Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Various Artists - "Buy The World A Coke"
On first viewing, I think I got the ending of Mad Men wrong. I thought after Don hugged Leonard - the not-stunningly-handsome, not-cool Dad stuck in a boring office job and an afterthought with his family (an average Don with zero moxie) - he embraced the om-om-om of the counterculture as the only thing keeping him from going off on a dismal, despaired, life-ruining bender. Peggy had told him he'd never get to work on Coke, and the last we saw of her she was intensely typing. Being a sucker for an image of a hard-working writer hammering out work, I figured she was typing up the script of the Coke ad that co-opted the very new age beliefs that Don had adopted.
But upon discussion with my brother and reading Meredith Blake's (they are always great) episode recap in the Los Angeles Times, it appears that Don was simply going with the flow at Big Sur in order to cunningly find a way to work on Coke after all. That is a better explanation of the smile that appears on his face at the end of the episode: He has found a way to turn this hippie-commune nightmare; where he is abandonded by the only person who is tied to his Dick Whitman past, a person he genuinely tried to help, into an iconic ad. Always the ad man, that Draper.
During one of its revivals on TV years ago, a friend said that the "Buy The World A Coke" song is great. I disagreed, with that weary purist mentality that something appearing in a commercial is automatically not "real" and hence inferior. Then after hearing it again with fresh ears and an open mind, I agreed with him. It is a great song. Turns out it was written in part by the same guys who wrote The Hollies hit "Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress" and (even better) the "If You've Got The Time" jingle for Miller Beer.
Hats off to all the folks behind Mad Men, it was quite the run. For a few weeks a year, that Sunday-night-creep, I-don't-want-to-go-to-school feeling was banished. On a kinda-related note, I saw an Alison Brie doppelganger in south Minneapolis last week. Same walk, same legs that we see Trudy Campbell sporting as she gets on the Learjet. Yessir.
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Various Artists - Melrose Place: The Music
Polygraph Operator: Did Kimberly steal Jo's baby?
Jerry: I don't know.
Polygraph Operator: Did Billy sleep with Alison's best friend?
Jerry: I don't know.
Polygraph Operator: Did Jane's fiance kidnap Sydney and take her to Las Vegas? And if so, did she enjoy it?
Jerry: I don't know.
Polygraph Operator: Did Jane sleep with Michael again?
Jerry: Yes! That stupid idiot! He left her for Kimberly, he slept with her sister! He tricked her into giving him half her business, and then she goes ahead and sleeps with him again! I mean she's crazy! How could she do something like that? Oh that Jane, she makes me so mad!
Of course I watched Melrose Place. It was quite a bit of fun there for a few years and the first half of its run was on while I was working some soul-draining corporate job and any escapism on the tube at night was a welcome relief. I wish I could say I bought Melrose Place: The Music used at Let It Be during one of my runs there late mornings while on the (morning break) lam from the Young-Quinlan Building, but the sticker on my jewel case indicates it was bought used at the Electric Fetus in the late nineties, when I was free. I'm sure I bought it almost solely for the Paul Westerberg track that ends it. A few weeks ago on an impulse, I put this album on my phone and gave it a full listen. Verdict:
Aimee Mann, "That's Just What You Are" - A perfect pop gem makes a heady leadoff track. Prior to this song being on the radio, I was vaguely aware of Mann and this one burned a way straight to my heart. For some bizarre reason, a coworker at the time was slightly offended that Mann had albums titled Whatever and I'm With Stupid, but those just seal the deal between her and Generation X.
Urge Overkill, "Back On Me" - This song is certainly solid, though it doesn't have the same exuberance as songs like "Sister Havana" and "Postive Bleeding". These tunes were all on their Saturation album. So, while Urge Overill didn't put one of their better songs on this soundtrack, they still managed to shill for their fan club in the liner notes! Love that.
