Let’s pretend we’re in Antarctica

I have to admit that I was rather tempted to simply post a review on some album or something and not comment on my radio silence during the last month at all. But then I thought, where is the fun in that? And I had absolutely nothing in the pipe line beyond a few vaguely scribbled ideas… so here we are then.

There are many excuses I could give for this lapse in activity. Insanity at work in the form of an archival collection more complicated than initially expected is a great excuse and has the advantage of being fairly accurate. Exploring the possibility of some new opportunities could be another. And of course we can’t forget that old stand-by: sickness. I had a really pesky cough that stuck around long enough to evolve into a full-fledged, anti-biotic-resistant case of bronchitis, which plagued me for the better part of two months (news flash kids: inhalers suck when you can’t stop coughing at 3am). That might have had something to do with it. And then there is the possibility that when an old friend from back in the day flies 2/3 of the way across the country just to see little old me, I could be a bit distracted while in hostess mode. And I won’t even dignify that unspoken question on your lips that concerns that most feared of all conditions for a blogger (*cough* writer’s block *cough*) with anything more than snide derision… and a perhaps a barely perceptible nod. I don’t really know what to tell you, my dear readers. The plain truth is that the rest of life ganged up on me. You can pick whichever excuse you like and we’ll all just go on about our business.

(However, I have to say that I do find it rather funny that my readership stats always seem to climb when I take an unscheduled hiatus. My hits last month were through the roof, but I think that has to do with my brilliant/ill-advised choice to use song lyrics as entry titles more than anything else… But if anyone out there is really interested, thank you for your support. Hopefully some of you brought in by song references to Walk the Moon are sticking around to read more.)

But while we’re on the subject of being a hermit and avoiding your (albeit completely voluntary and optional) responsibilities, I can think of no greater or more applicable song than Of Montreal’s Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games. This intriguing –and apparently quite prolific–band that hails from Athens, Georgia, is probably best known for their refusal to be tied down. With 11 albums released since 1997, these guys have roved through countless genres from R&B and funk, to twee pop (I am not kidding, that is an actual music genre), to indie rock and neo-psychedelia, all the way through vaudeville and music hall. Evidently they are part of what is known as the Elephant 6 Recording Company, which is a collective of American musicians who embrace the experimental side of music (notably among them is another one of my favorites: the Apples in Stereo). And from what I have heard so far, this troupe must surely feel at home there.

But this is by far my favorite song from these musical chameleons–in fact it is my ringtone for anonymous callers because it amuses me that much. With Kevin Barnes’ eccentric lyrics and subtle delivery, the most amusingly buoyant bass line, and a certain child-like air, this song is sure to please. And if you know me at all, you know that I love the juxtaposition of upbeat melodies and pessimistic lyrics. In this case the result falls somewhere between a person with acute agoraphobia trying to make the best of a bad situation and a pair of kids playing hide-and-seek in a big empty house. It is truly endearing in its dysfunction.

Normally I would limit myself to one video, but today I just can’t resist so you are getting a two-fer. First up is the official video, which is all sunshine, lollipops, and demented little cartoon animals cheerfully dismantling themselves in candy-colored sprays of blood. It is like someone wanted to animate a really, really happy acid trip… in Japan. The first time I saw this video, it actually took me a minute before I fully comprehended what was going on. Amazingly, it doesn’t come off as gory, so no worries if you have a weak stomach.

Wraith Pinned to the Mist And Other Games – Official Video

And because it made me laugh, as well as for being a pretty impressive exercise in creativity, the second video is a performance from Washington University’s The Stereotypes. A quirky and suitable fit for this song, this all-male a capella group–that sounds like the peculiar lovechild of Rockapella and an enlarged barbershop quartet–found a way to remain true to the original song while undeniably making it their own. Seriously folks, you have got to check this one out. Enjoy!

Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games – The Stereotypes

Why don’t you make like a tree and leave (NSFW)

Tonight’s title probably sounds a little cryptic, but it will all make sense soon (plus, it made me chuckle). Honestly, I had to really stretch for a title this time, but thankfully Biff from the Back to the Future trilogy saved the day again (you’d be surprised how often that happens). I promise that this is not another one of my crackpot theories about music. (Really! I mean it!) What I wish to speak to you about in this week’s little lecture is well… how can I put this delicately? My subject is songs that lyrically tell someone to take a long walk off a short pier, but with a great beat you can dance to. In short, the cheerful fuck-off song (well… so much for putting it delicately). There is a real plethora of songs out there that fit this bill. Death metal has by no means cornered the pissed-off music market. Pop, rock, and even punk are chock full of amazing songs that can inspire bouncing around in your socks in the living room or dancing in your chair at work (I, of course, would never ever do anything so undignified). Sometimes when listening to this type of song you can be having such a great time that you forget how serious or angry or jaded the lyrics really are. The joyful energy of the music can have a masking effect, shielding the listener from the sometimes blunt anguish of the singer. But I find that the combination of lyrics and music often intensifies the experience and can be a great way to work off the negative vibes that accumulate throughout the day. And I’ve assembled a short list of examples here. Feeling stressed? Want to tell someone to go suck on a lemon? Well then let’s get started!

