Archive for the 'pop' Category

26
Oct
10

If Derek Zoolander managed the Runaways …

… it would look and sound something like the Plastiscines.

 

 

10
Sep
10

My kind of pop star

Marina had me with her funny, pitch perfect “OH MY GOD, You look just like Shakira, No no, you’re Katherine-Zeta…..” schtick on “Hollywood.” And “Hollywood infected your brain/You want to kiss it in the rain” is a terrific line, too.


And that crazy voice. Hyperactive, whoopy, insane range. “What a pair of lungs! She shrieked as I imagined an eagle would shriek. It felt wonderful to be alive to hear it! I’ve gone looking for that feeling everywhere.” (That’s Denis Johnson in an entirely different, but applicable, context.)

The personality that comes across in interviews is down-to-earth, if not straight-up goofy, but she loves to dress up and play the diva. Which she does rather well.

Her songwriting can be a bit Big Statement-y, but she’s young. Let it pass. If all divas were this funny and clever, and had such great songs, the world would be a better place.

This video for “Shampain” makes it five official videos and counting for her first album. It’s got zombies in sexy party frocks doing a spazzy dance routine that owes at least a little bit to Thriller. What is not to like?

02
Sep
10

Songs of innocence and experience

The other day I decided  Sleigh Bells had come up with the greatest song ever, and I made a point of doing errands that required lots of slow driving with the window down and the car stereo cranked. I slunk down a bit in the seat, head back,  rocking steady to “Rill Rill.”

Right? Truly, it’s a perfect song for that kind of thing. But today I’m a little sheepish. Don’t know if anyone I knew saw me, but … a 51-year-old man in a 15-year-old station wagon cruisin’ to a song made by and for twenty-something hipsters….

… I’m thinking I should maybe groove out to that sort of music in private. Or out in back of the house.

But the good thing about getting old is that you can choose to enjoy Sleigh Bells’ apocalyptic thrash with a layer of sugar on top. Or not. And you have the Weepies too, who released their first album in four years yesterday. Which is positively thrilling to  me. The young folks, I’m not so sure not all the young folks get the Weepies.

Deb Talan and Steve Tannen are the Weepies. They both had solo careers, then they got married. To each other. They have a son they took years off touring to have and raise.

Their music could only have been made by grownups. It’s got real wit and occasionally bizarre imagery, but to me it’s a lot about the thick and thinnin’ of married life. Dealing with commitment and contentment and little pleasures without making the listener feel brain dead.

Here is the first song from “Be My Thrill”:

Wise. Warm. Modest. Wry. Polite. Grammatical. “When I’m gone, Please speak well of me.”

Note the “please” and  “well,” kids.

(Also, I still love Sleigh Bells).

09
Jun
10

Big hits from the Reagan era

This song! From the golden age of the thrift store, this Voice of the Beehive gem has kooky vintage clothes and jewelry, goofy dancing, sunglasses worn indoors, and a great sunny melody (with dark undertones). It is the perfect eighties tune.

Also, it has censorship issues. Californian sisters Tracey Bryn and Melissa Brooke Belland were based in London for the peak Voice of the Beehive Years. The BBC folks insisted they change the lyrics “she says I get it every night” and “he’ll rip you right in two.” The best lines of the song! Here they are “she says I see him every night” and “he’ll rip your heart in two,” which just ain’t the same thing.

They have a Web site that makes me regret even mentally categorizing them as a one-hit wonder eighties band. They worked hard at it for nearly a decade, had a number of respectably charting singles, and headlined shows on both sides of the Atlantic.

Also, this is a pretty awesome Partridge Family cover:

04
Jun
10

Sweet DIY pop

There have always been retro bands like Lucky Soul around, and if they haven’t made it big by now, they probably won’t. (But they have Glastonbury in late June….)

But I think they are fab. There are echoes of early Cardigans, St. Etienne, Camera Obscura, and even Swing Out Sister!

I confess to adoring their tunes, and singer Ali’s voice, attitude, and cheekbones pretty much equally.

13
May
10

Formidable!

“The world is gifted more nutters from North Wales,” says someone who should know!

Wow. These guys are good.  Can’t stop watching/listening.

11
May
10

Semi-secret history of rock ‘n’ roll

The Passing Show, the BBC documentary about Ronnie Lane,  is now online,  in six parts. I own  it on DVD and watch it all the time. You really should spend the money to buy it, but I’d understand if you wanted to check it out for free, while it lasts, anyway.*

If you know and love Ronnie Lane as I do, watch  it. If you don’t know him, all the more reason to watch it.

Lane surfaced in the Small Faces, along with Steve Marriott and Kenny Jones (and later Ian McLagan), one of the best bands in the ridiculously thriving London R&B scene in the mid-60s (the Stones! the Pretty Things! the Yardbirds! the Who! the Kinks!). The Small Faces, minus Marriott and with the addition of Rod Stewart and Ron Wood, became the Faces, who might have been the GREATEST BAND EVER but it’s hard to tell, because their recorded output, while sparkling, is a little sparse. Playing live, they were legendary.

Lane wrote and sang a slew of good songs for Faces, but apparently was not allowed to sing live, except for the opening verse to a cover of “Maybe I’m Amazed.” I read somewhere that Ronnie once posed  an “It’s Rod or me” ultimatum to the rest of the band. If true, that was a fairly major miscalculation. (“Ronnie, we love you, but he’s ROD STEWART”).

While most Faces songs were boozy, bawdy and strutting, Lane’s were modest and introspective, though not without their own wit and raunchiness. Rod’s were Saturday night; Ronnie’s were Sunday morning. His greatest song, to my mind, is “Debris,” a son’s loving reminiscence, centered on the vivid image of his father combing through junk on blankets at open-air markets in London’s bombed out East End.

Ronnie walked away from the Faces at their peak. He took his money (which he apparently kept in cash, in a bag) and (over)paid for an old bus and a bunch of circus tents and formed the Passing Show, which toured the English countryside, with burlesque dancers and jugglers and sword swallowers and his band. No one really knew what they were doing, and everyone had a great time. Until the money ran out. He lived at a ramshackle farm, where his rock star buddies came around to drink and sing songs, and recorded several wonderful but not especially successful albums.

Then Ronnie got MS, which had also afflicted his mother. His famous music mates (Clapton, Beck, Winwood, Page, Charlie Watts) staged a series of benefits for him and for MS research. He got swindled for a shockingly large amount by a woman in Texas, ended up moving to Austin, and became a fixture of the music scene there when he was well enough to play. He moved a final time to Colorado, where the disease took his life.

The documentary is fairly conventional, but the details and love in the tales told make up for the formulaic structure. In this, the first segment, I especially loved Eric Clapton’s account of the first time he saw the aptly named Small Faces: “These little guys came into the guitar shop and they were really little, they looked like they were like four feet tall. It was like hobbits.” And Ronnie’s account of the early days: “I mean none of us could play. I was just learning to play the bass and Steve was just learning the guitar. But that’s all right. We was keen.”

I don’t know why his story resonates with me so much. His music was lovely, homely in the best sense. He turned his back on rock stardom and became a gypsy. He was the original roots rocker. He didn’t give a damn about money. In America, we prate on about following your dream, but always with the implication that eventually the dream will bring material success. Ronnie followed his, and the results were rather more austere.

Can you show me a dream
Can you show me one that’s better than mine
Can you stand it in the cold light of day
Neither can I

* The DVD runs 105 minutes, whereas the online version represents the trimmed 60-minute TV version.