Every so often, much like other groups will do, like, say, the AV Club, they’ll post a hypothetical mix CD, and then do notes on each track, so you can figure out why you should track down each and every single one of these songs and buy them, so you can assemble this mix all on your own, despite the fact that the fun thing with assembling mix CDs is making your own, not following some recipe. But let’s just forget all that, and bear with me here, folks.
This one’s not got a theme, but that’s OK. If you insist upon one, they’re all songs that I really like that may have gotten overlooked. They also segue pretty well into each other, so that’s also a plus. This introduction is getting boring, so let’s just cut to the chase.
1. Jill Sobule – Cinnamon Park [from Underdog Victorious]
Jill Sobule is really awfully good — a lot of people only remember her from “I Kissed A Girl”; a good song, but one written off as a novelty of sorts. I’ve been a long proponent of removing the stigma of “novelty”, but it’s an uphill battle. Her songs are catchy, poppy and witty; I could have chosen pretty much any cut of hers, particularly any cut from Underdog Victorious, my favorite record, but I went with this one. It re-works the riff from Chicago’s “Saturday In The Park” and adds much better, truer lyrics. The originial song is bouncy and fun if a bit inane — Jill removes the inanity and replaces it with a touch of wistfulness.
2. Hugo Montenegro – Yo Yo [from Mammy Blue]
Hugo Montenegro is probably best known for his film soundtrack work, but he also did some cool moog-based records in the 1970s. This is from one of them, and is an awesome little bit of moog-funk. It’s one of the tracks referenced by the Moog Cookbook on their albums — which adds a layer of interest-via-familiarity, but it’s an outstanding song in its own right.
3. The Cattanooga Cats – My Birthday Suit [from The Cattanooga Cats LP]
Would you be surprised if I told you this song celebrating the wonders of nudity and sharing said nudity with another was taken from an early-1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoon? It was. The Cattanooga Cats were one of the Short-Cartoon-Followed-By-Short-Song mold, like the Hair Bear Bunch, Josie & The Pussy Cats (check the drum head, that’s how it’s spaced?), The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan (adding hilarious racism to the mix!), among others like the Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm Show. The music was all written or co-written by Mike Curb, and it’s got that definite strong bubblegum base. If you dig this cut, and I’m sure you will, and want more from the Cats, perhaps Wikipedia can help you out.
4. Brave Combo – Walking Stick [From Mood Swing Music]
I’ve been a Brave Combo fan for a long time — the first song of theirs I heard was their cover of the standard “In Heaven There Is No Beer”, with lots of added lyrics. I’ve ALWAYS been a polka fan, and while Brave Combo is primarily a polka band, they also branch out into different types of music from around the world, including different sorts of polkas. This is, according to the liners, their entry into “pop/rock”, though they’ve done a lot of songs that better fit the “pop/rock” label. However, it’s a very good song, and that’s the most important label of all.
5. The Crop Circles – Room With A View [From Born With A Bad Heart]
The Crop Circles was my friend Earl Brooks‘ band, and they’re outstanding. Earl’s a great songwriter, and to show that, I’ve included a song written by Dave Legg. Actually, the thing is, until I double-checked the album, I thought this WAS written by Earl; it sounds like it could be, anyway. And Earl & the band nail it anyway, so, hey. It’s a great song, from a great band. The Crop Circles are no more, but Earl’s doing a new band called Ghosts of Wyoming that are just as good. Check them out!
6. The Cure – Lullaby [From Disintegration]
I never ever thought I’d put the Cure on a mix in a million, zillion years. But here we are. This is actually a really neat song. I had it on my iPod a while ago, and when it came up, I really liked it. When I got home, I brought up the inventory and went through until I could figure out what song it was. Then it turned out to be this one. I was pretty shocked, but, hey, a good song is a good song.
7. Bad Religion – 21st Century (Digital Boy) [From Stranger Than Fiction]
This one’s been kind of a guilty pleasure of mine for a while. Lyrically, it’s kinda annoying (the whole “Daddy’s a lazy middle-class intellectual” line seems to smack awfully hard of the “Only hard laborers are real people! You stupid eggheads in your ivory tower not wanting to do any REAL work!” fallacy, and the anti-consumerism is a little trite, no matter how valid), but it’s got a great melody and hook. It’s a fun one to sing along to, as well. This is a good enough place as any to talk about Ben’s idea for what SHOULD have been BR’s logo, instead of the cross in the “no” sign, it’d be various drawings of religion being performed badly. A priest with a microphone in the confessional booth, or a rabbi performing a bris with a steak knife, or an mosque in prayer in many wrong directions.
