tremble clef

Friday, September 29, 2006

Teddybears STHLM vs. Robyn, "Girliestyle" (2006)

Whatever we might think of the execution, we have got to admire the strategy for launching Teddybears (neé Teddybears STHLM) in the US, which Atlantic/Big Beat Records is doing with the release of Soft Machine.

The Swedish group has been around for yonks, starting off, as the oft-told story goes, as an extreme death metal band. (Teddybears STHLM was an ironic name, you see. Well, not the "Stockholm" part, which is deadly serious.) It was only with their third Swedish album, Rock 'n' Roll Highschool, released in 2000, that the band adopted their current electronic-big beat-ragga-hip-hop-pop sound, which they continued and sharpened on their 2004 album Fresh!. In certain circles, the 'Bears may have gotten even more famous in 2005, when the brothers in the band, Klas Åhlund and Joakim Åhlund, co-wrote and produced most of Robyn's album.

The strategy for pushing the 'Bears in the US is, in some ways, not entirely novel. First, the record company has gotten them to drop the "STHLM" suffix, which had always been as awkward as the cover of Moon Safari announcing that it was recorded by "Air: French Band" anyway. Second, instead of releasing either Rock 'n' Roll Highschool or Fresh! in their entirety, Soft Machine is, instead, largely a compilation of the best moments from both. A time-tested method (although for some reason the bands that spring most immediately to my mind as having tried this are Aqualung and Mandalay).

But, quite smartly (at least in theory), the 'Bears have also chosen to re-record some of these greatest hits, with cannily chosen (at least in theory) new vocalists. Thus, Iggy Pop sings the new version of "Punkrocker" (originally from Rock 'n' Roll Highschool); even more prominently, since it has been a free iTunes download of the week, "Yours To Keep" (from that same album, where it was originally performed by a 'Bear-wife, Paola), appears on Soft Machine in two reworked editions. One features Neneh Cherry (whose brother Eagle-Eye has also guest-starred on a Teddybears track) on main vocals, backed by Annie, while another version (a hidden track on the album) simply has the latter. Sensible choices: a rock icon (who is, let us say, not impossible to snag); a former hip-hop/pop star (and a fellow Swede at that) who, almost twenty years after "Buffalo Stance," still has everybody's goodwill; and one of last year's musical It girls, who can still make bloggers sit up and take notice.

But while the marketing strategy is astute, the execution, as I implied isn't totally perfect. In terms of the songs the band has chosen for the American compilation, there are only a few things to fault. Such as: why was "Hey Boy" (from Fresh!, with vocals by Swingfly, who's also the rapper on Robyn's "Curriculum Vitae") -- which would have been the perfect opening track for Soft Machine that even frat boys will love ("So just sit back and enjoy your motherfuckin' self before I kick your fuckin' ass!") -- left off in favor of obvious fillers like "Alma" or "Magic Kraut"? I'm sure I don't know.

But more dissatisfying are the reworkings. "Punkrocker" is the lesser of the two missteps; even if Iggy Pop is in poor bite-less voice (not just when compared to his heyday, but even when put up against, say, his vocals on some of Peaches' recent stuff), at least there is something poetic and macabrely funny about hearing him sing lines like, "I see you stagger on the street/You can't stay on your feet." (Especially when you notice that you can pretty much sing the melody of "Yours To Keep," supposedly a sweet mid-tempo ballad, over the same backing.) But "Yours To Keep" has clearly not been improved by either Neneh Cherry and/or Annie, as Jessica over at Into The Groove has also pointed out. Much as it pains me to say it, Neneh's voice is so scratchy that, when I first heard the new version, I thought it was the male Teddybears themselves singing, and I kept waiting for the mellifluous Neneh I know to appear. Further, the formerly electro track has been rearranged to sound tougher, rockier, like it's some misguided cousin of "Since U Been Gone." This is perhaps the right move for the US market, but one of the lovely things about the original version is the way Paola's sweet, high-pitched voice makes us both like and pity her for her optimistic obliviousness: "We can drive around with the top down/Stereo turned up loud with the phat sound/Cause I'm yours to keep if you want to/But I hear that you want to ditch me/But you know I'm not such a bad seed." In Neneh's version, all of that -- because of her rougher voice, and the tougher production -- is lacking. Annie's helium voice is much closer to Paola's, but her version of "Yours To Keep" on Soft Machine is set to a dirty, grinding remix that makes her lines sound more vacuously air-headed ("you can sit and watch as my hair grows..."), than sweet and cute.

