Silly

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For example, Teddy Thompson covering “Super Trooper.” It’s a great performance.

(As some context, if you aren’t familiar with Teddy Thompson, I found this while looking for his fantastic, dark, performance on the Jools Holland show).

Writing the previous post I was thinking that “nonsense” might be a better word than “silly” to describe “Bahamut” and that got me thinking about It’s Saturday, my favorite King Missile song.

I first heard the song on a mix from a friend and it immediately stood out as one of the more fun tracks on there. It’s clever, surprising, and just barely manages to not be too precious. Compared to other good King Missile tracks like, “(I’m a) Sensitive Artist“, “Take Stuff From Work“, or “Cheesecake Truck” all of which are funny and memorable, “It’s Saturday” has more than one idea that nicely catches one’s attention.

It’s a sign of how well constructed it is that it can move from the familiar joke, “I want to be different, like everybody else I want to be like” to the entertainingly over-educated elaboration, “I want to call into question the very idea that identity can be attached” to the final lines, “Whatever happened to protesting nothing in particular, / just protesting cause it’s Saturday and there’s nothing else to do?” and feel like a natural progression. The individual lines may be too-clever-by-half (which is no criticism, in this case) but the song as a whole feel reflective and sincere in some way.

In appreciation to the Modesto Kid, here’s a song that I think he’ll like . . .

I have recently had the experience with a couple of songs of watching a video for the song on youtube, and having it crystallize for me some quality about the song that I liked. In both cases I am not sure that I would have appreciated the youtube video as much without having first heard the song on CD, but this definitely goes in the file tracking my coming to appreciate youtube as a resource for music.

First off is Bahamut by Hazmat Modine and the video is of them performing live on Russian TV.

I’d been directed to Hazmat Modine by RS, and have found that it’s been a nice CD to listen to at work. It strikes a nice balance between being energetic without being too pushy or fatiguing. I think part of what makes it less fatiguing is the fact that it’s all acoustic, and that it has a more natural dynamic range (though it manages to not have a dynamic range so big that the loud parts are distractingly loud). It’s surprisingly nice to have the option of something that’s very easy to listen to that doesn’t have synthesized sounds or an everpresent electic guitar.

So I’ve listened to it several times without making any effort to follow the songs or the lyrics, but just enjoying the mood. The video makes it easier to both hear the meaning of the words and to appreciate the silliness of the song. The top comment on the video is somebody saying, “My son is three and ‘Bahamut’ is his favorite song in the whole world.” You can understand why a three year old would love the song. In the live version the chorus

And Bohemoth sings us his song
While Bahamut wanders along
But in the glory of this spring
You can hear Bahamut sing

Whoa-ho-ho
Are you as big as me?
Whoa-ho-ho-ho
Way too big to see
Whoa-ho-ho-ho-ho
Bahamut he goes so slow
Whoa-ho-ho-ho
Too big a place to go

Is delightfully fun. It isn’t just silly it’s exultantly silly. It’s exactly what three year olds should be falling in love with; something which isn’t dumbed down, but also doesn’t require any analysis or thought.

Three pop songs about women named, “Annie” (the first two links are youtube links)

Annie Get Your Gun” (Squeeze)
Annie” (Pete Townshend / Ronnie Lane)
Annie’s Going To Sing Her Song” (Tom Paxton; from this post).

Plus, of course, the musical.

Is there something in the name that makes it particularly suited to fitting a lyric, or could you make a similar list for any common woman’s name with two syllables?

I’m looking forward to posting more. I’ve got a number of things that I’d like to write about but, when I’m not at work, I just haven’t had the attention span to write anything serious.

In the meantime, however, here is a fun, silly, and completely random youtube video that I stumbled across — “Another Brick In the Wall (ocarina cover)”

I admit, posting this might contradict my previous complaint that I think youtube can reward novelty over substance, but I was genuinely impressed by his playing.

Oddities

It’s a rainy Sunday, I’ve been doing some straitening up, and I noticed a Frank Zappa collection, the lost episodes, that I haven’t thought about for a while, which fit my mood. It was released shortly after his death, and was culled from his personal tapes. It includes a variety of unreleased songs, along with random recordings. I wanted to highlight one of each.

First, “I’m A Band Leader” Zappa’s merciless satire of the small time musical huckster. It’s a pure cheap shot, but delivered perfectly. “I gave away a box with two small bottles of champagne imported from Europe and kissed the girl who won and shook hands with the guy she was with. He didn’t mind when I kissed he because I’m important.”

Second, “Cops & Buns” a recording made when somebody left the tapes running when a cop came to their apartment studio responding to a noise complaint. It’s represents another stereotype, as the cop comes across as somebody straight out of central casting but, in this case, he is more sympathetic than they are.

