Archive for the '80s' Category

The The – Uncertain Smile

For the longest time I would get this song in my head and not know who it was that sung it. This may have been in the primitive days of the internet, but I seem to finally remember getting this song in my head at work one day and doing a search on the lyrics and finding out it was a band I already liked. Pretty sure I owned ‘Dusk’ by that point, because I always loved Dogs of Lust, and I was pretty happy when I found out this was a The The song. I think I always thought it was Lloyd Cole for some reason, though in my defense, Matt Johnson’s vocal style isn’t all that different from Lloyd Cole.

Anyway, that day I picked up their singles collection, which is really good and recommended if you want to get into some classic The The. Unfortunately, the version of this song on that collection is not that version, and they have some flute parts in place of the staircase guitars following the chorus, which you’ll hear at about the 1:30 part. I can’t hear this song without hearing that guitar part in my head, and it always vexes me a bit when I hear the other version. A rare somewhat favorite band that I’ve never seen live.

Ultra Vivid Scene – Special One

For some reason I had always thought this song came out when I was in college, but I’m seeing an album release date of 1989, with the single released in 1990. It got to #14 on the U.S. modern rock charts. This song disappeared from me for a long time until I finally ran across the album ‘Joy: 1967-1990’ at a used record store somewhere, probably Lou’s Records on Pacific Coast Highway in Encinitas.

Ultra Vivid Scene was basically Kurt Ralske, and from his Wikipedia page, I get the impression that he was more an artist who dabbled in a number of things, including music. The background vocals you hear are indeed Kim Deal, formerly of the Pixies, and probably futurely of the Pixies as well.

Savages-She Will

Second in my post about Master’s Theses of indie rock influence and sound amalgamation. I don’t want to knock critical fave Savages, because they clearly have a tuneful yet ferocious approach, but no matter how excellent the song (and this live take on “She Will” is definitely compelling), it has a “created in a lab” feel that I just can’t shake. Peter Hook bass (but also early U2), New Order beat shuffled through dance punk, driving chiming guitars- Chameleons UK, Felt, and I am sure a bunch of others. Vocals are Siouxsie Sioux with a dash of Sinead and slight affectation like Sonya from Echobelly, and Karen Finley if anyone remembers the remix of Sinead’s “Jump in the River”. Drums are almost “Hollywood Nights” by Bob Seger when the drummer is just riding it in the beginning, and then she starts killing them. I love all of these sounds but only when the song is at its most driving does all the seams melt away and then I can just go with it. I love a lot of retro sounds, but I’m on the fence here because it can come across as prefabricated.

Smith Westerns-Varsity

I am going to begin a series here that was inspired by Seitz’s link to Parquet Court’s “Stoned and Starving” in his post on their songs “Master of My Craft” and “Borrowed Time”. The theme is great songs that have more than a whiff of indie rock Master’s Thesis about them. Songs whose sound is more than a little derivative and possibly extremely derivative or otherwise a very obvious Frankenstein of influences. This song is the most subtle about its influences in the series, and I think that this song most transcends the amalgamation of sounds. This is a laconic, loping track that I would easily put in the ear noodle category. It is hard to say where the hook is and the first few times you listen, the song is elusive in that it goes about its way without being obvious about its twists and turns. It is a romantic, wistful tune that has a sort of opaque delivery. Something about the pace says OMD to me, but not nearly as overtly emotional as that, and instead almost a barbiturate-laced Elephant 6 vocal, some Cure guitar at points, but it flits and flutters away. Seitz has posted about Smith Westerns previously, and I think this song is phenomenal, so it is unanimous around here about these guys.

CHVRCHES – The Mother We Share

Tonight begins the week+ of shows, where I have a concert to go to pretty much every night but Sunday. So yep, another Coming Attractions post. CHVRCHES will be playing sold out shows at Lincoln Hall on Monday and Tuesday. I’ll be at the Monday show.

