Ah, remember when Sarah Michelle Gellar was in films? Bless.
Marcy Playground were at the 14 minutes 55 second mark of their 15 minutes at this point: ‘Sex and Candy’ had been a big hit and they were about to enter the internal-disputes-and-contractual issues period which was to fatally hobble their career, but this slinky little number is one of the most gloriously economical pieces of music they ever wrote. Two sections, two basslines coiling around each other like pythons, a devil-may-care swing to the drums and John Wozniak’s double-tracked vocals sounding gloriously creepy and suggestive. Why it was pissed away on a teenage remake of Les Liaisons dangereuses baffles me to this day.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010: Blur were making their presence felt with the mighty ‘There’s No Other Way’.
Justification: Actually, there is an proper video for this, but the only place I could find it was here, and couldn’t find any way to embed it. In case you’re not clicking on it right this second, it’s the site of the production company that made it –not the official Luna site or a Warners affiliate – so I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Elektra commissioned it just before they dropped Luna from the roster. It’s not, it should be made clear, an amazing video. But this is an amazing song.
Look at those pupils. Say no to drugs, creepy looking dolls.
There are precious few songs that I love more than this, not least because it opened up a whole new vista for me of Luna and Dean Wareham’s previous band, Galaxie 500, thanks to this being on an Uncut compilation. Like a huge amount of these songs it’s inextricably tied to memories of a time and a place, that being the end of the millenium in Adelaide, living with my soon-to-be-wife and hanging with the people that would be my lifelong friends, playing in a band that was to take over the world.
Of course, with 13 years hindsight things maybe didn’t work out as well as I’d imagined – the Career Girls released an album and didn’t know what to do next, my wife and I split up nine years later, and most of my circle of 1999-era friends I haven’t spoken with in years – so the song’s sense of emotional dislocation and nostalgia is even more potent to me these days.
Luna split in 2005 though Wareham and his bassist/wife Britta Phillips still play music as Dean & Britta, and were in Sydney not long ago doing a Galaxie 500 show that I only found out about after the event for some reason. Fun fact: Phillips was the voice of 80s cartoon superhero/rock star Gem (as in “Gem: she’s truly outrageous / truly truly truly outrageous!”) and was one of Justine Bateman’s bandmates in Satisfaction.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010:‘Float On’ by Modest Mouse, which I just wrote the most perfunctory listing for. Sorry.
Justification: When I was in high school one of my best friends was the son of an Anglican minister. We were incredibly good pals, he was amazing through my fathers’ illness and death and my memories of him – for we have drifted apart over the years – are nothing but fond. He was raised Anglican, and considered himself a member of the Uniting Church although I don’t believe he and I ever had a serious theological discussion, much less an argument.
“As long as the cover has neon lights linking the genitals, we’re happy” – the marketing people at Geffen
Now, obviously, he and I differed on a lot of pretty core beliefs about how the universe works. If he had said to me that, gun to his head, he couldn’t be friends with me unless I accepted that the mysterious invisible creature in the sky did everything and wanted me to obey a serious of confusingly vague and often contradictory instructions about how to behave, I’d probably have laughed in his face. But he didn’t and we remained dear friends until out lives took us to different parts of the country in our mid-20s, though we catch up occasionally and enjoy a drink together to this day (well, to about six years ago when last our paths crossed).
This is a longwinded way of explaining why my love for Beck is not hampered by the batshit crazy things he believes. He was raised as a Scientologist by a father that was a friend of L. Ron Hubbard, and given the particular strictures of Scientology to reject those core beliefs would be to be cut off from his entire family and support structure. Obviously I think what they peddle is nonsense, but if Beck thought “hey, this Xenu stuff does sound a bit bullshitty,” he’d had to lose most of the people close to him. I know Muslims and Christians in the exact same hardline religious boat: the price of being correct is to lose everyone they love. That’s too great a cost for just about anyone to bear.
Beck seems like a smart, funny, savvy sort of a dude – and certainly, the one time I interviewed him that was very much my experience – but I can easily see why he would have an incentive to engage in a bit of cognitive dissonance (or, to get all Orwellian on it, doublethink) to get on with his day to day life.
And that is a longwinded way of saying that I have no problem whatsoever in loving Beck’s music pretty much without any reservation while thinking that his religion is very, very silly indeed.
I didn’t even know this was a single (though only in Europe), though it’s been playing on an almost constant loop in my head since I attended a party on Saturday where I took stern and forthright control of the stereo, during which time a good deal of Midnite Vultures was played and danced to with friends old and new. A great night, and an incredibly underrated album.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010 & 2011: Nothing? Really? Curse you, Xenu! Alright, see how the end of the century was looking with the 1999 archive.