At least many of the other tracks -- "Little Stereo," "Throw Your Hands Up," "Automatic Lover" -- have not been severely refried for the US release. One of the group's most recognizable tracks, "Cobrastyle" likewise appears in its original recipe (featuring Mad Cobra) on Soft Machine -- although, intriguingly enough, the band has done a new version. Retitled "Girliestyle," the crispy re-take features Robyn and can be found on the soundtrack of the Swedish movie Säg Att Du Älskar Mig (whose plot an imdb user hilariously described as predictable, because "Alcohol + Sex and/or Rape + teenager = typical Swedish." No kidding; doesn't that equation capture the essence of every Bergman movie?). On "Girliestyle," the production goes in the other direction: the ragga track has been replaced by a gurgling electro backing, and Robyn does her by now patented mild boastin-toastin' over the top. I wouldn't say that this improves on Mad Cobra's bouncily insane original, but it would have made more sense to also include Robyn's version on the US album: not only because she, like Annie, is an It girl whose participation in Soft Machine would have been logical and attention-grabbing, but because her treatment gives the original an interesting shading in ways that Iggy, Neneh, and Annie (and the 'Bears) don't quite manage to.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Rainbow Family, "Can See A Rainbow" (2006)

Hello. Your friendly neighborhood blogging unicorn here. Thought I would pop in to tell you what a great time it is for a unicorn to be alive. I mean, not that I'm alive or anything. I'm mythical. Or am I? Yeah, I am. Unless...I'm not! No, yeah, I totally am.

Anyhoo, I was still thinking that it's great to be me nowadays, because there's so much music that's up my alley. I tell ya, the 1990s were rough, what with all that grunge and noise. It was enough to make me feel like I had a massive head tumor, ha ha! Sorry, little unicorn joke there. Ironic indie hipster music is still around, of course (*spits*), and probably will never go away completely, but nowadays making a 90-minute mixtape is so much easier! There's all this hippyish new age pop music, and sometimes they're even about lollipops and rainbows. There's the Polyphonic Spree, who have so much to answer for, and I heart I'm From Barcelona, and they are sometimes all talked about as being part of the yacht rock revival that promises to make 70s soft rock all the rage again. Although I'm not personally a big fan of yachts; I find that I can always just float away on a dream and a song.

This is a good song to do so on. Rainbow Family are two guys from Glasgow, which is of course the portal to unicornland. On this, the 60s-sounding title track of their recent EP (other tracks from it still seem to be up here), there are tinkly bits, dreamy harmonies, and even though there's no actual harp, the whole thing sounds like the kind of music you hear when a movie scene goes into a flashback to happier times. Mmm, it's aural cotton candy.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Beyoncé, "Irreplaceable" (2006)

Taken from B'Day, "Irreplaceable," which is slated to be the third of its three excellent singles, sees Ms. Knowles giving her no-good cheating man the kiss-off. "You must not know 'bout me, you must not know 'bout me," she tells him. "I can have another you by tomorrow/Don't you ever for a second get to thinking you're irreplaceable."

