Sunday, December 28, 2008

"Celebrity Skin" / Hole / Celebrity Skin

Hole had a couple of pretty solid CDs in the 1990s which I really liked, and it's really despite the performer. Well, it's not that I dislike Courtney Love, as I actually find her fascinating. A former stripper / failed actress who meteorically rose to fame with Nancy Spungen / Yoko Ono comparisons hounding her, a tour de force performance reading Cobain's suicide note at his wake, actually having to defend herself against accusations that she killed or arranged the death of her husband, a veritibale trainwreck of a personal life, in and out of rehab, charged with being a greedy whore who is raping her husband's legacy - she's a pretty solid object of endless fascination.

I really miss seeing the soap opera of her life played out before us all, and I kind of hope she gets it back on track. The last I heard she recorded an album produced by Linda Perry (you remember her) that was supposed to resurrect her career. It seems to have been shelved and may never be released. I actually enjoyed her solo release "American Sweetheart" a few years ago, and thought it had a pretty kickass single with "Mono", in which she really gets to unleash one of the best screams in rock.

I've never been a big fan at all of Billy Corgan or the Smashing Pumpkins, but if the scuttlebutt on "Celebrity Skin" is true that he more or less wrote it (as Cobain was said to have written "Live Through This"), then it's by far the best stuff he's done. It's really hard to deny that the main riff (the one that starts the song) doesn't sound like a Corgan creation (if not the whole song structure) . The first four songs on this CD, this one being the first, are dead on awesome, most notably "Malibu" and "Awful", and there are some good ones down towards the end, but to be honest, if I ever pull this CD out these days, it's for those first 4-6 tunes.

The lyrics of this song always intrigue me, too. Look at the first couplet:

"Oh make me over / I'm all I want to be
A walking study / in demonology"

Here she starts, right after the monster riff, by giving a big "Fuck you" to everyone who criticized her for her new "makeover" of a slim , California body and a new nose and acknowledging what many many people were thinking of her at the time (i.e., a she-devil). Notice, as well, that she delivers these lines with no musical accompaniment, so she makes DAMN sure you hear what she's saying.

Then later (again, unaccompanied):

"Oh look at my face / my name is might-have-been
My name is never was / my name's forgotten"

Again throwing the gossip back at the haters that she was a talentless, derivative, coattail-riding hack.

And the final coup de grace:

"You want a part of me? Well I'm not selling cheap"

Wow. That was a pretty big "Piss Off!" back then, more or less sarcastically playing the whore role of which she was accused. Just look at all the other slurs she thows out during the song ("sluts like you", "beautiful garbage", "hooker waitress, model actress", "fading in Hollywood"). It's really an angry, defiant song, but you know what we all remember - that gorgeous, incredibly catchy chorus rising out of the bile. It almost feels like the chorus and the verses belong to two completely different songs. It's complex, disorienting, and exciting, and it's all over in a mere two-and-a-half minutes, leaving you to wonder what the hell just happened and inviting you to hear it all over again.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Taking a Holiday Break

Be back sometime next week. In the meantime, here's my Christmas present to you:

Beaker from The Muppet Show singing Coldplay's "Yellow"

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"You Wouldn't Believe" / 311 / From Chaos

When I started this blog I knew that there was the ever-present chance of digging up embarrassing songs from my playlist. I soldiered along, unedited, in an attempt to analyze myself and for the voyeristic pleasure of the reader. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

This could very well be one of those times.

311 is, inexplicably, a guilty pleasure of mine. They and Kenny Rogers are the two biggest musical skeletons in my closet (and yes, you may know that Rush is my favorite band, but I made peace with that long, long time ago and have no regrets about it).

In my own defense, I do not own any albums of theirs. OK, technically, I bought "Music", their debut, back in 1993 due to hearing "Do You RIght" and "Visit" in the nascent days of 99x, but I sold that CD back at some point. I have five of their songs on my itunes, but I have honestly enjoyed almost every single they have released over the years.

You don't have to kill me on this. I know what makes them horrible, and by all rights I should loathe them. I mean, a group of white boys from Omaha, Nebraska (!) who attempt to make funky, reggae-and-ska-inspired rock music, with perhaps the world's worst whiney voiced rapper and a "singer" who is absolutely tuneless? I know. And perhaps their greatest crime is inspiring a generation of angry white boys to combine rap, rock, metal, and funk into a sound that just dominated alternative radio in the late 90's making it effectively unlistenable. I can picture a young, skinny red-capped Fred Durst sitting in his Jacksonville Florida home, hearing 311, rubbing his chin and thinking. "Hmmmmm....." The results speak for themselves:


Anyhow, I know these guys got pretty popular there, mostly in the mid 90's and the "Down" days, but their popularity waned after alternative music went bust. They still are kicking around, though, and seem to be one of those bands that have carved out a little niche and have their core groups of followers.

Why do I have this song? Again, I couldn't really tell you why. It defies explanation. I'm relistening to it now, and there's nothing obviously great or even good about it. It has a nice, singable, catchy chorus, which is pretty much a mainstay with 311, and may be part of my soft spot for them. Oh, at 1:09, here comes their little rapper. Seriously, that dude is just bad, but he's so damn earnest and "tough" that it's just adorable. You go, 'lil fella! Oh, a bass solo from 1:40 to 2:00 - there's some points right there. Back comes the rapper at 2:58 for one more round, followed by an awful "Woah-oh-oh-oh, yeah!" as punctuation.

YouTube has spared you the embedding, so click here, if you are willing (Shaq? What the effing eff?).

Well, have at me in the comments, if you must. Part of me kind of welcomes it for the punishment I so richly deserve.