Monday, February 27, 2006

Now Here's a "Just Say No" Campaign I Can Get Behind

Apparently, the poor folks at Hummer are having a helluva time trying to market their product to the hipsters. Aside from being fiercely expensive and grievously environmentally unfriendly, they can't even find anyone to sell them a jingle.

Uh oh. Posted by Picasa

Courtesy of Steve Gilliard's NewsBlog:
The Thermals, a rambunctious rock band from Portland, Ore., were en route between gigs last year when they got a phone call from their label, Sub Pop. Hummer wanted to pay them $50,000 for the right to use their song "It's Trivia" in a commercial.

Portland, Ore., trio The Thermals turned down a $50,000 licensing deal from Hummer.

Trans Am, an electronic rock band from Washington, spurned $180,000 in ad money from Hummer.

"We thought about it for about 15 seconds, maybe," lead singer Hutch Harris said.

They said no.

The post-punk band LiLiPUT, who broke up more than 20 years ago, could have pocketed $50,000 for "Heidi's Head" after making close to nothing during their five-year existence. But they, too, said no.

"At least I can sleep without nightmares," Marlene Marder reasoned.

Lyle Hysen runs Bank Robber Music, a licensing group that pitches songs to film, television and advertisement companies. He's gotten his clients featured in shows like "Six Feet Under" and "The L Word" and in car ads by Volkswagen and Jaguar.

Hummer, however, has been a nonstarter.

"My standard line is you guys will play a hundred million gigs before you see this amount of money," Hysen said. "Usually they come back with, 'We'll do anything BUT Hummer.'"

"It's not about the money," Manley said. "It's the principle."

Maybe Hummer can get those nice Prussian Blue girls to slap something together. I'm sure they're not too concerned with the environment.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Vicarious Babyblogging

Look, I could Babyblog. But when you have a really good photographer staying at your house, who sees your kids differently and has a much better camera, why would I?

Without further ado, NTodd's take on Babyblogging.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Albums You Need: Stolen Wishes

Ah, c'mon. You knew I'd get to Shoes eventually.

As with Sweet's 100% Fun, however, this isn't a wholly obvious choice. Shoes reputation was built and cemented with 1979's Present Tense, as close to a perfect pop record as has ever been produced. The two radio singles were "Tomorrow Night" and "Too Late," sung by Jeff Murphy and Gary Klebe respectively, but the record had easily five or six other songs which were as catchy and melodic, as fraught with earworms. (Go ahead and ignore "I Don't Miss You," I dare you!)

But Present Tense barely needs my kudos. I want to focus on 1989's Stolen Wishes, an album as cohesive and catchy as PT, but much less appreciated (and so one you, gentle reader, are more likely to need).

It's bookended by two brilliant John Murphy compositions: "Feel the Way That I Do" and "Never Had It Better." The first is the psychic flipside of "Please Please Me," it seems, but I like it partly because it's one of the few pop songs I know to deal directly with the issue of the female orgasm. (An odd omission from the canon of pop topics, it seems to me. It's at least as interesting as the ubiquitous heartbreak and adolescent rebellion, no?) The last is everything a pop song should be: catchy, cute, and fun. I'd count them among the fines of his compositions throughout his career.

In between, SW is full of gems of various descriptions. Some of my favorites include:
"I Knew You'd Be Mine": Like a lot of this record, this is a sweet song. (As I've noted elsewhere, this disc is remarkably free of the anguish and sometimes outright misogyny which marks some other Shoes' records.) But what's most compelling about this some is the dead-on-balls accurate channelling of Roger McGuinn on the part of Jeff Murphy. Shoes generally leaned toward the melodic rather than the jangly, but this one has a read Byrds vibe to it which I love.
"I Can't Go Wrong": Another good example of the relatively upbeat nature of this record. There's a certain swagger to this song that cheers me to no end. I never really bought the sad-sack version of romance so common in the early records--they were too cute altogether for that to be really true--and this song strikes me as fundamentally more accurate.
"Your Devotion": Look, I take it as a given that men like oral sex. At least, I never met one who didn't. Given that, it's a bit surprising how few songs in this male-dominated genre deal directly with the issue. This Gary Klebe tune is pretty unabashed about its subject matter (one does show devotion on one's knees, no?), and lines like "Looking up, but going down to do what you do best" suggest a good-natured approach to sexuality.
"She's Not the Same": Generally, I eschew male-to-male songs about the transition of women's affection. There's something weird and medieval and proprietary about them which bothers me. Having said that, I know I've been the subject of at least one such conversation in my life, the "keep the pedal down when you start her in the morning" sort of discussion, so I know that such conversations do happen, even among men who should know better. And this Jeff Murphy tune is pretty respectful generally, as well as thoughtful and melodic, so it has lots to recommend it.
"Love Is Like a Bullet": The metaphor in this song is kind of weird, I think--second only to 20/20's "Jet Lag" as an odd paralel for romance--but the song itself is a model for the kind of melodic structure that characterizes power pop.

