Sunday, March 07, 2004
EVERYBODY'S A CRITIC
So as promised, this is the first in what I'm hoping will be a series of guest CD reviews.
You may or may not remember (or care), but way back on February the 19th, I offered a free mix cd to two lucky readers with an unpleasant theme:
MUSIC I HAVE LISTENED TO AT THE GYM THAT I WOULD BE ASHAMED TO LET OTHER PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT.
Two people raised their hands and one of them has now responded!
The Hut welcomes our guest reviewer Robert Gardner Linn, who responded with this brief note:
"Here's the review. For the most part, I really enjoyed the disc. Expect a CD from me in the mail shortly (but no review required).
Thanks for letting me play,
... along with the following unedited response. My commentary's in italics.
Take it away Gardner!
As a bit of real investigative journalism, I had intended to take this mix to the gym to test out its embarrassment potential, but then my friends said "Hey, let's go sing karaoke." Once again, drinkin' and singin' win out over squattin' and runnin'. But to tell the truth, it's much more embarrassing to listen to NSync and Strawberry Shortcake on my stereo at home with houseguests in the next room than to listen to it over headphones at the gym.
Truth be told, in retrospect I realized that this wasn't QUITE as embarrassing as billed, but it's still pretty shameful stuff.
The idea for this mix came when I popped off my headphones to ask some guy to spot for me and N'Sync came bubbling out. I got such a LOOK.
1. "Simple and Clean (Japanese PlanitB Remix)" - Utada Hikaru
21-year-old Jpop cuteypie sings radioactive mutant futuredisco. Foreign-language dance music always sounds like the soundtrack to a commercial for a videogame I'll never understand. Something in the sweeping, swooshing music and lack of intelligible lyrics reminds me of pixellized elves and gremlins cavorting in epic digital-matte-painted landscapes.
Good call there, Gardner: this IS videogame music; to be exact, it's the theme song to Squaresoft/Disney's masterpiece Kingdom Hearts, (soon to spawn a sequel).
The clubstyle slowbuild crescendo always does it for me when I run and the fact that I don't have to listen to the truly weak lyrics in English ("Simple and clean is the way that you're making me feel tonight/it's hard to let it go"?) saves me from feeling too dorkalicious.
Embarrassment Factor: Nil.
I beg to differ, but maybe anime is hip out at the Cali gyms.
2. "50ft Queenie" - PJ Harvey
See commentary on The Misfits' "I Am a Giant" below. I can totally see PJ Harvey as a cartoon villain, too. Maybe with Nick Cave as a as her equally-evil sometime-rival, sometime-partner/lover. They'd beat up Batman just so they can take his entire latex and PVC wardrobe for their own kinky amusements.
Yeah! And Andrew WK could be the Joker and Jack White would be the Scarecrow and CeeLo would be the Penguin and Snoop could be the Rizzidler!
Also, if you're listening to this whilst running on the treadmill, you can pretend that Harvey is 50 feet tall and chasing you. That'll get your heartrate up!
Polly Jean tends to get more than my heartrate up (NB: I'm not into that particular kink), but in this case I'm just in it for the guitar and the screaming.
Agreed. Mostly made the cut for the juxtaposition with it's twin track... well, you'll see.
3."Satan's Blood" - The Frugal Gormets
"Might scare the people around you," says John. Uh, might scare ME, says Gardner.
This is the part where I admit that quite a few of these tracks have been lifted wholesale from Otis Fodder's 365 Days, which was probably the best reason to be online last year.
Here's the accompanying info from the site:
JULY 17 - #198
"Some kids try really hard to sound evil, these kids succeeded. The Frugal Gormets (sic) were two 14-year-old kids from Indiana who were recording music together for fun and distributed the tapes among other kids they knew. I was a good friend of one of the Gormets, and when I moved from Indiana to Georgia, he sent me their tapes in the mail. I believe he also tried to distribute them by placing them with the tapes in his local public library.
This song is from their first tape called Home Cookin’, which they recorded in late 1985. They used a busted tape player to radically speed up and slow down vocals to achieve very unsettling effects, which they layered with soundscapes of casio keyboards, flutes and harmonicas. Every song is about hell, doom and death. On this number, they hector and threaten Charles Manson in a way that might have frightened Charlie himself.