The song fires off some excellent put-downs: the lines, "Could you talk and walk at the same time?/It's my name that is on that Jag/So remove your bags, let me call you a cab," don't just tell her man to fuck off, but does so while rubbing his face in what he has to walk out on (not just her, but a fine set of wheels). Indeed, the entire song is fairly sly: aside from the chorus, another vocal hook comes from the "to the left, to the left" refrain. It's the first thing we hear, but it's not until three iterations later that we understand what it means in context ("everything you own in a box to the left"). Even Beyoncé's voice, which I find -- unlike the rest of the world, which tends to call it "powerhouse" -- shrill and reedy, works well here: because it is so thin at moments, it helps balance her firm insistence that her man bugger off, with an affecting vulnerability. At the 2:20 mark, most notably, all but the beat and the strumming guitar drops out, and her vocalization of the line, "I won't lose a wink of sleep/Cause the truth of the matter is: replacing you was so easy," is restrained (notice how she lets the word "easy" just drop away) and effective in conveying that, while she is happy and certain that she wants him to leave, she does harbor some sadness about it. In fact, he's already been replaced ("was").

She does think it's sad, but no great loss, doesn't she? If you're a regular reader of this blog, then...well, then I'll be home for dinner this weekend, mom. And you might also have divined that I'm endlessly fascinated by, but often suspicious of, songs that contain repeated assertions that may or may not be sincere and true. "I know we're cool." "I'm not in love." "I don't want to rush you now." "I ain't missing you at all." "Ah-ha, um-um, gonna get along without you now."

"Irreplaceable," however, is a rare example of such songs in that it seems to actually mean what it says. Beyoncé's repetition of the sentiment that her man is by no means irreplaceable is not overdone enough to cast doubt on itself. But if we insist and look hard for such moments of irony or self-deconstruction, we could perhaps find two. The first might suggest that it's significant that the song, in the final reckoning, is titled "Irreplaceable" -- as if announcing its true feeling about Beyoncé's man. But then again, a more properly accurate title like "Dude, You're So Not Irreplaceable," would have not just confused the less attentive with its double negative, but been much less elegant too.

A second point of pressure is perhaps more persuasive, more interesting to contemplate, and relates to the position of "Irreplaceable" on the album. Beyoncé has explained that she conceived of the album as made up of songs that her Dreamgirls character should have sung, and its ten main tracks (not counting the bonus tracks on various editions) clearly form a narrative in which she and her man hook up, run into trouble, and then break up. Although "Irreplaceable" is only the penultimate song in that cycle, it nevertheless begins to return the album's story back to the start -- specifically, to "Deja Vu," and in doing so, adds a new shade of meaning to that opening track.

When I first heard "Deja Vu," I was not entirely sure if it was meant to be celebratory. Is the feeling of deja vu a happy one, or unwelcomed? A few more listens and a look at the lyric later, it became clearer that it is ostensibly pleasureable: "Is it because I'm missing you/That I'm having deja vu?" But now, in the context of the album and of "Irreplaceable," when we reach the end of B'Day and "rewind" the album back to the start, "Deja Vu" has the potential to turn into a darker song, in which the experience of again meeting a(nother) man becomes tainted by the inevitable end of the relationship. Who's to say that "deja vu" wouldn't include another round of being disappointed? Who's to say that even though his "sexiness, so appealing [that she] can't let it go" will stay as a kind of healthy lust, instead of crossing over into a kind of destructive obsession? "Irreplaceable" suggests that men are always replaceable -- and that's grand (if a little sad). "Deja Vu" actually has the same idea, it is now clear: meeting a new man, she is reminded of someone she may or may not have already known, so by definition he is not unique to begin with, and always replaceable. (In this light, the "was" I pointed out earlier makes even more sense.) On the surface, "Deja Vu" celebrates this fact, and derives a sexual thrill from it, while "Irreplaceable" takes comfort in it at a moment when replaceability feels like a feature that's both a boon and a bust. By bookending (somewhat) the album, the two tracks, which turn out to be essentially the same song, thereby play off of each other, so that it's not finally clear if there is -- or if there should be -- good to be gained from the replaceability of those we once thought we loved.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Peter Bjorn and John, "Chills" (2006)

