Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Micro Reviews - B

Last time, with 'A' bands, I did my usual thing and got too wordy and bogged down in what I had to write. As a result my mind got impatient and bored, and I began reusing words and phrases and sometimes explaining what I meant too much. This time, I'm going to keep it to the true shortness of a micro review, including my little blurbs on the artist/band. I don't need to delve into their history or where they ended up, just my opinion and whatever I find briefly interesting. That's what this is about, after all.

Here I go again (on my own, down the only road I've ever known)...

B-52's, The (1978-Present)
What do I think of them? Not too much. And I don't mean that in a negative way. I just happen to like only two of their songs. They did the Flintstones theme for the Flintsones movie in 1994, which was good if I can remember it well. I haven't really tried to look over their back catalogue. I probably should. They are a fun, happy band though, from what I get, which I like.

Love Shack (1989)
Original review
Great bass line and guitar. Nice vocals. The girls give off a flirty, inviting tone that's attractive while Fred Schneider is generally fun to listen to. A nice party atmosphere in the song. Guitar stands out to me in sound and style.

Roam (1990)
Original review
I like this because it makes me think of early days when I was young at my maternal grandparents' when they lived in Kanata. I don't know why. I tend to think of my maternal relatives when I was young and visiting them. Good guitar, nice procession, and great how it always ends up on B major.

Bananarama (1979-Present)
An 80s girl group. I don't know much about them, but like probably most people, at least on this continent, I only really know their hits 'Cruel Summer' and 'Venus,' and prefer the former. Not much else thought on them, really. I think Ace of Base covered Cruel Summer in the late fact I probably mentioned that about them in the 'A' group.

Cruel Summer (1983)
Simple pop song, but I like it for its guitar, keyboard and summery atmosphere. The notes are simple, too: D flat minor, A major, and B major. It's a great sound. The keyboard follows this as well as the guitar. I love the drum effects and the xylophone sound as well. They give me an image of a rainy forest on a slope. The chorus makes me think of a beach that has a soft, easy gradient into the water. I guess that's the point. Lyrically it appears to be more about being on one's own and bored in a too-hot city. Mirages of friends and maybe a lover.

The Bangles (1981-1989)
Sharing a record company with R.E.M., English Beat, and many others (I.R.S. Records, owned by Stewart Copeland's older brother) The Bangles were another American* girl group in similar vein to The Go-Go's, though I think they might have been more involved with writing music and lyrics than Banarama may have been. Yet, when I think of it, two songs of theirs that come to mind - 'Walk Like an Egyptian' and 'Manic Monday' - were written by others, the latter being the recently late Prince. Again, not much to say on them, other than Susanna Hoffs is cute (as she looked in the 80s - I don't know how she looks now).

Walk Like An Egyptian (1986)
Original review
I like this song's key. Published written music of this song puts it in C, but it just doesn't match up to my ears, which hear it in B major. I think publishers do that - lift it up a semitone - to ease the difficulty of the song into an easier key to play for a learning pianist/guitarist, because every songbook I've picked up that has this song in it puts it in C major instead. I like the song for its guitar, really, and general fun look at every day life via the lyrics and key changes (B - E - B - D, and so on). Nearly every member of the band has her part, except for the drummer I believe, so there's variety, and it's just plain fun. The guitar makes the B major chord it's playing sound angry and surly and not to be messed with. I went crazy about that in my original review.

Barenaked Ladies (1990-Present)
A fun Canadian band known for their harmonies and quirky lyrics. I like a lot of their random hits: Enid, One Week, It's All Been Done, Falling For the First Time, etc. They have something of a range which is nice, although I kind of wish Andy Creegan had stayed with them longer, because I liked his piano parts in their music. Kevin Hearn is a great fundamental part of the band - he fit in well from the start - but I would have liked to hear genuine piano a bit more and Hearn is more of a synthesizer player in the band. I can't diminish his parts though, of course, because like I said, they work.

