Justification: There is something wonderful about specificity in songs. There’s a US indie band called Francine who did a song called ‘Set of Dune’ which is all about a burgeoning romance between the fill-in key grip and the head sand stager while making David Lynch’s Dune which is a) awesome, b) an amazingly odd idea, and c) the only song I know that contains the couplet “You said ‘please be still, my love / You’ve got a scorpion on ya’” / Shadows painted our faces, I highlighted Kujo, you read Uncle Vanya“. Amazing.
To be fair, those boots *are* awful.
Anyway: when I first heard this song I immediately remembered every girl I’d ever known in high school who was obsessed with horseriding: specifically the line “…and her car is full of hay’. And I have one friend whose relationship ended basically because his being around was interfering with her horse-time, which I’d thought was a really unusual excuse at the time but now accept must be a lot more common than I’d realised.
I’d forgotten this for a long time until about five years ago when I heard an album by Sydney country supergroup The Millionaires, featuring Dave McCormack from Custard, which contains a marvellously spirited cover. Still, can’t beat the original.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010: Hot Chip were making their best ever song (and video) in ‘Over & Over’.
Justification: There are a lot of bands that are masters of writing song titles that make you want to hear the song. TISM are obvious geniuses at it, but for a long time REM had a lock on it (I remember desperately wanting to hear ‘Disturbance at the Heron House’ on the basis of the name alone), and the Beautiful South went through a purple period circa 0898 with songs like ‘You Play Glockenspiel, I’ll Play Drums’. But I think this was the first time I’d heard a song title and went “Best. Title. Ever.”
1990: the era when indie-rock layout artists just kinda gave up.
The Jazz Butcher, technically, was Pat Fish and he was more a poet than a musician, hence a vocal technique that could be best described as “speak-singy, like some sort of low-rent, slightly drunk Rex Harrison with a head cold”. Triple J got behind them in a big way around 1990, and by Triple J I mean Maynard F# Crabbes, who gets a major shout out on the sleeve to the Shirley Maclaine EP that I believe was knocked up purely for Australia.
I remember playing this to the Undecided’s drummer Ben and saying something along the lines of “those extended snare fills in the coda? Do that sort of thing all the time, please.” I’m reasonably sure we covered it at some point too, and it went down about as well as you’d expect.
This is a song that I always want to play when I’m DJing, and barely ever do since it clears dancefloors like a flamethrower.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2011: Mad disco genius via Giorgio Moroder upon Donna Summer’s still-amazing ‘I Feel Love’.
Justification: Every Monday night when I pop into the ABC studios to do my adorable slot on Dom Knight’s show on 702 FM – isn’t that right, Sydney readers? – I see the smiling face of Richard Fidler on the wall, and more often than not I have a little moment of DAAS reverie while I wait to be buzzed into the studio. Yet it didn’t occur to me to do an Allstars song until I stumbled across a listing for their sole, long-out-of-print LP ICON on eBay and went “Who’d pay $170 for that?”, followed quickly by the thought “I wish I’d bought this on either LP or CD rather than, as I did at the time, cassette,” and then “I wonder if it’s on iTunes?” It turns out, happily, that it is – which is why I’m listening to ‘Motorcycle St Sebastian’ while I’m writing this.
I can’t remember which one of them did the artwork. I think everyone assumed it was Paul, but it was actually Richard? Jesus, I used to be a much better obsessive.
Anyway: the Allstars (Fidler, Paul McDermott and Tim Ferguson) were the first comedy troupe with which I became obsessed, seeing them on pretty much every Adelaide live show they did from when I was slightly underage to legally permitted to do things in pubs. They were the first comedy group to make me actually go out and read books and see films purely so I would get their jokes, which set me up nicely for the likes of Bill Hicks and David Cross down the track, not to mention the Simpsons and Futurama’s reference-within-reference comedy, and I can’t imagine how they felt about the response to BOOK, their book-slash-art-prank which was more or less a parody of genre (a point I didn’t realise until many years and a uni degree later).
