I think this post (original here) bears repeating because I was listening to the song today, and it’s just so awesome. Truly, the Bangles were the greatest 60’s cover band in a decade full of great 60’s cover bands.
Live The Bangles All Over The Place (1984)
I’m a bit indifferent about the Bangles. They’re a strange band. They had all the right influences, but somehow failed at translating those influences into compelling original material. It’s not all bad, though; the band’s slavish adherence to a set musical pattern means that their covers are uniformly awesome. Like this jangly, upbeat take on The Merry-Go-Round’sLive off the Bangles’ first (and some say most solid) record. I kind of like it more than the original. The Bangles: Great cover band or greatest cover band?
Bikini Kill had a song called “Anthem” and it went like this: “Justin likes surf music, Justin likes surf music, Justin likes surf music, it killed my friends, it killed my friends, it killed my friends, it’s happening again.”
According to an essay in Bikini Kill fanzine #1, Tobi Vail wrote the song in response to her experience “sitting on my boyfriend’s bed in high school and having an argument with his friend about jimi hendrix ‘you will never hear surf music again’ and how hardcore had become just as stupid and tame as surf music was in the ’60s and that it was time for something new.”
So now that surf rock is experiencing a comeback of sorts, I thought it’d be interesting to do a mix of surf-ish sounds in my collection using “Anthem” as a starting point to put things in perspective, cuz “it killed my friends, it’s happening again”.
What I mean by this is that surf is historically very white and very male and therefore is actually alienating to a large segment of the Californian population its assumed to represent. It’s also incredibly conservative for a rock and roll sub-genre. Don’t even try to argue with me on this because you know in your heart that it’s true. We all love the Beach Boys, but their earlier work is primarily an iteration of traditionalist ideology - puritanism, chastity, patriotism, sexism - all wrapped up in sweet harmonies and pin-striped shirts. It’s pretty insidious when you think about it.
So, think about it: Beach Boys songs usually involve a moral of some sort, a reiteration of acceptable standards of behavior relayed to the kids through popular music. For example, the narrative of “I Get Around” concerns a male protagonist who, bored with his stomping grounds, goes zipping around in his awesome car with a couple of pals, picking up girls, and generally indulging in the full breadth of meaning contained in the expression “I get around.” Life is totally rad for him.
Ok, now to the flipside: “Fun, Fun, Fun” has a female protagonist who also has gone on a reckless joyride in a fast car. She lies to Daddy and speeds around town in his T-Bird, blasting the radio and leaving all the guys eating her dust. Eventually Daddy gets hip, takes the keys, and delivers the too-cool-for-school girl racer into the care of a waiting boyfriend who lectures her (“you shouldn’t have lied”) while concomitantly assuring her that everything will be ok now that she can no longer drive around on her own and must spend all her time with him. I always imagine the girl in the song rolling her eyes during the outro, glancing longingly over her shoulder at the forbidden T-Bird as she’s led away by her douchebag boyfriend to some BS high school event.
Don’t get me wrong, I think surf is just fine for what it is and obviously I can’t hate the Beach Boys for writing songs reflective of the strict moral codes that were still very much a reality for Americans in the early 1960’s and YES I KNOW that much of surf rock is entirely instrumental, which negates my whole lyrical quandary completely. I also do not mean to imply that women and minorities have never made/enjoyed surf music; I hope, if anything, that making this mix proves otherwise. I just think it’s important to examine the privileges, prejudices, and past associations of a genre before blindly embracing it as novel and fresh or singing along to a song that’s essentially instructing you to do what your dad/boyfriend tells you to do while letting the dudes off the hook for no reason other than they’re dudes.
PS. Whoever is doing the musicological categorizations for Wikipedia is totally wrong in their assessment of the relationship between surf and garage. Garage rock is not a derivative of surf. It may occasionally incorporate surf elements, but both surf and garage are both sub-genres of rock and roll and therefore, in my opinion, cannot be derived from each other. Plus garage rock really came about after the British Invasion, which was the catalyst that both eliminated surf music from the popular music charts (notable exceptions the Beach Boys and that’s only because they were a great rock and roll band, not a surf band) and moved American culture away from the conservative mores expressed in surf songs. So how does garage come from surf, again? And then there’s the whole technical aspect of surf that’s not present in most 60’s garage, generally because the kids simply lacked the ability. If you find amateurism a deterrent to your enjoyment of rock and roll, then you’re better off sticking to surf.
Featured are songs of girl-ish anger, annoyance, frustration, and indifference dedicated to all the men who pissed me off this weekend. You’ve been warned, gentlemen. With tracks from Bratmobile, The Frumpies, Shop Assistants, and other lady bands through the decades… tracklist after the cut.
Musically, this song is needlessly complex and self-congratulatory. A friend of mine and I learned this song as a surprise for a friend who was volunteering with the U.N. in Sudan. Midway through clunking through the unnecessary I’m-so-clever chord changes for the 100th time, we came to the conclusion that whoever wrote it was a total asshole.