Sam Phillips, "Baby I Can't Please You" - Phillips started out as a Christian rocker. A wag decades ago described Christian rock as simply "taking pop songs and inserting 'Jesus' where 'baby' normally goes." Good thing Phillips moved into the secular, so this song wasn't "Jesus I Can't Please You". I could listen to the percussion on this one all day long, plus it makes me want to read Peter Guralnick's "Sam Phillips Talking". (Different person, but still great art.)
Dinosaur Jr, "Blah" - The ultimate slacker rock, naming your song "Blah". The recurring guitar riff is intriguing, plus J Mascis sounds like he's trying to emote or somesuch. That's gotta count for something. (Or maybe he's just riffing on he and his band's disdain for punctuation.)
Frente!, "Ordinary Angels" - They/she/whoever have an exclamation point on their name. Mr. Lippman would not approve.
Annie Lennox, "Precious" - She's got great pipes, but this one is overproduced and it bores me.
Divinyls, "I'm Jealous" - Holy moly, I'm glad I dug this album out of the archives. While the guitars on this alone are worth the price of admission, this is also a perfectly produced psychodrama worthy of Roy Orbison.
Seed, "Kids … This is Fabulon" - Dumb band name. Dumb song name. Interesting Hammond B-3 though … who are these guys again? They certainly aren't The Seeds, those American heroes who were so punk that they earned the epitaph: "Two great chords - five great albums!" The Trouser Press Guide To '90s Rock describes Seed's sound as "a yeoman's mish-mash of 60's effluvia, '70s genericsm, '80s heartland-grunge and '90s faux-funk weirdness." It also says they have another song that "falls somewhere between Blind Melon and Boston." Wish THAT one had been on this album.
Letters To Cleo, "Here And Now" - Admit it - the first time this song aired on your favorite alternative rock station, your immediate reaction was: "How are Beavis and Butt-head going to react to this one?"
James, "How Was It For You" - Not as annoying as their hit "Laid" (the one where the singer shrieks like he's doing a show tune), which still plagues the Jack FM playlist. This one is utterly devoid of soul or grit. Sounds like rock, but it ain't rock 'n' roll. A typical mid-nineties Brit-dork mediocrity that was of course embraced in certain Anglophile circles.
Paul Westerberg, "A Star Is Bored" - Typical Westerberg: He writes an acoustic masterpiece, records it in his Minneapolis basement, then mails it to his producer's house in Los Angeles for him to mix and add to the gorgeous backing vocals. Also Westerbergian: He makes you wonder what exactly is going on with the lyric's protagonist, then slaps a classic Paul Pun on the song title/chorus. A fitting closer to an album I had mostly forgotten and dismissed ("oh yeah, that's the one with that great Westerberg song on it"). This album states the case for second chances everywhere.
Tuesday, May 05, 2015
Sir Lord Baltimore - "Helium Head (I Got A Love)"
PART I: POSITIVELY 34TH STREET
see, this is how it's playing
everybody's going on about
all these sincere, earnest scams
in music, but I don't want no
folk revival, bluegrass gives me
the creeps. Trying to enjoy a book at
the coffee shop, the PA is playing
some hoary crap from youngsters
- banjos and stringed instruments without
amplification and some twentysomething
bum trying to sound old -
And there's no relief at home,
sheesh I'm trying to focus on this
hockey game or at least on Kathryn Tappen
somebody on Twitter
was going on about John Hiatt.
Who has always been a
Grade-A Bore, and it all piles up and it
all grates and I just want to focus,
get a clear head without all this
earnest, sincere music boring the daylights
out of me so the only known answer/cure involves:
A) headphones, B) Tullamore Dew, and
3) metal metal metal.
PART II: TRY IT
Electric guitars go from ear to ear like in "Whole Lotta Love." A singer who sounds insincere as hell (yeah!), then some monk-drone sounds like the Yardbirds' "Still I'm Sad" but not weighing anything down. More guitar freneticism. Crazyman lead singer goes on about how he's got a love, more monk sounds (did these guys ever correspond with Uriah Heep?) and bashing and a shriek and a freakout akin to the Yardbirds (them again) in "I'm a Man". John Fucking Hiatt you say? I'll take a handshake of reds instead, please.