What's More Unbelievable?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Dancing Down in the Dirty Dirty

This past weekend I watched Dirty Dancing for the first time. It was recently given to me as a gift so I am now the proud owner of the Ultimate Edition which is 2 discs of who knows what. Disc One is obviously the film but what the hell is on Disc Two? Bonus features as far as the eye can see I guess. The film looked gorgeous in wide screen and I don't know why I waited 21 years to see this masterpiece of nostalgia. I truly enjoyed it more than I thought I would but had a few thoughts about the experience:

1. When people find out you haven't seen Dirty Dancing they absolutely lose their shit. "You've never seen Dirty Dancing?!?! How can that be possible?" is a pretty typical response. I don't get this comment when I tell people I haven't seen Citizen Kane or Gone With the Wind or Kingpin but somewhere along the line I missed the mandatory screening of Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze's hot young bodies grinding on each other. One of my few regrets, I assure you.

2. Not enough dirty dancing. I thought this movie was going to be wall to wall bumping of semi-clothed uglies but most of the dancing in the film was tasteful and well rehearsed. As far as I could tell there were only 2 scenes of true dirty dancing but even those scenes paled in comparison to the horrors I witnessed at my middle school dances. Some people learn the birds and the bees from their parents or books or gym teachers forced to put in a semester of Health classes to fulfill their requirements but I learned all I know about knocking boots from nameless 8th graders writhing on the floor of the all purpose room the the sounds of Salt N Pepa.

3. The soundtrack was mostly great as it was filled with scorching doo-wop and soul songs from the sixties but once in a while an overproduced, synth heavy 80s track would pop up and ruin the mood. Coming of age films set in a certain period of time should only feature songs from that era so the viewer can suspend all disbelief and fully supplant themselves into the movie world. The dance scenes set to the Ronettes and the Five Satins make sense and work well but then a giant piece of 80s cheese smacks you in the face and risks derailing the film entirely. The modern (at the time) gems include such classics as Eric Carmen's "Hungry Eyes" and Patrick Swayze's "She's Like the Wind" but nothing touches the horrendous and unavoidable "(I've Had) the Time of My Life" by Righteous Brother Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. It's an utterly execrable tune even out of context but as a soundtrack for the final scene it is inexcusable. Even worse, Swayze's character Johnny Castle mouths the words to Baby as they dance together. So we're to believe Kellerman's has hired some time travelling DJ who has brought the freshest sounds from the future back to 1963? Hardly. I guess the badass dancing Swayze showboats is supposed to make us forget about the incredible logic gaps but I found it very off putting. I also hated that they used a 10 minute Latin horn remix of this atrocious song to close out what was an otherwise enjoyable film. It was almost as embarrassing as the Judd Nelson dance scene in The Breakfast Club but not quite.

I'm glad I finally saw Dirty Dancing and can get all the disbelievers off my back. I will now cross it off my list of films that everyone else but me seems to have seen already. Next stop: Caddyshack.

And now for fun, MST3K's classic "Patrick Swayze Christmas."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Gumby Comes

"Hi!" says Gumby. "Holy Toledo" says Pokey. "I will eat you both" say Gamera.

The Double - Up All Night
Sonic Youth - Starfield Road

The Flaming Lips - Buggin'
Spoon - You Got Yr Cherry Bomb

Teenage Fanclub - Star Sign
The Lemonheads - Being Around

Ramones - Blitzkrieg Bop
Dolly Parton - River of Happiness

Frank Zappa - Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance
Of Montreal - Jennifer Louise
The Fiery Furnaces - Evergreen

The Monkees - PO Box 9847
The Beatles - Strawberry Fields Forever
The New Pornographers - To Wild Homes

Modest Mouse - Breakthrough
The Cribs - Girls Like Mystery

Vampire Weekend - M79
Matmos - Z.O.C.K.

