The DIY ethos of punk served to liberate performers from the obligation to have a great deal of technical ability. The unfortunate corollary was that any display of already-acquired virtuousity instantly marked one as part of the Uncool Wankerage, forcing nascent guitar gods like Andy Summers to play as though suddenly arthritic. Possibly the first artist to successfully bridge Old World training and New World raucousness was Nina Hagen. "New York New York" is the East German-trained singer's signature tune. Over a clipped, dry Morodor techno-dystopia background, the verses present Hagen recounting her then-current regimen of glamourous excess in a harsh, metallic raven's shriek. Then, as though descending from the heavens at the end of a Wagnerian opera, comes the chorus -- a meltingly warm (yet uncomfortable) wave of minor chords, then a soaring, yearning, superbly modulated mezzo-soprano...which, after a jolt of realization, is understood to also belong to Nina Hagen. And so on.
By 1965, Brian Wilson's professional and personal lives were in such a state of constant panic that it was almost inevitable that he would turn to readily available forms of rock star relief. While his self-medication (and underlying mental illness) would ultimately render him into a poster boy for an imaginary DARE campaign, the early, merely marijuanic phase of his regimen yielded a brief but vivid string of almost absurdly gorgeous pop masterpieces. While a couple of these are permanently stamped into the forebrains of all radio listeners over a certain age ("God Only Knows," "Good Vibrations"), some remain almost unknown. Which brings us to "Wonderful," found on the Beach Boys box set, and remade a few years ago as part of the Don Was hagiography. It is a curious, brief (2 minutes) tune, austere in production (harpsichord and vocal) but staggeringly rich in harmonic interest. The melody evokes pure serenity and has no noticeable roots in any previous American pop style. Van Dyke Park's lyric is typically insane; what little one can make of it seems to dovetail with Wilson's growing religiousity, yet feels entirely physical, even pagan -- a sort of boy-loves-wood sprite nature idyll making the first movement of a really great ballet with set design by Maurice Sendak. Or something.
available on CD - Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys (Capitol)
Pat Fish of Northhampton, England, is not a rock star for reasons which might include his naturally reticent and embarassed nature, excessive amounts of Oxford education, and the vagueries of the marketplace, but would not include his songwriting talent, which is massive, if perhaps a wee bit limited in scope (no weird chords, all songs about heartbreak, drunkenness, or cannibalistic fantasies about the Prime Minister). "Big Saturday" is a rousing near-rock number in Pat's heartbreak mode. His singing is liquid, soulful (but not shouty), tender, and helpless in the face of love...a love that MUST remain unrequited for the good of other friendships and sundry considerations of duty and fidelity. At least, I think that is what is going on in this simple, yet devastating tune. For more info, see http://www.jazzbutcher.com/htdb/albums/sex.html
Any label searching for the perfect pop cover to resurrect from the forgotten early-90s (as with "There She Goes") would do well to give several listens to this equally bustling-yet-melodic paean to the bittersweet tang of youthful somethingorothers. Jangling electric guitars, singalong choruses (it doesn't get any easier than "come and see/trampoline"), mumbling, presumably insightful scatting over the reprise, layered harmonies, and a throwback yowling guitar solo. Merely sneering, "I already have one Oasis album," does not excuse you from the obligation to hear and love this song!!!
from Rapple Dapple (Sire) available on CD - Powertopia! Power Pop Classics of the '90s (Rhino)
09 Dec 08 ·luvs23: Sugar by Stretch Princess IS VERY VERY VERRRRRY similar to There She Goes by the La's. A similar high-pitch vocal with an addictive hit chorus:
sticking me to my babe
sticking me to my babe
Sticking up to my babe
sticking up to my babe
sticking up to my babe"
Beautifully sung, I can't stop listening to it.
The former Leslie Phillips once recorded songs sold in Christian supply stores, disguising (presumably) the moist, carnal, and otherwise unholy drives behind The Indescribable Wow, her first release on the in-retrospect-mildly-ironic Virgin label. At a time when those of us with unslaked appetites for well-crafted Beatlesque pop were having to suck it up and try to get into rap or grunge, The Indescribable Wow appeared like a shimmering beacon of joy. This track's music is as perky and sunny as the beginning of a summertime fling, while Phillips's yearning voice and cutting lyrics have the sad truthfulness of the ending of a summertime fling.