Pop Culture Gadabout
Thursday, March 09, 2006
      ( 3/09/2006 01:54:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"I WANT A PERFECT SOUL" – Some time back, a group of comics blogospherians indulged in a public act of mix-tape swapping, reviewing each other's CD-Roms of favorite tunes. It was an activity I enjoyed reading – noting both the contents of each blogger's mix-disc and the response other bloggers had to each selection – even if it wasn't something I could join into since my ancient Gateway doesn't have CD burner capability. More recently, however, new New Zealander Nik Dirga sent me a mix-disc that he challengingly entitled "Nik's Perfect Songs, Volume 1." After playing it several times, how could I resist putting down a few thoughts?
  • "Wildflowers," Tom Petty – I'm of two minds when it comes to Tom Petty: at his best ("You're Gonna Get It," say), he's a power-popper par excellence, but his catalog is variable, to say the least. When he goes for mournful, he can be a yawn, though this track is an exception: sweet and airy despite – or perhaps because of – its broken-heartedness. A good start . . .

  • "Ocean," Sebadoh – Dunno much about Sebadoh, but this sing-songy lyrically opaque guitar pop track makes me think about exploring 'em further. Wish vocalist Lou Barlow was a trace less distant, though . . .

  • "Downtown Train," Tom Waits – Most pop junkies have a least one deaf spot when it comes to critical faves: for me, it's Waits, who I've always enjoyed more as an actor than as a singer. Consider "Downtown Train," the Waits song Rod Stewart made into a radio staple. Ol' Gravel Voice's rendition is perhaps his most accessible track, but I still can't make the leap into "Love It!" Call it a personal failing . . .

  • "You Ain't Going Nowhere," Bob Dylan – Just a joyous little song, though, truthbetold, I prefer the Byrds version from their sublime Sweetheart of the Rodeo . . .

  • "Station to Station," David Bowie – Won't argue with Nik's selection of this cut, though when it first came out I remember initially balking at its extended instrumental opening. Once the Thin White Duke started shouting about it being "too late to be late again" though, my doubts vanished. Just a great dance-rock track . . .

  • "Positive Bleeding," Urge Overkill – If UO had released a whole album filled with solid college raydo pop tracks like this (love the giggly white boy soul flourishes) . . . why then they'd probably be Material Issue . . .

  • "Down Under," Men at Work – When I first saw that Nik had included this amiable 80's trifle on his list, I snorted ("Howls of derisive laughter, Bruce!") Hearing it on the disc, though, I gave the song its due. Just a goofy pop tune, perhaps, but as a long-time Beach Boys fan, I've got no grounds for complaints on that score . . .

  • "Without me," Eminem – Empty without you, Marshall? Not really. I've got plenty of assholes to deal with in my own life . . .

  • "My Sexual Life," Everclear – Art Alexakis in a familiar pose – the simmering guy on the verse of saying something really unforgivable in the midst of that Big Break-up – but, damn, he makes you feel his immerging anger. One of the great Everclear songs, thanx to a neatly inserted sliver of guitar jangle in the first verses . . .

  • "Sweet Jane," Velvet Underground – A bit of a ringer here since the version Nik included on his disk isn't the VU cut from Loaded but Lou Reed's live performance off his first solo concert disc. I love both versions, but the concert, with its pomp-filled instrumental opener is perhaps the greater crowd pleaser. Seventies rock guitar worship personified, and, while most of the time I can take it or leave it, with this cut I succumb . . .

  • "Tomorrow Never Knows," The Beatles – Not the most immediately accessible Beatles, though time has, I think, made its sea-gull sounds much more poppy than they were in the weeks following Revolver's debut . . .

  • "In Your Eyes," Peter Gabriel – I'll admit it: I'm biased against Cameron Crowe and his too-safe insertion of AOR sounds into his movie soundtracks. He has a knack for flattening the music by putting it to too-predictable use. I've also long felt that "In Your Eyes" was a great chorus in search of a song. Neither fact keeps this track from flicking on those yearning feelings, though. Sometimes imperfect is perfect.

  • "My Impression Now," Guided by Voices – GbV is one of those bands who really could benefit from having a good nay-sayer in the room: they're so prolific that the graet songs have difficulty rising above the so-so ones. This, however, is one of the great tracks, the kind of pop rescue work that mix-tapes exist for . . .

  • "I Feel So Good," Richard Thompson – I love Richard Thompson in full folk-rock mode: when he's cooking, he overturns every weak stereotype about folk artists in the Rock Snob Handbook. I wouldn't put "Feel So Good" in my personal Thompson Top Ten ("Wall of Death" or "Tear-Stained Letter" are more my speed), but it's close: Thompson's narrator pumping himself up as he knows he's heading out to a night-time of regret . . .

  • "Sister Jack," Spoon – another slice of slightly twisted power-pop with two guitar solos that give you just enough psychedelic and noise-rock to make you sit up straight before slipping back into naggingly infectious pop strum. Another band I'd like to hear more of . . .

  • "Creep," Richard Cheese (bonus track) – Wherein a Tony Clifton wannabe attempts a finger-snappin' cover of Radiohead's classic paean to self-loathing. In essence, not much different from the sound of Weird Al layering polka arrangements over rap hits, but it's suitably silly. Love the way Cheese creamily sings the song's foul-mouth passages. A cool way to end this set . . .
So wot's on Volume 2, Nik?
# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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