Even the songs I'm somewhat agnostic about on SW have some charm. Klebe's "Want You Bad," for example, is pretty basic and straightforward, so much so that its closest parallel (and I say this cringing, with all apologies) is the song Dirk Diggler and Reed Rothchild attempt to write in Boogie Nights. (Not the Transformers theme, the original composition called something like "Feel My Heat.") So even though there's not an awful lot to it, musically or lyrically, I smile at it.

In any case, this is an egregiously underrated record, warm and catchy, full of hooks and gems. What else can you ask for?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

And Again?!?

Morrissey questioned by the FBI, now?

Singer MORRISSEY was quizzed by the FBI and British intelligence after speaking out against the American and British governments.

The Brit is a famous critic of the US-led war in Iraq and has dubbed President GEORGE W BUSH a "terrorist" - but he was baffled to be hauled in by authorities.

Morrissey explains, "The FBI and the Special Branch have investigated me and I've been interviewed and taped and so forth.

"They were trying to determine if I was a threat to the government, and similarly in England. But it didn't take them very long to realise that I'm not."

As noted at Eschaton, "That's like getting bitchslapped by Robert Smith."

Monday, February 20, 2006

As Wolcott Notes:

"I was never that big a Henry Rollins fan, until now."

And you could do a lot worse than follow in Wolcott's footsteps.

Henry Rollins. Posted by Picasa

I do like Rollins, though I worry vaguely about his necklessness. More to the point, we live in a world where reading a book in a place you can be seen which suggests that you're trying to understand a culture clash that determines much of the economic and political activity of the globe is somehow now seen as dangerous. Anyone who hopes to do anything except wipe out a billion people is now actively subversive.

Rollins, like Jello Biafra, has been one of those musicians who has generally taken his public role as an artist pretty seriously. But this is, not to put too fine point on it, fucked up.

Wonder who turned him in?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Why I Love Broadband

My friend Mike sent me this excellent link that'll keep you busy for a good long time, assuming your connection is fast enough to take it. It's The New Pornographers in concert, June 2001. Click along the right-hand bar for videos of various songs, or at the top for streaming audio.


(And just to pick on steve, here's a link to a Neko studio session.)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Lyric Blogging: One Week

Courtesy of Eschaton poster Culture of Truthiness, we get a slightly amended version of the Barenaked Ladies' hit "One Week."

By Harry Whittington and the Barenaked Ladies

It’s been one week since you shot at me
Cocked your gun to your shoulder and nearly killed me.
Five days since you blasted me
Saying Harry, geez, you didn't see me.
Three days since we were drinking
I realized it’s all my fault, I wasn’t thinking
Yesterday you’d have unplugged me
But now I’m alive and said I’m sorry

How can you help it if you’re not sorry that I’m sad
Trying hard not to smile though I feel bad
You’re the kind of guy who can start a war
Arrange a federal contract
It sucks to be poor
You have a tendency of getting your own way
You have a history of coming out on top

It’s been one week since you shot at me
Waved your gun around and really hurt me
Five days since you injured me
I’ve still got the birdshot lodged in my cheeks
It’s been three days since the afternoon
You realized it’s my fault not a moment too soon
Yesterday you’d have pinned the blame on me
But now you don’t have to I said I'm sorry

How can you help it if you’re not sorry that I’m sad
Trying hard not to smile though I feel bad
You’re the kind of guy who can start a war
Remember Katrina
It sucks to be poor
You have a tendency of getting your own way
You have a history of coming out on top

It’s been one week since you shot at me
Had one beer and didn't see me
Five days since I almost died
And all your friends went on tv and lied
Three days since we hunted quail
Now thanks to me you won’t need bail
Yesterday you Swift Boated me
But now you won’t I said I'm sorry
You let me live I said I said I'm sorry

Can I meet you later in the lobby…

Oh, how I wish this were further from the truth....