Enid (1992)
Original review
A song I like for its complicated set of instruments. It has a horn section, pedal steel guitar, even a cuica drum. As a result you get a lot of nice variety, and the piano is nice as well. The song isn't simple in musical direction or progression either - the verses have a meandering progression of notes, bass line, and instruments that come and go. Yet the lyrics are simple and despite being about a failed first relationship, singer Page looks back on it with maturity and self-effacement.

Brian Wilson (1992)
This song starts out slow, with a gentle acoustic guitar, and gets ever more rapid, nervous and frantic. I like its bright sounding chorus - nice happy chords to "I'm lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did" - and the band accomplish a great balance of perspective between music and lyrics. Plus I think the lyrics ring true for a lot of young people out there. Those who are either just out of university or college or even high school, people getting into their early twenties, who are uncertain what to do or how to go from where they are in life, and therefore become depressed and lethargic. "Drove downtown in the rain, just to check out the late night record store." Nothing better to do. nothing at all. Of course, this was 1992. Nowadays people just check in on Facebook or Instagram or take bored selfies, not having to drive anywhere. I wouldn't be surprised one bit if it turned out constant living on social media generally made young people more depressed than fulfilled. Ironically, the actual Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys did an a cappella cover of this song. It's strange seeing the heading in Wikipedia: "Brian Wilson cover of Brian Wilson."

One Week (1998)
This isn't a hugely favorite song of mine, but something I would willingly listen to, at least enough to consider it. It's a rampant barrage of probably ad-lipped lyrics that can almost be overwhelming. But they paint a good picture of an everyman who has his quirks and can probably be somewhat childish for his age. "Chickety-China, the Chinese chicken; you have a drumstick and your brain stops tickin'" "I don't make films, but if I did they'd have a samurai" "I have a history of taking off my shirt." I think this was their first major hit in America. Perhaps it spoke to a lot of them, or it was easily relatable. I think this was BNL at their quirkiest (at that time, of course, though Enid and 'Grade 9' were almost just as fun or silly).

It's All Been Done (1999)
A good enough song. I like how the lyrics refer to time periods over history; a love story told over a millennium. The band seem to have a lot of confidence that we'll still have 'The Price is Right' in the next thousand years. I think this is one of the band's rare songs to have a 'whoo-oo' refrain in it, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was a conscious decision.

Too Little Too Late (1998)
I don't know why this isn't in my list. I'd consider this one for its familiarity. I like its rock style - BNL aren't a hard rock band, yet they are considered a rock band -  and its simple, easy progression and lyrics. The music video is funny as well.

Pinch Me (2000)
As soon as the drum loop begins, you can recognize the song. The acoustic guitar, too. It has a very uncertain sound to it, and it always seemed to make me think of an uncle with a similar expression. It's not a very happy song in contrast to the others I've got above. The kind of 'would the world notice if I disappeared?' type of lyric. I expect it's a song about depression. But the hook and arrangement of the song is typical of the band, experienced and well-done.

Falling For the First Time (2001)
From the same album, I believe, as 'Pinch Me,' I've always liked this song, since hearing it on the radio, though I didn't realize, amazingly, that it was by BNL until last year. I just like the general progression, rock sound, and merry-go-round jauntiness of the pace and chords of the music. The 'anything loved can be lost' refrain has a great musical procession to it that highlights the whole song for me, and the drums are crazy.

Bass is Base (1993-1995)
I only know about this Canadian band because of their one song 'I Cry' (which I will mini-review below). The trio came from North York. I don't know why or how they didn't continue. They released two albums and had one top forty hit - the aforementioned 'I Cry.' Afterwards one became a chef, another went onto a solo career, and the third became a music producer.