Note that this music was not made with any adult supervision or involvement whatsoever. Both the Gormets turned out to be relatively normal individuals, as far as I know. Lastly, the name of the band predates any controversy involving the real Frugal Gourmet."
- T. Nondorf, email@example.com
"Punk as Fuck" never seemed so appropriate.
E.F.: Low, but the Freaking-You-Out Factor is astronomical.
That's the idea.
This is great to glaze out to and think about dead babies when your lats feel like they're gonna snap.
4. "Ex-Girlfriend (Psycho-Ex Mix)" - No Doubt
Can't say this is too embarrassing, as "Ex-Girlfriend" is my second-favorite No Doubt song ("Hella Good" is #1 by a wide margin), and this bassed-out remix just makes it more treadmill-friendly. As for the lyrical content, I think there might be certain subset of men for whom either a) fantasies of Gwen Stefani or b) the "anger" stage of a breakup's aftermath might be enough motivation to hit the gym.
Busted! The circumstances Gardner suggests in "B" are PRECISELY what got me into this song. Heh. I'm so obvs.
Incidentally, this is videogame music again; a remix from the underrated PlayStation2 DJ game Frequency.
Incidentally, I didn't realize this was ever a single. I _never_ listen to the radio.
5. "Mega Colon" - Fischerspooner
Synchronicity Time: Thanks to my wonderful job in magic TV land, I recently became very familiar with the colonic hydrotherapy process, so I've got something of a perverse fascination with this song.
Dude, you can tell me: it was Dick Clark, right?
Opening lyric: "Moaning and a-heaving on a hot sticky can/I'm cravin' chocolate Ex-Lax and my GE fan".
That's right kids, it's a song about constipation! And it rocks!
Fischerspooner is sorta tired these days, but this track and "The 4th" still push my buttons.
E.F.: Average, but a high Wait-Thirty-Minutes-after -Eating-before-Exercising Factor.
6. "Chale Chalo (remix)" - Lagaan soundtrack
If that's a "Walk the Dinosaur" sample, then it's Synchronicity Time Again: I was at a party last night with Don Was. Who is looking very saurian himself these days.
The opening bass hook on this remix lifts the vocal 'boom boom's from the 'boom boom ackalackalackaboom' opening of "Walk the Dinosaur".
Afore too long, I'm gonna have to post some Lagaan tracks up here. God, I love that movie.
And again, I have to call the "embarrassing" label into question: this is certainly no more embarrassing than the stuff they play over the loudspeakers at my gym. "Miss Independent?" Pink? Nickelback? I'd much rather be caught dead listening to some awesome Bollywood cricket-epic soundtrack.
"Nickelback?" Dude, your gym sucks.
7. "Angry Inch" - Hedwig and the Angry Inch
As with "Mega Colon," this is about the kind of botched medical procedure I don't ever really want to hear about in rhythmic rhyming couplets, much less when my lower extremities are near heavy slabs of iron and machines that look like medieval torture devices.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is probably one of my top twenty films; it's the perfect musical. I'm not crazy about every song on there, but this one totally owns.
E.F.: Medium, but careful with those weights...
"i was bleeding from the gash between my legs/
it was my first day as a woman/
already that time of the month"
8. "Pop" - NSync
NSync's finest moment, for what it's worth.
Not too much...
Notable for the complete lack of conviction with which JT says "Man, I'm tired of singing" (in his mind, he's already gone solo), and his beatbox homage to New Kids on the Block (unwitting or on purpose?).
E.F.: High. Nothing you say can explain why you're listening to this.
This is really the only NSync that ever spoke to me, but no excuses.
I _do_ like it.
FWIW, this song was pivotal for me embracing candystore pop; once I came out of the "Dirty Pop" closet, NOTHING makes me embarrassed to be caught listening. Not even:
9. "Toxic" - Britney Spears
String sample + spy-movie guitar + obvious love=drug metaphor + rhinestone-studded bodysuit = excellent Italian car-chase movie soundtrack, at least for the first ten seconds. Britney sounds so much more confident here than she has before. This is the kind of song that'll get drunk and marry you tonight, then divorce you tomorrow and send you back to Podunk, Louisiana to cry in your vittles.
... and then show up in a pleather bustier with a host of transsexual backup dancers to ask if you're free for the night.
I never liked any Britney prior to "In the Zone", but now I'm a believer.
Again, I don't really listen to the radio; but my friend tells me this has now been overplayed so much it's criminal.
