The world needs more Cibo Matto, but Cibo Matto have given sparingly to the world. They might just be the weirdest and coolest thing to happen in 1999. And 1996 and 2014, which covers each of their three albums. There may not be a huge market for a Japanese girl rapping about Star Wars and food, but it’s a thirsty one. This is exactly the kind of gleeful cross-cultural experimentation that keeps the music world fresh and alive. It may not have been mainstream in its time, but it’s the kind of thing that trickles up from the cool kids to the masses. Today we’ve come to expect everything from all over the world to come together in a celebration of pop culture references; it’s the transcontinental underground aesthetic. There shouldn’t be any lines between J-pop and hip-hop, or anything else. Also, those plastic hair clip thingies need to come back in style.
Shane MacGowan makes being a trainwreck and a sod sound appealing. Not from the looks of him, of course, but musically at least. There’s an insouciance and a shamelessness to it that makes you want to say “to hell with it all” and go drown yourself in a bottle. That kind of shameless joie de vivre in the face of disaster is a quality we associate with the Irish in general, which, as broad cultural stereotypes go, is not too terrible. I can think of other cultures whose stereotypical main characteristic is alcoholism, who aren’t seen as happy and lovable. Of course, there’s not much happy and lovable about a guy like Shane MacGowan either. Drinking until your teeth fall out of your skull isn’t cute, but I suppose that it does lend a certain dance-with-the-devil street cred.
I am in no way nostalgic for the cultural landscape of 1994, but I understand that some of you may be. This should take you there. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that Weezer is one of those groups that never outlived their legacy as a 90’s band. I know they still make records and such, but nobody thinks they’ve been consistently relevant for all these years. Or, I don’t know, maybe the aging hipsters of my childhood still do think that. I mean, I only listen to this band for the hits. I can say, though, that there’s definitely a generational divide between me, who was 11 years old in 1994, and older kids who actually grew up wearing flannel and have serious debates about which album reduntantly titled Weezer is the most important one.
“Love so deep, kills you in your sleep”
David Byrne isn’t talking about his relationship with the other members of Talking Heads, that’s for sure. This isn’t even really a proper “Talking Heads” song, though it’s on the books as their final release. It’s an old demo from the Naked sessions that David Byrne slapped some lyrics on for a movie soundtrack. So, basically, a David Byrne song, as all Talking Heads songs are basically just David Byrne songs anyway, because in a band spearheaded by such a strong personality the pretense of creative equality kind of falls apart (and then the band itself falls apart). That explains why Byrne is the only one who appears in the video. Byrne’s own explanation for the song is pretty interesting: “I wrote the words later for the opening scene of Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World. The movie is supposed to take place in the year 2000, so I spent a lot of time trying to image music of the near future: post-rock sludge with lyrics sponsored by Coke and Pepsi? Music created by machines with human shouts of agony and betrayal thrown in? Faux Appalachian ballads, the anti-tech wave? The same sounds and licks from the 60s and 70s regurgitated yet again by a new generation of samplers? The Milli Vanilli revival? Rappin’ politicos… sell your soul to the beat, y’all? Well, it was daunting… so I figured, hell with it, I’d imagine Talking Heads doing a reunion LP in the year 2000, and them sounding just like they used to.” Everything he imagined except the Milli Vanilli comeback has come true with a vengeance and it’s the phrase “Talking Heads reunion” that sounds like outlandish gibberish.
This Fatboy Slim song sounds like it should be on the soundtrack of one of those horror movies that lean heavily on gratuitous digital filters and aggressive jump cuts for their scares, and as such it’s not really much of a song. However, I did think that some of you might enjoy watching the video, which juxtaposes footage of Californians frolicking in the sun with depressing images of life in the Soviet Union. That was a very relevant and timely point to have made in 1996, when Norman Cook released his debut album. Yes, Americans are greasy, scantily clad and fond of gaudy tattoos, while Russia is full of snow and sad people. Accurate. Some of us feel the warm tingle of fond nostalgia when we see a Zhiguli puttering through the slush.
You can’t sanctify Mick Jagger, but you can give him a knighthood. The Rolling Stones have made an uneasy truce between their anti-establishment beginnings and their current position in the high echelons of society. Keith Richards would really rather still be pissing on gas station walls, but he’s yoked into this demented aristocracy too. The Stones don’t stand for anything except themselves, and they never really have, even at their most controversial. They’ve found that it’s not even really necessary to change and stay relevant when what you represent is hedonism. Fans want the glamour of louche living, unabashed decadence, expensive squalor, endlessly unsatisfied appetites.
Throwback to 1994, when David Byrne proved that you could totally grow out your hair as a middle aged man and still be impeccably cool (but only if you are David Byrne.) That was a good year and a good look for David Byrne and incidentally David Byrne is probably my favorite solo David Byrne album. (I’m excited for his new album but haven’t listened to it yet because iTunes is bullshit and the Pirate Bay is down again.) This song is actually not very sad, but it celebrates sadness. It is saying you should love and celebrate you sadness because it’s a natural part of life, which is a comforting thought, clinical depression aside.