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Category Archives: songs you don’t know

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the misremembered ’90s: Fuzzy, “Flashlight”

If you wanted to do an archeological study of a particular time and place, and that particular time and place was “1994” and “Boston, Massachusetts”, you could do worse than to watch this video.

I mean, besides the fact that it’s awesomely catchy and all, “Flashlight” – by former Boston popsters Fuzzy – features a video that was probably filmed in their back yard, with lots of black and white slow motion guitar chuggin’.  If you live around here, you recognize that back yard.  Heck, you might have even been to a party in that *exact* back yard.  It’s in back of a triple decker apartment building in… something makes me want to say Jamaica Plain, but it could just as easily be Allston or Somerville.

There’s an adorably “look at us, with our crazy tanning foil like our parents used to use before they invented skin cancer” cutesy retro-vibe here, although it’s undercut by the black and white, which makes the whole thing seem more threatening than it probably meant to.

Ok, the video itself isn’t great.  But I still love this damn song, to this day.  It’s one of those local tunes ‘FNX used to play in the OK Soda era and, if you were a kid in the ‘burbs, it made you think that Boston was the coolest place in the entire world and you’d never, ever leave.

I’m still laboring under that delusion.  Thanks, Fuzzy.

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the misremembered ’90s: The Cure, “Wrong Number”

Oh, let’s just pretend it HASN’T been nine months since my last post.  I’m tired of excuses.  Actually, right now, I’m generally just tired.

So, here’s my favorite latter-day Cure tune:

The Cure’s musical record, post-Wish, is spotty.  Not “spotty” as in “a British kid with acne,” but “spotty” as in hit or miss.  Not “Hit Or Miss” as in New Found Glory’s first major label single, but “hit or miss” as in all over the place.  There’s some amazing stuff (about half of Bloodflowers, about 1/3 of Wild Mood Swings, “Wrong Number”, and “Underneath The Sky”) and some less thrilling stuff (everything else.)

But for sheer late ’90s pop joy, with chopper delayed synths that sound like guitars and over-compressed guitars that sound like synths, you can’t do much better – especially with our boy Robert flopping his nest of black hair about like so while he pips on about “lime green and tan-ger-ine.”

It’s a pity this song isn’t better known, because there’s some amazing parodies to be written – and, believe me, over Christmas Break of ’97, they bloody were.

For example…

“I had the best fried clams this side of Annapolis…”

or…

“I had moo goo gai pan the size of an elephant…”

And those are just the food related ones.   There’s one I half completed, based on the plot of Les Miserables…

Fantine… Fantine… and Eponine

Are two tragic waifs in old Par-ee

Fantine…oh poor Fantine

the sickly sweet singer of “I Dreamed A Little Dream…”

skip to the chorus…

VALJEAN’S THE BEST EX-CON THIS SIDE OF OL’ SAINT-MICHEL

STOLE A LOAF OF BREAD AND THEY LOCKED HIM IN A PRISON CELL

RED AND BLACK FLAG, DO YOU HEAR THEM SING..

(hear ’em SINGIN’… hear ’em SINGIN’…)
And so on.

 

The Misremembered ’90s: ManBREAK, “Ready Or Not”

When Kasabian’s first album came out in 2005, we all thought they were original and huge and powerful and important and all that stuff.

Well, if you ignore the douchebaggy “comeON, comeOn!” at the top of this track…. it’s basically proto-Kasabian.

There really was a time – from roughly 1997 through 2001 – when white dudes thought that every single piece of recorded music, needed a vaguely hip-hoppish “comeON, comeON!” somewhere in there.  Didn’t matter what you were doing.  Rap, rock, punk, folk, everything.  “comeON, comeON!”    Somehow, we thought this was acceptable.  There’s probably recordings of the Boston Pops out there where Keith Lockhart is heard jumping up and down, waggling his baton threateningly at the crowd on the Esplanade, going “comeON, comeON!”  And he’s probably wearing baggy khakhi shorts while he does it.

Moving past that, this isn’t a bad song.  I saw ManBREAK once –  it was 1997.  The writing was on the wall for “alternative music.”  Headlining the show was Live, in their waning Secret Samhadi days, at exactly the time they started taking themselves really bloody seriously.  At the same show, Luscious Jackson played a great set.  Originally, the first act on the bill was going to be Fun Loving Criminals ( you know, the “Scooby Snacks” people) but they had to back out of the show at the last minute because their record label imploded or something.  So, they were replaced by ManBREAK.

