A CAREFUL CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF 20TH CENTURY FILM AND ITS PSYCHOMETAPHYSICAL RAMIFICATIONS UPON POPULAR CULTURE. AND SHIT LIKE THAT.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

WILDE IN THE STREETS


Sure, he was Kim Wilde's father. You gonna hold that against him?

MARTY WILDE, "DIVERSIONS" LP (UK PHILIPS 1969)

INCREDIBLY HARD TO FIND and AMAZING 1969 pop psych LP by Marty Wilde, “Diversions” on the UK Philips label. NEVER reissued, and that’s a right shame too, because this is one of the lost British popsike gems – a one-time burst of color-wheel mod freakbeat brilliance from an artist not always known for being “hip” (see Del Shannon/Charles Westover and Peter & Gordon’s “Hot Cold and Custard” for similar instances). But Marty, god bless ‘im, he pulls out ALL the stops on this one, and goes whole hog into the Swinging London scene (a year or two late, maybe, but still…). “Diversions” is FULL of brilliantly orchestrated Hollies-style pop that would fit nicely on a Fading Yellow or Great British Psychedelic Trip compilation. And hey, any artist who has the NERVE to call a song “Zobo (1871-1892)” deserves a big ol’ pat on the back just for that, and surprisingly, that particular song is a STUNNING dramatic orchestrated popsike track with some KILLER FUZZ guitar runs and pumpin’ stompin’ shakin’ rhythm section. “Zobo”’s got this cool pseudo-Spaghetti Western vibe to it (a la DDDBM&T’s “Don Juan” or Love’s “Alone Again Or”) and throws you for a loop with these SLASHING Pete Townshend drive-by fuzz power chords! Truly insane, and that’s not even including the inexplicable lion/dinosaur/indigestion growls that come in during the fade. And you thought Screaming Lord Sutch was out there! “Jesamine” is a fine cover of the Casuals track, a cool orchestrated classy popsike winner with soaring choruses and lush harmonies – like the best “Butterly”-era Hollies material. “Alice in Blue” lives up to its great title – it’s a beautiful baroque ballad with mandolin, soaring strings and a HUGE “Day in the Life” orchestrated ending. Superbly catchy melody too – again, imagine the Hollies at their most ornate – “Would You Believe”, “King Midas in Reverse” for example. Elsewhere, Marty covers the Status Quo’s “Ice in the Sun” and Lulu’s “I’m A Tiger” to show you how crazy his record collection was at the time. And check out that WILD psychedelic cover art, with Marty looking like some acid-fried incarnation of Elvis (not that there WAS such an incarnation, mind you!). An absolute stone-cold British pop hidden treasure, where you least expected it too. And aren’t those the BEST kind?



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SQUID POP METER SEZ: 8 out of 10
BEST SERVED WITH: Baileys Irish Creme, Kim Wilde and Edible Underwear

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A PIECE OF KOLBER IN YOUR CHRISTMAS STOCKING




LENNY STACK, SOUNDTRACK TO "C.C. AND COMPANY" (1970, AVCO EMBASSY)

Joe Namath and Ann Margret. Now if THAT ain’t a recipe for a good film, then I don’t know what is. You’d expect a cast like that to tackle some obscure William S. Burroughs novel, but surprise – here they’re just kinda slumming it in some movie called C.C. and Company, that apparently involves the desert, a motorcycle, and Ann’s crotch being as close to Joe’s face as possible. I can only hope there’s a scene where Joe gets drunk and tries to plant a big wet one on Ann Margrock’s cheek. “Y’know Ann, I jes’ really wanna kiss you…”

I can only hope, of course, because I’m not one of the seven living people who’ve actually seen the film, but I can tell you this much – the soundtrack sho’ is funky! But then again, how can it NOT be when the man responsible is named “Lenny Stack”? I mean, that name ALONE conjures up images of huge gold ’73 Impalas, giant afros and muttonchops the size of small ferrets, and a guy who, had he been on the sidelines that day, would’ve made sure Suzie Kolber was REALLY taken care of that evening.

