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Monday, Aug 10, 2009
Pop Heroism, One Song at a Time

“Cars” - Gary Numan
Written by Gary Numan
From The Pleasure Principle (Beggars Banquet/Atco, 1979)


According to the Wikipedia entry for Gary Numan, the famously dark-viewed British new-waver has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism. In the article, a quote attributed to Numan indicates that he feels his longtime difficulties in relating to others, the subtext of much of his work, may be directly related to this syndrome.


That gossipy tidbit may reflect the whole truth, a kernel of truth, or no truth at all, but one thing is definitely certain: no other artist in rock and roll has so thoroughly mined the subject of emotional alienation in the modern, computerized world. Numan’s brittle-broken vocal style, ice-cold synthesizer lines, herky-jerky beats, and dread-filled lyrics all contribute to a challenging and compelling aesthetic, one that is still undervalued by many music lovers but cherished by millions of dark-clad misfits worldwide.


Tagged as: gary numan, new wave
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Friday, Aug 7, 2009
The one-hit wonder that destroyed her career live on national television.

In 1988, Sinead O’Connor released The Lion and the Cobra, her critically-acclaimed debut album. Rolling Stone called her one of the women “shattering the boundaries of pop music”, but the album peaked at #36 on the Billboard 200 and none of her singles charted in the United States.


Then she recorded “Nothing Compares 2 U”, a cover of a Prince song originally released on The Family’s self-titled album, and everything changed. The video was mesmerizing, combining gothic imagery with a tight close-up on her face that gave the song a transcendent power. “Nothing” eventually spent four weeks at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and propelled the I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got album to become a double platinum, number one bestseller.


For a moment in time, Sinead was a superstar.


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Thursday, Aug 6, 2009

Before Zach Galifianakis’ outstanding breakout roles in The Hangover and Humpday respectively, this comic had a penchant for lyp syncing to saccharine little dities about love such as Anita Baker’s “You Bring Me Joy”.



After this foray, he managed to convince none other than Fiona Apple to be in her whimsical music video for “Not About Love”.


Without a doubt, these ‘inspired’ ventures bore the marks of Zach’s impending success. And it is no surprise that recently, Roger Ebert compared Zach’s Hangover performance to that of John Belushi in Animal House—Kudos indeed!


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Wednesday, Aug 5, 2009

In classic Radiohead fashion, Thom and the boys unleashed a new track on an unsuspecting blogosphere today: “Harry Patch (In Memory Of)”. The song is a tribute to Harry Patch, the British supercentenarian who was the last living World War I veteran to have fought in the trenches. Patch passed away at the ripe old age of 111 on July 25th and is set to be buried tomorrow at Wells Cathedral in Somerset.


While a fitting tribute, the track is something of an anomaly in the Radiohead catalog—it’s easily the most purely orchestral they’ve ever penned. Built atop a foundation of weepy strings (arranged by Jonny Greenwood), the song marries orchestral sweep with a pronounced undercurrent of existential dread. Structurally, it sounds a bit like a distant cousin of “You and Whose Army?”, were that song’s guitars swapped out for a string section. While the lyrics are all Patch quotes, many of the lines feel like classic Yorke constructions (“They came up from all sides,” “I’ve seen devils coming up from the ground”). Patch, who became an outspoken critic of war late in his life, apparently had a “profound effect” on Yorke, who urged listeners not “to forget the true horror of war” in a post to the deadairspace blog.


“Harry Patch (In Memory Of)” premiered on BBC Radio 4 this morning and is now streaming in its entirety on the BBC website. The track can be purchased from the W.A.S.T.E. shop for £1, with all proceeds going to UK veterans’ charity, the Royal British Legion.


Tagged as: radiohead
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Tuesday, Aug 4, 2009

“You” - Bill Withers
Written by Bill Withers
From +‘Justments, Sussex Records, 1974


The lead-off track to an oft-forgotten album by master songwriter Bill Withers, “You” is an indignant and accusatory piece of work, wherein Withers lets loose a series of quips and cutting remarks suitable for a serious game of the dozens. Though quite a few Withers songs could be called dark or brooding, there is really nothing in his catalog quite like “You”.


You would have to be completely new to pop music to call yourself unfamiliar with Bill Withers’ work; his songs are well-worn in the American pop canon. Lovingly revered, frequently covered, and noted as an influence on countless important artists of varying genres, Withers’ biggest hits (“Lean on Me”, “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Grandma’s Hands”, “Use Me”, “Lovely Day”), continue to have a huge impact on listeners and young musicians alike. Withers’ to-the-point writing style, working man’s shout, and distinctive rhythmic approach all make for a singular, engaging style. The intelligence in his intent, the focus he gives to small details, and his succinct way with a catchy phrase make many of his songs almost zen-like in their simple yet precise observations of life, love, and relationships.


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