Here’s ManBREAK’s legacy in a nutshell….

1) They’re the band that opened for Live and Luscious Jackson instead of Fun Loving Criminals.  That’s pretty much all you ever need to know about ManBREAK, except

2) They were kind of a harbringer of things to come.

Listening to “Ready or Not” – it’s clearly not nu-metal doof rock – it’s catchy and cool and kind of Madchester by way of Scotland – but it’s a sign of things to come.  Meaning… let’s look at that original line-up.  Live, Luscious Jackson, Fun Loving Criminals.  Take all those bands.  Put them in a blender.  What do you get?  ManBREAK.  Now, take that blended stew of yours, and drain out all the melody and “meaning” of Live, the funky, jazzy, punk feminism of Luscious Jackson, and the quirky, cool sense of humor of Fun Loving Criminals.  But leave the loudness, the hip-hop influence, and the “comeON! comeON!” in.  Then add the unwashed jock straps of an entire high school football team , and stir.

What you’d get would probably sound a lot like Limp Bizkit.

And that’s not fair to ManBREAK, because they seem like nice fellows.  I mean, just look at their hats.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2011 in music, nostalgia, songs you don't know

 

The Misremembered ’90s: For Squirrels, “Mighty K.C.”

Next up, “Mighty K.C.”  KC stands for Kurt Cobain.   He’s dead.  The song is by a band called For Squirrels.  They’re dead, too.

There’s no use walking on eggshells, folks – the story of For Squirrels is one of the most ridiculously depressing stories of one-hit wonderdom ever.  Not just within the ’90s alternative arena – ever.

It basically shakes out like this: a bunch of kids in Florida got together, like kids all over the country, to goof around and play guitar.  Most of their songs were kinda dumb and silly, and their big hit was an acoustic-folk version of the rap classic “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J.

They started playing local coffee houses and actually got the chance to open for a real band.  And they blew.   They didn’t have it, they weren’t serious, and everyone could tell.

So the band sat down and decided, look, let’s go big or go home.  Let’s shit or get off the pot.  Let’s be the biggest band in the world, or die trying.

And the truly terrible thing is, that’s precisely what happened to them.  They recorded a pretty good album called Baypath Road – lots of REM influence, which got them signed to Sony.  Sony ponied up the money for their major label debut Example.   And, holy Cobain, that’s a great record.  Start to finish, it’s 10 songs of pure jangly guitar bliss, with bursts of glorious punk aggression.   They’re starting to sound less like REM, too, by this point.  They’re starting to sound like For Squirrels.

Jack Vigliatura ‘s their lead singer, a stocky formidable guy with an undeniable ear for an amazing hook.  As someone who pretends to write songs in his spare time, I’ve learned more from his vocal and lyrical style than I’d care to admit.   He writes songs about disenchantment, megalomania, Florida, and death.  And Kurt Cobain.  Ostensibly.  It’s more of a tone poem.   But it’s obviously great – there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on here, including a nice contrast between the verse and the chorus that makes the tune feel way more like an anthem than it should.

Seriously, they almost made it.  There’s nothing that says that, in an alternate universe, this band isn’t as big, as fondly remembered, as any of those other bands in your collection.   And then, one horrible day in September of 1995, they’re driving back home from a show at CBGB’s in New York, when their van blows a tire, flips over on I-95, and kills Jack, bassist Bill White, and Tim Bender, their tour manager.

Let’s get overtly metaphorical here, because we can: their last show is at CBGB’s in New York – traditionally, the place where bands play just before they break big.   Their album is about to be released by Sony.  The band is driving home to Gainesville, Florida.  Their van flipped just south of Savannah, Georgia.

It takes seventeen hours to drive from New York, NY to Gainesvile, FL.   For Squirrels were about three hours from home when their van flipped.   They almost made it.

When you listen to Example now, you can’t help but notice that Jack sings a lot about death.  “By the grace of God go I, into the great unknown”, thus goes the chorus of “Mighty KC”.   “Stark Pretty”, which is probably the album’s best song, has “every single action/I am death defied… death defied.”   “Gone, and not forgotten/Gone, and not forgotten/Do I hear the sound of a plane crash/Do I hear the sound of a copter/is it real or am I dreaming?”  – that’s the second verse of “8.02”.

When the album was released – a month after the accident – Entertainment Weekly panned it for that exact reason, saying that it was creepy hearing a young man, gone before his time, singing so much about death.   Also, they said the band was generic.

