J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Notes From Underground - #37
If It's a Crime, We Hang Side by Side


The last two weeks here on Notes From Underground have been pretty heavy. I mean, bringing in Alfred, Lord Tennyson to make a point? Sheesh, this is supposed to be a pop culture blog, right? But there are connections to be had all over the place and if I didn't bring in every bit of seizable knowledge I had in order to comment on some of this stuff, well, as Goethe said, I'd be living hand to mouth. But it's time to relax just a bit.

We of the pretentious nature like to talk about our 'guilty pleasures.' I'm beginning not to like this phrase because it implies that your reasons for liking something aren't valid. Whenever I would be asked what my guilty pleasures were, the answers I'd come up with were artists and/or songs that I, honestly, could mount a decent defense for. These are things that I would honestly jump into the mix to defend. Is that so crazy?

Now, I'm going to make this short and sweet this week in order to get back to what I should be doing, but I want to know what some of your so-called guilty pleasures are and, truthfully now, why you honestly think they are good. What's so great about them?

I can't put up links to these songs just yet (sadly - I'm away from home and, thus, away from my collection), but here are two of my big ones and a brief explanation of why they're good:

Hootie and the Blowfish - This isn't just a defense of their Cracked Rear View debut (and its impossibly perfect opening song, "Hannah Jane"), but of their second and third albums as well. If you were going to ask me to name my favorite Hootie and the Blowfish album, it'd be their sophomore effort, Fairweather Johnson. I really, honestly think it's a great power-pop record filled with nods to rock and roll, country, blues and more. "Tucker's Town" is a brilliant song, as are "So Strange" (with the lovely Nanci Griffith on backing vocals) and "She Crawls Away." Even their third album, Musical Chairs, is filled with lovely moments, even though it would be their last album that would make me pay any attention. They are the Everyband done good in every sense of the word. And look, I saw them live back in 1996. I went to see Toad the Wet Sprocket, who was opening, and in the midsts of the ubiquitous "Only Wanna Be With You," Hootie paused and then shot off into a great version of Son Volt's "Windfall." Something smart was going on behind all that pop goodness.

BBMak - "Out of My Heart" - It was hard to get away from BBMak's "Back Again" from their first album. I loathed it, couldn't stand the sheen on the song, was repulsed by it all. I was watching MTV one day and stumbled into a video with one of the sunniest, poppiest, cheeriest songs I'd heard in ages. The harmonies were gorgeous, perfectly splayed across the chorus. I couldn't believe what a note-perfect pop song it was. Then the credits came at the end of the video. BBMak? You've got to be kidding me. Thus, my endless love for the song "Out of My Heart" from their sophomore (and final) album Into Your Head. Which, by the way, is exactly what the song does. It gets into your head and doesn't. freakin'. leave. Ever. These guys knew what they were doing and this is exactly the kind of pop that you don't hear anymore. As much as I hated them for their irksome covers of the La's "There She Goes" and Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over," Sixpence None the Richer's "Kiss Me" is an example of this type of pop song that you just don't see anymore. It could be that guitar pop hit its peak in the late 90s - come to think of it, that's the last time Semisonic had any commercial traction. But still. This is one 'guilty pleasure' that I will gladly defend.

Leave yours in the comments and I'll see you all back here on Monday for the Now Departing review.

P.S. I have always had a soft spot for Rick Astley, thus the picture of him at the top. I wish people would rickroll me. I'd love it every time.

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5 Comments:

  • At 6:26 PM, March 28, 2008, Blogger Satisfied '75 said…

    Phil Collins "Sussudio". Hell, Phil Collins entire early 80s output. Shhh, dont tell anyone.

     
  • At 12:58 PM, March 30, 2008, Anonymous Danny said…

    Co-sign on Phil Collins. Also:

    Who's Johnny - I thik the song is by El Debarge, but I'm not sure... It was the theme from Short Circuit 2?, and it's one of the craziest 80's synth funk pop jams ever.

    Dixieland Delight - Alabama - This is truly one of the best pop country songs I've ever heard. It's catchy, it's got great vocal harmonies, even a nice little hoe-down part at the end. As someone who was raised on hating country music, this is one of the songs that helped pull me over to the dark side.

    It's funny that I feel compelled to list this as a 'guilty pleasure' where as liking something like Waylon Jennings or Johnny Cash is cool, even though both of those guys released boatloads of crappy music during their careers. Then again, they also sang great songs about death drugs and sex as opposed to this song which is a great song about chubby ol groundhogs and croaking bullfrogs.

     
  • At 11:22 PM, March 30, 2008, Blogger J. Neas said…

    Danny - Growing up, I loved Alabama. My parents mostly listened to talk radio (where my love of trivia comes from) and pop country which, in the 80s, wasn't quite so terrible. I think they're an excellent band, even though I wouldn't chalk up in my top 100 even. Their theme restaurants I won't speak up for though. Had a very mediocre dinner there once.

    The line between artists we accept and ones we deem 'uncool' in certain genres is pretty ill defined at times. You bring up an interesting point there. I mean, speaking of Phil Collins, he of course was involved in tons of really breathtaking music via Genesis and his playing on Brian Eno records and so forth, but then later-period Genesis and his solo work is often considered a joke. We really are picky sometimes. :)

     
  • At 1:15 PM, March 31, 2008, Anonymous Danny said…

    "The line between artists we accept and ones we deem 'uncool' in certain genres is pretty ill defined at times."

    Yes yes yes... This has always been my biggest issue with rock fans and journalists - people who are unable to seperate whether they like a piece of music from how cool they think the people that made it are.

    The line between cool and uncool is so very vague, and yet it seems the main deciding factor in so many peoples decisions about music.

    I think this stems from people not being interested in a band for their music, as much as how that music reflects on their sense of identity.

    While this isn't always the case, I find more often than not, especially with younger people that their explanations for why one artist is cool and why another one sucks has absolutely nothing to do with their music and everything to do with their aesthetic or personal style. Punk rock is cool. Boy bands are lame.

    Truly I can't think of a more egregious example of a boy band than the Sex Pistols - they were put together by a fashion designer, could barely play their own instruments, didn't have much going on in the singing or songwriting department, and yet are repeatedly championed for their "authenticity" as artists.

    Of cours the great thing about 2008 is that now any sense of cool vs. uncool regarding aesthetic decisions is rendered moot by the postmodern "I like it ironically" thing, thus Phil Collins, Rick Astley, Alabama, Hall and Oates, etc. etc. etc. are now cool precisely because they were uncool for so long...

     
  • At 3:01 PM, March 31, 2008, Anonymous S. said…

    Dixieland Delight by Alabama! That is a great song, and not a guilty pleasure at all.

     

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