Back on schedule!
1. "William It Was Really Nothing" / The Smiths
From Louder Than Bombs (1987)
Anybody here see 500 Days of Summer? Remember that scene in the elevator where Joseph Gordon-Levitt finally strikes up a conversation with Zooey Deschanel? It happens when he recognizes that she's listening to the Smiths on her iPod -- the sign of a kindred spirit. Actually she was listening to "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" -- the flip side to this 1984 single -- but let's not split hairs. Their sound is so distinctive, it's like walking into a room and being transported to the Planet of Morrissey.
2. "The Lovecats" / The Cure
From Japanese Whispers (1983)
Still in British New Wave territory, with this spiky but highly danceable little track by the Cure, a.k.a. Robert Smith and whoever he's playing with now. When I first bought Boys Don't Cry, I never thought this was a band that would still be around 25 years later. Shows how much I know! I love the alley cat meows tossed in, and that bang-on-a-can percussion.
3. "This Is Where I Belong" / Bill Lloyd
From The Modern Genius Of Ray Davies (Mojo magazine giveaway, 2006)
One of the better Kinks tribute albums (amazing how many of those are around when you start digging). Lloyd throws a little extra good ol' boy twang into this iconic Kinks track, an interesting idea. Personally I prefer Ron Sexsmith's version (on -- he captures the oddball neurotic edge of Ray Davies's original. (Borderline agoraphobic, more like.) But this track lured me into exploring Lloyd's other music, which I like a good deal. Note to musicians: Those tribute album tracks DO snare new listeners.
4. "Alex Chilton" / The Replacements
From Pleased To Meet Me (1987)
Still in the 1980s, but now in American post-punk garage rock territory (actually, more like basement rock.) No wonder Paul Westerburg developed a man-crush on ex-Big Star leader Alex Chilton -- the album was recorded in Chilton's hometown Memphis, with Jim Dickinson producing, and Chilton joined them on guitar for "Can't Hardly Wait." Of course, after Chilton heard this track, I don't think he ever spoke to Westerburg again. So it goes.
5. "A Heartbeat" / Roman Candle
From Oh Tall Tree in the Ear (2009)
At last, a newer song, but frankly this irrepressibly cheery gem has such a classic pop sound, it could have been written anytime between 1962 and 2010. I love this little North Carolina band -- check out my previous post.
6. "Something Better Beginning" / The Kinks
From Kinda Kinks (1965)
One of my favorite British Invasion tracks EVER.
7. "Cold River" / John Hiatt
From Master of Disaster (2005)
Love this album -- it came out the season when I first discovered Hiatt's music, and I gorged on it. I just noticed a line that never struck me before -- about a woman slipping on her stockings, "and it made the sweetest sound." (Remember when he tells his girl in "Drive South," "don't bother to pack your nylons"?) John knows that equation: Lingerie = intimacy.
8. "Art Lover" / Holly Ramos
From Racehorse (2006)
What is it, Kinks covers night? Interesting twist, to have a woman singing this song, with its creepy hints of pedophilia. (Borderline twisted stuff comes so naturally to Ray Davies.) I interviewed Holly back in 2006 when this album came out; she has just the right waifish punk charm to pull it off.
9. "Cushie Butterfield" / Alan Price
From Geordie Roots and Branches
No links, sorry. This album is an obscurity indeed -- a charity effort by some Newcastle bank, which ex-Animals bassist Chas Chandler produced; he roped in his old bandmate Alan Price to sing a bunch of traditional English folk songs. I know this song well, not from pub singalongs but from a kids' music album my toddlers listened to incessantly -- "Cushie Butterfield" was Sting's contribution. (Those guttural Northern vowels -- priceless!) A great little ditty with a sea shanty lilt.
10. "Lady Scarface" / Lydia Lunch
From Queen of Siam (1991)
One of the joys of internet fan forums is that from time to time folks do CD mixes for each other, which is how this offbeat Lydia Lunch track ended up in my iTunes. It's a deliciously kinky little spoken word number, kinda Gothic cabaret in mood, with Lydia's kittenish pout tilting toward the psychotic. (She's all whips and handcuffs to the dirty raincoat of Holly Ramos' "Art Lover".) Is there an arc here, from the Smiths through the Replacements to Lydia Lunch? Maybe, but who can tell at this time of night?