-5309 (Jenny).”  But this other song, while it has all the makings of a power-pop hit, is actually one of the band’s most obscure tracks — having appeared only on the Last American Virgin soundtrack and never on one of the band’s studio albums (or making it onto any big ’80s compilations).  Too bad, because it’s really a lot of fun.  A few notes:

1)  The part in the bridge where Tommy Heath sings, “And I just can’t get over/why should he be your lover” weirdly reminds me of the part of the bridge in the Eagles’ “New Kid in Town” with the lines “But night after night you’re willing to hold her, just hold her/Tears on your shoulder.”  Very weirdly.

2)  I’m pretty confident that this was specifically written for inclusion in the movie, given its lyrical content (which reflects the tensions in the film).  Then again, a love triangle isn’t exactly an original concept…

3) This last bit has nothing to do with the song, but it needs to be said.  This video, besides featuring the audio of “Teen Angel Eyes,” is also a slideshow of various stills from The Last American Virgin.  Now, the actors who played the three corners of the film’s love triangle apparently never went on to do anything else particularly worthy of note.  However, each one looked strangely similar in 1982 to people I recognize from today.  Lawrence Monoson, playing our hero, was a dead ringer for Justin Long.  (Compare 0:40 in this video with a photo of Long.)  Diane Franklin, playing his love interest, had a face which looked pretty damn similar to Natalie Portman’s today.  (See 0:47.)  And Steve Antin, playing his friend and romantic rival, looked remarkably like a kid I know from college.  (You’ll just have to take my word for it on that one.)

I really should get more in the habit of writing more blog posts instead of amassing songs for a couple weeks then posting them all in a mass. Also, Hardiman, your prose and explanations put my posts to shame.

Kitty – The Presidents of the United States

If for some reason you can’t understand ever single lyric in this song, make sure to look them up. I respect these guys for realizing that rock music as a whole takes itself too seriously.

Modern Girls & Old Fashion Men – The Strokes feat. Regina Spektor

Ever since I last was home I’ve been on a big Strokes kick and it led me to this little gem, the B-side from Reptilia. This song simply gets better every time I listen to it.

Humbug – Goldfish

My time with the mini baja team has exposed me to all sorts of new music, but this guy’s voice is definitely the coolest I’ve heard in a while. Check out the other two songs he sings in on this album, too!

High and Dry – Rhythms del Mundo

Well, this song is definitely the hardest song I’ve ever had to find on youtube. It’s a Spanish cover of the Radiohead classic, and it’s awesome, nuff said. Dawg.

This concert film depicts a 2002 performance by the Strokes in Los Angeles.  First of all, this is a dynamite concert, both in terms of the quality of the performance and in terms of the song selection.  Basically, they play the best songs on Is This It, plus “New York City Cops” and two songs from the nascent Room on Fire.*  A few amusing/interesting things to note:  Julian Casablancas’ drunkenness, the way the members of the band dressed in 2002, and the screaming girls in the audience.  Oh, and most amusing of all:  Many things about this film, from the video quality to the look of the credits at the end, make it seem like it was recorded in the ’70s.  Personally, I think that just makes it seem cooler — although perhaps that’s just my inner Instagram-loving hipster talking.

Regardless, watch some of this concert when you get the chance, and have a rock ‘n’ roll weekend!!!

*Note:  You’re probably best served by clicking “Watch on YouTube” for this particular video, as the uploader there helpfully added time-links in the video description so you can skip from song to song depending on which you want to hear.

For the week of 6/4/2012…

“How Bizarre” by OMC

“How Bizarre” has been stuck in my head all week, perhaps because I’m in the mood for some laid-back summertime cruising and this song fits that perfectly.  Off the top of my head, I’d also venture that this is my favorite one-hit wonder from the ’90s.  I like how the frontman, Pauly Fuemana, is about as much of a singer as the guy from CAKE.  I like the Mexican guitars.  And above all, I like how pleasant it is to just kick back and listen to this song; it’s not as in-your-face as certain other one-hit wonders from the ’90s (I’m looking at you, Chumbawamba and “Tubthumping”!).

According to Wikipedia, this is the best-selling record of all time in OMC’s native New Zealand.