Monarch/Wye Oak - I Don't Feel Young
Elliott Smith - Waltz #2 (XO)

Hot Chip - Over and Over
Belle & Sebastian - To Be Myself Completely
Fountains of Wayne - Hey Julie

The Magnetic Fields - I Thought You Were My Boyfriend
Ratatat - Loud Pipes
Brian Eno - Taking Tiger Mountain

Ween - Sweetheart in the Summer

Friday, April 25, 2008

Revisiting the Classix: The Lemonheads

Evan Dando and the Lemonheads have been back in the news lately, mostly due to the recent reissue of their seminal album It's a Shame About Ray. I, like many others, first heard about this band during the Alternative boom of the early 90s and quickly fell in love with the folk tinged pop songs and dreamy hair of Mr. Dando. By the time they released Come on Feel the Lemonheads in late 1993, I had already soured on the band and moved on to harder stuff like Archers of Loaf and Slant 6. What happened? I was so into Ray. I loved every song from barn burning first track "Rockin Stroll" to their wonderful cover of "Frank Mills" that ends the album. I stayed up late to catch their videos on 120 Minutes. I even fell in love with Smudge, Australia's version of The Lemonheads. But then Come On debuted and I yawned. The first single "Into Your Arms" was a cover, which is never a good sign, and it was pretty boring. I moved on and never looked back.

Until I did. I'm so glad I eventually revisited this record because it truly was love at first listen. I had access to the album for years but for some reason I never had any interest to give it a listen. My dad bought it on cd but I don't remember ever hearing it around the house. I remember him cranking "Everybody Loves Me But You" from Juliana Hatfield's debut album Hey You but I don't have a single memory of Evan Dando's voice rattling the speakers in our house. Years later, I discovered that Hott Mama had a copy of Come On on cassette, still in the shrink wrap. It was a BMG featured selection and automatically shipped to her without her consent. She never sent it back and there it lay, covered in plastic and long forgotten. Shawn put "Rest Assured" on a tape she sent to me and I dug it so much I finally decided to dust off the cassette and give it a chance. It was this tape version that won my heart. I now listen to this album more often that Ray and have more than once called it the most underrated album of the 1990s.

At the time Come On was released, I think I was annoyed by Evan Dando's public image and his slow descent into bloated rock star self destruction. Now I find it fascinating and it's this drug addled weirdness that makes the album so twisted and beautiful. There are certainly some typical Lemonheads pop gems, like "Dawn Can't Decide" and "The Great Big No" but most everything else is just slightly off, or completely off the rails as is the case with "Style." This odd tune is the centerpiece and thesis of the album, paving the way for the future crack smoking and following drug sickness that Evan fell into during the tour in support of Come On. Here's the opening lines of the song:
Don't wanna get stoned
Don't wanna get stoned
But I don't wanna not get stoned
I don't wanna not get stoned

Pure poetry! It goes on like this until he delivers my favorite verse:

Wanna knock things down
I'm not gonna knock things down
But I don't wanna not get stoned
So I'm not gonna not knock things down

What is that, a double negative? Brilliant! "Style" is song 7 on the album and is followed just four songs later by "Rick James Style" which is the same exact song only slowed down a bit and featuring the inimitable vocal styling of, you guessed it, Rick James. If you weren't already worried for the state of Evan Dando's soul, this song will change your mind. Yet somehow, it's not the death knell for the album. Instead, he follows it up with a brief little country rock number called "Being Around" which is so peppy and silly you can't help but fall in love.