I Cry (1996)
Original review
My original review focused more on the synesthesia of the thing (which most of my earlier reviews tend to do, somewhat unfortunately). The song is part bass and guitar, and part vocal melody/beat-boxing. It has an R&B feel to it, which jives with the band's genre. I like the guitar chord strummed over the 'you know that I cry' refrain. The song screams 90s to me, which is part of the attractiveness of it for me.

Beach Boys (1961-Present)
I've heard a few hits by this quintessential American band, particularly 'Fun Fun Fun,' 'I Get Around,' 'God Only Knows,' etc. It's hard not to hear at least a couple of them. They're happy, summery songs that reflect a sunny, fun lifestyle, probably in one's teen years, and no doubt during the summer, on the beach. Gidget would have dated these guys if she weren't so fictional. They were from virtually the same time period, after all.

California Girls (1965)
Ironically, I only heard this song because I first heard a cover version performed by David Lee Roth of Van Halen. I only saw his version because it featured on an 80s-focused episode of a music-comedy program called Video on Trial, which I watched now and then on MuchMusic. I liked the vocal melody sung during the choruses, and eventually I decided I should probably look up and listen to the original.
The Beach Boys' original version definitely sounds grander and better in quality to Roth's cover, which has a highly refined studio production to it and is a lot more rock-based. I like it a little more as a result. But I always find originals better than covers. Plus, the vocal melodies in the original are a lot sunnier and, as I said, grander. It inspired 'Back in the U.S.S.R.' by The Beatles, which is another great song from that time (and probably reflects my taste perfectly compared to wishing they could all be California girls. After all, those Ukraine girls really leave the West behind). This was Brian Wilson's musical genius at work. Well before he was lying in bed.

Kokomo (1988)
I heard this at Wal-Mart and looked it up largely out of curiosity. I love the bass line and the accordion sound of the verses, particularly as the bass goes from C up (not down) to G, then F. The steel drums are an appropriate and perfect add-on to the song musically and in terms of reflecting its subject matter. I guess by then, with Wilson's absence, they'd decided to re-focus on the Florida Keys (and other places in the Caribbean) rather than the beaches of California. The music does something pretty neat and smart here with the F chord: It transitions from a major to a minor in both the verses (the bass following this by sliding down an octave) and at the end of the choruses (which are a simple C major/F major until the end; the F major transitions longingly to a minor as the same tonic is held). I read that it was one of the band's biggest hits, which I find kind of funny considering that it was huge (thanks to its release via a film called Cocktails) decades after their original heyday of massive hits about surfing and having fun on the beach. The band had its name set in legacy as the fun 60s surf band largely thanks to its creative director, Brian Wilson, and then two decades later, without him, they put out a new song for a film's soundtrack and it's almost as big. These aren't the young male counterparts of Gidget anymore - they're middle-aged veterans. But it goes to show that it really doesn't matter how much time has passed or how old you've gotten in between. They aren't the only ones. Paul Simon had his giant stardom around the same time the Kray twins ran the club circuit in London, with his friend Art, and then he mostly fizzled out. Then he came back hugely with Graceland, a product of a trip to Africa to hear the sounds. Well beyond his days of hanging out with Julio down by the school yard, by that time he was still goofing off with Chevy Chase, who stole his vocals. But I'm getting off topic. Kokomo - great procession and instruments. Love the accordion and the unusual change from major to minor on the same chord.

