The holidays are wonderful time of year. Or maybe they’re not. I don’t know you or your family. Perhaps this time of year is a nightmarish blur of angry relatives, long car rides and lime jello with carrot shavings in it. But one thing is certain. There are iTunes gift cards burning a hole in your skinny jeans, and if you will indulge me, I have a few song suggestions.
5 Criminally Overlooked Cover Songs
Counting Crows – “Friend of the Devil”
Faithful enough to the Grateful Dead classic, but with just the right amount of Adam Duritz’s signature melancholy.
BulletBoys – “Hang On St. Christopher”
How this forgettable 80’s glam rock outfit ended up covering Tom Waits is a mystery to me, but they absolutely kill it. The version that appears on their 2006 greatest hits collection is raw, restrained and about as cool as the BulletBoys ever got.
Concrete Blonde – “Tomorrow Wendy”
This song actually appeared on Concrete Blonde’s classic 1990 album Bloodletting more than two months before the original was released on Wall Of Voodoo singer Andy Prieboy’s first solo album. It also has the distinction of being the saddest song you will hear all day.
Peter Gabriel – “The Book of Love”
I actually prefer the Magnetic Fields original, but there’s a wonderful raw beauty to Peter Gabriel’s vocals. For my money, it’s the greatest love song ever written.
Sun Kil Moon – “Never Ending Math Equation”
Love him or hate him, Mark Kozelek does what he wants. In 2005 he decided to follow-up his band Sun Kil Moon’s critically adored debut Ghosts of the Great Highway with an entire album of Modest Mouse covers. It worked. That album (Tiny Cities) manages to perfectly mesh the controlled chaos of Modest Mouse with the delicate gloom of Sun Kil Moon.
I have recently come to the disturbing realization that, as a 42-year old music fan, the number of great songs I remember is likely surpassed by the number of great songs I’ve forgotten. I discovered this alarming prospect after I stumbled on to a list of the 100 Greatest Alternative Singles of the 80’s. Coming in at #94 (the back end of these lists are always more interesting than the front right?) was “Save it for Later” by The English Beat. I have no idea how many times you’ve heard this song in the last year, but chances are it’s not enough. That’s certainly the case with me. That got me wondering, how many great songs have I completely forgotten about? I fear that the number is shockingly high, and it fills me with a strange existential dread. There are songs that I love that I will likely never hear again. And it’s happening to you too. We’ve all inadvertently become pop culture hoarders. We have a mountain of movies, TV shows, podcasts and music available to us on demand. As awesome as that might seem, it has an ironic side effect. It’s like an episode of The Twilight Zone. There are thousands of amazing songs that you will never hear again because they’ve been buried under a pile of pop culture you only barely care about.
Anyway, here’s The English Beat with “Save it for Later”
The last thing I want to do is weigh in on a matter of public controversy. After all, it would be foolish to take a controversial stand which might alienate some WEAX fans. In fact, whatever the issue is, I want to assure you that WEAX agrees with you. You are 100% correct. That’s why I won’t be writing about Starbucks, red cups or the War on Christmas. Nope. Not this guy. No way.
Instead, I’d like to offer up a hopeful example of common ground; a symbol of the holiday season that makes everyone happy. The Christmas Sweater. Amazingly, against all odds, this staple of the holidays has managed to remain happily inoffensive to everyone. Whether it’s worn with complete sincerity by you grandma or ironically by your hipster cousin, the Christmas Sweater never fails to receive a smile. Imagine a world where everything holiday related, from greetings to coffee cups, elicited the same reaction as the Christmas Sweater. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
When you really think about it, people give a lot of very bad advice. I recently read an inspirational tweet reminding readers that when faced with adversity they should remember to “just breathe.” Okay, but aren’t I going to do that anyway? I mean, I appreciate the importance of respiration when faced with a difficult situation (or any situation really), but it’s totally worthless as advice. This hero is essentially telling us that the best way to handle a particularly daunting set of circumstances is to not suffocate. Gosh, thanks. I’ll try to remember that.
I want to tell Star Wars fans (and anyone else who geeked-out over the latest Force Awakens trailer) to calm down. It’s a commercial. I know we call them “trailers” now but it’s still just a commercial. Disney wants your money, and this is all a well-funded marketing campaign designed to separate you from $13.50. I want to mount my hipster soapbox and call you all slaves to yet another soulless Hollywood retread.