When I first heard of Peter Bjorn and John, I thought they were a duo. And immediately, I felt bad for "John," because he, unlike "Peter Bjorn," didn't get to have his middle or last name be part of the band moniker, and that didn't seem fair to me. Well, unless that was because his next name was something embarrassing like "Quentin," or "Cosmo." And then I was reminded of a teacher I once had; his name was Keith, and we loved, respected, but also slightly feared him, until the day we found out his middle name was "Vivian." Um, wait, what was I talking about? Oh, yeah, "Peter Bjorn and John." Who are, in point of fact, three people. I'm guessing they also eat shoots and leaves.

Although the Swedish band have been around for about six years, they are only now attaining their highest profile with the song "Young Folks" (it's all over the "blogosphere"). I quite like the track, although I also find it too distracting to listen to. Saturday Night Live once had a recurring skit, called either "Christmas Is Number One" or "A Christmas Treat" -- I feel like maybe three other people remember it aside from me, and Youtube doesn't have a clip. But it usually consisted of Horatio Sanz, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Kattan, and Tracy Morgan, singing a hilariously dorky little Christmas song, but at various incongruous times of the year. Most memorably, the song featured an intentionally dinky little synth riff, and that riff to my ears sounds exactly like the whistling part in "Young Folks."

"Chills" is not, melody-wise, as annoyingly catchy as "Young Folks," but great in its own way, and at least devoid of strange associations. The drumming is fantastic, and most of all, I love it because it has a great ssh-ssh-ssh-ssh-ssh! sound in the background. (Marimba? Ay caramba? Maracas. That's the word I'm looking for.) He sings about getting the chills, but the maracas make me think he's really getting the shits. So, as I said, no bizarre associations here.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Bertine Zetlitz, "I'll Be Fine" (2006)

There is a pretty hysterical video clip floating around on YouTube of our favorite female popstar, Bertine Zetlitz, appearing on a Norwegian sketch comedy show called Team Antonsen. In it, one member of the comedy team -- Kristopher Schau, who was once voted Norway's sexiest man by Elle, and is, I would say, hot in the way Johnny Knoxville is, appropriately enough -- interviews Bertine, behind his desk...without any pants on. Meanwhile, two of his esteemed colleagues, dressed in lab coats, creep under the table and do unseen and unspeakable things to his nether regions in order to distract him, utilizing various props: beginning with some latex gloves, progressing to an exfoliating piece of masking tape, and escalating to a couple of hyperactive live animals. But don't just take my word for it:

Bertine probably didn't design the skit, and her role in it is mostly to keep a straight face -- which she does with aplomb (the faux-nonchalant look she mimes as the gerbil scampers across her field of vision at the 3:15 mark is priceless). Nevertheless, it's tempting, and easy, to see the comedy bit as perfectly in keeping with Bertine's aesthetic.

Most obviously, it reminds us of how Bertine has always been game for weirdness. You see this in her striking photos: she's a stunningly pretty woman, but has never hesitated to bug her eyes out or assume harsh, spooky, psychotic looks. It's everywhere in her lyrics, through which she has developed a persona as a fetchingly icy and slightly unhinged femme fatale. On the opening three tracks of 2003's Sweet Injections, she declares in quick succession that she will torture you "all for fun" and "make you wish you had a gun," because she's "the sickest girl you'll ever find" and a "twisted little star." (Or even more bluntly and delightfully, on 2000's "Certain": "Boy, I'll poke you in the eye.") Secondly: just as the interview's humor depends on the discrepancy between what's happening on the surface, and what's going on beneath it, Bertine's music similarly plumbs such -- in particular, psychosexual -- depths. Finally, even Bertine's peripheral role in the skit seems apt: although in many of her songs Bertine assumes a persona (it is a role), she also switches in and out of different ones, and sometimes is not so much a participant in the weirdness, but on some level only sitting back and watching it unfold, and acting more like a kind of interested observer and commentator.