My closest friends and I were defined for a good couple of years there by our mindless devotion to them. Along with My friends Adam, Alex and Kylie we travelled to Melbourne for the filming of the ABC comedy showcase The Big Gig, upon which DAAS were regulars, and managed to pick a week that DAAS weren’t on. This lead me to nervously go up with a letter to host Glynn Nicholas, who was all ready to be pleasantly condescending to a fan and whose face hardened considerably when I said, in wavering tone, “um, could you pass this on to the Allstars?” I can’t remember if he even waited until I was out of his direct eyeline before he screwed it up. Which was, in retrospect, something of a relief.
On the plus side, I believe it was that trip that we stumbled across an indie club being hosted in an inner city pub as a fundraiser for something, and convinced the completely inexperienced bartender to make us very, very potent cocktails for $2 a throw. It was also the trip I first saw a young, new stand up named Judith Lucy, opening for the Found Objects (later to lose a member and become Lano & Woodley). It was a good time for Australian comedy.
Anyway: the Allstars did this one album (although there are a couple of live recordings and, rumour has it, an unreleased “proper” album called Blue which may or may not have been a joke) which was hugely successful, but also dives between oh-so-wacky wackiness (this song, ‘Go to Church’, ‘Dead Elvis’, ‘Broad Lic Nic’) and actual, honest-to-god songcraft (the straightfaced ‘Little Gospel Song’, the pummelling ‘Change the Blades’, and the gorgeous, genuinely affecting piano ballad ‘Bottle’). It was a perfect distillation of three men who clearly wanted to go in far more expansive artistic directions, but also knew that people wanted jokes about religion and whaling on Richard.
Also, I think the entirely-different lyrics to the version they did live were superior, especially “Genocide, not Genesis, is what the world needs now”.
Their DAAS Kapital series was fucking great, by the way. I wonder if it’s available anywhere?
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2011:Outkast’s enduring classic ‘Hey Ya!’, probably because of seeing my friend Jon do it at karaoke or something. Hey, they can’t all be revelatory, you know.
Justification: This always makes me think of my friend and former bandmate Nick Lambert, who was the only other person who loved Scots indie combo the Trash Can Sinatras – and loved them a lot more than I did, since I pretty much only adored this song and was vaguely aware of some other singles like ‘Only Tongue Can Tell’ and got through 450 of these damn listings before remembering the band’s glorious debut.
Someone left the (album artwork for) Cake out in the rain / And I don't think I can take it, 'cause I took so long to bake it...
But it was a bugger to find a video (sorry about the wavering sound quality), which contains the main reason I initially paid attention to them: in one shot one of the members is wearing the same Flood-era They Might Be Giants shirt that I so adored and pretty much wore until it fell rotting off my body (typically alternated with a Doug Anthony Allstars t-shirt, because I was a fucking Australian uni caricature).
And the Trash Can Sinatras still exist, although they did take off a bit of time there in the 90s after an unfortunate bit of bankruptcy. And thanks to Nick I’ve heard a hell of a lot of their stuff, but deep in my heart of hearts I’m still bellowing “Oh, I like your poetry – but I hate your poems” whenever I think of this band.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010: Let’s go for the April 1 entry with the Posies and their magnificent power pop classic ‘Dream All Day’.
Justification: This sounded like it should have heralded a chart breakthrough for power pop that was never to come. That was partially because the band fractured after this album and then split for good following the second one, and also because their cod-psychedelia was at odds with the emerging grunge fashions of the time (a mistake that Seattle’s Posies and San Francisco’s Redd Kross quickly rectified, to their commercial benefit).
Also, this video is hideous – although it was nominated for an MTV awards in 1991. Before you go “…the hell?” remember that this was the same period that MTV thought that Blind Melon’s ‘No Rain’ was the greatest thing on Earth. Grunge’s cleansing fire really couldn’t have come any sooner.
If memory serves, drummer Andy Sturmer broke a stick just before the end of the song, assumed that the take was ruined and then threw his non-broken one across the room. That was, however, the take that they used and you can hear the stick skittering across the floor and hitting a tambourine right at the end.
The various members of the band are still doing stuff, with a couple of them turning up on the last Cheap Trick album. Jason Falkner’s solo record Can You Still Feel? from 1999 is pretty good, and he’s one of Beck‘s regular contributors these days.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2011: It was a weekend, so have at the 1990 archive – which I think is the most represented year here at Songs You Should Rediscover Today Because It Is Awesome. I was 18 that year. Draw your own conclusions.