Sorry if you're tired of it. I'm not.
E.F.: Varies, depending on whatever crazy shit Britney did last night. The more random people she marries, the less embarrassing this gets.
Not sure I follow your math, but okay.
10. "Wonder Woman Theme (Blue Star Panty remix)"
I hate the Wonder Woman theme. But it's on one of my most beloved mix tapes, so I have a grudging respect for it. But even so--screw the gym, I'm embarrassed to listen to the WW theme in my car.
That said, this remix is marginally better than the original. But any good will engendered by its jacked-up dance beats is countered by the fact that the remix is a full two minutes longer than the original. Too much of a good thing is bad; too much of a bad thing is even worse.
Yeah, I couldn't listen to this more than once a month either, but it's okay in the middle of a good run.
It IS too long though. Kitsch factor wears off after minute one.
There is now officially NOTHING left to remix.
Pure trash, but dig the snaps!
E.F.: So high!
Yeah, this IS kind of asking for trouble. But not NEARLY so much as:
11. "Strawberry Rap" - Strawberry Shortcake
At first, I thought this might be a new Northern State single, but I think Shortcake might have more skills than Hesta Prynne. How influential was this track on modern hip-hop? For how many people was this their first exposure to rap? I can just imagine a ten-year-old Eminem hearing this and getting his mind blown. And is that Tina Weymouth playing bass? There's a very Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club vibe at work here.
UPDATE: I just listened to the lyrics more closely--was this actually an officially-licensed Strawberry Shortcake media product? That was marketed to the show's prepubescent fanbase? S.S. starts off the song with a seedy little preamble about how she's moved to Manhattan and become a big disco star, closing with "I'll see you after the show." Wha? Is she soliciting groupies? And there have to be some coded berry/drug references in there somewhere, I'm sure of it. Sordid.
E.F.: Off the charts!
Ain't this rad? More info here. Again, this is from 365 Days, courtesy of Suzanne Baumann.
I edited off the "New York, New York" part, which doesn't rock nearly as hard.
"Say straw! STRAW!"
12. "Transformers Movie Theme" - Lion
The only way this song could be better is if it was called "The Touch" by Stan Bush. If I was involved in any sort of organized sport, I would listen to this before hitting the field. It's like the 80s-cartoon version of Henry V's St. Crispian's Day speech. My friend Chris made the following observation a few months ago:
I think one of the defining moments of our age group is Transformers the Movie. It is the first time that anyone our age saw a character and/or characters that we had identified with for years or grown up with killed. It is the first true war movie I ever saw. I have a hard time thinking of a film that has bigger balls than what TTM tried to accomplish. And the people older than us or younger than us have no emotional attachment to that film.
I can't really disagree with him, though I didn't see Transformers: The Movie until my freshman year of college, so my response to it was less one of identifying with/weeping over the deaths of beloved robots, and more one of semi-ironic admiration for Orson Welles' performance as Himself (aka Unicron the planet-devouring Transformer). And trying to decipher the universal robot greeting (bah-wah-greep-ninny-whatever). Still, hair metal and Transformers make each other better.
E.F.: Low. Transformers are acceptable 80s kitsch.
13. "I Am a Giant" - The Misfits
Thematically very similar to "50 Ft. Queenie." Compare the lyrics:
Hey I'm one big queen no one can stop me
Red light red green smack back and watch it
I'm your new one second to no one
No sweat I'm clean nothing can touch me
I'll tell you my name F U and C K
50ft queenie force ten hurricanes
Biggest woman I could have ten sons
Ten daughters ten queens
Ten foot and rising
Hey I'm the king of the world
You ought to hear my song
You come on and measure me
I'm twenty inches long
I, I, I, I am gonna cut you down to size
I, I, I, I am gonna make you realize
I, I, I, I am like a comet on the rise
No one can top me
Nothin' can stop me
I am twenty stories tall
I am a giant
Towerin' above it all
Strong and defiant
I am a giant
The Misfits: hitherto unrecognized influence on Polly Jean? I was never really into Jem & The Holograms, but from what I'm gathered, they were the plucky young heroic band trying to make it in the big, bad music industry, while The Misfits were their hated rivals. Those of you who watched the show, I have to ask: Did you root for The Misfits? They seem infinitely cooler than the Holograms. Somebody call Bruckheimer. I wanna pitch a Jem movie starring Lillix and The Donnas.
