Should I have to preface this with an explanation of what ‘skinhead’ means? I think that, if you’re over here listening to Bad Manners, you probably don’t need it. Let’s just say that it’s a long and convoluted story how a music- and fashion- oriented youth movement that began in the 60’s has somehow come to be seen as semi-synonymous with neo-Nazism. For casual fans of ska music and checker-print suspenders, those kinds of associations are a real detraction; for others, looking malevolent is part of the appeal. By the time Bad Manners released Fat Sound in 1992, the movement had already been well taken away from kids who just wanna skank and show off their skulls, well taken over by the sort of people who have deeply held political convictions and the broken bottles to back them up with. This does, however, hark back to more innocent times when being a skin just meant being a working-class young lout with romance and pints on your mind.
If you missed David Byrne’s Uh-Oh phase, you need to go back and rediscover it. Because first of all, with that iconic cover art, it’s downright odd that every sentient person in the country didn’t run out and buy a copy. Seriously, why wouldn’t you instantly want that? Second of all, David Byrne probably doesn’t get enough credit for always being on the cuttingest of the cutting edge. He saw the future of technology coming and he made it do his bidding. Not just in his trailblazing use of electronic sampling and the exotic rhythms of African and Latin music. Witness his immersion in the photo-editing technology that now comes pre-loaded on every personal device. Seriously, check out that animation. That was some very edgy shit in 1992. Mindblowing.
Ten years ago, I’d never heard of the band Pulp. This despite their heyday being the early 90’s, and their peculiarly British tone of deadpan and melodramatic being right in my personal wheelhouse. Well, live and learn and discover cool new things decades after everyone else has. Anyhow, in my defense, this brand of stylized pop never exactly swept the United States, no matter how much Union Jack prints may have trended. Irony and intelligence are not much valued here, unfortunately. Americans like naked sex appeal coupled with phony wholesomeness. America was never going to elevate Jarvis Cocker – a walking undergraduate thesis on male sexual neuroses in stovepipe trousers – to rock superstardom. Their loss, of course.
Kate Pierson is so underrated. Yes, it’s agreed that Fred Schneider and his weirdness is what makes The B-52’s. But not all of their songs lean on weirdness so much, because all that quirkiness can sometimes come off as trying too hard to be fun, and it can lead to fun exhaustion. (Also, some people find Fred Schneider really annoying, but that I cannot abide.) Mostly though, I really like to hear a good showcase for Pierson. She’s an astounding vocalist, obviously, though weird too in her own way. You can’t say that she often gets lost in the mix, because it’s hard to mix down a voice like that, but she deserves to fly solo sometimes too. This is probably the best sustained Pierson solo performance in the band’s career, and incidentally or not, it’s from the one album where Cindy Wilson was on hiatus.
It’s a great day for jazz. The weather is beautiful and we all survived the weekend. So sit back and drink some tea and unwind for a minute. Let Shirley Horn take you away. I really need to listen to more jazz music, and more Shirley Horn in particular. Her voice is like silk and honey and whatever else delicious sexy things that poets would use to describe a sexy delicious voice. It’s a song to crawl into bed with, whether to sink into a fever sleep or something more productive.
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.
Ohh, naughty! Talking Heads aren’t exactly notorious for their double entendres. In fact, David Byrne is one of the few songwriters out there for whom sex isn’t a favorite topic. He much prefers buildings and food. So you hardly expect Talking Heads to come out with a splashy summer song. Because singing about how much sexy fun summer is, is a pretty vapid topic. But this is the Talking Heads’ big sexy summer anthem, and it isn’t even dripping with irony. It’s dripping sweet sexy Popsicle juice. Ok, there may be some irony in play here, but it’s earnestly fun too. Generally, Byrne’s attitude towards sexy fun can be summed up by the album title Sand in the Vaseline. But I guess nobody is entirely immune to life’s simple pleasures..