This past Monday, Bertine released, in her native Norway, her fifth album My Italian Greyhound. And: it's a damn fine piece of work. I'm not sure it quite matches the heights of her previous record, 2004's Rollerskating -- but those heights are nothing if not lofty, seeing as how Rollerskating is, in my book, one of the finest records of, say, the last ten years. Although Greyhound is again produced by Fred Ball (aka Pleasure), it opts not for the shiny, sharp, and angular electro sounds of its predecessor. Instead, it's less futuristic, less machine-like: the synths they've used sound more like old-time Moogs, the beats less taut and spring-loaded. One result of this is that the new album lacks, much to my regret, the frosty electronic ballads -- like "Slowly" from Sweet Injections, or Rollerskating's "Broken" -- that derive their power from conjoining chilly sonics and deeply emotional lyrics (as sung by Bertine with tremulous fragility). Indeed, the lyrics of Greyhound are, on the whole, comparatively starker and sparse, and may even strike some as bordering on the banal and unspecific. And at under 40 minutes, the long player is way too short.

But if those are your biggest problems, you're in great shape. The album is full of thundering pop tracks: the two singles, "500" and "Midnight" (which, as others have noted, sits on a naggingly catchy pizzicato bass that recalls the shuffle beat from "Billie Jean," and the strings from "Papa Don't Preach" and "Here Comes The Rain Again" all at once) are fabulous enough, but "Sleep Through The Storm" (featuring a piano riff that's a bit "...Baby One More Time"), and "Obsession" (in which Bertine sings in a rapidfire way that would put rappers to shame, over, this time round, something like the bassline from "Billie Jean") would make equally amazing singles. But these thundering pop tracks are also very simple, as the last single from Rollerskating, "Ah-ah," portended. Many of the new tracks are built around one or two short melody lines, but within them Bertine introduces vocal variations -- she has always been tremendous at double-tracking her vocals, and on this album this continues to be the case -- while Fred Ball's production works to layer the instrumentation with richer and richer effects.

Greyhound is therefore a collection of really fabulous pop tracks, but it may also be more than that. The first lines we hear from the new album, on the track "Draggin' Me Down," go: "I've got something stashed behind the shed/Maybe you would like to see the stuff that she misread/Yeah, you know the nights you woke and wished that you were dead/Maybe you would like to come and see behind the shed." The album therefore announces, from the get-go, its continuing interest in what lies beneath and behind -- and issues an invitation to us to come unearth it with her.

Specifically, Bertine's interest seems focused on one theme, the one that gives track three its title, but permeates all the others: obsession. I can't say with certainty that Greyhound is a full-on concept album, but its ten songs do appear to be thematically linked. Thus, phrases, sentences, and characters are repeated and recur over different songs. There are enough references to slipping, falling, drowning to make Virginia Woolf jealous. The phrase "get what you deserve," for instance, migrates from being a line in "500," to being the title of track four. There's a "Suzy" in track one (although there she is a dog), and another, or the same one, in "Sleep Through The Storm"; and though it's a more generic moniker, there's also someone Bertine calls "baby girl" in both "Draggin' Me Down" and "I'll Be Fine." Since those are the first and last tracks, it suggests that Greyhound follows Bertine's relationship with this one person over the ten songs.