8. Run-DMC – You Be Illin’ [From Raising Hell]
However, the main reason I put “21st Century Digital Boy” on is because it turns out to segue really, really well into this song; I discovered it once while listening to my library on shuffle, and it was almost seamless. Also, Run-DMC is pretty awesome, so there you go. This is a pretty dang good song. If I were to choose any song, not just because of the segue, I might go with “You Talk Too Much”, since I love that line about telling the cavity creeps to watch out for Crest. Run-DMC were amazing.
9. DEVO – Watch Us Work It [from the iTunes digital single]
This is the first new DEVO song in basically forever. Going off the top of my head, I’m thinking the last true one was “It’s All Good” for the very short lived Flash Club DEVO thing. But, like that one, this one is just as good as their best stuff — they haven’t lost it, and hopefully they’ll finally finish working on a new record. Apparently they recorded enough stuff for a record during these sessions. Who knows if it’ll ever come out? this was produced and/or remixed by Teddy Bears, who did a really great record last year. And, they’re Swedes, which leads us into?.
10. The Ark – Absolutely No Decorum [From Prayer for the Weekend ]
The Ark, Sweden’s entry into Eurovision this year. This isn’t their Eurovision song, which was the equally awesome The Worrying Kind. They’ve got a couple records out in the US, and I’m probably gonna have to pick them up. After all, I really dig the Scissor Sisters, so why wouldn’t I dig the Swedeor Sistors? And if that isn’t enough to recommend them, this song borrows the riff from “Roadrunner” by the Modern Lovers. Try to deny this song! YOU CANNOT!
11. David Bowie – Sorrow [From Pin Ups]
This is from Bowie’s 1970 covers record, and it’s originally by The McCoys, though the Merseys (formerly The Merseybeats) had the biggest hit with it. I don’t know if it really crossed over to the US — I’ve never heard either non-Bowie version. Still, it’s a great, great song, and it provided a line to the Beatles’ “It’s All Too Much”. (No, Bowie’s not referencing the Beatles, the Beatles were referencing the Merseys.) It seems to be kind of a forgotten Bowie song, even though it was a hit single and appears on some best-ofs.
12. Foetus – I Hate You All [From Damp]
I’ve been really digging Foetus (and J.G. Thirwell’s other projects, of course) lately, and this is from a odds-and-sods type collection released only at shows and at the Foetus website. This track in particular is great — if you dig Steroid Maximus, you’ll dig this, as it’s basically a Steroid Maximus-style Big Band track with Li’l Jimmy Foetus’ vocals on. I’m also a huge fan of their Love album, which, if you’re looking for a genre, is Orchesdustrial. And, yes, that’s as awesome as it sounds. It’s worth picking up for the song “(not adam)” alone. For reals.
13. Harry Nilsson – You’re Breakin’ My Heart [From Son of Schmilsson]
I’ve become a pretty big Nilsson fan, and this is one of my favorites from my favorite record of his. This track accurately sums up his ability to write a catchy, hummable, singable tune with lyrics that go from the hilariously vulgar to the emotionally resonant in one line. The lyrics are shocking at first, but they’re also how people talk — like Nilsson said in an interview, what was he supposed to sing? “You’re breakin’ my heart, tearin’ it apart, darn it?” It’s a real emotion, but it’s also a pretty funny one, too — at least from the standpoint of the observer.
14. Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere [From Under the Covers, Vol. 1]
Talking about pop greats — Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs each have a pretty big pedigree — AND were both responsible for the best thing to ever come out of the Austin Powers franchise, the fake band Ming Tea. There probably won’t be a Ming Tea record, but this is the next best thing — a covers record. Lots of great covers of great songs, including this one, from my favorite Non-Trans Neil Young record.
15. The Moog Cookbook – Novocaine For The Soul [From Bartell]
I’d been looking for this song, originally only released on the B-side of an eels single, for AGES, and I finally found it, compiled on the released-under-the-radar Odds & Sods collection Bartell, mostly only available through Roger Manning Jr’s website, but also in the occasional awesome record store. It’s a pretty neat cover — it’s not quite as stand-alone good as most of the Moog Cookbook’s other stuff, but, danged if I’m not a huge eels fan, so, well, it works for me.
16. Amy Winehouse – Fuck Me Pumps [From Frank]
This song is proof that record companies are stupid and hate you. Y’all know Amy Winehouse, right? This song’s from her debut record. You might be saying, “Hey, wait, I’ve GOT Back To Black, and fine record though it is, it doesn’t have this song on it!” And you would be correct. Back To Black is her second record — her first was Frank, recorded and released in her native UK in — get this — 2003. It was NEVER released over here, despite doing gangbusters in the UK (shortlisted for the Mercury Prize among other accolades). It’s FINALLY coming out in November, but, jeez. With a record that critically beloved AND a commercial success, why not RELEASE IT AROUND THE WORLD, HUH?! This was one of the singles, and it did really well. Arrgh. Anyway, though, this one is pretty hilarious, and has LOTS of great lines. Eventually you’ll be able to hear it in this country. But, you know, four years later than you should have.
