Sunday, October 30, 2005

Ten Best

Slightly different concept this time: Ten Steely Dan songs that could've been '70s movies.

1. "Do it Again": Experimental piece as Bruce Dern trips through time getting in, out and back into trouble.

2. "Boston Rag": Warren Beatty is a laid-off Beantown newspaperman trailing a drug cartel story to New York. Jeff “Skunk” Baxter’s guitar solo plays the role of Gene Hackman’s fists.

3. "My Old School": Bud Cort experiments with girls and drugs in the rarefied world of privilege and prestige that is Bard College.

4. "Through with Buzz": Ned Beatty can’t shake Dustin Hoffman, a do-nothing moocher who may not even be real!

5. "Charlie Freak": Drug dealers living hand to mouth during the coldest Christmas in 12 years. Uh, I’m not sure who’s in this one. You tell me.

6. "Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More": The last days of an ailing mob kingpin. Starring Peter Falk.

7. "Kid Charlemagne": Dennis Hopper is the acid dealer fallen on hard times, in this thinly veiled biopic of Owsley Stanley.

8. "Deacon Blues:" Chris Makepeace is the disaffected teenager dreaming of life as jazz hepcat.

9. "Josie": I read a description of this song as Rumble Fish if Mickey Rourke’s character was a girl. That works for me.

10. "Hey Nineteen": Jack Nicholson is the aging ex-fray boy lothario feeling this age.

Monday, October 17, 2005

I've created a supplementary blog: The UTR Files shall serve as a handy index of all the Under the Rock columns in the City Paper.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

After a long period of inactivity, the corporeal version of Under the Rock returns.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Ten Best

Let's keep moving. Bob Dylan.

1. “Tangled Up in Blue”: I recently read an old Q Magazine blurb about this song. They got it all wrong! It’s not happening to one person! It’s not happening in linear time! It’s nothing to do with his frickin’ divorce!

2. “Like a Rolling Stone”: Man, that snare crack gets used now by every lazy PBS filmmaker (but not Marty S.) to convey The Sixties. Fortunately, I still love the rest of the song.

3. “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Take a Train to Cry”: The drunk-piano ballad version first released is, of course, a keeper. But I would be remiss if I did not give props to the crazed rendition found on the Rolling Thunder installment of The Bootleg Series, after which you hear an audience member proclaim, “You guys broke that song!”

4. “Million-Dollar Bash”: Contains perhaps the funniest lyrics ever, which I shall not spoil for you here.

5. “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”: Manages to be both very cryptic and a brutal reality check. I think Bryan Ferry’s version is my favorite Dylan cover.

6. “You’re a Big Girl Now”: The title makes you think its going to be casually misogynistic like certain other Bob songs, but the way he sings “I can change, I swear” you know this is something entirely different.

7. “Visions of Johanna”: Did they even have late-night ballads before this song?

8. “Blind Willie McTell”: Was its inclusion in Masked and Anonymous tacit acknowledgement from Bob that he shouldn’t have left it off Infidels? Probably not.

9. “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”: Is Greatest Hits Vol. 2 out of print? It had the best version of this: Dylan backed only by folkie Happy Traum and a special new lyric knockin' Roger McGuinn.

10. “Idiot Wind”: Clearly, I like Blood on the Tracks a lot.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Ten Best

As you may have guessed by now, I am hopelessly addicted to coming up with categories and lists. Oftentimes, the only way I can keep myself interested in the task of writing about music is by creating some little exercise that I can use to kickstart my rusty cogs, if only for a half-hour or so. Also, it has to be something with which I can amuse myself.

I kind of stole this idea from here. Only in my case, the idea isn't to come up with the ABSOLUTE, INARGUABLE ten best. It's just ten of the best. I think of ten songs I love by a band or person and then try to be briefly definitive in talking about them.

We begin, but of course, with Pulp.

1. “Common People”: Need you ask why? In little over five minutes, this is simultaneously synth-pop, arena-rock, a protest song, punk, satire, folk music, crushingly sad, and utterly uplifting all at once.

2. “My Legendary Girlfriend”: My favorite British dance song after New Order’s “Temptation.” Proof that drum machines and sequencers can evoke seething desperation, alienation and desire as well as anything else.

3. “Lipgloss”: Wrote about this one before. It’s where they elevate the most mundane of heartbreaks to great drama. Their most empathetic song.

4. “Mis-Shapes”: Jarvis all but disowns this one now, I think because its nerds-take-over triumph proved so hopelessly futile in time. Does this mean he didn’t realize that bittersweet failure is hardwired into the song to begin with? “Oh, we weren’t supposed to be.”

5. “This is Hardcore”: It took me some time to realize just how perfectly this song’s near-pornographic lyrics work as a metaphor for spending too much time trying to become famous and then pulling it off. Never before or since have the words “That goes in there” carried such a weight of defeatism and exhaustion.

6. “Sheffield: Sex City”: Wanted to include one of Jarvis’ pure monologues. Like “Legendary Girlfriend,” its seediness masks deeper concerns, personal and political.

7. “Disco 2000”: Laura Branigan’s guitar riff and the drums from Blondie’s “Atomic” unite with awkward lifelong longing.

8. “Help the Aged”: Pop and rock still, by and large, like to pretend aging doesn’t happen. This one dives straight in.

9. “You’re a Nightmare”: Had to include a rare b-side here, even if just to be contrary. Pulp have a bunch of what I think of as hip-swinging, mirror ball ballads and this is the most desolate, the most 3 a.m., of the lot.

10. “Blue Glow”: This is from the band’s most difficult era, the mid-‘80s, full of dissonance and low-rent production. But I have this sneaking feeling this era perfectly captured just how dire life in the Thatcher years must've been if you happened to be young, broke, and terminally weird.