All in all this is a very flawed album with some questionable judgment calls but for me it's the flaws which give it such a distinct personality and make me love it wholeheartedly. Song 3 is "It's About Time," a song written for Juliana Hatfield detailing how she finally lost her virginity to good friend and bandmate Evan Dando. And she sings backup on it! Who does that? Future Lemonheads albums are all half decent and half boring and terrible. Nothing he has done since has matched the perfect marriage of songwriting greatness and absurdity found on Come On Feel the Lemonheads. It doesn't matter that they decided to end the album with the bizarre piano doodle "The Jello Fund" because it is more than balanced out by wonders like "Big Gay Heart," "You Can't Take it With You" and the greatest Lemonheads song of all time, "I'll Do it Anyway." If you too passed on this album long ago, give it another chance and enjoy Evan Dando's collapse along with me. It's a glorious descent.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

8 Bit Masterpieces

There are few things in this life better than music and video games. Both fill my earliest memories. I remember being 4 or 5 and being completely enthralled with both "Weird Al" Yankovic and Intellivision. My obsessions have not faded over the past 25 years and I still spend much of my time listening to music, playing video games or both. I have already gone on and on about my love of Guitar Hero and Rock Band but what about video game music written specifically for the games themselves? Some of these tunes I have lived with for 20 years now. When playing a game, these songs repeat themselves endlessly, embedding themselves deep in the pleasure centers of your brain. It becomes like a Pavlovian experiment - I hear the first few notes of the Legend of Zelda or Super Mario themes and I smile without even consciously knowing it. Please take a second to watch these 2 short videos of Jean Baudin rocking these themes on the 11 string bass!



Video game music, and especially old Nintendo songs, are tied up tightly with nostalgia and they can cause video game freaks to have some pretty serious emotional reactions. Check out this crowd at a show by The Advantage, who are, as far as I know, the premier video game music cover band out there:

They start by cheering and then (I found this incredible) they start chanting along to the instrumental theme of Marble Madness. Marble Madness!! It's not even one of the more popular games of the 80s.

Video game music is now somewhat respectable enough, or at least profitable enough, that classical orchestras perform the songs in concert halls. The Video Games Live tours have been blowing the minds of game geeks for years. This clip is particularly incredible and nostalgia inducing. Starting with Pong, the orchestra touches on the music of several giants of the 8 bit era, causing synapses to fire throughout the audience. It's fun to see the reaction of the crowd as each game debuts on screen - Joust and Ghost & Goblins seem particularly popular. It's also wild to see clips from games I had completely forgotten about like Rastan. I spent so much time playing that game but hadn't thought about it in about 15 years. It's like being reunited with a long lost friend. Now I've probably said too much about my obsession so I will stop here and let you enjoy the madness:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fuzz and Drone

Let's celebrate shoegaze and dreampop together!

The Jesus & Mary Chain - April Skies
Swirlies - Vigilant Always
Lilys - Claire Hates Me

Slowdive - When the Sun Hits
Henry's Dress - Three
Velocity Girl - Pretty Sister

Jupiter Sun - Violet Intertwine
Black Tambourine - Throw Aggi Off the Bridge
Rocketship - Carrie Cooksey

Difference Engine - 5 Listens
Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic

My Bloody Valentine - Drive It All Over Me
The Ropers - Blue Sunday
Asobi Seksu - Pink Cloud Tracing Paper

Spiritualized - Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
The Pastels - Love It's Getting Better
Calla - Fear of Fireflies

Glowworm - Stars Above
Moped - Patty
Rocket or Chiritori - Vacation

Nate Ruth - How Truly Great You Are
Microphones - I'm Getting Cold
Bedhead - Bedside Table
Ride - Vapour Trail

Band of Susans - Elizabeth Stride (1843-1888)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Let the Caterwauling Begin

This summer is shaping up to be pretty superawesome. First, Mothra, Princess CPL and D Manix are due back in town in early May which is reason enough to celebrate. I also have a few trips lined up already and these journeys will most likely not leave me with intestinal distress as my recent Costa Rica jaunt did so that's a bonus. On one of these trips I will be going to the lovely New Hampshire shore for a week. Last year, my mom gave me 2 tickets to see Zappa Plays Zappa at the Casino Ballroom there and Jimbama and I went and were treated to a mind blowing event. 3+ hours of incredibly intricate rock and roll and an absolutely manic crowd of hard core Zappa freaks. It was a wonderful night and they're back again this summer during the exact week I'll be there so I plan on making this a tradition. Last time, they started with my favorite Zappa song, "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" and this year I hope to hear some gems from my favorite album We're Only In It For the Money.