So it’s no surprise then that Lenny gets down and dirty on this soundtrack album, with a heavy mix of funk and rock, especially the super funky blaxploitation groover “The Chase,” with its chuggin’ keys, rubber Bootsy bass and chukka chukka scratch blocks. As it always seems in these movies, the funkiest tracks are where someone’s being chased, and in this case, it sounds like C.C.’s making a beeline for the ESPN locker room. “Where are you, Miss Kolber? You can’t hide from C.C. baby!”

The other two indispensable monster funk jams are “The Duel (Part 1)” and “The Duel (Part 2).” Why they split ‘em up is anyone’s guess, since they’re both the same great fuzzed-out spy theme riff, screaming scuzzed-up inner city Peter Gunn rips spewing black clouds of burned Harley rubber amid the scattered pieces of lace and cotton from whatever Ann Margret was wearing underneath that pink dress. Part 2 has a blistering acid guitar solo, Part 1 has a skuzzy fuzz bass battling to the death with a squad of Baretta style inner city horns. Both of ‘em lay absolute WASTE to whatever they touch. And Suzy Kolber just stumbled into work an hour late, looking like hell, eyeliner running down her cheek and I swear to God I saw bite marks on her shoulder. CC, you devil. Looks like you got more than a kiss.




THE SQUID FUNK METER READS: Off The Chart
BEST TAKEN WITH: PBR, Old Spice and Chloroform

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Monday, September 22, 2008

HOLY GLUTIUS MAXIMUS, ROBIN! HAND ME A FISH STICK, WILL YA?



THE 5TH AVENUE BUSES "A TRIP TO GOTHAM CITY" (ABC Movietone LP, late 60's)

Sure, the comic book world is filled with buxom, overaccentuated vixens that are, at least in the real world, physically impossible to replicate, even when Pam Anderson goes under the knife for the 17th time this month, or whatever Kardashian sister is popular at the moment tries desperately to get the attention of anyone bored enough to watch. So it isn’t surprising then that the literary medium most predatory on the prurient interests of still pre-pubescent little boys should translate into one sexy mindfuck of an album when it finally hits the record shops. And even though you wouldn’t think the Fifth Avenue Buses Trip to Gotham City could get you hard for a second with a Banana Splits in the Bowery cover sleeve like that, trust me, when it’s time for these skintight super goddesses to purr like the sex-crazed Marvel kittens they really are, you’ll be wishing you had Julie Newmar tied up and lapping cream off of the turntable in your bedroom.

The little boys understand. And so Trip to Gotham City works best when it’s the girls who are singing, or slinking, or purring in the background, which they do really really well. And even though “Joker” might get your attention with its masculine distorted wah wah guitar licks, it’s still the go-go girls who steal the show, scatting nonsense vocals over the jazzy shuffle beat like a bunch of horned up schoolgirls trying to get you out of the BatCave. Fuck Cesar Romero, “Joker”’s really about what you’d do to Harley Quinn if she ever passed out on your dorm room floor.

Likewise, when the girls purr “Go to sleep, go to sleep” over the big beat sounds of “Sandman,” you’re much more likely to think of them succumbing to chloroform than backing up some overgrown supervillain on yet another dumb crime spree. But the sexiest superhero of ‘em all, and the one that naturally gets the biggest bulge out of your corduroys here, is the AMAZING slinky sex and sax-fueled track devoted to “Catwoman,” the all-time number one greatest DC spank bank heroine bar none. Sporting a sensational Danger: Diabolik style melody with great mysterioso surf guitar licks, this is every bit as playfully sexy as Selina Kyle in her skintight black leather catsuit, catching a claw on skin every once in a while with those lethal fuzz guitar breaks. The go-go girls are practically inspired here, knowing that this time its their turn to shine, purring and mewling “Meow!” over and over again while turning around and lifting their tails high in the air. Go ahead and sniff, little boy. Because whether it’s cats or shapely go-go girls or that elusive download that lets you see Lara Croft's gravity-defying jumps and tits, we’re all just suckers for a little superhero ass.





THE SQUID POP METER SEZ: Nine Out of Ten
BEST TAKEN WITH: Rum and Coke, Vaseline and a Poster of Lynda Carter

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

BILLION DOLLAR BOGIES (...or Alice Cooper Goes to Hull)



ALICE COOPER "Easy Action" (1970, Straight)

There’s a theory called Quantum Physics that deals in alternate universes and potential realities. But I’m a record collector, not a quantum physicist, so you’ll have to excuse my very limited knowledge of the subject. But I have to think that somewhere, there’s a parallel universe where Alice Cooper went on to become the most creative, envelope-pushing recording artist in rock music history. We, of course, ain’t in that universe, but we can, through carbon-dating and vinyl-studying, pinpoint the EXACT moment where those two universes split apart. It was 1970, right after this, his second album Easy Action on Frank Zappa’s Straight label. In OUR universe, a major label signing would result in Alice’s slow but steady decline into sub-Gwar kiddie metal and a side career as a good, if somewhat skeletal, PGA golfer. In that OTHER universe, however, Alice continued to release twisted psych-prog gems like Easy Action all the way up until his death, a tragic beating at the hands of some jealous renegade Droogs. Turns out they were only preventing him from doing an ill-advised commercial for Staples. Something WE couldn’t do.

Thankfully, at least, Alice DID drop a handful of pre-Staples masterpieces in our world before picking up a golf club, and on Easy Action, you can see just how fucking BRILLIANT this band was. I mean, if ZAPPA liked him, that means SOMETHING, right? (Okay, it doesn’t explain Captain Beefheart, but still…) He looks toward his past on the blistering “Return of the Spiders,” a heavy acid garage psych barnstormer with steam locomotive rhythm, flying twin guitar attack and gruff snarling pre-punk, post-garage vocals, as if ol’ Vincent Furnier finally remembered his mid-60’s years cranking out zombie garage singles in his basement before he got momentarily sidetracked by the prissy Pretties For You. And as we’ll find out later, he did.

Several songs on Easy Action are Alice Cooper as psychedelic popsters, just as legit as the Electric Prunes and the Human Beinz, and worthy of as much adoration amongst the weed-smokin’ box-set-buying retro hipsters who scour Ebay for that original Music Machine vinyl album in MONO. “Shoe Salesman” is popsike brilliance, a trippy little number that tones down most of early Alice’s eccentricities for a short radio-friendly shot of electric kool-aid that SHOULD have marked the band’s entry into the Billboard charts, if this universe were as fair as that other one. And if not that one, what about “Refrigerator Heaven,” a damn-near BRILLIANT psychedelic mushroom cloud decked out in layers of phasing and processing and even some fake Johns Children crowd cheers? Or maybe they’re real, I don’t know. Or maybe Vince just sank a ten-foot putt on the back nine.

Either way, Alice was on a fucking ROLL here, and if you dug his homage to those pre-album days cranking out garage beat with the Spiders, then just wait’ll you hear what this lean and hungry freakpsych band does with Alice’s old 1967 garage punk nugget “Lay Down and Die, Goodbye” (when they were known as the Nazz). The original single was lucky if it ran 3 minutes, but here, the Easy Action Coopers down some mescaline and stretch the thing out to a mind-bending 7-and-a-half minutes, a post-Syd Barrett “Interstellar Overdrive” freakout that probably wasn’t being done anymore in 1970, but fuck everyone else, right? Those extra 5 or so minutes are spent shredding instruments in a genuine psych-o-delic extended midsection jam, smashing amps, bending strings and generally creating the kind of mythical inhuman noises that Syd Barrett used to get out of his guitar back when he was still able to play on stage. But, to his credit, Syd never went on to make Monster Dog.