CHVRCHES are a synthpop band from Glasgow that apparently generated quite a buzz at SXSW this year (or last year, or whenthehellever it was). Enough that this song was played fairly repeatedly on XMU at roughly the time I was home in California for about two months (where my parents’ cars had satellite radio), which meant I heard this song until it was seared in my brain and I couldn’t get it out. They’ve only got a few singles, b-sides, other releases, etc. (including a live cover of Prince’s I Would Die For You, which they’ll probably play next week). Still, despite not having an album, they’ll be playing in front a lot of sold out crowds in the coming weeks.

I don’t really have much to say about this song other than that I like it a lot, and as the blog proprietor knows, I’m a sucker for bands with cute female lead singers. This isn’t the type of show I would normally go see, but it’s at a great venue, and I get the sense that with this amount of buzz, they won’t be playing venues the size of Lincoln Hall very long. Kind of like when I got dragged to a Mumford and Sons show at LH a few years ago, a couple months before they’d be playing the Riviera, which is 5x the size of LH. So, notch on the belt, I guess.

Randy Newman – I Love L.A.

You will have to forgive me this (probably) one time indulgence. I was born in Southern California. I lived there for 25 years. Despite spending the most recent third of my life in the Midwest, the blood coursing through my veins is that of an Angeleno. Nearly 12 years in Chicago has done nothing to change that. This became all the more relevant on Wednesday night, when the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Detroit Red Wings, setting up a Western Conference Finals between the local Blackhawks (for whom my feelings vary between loathe and indifferent), and my Los Angeles Kings, a team I have loved since I was old enough to remember going to hockey games. The series begins tomorrow. Gonna be a fun two weeks!

The Kings play a snippet of this song after every goal, which is why I’ve chosen it. I still remember when this song came out. It was in the lead-up to the 1984 Olypmics in Los Angeles, and everyone was convinced that L.A. needed an official song, so Quincy Jones and some other people wrote a song for Frank Sinatra that would sound like New York, New York, or Chicago, My Kind of Town, or whatever. It really fell flat and no one liked it (at least that’s how I choose to remember it). But Randy Newman’s song, warts and all, really captured the L.A. aesthetic at the time, and resonated with the local populace. It was the like the music version of the era’s Showtime Lakers. It’s been a staple (no pun intended) at Kings and Lakers games ever since. It’s cheesy, but somehow this song always makes me feel connected to Los Angeles.

Go Kings!

The Drums – Me and the Moon

Take your pick. the Smiths? the Ocean Blue? the Cure? Anything else for the late ’80s/early ’90s? Regardless, for those that like music from that period, I’m just happy that people still make music that could have come from that period.

I saw these guys a few months ago, and they weren’t really on my radar much before that. They played a double bill with Surfer Blood. They opened the 7:00 pm show and headlined the 10:00 pm show. Due to two distinct groups of friends, and the fact that a ticket to early show got me into the late show, I stayed through both (I also saw New Pornographers earlier in the day as part of my lunch break, making it a five set day)[PP adds- I worry about Seitz- he is a MACHINE]. Everyone I was with bought tickets for Surfer Blood. Everyone I was with walked away loving the Drums.

There’s an Apples in Stereo song called “She’s Telling Lies”. The Pitchfork review said that song didn’t so much rip off a Beach Boys song as much as it ripped off their whole catalog. I feel that way about the Drums vis a vis the late ’80/early ’90s Britpop scene. That said I love this album and the EP that preceded it. I chose this song a) because there’s a video and b) because I think it best exemplifies their affinity for that period. Enjoy.

[PP adds- I am afraid to listen to this song because I will love it instantly or my soul will recoil from the shameless pilfering of my treasured anglophilia]

Generals and Majors-XTC

As I mentioned at the 3B!, I was simply astounded that this song was playing in the entryway Korean Market in sprawling Big Texas Megalopolis. My experience with the Korean Market soundtrack is that it tends very much to Asian or American ultra light Adult Contemporary, so this was incredibly surreal. I had to get out of there before they blew my mind with Capt. Sensible or something.

I think we all agree that XTC deserves more space that we currently give in on our collective zeitgeist hard drive.

