Album: I Oughtta Give You A Shot in the Head for Making Me Live in this Dump (1999)
Justification: I’ve said this before, but I have never regretted picking up a record on the basis of its title. And this album has a freakin’ great title.
Shivaree had one moment of success, and it was this song.
The reason you’re going “oh, I know this…” is probably the end credits of Kill Bill Volume 2, or one of the approximately six billion other soundtracks upon which it has appeared, because it manages to be country without being too country. The album actually mixes things up in a gloriously unusual way (‘Bossa Nova’ has drum loops and noise breaks more typical of hip hop than the three chord country strummer it otherwise would have been) and in a perfect world Shivaree – and especially singer/songwriter Ambrosia Parsley – would be scoring entire seasons of True Detective.
Sadly, record company problems and internal turmoil stalled things before they began: their second album never got a US release and the band was over by the time they shrugged out their fourth album in 2007.
Still such a great album, though. And it was pretty much the gateway drug for a whole lot of music I now adore, from Calexico to the Handsome Family, so I owe it a lot.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN… oh, there’s never been a 15 May entry. Well, there you go.
Justification: It’s probably their single best known song, thanks to playing it on Buffy and it being part of their short-lived period of being on a sorta-kinda major label – well, ish – and recording with Ric Ocasek and being total sellouts, man. And, because it’s catchy as hell, this is where I first fell in love with GBV before diving back into the catalogue.
Oddly enough, it’s the GBV album that sounds least like a car crash.
So, given that it was their hit and all, why the hell can’t I find a video for it?
It’s possible that there just plain isn’t one, but I’m fairly certain I recall one involving Bob Pollard being chased, Beatlemania style, but maybe the band hated it and have deep-sixed it since. Or maybe it’s one of those weird licensing things where it’s locked in a bankruptcy vault with the rest of TVT’s assets. Either way, you’re making do with a live version.
And just to destroy all of my indie cred, I really do love both the GBV “sellout” albums. Much as I adore Under the Bushes, Under the Stars and Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes, obviously, my most played album of theirs is still Isolation Drills. When I was going through my divorce, ‘How’s My Drinking?’ and ‘The Brides Have Hit Glass’ were on pretty high rotation there.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2012: The newly-solo Juliana Hatfield gave us the lovelorn classic ‘Everybody Loves Me But You’.
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’.