Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Songs of Questionable Merit on My iPod - or why you can't trust me

Just to prove that my critical acumen cannot be trusted, I give you four unfortunate lapses of musical taste - which is different than songs of questionable content - currently in my iPod.

The Firm - Radioactive. The problems start with the name. Who the hell names a group The Firm? Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers, that's who. They may as well as named it The Corporation, or Inc., but since they lasted only two albums, they should have gone with Ltd. It's a match you suspect was engineered in a boardroom, but as a member of Bad Company - what is it with these corporate names? - Paul was signed to Swan Song a label owned by Zep. So you figure they knew each other, even if Jimmy was just co-signing checks. Speaking of check-signing, the album this cut's from was perfunctory when it wasn't tragic. So why do I have this song on the iPod? Maybe it's the bass, which pumps out big brown beats like a tuba pounds out oompahs. I've always been a sucker for bass. Jimmy tosses off a solo that approximates a fly buzzin' in your ear. And Paul Rodgers' voice is as slick as a car salesman's forehead. It's not for the lyrics. "Don't stand too close/you might catch it" sings Paul, whose understanding of radioactivity suggests he skipped out on a science or physics class or two. And if he were radioactive, I doubt he'd be up for staying and playing with the ladies. Maybe he meant that he was radio active, as in top 40 fodder. Nice try guys. It's as dumb as a box of hammers and it's over in less than three minutes. And I enjoy it. Go figure.

Asia- Heat of the Moment. Ahh super groups. They always had super egos which proved to be their Achilles heel, or Kryptonite. They'd come together, make a killing and go supernova. Like The Firm, Asia managed only two albums, or at least its original line up did. Much like the art rock groups from which this band was spawned - ELP, King Crimson, Yes - the revolving door of musicians resembled a pinwheel in a hurricane. And they had the cute idea of giving their albums names that started and ended with the letter A. Too bad they never got around to Anathema. Look, I was young when this one hit the airwaves with a vengeance, I was hopped up on art rock. And those power chords that open the song. Wow. It's discombobulating to hear Steve Howe, John Wetton and Carl Palmer attempt an approximation of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound only to come up against Geoff Downes' wall of new wave disco synths. Almost as discombobulating as hearing Wetton singing about dancing, being a cad, discos, 1982. The chorus is a hot mess of heated tempos where you fear the guys are going to have a collective heart attack. Listening to it all these years later, it's amazing how the heat of their moment dissipated so fast. I still enjoy it, but when it's done, it leaves me with a feeling akin to mild heartburn.

Tubes - She's a Beauty. Call it reverse Kafkaism. A band that thought it was a new wave/alternative band wakes up one day to discover that it was a pop band all along. I never thought they were all that good at either, so how'd I get duped by this steaming hunk of sleaze cheese? Aided and abetted by David Foster and members of Toto, they turned out this misogynistic cock rock where pimpin' ain't easy, it's a circus. If you listen closely, you'll note that its melody is very similar to Chicago's Stay The Night, which Foster would produce the following year. Not that it probably matters much to you but this one is the better bit of snake oil. Audiences seemed to agree. Following Fee Waybill's instructions, thousands stepped up and paid their money like chumps for this highly processed piece of exploitation, but they heeded the chorus 'Don't fall in love/if you do, you'll find out she don't love you,' and helped make the next Tubes album, Love Bomb, live up to half of its title. Oh, and Steve Lukather, whose name is on this as a co-composer, probably provided the electric plank spanking that graces this wankery too. Speaking of wankery...

Osmonds - My Drum. Now this is one I don't apologize for. No less an expert than former Village Voice music editor Chuck Eddy hipped me to this in his book about the 500 best heavy metal albums. And while he uses his critiques in the book to perfect a hipster be-pop argot that approximates speaking in tongue, he was on to something. After trying to be the white-bread Jackson 5, the apple-cheeked Osmonds decided they were going to be the white-bread Led Zep. The fact they were taking their cues from a band that - cool as they were - shamelessly ripped off a lot of blues artists, shows just how tenuous their connection to rock was. They aped the apes, as Peter Gabriel might have put it. Being Mormons, they kept things pretty clean lyrically - the Immigrant Song cop Hold Her Tight demonstrates the polite bunts they made to sidle up to first base - but by the time they cut My Drum, they'd stumbled onto some sludge crunge of their own. It's about how, when they get their dander up, they pick up their sticks and give the drums a proper drubbing. I say it's code for wanking, and the song is a pretty nifty bit of wankery too, with nah nahs and grunted 'oh yeah, come ons' and drums, drums drums. Nothing that would give Sandy Nelson, Bonham or Moon a run for their money, mind you, but they were young, dumb and politely Mormon, so you have to cut them some slack. Eddy compared it to Funkadelic, pretty generous on his part, but if that will convince most of you to open your ears and actually hear this one, then I'll settle.

1 comment: