“We’re all backseat drivers, and there’s nobody at the wheel”
Yeah, that a pretty good summation of the religious experience. (And a good example of Pat MacDonald’s observational songwriting.) Religion continues being an opiate for the masses because large numbers of people really need stringent rules for how to live their lives, but it’s just people telling people what to do, and that opens up the door for all kinds of abuse of power. When you’re in the business of telling people how to live, it’s awfully easy to benefit yourself. That happens on every level, of course, but it’s particularly sleazy when it happens with some street preacher in an Elvis suit who insists that Jesus wants you to write out a check. And people do, because people are fucking sad and gullible.
This is more military terminology all in one place than has ever been written into a pop song. Why has Sparks been the first and only band to discover the tongue-twisting wordplay delights of that particular jargon? Who knows, but it’s right up their alley. All I know is, I wouldn’t want to play scrabble with these guys. They know how to spell potentate and subterfuge, and use them in a sentence.
It’s a PSA! It’s educational, it’s a warning. It might be a satire of the particularly 80’s trend for cheesy PSA’s. It’s Timbuk 3 and it’s all of those things. Timbuk 3 is the cult 80’s band that everybody needs to know about, but nobody does. They might be remembered for having one popular hit song, which satirized the 80’s glaringly misguided sense of optimism. What makes their small output still relevant is their clever and sardonic writing. Some things are forever marked as products of their time, whether it’s bad production decisions or too-pointed cultural references, but big issues don’t change much, and the human condition changes not at all. Driving poorly, for example, is forever.
Just one more from my favorite band that nobody’s ever heard of, then I’ll lay off telling you about ThouShaltNot for a little while. This song may be more suitable for enjoying late in the night – you can play it at your next seance! I love the slow-building drama here. It’s almost like a goth power ballad, for anyone out there who still identifies as a goth. Does anybody still do that? When they’re not in high school? I don’t know, there’s probably a flaming hot goth scene right under my nose and I haven’t walked into it yet. I know there’s a club that hosts a vampire night. Let’s go to it.
ThouShaltNot is my little secret, apparently. I can’t quite recall how I discovered them (somewhere in the back alleys of the interwebs) but is certainly wasn’t through any old-school published media, and it wasn’t word of mouth. I don’t know anyone who’s heard of them. I’ve never read anything about them, not even a passing mention. Maybe they’re a figment of my imagination; it’s possible that in my fever dreams I would imagine an alt-goth post-punk band that time-traveled from the 80’s. The world’s not a fair place, as we know, and sometimes really talented people who deserve to become hugely famous – don’t.
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.
His lips are purple because he is dead. It’s a fitting love song coming from Nico, who doesn’t do love songs. Nico was nearing the end of her life, and heavily weathered by hard living. She had renounced all glamour, and her music at this point was coming someplace so deep underground it was truly frightening. Once she had paid reluctant lip service to pop appeal, but towards the end she refused to compromise her dark vision, though she was sometimes bitterly angry that no accolades or money ever came her way. She was probably insane, or at least deeply disturbed. How she succeeded in making any records at all, after she allowed her life to revolve around heroin and music industry forgot her, is remarkable. Nico didn’t exactly flourish as an underground artist, but she scraped together a career and left behind a substantial legacy that remains important, at least to a handful of people with very bleak tastes. And, as the old guard continues to drop like flies, I can’t help but think that an artist such as Nico could never come along today. Today a weirdo with a vision would have the tools to support themselves without traditional stuff like record contracts and press attention. But they would not have the tools to become that weirdo in the first place, because nobody is that isolated anymore. Nobody thinks of singing only to themselves.