Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Tuned V. 1, No. 2: "Big Day," Yung Wu

found on Yung Wu's Shore Leave (1987)
Tuned In:
A cover version recorded by what is essentially The Feelies with help from John Baumgartner of Speed the Plough on keyboards and with Dave Weckerman, who is usually The Feelies' percussionist, as lead singer, but we sort of have to use the term "singer" loosely, as the Weckerman Warble isn't the thing of beauty the masses of Enos on the original achieve. Not close. It's fan-boy enthusiastic, but that makes it more lovable, but I'll get to that when I Tune Out. Otherwise, the song is parsed down to essential pulses (this is, after all, basically The Feelies)--the guitars ring, but don't echo, skip, but don't fly. And Stan Demeski on drums makes martial over it all, as is his wont.

Tuned Out:
I risk you having tuned out already, I know. Trying to grasp this entry is like playing a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but now the degrees are infinite and Bacon is being understudied by an unknown. But I like that. Not just to be obscure, mind you--I really do like what I like, and not just to not like what too many yous like. For me pop culture has always seemed a treasure hunt, and we all know that the best treasure gets buried. So it's necessary to dig. And to follow leads, gaze down all the dark alleys that might turn out to be one ways to the secret good, and to use all those years of academic research for something actually enjoyable.

The Feelies are a band people should know, as many bands you do know knew them and got better because of it, not the least of which was REM. Hobokenites who played and recorded infrequently from 1980 to '92 or so, the group pointed us to something we didn't think about enough till they did something with it--the Velvet Underground was at least in part about two guitars doing things two guitar bands hadn't done before. (Early on that second guitar was John Cale's viola sometimes, I know, I know. This is a blog, not a dissertation.)

I like the Feelies. That they chose, in an obscure reconfiguration, to cover another song I've always liked, well, that's peachy. Such a moment takes all my obscurities and make them an insular blanket of taste. And I treasure my copy of Shore Leave, not just because I like the music, but because I have one. Now out of print, in the first five years of release it sold 4,040 vinyl copies and 824 cassettes. It was never released on CD, so even seems archaic, like 78s must feel to another generation.

I know I might put too much value in the wink and the nod, the need for those I like to like the same things. Still, it's like in Hornby's High Fidelity, when the argument is about whether one should judge people by what they like or who they are. In a world where most of our measly choices are commercial, I'd argue good taste is virtue, at least as long as hunger is real and deep.
Yung Wu "Big Day" soundclip


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