Not only do all ten songs appear interlinked, but they may also form a rough narrative, in which an obsession is traced and detailed. If so, the singer's obsession would begin and reach its climax in the first three numbers ("Draggin' Me Down," "500," "Obsession"); thereafter, rejection occurs and disillusionment sets in ("Get What You Deserve," "This Time"), leading perhaps to some stalkerish feelings of vindictivenss ("Midnight," in which she watches and waits for someone, likely that beloved, to slip and fall). Befitting this theme, in which Bertine desires merging herself with her intended, over these first six songs, pronouns flit from place to place. On track one, the object of Bertine's obsession is a third person to her, but becomes someone she addresses directly ("you") in the next three tracks. On track five, "This Time," however, the narrator moves between a direct address ("you were blaming me") and some sort of inclusive pronoun ("the higher we climb, the further we fall"). What's more, if it weren't already clear from what I've been saying, the object of obsession is, quite explicitly, another woman (an impression confirmed by the video for "500"). And she may be a quite specific kind of woman. Although what is thematized by Greyhound is primarily and generally sexual obsession, at a more meta-level, the record may (additionally or simultaneously) document a developing relationship between a singer and her fan. In "500," after all, there are repeated references to fanclubs and autographs. But since the lines between stalker/stalkee aren't very clear, which role Bertine plays is left open: she may be imagining herself as a fan who follows another singer, vice versa, or herself a star who is envious of another, more successful, star.

If the first six songs set up that premise, what happens after "Midnight," however, is a bit unclear. Track seven, the ska-y "This Moment," begins by announcing, "She is pretty; you adore her," so it would seem that another player, a man, has entered the psychosexual drama. He seems torn between Bertine and the other woman: "though you like my heavy breathing/I can never be her." But of course that could be taking place in Bertine's head, as she tries a new way to possess the object of her obsesson by recasting the two of them as rivals. And yet, to push further, it is additionally possible that the rejection Bertine has suffered has caused some sort of dissociative state in her -- if so, the final trio of songs, in which Bertine says that "she will never let you go," and seems suspiciously confident that her beloved will stay with her through the storm, may just be delusion.

But we are going further and further down an overly speculative path here, so let's return to the more basic point: namely, Greyhound presents some sort of song cycle about obsession, the outlines of which are deceptively and uncomfortably blurry, not least because the gender roles are so unusual. The drama that the songs together sketch out, as a final note, are echoed on the level of songcraft. If the blurring of identities is the theme of the album, than it is also its modus operandi. I've already pointed out that "500" makes no clear distinction between chorus and verse, and several other songs on the record, such as "Midnight," are likewise murky on this point. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this reflects to some degree the thematic aspects of the album, where the lines between you/I, he/she, self/other all seem remarkably porous.

Enough. Here is the closing track of the album, "I'll Be Fine," which I think may be, well, the finest moment on an album full of them. It's a mid-tempo song, set to an elastic bass and beat, that's oddly affecting, partly because it's almost a gospel number. This feel comes, most prominently, from the organ that rumbles ominously underneath, and then is the last thing we hear of the album. Near the end of the track, a chorus of almost-choral voices also rise. But on the chorus, we also get a squelchy guitar, as if hinting at some underlying unease, which, when the middle eight comes around, gets to freaks out some. And, as conclusion to the psychosexual drama that may or may not have unfolded over the previous nine songs, "I'll Be Fine" is a admirably suitable -- because discomforting -- one. By this point, Bertine's beloved ("baby girl") may have ended up with the man. So now, Bertine imagines -- or maybe it is really the case -- that this beloved begins to have paranoid fantasies about the man she's ended up with. There's no rest for the wicked. "Lately," Bertine tells us about "baby girl," whom she began the song cycle by stalking, "you've been sleeping by the door," wondering why her man is only "home every other night." "These suspicions gnawing on your mind/Baby girl you're never been this blind." On the chorus, there is no longer any way to tell who's speaking to whom; indeed, there are literally a few Bertines singing, harmonizing: "Hold me like you'll never let me go/Let's pretend this feeling doesn't show." Spoken by baby girl to her man? By Bertine to baby girl? At this point, these may be one and the same, and the moment is, in the end, simultaneously bone-chilling and uplifting. "Funny how it hurts when we collide/I will be fine." As if.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Camera Obscura, "Tears For Affairs" (2006)

A colleague, who works down the hall from me, is a bit of a fitness freak. In itself, that's deeply admirable. He cycles to work; in this hot, humid weather, that's dedication. And each evening, before he leaves the office -- but while I am still around and thus unable to avoid bumping into him -- he goes for a run, and here my problems begin. He always wears a t-shirt...and some awfully short shorts. We're talking Daisy Dukes, or the kind of shorts beloved by never nudes. Plus, to keep his slightly unruly mop in place, a very 80s sweatband on his head. No legwarmers, though; thank god for small mercies. It's all distressingly Boogie Nights, or perhaps he thinks he's Olivia Newton-John. Well, at least I think it, and then I have an irresistable urge to nuzzle some dolphins.

