Sunday, January 12, 2014

5 Songs About Nostalgia (in no order)

1) Jonathan Richman - I Like Gumby

To be fair, over half of Richman's discography probably qualifies as nostalgic, even The Modern Lovers' 1975 hit "Roadrunner," itself an ode to the glory days (sorry, Springsteen's song was #6) of radio, Boston, and (to quote Woody Guthrie) driving in the car, car. Yet when music critic Greil Marcus called "Roadrunner" "the most obvious song in the world, and the strangest," one gets the impression that he never heard "I Like Gumby." This is exactly why I like "I Like Gumby," because it typifies Richman's desire to be the manchild of 2-chord cacophony, the Pee-Wee Herman of (according to people who aren't me) punk rock. Airplanes, dinosaurs, insects, ice cream? Try Gumby, a beloved children's Saturday morning claymation character created by Los Osos' own Art Clokey. At other stages of his illustrious career, Clokey would go on unwittingly inspire the creators of  VeggieTales with his own Christian claypeople Davey and Goliath and even more infamously, create
"Moody Rudy, he's a real cutie?"
Moody Rudy, a toy which bombed on the market and nearly bankrupted him because it looked too much like the illegitimate child of Clark Gable, Saddam Hussein, and Mr. Potato Head, were such a thing possible. Throughout the three verses of the song "I Like Gumby," Richman takes everyday situations like seeing a railroad crossing, and is instantly reminded of his favorite childhood TV program. He also claims to "remember the spooky parts" of the show, though unfortunately neither Richman nor his backup singers care to elaborate. For those of you who are continually unable to track down a copy of Moody Rudy on eBay (the last one I saw went for $93 not including shipping), the next best step in my opinion is The Green Album, which features this and more songs about Gumby than you probably thought existed, including ex-Turtles and ex-Mothers of Invention mudshark sympathizers Flo & Eddie's "We Are All Gumby," a style parody of Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles. Which brings us to:

2 & 3) The Beatles - Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane (tie)

Penned by Lennon and McCartney respectively, this 7'' single fully represents the yin and yang of childhood and nostalgia, with the more upbeat track stereotypically being a McCartney composition. Unfortunately for Lennon, his cut also became the only major international Beatles single to not chart at #1, spending six weeks as second banana to Engelbert Humperdinck (who now?)'s cover of the 1946 popular song "Release Me," paradoxically cheesier than anything McCartney did (before his solo period) and even more depressing to listen to than "Strawberry Fields." As I was formally introduced to The Beatles via their #1 singles package 1 in the early 21st century, my own childhood was spent chuckling at the cheery sound effects of "Penny Lane" while never paranoidically pondering who "buried Paul" on the opposite A-side. Unlike many inclusions on this list, both tracks are omnipresent nearly 50 years later, seemingly having inspired everyone from Elephant 6 Collective indie pop group the Apples in Stereo, whose single "Strawberryfire" is a near-rewrite of the former hit, to whoever decided to name a street in San Luis Obispo "Penny Ln."

4) Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper - Lincoln Logs

 One of the most common words used to describe Virginian psychobilly musician Mojo Nixon is "raunchy," which easily explains why MTV VJs like Martha Quinn were so hesitant to play Nixon's politically-charged and pop culture-busting music videos like "I Ain't Gonna Piss in No Jar," "Debbie Gibson is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child, "Don Henley Must Die," and least offensively, "Elvis is Everywhere" (and why Nixon's videos only appeared on the then-music network's Beavis and Butt-Head). But there will be none of that when Mojo's often-forgotten and much-maligned Skid Roper takes lead vocals and lyrics on the childhood ode "Lincoln Logs." Similarly to "I Like Gumby," Skid Roper obsesses over his favorite childhood toy, though he is considerably whinier here, getting annoyed at his mother for possibly throwing said logs out after he outgrew them. For this reason, Village Voice critic Robert Christgau, who praised several of Mojo's cuts (though understandably not the more ambiguously misogynist ones), viewed Skid Roper as vestigial (he gave a similar sentiment toward the much better known also-ran Art Garfunkel). "The poor folkie misses his boyhood toys[,] boo hoo," sneered Christgau in his review of Bo-Day-Shus!!!, the album that produced "Lincoln Logs," further scorning Roper's apparent lack of lyrical ability on the duo's next and final album together, Root Hog or Die.