Growing up in Deseret we had the ol’ new wave/modern rock station that played on occasion:

Generals and Majors
Making Plans for Nigel
Senses Working Overtime
Towers of London
Life Begins at the Hop
No Thugs in Our House
Love on a Farmboy’s Wages
King for a Day
Dear God
Mayor of Simpleton
Ballad of Peter Pumkinhead

And it wasn’t as if they were all that popular, but it of course was the time when you felt like you could play more that two songs by a band. I don’t think Talking Heads, who got much more play, had as many songs that would get pulled off the shelf.

UPDATE:

I think I must have also heard “Respectable Street” too

6669 (I Don’t Know if You Know)-Neon Indian

Both Richard Armitage and Marc Hogan at Pitchfork note what I picked up on first listen of Neon Indian’s Psychic Chasms, the washed out mix tape sound. What could strike as a cynical, and cheap unearned nostalgia is cleared away by the quality of some of the songs. The songs mine that 80s new wave sensitive emo melancholy. They play as tracks from a sub one hit wonder, but the B-sides of those band’s 12 inches that were just so good that the Saturday night DJ would play them on the request show along with Peter Godwin and Intaferon and the kids would tape it off the radio because you just couldn’t buy it.

God damn I always hated it when the cool kids looked cool in their pre-distressed jeans. That’s this album. The songs aren’t quite so under water on headphones, but it stands out on the old fashioned speakers. MGMT would be Neon Indian if MGMT weren’t completely manufactured shitheads.

Inside Out-Mighty Lemon Drops

We return once again to a seeming early nineties mixtape mainstay, the MLDs. We already visited with “Out of Hand” from these guys. I saw on the internets that this song was used for the outro of the Gilmore Girls series finale. That is pretty quality- going with a song you love and grew up with as opposed to some autotuned piece of disposable crap that someone paid to defile your show. Even if shows/movies go for the low hanging fruit of exquisitely chosen and perfect music (Hi, Wes Anderson!) I’m still a sucker for the emotional and easy wallow. I’m easy that way.

Music for a Found Harmonium – Penguin Cafe Orchestra

This has been used a number of times in movies and movie trailers, but, as far as I’m aware, the first use was in a 1986 Australian comedy called Malcolm, about a reclusive, tram-obsessed inventor who ends up with a couple of bank robbers as boarders. It’s sort of like a cross between A Fish Called Wanda and The Wrong Trousers.

For those who aren’t familiar with the film (and for all I know everyone here already is), it’s one that I expect most 3B readers would enjoy. (And it’s been too long since I’ve seen it. I also can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned in any other blog discussions.) It’s charming, low-key, and contains probably the most unusual heist scene ever filmed — with possibly (but only possibly) the exception of The Wrong Trousers. It’s also the sort of movie that seems like the less you know before seeing it, the better. I’ll provide a couple of links, but, really, you should just go see it without any preview.

The American trailer is on YouTube, but it’s kind of annoying and reveals a couple of the best lines. There’s also a clip of one of the good scenes (dubbed in Spanish though) — this is a little better as it at least shows things in context.

Bonus Penguin Cafe Orchestra track: “Telephone and Rubber Band” which has also been used in movies (including Malcolm) and ads and such and was sampled by a 90s indy band. According to Wikipedia: “The tape loop was recorded when [PCO founder Simon] Jeffes was making a phone call, and discovered that he was hearing a combination of a ring tone and an engaged signal at the same time, due to a fault in the system. He recorded it on an answering machine.”

Don’t You Want Me-The Human League

Beyond the inevitable or faux nostalgia, the first half of this video is several fold more complicated than many bottom of the barrel full length films these days. I realize that statement makes it seem like I listen to Elvis Costello and the Unattractives, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Shoot You Down-The Stone Roses

Sugary-spun shuffling psychedelia. I always post songs from this album (The Stone Roses) with the admonishment that this is one of the nastiest albums that you don’t ever think is that nasty because the sound is so lazy hazy summery drug Sunday. This is one of the most obviously nasty of the bunch. King Monkey spreads the hate with a matter-of-fact-smirk on his face. Think this is the Bad Acid at Woodstock:The Next Generation with Ian Brown, lead singer, as the Jean Luc Picard of Manchester hippie pub club drug thug.

