Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Taking a TO

I missed last week due to family stuff and will miss this week due to the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
Check back in a week or so.

In tribute to the Georgia / Florida game, here's James Brown with "Dooley's Junkyard Dawgs".

Not too many schools could boast a performance as cool as this...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Oi To The World" / No Doubt / A Very Special Christmas 3

It looks as though my itunes has caught the early Christmas impulse that the rest of the world has these days.

What is considered "the Christmas season" has been slowly inching up earlier and earlier each year, obliterating Thanksgiving completely and making Halloween nervously look in its rearview mirror.

Just today in the grocery store I saw the first of the Christmas themed magazines on the shelves, which pisses me off and makes me anxious. Yuck.

So here's my shuffle piling on and picking a Christmas song in the middle of October. But at least it's one of my favorites from possibly the best Christmas CD ever.

This song is actually a cover of another ska / punk band called The Vandals. It's a little odd to think that a word with ominous racial and skinhead overtones as "Oi!" would figure prominently in a Christmas song, but maybe it's "reclaiming" the word for good, or something.

Peace. Goodwill. Skinheads.

Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and cop to being a No Doubt fan, as I do like the ska. Between the wife and myself, I think we own all their albums (Gwen Stefani...that's another story). They obviolsly have a good time with this one, racing through it at a cozy two and a half minutes.

I love the bass intro (of course), setting the tone right off the bat. (Tony Kanal was, in my opinion, a pretty big part of what made this band great. Stefani got all the publicity, but he was the main songwriter and the biggest ska fan in that band). You got to have the horns to make it an official ska song and here they come right on the heels of that bassline. Also, check the little bass / horn breakdown there in the middle of the song - am I making this up, or do they play a little snippet of "Frosty the Snowman" right before Stefani comes back in? I've always thought so.

The song has a nice little narrative, too, about a dude named Haji (a Pakistani, maybe?), a punk who is playing at the local pub when Trevor (a skin) comes in with his boys and doesn't take kindly to such. They scuffle in the pub, set a time to brawl later, then as they both are severely hurt (as Trevor had "nunchucks" and Haji had "a sword like the guy in Indiana Jones") and abandoned by their crews, they spy the North Star, Haji makes a tourniquet from his turban to save Trevor, the guys make up and go bond over shots of bourbon (which, conveniently, is a liquor that rhymes with "turban").

Say what you will about No Doubt (and I know some of you will), but you can't deny that by the time this song was released they had become a pretty solid, tight band. They also eventually outgrew the pop / ska thing and had some really nice tunes on the underrated "Return of Saturn" and their (seemingly) final album, "Rock Steady". If you seriously hate them, I think you can still safely enjoy this song once a year.

Embedding disabled by request, so click here for the video.

Here's the Vandals performing the original:

And here's the song so you can include it on all those cool Christmas mixes everyone likes to make:

Friday, October 10, 2008

"D.A.N.C.E." / Justice / The Cross

Justice is a French electronia (do people still use that term?) duo from France, I guess you might say they are the younger, cooler brother of Daft Punk in that sense.

I sort of bought this CD on a whim looking for something new and out of my normal sphere of music, and this seemed to fit the bill. Usually at the end of the year I like to buy all of the "Best of 200_" editions of the music magazines and check out what they like. If you read a few of those, you will see the same CDs pop up over and over. Every now and again I'll take the chance on a CD that gets great reviews and buy it out of the blue. It's how I discovered Arcade Fire, Fountains of Wayne, and Rilo Kiley, among others.

"The Cross" was one of those CDs that got great press at the end of 2007. I'm not a huge fan of dance music, but the reviews sounded interesting enough that I though I'd give it a shot. One I saw the badass cover, I was sold.

The music's pretty sweet - almost a rock feel to it instead of a Pet Shop Boys kind of deal. The guys weave quite a pastiche of different sounds into some new and wholly original creation, not unlike The Chemical Brothers did in the mid 90's or Public Enemy's Bomb Squad did back in the 80's.

Their music has lots of commerical potential as well, and Cadillac jumped on them first. Justice's "Genesis" appears in this ad:

(By the way, who expected Cadillac to be that hip? I mean, Justice in one ad, and freakin' Lieutenant Cedric Daniels from "The Wire" in another? Damn!)

As to this song in particular, I think I read somewhere that's it's written about Michael Jackson. Here are the lyrics, as it were, which I've written before, is entirely NOT the point with this type of music:
Do the D.A.N.C.E
1234, fight!
Stick to the B.E.A.T
Get ready to ignite
You were such a P.Y.T
Catching all the lights
Just easy as A.B.C
That's how we make it right

It does sound like a bit of advice to The King of Pop - "You were such a P.Y.T, now you've lost your way. Just stick to funky dance music (The 'B.E.A.T') to find your way back - it's as easy as 'A.B.C'". There's also "The way you move is a mystery" in the verses of the song, which, if you remember the moonwalk, should explain itself.Pretty clever, and I guess the acronymic title of the song is a shout-out to those former hits.

I like how the beginning of the song gives the impression of someone dialing through looking for a radio station. You can barely hear the song at first, until the dialer hits the right frequency at :17. The sing-songy way they have the chorus does make it sound like a kids' playground song, stressing the "easy" part of the advice. The trademarks of Justice are in full effect here in this song: the bubbling, busy, electic bass sound, and the string flourishes. That's really about the entirety of the musical accompaniment, until the "breakdown" at 2:42. Let's check the lyrics there again and you can see the Michael Jackson references:

Under the spotlights
Neither black nor white
It doesn't matter
Do the Dance (do the dance)

As strong as you might
Working day and night
Whatever happens
Do the DANCE (do the dance)

Hmmm..."Neither black nor white, Working day and night?" not hard to see.

A very interesting song indeed. A good tribute to a fallen idol and a funky ass dance tune, too. And, as you might expect from French artistes, a cool video too: