Monday, August 06, 2007

Now That's a Debate!

Of course, the mayoral race will come with some debates and they pretty much promise to be dull and surprise-free affairs. How I wish they could be like this one, from England's Alan Partridge. [WARNING: The last minute or so is not work safe. Language and male posterior nudity.]

Never heard of Alan Partridge until Lileks mentioned him, so thanks for that!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Lazy Sunday, the Musical

Why, yes, I am being lazy today and posting a bunch of YouTube links to some favorite songs or interesting music videos, instead of commenting on the knifing that John Ryder gave to the Shelby County Republican Party last week. Sucks to be them; glad to be me. Let's get to it!

First, from the Seventies, great glam-rock band Mott the Hoople and The Golden Age of Rock and Roll. This demands to be remade in a black church with the choir behind the band onstage, arms flinging to heaven with every "Woooo!" Ian Hunter rises up through the floor to the pulpit; Ariel Bender goes floating around the church during his guitar solo and at the end the doors burst open as hordes of young rockers flood in to dance in the aisles.

Seventies rock: The dude in the paint thinks he's gonna faint. Stoke more coke on the fire.

Next, Eighties rockers Wall of Voodoo, one of my most-loved bands. We'll begin with a very early video of a song from "Dark Continent," Call Box. This must date to the very early Eighties.

And next, an appearance on American Bandstand!

An excellent live performance of Tomorrow, a personal theme song.

Lead singer/songwriter Stan Ridgway and percussionist Joe Nanini left the band, but the remaining members recruited some new people and kept going. The resulting album, "Seven Days in Sammystown," isn't that bad, as this song demonstrates. There's another song on here that can stand with anything WoV Mk1 did, Big City. After that, they drifted into irrelevance. But the early stuff is landmark weird rock.

This next song is a personal favorite obscurity. Most folks have heard of actor Bill Paxton, but almost noone knows he had a band! This song, How Can the Laboring Man Find Time for Self-Culture?, is classic Eighties synthpop, a genre I love to death. I'd never seen the video before today (and I love the wacky German Expressionist style), but I've been know to play the 9 minute dance remix (yes, I own it) over and over and over again, letting myself get lost in the sound.

Speaking of endless repeats and dance remixes, this one is another 9 minute wonder! It's early English industrialists and tape experimenters, Cabaret Voltaire. Close your eyes for the video part, which is unintentionally hilarious and bad; the song kicks all kinds of ass, though.

Another song from their earlier days, one I loved inflictng on people who'd never heard this kind of music back then, Nag Nag Nag. Pretty much no one I knew could stand this, but I love hell out of it!

But wait! There's more. This is Catherine Wheel doing I Want to Touch You, another favorite. They were a Nineties hard rock (not exactly metal) band from England, now defunct sadly.

I wanted to put up Broken Head, what I think is their best song, but couldn't find it. The production and playing on that song is astounding. With a good stereo at very high volumes, it's not as if the song is being played at you, so much as you are walking around inside a massive, mid-tempo cathedral of sound. Spectacular and, to recycle last night's term, transcendent. It's another song I've been known to leave on repeat for 45 minutes or so.

The band was also well-known for releasing demo versions of some songs. They weren't significantly different from the final release, but revealed fascinating songwriting and production decisions. In the case of She's My Friend, I think the demo version is superior.

I also like bands that can do great covers of other folks' songs. Like this version of Iggy Pop's The Passenger, done by Siouxsie & The Banshees. They've totally revamped the style, adding lots of horns and a flamenco flavor but the song's essential message of ennui, boredom and endless nights is still there intact.

Back to the South. I lived in Birmingham during the Eighties and got to see Athens, Georgia, band Guadalcanal Diary live at the first Kudzu Festival. Killer show that ended with a slow-grind verions of Johnny B. Goode. This is the only good GD video I could find, of their "hit," Watusi Rodeo. Parts of this were filmed in Memphis. If you don't blink, you can see the Antenna club in one shot, and what might be a drug deal going down in front of Graceland. And check out the Klan parade!

Where to end this post? How about... apocalyptic punk rock? Ultravox! were part of the second wave of punk rock bands from England and they specialised in frnatic songs of disconnection and frenzied alienation in the post-nuclear ruins of the world. Until they morphed into shimmering New Europeans playing synth-driven songs of love. Go figure....

This is yet another of my personal Top Ten favorite songs of all time, The Wild, The Beautiful and The Damned.

Ooooh! One more. This was one of the earliest synthpop songs, from New Zealand of all places. Mi-Sex and Computer Games. Check out that state-of-the-art technology on display. The Who get credit for Baba O'Riley (Teenage Wasteland) as the first synthesiser rock song, but that song was mostly done before Moog contacted Pete Townsend to show off their new synth. (Listen to it closely some time; you can tell the synth was just underlaid.) German bands like Neu, Can, and Kraftwerk were doing rock with synths, though heavy on the spacey psychedelics, by the mid-Seventies, but to my knowledge this is the first rock song written with and around a synth riff and intended for a general rock radio audience. Give 'em their props, y'all!

I just cannot begin to make you understand just how cynically dopey the Seventies were and how earnestly dopey the Eighties were. Thanks for this little tour of some of my personal jukebox.

No, no! Wait! Just one more.... Sex Beat by the Gun Club. Jeffrey Lee Pierce was a part of the small movement in punk rock (along with the Cramps) that didn't look back to the early "punk" bands of the Nuggets era but further back to the rockabilly bands of the Fifties, when rock was about energy, abandon and sexual discovery. He also had a tremendous appreciation of seminal bluesman Robert Johnson, famed for his supposed selling of his soul to the Devil at a Mississippi crossroads.

[Digression: On album, Pierce is one of the few singers who sings sharp, and not flat like most folks.]

Lyrics are here. If you can close your eyes to the abysmal, lame, alterna-white boy, wank-posing of the visuals, you can hear the original studio version here:

You can hear some of Johnson's same Hellhounds chasing after the drugged Pierce in this live version, which completely smokes after a shaky start. It's amazing how the heroin-stupored Pierce doesn't even seem to hear the band but keeps up with the frantic pace perfectly.

If you could choose only one song to stand in for all of rock music, this would have to be the one. Without a doubt.