Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I've Got To Be Meme

It's pretty simple--just as Hollywood hacks much prefer remaking ideas than coming up with their own, cause, like, it's easier and stuff, bloggers like to steal ideas from each other and then act like it's some sense of internets community and camaraderie. Really, we're just lazy, too, and that ugly deadline of NOW NOW NOW NOW that is the blogger's life is as obnoxious as having to read lots of words typed in caps.

That said, if someone else suggests bloggers need to write about music, and I get to show off my arcane knowledge and maybe thereby justify my purchase of every Yo La Tengo EP CD to the point where I don't feel the need to buy Prisoners of Love: A Smattering of Scintillating Senescent Songs: 1985-2003, although knowing me, I will someday buy it for the 2 cuts I don't have, well, how can I not join in?

So, on Tuesday the brilliant and dangerous TBogg ran with an idea from Lawyers, Guns and Money and Blogcritics about underrated albums. Of course this is mostly an exercise in hipper-than-thou. Of course I couldn't resist. I did avoid one trap TBogg discusses, namely merely naming your favorite albums, as they necessarily need more people to like them, unless you buy things that are hits or spun off TV shows where over-emotive warbling is supposed to be music (I'm looking at you, Clay Aiken). That said, the following 11 albums (some of which don't seem available on CD, so how's that for obscure?) are not on my Top Ten All-Time list, which is another meme for another day when politics is just too depressing (that could be tomorrow, then). In alpha order, as actually ranking them is too geeky even for me:

Dave Alvin, King of California (1994, Hightone) Simply put, great songs, aimed at the limited register of Dave's voice, so sung well, cause he wrote 'em and knows 'em. Details, this is an album about details, both in his been-there lyrics and the pedal steel of Greg Leisz.

Lloyd Cole, Lloyd Cole (1990, Polydor) Sure, he's self-pitying at times, but aren't we all. What we all aren't are great melodicists, clever lyricists and friends to the now sadly passed-on Robert Quine.

East River Pipe, Shining Hours in a Can (originally 1984, Ajax, re-issue 2002, Merge) Pretty much a one-man-band, but this compilation of singles by one-time homeless musician Fred Cornog does for me what Elliot Smith always was supposed to do--tune craft, pathos, and hooks out the wazoo.

Ed's Redeeming Qualities, More Bad Times (1990, Flying Fish Records) As witty as They Might Be Giants, but weirder, but less polish, but more charm. You'll learn why lawn darts are not on the shelves at the K-Mart and why there aren't enough bad things to fill up a 3:14 song sung in waltz time.

Giant Sand, Ramp (1993, Restless) Howe Gelb and the gang that became Calexico rock and twang through an unforgettable set with Victoria Williams as help.

Grandaddy, Sumday (2003, V2) Critics tend to prefer the Sophtware Slump, but the songs are better here, the pretention less elevated, the desire to be liked more pronounced. I like my synthesizers eager to please, thank you. And I love the lines, "The supervisor guy turned off the factory lights so the robots have to work in the dark."

Anthony More, Flying Doesn't Help, (1979, UK Quango) More is part of the very arty Slapp Happy crowd, and I can see I've already lost you, although fellow Slapp Happian Peter Blegvad's Naked Shakespeare could be on this underrated list, too. This More album is the pop apotheosis of all the Eno and Cale rock-meets-art-and-both-win stuff of the 1970s--it's that good.

Pooh Sticks, Multiple Orgasm (1989, UK Fierce) Punk-pop sweeter than the Buzzcocks (heck, they cover 1910 Fruitgum Co.) yet nastier than anything named after a game from Winnie the Pooh should be. As they sang, indiepop ain't noise pollution.

Tom Russell, The Long Way Around (1997, Hightone) America is America at least partially because we call it corn, others call it pap--somebody like Russell walks the fine line of stories that know just how to a-maize. (Sorry.) Great country-rooted tunes and cameos by the likes of Iris Dement.

Ben Vaughn, Mood Swings (1992, Restless) Kind of a cheat as this is a greatest hits, but Vaughn never had hits, so I'm going to let it slip onto the list. Think of Vaughn as a more knowing Jonathan Richman with sly tunes and catchy words, or maybe it's the other way around. Heck, he pens a song about how his love makes him feel like "Jerry Lewis in France."

Yung Wu, Shore Leave (1987, Coyote) The Feelies, underrated themselves, except by critics, with a guest keyboardist (from underrated Speed the Plough, actually), playing Feelie-esque curlicue, propulsive guitar pop and covering "Big Day," "Powderfinger," and "Child of the Moon." Plus Brenda Sauter's bass line for "Strange Little Man" is perhaps the best such line in a non-funk song.


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