The Beat (1978-1983)
One of the English Ska bands of the early 80s, peers to The Specials, UB40, Madness, etc. etc. I know about them almost entirely thanks to Ferris Bueller's Day Off. John Hughes had a great taste for 80s British music - he included it in a lot of his early teen Brat Pack films, and if he couldn't get it, he emulated it. Pretty in Pink has the Psychedelic Furs; Ferris Bueller's Day Off has the English Beat; Sixteen Candles has a whole soundtrack of artists ranging from The Specials to The Thompson Twins, and he even had his music producer, Ira Newborn, re-create and emulate 'Our House' by Madness for one scene. Unfortunately, for The English Beat alone, I don't have much to say. They come from the same place as Duran Duran and (old) Top Gear's Richard Hammond. (That is to say, Birmingham). I've tried listening to a few of their songs, but most didn't have enough of an impact on me. They're not bad - I'm just not entranced. 'Too Nice to Talk To' is okay. I like their ska-influenced stuff the most. I think they're one of the several bands to reform under different names after their dissolution, with some members returning as General Public and others going on to become Fine Young Cannibals. The nucleus of the band, Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger, worked together with other artists, notably providing additional vocals on 'Victoria Gardens' by Madness, a song originally chosen to be a single off Keep Moving, but replaced at the last second by 'One Better Day.' Oh well. Their vocals are great additions.

March of the Swivelheads/Rotating Head (1982)
Original review
This was my introduction to them: An fast instrumental playing as a teen boy runs and jumps and flings himself through garden hedges in an attempt to get home in time to look like he's 'on the mend' to his worried parents. I wouldn't actually call it a true instrumental, because Ranking Roger's voice does cut in, repeating 'rotating heads' during a quiet interlude in the song. You hear rattles, horns, hand drums, rapidly-picked bass. There's a sax, watery keyboard effects, a guitar I called 'zesty' sounding almost six years ago. It just has a chorus-y bright tone to it, a tone I usually prefer over most guitar sounds. Not to mention the percussion sounds that originally made me think someone slammed a plastic drinking cup on a counter during the studio recording sessions.
By this point I've gone on to try out the alternative version of this, which is actually the original, called 'Rotating Head.' The instrumental was the actual alternative, which I'd heard first. 'Rotating Head' comes off as even faster-paced thanks to Ranking Roger's quick vocals. It's a bit shorter and definitely arranged differently, but it doesn't lack any excitement or fun, and the dynamics are merely played with differently. I'll say both are fun for the ears, almost equally. The instrumental has more changes in it, with a quiet interlude and sound effects that are more present (no overlying, distracting vocals) but the lyrics the vocals are running with elevate the piece just as well. It appears to be about someone who lives a very fast-paced, exciting (though dangerous) lifestyle. Maybe an assassin, or a bounty hunter? Either way, it's just fun!

Mirror in the Bathroom
This is a questionable one. I think I like it in general, but the problem is I can't hear it very well; the videos on YouTube are really quiet. I like the guitar in it. Similar drum beat and rhythm to the song written above. This is one of their ska-driven tunes, and it's pretty good. I just wish I could hear it better. I could turn it up, but I shouldn't need to. I get a sense of difficulty and disappointment with this song, a feeling of unfairness. Something one can relate to now and then.

Big Audio Dynamite (1984-1997)
One of the groups to form out of members from other groups (notably The English Beat and The Clash). That's all I really have to say about them, other than that my father actually has their first album, on vinyl. They look like they're trying to look as cool and full of swagger as they possibly can, though I think they over did it somewhat.

E=MC2 (1985)
I heard this on a music channel on TV and liked the keyboard strings. It gave it a false sense of high ideals for a moment to me, as if an orchestra full of snobby classical musicians were playing. That idea lasted as long as the first time I heard it the first time. I think it's notable enough for me to have it on my list, and I would listen to it at any given time, though I'd probably stick to the radio-shortened version. The actual version is almost six minutes long, and for no reason; Mick Jones seems to run out of things to say around four minutes, and then it's just the chorus lyrics repeated on and on until it abruptly stops. They could have easily just faded it out during the final sound clips.
The song itself is a reference to film plots and characters. That's mostly it. Additionally, there are sound overdubs of quotes of a few characters from the 1970 film Performance. It kind of sounds like a bunch of random references loosely thrown together to create an interwoven fabric of lyrics that just sounds like constant changes of topic, and all at random.

Big Mountain (1988-Present)
Just a band I know because I like one of their songs. Reggae.