It’s hard to believe that Easy Action isn’t viewed as the psychedelic benchmark it SHOULD be, a lunacy module for the ages. Perhaps if someone ELSE recorded it – and by that I mean someone whose career wasn’t tainted by “Only Women Bleed” – it would be better remembered. If this were a homemade one-off album by some unknown Gandalf the Grey Wizard type whose identity remains shrouded in mystery, you might be remortgaging your house right now to get it. And it would STILL be worth every penny. But Quantum Physics aside, in OUR universe, it remains simply an early album by a creepy-looking PGA golf pro. Still, I betcha Seve Ballesteros never recording anything THIS good.

THE SQUID POP METER SEZ: Ten Out of Ten
BEST TAKEN WITH: Acid, Hallucinogens, Ben-Gay and a -5 Handicap


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Saturday, September 6, 2008

WANNA FOLK?



THE NEWBURY PARK, "GREEN TAMBOURINE" (from the 1968 LP NEWBURY PARK, Cream)
Every so often, you come across an album that just kinda stops you in your tracks. Not because it’s great music or anything, but because there on the front cover, staring right at you, is an absolute total sixties BABE. One that you just KNOW you’re destined to meet, provided you could somehow muster up a word or two while in her presence. I mean, let’s be honest, you didn’t REALLY like the Shocking Blue THAT much, did you? But yet you bought every album you found because that smokin’ hot chick with the deadly eyeliner called to you from every album cover, practically begging you to take her home (in Dutch, probably, but you somehow understood). And hey, for $5.98, you didn’t have to listen to it – you just propped it up on your dresser and used it when necessary. Likewise those two babes in the Love Generation who looked like they’d rather be sauntering around the Playboy mansion in sheer pink teddies than singing – I’m sure their photo on the cover of every album didn’t hurt sales. And when we discovered that Ruth Copeland and Gal Costa actually put out some GREAT records, well, that was just a bonus. I mean, I had ‘em for three YEARS before I ever bothered to listen to ‘em.

Now, I’m not about to tell you that Newbury Park’s album is great. It’s good sunshine pop, full of breezy melodies and sumptuous girl-on-girl…er, I mean girl and boy harmonies. Or so I’ve been told. I still haven’t gotten past that cover. Speaking personally, and this is just my own opinion of course, but that right there is my 60’s dream come true. Two of the most AMAZING hotties in folk pop history, the perfect pair of hippie chicks – and if I were alive back then, I’d have gone to EVERY ONE of their concerts, even if they sang nothing but old sea shanties. I don’t know what’s BEST about this photo – the sexy come-hither look of the slightly-sluttier version of Michelle Phillips, the impossibly perky, gravity-defying shirt on the button-cute brunette, or the fact that these mega-babes are actually hanging out with two guys I KNOW I can take. I mean, LOOK at those guys! They HAVE to be the girls’ brothers, right? There’s no way in H*#@ a love goddess in tight striped pants would EVER hang out with Kevin Costner’s dad, right? Where’s my time machine, forgodsake?

Should you ever go so far as to actually PLAY this album (while staring at the cover), you’ll find some very pleasant gentle soft pop and breezy summershine grooves. But again, there’s four band members on the cover and one instrument – an acoustic guitar – so what were you expecting, speed metal? “Afternoon Sky” is a great calliope circus ride of soft pop, while “I Wanna Come Home” is a slightly drunken-sounding Mamas and Papas clone that tells the story of a soldier writing home to Mom. And Newbury Park’s cover of the Lemon Pipers’ “Green Tambourine” is breezy soft pop heaven – with four-part “ba ba ba” harmonies replacing the original sitar. It’s all deliriously happy, swinging sunshine pop bliss – just the kind of stuff you’d probably play if you were trying to get into a hot young brunette’s tight-fitting striped bellbottoms and you happened to look like Kevin Costner’s dad with a bad comb-over. Hey, don’t laugh – it looked like it worked.

