Put the Book Back on the Shelf/Songs for Children

Image result for belle & sebastian

I thought I’d put it out there that Belle & Sebastian have other albums besides Girls in Peacetime. I’ve been a bit obsessed with that record, but I realize that it was actually a stylistic break for them, a conscious attempt to be trendier. Their earlier work has a very different vibe, less on-trend indie pop and more bedsitter/shoegazer/soft-emo. It’s music for clever kids who grew up reading foreign literature and don’t go out much. If I have to stoop to sounds-like territory I would say this has a vibe reminiscent of The Smiths in their quieter moments (with whom Stuart Murdoch shares a love for very verbose song titles) and Donovan (with whom Stuart Murdoch shares a Scottish accent.) In other words, charmingly literate and slightly twee but with a lot of heart.

Put Out the Fire

I didn’t love Jake Bugg’s third album as much the first two, and apparently a lot of critics agreed with me. He tried to go in some new directions that really didn’t work. Not everybody is meant to rove all over the map, so to speak. At the risk of becoming that guy who just plows the same rut over and over, Bugg is best sticking at what he’s good at. Which is being a plaintive teen idol for girls who really regret that they missed out on 1962. I really regret that I missed out on 1962, and I love jailbaity young men with feelings, so I’m totally the target market here, and I find songs like this one irresistible. There may be an element of affectation in Bugg’s nostalgic aesthetic, and it would be insufferable without substance, but luckily the music is more than strong enough to balance it out. An artist this talented can allow himself all manner of affectation; in fact, the ability to carry an affectation and pull it off is what makes an artist interesting on top of just talented.

Put a Straw Under Baby

This is my kind of lullaby. It’s a little creepy and a little soothing. Brian Eno does as Brian Eno does. Eno likes to venture into the surreal, as he does on this record quite a lot. Eno’s talent for atmosphere eventually became his guiding principle, but remember that at this point he was still teasing out his aesthetic. Call it the sound of a young genius throwing everything at the wall. I would say that anything Eno throws sticks, but also everything Eno throws is not for everybody.

Put a Light On

Here’s another indie radio favorite, complete with a video that belongs in a time capsule of 2013 hipster aesthetics. The images of a dude smashing a television in an alleyway aren’t trying to say anything. They just look cool in slow motion. Totally average looking people in normal clothes look cool in slow motion. Everyday activities look cool in slow motion. Everything looks cool and nothing is meaningful. Welcome to #HipsterBait. The band in this case is Generationals. They’re two scruffy white guys from New Orleans and they’re indistinguishable from every other electro-indie pop duo in the world. They made a pretty good album. You should check them out.

Pussy

Novelty acid house, anyone? I must be an eternal 12 year old, because I find it hilarious. You may easily guess that it’s not about the joys of pet ownership, and you will be correct. Subtle nuance is not what Lords of Acid are about. They’re about whatever shock value can be gleaned from a woman rapping about her vagina. It’s really not that much shock value, even. Maybe in 1997 it was far more titillating. It’s not trying to be particularly clever, either. That doesn’t make me enjoy any less. It’s naughty and fun, obviously and there’s just something irrepressible about a sustained sex joke, especially when delivered with such matter-of-fact conviction. It’s also gay af, which is always a plus. The world needs more songs celebrating ladies who love ladies, and not just the whiny Birkenstock types.

 

Pusherman

I have never seen the film Super Fly. I’m not sure what value 70’s Blaxploitation movies still have, except as relics of a more optimistic (and far more colorfully dressed) time in black culture. I’m not sure where the line lies between celebration and exploitation, and I’m not sure where movies like Super Fly would fall, in terms of social value. Their fashion value still lives on, obviously, though mostly in problematic and cynical ways. But if there’s one thing Blaxploitation movies gave the world, it’s some great music. In fact, Super Fly means more in the history of music than it does movies. Who cares about the movie when we have Curtis Mayfield’s famous soundtrack? Mayfield successfully navigated his career from innocuous Motown crooner to politically conscious singer and songwriter, and he helped open up the horizons of what funk and soul music could be about. The Super Fly soundtrack is his best known record and Pusherman is a signature classic. You could say, as people have said about the film as well, that it glamorizes the role of the drug dealer. But it’s not the voice of a man celebrating how bomb-ass fly he is; there are plenty of musicians who make bank glamorizing the hell out of the shitty former lives couldn’t run away from fast enough, but Mayfield is not one of them. It’s the tone of a man who knows his position in life and knows how the world sees him. “I’m that nigger in the alley” he sings, knowing that somebody has to be. He’s indispensable, a pillar of the community in his own fucked-up way. But no matter how much money he makes, no matter how fly his suits are or how souped up his car, he will always a scumbag loitering in an alleyway. Even if he went straight, even if he’d never started selling in the first place, he’d still be in the same spot, in the eyes of the world. Afros and pimp suits have cycled in and out of relevance, but the message of the song doesn’t resonate any less. Somebody has to be that man in the alley.

Push Th’ Little Daisies

Like a lot of people, this was my first Ween song. Of course, I was a good full decade late to the party, because my initiation occurred sometime in the mid-2000’s, while older generations got to enjoy the weirdness way back in 1992. In fact, now that I think about it, Flies On My Dick might have actually been my first Ween song. But, you know, same album, same difference. For a lot of people, though, this was their first Ween song. It became Ween’s “big” “breakout” “hit” after being featured on an episode of Beavis and Butthead, who, apparently, played the tastemaking role of Ed Sullivan for early 90’s MTV fans. As with the inception of American Beatlemania, an entire generation remembers that indelible moment in music and television history. Or not. But it was momentous enough to ensure that Ween would never have to make tapes in their basement again, unless they felt like it. Beavis and Butthead’s original verdict was “These guys have no future.” Beavis and Butthead were wrong.