Friday Babyblogging: Troublemaker Edition

Okay, so there's this myth that says kids don't like baths. Rosie does. In fact, this week she got back into the tub. After she was clean. And dried. And in her pajamas. I was not particularly amused, but in retrospect, the pics are pretty funny.

Oh. Posted by Picasa

My. Posted by Picasa

God. Posted by Picasa

Albums You Need: Born to Quit

We all have our addictions. Mine, I admit, is DVRing and watching The Alternative from VH-1 Classics. Despite a near-obsession with Morrissey (I swear half the videos in any given episode feature him, either solo or with The Smiths), they show a fairly broad range of videos difficult to find anywhere else. These are the ones that made 120 Minutes, but no further, and it's simply the most reliable source of the kind of stuff I like from the 80's and 90's.

Thers shares this obsession (successful relationship rule #347: if you hate all the music your partner does, and they hate all yours, it won't work in the long run. (Ask yourself this question: what will you listen to in the car on long trips to grandma's?)), and was going through the most recent episode when I heard him yell "No Fucking Way! I've never even seen this video! Mary!" I wandered down to see him taking in a video I had also never seen: The Smoking Popes "Need You Around."

If you don't know the Smoking Popes, you should. I don't exactly know how to explain their sound, so I'll describe it as punk crooning. Others speak of driving guitars and lounge lizard vocals, which strikes me as roughly accurate, though a bit dismissive. But the sound combines factors not usually seen together, and does so with a lot of style.

The band is made up of three brothers: Josh, Eli, and Matt Caterer, and drummer Mike Femulee. They hailed from the Midwest, as so many of my favorite musicians do (I think the state of Illinois must have a power pop training program in the public schools....) Band formed around 1990, made their first record, Get Fired, in 1993.

But it's 1995's Born to Quit that I go back to again and again.

Great songs on this record: "Need You Around," "Adena," "Just Broke Up," "Gotta Know Right Now." (You can hear clips of these at Amazon.) ANd do yourself a favor and check out this video for "Rubella."

The less successful Destination Failure followed in 1997 (although the cover of "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is pretty inspired), and in 2003, The Party's Over, an album of covers of standards such as Rodgers & Hart's "Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered." According to one source, this last album was recorded and submitted to Capitol, the band's label, in 1998, and rejected (along with the band themselves). It finally came out on Double Zero in 03.

Lead singer Josh Caterer got religion in there someplace, and the Popes continued in a religious form as Duvall.

But in 05, they reunited as The Smoking Popes for a festival, and ended up recording a live show at Metro in Chicago. That album, At Metro, is set to be released on February 28. And they seem to be continuing: Texans can see them at The Gypsy Tea Room in Dallas next week, and several shows are set up for the Chicago area in March.

Recent Rivers Cuomo News

I have to admit, part of me finds this really fascinating. But then, I never really lived in a dorm....

At School With Rivers Cuomo
Student With a Past

Published: February 16, 2006

Cambridge, Mass.

In the video for the song "Beverly Hills," which was nominated for a Grammy Award and ranked as the second most downloaded song from iTunes last year, Mr. Cuomo plays power-pop chords on the lawn of the Playboy Mansion surrounded by shimmying Playboy bunnies. By comparison, his life as a student is almost comically austere. He lives alone, in a modest 14-by-9-foot room with the standard-issue desk, bureau and bed, to which he has added only a map of the world, taped to the wall, and a small Oriental rug bought for less than $200 by Sarah Kim, his personal assistant. "Most people wouldn't expect a rock star to be happy living in a dorm room," said Ms. Kim, "but he is."