5) Lou Reed - Egg Cream
Though Skid Roper let his innocence shine on "Lincoln Logs," Nixon's music only became raunchier come his solo career, releasing the X-rated Christmas album Horny Holidays at his moral nadir. As a result, the late Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed's "Egg Cream" from his 1996 album Set the Twilight Reeling comes across as more shocking considering it is but an ode to Reed's favorite summertime dessert as a child growing up in the Big Apple. Gone are the days of "Heroin" as Reed now embraces a treat with weight gain as its only side effect, and makes it abundantly clear that he enjoys egg creams instead of blankly describing the sensations without praise or condemnation, as he did in the earlier track. And no, Reed didn't devolve into what too many people erroneously dismiss "Weird Al" Yankovic as, America's most popular jingle writer for snack foods. Set the Twilight Reelings is not The Food Album; skip five more tracks until you hear a track entitled "Sex With Your Parents," and you'll be assured that the same Lou Reed every hipster loves stuck around until 2013 (though the A.V. Club agrees to disagree). And as of January 2014, this blogger has not yet taken Reed's advice and tried an egg cream.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lion: The Poems of Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore

Finger

Chance flew by
While he waited for friends to wonder
Loudness and light at night
A bad person, black mist
Amidst the northwest zone
The witchcraft which God
Has asked you to touch
And they keep on texting

Sail

Sleep will be perfect
Who will rub the head
Of the lonesome infidel
The demon dream boat vanishes
Only to sink into a room
Of crystal, paint and flesh
Perfect love
The slight impulse where her
Whole self moved into your life
The late day is hell in its denial
Demanding loneliness
But knowing the lion won’t cry for long
The lion circles you

Poem to a Girl Where I Don’t Know

Everyday
Between 5 and 6pm
When the light is still hanging
He is at loose ends
The world pulling him into it’s crazy city
An animal connected to heaven and earth by strings
Humming to amps

Sweet

Call it a day
Smoke of dreams
Never enlist
Push yourself
Into my mouth

The Alternate Space

Robot light
Coke
Blue
Eye
Shadow
In
doors
In
Disbelief

Gas Tongue

Artist, the chef
Hep, silent
Kiss, cigarette, street
Take your time
Don’t move here
Don’t worry
True yoga, orange
Bark, fuck Hollywood
France, Spain, Italy – these
animals demand so much
comprehension

Camera Shy

Her
His
South o france
Cloud nine
Miss
Money
Penny
Bloodlust
Lips
His – Hers
…her

Energy

We NEED him
The overflowing class
Room is free
Seedseeds

Train Station

Pushing carts
Guitar cases
o
(white cloth reeking of sex)

You

Love
I
Love
Silhouette
Ache
(rose, morning, light)

Restraints

Out of the picture
No to poetry work shop
Documentation has become passé
T
Ties and ankles
E
Everywhere

Lion

Don’t
Cry
Lion
Won’t
Cry

New

Slut w diamonds
Tied up for the day
The mirror kisses the other

Novelist

He shut the book
And was quiet
The ending was merciless
The writer walked through the glass window
The reader was destroyed forever
He fell into her
With abandon

Come in Jazz Cellar

Does the waning moon feed his blood?
Is he lost in the universe?
I am alone with men…
Teenage is nothing, I have no memory
…did you see that child’s eyes?
Now you know

Evening

A thrashing, darling
Severely deserved
Ceilings with sweet cracks
Observe and beckon
A void to embrace
No normal no normal
All shot in blue gray
No black no white
You may never leave

He Waits

Every moment is filled with electronic events
Stereos blare
Children cry wild with happiness and anger
Grass and rocks at their own speed so beyond the wanting heart
It is all chaos and void
A slow crawl to her glance
The beginning is the only time the dream promised
The bookstores are where he seeks her
Hoping she turns the corner into the aisle
He stations himself like cool static
Only then will he truly be together
Come to him.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Autolux released Transit Transit: I don't mind that

When I first heard Autolux, their debut album Future Perfect had just come out and I just about died.  I was in a senior in high school.  So, in all fairness, it probably wouldn’t have been too hard to impress me if you were even half as moody as I was, and it was.

 

Looking back, the album is still pretty good, but I can’t help but feel a twinge of contempt for it as I project my high school (and freshman and sophomore and, I guess, pretty much most of college)insecurities onto the band.  It just feels sort of hollow in the same way that art-rock just feels sort of hollow.  I can listen and it sounds cool, but I don’t really feel anything more than that feeling that I should brood and put my hair over my eyes because that’s just what people do a la Baudrillard.  However, for me, they were still a crucial gateway to a genre I would eventually come to know as shoe gaze.

Anyways, Autolux recently released their first album in six years and I couldn’t resist seeing what time had done to my old friends.  Transit Transit, is slightly improved more of the same.


I was hoping that they had changed dramatically, that they had experimented off record and found themselves.  And they must have, but they just didn’t go in the direction I was hoping for.

Today, I got to see them do a free show at my new local record store.  What I saw, was actually pretty good.  It was heavy and shoe-wavy in the well practiced way of studio veterans.  It wasn’t especially ground breaking for me.  But, I’ve already walked that musical path.  For others at the show, an eclectic crowd made up of a new generation of high school kids and bros and aged hipsters, who were all nodding, hands in pockets, enjoying or reminiscing with their gateway to good music.

