Saturday, April 19, 2008

"Murder On The Dancefloor"

One of my favorite Sophie Ellis-Bextor solo songs and a great clip precisely because it's about dancing and yet Sophie's dancing is horrible!

But that is the charm -- her haughtiness carries the song and actually fits the lyrics somewhat.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Flowers In The Window"

You know, 9 years or so ago I would make fun of Travis.

But, now, listening to "Flowers In The Window," I think they were/are a better band than Coldplay ever were.

For a brief moment, US Radio seemed to want to play Travis -- at least "Why Does It Always Rain On Me?" -- but good luck getting played anymore.

Hell, good luck getting any Coldplay played except for one or two obvious cuts.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Can't Shake The Rebel In You"

On an American, sideburns like those on Gaz Coombes would signify redneck boogie rock.

On an Englishman, they signify pop genius.

I always take Supergrass for granted but they always deliver little bits of genius -- perfect pop singles as good as anything Oasis have ever produced.

Yeah, they've never released something as soul stirring as "Live Forever" but, in their own way, singles like "Alright" and "Caught By The Fuzz" are every bit as good.

You can hear Bowie in this but the song remains uniquely Supergrass, continuing the vibe of the self-titled 1999 album.

Like the Super Furry Animals, the 'Grass wear their influences on their sleeves but, in the end, they always end up creating something special and unique.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

"Loves Grows..."

This is a revelation; I don't know if Tony Burrows is the guy in the video but it's still breathtakingly cool for me to see this:

Some of my earliest memories involve TV or AM Top 40 Radio and while there was a lot of Top 40 radio that I hated as a kid and still hate now (James Taylor, America, lots of the Carpenters), stuff like this -- one hit wonders -- really defined my pop sensibility.

It's only fitting in this week that sees the retirement of Don Geronimo from WJFK that I put up this video as he has mentioned Tony Burrows before and, as a DJ in that very era, played this stuff and made it popular until "serious" album rock got more popular before the arrival of disco and new wave.

This is the kind of stuff that childhoods were soundtracked by; great, short, upbeat pop songs.

Tony Burrows went on to sing on White Plains' "My Baby Loves Lovin'" and on the later masterpiece "Beach Baby" by First Class.

And Edison Lighthouse has some connections with Tony Macaulay who had a hand in my other favorite AM Gold song of this era, "Smile A Little Smile" by The Flying Machine.

"I Was Born On Christmas Day"

The first pilgrimage when I went to England for the first time was one of the weirdest.

I should say at the outset that the first CD I purchased in England was the new in spring 1999 Catatonia CD, "Equally Cursed and Blessed," in an airport HMV. Yes, I overpaid but it was the act of buying a new release in the promised land that mattered, especially in an HMV -- after all, music was a large part of my love for the United Kingdom.

[And I realize the irony of buying a CD of a Welsh band in an English locale.]

On the first day in England, my friend and I went to the Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus.

Normally, in any other Tower in America, we'd run to the import CD section but, obviously, now we were in the land where the magical "imports" were born -- we could just browse.

So probably the second CD that I purchased in England was the fantastic Saint Etienne singles compilation "Too Young To Die - The Singles" mainly to get the song "I Was Born On Christmas Day."

The one-off single is probably my favorite Saint Etienne track and in the video The Charlatans' Tim Burgess looks a lot like Mick Jagger (but doesn't he always?) which helps inflate the song's cool balloon.

Here's a helpful link providing background on the song.

And yes, R.I.P. for Tower Records both here and abroad.

Friday, April 4, 2008

"Jesus It Must Be Great To Be Straight..."

I have always distrusted overt displays of male testosterone.

And yet, I'm heterosexual, straight.

So, as a kid, and then as a teenager, it was something I could not even express -- something I did not even know I wanted to define -- my distrust of machismo even while still being attracted to girls/women.

So, along with Morrissey, it was a relief to hear and see someone -- even if in film clips -- like Marc Bolan of T.Rex.

