Friday, December 4, 2015

LEFTOVERS: IT'S ELEMENTAL (continued........)

(Heh, heh, heh, esteemed buddy, KK, you can't throw a gauntlet of that size down and expect me to walk away........)

Now, where were we?

Uranium: Uranium Fever by Elton Britt.
Wow, what find! A sassy 50s rap eulogising the joys of this most famous of the radioactive particles, just the sort of song aching to have been revived in the 70s heyday of Commander Cody's gloriously louche Lost Planet Airmen. Hell, I can see 'em playing it right now in my head. Smoke smoke smoke THAT cigarette!! Britt was a fairly successful country singer of his day, famous more for his yodelling than his singing, I learn, oft-covering the King of the Yodel, Jimmie Rodgers.

Lanthanum: Lanthanum by Vain Velocity.
'Haunting tune' speaks a comment on the youtube, and for a moment I bought that too, before it nosedived through the ground into a throat singing implosion of grunge-plated metal. So this is greek heavy metal? I always confuse lanthanum with laudanum, wondering if they did too. Hell, it's the sort of haunting nightmare that might strike if laudanum had been taken.

Dubnium: Haze by Dubnium.
I rather like this. I only searched because of the name, never having heard of the substance, but hoping it may have been similarly noted. Reassuringly heavily dubby, this is the work of a Plymouth, U.K., DJ, Sean, um, Dubnium, possibly not his birth name, mentioned to distinguish from U.S. based Dubnium Soundsystem, whom I didn't investigate. I could easily come down from a Laudanum hit on this.

Iridium: Iridium by Dark Tranquillity.
Shucks, I should have known better, lulled in again by a tasteful intro ahead of stentorian grunting dragging me down out of my demographic. Could be the same fella as the greek above, but they are swedish death metal stalwarts of the Gothenburg scene, it says here. I'd love to sound less grudging of their art but when I say it is nauseous, it's only because I would be if tried to sing like that. But then, what do I know?

Lead: Weights Made of Lead by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
Well I never, mere weeks after this and I discover this little nugget somehow earlier having passed me by. Could it be the repetitive nature of the tune or the plodding rhythm, but it certainly seems apt for the subject. 'I've got weights made of lead' sings Harvey but we never learn why. Is it a paean to fishing?

Tin: Tin Soldier by the Small Faces.
At last, cries my reader, at last one I know. A 1967 single that was perhaps their best, blending a pop sensitivity with something instrumentally a bit more inventive. The stop at 1.30, with then repeated keyboard motif predates that later stylisation, common across house music, by decades. Terrible to think that, with the death earlier this year of keyboard player, Ian McLagan, that drummer, Kenney Jones, is last man standing. R.I.P. Mac, along with Ronnie 'Plonk' Lane and Steve Marriott.

Krypton: Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down.
Is kryptonite the same as krypton? Do we know or care? Always and irrespectively associated with Superman, this was a massive hit in 2000 for Escatawpa, Mississippee band, whose singer and, for the first 4 years, drummer, Brad Arnold, seems to be the only permanent. Struggling to say much more as it is so inoffensive.

Mercury: Mercury Poisoning by Graham Parker & the Rumour.
All at once I'm dragged back to the early 70s with this righteous blast. Jeez, I loved this band, GP a much more vitriolic character than the benign old dude revived in Judd Apatow's 'This is 40'. I saw them then and saw them again, last year, touring again on the back of the films exposure, marvelling at the still smoking embers of pre-punk. The song, a thinly disguised jibe at his record label, Mercury, was and is typical of his lyrical spikiness. Wonderful.

Bismuth: Bismuth by Michael Johnson
I know nothing of this new age instrumental beyond a link to this, from where which it comes. And all the tracks are inspired by different elements. Quite how the pastoral tone of this example fits with the active ingredient of 'Pepto-Bismol', a proprietary anti-diarrhoeal, I don't know, apart from perhaps the calm it's apparent efficacy might provoke. The whole album is a free download, if you forgive the use of that term apropos to a discussion around diarrhoea.

Tungsten: Insomnia (Dark Dubstep) by Tungsten
More instrumental gobbledegook cooked up in someone's bedroom, but I like it. As I get older I seem strangely drawn to this sort of stuff, certainly enjoying it way more than the hideous elemental metal cliches the elements seem to bring forth. OK, neither clever, nor art but hey, it made me smile. and who Tungsten? Not a clue.

So, another 10, and like radioactivity, it's nearly killed me.
Part 4? Only when they make polony out of polonium.
Can you buy 'em? Probably. Go search, as the usual might not have then all.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Leftovers: It's Elemental/Once In A Lifetime

purchase [Once In A Lifetime]

The Element: Water redux

I really thought Retropath was headed down the right path when he started out to list the entire table of elements. I was seriously looking forward to the full 118.

Then again, considering the amount of time and energy involved in his somewhat quixotic endeavor, I was more inclined to simply complete the table of medieval elements along the lines of what J. David referred to.

Back at the time of the “It's Elemental” theme, I posted Hot Tuna's "Water Song" (Which I have since learned to play!). Without making distinction on the theme of the element of water - since the two songs are in rather different musical categories, I now realize I might well have posted Talking Heads' “Once In a Lifetime”.