But I can’t.
The truth is, I’ve never been this excited to see a movie in my entire life. The original trilogy meant everything to me as a child. It fueled my imagination and triggered an interest in science and science fiction that I still have to this very day. Of course I know now that those 3 movies are far from perfect (and the less said about the awful prequels the better), but I don’t care. Like a lot of people, I thought I would never see Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia or Han Solo ever again. Now after 32 years, the idea fills me with an inexplicable giddiness. I realize that The Force Awakens will likely be an epilogue for these old characters, but I still can’t wait to find out what became of my childhood movie heroes.
Remember when albums mattered? That bygone era when artists would write and record a set of songs, and fans would listen to the whole thing? I miss that. I think about it a lot. I think about how there are now entire generations that will never passionately argue about album covers, read liner notes or find the great deep cuts that casual fans miss. Sadly, it seems that the ubiquity of music in the internet age has turned us all into a kind of casual fan. Everything is too easy when it comes to music. It’s all in your pocket, an app away. It was different when you had to make your way to the local record store and plunk down hard earned cash for something physical. It had real value. If your ex ran off with your Born To Run album, it mattered. If your mom didn’t approve of your favorite Kiss record and tossed it into the fireplace, it mattered. If you discovered (tragically) that one of your friends actually owned the Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen albums, it mattered. Prior to the internet, your music collection was tangible, and it said something about who you were and what you deemed important. Having 300 albums on a shelf in your bedroom told the world that music mattered to you. Does having Spotify Premium say the same thing?
Apparently Facebook is developing a “Dislike” button. This should be fun. Just imagine how the self-absorbed, selfie-taking masses will react to having their duck-faced visages given the “thumbs down.” I predict it will take less than a week for coddled narcissists to consider any “Disliked” status update to be a form of bullying. Personally, I plan to make liberal use of it every time someone posts about their workout.
I’ve heard people say that we need a sarcasm font, or some sort of new punctuation mark to denote satire. Seems reasonable in the internet age, right? Wrong. The idea that we can no longer distinguish between sarcasm and sincerity, between satire and veracity without help should be deeply troubling. The idea is called Poe’s Law. Here is the definition according to Wikipedia:
An Internet adage which states that, without a clear indicator of the author’s intent, parodies of extreme views will, to some readers, be indistinguishable from sincere expressions of the parodied views.
Ladies and gentleman, we are living in the age of Poe’s Law. Am I reading the New York Times or The Onion? Is this cable news or an SNL skit? With the 2016 presidential campaign just getting started, I have to wonder, could 2016 be the year satire dies? Will we see it swallowed up in a tsunami of insane campaign ads, oddball interviews and misguided stunts? Our nations comedians could be in for a rough year. After all, how do you mock mockery?
I think a good barometer for the collective intelligence of a society might be the number of cartoon characters in advertising. Let me be clear, I’m not talking about marketing to kids. An animated rabbit is understandable if you’re trying to sell sugary cereal to an 8-year old. I’m talking about products that are strictly within the purview of adulthood. Think about it, how many car insurance commercials have you seen that utilize a cartoon spokesperson? Last night cartoon mucus tried to sell me a cold remedy. How stupid do they think we are? Whether it’s a middle-aged woman being led around by an animated bladder, or a Muppet hocking mortgages, the answer seems pretty clear. We’re apparently not smart enough to be spoken to like adults.
On a completely unrelated note, do you think the guy that does the voice of the cartoon snot drives a nicer car than me?
In 1981 AC/DC released For Those About To Rock (We Salute You). While no one would ever describe AC/DC as “thought provoking,” the title of that album has always vexed me. I don’t really know what it means to “rock.” If I called you on the phone and asked what you were doing, and you replied, “I’m about to rock,” what exactly are you about to do? Seriously, I have no idea. Also, the word “about” in the title implies some strange forethought, like it’s the next thing on your to-do list.
- Fold Laundry
- Balance Checkbook
- Set DVR To Record Sharknado 2
Also, I’m confused by the sense of pride and honor that apparently accompanies my intention to rock. Is my plan to rock really salute-worthy? What if I intend to rock, but I intend to do so while listening to Rick Springfield? Will AC/DC still salute me? Is their salute solely contingent upon the presence of AC/DC music? Will Rick Springfield salute me? Clearly there are more questions than answers here.