Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Back To Basom" / Ween / White Pepper

Ween, for me, works on multiple levels. I definitely enjoy their snide senses of humor and over the top outlandish manner, but in the end, Dene and Gene make some damn fine songs.
(Yeah, I have to include this. Still holds up)

This song, off the fantastic White Pepper album, would be completely cringeworthy if anyone else had recorded it. It sounds like a cross between Pink Floyd and a great 70's AM radio song. When you begin a song with an earnest line like: "Reaching out now and I touch your face", and back it with soft acoustic strumming, you are challenging the listener from the get-go. If almost anyone else began a song this way, I probably would have laughed it off and skipped to the next one, but because it's Ween, you do a spit-take. It couldn't possibly be taken at face value. It's their "love song", if my use of quotes there makes sense.

You can tell what I mean about these dudes being pop auteurs in listening here, though. It's a very mellow tune with a great chorus that sticks in your brain. My favorite part actually comes in that chorus, the funky little guitar riff in the background (listen for it after "Calm the light" at about :50). Then there's a Ween trademark in there too- the weird, distorted vocal part ("should you carry what you are is cooked until it's done" Uh...sure guys.) You find yourself getting over the joke and humming along, immersed in the song...which means, I guess, the joke's on you.

Suddenly at 1:20, this turns into a cousin of "Welcome to the Machine" or something. A completely trippy keyboard instrumental break lasts for half a minute, then we're back in Bread land with another verse.

One reason I've liked Ween and bought every new CD since the seminal "Push 'th Little Dasies" is their musical diversity. I love albums in which the artist tries out different styles with each song, while still retaining the essential "themness" which made you like them in the first place. Seriously, "Chocolate and Cheese" has to be one of my favorite albums ever, and I like it for many more reasons than the laughs. In that CD they explore Faux-Vegas swinging, Philly soul, electric pop, and far out instrumentals. (Not to mention, it was in heavy, heavy rotation at the infamous "baseball house" in the mid 90's. But I digress)

Ween is still putting out quality product today, in 2007 they released La Cucuracha, which stands up there with the best of their work. These guys, while pretty widely beloved, never get quite the credit they deserve for their solid musical chops. Lyrics like "Friends in life are special / Do you want me as your special friend?" while appearing to be straight cheese, , actually dare you to look deeper to be rewarded. And when you do, you find yourself laughing less and grooving more.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"My Superman" / Santogold / Santogold

Santogold is one of the newest additions to my library, and it comes via the perusal of the "best of" lists which I've mentioned before as a good way for me to figure out what was good over the past year.

This CD came out in Spring of 2008, and was so consistently high on all the lists I read that I figured I'd give it a go. I've been really pleased with it. One thing that I love about my favorite albums is that the artist can cover a multitude of styles while still sounding like themselves. It makes for an interesting listening experience, and Satntogold definitely fits that bill.

Santogold often gets compared to M.I.A, which is, in my opinion, lazy and not a little bit racist. People see "eclectic ethnic pop singer female" and somehow think the two are analogous. M.I.A is much more dance / club oriented, while Santogold is pretty entrenched in New Wave pop. Check out the best song off this CD - "Lights Out", which sounds like a lost collaboration between The Cars and Blondie circa 1981:

"My Superman" (to my point about stylistic diversity) apes another New Wave / Punk sound. It's practically a tribute to Siouxsie and The Banschees, one of the originators of Goth.
Here's "Red Light" by Siouxsie and the Banschees

and here's the song of the week - "My Superman" by Santogold:
Uh, yeah. In fairness, she herself acknowledges her song as "based on" "Red Light" and gives them credit in the liner notes.

This, honestly, is not one of my favorite songs on the album, but I still recommend getting it. I like it for it's obvious tribute to its influences, but the lyrics are pretty vague and mostly just seem obligatory. The purpose here is to get the sound of S & TB, which she does well, and approximate Siouxsie's vocals, of which she does an outstanding job. It's spot on, really. I like the loping bass in the track (reminds me a little of Concrete Blonde's "Bloodletting", actually) and the sparse instrumentation. It gives it an eerie feel, which I guess it what she's going for after all.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Be back next week

Sorry I've been off schedule: snow, Spring Break, etc. Hope to have a full post next week.

In the meantime, here's a video called "Cannibal Queen" from a band called Miniature Tigers. I went to see Ben Folds at the Tabernacle last Friday (2/27) and these guys opened for him. I liked them right off - rare that that happens to me with an opening band (the less said about the other opener - the UGA a cappella group - the better). Their CD is a steal for $7.99 on itunes.