"We're an indie band from San Fran, so yeah - something that looks like an oriental greeting card will be fine, thanks."
Justification: Oh, how I love this song. This was where I fell in love with the band, not even initially realising that they were part of the Elephant 6 family (along with fellow SYSRTBIIA alumni Of Montreal and the Apples in Stereo) but just thinking that the San Franscisco combo knew how to write the hell out of a glorious song. It became a staple at Space Capsule, the club at which my ex-wife and sister used to DJ, and every time I hear that joyful brass sting and those melancholy lyrics I’m transported to the sticky dancefloor of Shotz/Stix, pulling an indie layback.
The album is also excellent, with the closing song ‘If We Can Land a Man on the Moon then Surely I Can Win Your Heart’ being another masterpiece – the whole thing sounds like a series of choruses welded together. They never did an album to match it, and split two discs later in 2004. But like so many of the songs in this list, it’s there because it’s haunted by a ghost of my younger self. And there are times I kinda miss that guy.
Oh, and if you’re thinking “hey, that’s not the album cover!” – yes it was, in Australia. Apparently it’s got a different sleeve in every country it was released in. I have no idea why Australia got a mysterious cloud pagoda.
Justification: Before we get into this, it’s possibly worth noting that there may well be a few breaks in SYSRTBIIA over the next few weeks due to things like travel and nephews and holidays. Sort of like how there have already been a few days off because of traveling to and recovering from the Meredith Music Festival, which was great. So don’t go worrying yourself about how I’ve abandoned this ridiculous blog-thing: it’s still alive, and it’s still defying any reasonable justification to exist beyond my own bloodymindedness.
Housekeeping done, let’s move on to this glorious piece of pop perfection – the sort of song that Saint Etienne used to trip over when popping down to the shops. Mint Royale used to be a pair of big beat DJs, Neil Claxton and Chris Baker, who got underground cred for their remixes before moving up to making their own records. They still exist – well, Claxton still performs under the name – though in Australia they’re known pretty much only for this 2000 single. The angelic vocals are courtesy of one Lauren Laverne, whose band Kenickie had barely split up by this point and who was yet to establish herself as a TV presenter. And I’ve always adored this wistful little confection, with it’s goofy optimism and adolescent infatuation. And also the ba-ba-bada backing vocals, for which I’m always a sucker.
The song had a different clip for the US, who clearly prefer Shag-alike retro animation to Laverne being flirty in a supermarket for some reason. Still, both clips are damn cute.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010: Inspired by Cloud Control at the 2010 Meredith, reacquaint yourself with the Butthole Surfers and ‘Pepper’.
Justification: There’s an amazing interview with Fountains of Wayne‘s songwriting axis Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger at the AV Club where they talk about their jobs writing for other artists, adding that they planned to write a chart-topping ballad for Carnie Wilson – the, ahem, large member of Wilson Phillips – called ‘For All Time’ (the first line of which was to be “For all time, there was always tenderness”) and then reveal to the media that the song was an acrostic. They never got any further, perhaps realising that the joke was far better than the devastatingly cruel reality would be, but the anecdote reveals that FoW – in case you’d missed it – aren’t above putting a joke in their music.
Their self-titled first album is full of them, some wry and plaintive (‘Radiation Vibe’) some a bit more obvious (‘Leave the Biker’), but their second album made it a bit more obvious that they liked a laff or two. Especially this song, which was a backhanded attempt at writing a big dumb power-pop chart song with the shittiest lyrics they could muster (“she drives a lavender Lexus/She lives in Queens, but her dad lives in Texas”) over the most irresistible music and sha-la-la backing vocals possible.
That being said, as it turned out it was actually pretty resistible for most people – especially Atlantic Records who dropped them after this album, but it’s an enduring favourite around the Andrew P Street side of the universe. Also, had Atlantic just had a little more faith, they could have made out like bandits on the merchandising – who wouldn’t love a Devo-style FoW silver jumpsuit? It almost, but not really, allows one to ignore the sexy model being sexy about the sex. At least it’s not as egregious as ‘Stacy’s Mom’, although on the minus side it means I’ve just remembered that fucking song.
I still contend that if you took the four great songs from every FoW album, and pretended that ‘Stacey’s Mom’ never existed, you’d have the best damn pop record ever made.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010: Goddamn, it’s an essay-length exploration of the jackassery of Billy Corgan accompanying the undeniably awesome ‘Cherub Rock’ by Smashing Pumpkins.
Justification: This remains one of my all-time favourite songs from one of my all-time favourite bands, on the worst album they made.
