September 21, 2002

Songs I'm "feeling," as the parlance goes:

No Doubt - "Don't Let Me Down"
In the hindsight of late 2002, Ric Ocasek's synths here remind me a LITTLE too much of Andrew W.K. (and I like "Party Hard," but that's not necessarily a musical style I'd like to see popping up in other contemporary songs -- that song only works because of how AWK takes the status quo to its logical QED and makes it seem friggin' BIZARRE in contrast to the status quo itself). But for "Don't Let Me Down"'s release date (2001), this may be the most 1997 song No Doubt have ever done, and if they wanna remake That Dog's "Never Say Never," fine with me -- even if it sounds out of place on an album that Sly & Robbie and the Neptunes had a hand in (Prince had a hand too, but I'll be damned if "Take Me With U" and "Raspberry Beret" aren't blissful pieces of post-wave masterpop). The highlight of “Don’t Let Me Down” is the way Gwen so forcefully attacks her “g” on “don’t you forget it,” like she was Debbie Harry saying “I’m gonna ffffind ya, I’m gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha.”

Jonathan Fire*Eater – “Everybody Plays the Mime”
If it weren’t for the emergence of The Walkmen as one of 2002’s premier NYC hype-grabbers, Jonathan Fire*Eater would probably only be remembered by the critics and fans who recognized how good they were and by the haters and antihypeniks who were happy to see JF*E’s breakthrough disc stiff like the deer that tried to cross the road. I’m a longtime fan of the Walkmen’s previous incarnation (with Stewart Lupton on vocals), and I’ve been listening to Wolf Songs For Lambs a lot lately, in tandem with the Walkmen record. “Everybody Plays the Mime” is big and slinky, like a rattlesnake that’s just swallowed a whale. It’s the 13th Floor Elevators, but with fuckloads more control and focus – like a white War with Jon Spencer (or Jack White) (or maybe a young Black Francis) guest-singing instead of Eric Burdon. This is eerie, soulful, seductive, smart, and weird – and way more substantial than the band’s sleeveful of ‘60s tricks would lead you to believe.

Television – “The Dream’s Dream” (live, Portland, Oregon 1978)
Beautifully filthy and not at all pristine. When Tom Verlaine’s guitar takes flight after the first verse, just for a fistful of notes before retreating into the too-cool-for-school Mink DeVille Loisaida strut, and then comes back with all guns blazing in the breakdown, it’s a marvelous feeling, that piercing cry that comes from only a couple of strings, some fingers, and a little electricity. Any allegations that Television were nothing more than proggy mathrockers on the right intersection of the Bowery at the right time – well, I’m not the punk police, but if you go for that whole “pure expression played loud” theory, how can these Verlaine solos not be punk?

Gil Trythall – “Wildwood Flower”
From Gil’s 1970 Country Moog (Switched on Nashville) LP. I don’t know ‘bout you, but sometimes it gets a bit tiring hearing folk standards arranged and performed the same way again and again by every hackabilly Faux Depression coalminers-n-Jesus revivalist altband that comes down the Mississipp (or more likely, the Delaware). The solution? Modular analog synthesizers! The Moog-ed up “Wildwood Flower” is every bit as country as anything a Carter or a Cash ever laid to tape – it’s fast and footstompy enough to be hardcore bluegrass, but baroque enough to be a slightly funkier J.S. Bach processional theme, and wacky enough (science is faaaarr ouuut!!) for a full-color spread in Suzy Suburban’s Reader’s Digest.