The Columbus Day Shuffle
Doncha just love 3-day weekends? Started out with my birthday on Saturday, then John Lennon's birthday yesterday, and now we have yet another day to chill and hang out. Time for music!
1. Fourth of July / Dave Alvin
From King of California (1994)
Another lonesome, plangent tune by the wonderful Dave Alvin, the King of Downey, California. Dave Alvin seems to have a pipeline into the weary lives of working-class Westerners. "On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone / Mexican kids are shooting fireworks below" -- shoot this in black-and-white and you'd have a California version of The Last Picture Show. Devastatingly sad and tender, great stuff.
2. Rockin' the Suburbs / Ben Folds
From Rockin' the Suburbs (2001)
From the authentic to the deliciously snarky in one fell swoop. "Let me tell y'all what it's like / Being male, middle-class and white...All alone in my white-boy pain / Shake your booty while the band complains." And those perky synths -- skewer 'em, Ben!
3. Don't Lose Your Grip on Love / Brinsley Schwarz
From Nervous on the Road (1972)
Authentic at one remove, the Brinsleys channel the Band, with Bob Andrews doing a quite respectable Garth Hudson homage. They almost get it right -- "Why do you despise this travelin' man? / Even though he's doing the best that he can" -- until Nick Lowe betrays his English boarding school roots: "Working for peanuts, as is his wont --" SCREECH! Gotta love it. This is the same man who rhymes "bona fide" with "coincide" in "Cruel to be Kind," or who describes himself as "a feckless man" in "Hope For Us All" -- he's an English major's dream. Well, this English major's dream, anyway...
4. Sole Salvation / The English Beat
From Special Beat Service (1982)
Oooh, great sax, and those earnest Dave Wakeling vocals -- these guys never fail to please. The ska revival of the early 80s was right up my alley; I fell in love with the Specials first, but the English Beat kicked in right after, adding a little pop honey to the mix. Yeah, it's Sole Salvation or Soul Salvation, whichever you want, the groove goes on.
5. Shting Shtang / Nick Lowe
From Party of One (1989)
There are days when this neglected beauty is my favorite Nick Lowe album, even this throwaway rockabilly riffer. These guys are just having so damn much fun -- who needs Rockpile?
6. The Story's Over / The Lodger
From Grown-Ups (2006)
I think iTunes is prejudiced towards this indie-pop band from Leeds, because their music cycles up SO OFTEN on my shuffle, even though I only have five tracks downloaded. (Thanks, Justin.) Not that that's a bad thing -- their stuff's fun.
7. Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik / The Rutles
From Archaeology (1996)
The brilliant Neil Innes (he of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band) masterminded the Beatles parody The Rutles, along with ex-Python Eric Idle; a few years later, when the Beatles Anthology was all over the place, Neil jumped in with this wonderful take-off of Sgt. Pepper's. Except that it's not really a take-off, IMHO, just extending the Beatles' legacy with all the songs they would have written if they had had time.
8. Back on My Feet / Al Kooper
From New York City (You're A Woman) (1971)
I am absolutely always delighted when an Al Kooper track cycles up on the old shuffle. The first true rock chicks I ever knew -- two girls who called themselves Toots and Babs -- turned me onto this stuff at yearbook camp when I was maybe 15, and it runs insanely deep in my musical DNA. (The full story here.) Truly, it's like going home for me. I have a huge grin on my face right now.
9. Loaded / The Wood Brothers
From Loaded (2008)
You really must, really must, listen to the Wood Brothers. Please? I just found them by accident and they're one of my great discoveries: I love them madly. Put together blues and folk and jazz, and mix it up with top-drawer musicianship and mesmerizing vocals and sharp songwriting -- well, what's not to like?
10. Space Oddity / David Bowie
From Space Oddity (1969)
Sigh. One of the greatest tracks ever.