A while back I saw a recommendation for Terry Allen. I’d never heard of him, but when I saw AMG describe Lubbock (On Everything as “one of the finest country albums of all time” piqued my curiosity. It took me a while to pick up a copy, but I can now say, on early listening, that it is really good.

I didn’t quite know what to make of the album until I got to “Truckload Of Art” and immediately got into line with his sense of humor. It had taken me a little while partially because his voice isn’t anything special; it isn’t particularly smooth or resonant and his singing seems forced at times (and the conversion to .mp3 doesn’t do it any favors). But “truckload of art” convinced me that his voice and style were, in fact perfect for the material, in which people are both sympathetic, and also far more at the mercy of chance and circumstance than they believe themselves to be. It isn’t hostile to people just to any sense of grandiosity they may possess.

Just start with the chorus, “Precious objects are scattered / All over the ground. / And it’s a terrible sight / If a person were to see it / But there weren’t nobody around.” The loneliness of the accident isn’t a tragedy because it’s the ultimate joke on people who only wanted to be seen.

With my sense of humor properly adjusted, I have to say that the whole album is better than any of the individual songs. It’s so so slyly funny throughout. His style just grows on you. But, to give a sense of his range, such as it is, the opening song of the album “Amarillo Highway” is more uptempo with more of a classic country sound, but with the same edge suggesting that he’s simultaneously celebrating and mocking Texas culture. “I don’t wear no Stetson / But I’m willin to bet son / That I’m a big a Texan as you are. / ‘Cause
There’s a girl in her barefeet / ‘Sleep on the back seat / An that trunk is full of Pearl…and Lone Star.” Unlike some country music it doesn’t try to argue that there’s anything grand or honorable to Texas country culture, just that it’s likable enough if that’s where you happen to be in the world. I’d say that’s too harsh, except that’s the feel of the whole album, anything that wants to claim to be the whole enchilada* is probably setting itself up.

* I’m thinking here of the line by Dan Rather, “Texas…another of the so-called big enchiladas, or if not an enchilada, at least a huge taco.”

Here’s a song I’ve been meaning to post for a while, Janis Ian’s Play Like A Girl about encountering casual sexism as a female musician.

It is a song that might feel slight if it weren’t for the fact that it’s so irresistibly happy, which may be surprising given the subject matter. The song is full of the pleasure of having reached a point in her life an career at which that isn’t a worry, and she can just play. The mood of the music isn’t even confrontational enough to about conquering adversity, it’s just about joy with a good natured dismissal of said sexism.

From a songwriting perspective it’s worth noting that the parallels that she draws between playing music and playing baseball area really effective. As the song is structured, when she was growing up she was told that, as a girl, she wasn’t cut out for either baseball or music. Now she’s a professional musician and, left unsaid, not a professional baseball player but that doesn’t mean that the people who told her that she shouldn’t play baseball were any more correct than the people who criticized her playing. That conclusion is made explicit when she sings “Don’t want to Elvis / Mikey Mantle or Babe. / this Isn’t a contest / I just want to make some music / have a good time while I do it.”

Holly’s latest post at The Song In My Head Today got me thinking a little bit about country music. I don’t have a lot of exposure to country music and, while I’ve been listening to more of it over the last few years, I’m aware that on some level I don’t get it. There’s a small sub-set of country music which I like a lot, the more folky or singer/songwriter segment, but outside of that I find myself becoming lost.

So I’ve been thinking about the differences between country music and the pop music that I’m more comfortable with. I have some vague thoughts that I’m trying to pull together but, for now, I wanted to link to this video of Jerry Jeff Walker giving a fantastic live performance from, I’d guess, the late 70s. Watching it makes me feel like there really was a split between country music and pop music at some point. I know there’s always been a lot of crossover (Patsy Cline? Dolly Parton) even before the 90s when the pop side of country became essentially indistinguishable from mainstream popular music. But watching that song (“Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother”) he really shares a musical idiom with the audience; it’s obvious that both he and the audience are really comfortable and enjoying themselves, and it isn’t the same performance vocabulary as pop music.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, and tell me in comments if you think that’s the case, but go watch the video, it’s worth it.

80s Epilogue

An acoustic cover of “Billie Jean” by Brazilian superstar Caetano Veloso*. The first line or two are in Portuguese and then he transitions into “Billie Jean.” I don’t know whether Veloso is the guitar player, but I really like the guitar playing.

Inspired partially by this discussion.

*I’m surprised that this is the first Caetano Veloso song that I’ve posted here. There are a couple of his songs that I really like.

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