This record confused me. It kicked off promisingly with a series of fantastic up-the-kids psychedelic anthems that had me jumping around my bedroom in anticipation of more to come. And then it turned into a shoegaze record.
I lost count of how many times Alex howls about fire in the forest or setting the world on fire or being the King of Fire’s daughter. A fixation on flames isn’t unexpected from a pair of Chicagoan gingers - they were born with an inferno in their fuzz-drenched souls, as they gleefully recount in “1985”. Lyrics are spare to the point of seeming undeveloped, but the riffs are substantial enough that Alex could sing a nursery rhyme and it would sound like the Communist Manifesto.
Never Done Nothing Like That Before Supergrass Life on Other Planets (2002)
Shit weather on my side of town today & supposedly for the rest of the weekend, but listening to Supergrass always cheers me up. They are, after all, everyone’s second favorite band. Life on Other Planets is an especially solid record from a discography full of solid records.
To my mind, L.O.O.P is concerned with one thing and one thing only: packing yourself full of psychedelic drugs and seeing where the journey takes you. I don’t think the majority of songs on the record can be read any other way. There’s the one about creatures climbing the walls. And the one about taking it all and feeling like God. Or the one about climbing up the towers of Babel. And then there’s the song that quotes Spinal Tap and another where Gaz pretends to be Elvis. But Supergrass aren’t so covert about their aims. Somewhere between tracks, a bit of advice: “He’s so stoned, doesn’t even know what he’s on about. Maybe he should go and lay down.”
I've been really enjoying your Fall posts and would also like to say a big thanks for giving fuckyeahthefall your recommendation.
Hey thanks! I’m glad you’ve been enjoying them. Sometimes it feels as though I’m writing in a vacuum, so it’s nice to get a comment to the contrary. And many thanks to Fuckyeahthefall for all the reblogs! Love the tumblr and always check it for updates.
Inspired by Victor Franko, I’ve decided to take on the 30 Day Song Challenge.
Day 25 - A Song That Makes You Laugh
Yes, the Fall-uh, again. What can I say? This is a band that demands to be written about because they are so very weird and off-putting for casual listeners, and yet so very brilliant and rewarding if you take the time to actually pay attention to the music. And did I mention that the Fall are fucking funny? Cuz they are.
Mark E. Smith is one of the most hilarious lyricists in rock and roll. I don’t think he’s recognized for this because Fall lyrics are such an impossible knot of the serious and the comic, metaphor and literalism, literature and pop, persona and facade. Smith’s a poet, ok. But not the humorless, self-conscious Jim Morrison kind. The funny kind. The trick is figuring out when Mark E.’s being serious and when he’s making a joke. It’s called USING YOUR BRAIN. Try it some time.
I’m into C.B.! is one of the most hysterical songs in the universe. Every part of this song is funny, starting with basic principle of being into C.B. in the first place. Then there’s the exclamation point. It makes all the difference and the title would not be half as good without it. Think of it this way: What’s more amusing? Your friend saying, “Yeah, I’m into C.B. right now,” or your friend saying, “OMG you guys! I’m into C.B.!”?
Then there’s the irony of it all. Really, this song is quite sad if you take it on the lyrics alone. Accompanied by a plinky-plonky guitar riff and snappy drum beat, Mark E. relates the cautionary tale of Happy Harry, who, as you might have guessed, is into C.B. His life is a series of minimum wage jobs and dull anecdotes. Ignored by his odd family (“My family’s weird a lot/ My stepsister has a horrible growth”), Happy Harry uses C.B. to communicate with the world, kind of (“I’m having trouble trouble with the terminology”). His fun is spoiled when the government sends him a letter requiring obtain a license. Whoops.
From a literal point of view, I’m Into C.B.! is your basic kitchen sink family drama (or, in the American framework, your suburban family drama). It’s about a pathetic kid from a dysfunctional family who craves attention, any attention (except government attention, naturally), and human interaction, but settles for C.B. since he’s not getting it anywhere else. A lyric like “My father’s alright really/ He got me all these wires and bits/ Apart from that he talks to me hardly" could easily be interpreted as lamenting the lack of connection between father and son, but when combined with the nursery-rhyme music and Smith’s waggish delivery it’s hard not to laugh at the ridiculous plight of dim Happy Harry and his ridiculous hobby in the same way you laugh at the cornball cruelty of a stupid sitcom.
I think it’s safe to assume Mark E. doesn’t have much sympathy for the perceived victimization of hapless Happy Harry. He doesn’t have much sympathy for anybody, come to think of it, but that doesn’t mean he won’t soften his ruthless critiques with a bit of sound advice. After the Man has interrupted his C.B. reverie, Smith has Happy Harry concede that he “should of listened to New Face in Hell" before taking up such a foolish pursuit. Miserable and boring life? Listen to the Fall and all will be well. And that’s no joke.