Here was a guy, a voracious heterosexual man by all accounts, clearly in touch with his feminine side and not giving a crap about living up to earlier ideas of "masculinity." About as far from John Wayne and William Holden as one could get.

Earlier Robert Plant had displayed some marked flamboyance in his performance style, but he remained the template for "cock rock." (Make no mistake: I love Led Zeppelin but realize their moments of pretension quite clearly as they are easy to ridicule.)

And then, Bowie arrived. But Bowie also seemed to be using flamboyance and an effeminate performance style as simply tools to reach stardom; the more he changed styles, the more it seemed as if the "Ziggy Stardust"-era Bowie was not the "real" Bowie and that that was simply another pose for him -- he would change again into the Thin White Duke persona or the alienated fascist of the Berlin LPs.

With Marc Bolan, you get the sense watching this guy that this is a man sure of himself, letting his hair down, and rocking out.

It's "cock rock" without any of the machismo that went before.

It's Mick Jagger morphed with Lord Byron.

It's no accident that T.Rex had an album called "Dandy in the Underworld."

So here's a clip of Bolan and T.Rex badly lipsynching to "Buick Mackane" from the 1972 album, "The Slider."

In another 11 years, Morrissey pushes the envelope further and then, in 1993, Suede emerge from England, brazenly flaunting an indeterminate sexuality.

Yes, Brett Anderson was straight but he was dating Justine Frischmann of Elastica who looked like his twin.

Shortly thereafter, Pulp finally achieved massive success in England and some moderate acclaim in America.

With 1994-era singles "Babies" and "Do You Remember The First Time?" Jarvis earned his tag as "the straight Morrissey." He combined all the flamboyance and fey bravado of stage performers like Moz and Bolan into something new, someone who, as he sings in "Babies," wants to "give you children."

And by the time of "Do You Remember The First Time?" Jarvis is now the outsider looking at the "straight" couple with disdain and a bit of jealousy. It's clear he's the rejected suitor as he sings "Jesus, it must be great to be straight" with some degree of sarcasm. Later to admit "I don't care if you screw him" [changed in the video to "knew him"].

Now we have the fey flamboyance of Bolan and the wit of Morrissey wrapped up into the bookish but still over-the-top Jarvis Cocker -- even the name is a bit "cock rock."

So, thanks to Brett, Morrissey, Jarvis, and Marc, a guy can rock out and not conform to male mannerisms of another era; a guy can be straight and not another football-playing, Budweiser-swilling knuckle-dragger.

In my efforts not to be like most of the men I grew up around, I can still be straight and not a total asshole.

One Good Thing About Nirvana

One of the good things about Nirvana's success in 1991 was that the major labels in America hyped -- usually without knowing it -- bands the equal of Nirvana.

The Posies, from Bellingham, Washington (not Seattle), had already released a 1990 album on Geffen Records that went largely ignored except for the magnificent singles "My Big Mouth" and "Golden Blunders" which garnered airplay on my car stereo if nowhere else.

By 1993, the group was being marketed as another grunge band by the same label but it didn't matter as their next album, "Frosting On The Beater," had a harder, purer power pop sheen.

Perhaps some kid out there in the Midwest bought the album thinking it was a new grunge band and ending up being hipped to solid, melodic pop on a par with "Heaven Tonight"-era Cheap Trick? Great!

Along with "Dream All Day" (an alt-rock radio hit), and "Flavor of the Month," "Solar Sister" is one of the standout tracks on the album and one of my favorite Posies songs.

The video is from the 1994 UK Phoenix music festival and it's funny to see cute little Brit girls adopting an American grunge look as they rock out to this song.

I saw The Posies in 2001 -- I have no idea why it took me so long -- and they were pretty darn good except for the acoustic guitar breaks. But, hey, even Cheap Trick is a victim of that kind of "Unplugged" pretension.