17. Reel Big Fish – Drunk Again [From Cheer Up]
Reel Big Fish is a band that when I first got into, I LOVED. One of my friends in high school loaned me their major label debut, and I ended up buying the CD instantly along with the EP, and seeing them live shortly thereafter. When Why Do They Rock So Hard? came out, I was really excited and a few of us in college went on a mini-road-trip to the record store to get it the day it came out. Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as good, but it had definite high points. When their third album came out — this one, Cheer Up — I picked it up shortly after it came out, not the day of, but maybe only a week after? and was very disappointed. For the most part, the album sounded like knockoffs of songs from their first two records — there wasn’t any real growth at all. Except for this song, which is worth the cost of the album. It’s a really sad, well-written song — it shows what RBF are capable of. Listening to this one again made me wonder if I should actually pick up the two or three records that came out after Cheer Up; if it’s more stuff of this quality, I’m so there? but if it’s more songs where they’re trying to pretend the late-90s third wave ska revival is still the best way to continue to sell out? I’ll pass.
18. Too Much Joy – King Of Beers [From Cereal Killers]
Sometimes Too Much Joy is a guilty pleasure of mine, and sometimes they’re a real, legitimate pleasure. (I suppose, sometimes, too, they’re neither, but that’s truly rare, particularly with stuff they put out on albums. Some of the live-only unreleased stuff is pretty bad, but, then, it was unreleased for a reason, so you can’t complain too much.) This is one of those real pleasure songs, though it might be a bit better live. I love pretty much all the lines in this one, particularly the verse, “She’s so beautiful/I swear I’d sleep with her brother/I’m so beautiful/Don’t even know her, but I love her”. Apparently this song was written after Too Much Joy were being courted by major labels, and after one label-thrown party, Tim Quirk had too much to drink and made a complete ass out of himself. But hey, they ended up on Giant, so that’s not too bad, so it had a happy ending, I suppose.
19. They Might Be Giants – Lincoln, Washington And That Jefferson Guy [From They Might Be Giants vs. McSweeney’s a/k/a McSweeney’s 6: We Now Know Who]
This is a theme song from a sitcom that should SO exist. That’s about all I got to say, but it’s only 18 seconds long after all.
20. Chumbawamba f/ Jimmy Soul – Timebomb [from Showbusiness!]
Chumbawamba is a band that I love but I often have to defend. See, people only think of “Tubthumper”, which, I admit, at the time, I hated. After all, when you start hearing a song over and over and over and over with mostly frat boys drunkenly singing its praises, it’s a bit of a turn off. However, a friend of mine told me they were good, and to prove it, played “Amnesia” from the same album for me. That is an OUTSTANDING pop song — but I still wasn’t wholly convinced. A few years later, when I was in college radio, Readymades came in, and as music director, I listened to it — and was floored. So, over the years, I’ve ended up picking up their records when I come across them (which is oddly rarely, and there’s still a few I don’t have). This is from their live album, which in the US was released as a double-disc with a Noam Chomsky spoken-word release. Kind of an odd combo, I suppose, but hey. Anyway, this is yet another great pop song from Chumbawamba (don’t think they ever wrote any other kind), with vocals from Jimmy Echo, a English singer with some small-to-middling amount of fame, who also happens to be one of their dads. He does a pretty great version with this song, which borrows a bit from “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield.
21. Coil – Triple Sons And The One You Bury [From And The Ambulance Died In His Arms]
This cut is probably going to end up being the most divisive. It’s a 13 minute long spoken-word piece with a harsh backing, but the first time I heard it, I was utterly blown away. There’s a very palpable sense of madness on this track and it’s very easy to get caught up in its soundscape. Coil were absolutely brilliant, and I’m rather sad that I came so late to this party that one of the hosts had died by the time I arrived. But I suppose it was better to show up late than not at all.
22. David Lynch – The Ant Song [From Dumbland]
Dumbland is amazing. Dumbland is brilliant. Dumbland is fucking retarded. All three of these statements are true. David Lynch created Dumbland for his website subscribers, and created it all himself. He voiced, animated, directed, wrote and composed the music. It is crude and ugly, brutal, violent and stupid, and yet, it still has the power to completely unsettle people who don’t find it utterly hilarious. I’m not sure what about it causes those folks to not dislike it but be perturbed to the point where they have to leave the room when it’s on, but that’s something that’s rare and interesting, to say the least. This song is taken from the last episode. Some folks say it’s a parody/satire of his experiences working with (the immensely talented) Julee Cruise, but I don’t think Lynch is talking, since he so rarely does with his work. And that’s fine by me. Thanks to Dale for ripping this song for me from his DVD copy of Dumbland? is what I would be saying if this were anything but a hypothetical mix, of course.