After showing a visitor his modest dorm room library, he was trying to remember when Jane Austen wrote. "I believe 'Sense and Sensibility' was written in the 1700's, and 'Emma' in the 1800's," he said, brow knitted. "She's on the border of both centuries."

"What I am best at," he added, "is reading a book and then writing a critical essay."

This is the fourth time Mr. Cuomo has come off a tour and matriculated at Harvard in his long, on-again, off-again college career, which does not correspond to the conventional schedule but is nevertheless expected to result in a degree this spring.

(Psst! Rivers! Drop me a line! I can help you out with Jane Austen! (Don't they teach the long eighteenth century at Harvard? Sheesh!))

I have a postgraduate degree in literature, so I love that this is where he's burying himself. And the fact that he's finishing now, at 35, shows a lot of guts. But you know, lots of upperclassmen get apartments.....

(Thanks to jennanyc for the tip!)

Cool New Blog

Hey there, power pop fans. I just received a heads up on a nifty new blog that I'll blogroll as soon as I get a chance.

Absolute Power Pop.

They have a much more contemporary slant than we do here ar PowerPop (because I'm, you know, old) and it looks like they're watching the current field pretty closely. So Godspeed to Absolute Power Pop, and we'll be checking in frequently!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day Romance Blogging

Sing it to someone you love!

I've been loving you a long time
Down all the years, down all the days
And I've cried for all your troubles
Smiled at your funny little ways
We watched our friends grow up together
And we saw them as they fell
Some of them fell into Heaven
Some of them fell into Hell

I took shelter from a shower
And I stepped into your arms
On a rainy night in Soho
The wind was whistling all its charms
I sang you all my sorrows
You told me all your joys
Whatever happened to that old song
To all those little girls and boys

Now the song is nearly over
We may never find out what it means
But there's a light I hold before me
And you're the measure of my dreams
The measure of my dreams

Sometimes I wake up in the morning
The ginger lady by my bed
Covered in a cloak of silence
I hear you talking in my head
I'm not singing for the future
I'm not dreaming of the past
I'm not talking of the first time
I never think about the last

Now the song is nearly over
We may never find out what it means
Still there's a light I hold before me
You're the measure of my dreams
The measure of my dreams

This one's for you, Thers. Still the smartest, sharpest, and funniest person I've ever met, in all your incarnations.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sunday Babyblogging: Cumpulsory Fun Edition

Chuck E. Cheese is a parents' nightmare, and occasionally a child's too.

Rosie is openly skeptical of her driving mate, and rightfully so. Posted by Picasa

and later, things don't seem to be getting much better. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Albums You Need: 100% Fun

Time for a new feature here at PowerPop: Albums You Need.

I was thinking about this on my long and dull commute, dwelling on the question Phila raised in the Brian Wilson thread: should pop have a canon? Gardner, being a geek like me, thinks so. But though I'm not insistent on canonization per se, I do think there are albums which are, in Thers's inimitable teenage slang, "crucial."

And so we begin.

Matthew Sweet: 100% Fun (1994).

This isn't a usual selection for Sweet. Most people would identify his inaugural 1991 album Girlfriend, which is, admittedly, a classic (and "Holy War" seems to be something of a staple on my ipod these days). But I like this one a lot. Here are some reasons why.

"Sick of Myself": Had a great moment once with this tune. Once upon a time, Thers and I inherited a troubled teen. In two years of attempting to parent her, we only had a few months of peace, when she hooked up with another sort of misfit kid. They were tight for a while, and their psychoses seemed to fit together, which is all you can really ask for an adolescent relationship, it seems to me. One day, she was very excited, said their whole relationship had been caught in a song, and she hadn't gotten all of it, but had part of it off the radio. Could she play it for me? Please? I'd like it, she swore I would. Okay, I replied. Imagine how put out she was when the song came on and I knew all the words. But she was somewhat assuaged when I told her we had a much better copy on CD and she wasn't actually stuck with her off-the-radio version.