Normally, I enjoy thinking about ONJ. When, on the chorus of Camera Obscura's "Tears For Affairs," Tracyanne Campbell sings the lines, "You had to drive/Look me in the eye/Whisper it, don’t cry," it makes me want to grab her mike and go, "Seems like forever...and a day! Thought I could never...feel this way! Is this really me?!" That's right; I can't listen to this lovely tweepop song without my mind involuntarily going to ELO's "I'm Alive." Since to me Xanadu is One Of The Greatest Movies Ever Made -- one that I saw twice in the cinemas when it was released, which is a big deal given how I was, like, twelve at the time and barely able or permitted to afford one viewing, let alone two -- this fact is, while slightly disconcerting, not at all unwelcomed. I just wish I could say the same about the daily sighting of my esteemed colleague.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Britney Spears, "Stronger (Miguel Migs Vocal Mix Edit)" (2000)/"Anticipating (Alan Braxe Remix)" (2002)

Congrats, Brit. I did, however, want to use this occasion to remind you of how awesome, and not-at-all-repulsive, both

1. Miguel (who subjects "Stronger" to a slinky cool house mix that gives your voice a haunting quality), and

2. Alan (who revamps the no-longer-appropriately-titled "Anticipating" into a dirty and tough bleepy bastard of a stomper)

were in helping you give birth to these two musical babies. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

David Sylvian and Riuichi Sakamato, "Forbidden Colours" (1983)

I'm not an especially charitable person. I will cut you for the last piece of chocolate, and I won't share my cake. Like George Costanza, I feel that "women and children first" is something of an antiquated notion; it should be every man, woman, child and invalid for themselves. If I could, I would rob the poor to pay myself.

And I've tried. It's the late 80s, I'm in what we here call junior college (you might call it eleventh grade), and our class has to participate in the school funfair. The plan is to yank gullible parents, friends, and random passers-by onto the school grounds, where they would have to enjoy themselves, if it kills them, by forking over their hard-earned money in the name of fun. That money would end up going to designated charities, which, I forget, may or may not have included the school's coffers. We are told by some central organizing committee that some classes will set up food stalls, and some will do game stalls. We get the latter. They even tell us what our game should be, though not much detail about how to set it up. It's a hot mess.

Several weeks of blind stumbling around later, our class is hurdled around our constructed stall. At least we have a jaunty sign. It says, if memory serves, "Coconut-A-Go-Go." Here's the game: people have to hurl something at something else, and if something happens when they do so, then they win, something. And by that last "something," I mean "mostly crap that each of us brought from home in the hope that it will strike someone, who thinks that hurling coconuts is fun in the first place, as a desireable prize."

But a classmate didn't get that memo. He shows up with some records he no longer wants, and donates them to the prize table.

Ooh, meaningful homoerotic glances!He brings, for one thing, the 12" of Riuichi Sakamato and David Sylvian's "Forbidden Colours." He is certifiably mad. The song is, of course, utterly beautiful, able to break my heart even today, and the record in pristine condition.

