So um, we got asked by the incredibly awesome new music news site, Web In Front to put together a couple of mixes for them to feature as Podcasts. I opted to create a mix of the types of songs/bands that I tend to play when we are out spinning at a rock show, squaregirl kristen has opted to put together a list of bands that played our showcases at the Scene Bar/bands that are playing for us in the future. From what I've heard of hers so far, it's going to be excellent. I can't wait for Friday to be here so that I can download it.
I also kind of wanted to do a brief explanation of each song that I picked for my podcast mix, and knowing that would be way too much to send over to the Web in Front page, I've decided to do it here. Because I can.
This is a wildly self indulgent move on my part, so if you just want to download some fun pop songs, and not deal with the back story, please head directly over here and disregard what is written on the rest of this post.
If you're like me however, and you love to get caught up in the minutiae of why other people love what exactly it is that they love, well, read on!
By the way, it should be noted that we are beyond flattered by the nice things that Web in Front said about us. We adore them and everything that they are doing so the fact that they regard us at all (let alone so apparently highly) is kind of amazing.
The Troggs - "With a Girl Like You"
Kristen has an amazing selection of garage and soul. Often when we're DJ - ing together it's slightly challenging for me to get from that into my girl group, and indiepop stuff. Needless to say I play this song a lot. It's an excellent garage track, but it also has enough classic pop elements to transition really nicely into a variety of other types of songs. I also love it when a writer can create a complete story, and have it take place within a single moment. This song does that. There is all of this incredibly involved obsessing, and by the end of the song you realize that everything the narrator has been singing about has just taken place withing (gasp) the span of a single dance, one pop song. Genius.
The Chiffons - "He's So Fine"
I'm a silly girl, and cited this as the Crystals on the tracklist for Web in Front, I was actually going back and forth between this track and The Crystals Da Doo Ron Ron, and the Ronettes "Be My Baby" all of which are on the Quadrophenia soundtrack, all of which are fabulous girl group songs. I think I really had the Crystals on the brain at the time of typing up the list. I guess "He's So Fine" won out at the last minute because it seemed to follow "With a Girl Like You," slightly better, pacing wise. Though most girl groups tended to be the product of the minds of male producers, and the lyrics often hardly represented a female empowerment theme. Incidentally one of the most disturbing examples actually came from the Crystals with the (ahem) Phil Spector penned "He Hit Me and it Felt Like a Kiss." Regardless this still ushered in an era where girls were beginning to headline shows, and sometimes play their own instruments, and deliver songs with such an excellent level of sassiness to heighten the pure pop enjoyment that was definitely a step in the right direction. In fact the hugely under appreciated Veleveletts actually did help to get the female empowerment lyric ball rolling with songs like "Needle in a Haystack," example lyric "Get yourself on the right track cause finding a good man, girls, is like finding a needle in a haystack." Even better was "I'm the exception to the Rule," with lines like "So it's useless for you to try and change me, rearrange me, baby because I won't give in." Even on a song like, "He Was Really Saying Something," our narrator becomes impressed with the boy that is trying to woo her not simply due to the way he looks, but because of the things he says to her though she maintains her cool unaffected exterior the entire time. Gosh, it's really starting to sound like I should have put the Velvelettes on this mix, and I probably should have. I'll forever stand by the giddiness inducing pop perfection of the Chiffons though.
Heavenly - "Our Love is Heavenly"
Post girl groups, post feminist movement, post punk, post etc. there was Heavenly. They certainly weren't the first band to apply the particular pop sensibility of the girl group sound to songs that were more punk rock in spirit and fuck around with gender roles. Most of Heavenly had previously comprised Talulah Gosh after all, but even before that the Smiths, Orange Juice, and the Pastels (amongst others) were all there combing these (and various other elements) to a somewhat similar effect. Heavenly just happened to come along and do it (arguably) better than almost anyone else, with an exceedingly clever girl front and center the entire time. Very few people can pull off a nonchalant kiss-off song quite like Amelia Fletcher, and this one might just be the ultimate example. Listen to how she coyly grins her way through lines like "Yes it's true, got a new boy who loves me, I love him too, and our love is heavenly," and "So don't cry honey you'll get over this (though it will take at least a day) after a time you will be feeling fine, and you'll be glad I walked away." Coupled with the breezy, bouncy pop melody that backs it, I think that it's nearly impossible to hear this song and not wish to be just like her.
