Thursday, May 20, 2010

WEDNESDAY SHUFFLE (a day late . . .)

Sorry, but I've been battling a bronchial infection, and the Graham Parker obsession has been occupying my few free brain cells. But I just got a new prescription today and I can actually breathe again -- so bring on the shuffle!

1. "This Year's Girl" / Elvis Costello and the Attractions
From This Year's Model (1979)
Ah, the corrosive, splenetic wit of young Elvis Costello. Those percussive guitars and whack-a-mole drums; the funhouse organ of Steve Nieve; that faux Beatle-y bridge -- this is hostility, pure and undistilled and ultra danceable. "Forget your fancy manners / Forget your English grammar / 'Cos you don't really give a damn about this year's girl."

2. "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" / The Ramones
From The Ramones (1976)
For years, knowing the Ramones were a punk band, I got them mixed up with the Sex Pistols. What was I thinking? The sound may be jangly and raw, but the sentiments here are vintage teen pop, sweet stuff that Lesley Gore and Bobby Fuller would totally understand.

3. "Don't Lose Your Grip On Love" / Brinsley Schwarz
From Nervous on the Road (1972)
So who's surprised that Nick Lowe would affect a vintage country soul sound nowadays? Listen to where he came from. I picture the Brinsleys in their plaid flannel shirts, with Bob Andrews going all Garth Hudson on the organ, and Nick warbling like Levon Helm. Imagine the culture mash-up, hearing this mellow honky-tonk two-step emanating from a pub in North London!

4. "Desperadoes Waiting for A Train" / Guy Clark
From Heartworn Highways (2006)
This is actually a live version of Clark's tender character study about his grandpa, tobacco-stained chin and all, from his 1975 album Old No. 1. (Texas really is another country.) Because Guy Clark is such a wise songwriter, it's also about growing up and mortality and losing the past. I prefer the live version, thrumming with personal emotions; the first time I ever heard this song was live, and it shattered me.

5. "The Perfect Shot" / Joe King Carrasco
From Get Off Mi Quesadilla (1990)
We're on a Texas run here. Joe King Carrasco throws a New Wave curve into a Tex-Mex dance hall sound, stabbing chords on his Farfisa while drums slap insistently behind him. Just think Devo mixed with Doug Sahm, shaken not stirred.

6. "Natural Reaction" / Gomez
From A New Tide (2009)
I just downloaded this track but haven't really digested it yet -- and with Gomez, you need a few repeat listens, despite the hooks. I like this singer's plaintive voice, though (three different lead vocalists in the band, but I gravitate to the songs this guy sings -- wish I knew which one he is). I think of this band as the Modest Mouse of England, with a densely crafted sound and somewhat riddling, neurotic lyrics.

7. "Some Other Guy" / The Searchers
From Sugar and Spice (1963)
Generic Lieber-Stoller song (was there a girl-group version "Some Other Girl"?), but the Searchers jazz it up and make it very Cavern-club-era Beatle-y. No surprise -- everybody those days was chasing that golden sound. His girl's leaving him, and he's sad, is about the sum of it. Lovely spangly guitars!

8. "I'm the One She'll Miss Him With Today" / George Jones
From I Am What I Am (1980)
Possibly my favorite George Jones song -- what a wicked little adulterous web she's weaving here. It's a complicated plot, but don't worry, George will get it all across, with the artful insinuation of his yelps and yodels. Classic country wit, but not really comedy -- the shoe could so easily be on the foot (and probably will be before long!).

9. "Talk Is Cheap" / The Toasters
From Hard Band for Dead (1996)
Ska-licious! I think these lyrics are political, but I'm not really sure, they spin by so fast, overridden by the horns and urgent bleats of organ; the beat is absolutely the thing. The Toasters are an American band, founded by an English exp-pat who missed the Two-Tone ska sound after he'd moved to New York, but in the end, it's irrelevant -- ska is a world language.

10. "Thursday" / The Futureheads
From News and Tributes (2006)
Under a psychedelic haze of repeated synth chords and reverbs, this track sounds as if it came from the 80s. I have no idea how this song even got on my iTunes. I could blame Uncle E....


Betty C. said...

Brinsley Schwarz. I haven't thought about them for a while.

I remember when I was in high school, my boyfriend knew a record store owner who lent him a copy of the Ramones first album (1976? I think...) We listened to it and thought it was hilarious, like some bad joke. Little did I know a few years later I would really like their music.

Uncle E said...

Ah Ha! Knew I'd infect ya at some point!
I really loved your description of the drum sound in This Year's Girl: 'whack-a-mole drums". Wonderfully descriptive, Holly. Get well soon.

wwolfe said...

I love that Brinsley Schwartz song. Along with "Nightingale," from the "Silver Pistol" album, it has to rank among Lowe's prettiest.

Holly A Hughes said...

It is amazing how good Nick Lowe was from the very start. He just cranked those songs out for the Brinsleys, and the quality was always there, even if the songs were derivative. Considering that 99.9% of the best pop music derives from the past anyway, that's hardly a drawback. So here's a bunch of English kids, imitating a bunch of Canadians who were imitating country blues. It's still sweet.

Holly A Hughes said...

And BTW I do know that at least Levon Helm wasn't from Canada...

wwolfe said...

Speaking of Canada, and the Searchers (as in, "Some Other Guy"), I meant to mention that the Searchers do what I think is the best version of what's often called the unofficial Canadian national anthem, "Four Strong Winds." When I first got "The Definitive Pye Collection," I listened to that song over and over, the way we do when we stumble across some new treasure.

Holly A Hughes said...

Thanks for that tip -- what a lovely rendition. I forget that the Searchers had their folk side as well