Now, I’m not trying to reduce Newbury Park’s album to just another slab of T&A – okay, maybe I am – but look, this stuff’s just as good as any other soft pop coed harmony pop outfit – the Green Lyte Sunday, for example, or the Love Generation, or the Free Design, for that matter. But if you got two hot babes in your band, it’s just Smart Marketing 101 that you take advantage of it. But lemme just reiterate, Newbury Park is MORE than just T and A – even when the T is as mesmerizing as it is on the brunette – rest assured all you sunshine pop Fading Yellow Soft Sounds for Gentle People lovers will find a bounty of beautiful new tunes on this record. These ladies DESERVE to be taken seriously as musicians, and as talented vocalists who, together, create a sound that’s as smooth and breezy as a summer’s day in 1968. Now ladies, please. Give me a call sometime, okay?

SQUID POP METER SEZ: A Solid Ten (...he wishes)
BEST TAKEN WITH: Patchoulli, Weed and all the Rufies You Can Find

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

DUMB DORA IS SO DUMB...


B.C. Camplight “Richard Dawson” (from HIDE, RUN AWAY, 2005 One Little Indian)

Sure, this one swings like an old Burt Bacharach tune. And yeah, lead Camplight Brian Christinzio attacks his piano like Valerie Bertinelli attacking a side of beef, a slightly less precocious Ben Folds who doesn't always make you wanna take a swing at him. And absolutely, no doubt about it, this song benefits big-time from the sweet breathy vocals of Cynthia Mason, who sorta sounds like Suzanne Vega if she hung out more often with the French babes from Nouvelle Vague (and she should). But all that don’t add up to coolness on its own – for that, you gotta pick a good subject. And this one’s got it. The coolest motherfucking TV star in the history of TV star motherfuckers, Richard Dawson. A man who’s been in prime time television since 1965 and kissed more desperate housewives than Mike Delfino, thanks to shows like Family Feud and Match Game 73. I mean, go back and watch those shows – chicks LOVE Richard Dawson. And why not? He wins money for ‘em. “Pick any one of our celebrities for a chance to win $5,000” says a drunken Gene Rayburn, and 99 times out of a hundred that bottle blonde MILF picks Dawson. ‘Cuz he’s a WINNER. I’d be willing to bet every single female contestant on the Match Game had to pass an audition in Richard Dawson’s dressing room BEFORE even GETTING to the actual stage. Meanwhile, the male contestants got divvied up between Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly.

And for those of you who are REALLY old, you remember where Richard Dawson got his start. On Hogan’s Heroes. With fucking Bob Crane. And you know what kind of weird sexual shit THAT dude was into. And I don’t care what the film Auto Focus says, it mighta been John Carpenter holding the camera, but I betcha Richard Dawson was in that room prepping the girls. I just know it. And Werner Klemperer was standing guard outside the door. Not only that, Richard Dawson’s first wife was Diana Dors. Google her sometime if you don’t know who she is. She was like Marilyn Monroe with Jessica Alba’s lips and Rosario Dawson's breasts, and knew more sex positions than the three of ‘em combined. You HAD to be cool to climb into bed with that, my friend. We’re talkin’ Richard Dawson level cool.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. The song’s got nothing to do with Richard Dawson. Not that I can tell anyway. But what the hell, SOMEBODY had to name a song after TV’s coolest member of the Match Game. And “Nipsey Russell” just doesn’t have the same oomph.

SQUID SURVEY SEZ: 7 out of 10
SQUID COOLNESS QUOTIENT: A Ten, like Debralee Scott

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

BEFORE YOU LEAVE, ADRIANA, I'D LIKE MY JACKET BACK




IRVING “I Can’t Fall in Love” (from I HOPE YOU’RE FEELING BETTER EP, 2003 on Eenie Meenie Records – it’s 53 FUCKING CENTS on Amazon.com – GO BUY IT!!!)