But the most exciting news I've heard so far about the upcoming summer showed up on the Yahoo home page today. Rock Band is finally coming out for the Wii! June 22, 2008 is the prospective launch date. 2 short months until I forgo all responsibilities in lieu of attempting to learn the Tom Sawyer drums on expert. They claim it will have the same song content as on the XBox and Playstation versions plus 5 songs that were formerly available only as downloadable content. The Wii won't initially be equipped to allow downloadable songs but this is fine with me for now as I still have yet to figure out the online component of the machine. I'm a bit of a technology loser these days. I find myself thoroughly confused and somewhat afraid of my work issued cell phone, which is highly embarassing, but I do know how to insert a game disc into the Wii and that's all I care to know right now. One of those additional songs on the Wii Rock band is "Roam" by the B-52s which may be a worse choice than Aerosmith's cacophonous take on "The Train Kept A-Rollin'" but is also comes with "Dirty Little Secret" by Hott Mama approved All-American Rejects so they really balance each other out. As Listmaker always says, you have to take the rough with the smooch. Plus, the Wii drum set is white. White!! I'm not sure yet if that's cool or lame but the drum set will be mine regardless and that's good enough. I'm sure I can get Dustin the dismantle and spray paint it for me if I feel the white doesn't rock hard enough but I'm sure I'll be too busy sweating in my red rock pants to care.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Musical Fruit

No radio show last night due to post-vacation exhaustion but I have returned to the land of posting. I was in Costa Rica for 5 days last week and hoped to have some music to comment on but instead I've got nothing. Not a single Costa Rican song or story to tell you about the music of the wonderful country. All week long, we were driven around the rolling hills and windy streets of La Fortuna and beyond and not once did our driver put on the radio. I had hoped to hear what Costa Rican radio would sound like. Would there be a lot of national flavor? Wall to wall classical guitar music? The greatest hits of the 80s, 90s and today? I still have no idea since we rode in silence and it was torture for someone like me who craves background noise because we rode a lot. Once, one of us piped up and asked for Heiner, our incredible friendly driver, to turn on the radio but this idea was silenced by the majority who wanted to be able to talk and listen to the sounds of the jungle, which admittedly were amazing. I woke up every morning to a unique symphony of sounds that involved some if not all of the following: Toucans, Scarlet Tanagers, Howler Monkeys, Cicadas, Finches, Goats, Farm Workers, Dogs, Cows and more. It was absolutely cacophonous and so overpowering, I never made it past 6 am before being woken up.
Since we had no music to fill our ears, my brain started recalling song at random to give me some free entertainment. It started slowly but by the end of the week, my head was buzzing with non stop hits including some really odd selections. This is the first song that decided to appear from the void I was living in.

I have no idea why that was my brain's debut but it wasn't unwelcome. I love discovering new pop hits to latch on to and this one is so wonderfully cheesy that I can't help but give in.

One of the special treats of being in Costa Rica was eating fresh fruit directly from Luna Nueva's farm. For each meal we had fresh pineapples, papayas and mangoes as big as small children picked from the grounds. It was heavenly. On Wednesday, we ventured into the rainforest and our guide Robert pointed out a Guanabana tree to us. The fruit is large and bumpy but the flesh is white and juicy. It's almost chewy like and oyster but incredibly delicious with a flavor unlike anything I've ever eaten. We passed around pieces, marveling at the taste of this strangely names fruit. The sun was shining down, the forest was chattering away around us and things were pretty perfect. Until someone decided to pipe up and sing, "Guanabana" to the tune of the insidious classic "Mahna Mahna." At that point it was all over. For the rest of our trip, we couldn't go more than a few hours before someone would call out "Guanabana!" and before you know it, we'd all chime in "Do-Dooooo-Do-Doo-Doo." Ahhhh, the sounds of the rainforest.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Leather Pants Rock n Roll

I'm off to Costa Rica tomorrow so no new posts for a week. Alabaqster Jones visited me tonight and what a wonderful way to end a long week. Strap on your leather pants and ride!