Baby, I Love Your Way (Cover) (1994)
This is a song from my childhood. I heard it on the radio all the time. I never felt anything for it, particularly, at the time. When I looked it up again six years ago, though, I immediately liked it, particularly the strength of the production and the diversity of the bass. The chorus has a great bass progression that follows E major note-by-note before immediately returning to B, a fifth of E. When it hit B, with a gentle keyboard accompanying that with a B major chord, my mind immediately went to a girl of whom no other has captured my feelings so strongly. It would be the beginning of my realization that many songs I'd hear afterwards with an emphasis on that note/chord would tend to get my mind focused on her. Anyway, it was performed by the band for the film Reality Bites. I never saw the film, but I love the song, particularly for its diverse musical style of playing, its bass line and its genre. It's a great reggae version of a Peter Frampton love song. I'll be coming back to him later.

Billy Joel (1965-Present)
A piano player from New York who had mainstream success from probably the mid-70s. I know several of his hits, particularly 'My Life' and 'Uptown Girl.' I don't particularly like any of them, though he does have a vocal range. The former I don't like simply because I don't really enjoy songs where the singer is ranting or trying to get the subject to leave him alone or stop. The latter I just don't like in general. 'Keeping the Faith' is alright, though I was surprised the same singer that did 'My Life' was singing that. Anyway. He's had some great success and there's no doubt he has talent, but I just like his one song listed below.

It's All Rock'n'Roll To Me (1980)
I liked this almost as soon as I heard it. Maybe it's because it sounds kind of sarcastic and skeptic. I may not enjoy hearing him say "I don't want to hear you say..." or "not on my time," etc., but I greatly enjoy his sarcastic rhyming with this one. "How about a pair of pink sidewinders and a bright orange pair of pants? You can really be a beau brommel baby if you just gave it half a chance." Then there's the music, with a progression that sounds familiar but is actually different, going from C through E minor, B flat major, and ending on F major. There's a section in minors - E minor, A minor, repeat, then D major and G major. The song has elements of 1950s rock, which I like as it's different and incorporated nicely.

Blind Melon (1990-1999)
Once again, just a band I know thanks to one song. Their lead singer died in 1995 of an overdose.

No Rain (1992)
This song is almost something of a novelty because if you ask anyone (old enough, or into older music) they'll probably say that that's the song with the bee girl. But aside from that, I like its simplicity and its sunny atmosphere. This is one of the very few songs I can play from beginning to end on acoustic guitar. E major to D major. That's mostly it. There's an A major and an E minor 7 or something, I kind of forget, but that's it. Oh, and a G major. The song is a nice fusion of electric and acoustic guitar. The bass line might sound simple, especially with such a simple progression, but I've isolated it and it's actually played around it pretty well. Complex, but not overly so. The bassist is also the backing voice in the song. Of course, the music video probably overshadows the song, which is kind of unfortunate. The director of the video would go on to direct Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' the same year, a song viewed as an anthem for the 'apathetic gen Xers,' though it really was an unintentional heavy-hitting marketing piece for Teen Spirit deodorant. Upon looking it up, I discovered that it was (at the time) a hugely popular deodorant for teen girls, released to market in 1991. You can't buy it today, unfortunately. Sales of the feminine hygiene product mirrored the charting progress of the iconic grunge song. It's no longer on the market. The Nirvana song probably is, but likely only on online vendors like iTunes and in the used section in whatever real-world record stores are still around. How did I get so off topic? Blind Melon. No Rain. Good song.

Blondie (1974-1982)
This is a rare example of a band I largely don't have any interest in - or even like - yet they have one good - perhaps okay - song that I will listen to. Everyone else knows them for their impact on pop culture via 'One Way or Another.' I've heard a few of their other songs, none of which I really actually like. Heart of Glass? No way. The Tide is High? Yeah, not listening to that. One Way or Another? Heard it enough. Call Me? Sure, why not.