Bullhockey.  For Squirrels will have their renaissance, mark my words.   The whole album is bloody amazing and you should pick it up the next time you find it in the $1 CD bin.   Me, I bought the record in November of 1995, just before Thanksgiving, junior year of High School.  I know this because I bought it the same day I got Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the epic 2 disc Smashing Pumpkins album that tried really, really hard to define a generation.

Being totally honest with myself – and you – between the two albums, I’ve listened to For Squirrels’ Example a lot more often.

If we gather, if we fall over the great unknown

things are gonna change in our favor.

So – the video.  It’s cut together with Super 8 footage shot by the band and their families, projected onto an actor who’s supposed to be Kurt (in the afterlife?) watching the story of a young band who deserved better.   And now you know what “For Jack, Bill, and Tim” means.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2011 in music, nostalgia, songs you don't know

 

The Misremembered ’90s: Gregory Gray, “The Pope Does Not Smoke Dope”

New thing we’re doing here – “The Misremembered ’90s” – all our favorite “alternative” acts that got snapped up by the major labels during the post-Nirvana explody-thing.

Oh, the record labels… In the long tradition of hilariously ignorant decisions made by people who should totally know better (see: Gates, Bill, re: comment on 640k; Records, Decca, re: rejecting the Beatles because guitar music was on the way out; Union, Western, re: “the telephone is of no practical use”) they really really really really really should have gotten their collective act together sooner.  I know, I know, I’ve been saying this so long I’m beginning to sound like a broken record industry, but come on.  Someone should have called a meeting the second Real Player was invented, and the bullet points at that meeting should have looked like this:

  • This is a free computer program that plays music over the internet.
  • Explain concept of “internet”
  • Explain concept of “computer”
  • Explain that yes, while it’s even plain to complete technological illiterates like yourself that Real Player blows, you should still hear me out.
  • Presentation of computer from like 5 years ago that could barely display a grainy image file.
  • Presentation of brand new computer that can play a fricking video.  That I just downloaded.  For free.  Sure, it took me about 3 days, and it’s only 30 seconds long, but hear me out.
  • Explanation that this is because technology increases incrementally, and not because of magical elves.
  • Conclusion: one day, someone will invent a program that allows your customers to steal everything you make, and everyone will do it because it’s really easy and no one feels guilty about it because you’ve been overcharging for years. Perhaps you’d like to take certain steps to rectify that before some kid from bloody Northeastern of all places invents that program and destroys your business like a horde of termites ransacking a once grandiose and vainglorious slave plantation until it crumbles under the weight of its own obsolescence?  Maybe?

That meeting did not happen.

What does this have to do with anything?  Well, that’s where the record industry is now, but before then, it almost sank itself by snapping up every single band of 3 or more kids with flannel shirts and guitars they could find, thus leading to a glut of no-hit wonders that had one single that barely made it past the 2am on WFNX phase. And a lot of those bands released exactly one record, which didn’t get promoted because there were already a million other acts the label had to throw their weight behind, and then sank into obscurity, having tasted the big time for about twelve seconds.  Then the labels started folding.

Then nu-metal happened.  A lot of smart, creative, slightly geeky kids *loved* “alternative rock* when it first broke.  Not just loved – made it their lifestyle – because here was an entire genre of music created by, and for, ordinary, bright, socially awkward folks.  Maybe not book smart, but definitely not ignorant and certainly creative in their own ways.   After a while this fell out of fashion and you got bands like Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach, and smart alterna-kids stopped listening to the radio because all the new bands seemed to be fronted by the assholes who used to beat them up in middle school.

Then Napster.  Then the end.  And a lot of these baby bands got crushed between the wheels of inevitability.

The thing is – a lot of those baby bands had at least one or two really great songs… and that is why we’re here today.

So… song one:  “The Pope Does Not Smoke Dope” is a real obscure one and a real oddity.  I saw it on the legendary Rage TV on Boston’s TV 38 in about 1995 – it’s very similar to that Primitive Radio Gods tune, or maybe the mellower moments of Blur or London Beat.  Either way, it’s great stuff, and someone should find this dude and tell him.  He’s somewhere in Ireland right now, probably managing a hip club or a hip pub or a hip peat bog or some such thing.  It’s an enjoyable, chill tune and in the video, he’s either a ghost or a hologram, so I totally approve.

<— That’s the only picture of Gregory Gray out there.  On the whole internet.  Seriously.   He’s that evasive.