My first example is a no-brainer: 1982’s Goodbye to You by Scandal, a New York-based pop and rock band fronted by Patty Smyth in the early 1980s. ’80s pop is one of my biggest guilty pleasures (I’ll admit it) and this song makes me incredibly giddy whenever it comes on. With its great guitar riffs, manic electric keyboard solo, and Smyth’s smoldering delivery about a love that has sickened, it easily earns it’s place on this list. I’ll warn you though that the video is a little odd. Either someone didn’t quite master their lip-syncing skills or the video producer didn’t bother to match up the recording with the performance. It’s so close, but just enough off that there is almost an uncanny valley effect. Also, whoever thought random freeze-frame close-ups of the band members’ faces was a good idea probably had been smoking something that day. Oh well, here it is in all its slightly unsettling glory:

Next on the list is a song that might seem a little far-fetched at first, but bear with me. I speak of none other than Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 classic Go Your Own Way. True, it lacks the pure pop joy of Scandal, but this song more than earns its place here. The driving beat, the vocal harmonies on the chorus, the amazing bass lines of John McVie, and the plaintive voice of Lindsay Buckingham all add to the energy of the song and build something greater than the sum of its parts. Need to work off some steam really quickly? Take a power walk with this one in your headphones and you’ll be beat by the time the last guitar wail fades. I guarantee it! The lyrics are almost shocking when you stop and analyze them–essentially calling Stevie Nicks out on the carpet and branding her as an ungrateful slut! But the rocking tenor of the song softens the blow to the point that you walk away thinking only, “Wow. That relationship was a bit of a mess, wasn’t it?” It took me years (and a Fleetwood Mac Behind the Music special) to finally catch the true meaning of what he was saying. This time I’ve procured for you a video clip from their 1997 MTV televised reunion, responsible for generating a whole new chapter in the band’s lengthy collective career. As a bonus, you get to chuckle at the antics of drummer Mic Fleetwood. (By the way, I love Nicks and think that Buckingham probably could have handled the break-up better… certainly, he could have done it more discreetly.)

The third example in my little presentation is going to be really obvious. If you are compiling a non-soul crushing soundtrack for telling someone to drop dead, you would be horribly remiss to leave out Cee Lo Green. Let’s face it, his 2010 hit would make this list on the title alone. With a name like Fuck You he’s not exactly beating around the bush, now is he? And this song (and the accompanying video) have so much going on that they could easily merit their very own blog entry. Green is an amazing artist in his own right, but he has this great talent for imitating other singers. And in this song he is channeling Stevie Wonder like you would not believe. He even has a bunch of back-up singers who immediately put me in mind of The Pips (as in Gladys and). In the video we follow the growing pains of young Green, played by actors who do a kick-ass job lip-syncing, as he tries and ultimately fails in his attempts to win the girl of his dreams. It’s highly entertaining and is one of those videos that will give you a major case of the warm fuzzies–at least that’s what happens to me. I don’t know how you could have avoided seeing this video some time in the last year or so, but just in case here’s the uncensored version (NSFW!):

My last offering tonight is a song called Lemonade by Tsunami Bomb, a lesser know punk band from the Bay Area who broke up in 2005. The song was released in 2001, but I first discovered this band around 2002 or 2003 through a now infamous file sharing program called KaZaA (yes the spelling is accurate). Around that time I was seriously craving harder rocking bands that actually featured a female singer, but in those days your choices were either Christina Aguilera or Sarah McLachlan. Nothing particularly wrong with either choice or the genres they represent, but being a huge punk-rock fan I wanted something edgier. And the beauty of music sharing, although obviously illegal, was that you could expose yourself to music you often couldn’t find elsewhere. Tsunami Bomb didn’t always stick to strictly punk, often ranging along both the softer and heavier ends of the spectrum. But this song runs right down the middle. It is raucous and raw with exaggerated drums, the best bass line ever, and lead singer Emily Whitehurst’s surprisingly potty mouth lyrics. Even after all these years–and a couple cart loads of baggage connecting the song to someone I used to know–this song still hits a satisfying chord inside me. My list could never be complete if I left it out. (Sorry for the Powerpoint slide show for a video, but they never made an official video for this one and good live performances on YouTube are apparently in short supply.)

This is just 4 songs and I’m willing to bet that it is just the tip of the iceberg. What’s your favorite cheerful fuck-off song?