Orange Juice - "Rip It Up"
I seem to be on a mission to see exactly how many times it will take for me to play this song at a club, or put it on a mix, or a playlist, or whatever before I get sick of it. The answer seems to be that I will never get sick of this song, ever. There's the bouncy slightly reggae influenced, definitely funky melody that provides the background to Edwyn Collins' wry lyrics, and wry-er vocal delivery. The long sax solo in the middle is downright polarizing (I happen to love it,) and this song also happens to contain one of my favorite musical traditions of pop songs referencing other pop songs. The chorus of the Buzzcocks' "Boredom is included as part of the bridge to this song, but instead of following the line "You know the scene is very humdrum with the original's rallying cry of "Boooredom, Boooreduuum, Boredom!" Collins slyly follows it up with, "And my favorite song's entitled Boredom." This will never ever fail to bring a giant grin to my face. I suppose ultimately it is impossible to become sick of "Rip it Up," because "Rip it Up" is perfect. How do you become tired of something that you can find no fault with?
The Spinners - "Rubberband Man"
I love the Spinners, such an enjoyable combination of the best pop elements with honest to goodness soul. All of their hits were hits for good reason you know? Though, when one thinks of the Spinners, even within the context of the hits, one's mind will probably go to a ballad like "I'll be Around." "Rubberband Man" is just pure, funky pop goodness though, and the vocal improvs near the end provide some of the most unintentionally hilarious (in the best possible way) one liners that you are likely to hear anywhere.
The Emotions - "Best of My Love"
Try to listen to this song without a giant smile on your face, just try.
The KLF - "Kylie Said to Jason"
Fascinating band, the KLF (Kopyright Liberation Front) they wrote a manual that served as a guide to creating number one singles, closed out an unexpectedly jarring award show performance by shooting at the crowd with blanks, then vowed to retire from the music industry until there was world peace, then they deleted their entire back catalouge to prove that this wasn't a stunt to sell more records, then they returned to the music industry under a different names first to release a single in Israel only to honor the treaty between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, a single for charity, and later a single on Mute Records called "***K the Millenium" credited to the artist 2K. Oh and they allegedly nailed one million pounds to a board and burned it to make an artistic statement. Apparently the single that made my playlist, "Kylie Said to Jason" was a bit of a flop so they directed their attention at that time to ambient music. But "Kylie Said to Jason" is campy, highly addictive, disco fun. I love it. It should also be noted that squareboy Chris has read the manual, and I am desparately trying to get him to write something about it for this site. Anyone that wants to join me in this petition, please leave your request in the coments section below!
Altered Images - "Bring Me Closer"
Yep, this is the full on disco segment of the program. Altered Images started as a much darker band (they had a single called "Dead Pop Stars") they passed through a phase of notable length that was definitely influential to the indiepop world, and then somehow ended up here. Highly sophisticated disco/dance pop. Not nearly as giddy and charming as say "I Could Be Happy," but I still adore this song and I cannot listen to it without wanting to dance whether it's appropriate to the situation that I'm in at the moment or not.
Saint Etienne - "Hug My Soul"
Music nerds pretty much always make fantastic records and/or singles. Often times, however, because the artists in question tend to know so much about the history of various aspects of the history of pop music (especially the obscure ones) the records that they make tend to be varying degrees of challenging. The former rock journalists that comprised Saint Etienne instead chose to focus all of this knowledge into a new blend of music that's every bit as enjoyable as the 60s pop, disco, and club music that inspired it. This song showed up on their last full length album Tiger Bay. I can't believe that this song is not a giant hit, or at the very least, I can't believe that it's not a song that one doesn't hear every single time one goes to an pop song based dance night.
The Bridal Shop - "Violation"
This song deserves to be played at more dance nights too, but it's perhaps still a bit new. I can only hope that more people will catch on to this eventually. I still maintain everything that I wrote about it a few weeks ago, except somehow in that time I've become more addicted to this small Swedish dance/indiepop masterpiece. How did they manage to record a song that is this good? How?