By the time the Auteurs recorded their fourth and final album, it was all over bar the twitching. The long-term relationship between singer/songwriter/guitarist Luke Haines and bassist Alice Readman was on its last legs and she left the band and Haines shortly after the album was done. Haines was also struggling to give enough of a shit to write an album’s worth of material – all three of the Auteurs’ previous efforts were masterpieces, yet #3, the Steve Albini-produced After Murder Park, had somehow failed to change the world despite being the best record ever made in it. Haines sounded demoralised, exhausted and ready to ring down the curtain on his band in favour of pastures new.
This was the album’s opener and lead single. It’s a song about loving songs (specifically, about loving ‘Sugar Baby Love’ by titular one-hit wonders the Rubettes) and could almost be interpreted as the first effort by Haines’ next band, Black Box Recorder: it’s co-written with former Jesus & Mary Chain sideman John Moore, Haines’ BBR songwriting partner, and features soon-to-be lead vocalist Sarah Nixey’s breathy backing vocals. It set a standard that the rest of the album couldn’t maintain, although the title track’s great and the bit of me that loves post-modernity has a soft spot for the Haines-self-referencing ‘Some Changes’ and especially ‘Future Generations’ (in which Haines insists that, while contemporary listeners never got him, posterity would understand).
Haines is one of the surprisingly few of my hand-on-my-heart heroes I’ve never interviewed, nor seen live. These facts disappoint me.
Incidentally, his Britpop memoir, Bad Vibes, is freakin’ superb.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010: Awww! It was #150, which was ‘Rain’ by the Beatles. Oh, the memories…
Justification: In all honesty, this probably isn’t going to be rediscovered so much as just plain discovered by most people unless they either a) took an active interest in Welsh indie bands of the 90s, with particular reference to those that sang in their national tongue as often as not, and/or b) those who regularly attended Space Capsule/Detour, the Adelaide indie clubs run by the DJ team of my sister and my then-girlfriend-now-ex-wife, while I contributed a lot of the actual records and drank as much of the free beer on offer as I could. As I recall my li’l sis was particularly fond of this number, and it annoys me that I have the EP but seem to have divested myself of the album at some point along the way. Still, a goddamn great song.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010: Ratcat changed everything forever (for a bit) via ‘That Ain’t Bad’.
Justification: I’m tired – actually, I’m beyond tired and into the sort of level of exhaustion that’s more like a temple-stabbing headache combined with hallucinations – and I can’t remember any song that I’ve heard longer than two days ago. That means that I should forget the existence of this song any second, having literally wiped a tear from my eye upon hearing it on Saturday night at Custard‘s second night at the Standard. It’s the lines “we are living/and we’re dying/in the spaces by the side of the road” that does it to me. Conversely, the gloriously inept video makes me laugh, and that revolving ARIA is completely legit – they won it for ‘Girls Like That (Don’t Go For Guys Like Us)’.
This was their last ever single, with guitarist Matthew Strong either unable or unwilling to make the video shoot – hence his representation via cardboard cut-out (again, referencing an earlier SYSRTBIIA, in this case Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk’. Where do people get full-sized cardboard cut-outs made, anyway, and is it only for bands?).
Jesus I’m tired. #352? Why do I keep doing this? Say what you like, you can’t accuse me of not being utterly bloody-minded about keeping to a plan, regardless how pointless the damn thing is.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2010: Lager, lager, lager – that was years away from Underworld at this point, who were still using real instruments and making songs like ‘Underneath the Radar’.
Justification: Kathleen Hanna might well end up going down in musical history solely for having written “Kurt smells like teen spirit” on a Seattle bedroom wall, leading the infatuated inhabitant of said bedroom, one Kurt Cobain, to write a song based upon the phrase (although, reportedly, he took the phrase at face value rather than being aware that Teen Spirit was a deodorant marketed at young girls). However, there are far better reasons for her to be remembered by generations to come: more or less inventing Riot Grrl as a genre via Bikini Kill, being a tireless and vocal advocate for LGBT rights in the public sphere and – via ‘Deceptacon’ – making the only thing connected with Transformers that isn’t complete arse.
As with Sleater-Kinney I only saw Le Tigre at the Big Day Out, which wasn’t the ideal place for it, but they were still giving it their all in 40-something degrees. And JD Samson ended her DJ set with it, which I thought was a bit cheeky – although technically she didn’t join the band until after this album. And, also similarly to Sleater-Kinney, there are whispers of a reunion, which is good news for people who like things that are good. They did kinda reunite to work on Christina Aguilera’s last album, so it’s hardly that big a stretch, surely?
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED ON THIS DAY IN 2010: Fountains of Wayne’s sweet, sad ‘Radiation Vibe’.