I couldn't quite believe it. I coveted that piece of vinyl myself, and immediately schemed to ensure that no one would win it. Fuck the underprivileged. Those twelve inches would be, I decided, the grand prize, awarded only to the person who was capable of, oh, let's say, making their coconut levitate through the hole in the suspended tires while bursting spontaneously into purple flames. And even then, maybe not. We reserve the right to award to you, as your prize, the actual tire instead. And indeed, at the end of the day, the 12" goes unclaimed -- so, of course, my classmate got to retract his donation and go home with it. I guess I didn't quite think that plan through. Still, if I couldn't have "Forbidden Colours," at least no one deserving did, and my supremely mean and cruel soul gleefully cackles with partial-satisfaction to this day.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Maximilian Hecker, "No More Lies To Reach You" (2006)

There are some songs that are eminently bloggable, that, in their immediacy, seem made to be buzzed about. This is not one of them. It's slight: running under three minutes, with no real traditional verse/chorus structure, "No More Lies To Reach You" is practically over before it begins. It's drowsy, with perhaps a vague shoegaze feel to it: we begin with an acoustic guitar, but it plays the same few notes throughout. Something like a beat shuffles around, but is decidedly muted. Just as quiet and imperceptible are the horns; even though they lurk in the background for pretty much the duration of the song, it takes a while to actually hear them. Maximilian Hecker's voice is likewise narcoleptic, barely rising above a hushed whisper. At the 2'12" mark, that voice does climb a half octave -- "no more lies in my head" -- and it's a bit of an emotional jolt, but it feels like the song, in that one moment of coming to, is simply waking to a pained consciousness. It's therefore very likely that no one else will like this unsparing song, but there you go.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Bic Runga, "Counting The Days" (2002)

Number of days Tremble Clef has been in existence: 366

Number of posts, including this one, spread across those days: 209

Number of mp3s, including this one, those posts have contained: 251

Number of words in the longest post (albeit one in five parts): 6,946

Number of words in the shortest post (albeit one with a newspaper clipping that, um, had words): 1

Number of words it took me to talk about Gwen Stefani's "Cool": 1,120

Number of seconds in "Cool" that that entry really considers: 8

Number of posts I wrote before I accused a songwriter of possibly being gay: 2

Number of posts that have used the phrase "bum-lovin'": 1

Number of alternatives I offered to that phrase in that post: 4

Number of other sexual references in this blog's life: 69 70

Number of ways, according to me, that one could sing the phrase "woo-woo!": 2

On a scale of 1 to 10, the likelihood, when I started this blog, that I thought I would use the phrase "dubitative mood" in a post: -3

Or the phrase "unseam myself from nave to chaps": -6

Number of songs that, after being reviewed by this blog, underwent a title change, thereby making me look like a chump: 1

Number of times I've written a review of Nelly Furtado's "Maneater," using a version of the song from an advance sampler, saying that the song is great but needs a middle eight, only to find that the subsequent album version actually added such a refrain: 1

Possibility, out of ten, that I am therefore a genius: 11

Number of posts that have used graphs and charts: 3

Number of posts written in ways and styles meant to, somewhat ill-advisedly, kinda mimick the songs themselves: 5

Number of posts that contain references to Friends, like, what the hell, is this the only TV show you've ever watched in your life?: 3

Oh wait, phew, I guess I've also referred to Seinfeld in this number of posts: 1

Number of odes to record shops and/or record buying: 4

Number of posts that seem nostalgically fetishistic about physical CDs, cassettes, or records, or even the stickers on them, or the posters made from them: 6

Number of posts that, if you read them together, gives you a rough picture of my current day job: 3

Although by "rough," I mean "really rough," since the likelihood (out of ten) that the posts will just suggest to you that I work in a place crawling with snakes and bureaucrats, like, wait, was that redundant phrasing anyway?: 10

Number of posts that, when pieced together, gives you a pretty good picture of my childhood and adolescent years: [measuring device broken]

Or, for that matter, about my current halflife: [still no reading available]

Number of posts, however, written in the second-person point of view that are most definitely not about me: 2

Extent, from 1 to 10, to which I currently wish I had set up this blog using wordpress or something that would have allowed me to tag my entries and classify them into various categories: 12

On the same scale, extent to which it has been, for me, a fun run: 100