Justification: Well, 400 is a nice round number – and I’m delighted that my terrible, terrible memory means that there are still songs that I genuinely adore and which mean a great deal to me that I inexplicably haven’t already sacrificed to the unyielding volcano god that is SYSRTBIIA.
This was Cole’s debut solo single after disbanding the Commotions, and doesn’t sound all that different to what had been happening on their last album, 1987′s Mainstream (in that it’s quite brilliant and underrated). It was also his commercial high water mark as a solo artist, despite the fact that everything the man has done is of almost stunningly consistent quality: from here on in the world stopped paying as much attention as the songs deserved, although he’s still got a worldwide audience that allows him to tour and record regularly (and he hasn’t slackened off either: the most recent disc, Broken Record, which came out late 2010, is freakin’ awesome). This beautiful shrug to the end of a relationship also marks the point where Cole really started to develop the croon that is now his trademark, which sounds even better that his voice has grown into it a little more.
I’d also like to point out that only Neil Finn’s “It would cause me pain if we were to end this / But I would start again, you can depend on it” (from ‘Better Be Home Soon’) comes close to “You wanna leave me baby, be my guest / All I’m gonna do is cry / Then I’m gonna find me someone else / To tear the stars out of the sky” in terms of summing up that grim knowledge about love and relationships that comes only from hard-earned experience. That said, it also probably suffered commercially by not using the chorus line as the title (see also here and here), meaning that anyone who went into a record store looking for a song called ‘Baby, You’re Too Well Read’ would have come away empty handed.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010: Jesus Jones were the sound of the future of 1989 with ‘Info Freako’.
Justification: For most people the Blake Babies are known for one of three reasons:
1. It was the band that introduced the world to the briefly-threatened-to-crack-the-mainstream solo career of Juliana Hatfield,
2. It occasionally contained Evan Dando, who used it as a place to get spare parts when a bit fell off the Lemonheads (both Hatfield and guitarist John P Strohm played in the band at different times), and
3. Their drummer was named Freda Love Boner. Yes, really. That’s the best name ever.
The trio met in Boston, got their name when Alan Ginsberg did a university poetry reading and they asked him to christen their band, split after two albums and an EP in 1991, and they reunited for a bit in 1999-2001, during which time they made an album I’ve never heard.
I adored Sunburn at the time – I had something of a thing for Ms Hatfield, like every other male I knew – although listening back it’s actually a bit patchy. That said, it does remind me strongly of absent friends, some of which are no longer with us. Sorry you’ve missed so much, Jo.
This is superb, though, as is Hatfield’s mighty ‘I’m Not Your Mother’ and Strohm’s perfect, creepy ‘Girl in a Box’ – which I played at solo gigs for a number of years, occasionally with musically adept female friends doing the all-important Hatfield melody line. There was something weirdly liberating about singing “she’ll be a slut, a dirty little whore / or the girl-next-door” over a lilting two-chord pattern, and I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a better death scenario than “I hope I die in the nighttime / With my TV on and a beer in my hand / And you by my side”.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010: Placebo, it confuses me how much I still love ‘Every You, Every Me’.
Justification: If you were into the Smiths, you were into the Sundays. That’s how it worked, and I knew that going in. Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (I mean, does any album scream “Smiths fan!” more than that?) had already cast a long shadow in the music press long before I actually heard it, with reviews invariably accompanied by pictures of the cutesy-cardigan clad Sundays looking nervously at the camera. Well, Harriet Wheeler did at any rate – I don’t think I’d recognise any of the others if they came and stabbed me in the face while shrieking “I WAS A MEMBER OF THE SUNDAYS!” Which has yet to happen.
Anyway: I knew I was obliged to love this album before I heard it and was genuinely relieved when I finally heard this single beforehand and realised it wasn’t going to be a difficult sell. Wheeler’s voice and David Gavurin’s chiming guitar blended so perfectly that it was hardly a surprise when they married and had babies a few years later. I interviewed them around the time of the third and final Sundays album, Static and Silence, which Harriet downstairs and David on the bedroom extension, and they were freakin’ hilarious. Seriously. They are both funny as hell. Who knew?