Glad you caught the PJ/Misfits connection. I thought that was strange, myself.
I got on a big TV themes DL kick about two years ago and I found a bunch of old Jem and the Holograms tracks. By and large, the Jem tracks sounded like warmed over Go-Go's, but the Misfits tracks were SMOKING!
The woman who did Jem's singing voice was Britta Phillips (link has mp3s!), bass player for Luna and as far as I can tell she also seems to have voiced the lead for the Misfits. Can anyone confirm?
Here's a bonus duet with the Misfits AND the Holograms: Click/Clash.
As far as I'm concerned, this is EXCELLENT pop. I want more Misfits tracks! Raid your sister's old toy chest and find me some tapes, wouldja?
E.F.: It would be high, but I doubt most people would recognize the source. So it's average.
I'm making it my mission to make people recognize the source.
Misfits 4EVA! Can ya feel me?
14. "Nular-In" - S.K. Thoth
Thoth, the documentary about this guy, won Best Documentary Short Subject at the 2002 Academy Awards. He took the stage wearing a loincloth. "Nular-In" appears to be from The Herma, an opera about a fictional world called The Festad, of which Nular-In seems to be the ruler. It's three minutes of screeching Appalachian violin with Thoth singing at least two different voices in his own invented language. If none of that makes you want to hear "Nular-In," you need to reexamine your priorities.
E.F.: Low. Thoth is fun to talk about, and you can impress the ladies with your knowledge of the language of the Festad.
I got to see Thoth perform a number of times when I lived in the city and also had opportunity to speak with him.
He's supercool and I highly recommend getting some of his music.
More Thoth in an upcoming post.
Love that guy.
15. "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" - Mark Savage
To answer your question: No.
Hey! I LIKE this!
Again, courtesy Otis Fodder at 365 Days: "The album is a talent show recording from Douglass High School in Oklahoma City, OK. * TT-3:00 / 4.13MB / 192kbps 44.1khz * from the LP, "Trojans All The Way Live" (Century Records S12-527) 1979".
Go soulseek this down, it's enthusiastic as hell and fires on all cylinders.
E.F.: Medium-high, but gets points for being aggressively shouty, and for not being Rod Stewart.
16. "Beat It" - Senor Coconut
German knob-twiddler in Latin drag tackles Michael Jackson staple, trades Eddie Van Halen for Tito Puente. Tied-together knife fight now tied-together meringue dance-off.
E.F.: Medium. Just tell people it's avant-garde (it is German, after all).
I like the whole album. Seriously butthustlin'.
First exposure via April Winchell.
Don't think it's up anymore, but there's lots of other great stuff to plunder at her site.
17. "Lady Madonna" - The Rose Hill Junior High School Jazz Ensemble
The best part of this song is the horrible scat singing that comes in around the six-minute mark. And keeps coming back. And then around 10:30 a female voice takes over and manages to be even worse--check out the joint band/vocal crescendo at 11:35, where she finishes her solo by shouting out an off-key squeal. Everybody in the band gets a solo, so this thing goes on for almost twenty minutes--it's like a Mogwai epic, only, you know, not good. But I do give the bass player and drummer credit for keeping it going Meg White-style while their less-talented classmates honk and skronk all over the place. These kids' single-minded intensity does make for good gym music. Big off-key horn blasts always put me in a competitive mood (residual memories from high-school football games). Make sure to stick around until 16:15 for the best/worst scatting. And the rhythm-less drum solo at 17:30!
I'm of the opinion this is an incredible "round one" sex soundtrack/twoandahalf mile run; but I have an over the top appreciation for outsider music. Recommended highly.
E.F.: High, up until the ten-minute mark; but if you've lasted that long, you've earned the right not to be embarrassed by anything you ever listen to again.
Amen to that.
Here's to not being embarrassed by our music, no matter how embarrassing it may truly be!
Thanks again to Gardner for a great review and a prompt response. He gets gold stars and a big sloppy kiss and the option to special request a set of tracks here at the Hut.
Don't you want to win my love like Gardner has? The option remains open. I have one more copy of this week's Mix CD, "THE LETTER B", to be given away to a lucky listener. I've been listening to it all day and it's a killer setlist; even if I do say so myself.
There's the comments clicky, right down here. What are you waiting for?
Want more comments on these tracks? So do I. Hopefully the other half will be responding shortly.
Where you at, "Zia"?
More on Monday.