Ah, Leah-Donnie Iris

A song that seems familiar, but seems like it missed the Classic Rock stations when I was growing up (too new, 1981, I guess) so now it is sneaking into the cheese rock formats that don’t play too much Crüe and still play stuff like Steve Miller, etc. This song is Song of the Day mostly because I knew that Girl Talk was sampling something in the song “Friday Night” where he overlays Juelz Santana riffing on The Waitress “I Know What Boys Like” from the remix of Chris Brown’s “Run It” on top of something. We in turned sampled that bit from our Jonah Goldberg battle rap. So I heard “Ah, Leah” on the radio this weekend, and now I know where the cool part comes from (1:37 to 1:53 in the vid below). The song is relatively slick AOR for 1981. The woman in the video does, as someone mentioned on YouTube, look like she’s trying to poop.

The best part is that I allowed serendipity to identify the sample for me, although Wikipedia ruins all the fun/saves the day and has the entire Night Ripper sample list (it is extensive).

Sex-O-Matic- The Bar-Kays (Your weekend block party)

If this song doesn’t suggest an exceptionally awesome, hypothetical episode of Miami Vice, I don’t know what does. 6:25 of totally cheesasm. Was in the mix on the lunch hour Old School jam. I think some of you know what I’m talking about.

BRANDO AND TLB HOLIDAY BAKE-OFF THEME SONG!!!!

The clenched jaw sexy attack of baking competition intensity. It can only be Brando and TLB, rocking the foundations of baking contestation in a devil’s league with superstars of the stratosphere, The Power Station.

However, in their private baking time, in the inner sanctum, they will be slaughtering the competition with this unofficial selection. The definition of badass- PRIEST!!

HOLIDAY BAKE OFF THEME SONG-P. PUNKO AND G. COLA

Imagine the slo-m?sh tender moments of our You Tube cookie extravaganza and Phil bleeding his tender heart out. Phil’s heartblood is fueling these cookies. Take a look at me now-how, cuz there’s just an empty space– indeed. Here’s a kleenex for Kathleen. Gets me every time.

Remember I Was Vapour (Live)-Gary Numan

Android Elvis silicon cowboy peddling machine sex in Brighton, or possibly wistfully considering his machine defects or being human after all. For all the raves the Daft Punk get for their probably amazing live show, this particular model robot really just totally owns the stage and fully owned and realized the roboticity of it all. If I were only not 6 at the time of his ’79 tour. Dear Mum and Dad take me Gary Numan! It is my fervent desire that I wear Reynolds Wrap to the show. I must be shiny and metallic!

Bonus: Me, I Disconnect From You

AEIOU Sometimes Y – EBN-OZN

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

This is perhaps the last genre of music that anybody would guess me doing a SoftD in, but I heard it on my iPod, and I can’t get it out of my head. This short-lived New Age duo made something so quintessential ’80s and funny that it didn’t seem fair not to relish in its campiness. The story is kind of funny, especially featuring a Lola(!) and the synths are full-on, but the kicker is the chorus. It’s so rhythmically perfect. A. E. I. O. U. Some. Times. Y. I think the video cuts off part of the song, but you can email Pinko and he’ll give you the full version.

Kanga-Roo – This Mortal Coil

Cinematic 80’s androgynous Goth wonderland. From the aptly named It’ll End in Tears. The 4AD record label house collective playing around with your heart in the studio. Your broken heart would have spread the mope-tastic contagion via mixtape to all of your friends (sadly, without privileges). Substitute “you” for “me” and “would have” for “would have, if I had known the song.” Get your mope on folks, this is our one life, live it to the mopest! This song is ultra awesome.

UPDATE– even more awesome, this is a Big Star cover from the third Big Star album, which I do not yet own.