Saturday, August 23, 2008
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
Saturday, August 16, 2008
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
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
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)
Monday, August 11, 2008
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
Saturday, August 9, 2008
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
Friday, August 8, 2008
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)
THE SQUID POP METER SEZ: Ten Tentacles (out of Ten)
Monday, August 4, 2008
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...