Summer’s disappearing faster than a hypo of heroin in Artie Lange’s living room, so I figured it was as good a time as any to bring you this little feel-good sunshine pop ditty by L.A.’s Irving, off their 2003 EP “I Hope You’re Feeling Better.” My girlfriend says it sounds an awful lot like Wilco, and it does have Jeff Tweedy’s whole “I can barely stay awake long enough to get through this song” vibe, but it’s also a fuckload bouncier and happier than anything Wilco’s been foisting on us in the past 30-odd years. I know it doesn’t sound like they put a lot of effort into it, but sometimes the best pop songs come off the cuff like that. Just a simple little shuffling drumbeat, a couple acoustic guitars and a rapid-fire vocal delivery with more lyrics crammed into 4 minutes than a late 70’s Squeeze song. And that cheesy 80’s synth – they musta picked that up from a yard sale at Gary Numan’s house, right? But best of all, like Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” or the Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” this is not a song you wanna put on a mixed tape for your lady friend. Poor guy’s waking up in the morning, listening to the birds, the clock and the helicopters (?), and all he can think about is how, try as he might, he just can’t seem to fall in love with the girl sleeping in bed next to him. Normally, that kinda shit wouldn’t bother a rock star, but the last few lines - “the morning shave, the coffee cup, the kiss goodbye, I go to work and all I think is, I can’t fall in love” – suggest that this is a serious relationship, maybe even marriage. Add to that the fact that she’s probably a hot Brazilian model – “they’ll see her in a magazine they’ll buy on their way home and think of her on beaches as the snow comes down outside” – and this is one of the most fucking heartbreaking songs in recent history. It’s like waking up next to Adriana Lima and realizing she’s still a virgin. Fuck, now I’m really depressed. Feel good hit of the summer my ass.

SQUID POP METER SEZ: Ten Tentacles Out of Ten
BEST TAKEN WITH: Zoloft, Lexapro and St. Johns Wort

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

ONE WARM PUPPY ON A STICK PLEASE...HOLD THE RELISH



A Warm Puppy, Colorful Love/Around A Fountain, 1968 single on the Bullet label

They might be called A Warm Puppy, but this Massachusetts band’s got a nasty bite. And they might’ve been decades ahead of their time too, without even realizing it. No doubt their only single, 1968’s “Colorful Love” b/w “Around a Fountain” was clearly a product of its psychedelic times, but you don’t find too many songs from 1968 where the drums are mixed this loud. It’s almost as if they could see into the big-drum future of the 1980’s. And if so, couldn’t they have stopped Kajagoogoo?

Make no mistake, neither of A Warm Puppy’s two highly trippy singles sounds anything like the MTV playlist circa 1985. But for a generation that emphasized fuzz guitar and farfisa in the mix, it’s odd to hear drums this clear and upfront. Good thing, though, because they gotta be loud to be heard through the wall of psychedelic noise on “Colorful Love,” a monster heavy psych beast that tries to simultaneously blow your mind and split your skull in three quick minutes. This is what you get when you cross Vanilla Fudge with the Pink Floyd without putting a cap on the amount of decibels they can create. A Rick Wright organ swirls and wails continuously, while the lead vocals are drenched in so much echo and sung with such drama and intensity, Jim Morrison begins to sound subtle. And all the while, the drummer flails away furiously, pounding frantically on the skins because he’s thrilled to death to be in the only band in 1968 that’ll mix him up with the rest of the instruments. And they called this band A Warm Puppy? Yeah right, only if its mom were Cerebus.

Things get lighter and airier on the flipside, and “Around a Fountain” actually sounds just like its name – a groovy circular reel around a psychedelic fountain. Here, the song rides a playful, skipping cymbal rhythm, very close to Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow,” while the organ plays an appropriately dizzy melody. Gone are any Meatloaf aspirations this time, as the lead singer sounds mellow, relaxed, possibly even stoned. This is the calm after the storm; the morning after the explosion of the universe. Somebody give this puppy a tranquilizer.

