Passion Pit peaked with this one. They’ll never do anything this great again. When I first heard this, I thought it was both the catchiest and the most annoying thing I’d ever heard. I hoped that the rest of Passion Pit’s work would be similarly weird and edgy. Granted, I love Passion Pit, but none of their other work ever got this weird again. Mostly it’s hooky uptempo dreampop, and great at it. But it doesn’t balance on the line of grating and compelling the way this early experiment does. I’m sure that Michael Angelakos will continue to do interesting and fun things in his career and whatnot. Maybe it’ll be weird and psychedelic, but it’ll probably be more on the pop spectrum.
Gender-flipped, radically reconstituted covers of hoary male narratives is one of my favorite subgenres. I love the idea of finding something intimate, feminine and modern in something tough and masculine from another era. Cat Power didn’t invent that idea, but she was doing it before it became trendy. She really knows how to weave her own narrative out of narratives written by people with wildly different lives and points of view. Her cover of Hank Williams’ Ramblin’ Man is a classic exercise in finding new truth in old tales. Nothing represents old-school rugged manliness like the Highwaymen: Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, outlaw country’s grand old men. The Highwaymen were formed as a reminder of what outlaw country used to be, before country music became just another bland, pandering, million-dollar pumping mainstream industry. They weren’t shy about leaning on leathery cowboy motifs, a reminder that in their day real men did really manly things, with horses and/or motorcycles, and they did it while day-drunk on whiskey-cocaine highballs. They were broadly implying that being a so-called bad guy living outside the law was some kind of moral high ground because at least they hadn’t sold their souls working for the man or whatever. In practice it just meant a lot of drunk driving, neglected families and money woes, but it’s a nice all-American fantasy of rugged individualism. Those guys probably intended riding off on a silver stallion as a metaphor for refusing to go to rehab (real men don’t go to rehab, real men die of cirrhosis like God intended!) but what does it mean for a woman living in today-times? Obviously it’s still a narrative of personal liberation, of freeing oneself from the woes of mundane life and zooming off, one way or another, into a lonelier, grubbier, but more self-actualized life. Which honestly is still the same message, delivered in sexier tones. Wherever you personal silver stallion takes you, saddle up and ride it as far is it goes.
This is white girl blues at its best, and I admit that I’m feeling it pretty hard. A white girl may not have a real good reason for having the blues, and her depth of experience may be as thin as her ankles, but goddamn it, she’s got the blues anyway. And if she’s Duffy, she going to sing her heart out about it. What is white girl blues, anyway? Does your man make you feel mildly insecure? Do you suspect that the role you’re playing in his life might be a little bit problematic? Are you second-guessing yourself about why, deep down inside, you’ve allowed yourself to be placed in such a problematic position in the first place? If you answered yes, you got the white girl blues. White girl blues is when you don’t actually have any real problems, and you know that you don’t really have any real problems, but you feel like shit anyway. You feel like garbage and you hate your life; and you feel like you’re somehow broken inside in ways you can’t quite articulate; and you feel lonely and unloved like some kind of a goddamned torch singer from the fifties; and you would like to fall in love and be swept away but you’re not about to compromise your principles in order to make that possible, so thank you very much.
Changing gears to an entirely different mood. Ladytron certainly creates a sustained atmosphere, and it’s a long way from chilling at the seaside. It’s sleek, hypnotic, distinctly continental, reminiscent of long nights specked with glitter and cocaine. If dancing and twitching all night in a faded-velvet upholstered nightclub is your happy place, well then, welcome to your happy place. Ladytron takes their cues straight from the source: European glam-rock, of course. It’s music that reflects a precise moment of inspiration. Original story: the dissident art kid who buys a Roxy Music album on the black market in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Will the Raconteurs ever record together again? It looks like the answer is no. Because Jack White forms and unforms bands the way some people cycle in and out of relationships. No sooner has one project off the ground, it’s on to the next one. Jack White is a promiscuous collaborator, and that’s what’s made his career so interesting. I haven’t checked out his latest solo record yet, but I’m excited about it. I’ve been told it’s an entirely new direction. In the meantime, we can look back on past triumphs, like the two Raconteurs albums. They’re as solid as they day they were pressed.
The Human League never covered any Del Shannon songs. If they had, it might have sounded something like this. This is also, technically, not a cover of Del Shannon’s famous hit; somehow no one has noticed that it has the same hook and Ladytron has been allowed to claim sole songwriting credit. Call it an homage, I guess. But it does make me want to hear Ladytron cover some early-60’s pop songs. I also want to hear Ladytron do a collaboration with Phil Oakey, because if anybody can replicate the sound of Dare for the new millennium it’s Ladytron. Or, you know, I just want Ladytron to make another album. Which they’ve been promising to do, but haven’t done. I would like it to be a 1960’s pop cover album featuring Phil Oakey, but I’ll take whatever they want to give me.
Remember 2008? Duffy was the singing sensation of the year. She got all kinds of glowing press accolades, including some embarrassing honorifics like “the new Dusty Springfield” or ” a more wholesome Winehouse.” Well, that was ten years ago and we haven’t heard a peep from Duffy since 2010. Apparently she didn’t take to fame the way some people do. She wanted to write songs and sing them, not to have every part of herself be turned into a commodity. It’s unfortunate that to succeed as an artist in this day and age, you have to sell a lot more than just your work; you have to be a brand from your eyelashes to your toenails, and not everybody wants to be looked at that intensely. Duffy, for her part, had the gumption to say ‘fuck this’ and just walk away, unlike Winehouse, who also just wanted to write songs and sing them. At least we got Rockferry, which is still marvelous ten years later, and who knows, maybe she’ll have something more to say when she’s lived more life.