AC/DC - You Shook Me All Night Long

Journey - Don't Stop Believin'
Bon Jovi - Get Ready
Foreigner - Jukebox Hero

Angel Witch - Angel Witch
Damn Yankees - Damn Yankees
Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath

Winger - Purple Haze
The Replacements - Black Diamond
Soundgarden - Come Together
Joan Jett - Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah)
Van Halen - Oh, Pretty Woman

Andrew W.K. - Party Hard
Warrant - Dirty, Rotten, Filthy, Stinkin' Rich
Slaughter - Up All Nite
Manowar - Kill With Power
Joe Satriani - Big Bad Moon

Led Zeppelin - Fool in the Rain
The Doors - Break on Through
Heart - Crazy on You

Van Hagar - Inside
T Rex - Solid Gold Easy Action
Coverdale/Page - Pride & Joy
Jet - Are You Gonna Be My Girl?
The White Stripes - Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine

Whitesnake - Rock and Roll Angels

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Let the Saxophonist Have Some

Ween has always been a band that makes people scratch their heads. Some hate them virulently, refusing to believe they are anything more than drug addled, juvenile goofballs who create music with the sole purpose of torturing listeners. Others worship them unequivocally, bowing down at the temple of the Boognish. While not quite as far gone as some, I would have to place myself in the second camp. I love Ween. I first found out about them when "Push the Little Daisies" somehow wrestled its way onto the radio. In an era where King Missile received heavy rotation, I guess I shouldn't be so surprised Ween were allowed on the airwaves too. My college roommate Jimbama later won me over completely when he introduced Chocolate & Cheese to my life. If you can fall in love with "Mr. Would You Please Help My Pony?" you are well on the path to becoming a Ween obsessive.
One thing about this band is that they consistently mystify me and the rest of their fans. They put out an album titled, 12 Golden Country Greats which seemed like a put on but was actually a compilation of country tunes. The fact that there were only 10 songs on the album just intensified the head scratching.
They have Motorhead homages like "It's Gonna be a Long Night" rub up against soft rock gems such as "I Don't Want It" and seem to think there's nothing odd about that. They used the photo to the left as a press photo. With Ween it seems like everything is thrown into a pile and it's up to the listener to sort it out. Good luck to all those willing to try.
For their latest opus, La Cucaracha, they have written a full-fledged Euro-disco club song titled "Friends." But the strangest thing about the song is that it's not even the most confusing inclusion on the album. That honor belongs to the final track, "Your Party." Months after getting the album and listening to it over and over, I still don't know what to make of the song. That's probably the complaint I hear most about Dean and Gene: Are they for real? Are they joking? Is this all some giant prank or do they take this stuff seriously? Honestly, I have no idea and that may be the point but it still doesn't help me make sense of this song. If you have not heard it, please take a listen here.
If you weren't able to tell by the perfect tone of that saxophone, that David Sanborn honking away on this track. David Sanborn! Smooth jazz master. So what's the deal here? Is this a straight faced recording? I find it hard to believe it's simply a joke because I'm sure it cost a bit to get such a marvelous guest star plus who would ask someone to join their album just to hold them up for ridicule? But who actually listens to David Sanborn anyway and do any of them possibly overlap with the demented circle of Ween fanatics? Ween seem to be voracious music addicts but smooth jazz? Everyone has their limits but I have yet to find where Ween's are. If this song is a goof, it's a wonderfully produced and lovingly crafted goof but something about it stinks of sincerity. I'm still unsure of the inspiration and intention of "Your Party" but it doesn't matter. Fans of the band are used to this kind of high weirdness and go along with each strange detour. I love the world Ween live in, one where Sade fans and paint huffers can unite as one, strapping on their jammy pacs and grooving the the sweet sweet sounds of the alto sax.