How far into this song can you get before you realize it’s not what it sounds like? I mean, it is what it sounds like; it’s an old school country song with a lot of twang. But it’s also tongue-in-cheek in a way almost no old school country songs have ever been. Earnestness has always been the bane of country music; it’s music to cry in your beer to, gerd-dern it, and fans take their beer-cryin’ pretty seriously. What they genre really needed was a little touch of Weener in the night. So, if you like the musicianship of classic country, but hate the weepy cowboy and hard luck lady stereotypes, saddle up for Ween’s 12 Golden Country Greats.
Let’s tell the future. The more you enumerate the many ways people have tried, the more you’re reminded that it can’t be done. That makes this a very existential song in its own mild way. It’s existential because it’s not existential. Suzanne Vega doesn’t muse on what the future might be, or why anyone would be looking for it; she just enumerates the many ways of divination. Divination is, of course, blind faith and a desperate desire to impose order upon chaos. We all know, deep down inside, that we’ll never know the future – there’s no such thing as the future. But we desperately want some good news about it anyway.
This Fatboy Slim video won awards. Watch it; it’s hilarious and incredibly well made. And when I say ‘well made’ I mean made to look so authentically poorly made that it’s on the level of genius. Doesn’t it bring back to mind every overly-enthusiastic but underly-gifted community center or church group creative leader you’ve ever crossed paths with? Those Waiting for Guffman-type small town auteurs who believe in the elevating power of art with so much fervor, and don’t let lack of skills stand in the way of their dreams. You guys – we salute you! The Torrance Community Dance Group is fictional, I hate to inform you, and the dancing man with bad ‘stache is actually acclaimed film director Spike Jonze. But the horrified onlookers are real. And the guerrilla spirit of community theater is 100% real and alive.
It’s hard to imagine today, but back in the 90’s most people didn’t know very much about BDSM culture. Back then, you see, there still existed barriers between the mainstream and the underground. There were these things called ‘subcultures’ that most folks had no access to or way of knowing about, except by word of mouth. If you weren’t lucky enough to live in a place with an underground or know people who knew people, you could go your entire life blissfully unaware being someone’s voluntary sex slave was a lifestyle option. Today, of course, being a ‘sub’, a ‘little’ or even a ‘pup’ is a lifestyle choice like any other and there’s a thriving community of like minded people ready to cater to you at your fingertips. So the antics of Belgian industrial music collective Lords of Acid may not strike your jaded eyes as shocking. They exist to make music for the kind of nightclubs that have no sign on the door, and to proselytize about the joys of the kinky life. Their lurid aesthetic and explicit lyrics made them notorious, if only in their own narrow corner of the club music scene. The whiff of transgression may have faded somewhat since the 90’s, but that just means that their music has cycled around to being perfectly timely again. We’re all about being sex-positive and we’re anti-kink-shaming here. We need music that articulates those beliefs in the most explicit way possible.
Unlike most songs that were iconic of their times, this does not sound dated, despite very nearly pushing 20. That’s because Moby’s influence is still unabated. There were many musical trends in the 90’s, and while nu-metal and boy band pop are remembered as questionable novelties, electronica has grown into one of our most predominant genres. It’s no longer a niche within the culture. It is the culture. Nerds programming songs on their laptops rule the world now, and while purists (aka old people and pretentious adolescents) may cry that that’s not real musicianship, artists like Moby prove that a nerd with a laptop can become a significant cultural figure with an enduring body of work. Of course, that’s something pioneers like Brian Eno and Kraftwerk could have told you decades ago.
If you’re old enough, you might remember this from the summer of ’96, when Nada Surf was a band that was popular. Or you may not. I don’t remember jackshit from the summer of ’96. I was 13 and still cared a lot about my Barbies. I was in no way, shape or form concerned with cultivating teenage charm and popularity, so even if I did hear this song I certainly wouldn’t have understood or related to it. I get it now, though, and it’s actually timelessly good advice. You should, by all means, wash your hair at least once every two weeks. Also, having your own car and your shit together makes you a catch, in or out of high school. And don’t worry too much about going steady, because every boy in the whole wide world could potentially be yours. So, yeah, words to live by, even if they were delivered with some degree of irony.
Well, at least one good thing has come from having my iPod stolen – I’m discovering new music on the radio again. (Thank you, KUTX.) And when I mean I’ve discovered new music, I mean I’ve discovered artists I should have been down with all along. I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of R.L. Burnside; his music has been featured in movies like Black Snake Moan and on The Sopranos, just to name the most mainstream pop cultural highlight in a decade-spanning career. Of course, I’m hardly an expert on blues music, and Burnside spent most of his long life toiling away in obscurity. Burnside was born in 1926 and began playing as a teenager, but for most of his life supported himself doing menial labor, and didn’t begin to gain recognition until the 1990’s; by the time his music began to gain real popularity in the 2000’s he was an old man in declining health. He died in 2005. Burnside recorded his first albums in the 80’s and despite his age, he could be described as a modern day blues innovator. His music doesn’t sound like classic blues music; it’s heavier, it’s faster, it’s post rock blues music. It incorporates the speed, aggression and attitude of rock and roll; it sounds modern because it is modern.