Call Me (1980)
Originally, I liked this because I liked the sound of Debbie Harry's voice during the bridge, where she sings in several different languages. I found it sensual and attractive. Then I began listening to the whole thing in general and it just fit in with what I routinely listened to, because there wasn't anything wrong with it or annoying. Nothing to dislike. This is a very obvious song in D minor - not just the key, but like 'The Wall' by Pink Floyd, use of the D minor chord as well. Both songs have a dominant guitar D minor chord played throughout the song. Anything else? Well, the pattern used to play the drums by focusing in the hi-hat was interesting.

Blue Peter (1978-1985)
This is a Canadian band that has some interesting sounds and potential. I need to listen to more of their stuff. I recently checked out 'Don't Walk Past' and it's a synthpop song with a really nice piano riff in the middle and during the final coda. I've heard 'Chinese Graffiti' on the radio more than once as well. I like lead singer Paul Humphrey's voice.

Radio Silence (1980)
This a good song to kill time with. I tend to think of deserts when I hear it, deserts and heat. Nice simple easy rock progression and sound. Like I said, I like the lead singer's voice. Good to listen to in the late afternoon in the summer, perhaps during rush hour.

Blue Rodeo (1984-Present)
I was introduced to this band (also Canadian) via my mother's VHS tapes. They're an okay band. I wouldn't listen to all of their stuff but they have a couple of nice songs. There's probably more out there I'd like, but so far nothing else I've heard - 'Lost Together,' 'Till I am Myself Again,' etc. - have caught my ears. There is 'Try,' however, which is truly endearing and sweet. I wouldn't put it on my list, though.

Trust Yourself (1990)
This was what I heard/saw on the tape. I liked it. I love the guitar notes played in the intro. The music just sounds good. Sounds like the song is ruled by minors, which together can give it a great, if not dark, serious sound. I don't know the chords or notes - I may assume the first note could be E minor - but I'm going to learn them.

Hasn't Hit Me Yet (1993)
This was a radio find. When I first heard it, I actually thought that it was Elvis Costello. I was surprised to discover it was these guys, because the voice singing wasn't the one I was expecting. Turns out they have two singers that perform in much the same consistency as The Cars' Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr. One sings a lot more often, the other now and then.
I like the guitar in this song, mostly. That and some of the lyrics. I find them relatable to some extent, at least in the sense that I felt that way a lot more often in the past. The song's structure is also nice in that it builds up, though unlike 'Trust Yourself,' which uses minor chords overall (it seems), this song is just as negative and dark in its lyrics yet it uses music that's much more cheerful, if not a little bittersweet. It's interesting and welcoming.

Boney M. (1975-1986)
This is the brainchild of German producer Frank Farian, an almost-chef who happened to turn on the TV one day to the credits of an Australian import called Boney. Playing with studio tools, he tweaked his voice and recorded a dance song called 'Baby Do You Wanna Bump.' This was the start of a big European dance group that worked by having a studio full of session players and Farian create and sing the music, and several dancers - three female (who also provided vocals) and one male (just a guy) - 'front' the group. Everything was done behind the scenes, with the four performers largely miming and dancing to provide in the absence of a band and Farian himself. Ironically, Farian tried to continue this practice into the 1990s, creating a band called Milli Vanilli, and that blew up in the worst way. It's pretty amazing that what seemed to be common practice in the 70s - at least with Farian's methods - came to be the sort of thing that justified lawsuits and infamy in the 90s. I can imagine Frank wondering, "why? I spent years having Bobby Farrell pretend to sing my could doing this again cause so much disaster? Blitzkrieg!"