"We're the Same": I think every relationship probably has this phase, the initial blurring of boundaries, the sense that you share more than there's any reason to believe that you do. Generally, you outgrow it until such time as you've lived together long enough to really be that much alike. (Ex: Nothing infuriates Thers more than when I ask him to do, as a favor, something he's just begun to do as a surprise. I know this has happened when I ask him to do something and he howls my surname in wounded outrage: I've just taken away all the good-guy points he was going to earn by doing something nice for me by actually asking for it. But how weird is it that we think of such tasks at pretty much the same moment?) I also really like the video for this song, which features Sweet as a 70's svengali producer taking a beautiful girl band and squeezing them into a common (and less attractive) mold: they all end up looking like Tricia Nixon or something. But the video was directed by the same people who did the pretty funny film Spirit of '76, starring Redd Kross, and it has a lot of that same look and vibe.

"Walk Out": Like REM's "It's the End of the World as We Know It," had been for the eighties, this was the song for the ninteties that everyone I know seemed to hear just at the moment they needed to, some moment when it was resonant and important, possibly out of all proportion. But if you're in a relationship and depressed, it's not too uncommon, I think, to assume that getting out of the relationship will lift the fog. It even works sometimes.
When you look into a mirror
The reflection that you see
Is a shell of what you were
It's not who you want to be
But you're gonna change
You've just about made up your mind
(You're gonna change)
You're gonna change
And when you leave it all behind
What will the past remember?
What will the future bring?
When you walk out?


"SuperBaby": Glam-rock guitar. What else is there to say?

"Get Older": This is one of those songs that points up to me that my kid and I are different. Watching her struggle through adolescence, I often want to share with her the lyrics to this song, which strike me as peculiarly apropos for those struggles.
Who cares if they don't think you're cool?
They make everything about rules
And you're older than that now
Get older
The world will fall into its place

But how geeky would it be to get such a sentiment from your mom? I think I'll wait for her to find it herself. (Maybe I'll pretend not to know it....)

Matthew Sweet is one of those artists who really doesn't seem to care much what the world thinks of him: a mutual acquaintance tells me he's a really nice guy, and his good-natured presence on pretty much every tribute compilation album ever made suggests that he has a sense of humor (though Thers always points out that they can't make a Matthew Sweet tribute album, because he couldn't appear on it. Snarky bastard). I like how he indulges his own interests in glam, in powerpop, in J-pop, in folk, without worrying about how it'll be taken. That's so cool.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Why I Love Scout

Jill Sobule is definitely power pop, and I have to say, I respect Scout's intestinal fortitude here. I know I couldn't do it.

Scout is the newest member of First Draft, the bestest group blog on the web (with some of the finest writers). And now that Vicki's back online, we're going to get the Send Scout to New Orleans fund rolling in the next couple of days. Watch this space!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Saturday Babyblogging

Well Blogger's bloggered across the board, but we'll see if this works.

Mmmmmm, cake! Posted by Picasa

Having destroyed the living room, Rosie collapses. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 02, 2006

We May Define Snobbery Differently....

But this is good for a laugh. As per Amanda at Pandagon:
If you don’t mind telling, what exactly is in your music collection? (Or just list the highlights, I’m sure you’ve got a ton.) Thanks!—Lisa

This is why I do the Friday Random Ten! Though, to be fair, those are my MP3s, so they won’t have a bunch of shit I wore out years ago, but according to my CD changer, that selection includes a lot of Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop, Devo, and for some reason, a bunch of be-bop. But a good reference is the song list from when I was on a friend’s radio show in Champaign–the instructions were to pick a sampling of the music I’d considered most influential, and this is what I played. And there was nothing ironic or silly about that answer, really, so next!

Are the Buggles cool or not? I was just trying to persuade someone that they were cool, but then then I realized that I don’t remember what their song even sounds like, and having the first every MTV video may not in fact be cool. Also, joining Yes has got to be the most uncool thing any band has ever done in the history of the world. But I still have a lingering suspicion that they’re cool. Thoughts?—Matt Weiner

“Video Killed the Radio Star” is one of three karaoke songs I can actually do well, so that makes the Buggles cool, if only because they, along with Blondie and Cindy Lauper, save my tuneless ass.