Renegade

Styx is one of those guilty pleasure bands for a lot of people, but really, how could you ever feel guilty about something that’s this much fun? You can point out that their hair is terrible and their rock opera worse, but you are missing the point. You shouldn’t take them that seriously, though the question of how seriously Styx should be taken has been asked by the members of Styx, and their internal disagreement about the answer is what led to their eventual breakup. Apparently the ones who wanted to write rock operas couldn’t stop bumping heads with the ones who just wanted to play lots of guitar solos and not think about it too hard. This was before the discord, though, when the band was, presumably, all on the same page in terms of balancing their proggy conceptual leanings with their big dumb rock band side. And frankly, it’s the fact that they did lean prog and had concept album ambitions whilst also being kind of dumb is what makes them so delightful.

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Real Good Time Together

Rarely has the promise of a good time sounded so ominous. It’s almost like a thinly veiled threat or something. If nothing else, you have to wonder what a real good time with Lou Reed would entail, and ask yourself if you’re hardy enough for it. I mean, he almost certainly knows more about beat poetry, tai-chi and motorcycles than you do, which may make for an awkward and one-sided conversation. There may also be heroin. If I had to guess, latter-day Lou Reed probably would have been a lovely companion to go get a scone and thrift store browse with. Early Lou would just as soon kill you. Both of those sound fine. Honestly, if you just asked me over to listen to Lou Reed records, I would love you forever.

Promises

Can we rescue this from soft rock radio cliche oblivion? Or have you heard this in too, too many supermarkets? Also, can we reevaluate Eric Clapton’s legacy? Nobody really thinks he’s God anymore, thankfully. That kind of hyperbole is bound to inspire backlash, and now ‘Clapton is overrated’ is the new ‘Clapton is God.’ I’d say that Clapton falls somewhere in the middle, a bit closer to the former in my opinion. I’ve always considered him a minor artist, but I know that the world thinks he’s a  major one. Though it does seem that having one great blues song and a lot of soft rock hits doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to. But maybe we can enjoy that soft rock for what it is, without spitting on it for over-familiarity.

The Promised Land

Bruce Springsteen is very relevant right now. He’s a major American artist who never tires of reminding us that the American Dream really kind of blows. The dream has been looking particularly hollow lately, and a lot of us are feeling let down and at loose ends. We feel depressed and weak, we feel like we’re driving in circles, living pointless lives with no promise of betterment. Sometimes we secretly hope that a tornado will just come and blow us all away. Yeah, the promised land sucks. But we continue to stubbornly believe in it, because most of us ain’t got nothing better to believe in.

Pretty Baby

Do only men get to push the boundaries of decency by lusting after adolescent girls? No, not if that girl is Brooke Shields. Pretty Baby, of course, is the once-controversial 1978 movie is which then 12-year-old Shields played a child prostitute turned child bride. Shields was the Lolita of the 70’s & 80’s, known for appearing in risque movies and photoshoots from a shockingly early age. Needless to say, she inspired untold numbers of statutorily illegal boners. Debbie Harry, meanwhile, made her songwriting mettle by gleefully satirizing every creepy and gross gender convention that pop music took for granted. Blondie’s first single was called Sex Offender, after all, and their catalog is full of songs about following some hapless sap’s car downtown and similar escapades. So, of course Debbie Harry had to pay winking tribute to the nubile ingenue who was the toast of the jet set and the subject of pearl-clutching outrage. I get that it’s a parody of a gross pop song, but the element of satire slightly lightens it. It’s still, if you think about it, one of the queasiest pop songs ever. Remember, Brooke Shields was 12 years old, and Deborah Harry was a grown-ass woman who would later come out as bisexual. Obviously, the two knew each other, and all things considered, a lighthearted song about being the object of desire by an older woman who most likely probably didn’t mean it was the least creepy thing Brooke Shields had to deal with. The broader social context, as usual, is gross beyond belief, because yeah, precocious teenagers exist to be sexual chum in the eyes of the world, and the best anyone can seem to do with it is wink and shrug.

Poets Problem

Ahh, the poet’s age old quandary; to do a line or not to. Heh, heh. Pretty clever. Otherwise, though, it’s kind of a sad song. There’s something inherently sad about telephone numbers that never get used, calls that are never answered. It could’ve been something great but it didn’t happen, because apathy. The poet, being too busy doing lines (in all the senses of the word), misses out on whatever it is normal happy people who answer the telephone are out doing. And, the singer being Debbie Harry, she’s probably going to go out later and follow some guy around in the supermarket. But for now, she’s not taking phone calls.

Picture This

“Picture this, a sky full of thunder/Picture this, my telephone number”

Even in the  most tender love song, Debbie Harry shows her craziness. She wants to sit and watch her man shower; she teases him for working in a garage. Those aren’t particularly weird things, but those are weird things to put in a love song. It’s a tone markedly different from the established one. It may not even be a love song, really. She wants him but she may not even like him. She certainly doesn’t look up to him, or need him. She’s a girl who sets the pace and knows what she wants. She’s the kind of a woman who walks up to men in bars, I bet. She’s the type who  throws your number away and never explains why. In short, Debbie Harry is the kind of a woman who really doesn’t care about roles and boundaries, even when she cares a lot about people.