Rasputin (1978)
A dance song sensationalizing the life of Gregori Yefimovich Rasputin, particularly his fall from grace as men in 'higher standing' plotted to, and carried out, his assassination (Prince Yusupov and company). The song champions him as 'Russia's greatest love machine,' loved by young women and hated by politicians and men of the aristocracy. I've done my own reading on this topic, though via an actual historical text written by Robert Massie rather than Wikipedia (Massie's work is actually cited several times in the Wikipedia article of Nicholas II, last Tsar of Russia). The song ends with Farian proclaiming, "oh, those Russians," which is a direct reference to an earlier song by Eartha Kit. Musically, it's the most B-focused song I've heard, with the bass, strings and guitar all starting on, jumping up to, and returning back to B major. It's neat. However, unlike the lyrics, Rasputin was never the 'lover' of the Russian queen. The papers and common folk of the day often got that impression, but he was only an adviser and manipulator who used scripture, holy faith, and the power of his demeanor (plus the power of his followers) to get his way. A lot of people would comment on his gaze. It's a fun song, typical of the Eurodance stuff of the time. America had "Y.M.C.A." Europe had 'Rasputin.' One talked about hanging out at a bath house; the other partly sensationalized historical events and figures. I think the latter sounds more interesting.

The Box (1981-1992)
Another Canadian act, this one being from Montreal (apart from all the Toronto-based ones I've been touching on so far). These guys had a couple of fair hits in this country, particularly 'Closer Together' in the mid-80s. I think they were something. Funny thing: I almost never see live music. I never have much of the interest or the time considering I work evenings. I don't watch tour dates or rosters. I do get the odd invitation, but I rarely go (not my taste, or I'm working). One time, however, I finally opted to try out something a college professor was playing, at a place called the Brass Monkey. Only a ten minute drive down the road, why not. It wasn't too bad.
I would find out that the following night, The Box had actually played a gig at the same place. I hadn't gone. I hadn't been able to. I had to work that night. But they played here, in that little bar, just up the road from me! They were an 80s band that produced records! The whole thing makes me hang my head because all of the artists and bands I'm interested in are either apart, reformed into something else, or on-and-off, mostly because they're from twenty to forty years ago. Or they're based in a different country, or they're in Europe. Yet I could have had the opportunity to actually see a Canadian 80s outfit that never got huge but got big enough, just when they happened to be more or less back together, not necessarily recording big-time but present enough to happen to bop around to your local tavern. Not just any, but the one right up the road, ten minutes' drive. Gee. That would have been a live experience I'd have been happy to have. After all, how often can one get the chance to see an 80s Canadian thing that did okay - today?

Walk Away (1984)
This is a song that's mostly comedic and silly, and its style is why I like it: There's not much singing. The vocals are more of a description, a monologue of activities and movements that could probably fit a stand up comedy routine. The music is guitar-driven and easy-going, following along with the lyrics at a simple pace that can get maddening after awhile, just as the lyrics do. Call me simple, but I did find the sound effects really funny the first couple of times. "Breakfast/hot coffee (breaking dishes) Whoops! In your eggs! Never mind..." It just sounded hapless and constantly unfortunate. It's your typical never-ending mid-week day at the drab office, complete with tardiness, spilled coffee, and creepy co-workers. I like its reality-driven focus and non-traditional leadership of spoken monologue over repetitive music. Of course, there is the refrain: "I caught myself dreaming of an open field..." There is a return to the usual song structure, but it comes in doses.

My Dreams of You (1986)
I felt a real emotional connection to this song. It does sound dreamy (the chord synths and fast keyboard notes) but also very full of yearning, endearment, and melancholy. I related the lyrics to how I felt about two female 'friends' who were never more than acquaintances of which I had separate crushes on. I first heard it on the radio just as I was leaving my car to get to class. I ended up a minute late thanks to my intrigue. It sounds both wondrous and forlorn at the same time. Like you're in awe of how you think you may be feeling about someone, but simultaneously saddened and hopeless that that someone will never share your wonder or feelings, and that they'll only ever be a face. Musically, it sounds somewhat similar to 'Don't (Forget About me)' by Simple Minds, in terms of progression. I think they're both in E minor: E/B/A. One is a lot more optimistic and happy, though.

