Friday, May 07, 2010

(The Ressurection of) Notes From Underground

I'm going to try this again...

“Piazza, New York Catcher,” Belle and Sebastian, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, 2003

I was planning on writing a long piece about this song, but it’s on hold because it just wasn’t going well. I used to think it was kind of a throwaway song, but I’ve grown quite fond of it. It reminds me of San Francisco, and it’s tangentially about baseball—my favorite diversion behind rock and roll. I can’t imagine writing a song with the refrain, “Rooney, Man U striker are you straight or are you gay,” but perhaps Stuart Murdoch likes baseball much more than I like soccer. I can’t think of another band titling a song similarly besides perhaps the Television Personalities. The lyrics are actually quite hard to untangle, the bit about “I will be your Ferdinand, and you my wayward girl,” is very strange, conjuring up images of the fifteenth century king of Spain and his daughter Joanna the Mad. It’s a very sweet song though, and if you, like me, ever become homesick or nostalgic for San Francisco’s filthy streets, it’s a nice melancholy complement.

“Lights are Changing,” The Bevis Frond, Triptych, 1988.

What a great fucking song. Although I try not to use these kinds of tropes, the Bevis Frond does close the circle between the Byrds and Guided by Voices, it’s not really a surprise that this song ended up being collected on the Children of Nuggets box set. It has the same cadence as the Byrds version of Dylan’s “My Back Pages,” but there’s none of that lacy twelve-string delicateness. It’s not exquisite or baroque, it’s just got more muscle than that. Mary Lou Lord does a preposterous cover that should be run from at all costs.

“Possession,” Elvis Costello, Get Happy, 1980

Oh, Declan…I can’t think of a larger figure who is more underrated than Elvis Costello. No one would say Dylan is underrated—if anything, he’s overrated—no one would say that Lou Reed, or Leonard Cohen, or the Stones, or the Beatles, or Michael Jackson, or the Who, or the Kinks, or any of that kind of shit is underrated. But Elvis Costello is huge, I know this because I remember my dad having an Elvis Costello tape (My Aim is True) when I was a kid, and if my dad had it, it was huge. He’s most likely a better songwriter than all those mentioned above, for his articulation of all the intense and terrible emotions that we go through in trying and failing at falling in love is surpassed by no one. If you have any doubts, listen to “Indoor Fireworks,” and “I Want You.” “Possession,” from 1980’s Get Happy, a kind of Stax-influenced record is not even the best track on it, that would be “New Amsterdam.” But with its relentless piano/organ hook, it’s impossible to put away. Plus Get Happy has twenty tracks on it—more bang for your buck than practically any other record.

“I Don’t Want Nobody, I Want You,” The Boyfriends, I’m in Love Today 7”, 1978

I actually just heard this song today, and this band is a bit of a mystery. I was trolling through youtube and came across it. From what I was able to gather, the Boyfriends—not to be confused with the American Boyfriends (more on that below)—was a band started by Pat Collier, the bassist of the Vibrators. They produced three singles and then disbanded. To me, that’s kind of the perfect story for a band, only singles, only a handful, and then disappear. “I Don’t Want Nobody, I Want You,” is not nearly as slick sounding as the Vibrators. It’s not as filthy or loose as the New York Dolls, but it is totally imprecise in the same kind of way. It does have these cute, touching lyrics enfolded into a kind of tough-sounding percussive punk song, and I’m not sure what I’ll think about it tomorrow, but I love it today.

P.S.: I got my information from here:

“Jealousy,” The Poppees, Jealousy/She’s Got It, I don’t know 1976

This song is insanely good. This is as good as power pop gets in its total revivalist phase, by which I mean not Big Star or the other bands who tried updating sixties pop into new and present forms, but those who just re-did the sixties. I don’t want that to sound insulting, because it’s just a straight fucking pop masterpiece. I first heard this band on a Bomp comp. The song was “If She Cries,” which is another hit, a song that is up there with the Records’ “Starry Eyes,” or the less corny moments of the Raspberries. But “Jealousy” is something different altogether. It’s big, from the floor tom intro to the hand claps. It’s definitely a better Beatles rip than anything done by either the Rutles, the Knickerbockers, or Barry and the Remains. I could listen to this song on repeat forever. Oh, and they shared members with a U.S. band called the Boyfriends, not the U.K. band mentioned above.

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