SQUID POP METER SEZ: 7.5 Lava Lamps out of Ten (and a much-needed hit of Ecstasy)

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Monday, August 11, 2008

SHAKE YOUR BUTT (NOT TOO HARD)


BUTTERSCOTT “Questionnaire” (from THROWING MEATLOAF AT THE SUN, Rev-Ola CD 2004)

Okay, so this little acoustic ditty isn’t all that special melody-wise (it’s pretty much the same riff over and over actually), but it’s the words that make it. If you’ve ever had to fill out a questionnaire just to get 10 percent off your next Borders Books purchase, you can probably sympathize with this song. Or if you just like an artist who’s not afraid to rhyme “Questionnaire, questionnaire” with “How old are the Jordainaires?” Me, I laughed out loud and spit up half a gallon of iced tea and Tasty-Kakes at that line about “the size of Frank Black’s derriere,” which, you gotta admit, is probably equal to about 7.3 Kim Deals at this point. And growing. Not that I’m checking him out or anything. But dude, really. You’re in a song with the Jordainaires. Someone’s gonna make the connection to Elvis sooner or later, right?

SQUID POP METER SEZ: Five Tentacles Out of Ten
SQUID LAFF METER SEZ: Ten Tentacles Out of Ten

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

...AND I AM JUST AN ADJUSTABLE SOCKET WRENCH

"Now lessee, is this considered DINNER PLATE or CASSEROLE?"


THE SOFTLIGHTES "The Microwave Song" (from SAY NO! TO BEING COOL, SAY YES TO BEING HAPPY, 2007 Modular)

I’m just a light boy looking for a lighter day
And it’s a cold, wet Wednesday.
We had days in the sun but they added up to none
It’s just the fate of the Atomic Age.


Yeah, I don’t get it either, to be honest, and that third line comes dangerously close to Terry Jacks territory for me. But that’s how San Diego’s Softlightes chose to start their poppiest pop ode to the microwave, called, oddly enough, “The Microwave Song.” Anyone looking for further enlightenment in the remaining lyrics will run up against lines like “There were lights in my head but they lost their place” and “I’m looking at you from your tennis shoe,” proving that there were still musicians dropping acid as late as 2007. But talking about this song in simple words is kinda like taking Route 76 into Philly – you may think you’re getting somewhere, but you’re not. So rather than dwell on the words, just click on the song, and listen to those beautiful REM/Robyn Hitchcock jangly chords, and that shimmering, chiming indie pop sound. And a chorus that will stick with you for the rest of your life, even though you’ll feel as dumb as a Hilton sister singing “I am just a microwave!” in the middle of a crowded shopping mall or rehab clinic. Here, the Softlightes have borrowed elements from the 60’s, 70’s and the 80’s to create a perfect little pop masterpiece. The trippy vibrato effect that dominates the first half is pure 60’s psychedelic grooviness, while the nifty little moog string section that pops in around 1:40 sounds like a sample from In the Court of the Crimson King or any one of the many interchangeable early 70’s Moody Blues albums. Then, to round out our quick tour of the decades, the lead vocals are strongly reminiscent of Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips or Tim DeLaughter from Tripping Daisy and (of late) the Polyphonic Spree. Put it all together and it’s one of the catchiest pop songs I’ve heard in a long time. The Softlightes used to be known as the Incredible Moses Leroy, whose songs were usually just as brilliant (and will undoubtedly show up in future posts). But alas, their name was apparently too confusing for some people, who thought Moses was a guy and not a band. Apparently the same bunch of fans who showed up during the 70’s asking to see Mr. Tull and Mr. Skynyrd. I’m not saying “Softlightes” is an improvement, but “The Microwave Song” is the closest either band has come to pure pop nirvana, and I haven’t got a fucking clue what they’re talking about. But next time I go to rehab, it’s what I’ll be singing.