Hopefully nobody becomes addicted and/ or turns into total assholes.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It's Okay to be Happy: Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt

I used to be a lot of fun to be around.  Seriously, ask some of my best friends and they’ll tell you.  But I guess somewhere down the line I became not fun (I could probably create a timeline that led up to it but that would defeat the purpose of this column.  We’ll let all those details slowly surface in other writings).  And so, now that it has been brought to my attention that “It’s okay to be happy,” I have decided that I will try to be a sociable and fun loving human being once again.  So last week I got really drunk and saw Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt at Emo’s with a pal, here in Austin, Texas (As you can probably tell, this is going to be more of a confession piece than a review; read on if you can).

Recently, my idea of a really good time is sitting back, having an ice cold beer, throw on a Towns Van Zandt record,  and just focusing on all the negatives.  I like to think about things until they are complicated and unsolvable problems.  And the night was getting there; we were drinkin’ and we were sittin’ and I decided that I was ready to be fun again, fun the way I used to be.  And so we went.

Now, I knew what to expect.  Look up the band on Youtube and you will see what you can expect.  Plus, I had already listened to and enjoyed their album, I Love You.  I Love You and I’m In Love with You.  Have an Awesome Day!  Have the Best Day of Your Life! on multiple legs of multiple trips to Austin.  I had come to view the music of Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt as everything that was good about me just two years ago.  They are everything I believed in before I became grouchy for no good reason.  They are (ok you guyz, truth time), they are everything I enjoy when totally free of pretension.  And, this night, I was totally unpretentious.

My Pal and I arrived at the show just in time to grab a tall can of God-only-knows-what-but-probably-PBR and make uncomfortable conversation with those around us.  We found a pile of glittery clothes and various Sonic the Hedgehog like memorabilia.  We put that shit on.  And, as the lights lowered and the band took the stage, something came over me.  Something came over the audience.  We... I became inexplicably happy in a way that I had not felt in years. This was not a belligerent, sassy, or ironic sort of happy.  I had just become genuinely happy to be where I was:  in a place I head never been and surrounded by people I didn’t know.  Yet some how we were all together and alive and singing the lyrics to songs written by a band that we had not met until just now.

And, you know what?  I just started giving massages to the she sweaty man singing and the sweaty man playing the guitar (the guy singing seemed to enjoy it.  sorry if I mussed up your rhythm guitarist.  I had just sort of transcended space and time and it just seemed like you all needed to feel the love I was feeling.  I was not on drugs).  That’s the kind of show it was.  We, I felt, were just all in it together.

At the end of the show, the man singing told us that “even though [we] might think [he] says this at all [his] shows, [we] were one of the best audiences [he had] ever had.”  I believed him.

And if he or any member of the band reads this, I want them to know that, even though they might think I say this to ever band, that was one of the best shows that I had ever been to.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I Think I Like Like The Symbolick Jews

You know that bizarre feeling you get when an album (or book or movie or whatever piece of whatever) really speaks to you in some totally nonsensical way that must really just be a personal perversity?  It’s not so much like “Oh my God, this band totally gets me” as much as “Oh my God, I think I get it, I think I get this band and have recognized some sort of soul in this album and am developing an interpersonal relationship with the artist.”  Well I got that feeling listening to Can I Trust You? by the San Francisco area band The Symbolick Jews. 

But that’s just my slightly intoxicated mind making friends with songs.

Can I Trust You? walks the line experimental and accessible like it’s a joke.  Clearly capable of making tight, commercially viable music, The Symbolick Jews, in the opinion of my super sensitive ears, compose a very neat song and then strip in down and let it loose.  In the same way that we dress ourselves up for a date, but, by the end, if you play your cards right, end up totally honest in the way that only the naked and vulnerable can be.  It’s the beautiful, ugly truth.

The album opens with “The Candidate (Burrr)” an atonal free-for-all that is part band tuning up getting ready to rock, part probable parody of experimental noise rock.  Like showing you pictures of them as a baby, The Symbolick Jews are baring their bones right up front and we cringe and laugh together.  Wiping the tears from our eyes, sighing heavily, we say “Jesus… Jesus” and move onto a wonderfully hopeful, spacey “Step Into the Bright Light,” which assures us that they are perfectly normal, affable, and reasonably romantic.

From there, Can I Trust You? reveals itself to be that album that I love enough to endure the eccentricities that make it as unique and lovable as the quirky female lead in a Fox Searchlight production.   Throwing in sirens or strangely faint and dissonant breakdowns that distract from an otherwise tidy song create character in what would otherwise be flawless and (face it) boring songs that wouldn’t forge a long lasting relationship. 

Like, wait a second, did I just here the silliest flute solo out of nowhere?

Shh… don’t worry about it, let’s just move on to the title track and dance slowly, hand in hand, with your head on my shoulder, and we’ll float on into infinite.

The album is good.  It’s eclectic and good.  Can I Trust You? is accessible without being boring, experimental without being alienating.  And you can download it for free.  So, like, you might as well.  Right? 

http://thesymbolickjews.bandcamp.com/album/can-i-trust-you

the symbolick jews are Determined To Be on tour this November