For almost a decade, back in the 90s, I collected and re-re-listened to David Byrne and the band. I later relished Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and Arcade Fire (although I haven’t seen anyone else group them with Talking Heads, I think so) as re-incarnations of the Talking Heads’ genre.

Still, Talking Heads would still take my category prize as the elemental band of its style. And critical to that catalogue would be “Once In a Lifetime” – not least for its relevance to “Plato and Aristotle’s” Elements: there's water running all the way through in its original MTV version here:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Leftovers (Lies/Liars): All Men Are Liars

Nick Lowe: All Men Are Liars

It is a post-Thanksgiving tradition at SMM to have a “Leftovers” theme, which allows our writers to look back and post something on prior themes that, for whatever reason, we couldn’t or didn’t do at the time. As the most prolific writer here recently, I pretty much have posted twice on every theme, although there are a few that I only got around to a single piece. One of those was back in March, when the theme was “Lies/Liars,” and I wrote about a great, rocking blast of Southern rock from Jason and The Scorchers. There are so many songs in the rock canon about liars and lying that it is almost hard to narrow down the choices. But I did, and thus we have today’s feature song, by the great Nick Lowe.

Since this theme is all about looking back, I did write about Lowe back in January, so I won’t repeat what I wrote there, and instead focus on this tune. Lowe has said that the idea came to him while watching, believe it or not, Oprah Winfrey. According to Lowe:

"When I was over here once I was watching an edition of The Oprah Winfrey Show. They had some poor sap sitting there who'd run off with a maid or something like that, and the audience was extremely upset with this guy. I remember this large black lady standing up and shouting at the top of her voice, 'All men are liars! All men are liars! All men are liars!' She just was chanting it. And I thought, 'Yeah, you know what? You've got a point there, darling.' And along came that song." 

Now, of course, all men are not liars. Yeah, that’s the ticket.....

The song is a fun, bouncy pop tune, with Lowe's typical clever wordplay. The other thing that the song is remembered for, to the extent it is remembered at all, is for its somewhat gratuitous insult of English singer Rick Astley. Astley had a massive, annoying hit with the song “Never Gonna Give You Up,” which led to the phenomenon of “rickrolling,” defined by the Urban Dictionary as:

To post a misleading link with a subject that promises to be exciting or interesting, e.g. "World of Starcraft in-game footage!" or "Paris Hilton blows Busta Rhymes' dick" but actually turns out to be the video for Rick Astley's debut single, "Never Gonna Give You Up". A variant on the duckroll. Allegedly hilarious. 

Even my beloved New York Mets got rickrolled.

In the song, Lowe sings:

Well, do you remember Rick Astley? 
He had a big fat hit, it was ghastly. 
He said I'm never gonna give you up or let you down. 
Well I'm here to tell ya that Dick's a clown. 

Which is more than “allegedly” hilarious, but which Lowe, as time went on, regretted. He has commented:

At the time, he was everywhere. “Never Gonna Give You Up” was just on all the time. It drove me mad. [Impersonates Astley.] That constricted voice. And so I put that rather barbed line in, which I regret now. I hardly ever do the song. I went through a phase of doing it fairly recently, but it sort of went off the boil and I stopped doing it. But when I used to do the Rick Astley line, people used to fall about, rolling in the aisles, clutching their sides laughing, and I thought, “This is rather a shame to do this. Poor old Rick. He’s not exactly in the public eye much anymore. It seems a little unfair to kick him when he’s down.” 

One of the many fun things about writing these pieces is that I actually research what I write and learn things about songs that I like. Which is how I found the interview that I have quoted from at length. But it is also interesting to read reviews of the music I post. The album that “All Men Are Liars” comes from, Party of One, is a pretty good one, in my estimation. Lowe, of course, was originally best known as a producer, but also created one of the all-time great albums, Jesus of Cool (and its slightly different American version, Pure Pop For Now People), not to mention the fine follow up, Labour of Lust. After that, he released a bunch of albums, all of which had moments, some more than others, until his recent critically acclaimed reinvention as a crooner.

But, if you read the Allmusic review of Party of One, you might be dissuaded from listening to it—it refers to the album as “stilted,” and “an unwelcome surprise” filled with “forced humor and bland support,” and “stiff, colorless performances.” (I suspect that the reference to “stiff” in that review was not meant as a reference to Lowe’s days producing for the legendary Stiff label).

Instead, I commend you to read Robert Christgau’s review, who hears things quite differently, and more in accord with my opinion:

Nick the Knife is a writer again, every song honed and there for a reason. With the likes of Ry Cooder and Jim Keltner spiking his wry cool, he yearns for yen, makes Boeing a modest proposal, spins off pungent epithets ("Refrigerator White"), nonsense syllables ("Shting-Shtang"), sexual metaphors ("Honeygun"). In a shameless bid for the rockcrit vote, he also finds the perfect rhyme for "ghastly" (starts with "Rick," lest you already forgot). And just like with Labour of Lust in 1979, he makes it sound so easy you expect a reprise a year for the rest of his life. A-