Felt - "Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow"
This song is really just too smart, AND too catchy for words. Not the most obvious combination for a pop song, but when it happens it's simply amazing. I still don't know how to write about, and disect Felt properly so I'll not try. Just listen to this one, it speaks (sings?) for itself.
Black Tambourine - "Throw Aggi Off the Bridge"
Almost the complete opposite to my feelings for Felt, I could probably say WAY too much about Black Tambourine, as all ten of their Complete Recordings are amongst my favorite songs of all time. From the jittery swagger of "For Ex-Lovers Only" (good enough to inspire a band to name themselves after it,) to the achingly slow (almost) build on the heartbreaker "Black Car," to my personal favorite the heavily doo-wop inspired "Drown" all of these songs are fuzzy pop perfection. "Throw Aggi Off the Bridge" is probably their most recognizable track, and the one that has the most suitable rhythm for dancing. "We Can't be Friends" fits the dancing criteria as well, but it's so short so one would have to be really on top of things to play it at a club night. Plus, "Throw Aggi Off the Bridge" has that device that we all hold so near and dear (don't we?) of pop songs that reference other pop songs or bands. Even if it is wishing a tragic fate to an artist so near and dear to so many. The fact that the girl who sang this song falls into that particular category (this interview that she did with BOTH Stephen and Aggi is a terribly fun read) somehow manages to turn it into a harmless inside joke. One that has a great beat, that you can dance to.
My Bloody Valentine - "Paint A Rainbow"
Gosh, where do I even begin with with this one? Until a week ago when I found a copy of the "Sunny Sundae Smile" 7" (of which this is the B-side) tale of My Bloody Valentine's excellent fuzzy jangle pop past sounded like something of a myth to me. All it takes is one listen of this, however, to make one a downright believer in such a thing, and to leave one completely awestruck I might add. Both sides of the single in question are probably the most exciting things going on in my musical world these days.
The Pains Of Being Pure at Heart - "The Orchard of My Eye"
O.k. so it wasn't much of a stretch of the imagination to follow "Paint a Rainbow" with anything from the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. The band in fact cites that song specifically as an influence. When a contemporary band is doing something that sounds SO good, and SO exciting though does it really matter if it falls into the category of a clever update on something that was recorded 20 years ago that not nearly enough people paid attention to the first time around? I maintain that there are far less exciting things that are being updated far less cleverly than this so I will happily accept anything that the Pains of Being Pure at Heart are willing to offer. Speaking of which, I have news on that front that should find its way to these parts very soon.
The Pastels - "Automatically Yours"
Probably my favorite song, from probably my favorite album from one of my favorite bands. So what can I say about it that will do it justice? There is often so much simple offhanded brilliance in Stephen McRobbie's lyrics. Lines like, "I can't describe this feeling, the camera is my brain/I can't deny this feeling, it drives me insane" from the song that made this list are baffling to me. Very few things impress me more than writers who can take little things that might cross one's mind on any given day, and work them effectively into songs where they heighten them without overstating them. Perhaps it's because this is something that very few song writers are able to pull off. And this is just one of the myriad of things that sets the Pastels so far ahead of other bands that thought they could achieve the same effect simply by playing sloppily, and singing off key. The Pastels also had so many seemingly rich musical references to draw from, and their limitations (at the time) as actual musicians (like most of the bands that DID manage pull off this sound) were probably able to help them achieve the particular sound that they were able to achieve. Plus just listen to the bells during the chorus of this song, and see if you are able to avoid falling head over heels in love.
Nancy Sinatra - "So Long Babe"
Lee Hazelwood's ultra sharp storytelling ability plus Nancy Sinatra's ultra refined sass. There just aren't many songwriter/singer combos in pop music history better than this one.
Buddy Holly - "You're So Square (Baby, I Don't Care)
Perhaps when we have a proper dance night I'll finally be able to turn this into an an honest to goodness, night closing, signature song. Until then, well, it's just really, really fun to listen to. Is it not?