Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Certain Songs Part XIX: Blogger Sucks

And Blogger continues to get worse and worse. We attempt to continue, even though it was quite the struggle to get this to display without a great deal of effort. There are spacing and other issues. I don't care anymore.


When I first heard Nirvana in the early 1990s, my first thought was, “Dang, they nicked the Pixies’ sound and did it far more depressingly.” I adored the Pixies in 1989, although when Steven H. and I tried to see them in Providence on this tour, the crowd—which was voluminous—were all of the slam-dancing type, so it was hard to really enjoy the show. Still, they played their set in alphabetical order, and that appealed to me. Doolittle was the one masterpiece of the band’s four records.
Opener “Debaser” has become something of a classic, with its references to the surrealist Louis Buñuel/Salvador Dalì film Un Chien Andalou.

“Here Comes Your Man” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven” were the radio/MTV hits (“Here Comes Your Man” was the video they played relentlessly on 120 Minutes, and it is pretty funny, even if the song is the most atypical of the album), but all the songs are great. The line “Walked the sand with a crustacean” in “Wave of Mutilation” helped endear me to the record. The dark, surreal aspects of the lyrics were the appeal, but rarely duplicated since. And how can you not sing along with “Gouge Away”? The Pixies may have helped invent grunge, which was unfortunate. Their subsequent two records were okay, but never matched the heights of Doolittle.

Copper Blue

After one great and one okay solo album, Bob Mould formed another power trio, but this one blew the doors off Hüsker Dü. Where the Hüskers’ power was in their lo-fi thrash punk, Sugar was a professionally recorded assault on the senses. The EP Beaster will shred eardrums and speakers alike, and I mean that in a good way. Their debut LP Copper Blue has a pop sensibility buried amongst the tumult. It will still shred anything in earshot if the volume is loud enough (one advantage to owning a house—perhaps the only one). Opener “The Act We Act” sets the (very loud) tone (“The act we act is wearing thin”...indeed). “Helpless” should have been a hit. This one reminds me of commuting in NYC in 1992, as it was playing on my Walkman incessantly at the time, which may explain my failing hearing. “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” is a refreshing acoustic break, but still emotionally wrought. We’ve all been there. This record may be the pinnacle of Bob Mould’s entire career, although he’d probably beat the crap out of me for saying that. But, then, there are days when cranking Beaster is the most appealing option. File Under: Easy Listening never did much for me. But then, neither did too many of Mould’s subsequent records.

Stan Ridgway

Stan Ridgway may, unfortunately, be forever known as the singer of the one-hit-wonder 80s band Wall of Voodoo (“Mexican Radio”), even though his solo career easily surpasses his brief stint with WoV. I discovered Mosquitoes via a Rolling Stone review that pointed out that Ridgway should be writing movie screenplays; they also played the uptempo “Goin’ Southbound” on Boston’s WFNX at the time. Ridgway’s songs are, often, story-songs about film noir-ish characters, and what I think is his masterpiece—Mosquitoes [sic]—has some of his most compelling characters and stories.
Wall of Voodoo had originally begun in the 1970s to score movie soundtracks, and while that didn’t quite happen, Mosquitos’ opening instrumental “Heat Takes a Walk” does sound like it could have been a low-budget movie theme. “Lonely Town” only drops hints as to why the narrator wants to go to the titular town, where “all those people are lonely and mad”:

I think about those mosquitos on my windshield
And they don’t give a damn about Christmastime.”

He’s obviously returning to a place he ran away from? “Goin’ Southbound” is a great crime caper song—and the crime-boss narrator doesn’t like people who snitch: “The last one who did, well, we tied him a tree/Out in high desert by an anthilll....” But then: “Everybody does what nobody will allow.” “Peg and Pete and Me” is very James M. Cain-esque (see The Postman Always Rings Twice mixed with Double Indemnity, while “Can't Complain” is one of what I would imagine to be a very few songs to feature a character crushed by a falling piano. The tragic “Calling Out to Carol” got some rotation on MTV’s 120 Minutes. “The Last Honest Man” may be a bit trite, but hearing Ridgway’s film-noir-wise-guy voice sing the phrase “He kept his meeting for a cat o’nine beating from a leather-clad man named Moe” is worth it. “Mission in Life” sends the album out on a very inspirational note (“You got a mission in life/To hold out your hand/Help the other guy out/Help your fellow man...”). The music itself is very hard to describe, as Ridgway never cleaves to one particular style; saxophones blurt in middle of “Peg and Pete and Me” and sitar gives “Newspapers” a somewhat exotic flavor. In some cases, the 1980s-era sound dates certain portions, but most of the music was pretty left of center even at the time, so it still holds up. The follow-up record Partyball is nearly as good, with more scifi-related story songs. Never especially prolific, he’s only released fewer than half a dozen albums since Mosquitos

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