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010: Matthew Sweet was making a stone-cold classic with ‘Girlfriend’.
Justification: There is nothing that maddens me more than a band that I can’t stand making a killer song. There I am, with my mind nice and made up about how shit a band is, and then Kasabian release ‘Shoot the Runner’ or someone reminds me that Oasis did ‘Supersonic’. And there I am, fuming and tapping my foot at the same time – which is both harder and less fun than it sounds.
In a similar spirit I present for you the Happy Mondays – who were, let’s not have any confusion, both a terrible band and an awful group of people – who had somehow parlayed their drug pushing operations into a credible band in the wake of the Stone Roses, due almost entirely to the production work of Steve Osbourne and (especially) Paul Oakenfold, who turned their spastic white funk into a streamlined groove. And even then I could remain aloof and supercilious, until I heard Shaun Ryder sum up an entire generation born of bad choices and worse opportunities: “Son, I’m thirty / I only went with your mother ’cause she’s dirty / And I don’t have a decent bone in me / What you get is just what you see”.
“Oh shit,” thought I, “that’s good. Really good.”
And then, even while I was thinking the above, they dropped the ‘Lady Marmalade’ “yippee-yippee-yi-yi-yay” hook, Rowetta delivering it in an authoritative soul bellow contrasting with Ryder’s exhausted, drug-fucked sigh, sounding as though he’s panting along with the song but too mashed to leave the dancefloor. It is one of the great meta-pop moments in contemporary music – an amazing mix of form and content.
They never made another song that even remotely touched me, but this remains a grudging favourite. Damn you, Ryder.
The video’s hilarious, though. The models put on a game face and Bez probably isn’t aware that a clip’s being filmed, but that moment when bassist Paul Ryder stares down the camera with that “you get that thing away from me or I’ll fucking nut you” expression is priceless.
THIS TIME IN 2010: Remember the late, great Kirsty MacColl via her still-potent ‘Free World’.
Justification: This is generally thought as a Concrete Blonde song, since they released it first (it was on their Bloodletting album a few months before Prieboy released his version), and because it really does suit Johnette Napolitano’s soaring voice. And this song – about a friend of Prieboy’s who decided to commit suicide after getting her HIV diagnosis – is probably his best known track, and is a magnificent piece of music. However, like so much on …Upon My Wicked Son, the amazing songwriting is undercut by the terrible bargain-basement production and cheesy keyboard sounds. Triple J recorded what’s probably the definitive version of the song for Live at the Wireless, with Napolitano duetting with Prieboy at the piano: it’s haunting, sparse and heartbreakingly beautiful.
Prieboy had not long left Wall of Voodoo when he did this album (two of the songs were co-written with WoV bandmate Ned Leukhardt, in fact), and at times it feels like he hasn’t quite worked out that he’s not in a band anymore. However, by the time he did his second (and final, to date) album Sins of our Fathers he’d found his sound: that’s one of the most perfect records ever made, and ‘Cannot Not’ and ‘Build A Better Garden’ are two of the best songs humankind has ever produced (and another track, ‘Psycho Ex’, was turned into the novel The Psycho Ex Game, co-written with comedienne Merrill Markoe).
I saw Prieboy play on a wet Monday or Tuesday night at the Synagogue in Adelaide in (I’m guessing) 1995. There were maybe 15 people in a venue that could easily hold 500, and Prieboy could – on completely reasonable grounds – have phoned in a sub-par set. However, he decided instead to make it an absolutely magical show, taking the mics off the piano and his voice (and the guitar and vocal for his accompanying guitarist/violinist, Rita D’Albert) and performing acoustically, dancing around the audience as we kept the refrain of ‘Joliet’ going and doing utterly incredible versions of songs from both albums, plus a host of Wall of Voodoo numbers (he attacked the piano for a spinechilling extended improvisation that slowly congealed into ‘Far Side of Crazy’ which remains one of the most perfect things I’ve ever heard). And his version of this song had the entire room in tears. It is still, to this day, the greatest gig I have ever attended.
THIS TIME IN 2010: Throwing Muses were falling apart to the tune of ‘Not Too Soon’.