So cut the crap – get real sweetheart

The pope does not smoke dope – even if he should.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in music, nostalgia, songs you don't know

 

songs you don’t know: “Black No. 1”, Type O Negative

Type O Negative were pretty much a goth metal band, along the lines of Danzig.  And like Danzig, they had a wicked sense of humor.   I mean, you don’t get anywhere in this business if your dark, heavy music really is all “death and dark and my eternal sooooooul….”  You’ve gotta laugh at yourself, is what I’m saying.  Type O were a goth/metal band that covered Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” for heaven’s sake.

I almost posted that video, because their cover is my personal favorite Type O tune, but the video is bad.  I mean, rrrreal bad.  It’s like Roadrunner Records clipped together a bunch of footage of the band playing other songs, mixed it with some oh-so-alternative shots of PEOPLE MOSHING HOLY SH#T, and… I mean, it smacks of fake.  Ah, Roadrunner.

So, instead, we post this one: it’s “Black No. 1”, which is basically a song about a goth girl and how totally into her Peter is.  The bridge/main hook is “Loving you is like loving the dead.”  That’s all you need to know.
Anyway, Peter Steele, the growling, Brooklyn-accented frontman of Type O Negative, died yesterday.  The music world mourns his loss, and quite a few souls just got a little bit darker.

This song takes me back to junior year of college like few other things.   We used to sing “LOVIN’ YOU IS LIKE LOOOVIN’ TED!” to my friend Ted Chernesky.  Ah, memories.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2010 in music, nostalgia, songs you don't know

 

songs you don’t know: “No Way Out”, D Generation

Way, way back in the day, like 2007 or so, I declared Deconstruction’s “L.A. Song” a “RAGE TV song”, a term which I promised to explain and, of course, never ever did.

Okay.  A “RAGE TV” song is an “alternative rock” single from the early-to-mid ’90s that didn’t quite make it into heavy rotation on your local rock station.  In fact, one of the only ways You might have heard it (assuming “You” is a Boston-area youngish adult between the ages of 25 and 35) would be if you happened to be watching WSBK-TV 38 at 2 in the morning on Saturday.  You know, the same time I used to be on the radio.   For at that hallowed hour, the nice people at Channel 38 gave over the airwaves to a cheaply produced program called Rage TV.  It was hosted by some blonde guy with a leather jacket, who used to go around Boston meeting semi-famous rock and roll types.  And while they played videos by Green Day and Oasis and Cracker and other bands you may have actually heard of… and while Blondie in the Jacket occasionally got to interview such stars as Shirley “Garbage” Manson, the show was packed, mostly, with videos and interviews from the likes of Green Apple Quickstep, Ruth Ruth, and, yes, D Generation.  None of whom you’ve ever heard of, but trust me, they were great.  Green Apple Quickstep, in particular, is notable for being a “Two-No Hit Wonder Band”, having released two great singles that failed to go anywhere: “Feel My Way” and “Dirty Water Ocean.”   Alyssa still likes them.

According to the internet, there’s no proof Rage TV ever existed, except for this clip of legendary Boston ska band The Allstonians being interviewed by Blonde Guy (Eric?), who doesn’t have his leather jacket on today.

D Generation is notable because a) they’re such a New York Dolls rip off, it’s adorable, and b) the lead singer is one Jesse Malin, who you may now know as a vaguely folky/countryish guy who duets with Bruce Springsteen and hangs out with Ryan Adams in the sorts of New York bars where Ryan Adams hangs out.   But back in the day, Jesse Malin was pretty f*cking punk, that’s for sure.

The song “No Way Out” (which premiered on Rage TV in the summer of 1996 and I still have a copy of the Glorious VHS tape somewhere) was almost a hit for them, and is catchy and angry and you would have loved it when you were 15.   The video is standard ’90s alterna-fare, featuring several flash cuts, jumpy editing, and overlit shots of “freaky alternative” people doing freaky alternative things in unsanitary locales, such as the NYC subway system (which features prominently).

Merely hearing this song takes me back to a simpler time when a line like  “send us all to high school/make us pray to statues/so we hang on corners lookin’ bored”  actually made emotional sense.  Eric Bogosian wrote a whole play/movie about it, called subUrbia.  When U Maine produced it, it was notable for two things:  a) I wasn’t in it, despite the show requiring one of the cast to play the guitar, and I was the ONLY PERSON WHO COULD PLAY THE GUITAR in that department, and b) it used this song in the pre-show.

I’m not bitter, mind you, but godDAMNit…

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2010 in boston rock city, music, songs you don't know