What’s the iPod/MP3 Shuffle? It’s just a way to get people to share music and foster some discussion. I started doing this on my Facebook page a while back and it’s been great seeing friends exchange comments on each others lists. Every Friday, I get out my 120 GB iPod (which has about 24,000 songs now), hit shuffle and write about the first 10 songs that come up. Sometimes the 10 songs are kind of conventional, sometimes there’s a lot of obscure stuff. So check mine out and please add your own shuffle or discuss other people’s shuffles!
Let’s give it up for the man who played Potsie on Happy Days, Anson Williams. He may not have been as cool as the Fonz, but he was the lead singer of the band he was in with Richie Cunningham and Ralph Malph. That’s worth something, isn’t it? In Anson’s honor, grab your iPod/iTunes/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up!
Translator — Sleeping Snakes (Heartbeats and Triggers): This ’80s band mixed a wide array of influences — everything from post-punk to jangle rock to even some jamming tendencies. As is often the case, the band’s debut album, which this tune is from, was its high water mark, though they put out some other good stuff. This song is definitely post-punk gone Cali, with a cool choppy guitar part and military style drumming with dollops of melody and ’60s folk-psych style vocals. Great song.
The Plod — Neo City (Velvet Tinmine): Velvet Tinmine is a swell compilation of obscure UK ’70s glam rock. Almost every song is a winner. This sounds like the compilers couldn’t get the master tape and worked off an off-center 45. Unlike a lot of the songs on this comp, The Plod aren’t so indebted to Sweet, Slade or T-Rex, as they are The Raspberries. And what’s with the band name? How about The Sloppy or The Unrehearsed or The Turgid?
The Wondermints — Tracy Hide (Cover Version)(Wonderful World Of The Wondermints): If you want to know how The Wondermints became the core of the band that has backed Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson on his tours, this original off the band’s second album would answer all questions. Written by Darian Sajanaja, the musical director for Wilson, this is simply a gorgeous song in the Beach Boys tradition with that certain melancholy yet sunshiney melody that Wilson patented, a strong lead vocal and a brilliantly inventive backing vocal arrangement. Wonderful.
The Everly Brothers — Poor Jenny (24 Golden Classics): Speaking of harmony vocals, how about Phil and Don? This is a country song that is pepped enough to be classified as an early rock ‘n’ roll song. It’s a great tale about a bad girl having a bad night. Did I mention those harmonies — wow! And lyrics like, “It seems a shame that Jenny had to go get apprehended.”
Guided By Voices — Shocker In Gloomtown (The Grand Hour):GBV was so prolific, great songs could come from anywhere — an album, a 7”, an EP, a bootleg. This was from an EP and the tune was later covered, quite well, by The Breeders. It centers on a repeated guitar riff and the nifty up-and-down rhythm, and like a lot of Guided By Voices tunes, ends a bit too soon. Always leave you wanting more.
New York Dolls — Babylon (Too Much Too Soon): Like a lot music that influenced and pre-dated punk, it’s important to put the Dolls in context. Not that their flashy variation on Stones-y rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t hold up on its own, but if you put this up against the prog rock and Laurel Canyon singer-songwriters and plodding metal bands that were touring the nation, true rockers in drag were revelatory. Of course, having a great guitarist like Johnny Thunders was a help and David Johansen was, and still is, a wonderful singer who does a theatrical take on R & B styling and gets away with it because he gets it, if that makes any sense.
The Long Blondes — Round The Hairpin (“Couples”): The second and, sadly, last Long Blondes album was not as well-received as their debut, as the band delved further into post-punk. This track exemplifies the approach, as it is premised on a droney electronic rhythm track and isn’t nearly as poppy as most of the first album. I think the chilly music is perfect for Kate Jackson’s clenched teeth delivery and the guitar fills add a little heat to the proceedings. I hope Kate is involved in a new project soon, but I’d rather this band get back together.
Bad Religion — I Want Something More (No Control): I find that most hardcore punk has dated pretty badly. This is not the case with Bad Religion, as evidenced by this song off of what may be their very best album. I think it’s because the band managed to play fast but clean. The songs don’t pound so much as they take off and soar. This is helped by Greg Graffin’s powerful vocals that are much more than pointless shouting. He puts his Ph.d to use with lots of big words, which is tough enough to do with a mid-tempo song.
The Fuzztones — As Time’s Gone (Lysergic Emanations): This NYC band was one of the better mid-‘80s garage revivalists. Led by Rudi Protrudi, the ‘tones channeled equal parts of The Seeds and The Sonics, and added a certain haunting vibe to their songs. This song is, at its heart, a hyped up folk-rock number, but add some atmospheric organ and a rhythm that is perfect for driving down a dark highway at night, and it sounds pretty cool.
Scissor Sisters — Comfortably Numb (Scissor Sisters): The Sisters’ swell debut album had been out in the UK for a while when they played their first Chicago gig at Double Door. A pal of mine was working for their U.S. label and I asked him if they’d release this discofied Pink Floyd cover as a single, and he said no. But this is the song that got the biggest reaction from a crowd that was probably 50 to 60 percent gay men. Of course, that might be why they passed on it, but this is a great cover. The guitar part from the original is stripped down, a mid-tempo dance beat is pumped up and the vocals are falsetto a la the Bee Gees. The arrangement is brilliant. It’s club ready yet the best aspects of the melody and hook are intact. Moreover, despite the dance floor aspects the emotional poignancy of the song is not messed with one bit. Awesome.