THE SQUID POP METER SEZ: 9.5 Tentacles out of Ten


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Friday, August 8, 2008

Rock El Welsh






I couldn’t think of a better way to begin our trip than with the signature track from one of the most criminally neglected (and sadly, now defunct) pop bands of all time, the great Gorkys Zygotic Mynci. Those who know Gorkys love ‘em – while those who’ve never heard of ‘em lead shallow empty lives filled with frequent visits to Urban Outfitters and breathless anticipation over what Taylor Swift will come out with next. If you’re curious, check out “Sweet Sweet Johnny,” the way these Welsh kids should be remembered, a veritable mini-opera of psychedelic moodswings wrapped up in 4 and a half sweet minutes, a “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the Elephant 6 crowd. Listen how a lovely folk ballad with fiddle and piano turns abruptly into some freakish fuzzed-out Jerry Lee Lewis rave-up on the chorus, with Euros Child’s demented squeals battling a big hairy MC5 riff as the whole song implodes in on itself at just past the 2-minute mark, culminating in what sounds like the destruction of a piano and a drum kit and the psyche of every little Indigo Girls fan who wandered into the crowd by mistake. If you’ve seen ‘em live, and God bless you if you have, you’ll know that this Jerry Lee Lewis-like piano disembowlment can continue for up to 10 solid minutes onstage, as Euros ramps himself up into a frenzy, 110 pounds of flying flesh and fingers and demonic shrieks that somehow make Damo Suzuki sound grounded. “I think I’ve got a blister on me finger,” he said after one such outburst, inadvertently becoming the first Welsh indie pop singer to quote Ringo Starr since Gruff Rhys once muttered “I get high with a little help from my friends” after another 46-minute electro-dub version of “The Man Don’t Give A Fuck.” Best of all, when this Category 5 hurricane finally passes, one of the most beautiful little fragile melodies comes crawling out from under the debris, anchored by only Megan Childs’ weepy violin and Euros’s haunting piano. As he sings “I’m feeling so alone tonight” (it’s tough to get a date when you have such violent moodswings), you can’t help but feel a lump in your throat, even if you have a hunch he’s getting buckets of cute but frail indie girls after every single show. But to quote the Knack, the little girls understand, and it’s easy to hear why. Because right after Euros sings “What a way to spend a Saturday night,” the rest of the band comes right back in, creating the most beautiful, sad, fucking brilliant codas in indie pop history, lifting you straight out of your beanbag chair and into the upper reaches of Welsh pop heaven, which probably has some unpronounceable name like Ylllwwaangfrogwynwynmwyng. The first 4 minutes of “Sweet Johnny” is an epic buildup of Page/Plant proportions, a “Stairway to Heaven” on speed. But those last 55 seconds – this is the sweetest music you’ve ever heard in your life. And then, like the crazy Welsh kids they are, they go and end the song on an unsettling little minor key. Sheer fucking pop brilliance is what this is, with a twisted black heart. Okay, Taylor Swift. Let’s see you top that.

THE SQUID POP METER SEZ: Ten Tentacles (out of Ten)

Monday, August 4, 2008

WHAT TO EXPECT

Just good pop music. That's what I'm bringin' you kids here. So you damned well better appreciate it. I'm no music snob, so you won't find any hand-etched limited numbered experimental musique concrete cassette tapes from Bulgaria here (no offense to Bulgaria). And I've been collecting for longer than you've been around (your mother and I used to go to record shows together, that's how far I go back), so there's no sense for me to post anything by the Beatles or the Stones on this blog. You should already be familiar with that stuff. If not, then you need to go to bed right now. It's WAY past your bedtime.


In the weeks/months/years (I'm optimistic) to come, I'll be posting some pretty cool songs by current artists, indie bands past and present, and quite a few genuinely obscure, rare singles and albums by psychedelic bands from the late 60's and early 70's ('cuz that's how I make my living on the side). You won't find any brooding diatribes at how my friends left me stranded at Hot Topic or how the second season of HEROES didn't quite match up to the genius of the first. Just good pop music, and the men (and women) who created it. But I personally stake my reputation (I have none at the moment, so what the hell) that every time you click on a song on this site, you'll hear something that'll make you smile. Or dance. Or throw cutlery at your parents. They're all valid reactions, really. Oh, and be sure to leave some comments and let me know what you think. Because I care. I really do...