Posts filed under ‘Music’
June 8, 2012
1. Wait for the cover art to kick in at 18 seconds. The guy from the Melvins was in a band with John Tesh? Huh?
2. The craftsmanship is devastating. In the entire canon of recorded music, how many other songs can claim two functional, world-class choruses? As soon as you get one unstuck from your head, you’re humming the other one. Marketing genius.
3. If Gen X spans 1960 to 1980, that means that almost half of my own generation has little to no recollection of the 1970′s. Specifically, they have no recollection of the 70′s profound ickiness, of which this track, released in ’80, is a swan song. Consider:
- There was a time when men actually named their own band “Ambrosia”, as if their music was sweet, sweet nectar.
- The whisper at 2:36. That’s the whole decade right there. Adults in the 70′s were always whispering seductively to each other. It was gross.
- All those plaintive, distant sax cries. What fills this emotional function in pop music now? Scratching? Grunts?
- When the late-inning bonus verse kicks in at 3:12, the one guy sings, “I’ll put my loving arms around you” and then, as if to underscore this point, John Tesh does so on the cover of the record.
4. Rest assured, the young woman sung to was very much NOT the only woman in Ambrosia’s life. This song is like the guy who shows up with the surprise bouquet of flowers to hide a dalliance. Good God, how many decapitated hookers did this song attempt to cover up?
May 25, 2012
THE ZONE OF UNEASE, May 25 – Last month, in New York, I had a long chat with a friend about the music of the twenty tweens. “Nobody makes creepy music any more,” she said. With a jolt, I realized she was right. It’s as if one whole shade of the emotional spectrum has simply vanished from popular music. Unpopular music, too. Where has all the creepiness gone? Here are a few songs from its heyday:
1. “I Got You”
Remember that one guy in your high school? He’s the singer. And while his bandmates know how to dress the part, it’s clear that Red, Purple, Pink and Greeny have no real clue that Baby Blue actually did build that basement dungeon they all joke about at practice. Bonus: the sociopathically upbeat chorus.
2. “19th Nervous Breakdown”
Probably the best Rolling Stones cover ever recorded. Wait for the chorus at 3:01. Ouch.
I once complained to myself that this song is how I always wanted Bauhaus to sound. That was a stupid observation, and an unfair one. Bauhaus were plenty creepy in their own right. Check out the first few minutes of 1983′s “The Hunger”:
Even if it were possible to make this kind of movie now, the music would be either an overbearing film score or runway-decibel raprock. It’s a shame.
3. “Human Certainty”
Here’s a weird video someone made. The full song is even creepier, and sadder, once the vocals kick in. I used to listen to this song a lot in high school, which was an unhealthy choice.
Watching this spry young lady, I kind of expect the whole thing to morph into this:
4. “Hamburger Lady”
This is probably what the guy in the first video was listening to when he did those terrible things that got him into the paper.
April 19, 2012
THE CAROLINAS, April 19 – One thing that happens when you’ve been in a band and then you write a novel, is that people will still want to talk with you about your old bands and not so much the novel. That’s fine, partially because this type of conversation is still a lubricant that sells books. But inevitably there are questions about my own future in bands, which are inevitably followed by my assurances that no, I have no plans to play any more music. I try to phrase this answer so that it doesn’t sound snooty. I wish I still enjoyed music. I’m hoping I enjoy music again in the future.
I get hints of this happening. I’ve been listening critically to music again, on this trip, for the first time in years. For most of my time in bands, I had a very limited range of songs and albums I liked. This gives me a huge advantage over most of my friends. There is an ocean of music out there I get to experience for the first time. Just on this trip, I’ve already been (re)introduced to a half dozen artists I never paid any attention to the first time around: King Crimson, Nas, early Roxy Music, Dio-era Sabbath, The Wipers, Wu-Tang Clan. Maybe someday I’ll be moved to buy one of their records.
We stopped at a Flying J in Latta, SC, and I was startled to see Tim Barry pull into the spot next to us. I knew Tim when I lived in Richmond in the mid-90’s. He was, and remains, a hell of a guy. I, on the other hand, was an unpleasant wreck when I knew him. My hope is that I didn’t make too bad an impression on him when I left his town. He’s the kind of person who would be too courteous to receive me with anything other than a bear hug in the candy aisle of a nasty truck stop, despite how much of a dong I may or may not have been 15 years ago.
We’re both on tour. Tim was heading south, I was heading north. Although he seemed happy and grateful to be able to do what he’s doing, I felt a twinge of relief that I wasn’t the one on a music tour. Then he asked how long I was touring, and I said “seven weeks”, and we both laughed in that way people do when they’re happy they’re not on an endless book tour and then one of them realizes that he very much is.