Boyzone (1993-2000)
An Irish boy band, in similar vein to America's Backstreet Boys and N*Sync and Canada's soulDecision and b4-4. I only know them thanks to their song 'Picture of You.' I do know that Ronan Keeeting went solo and released a song called 'Lovin' Each Day,' which I used to hear on the radio a lot at the time. That song was alright, though I wouldn't listen to it now.

Picture of You (1997)
I heard this over the closing credits of Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie. I still like the song, particularly for its horns and the mental images I derive from it, visual and synesthetic, thanks to the influence of the film. The voices are nice as well. It seems to be about forgiving and forgetting in friendship. The music has a regretful and hopeful tone to it. It's not bad. Of course, Mr. Bean features in the music video and on the cover of the single artwork.

Bran Van 3000 (1996-2002)
Wikipedia describes this band as an 'alternative rock collective' from Montreal. When I hear the term 'collective,' I think of bohemian artists living part-time in a van carrying hand-made instruments and playing to their own rules. And I imagine a lot of people being part of it. But perhaps the modern view of it is 'a bunch of creative people from various backgrounds democratically making their own sound to their own rules.' I didn't copy that from anywhere. I came up with that. I think it sounds more accurate, and at least more positive. Anyway, their name definitely sounds unusual - like a healthy cereal alternative, but from the future (considering the blatant 3000).

Drinking in L.A. (1997)
I love this song's sound. It has this high distortion to it, mixed with angry self-disparity and loathing. The lyrics talk about looking for opportunity - "But we did nothing that day, and I say, what the hell am I doing drinking in L.A. at twenty-six?" The introduction creatively takes the form of a commentator being heard on the radio one morning. Then the aspirations and frustrations of the vocals start up, talking about writing and publishing scripts and stories and gaining success as a writer, except those are merely goals and aspirations, and what's really happening is the singer is lazily hanging around in a state of lethargy and depression, and feeling a lot of anger at the lack of self-progress. The music also seems to dissipate a lot of heat to me - not literally, of course, but I get the impression the day is hot and sunny, and in a negative way. The song does a good job interpreting and telling the story, but musically and vocally. Of course, for what seems no reason at all, the cover art of the single features a man and a woman in 40s style swimming costumes running gleefully. The randomness of it all is exactly what I find attractive.

Bryan Addams (1976-Present)
Another Canadian artist, although much bigger than the bands I've been going over so far. His career has really lasted, though I'll say I think he probably had it best the year I was born, when he wrote and recorded a song for the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: 'Everything I Do, I Do it For You.' That song was the biggest hit of 1991. For me? Eh. Not to my interests, whether it's only four days older than me or twenty-five years. I'm not a big Bryan Addams fan, though I do like a select few of his songs, mostly in passing: Cloud Number Nine, When You're Gone. Otherwise, a lot of his earlier songs seem to sound identical, or at least similar, especially 'Fits You Good' and 'Cuts Like a Knife.' Then again, maybe that's just me.

Run To You (1984)
This is probably the one song of his that stands out to me above the rest. As I've probably said more than once in this whole thing, it's the guitar in the song. I'm actually a bit surprised at how often I say it's the guitar. Ah well. The guitar in this one has a real vocal tone to it, and it sounds like it has some kind of real authority in the song: If it were a person, you wouldn't change his mind or his ways. He's going to do it his way. I also like the way the chorus plays: F sharp major, A major, E major, and B major. What do you know - it's the same progression in F sharp minor all over again! Why is it so popular? Either way, it works here, just as it does in all the other songs. Yet it's a song about cheating. The little bridge with the solo guitar power chords almost seems self-assuring, as if one is trying to see themselves in the best possible light despite their dirty deeds. Self assuring and self-affirming. Eh. Whatever. They just sound good.

Well, that FINALLY brings me to the end of the 'B' section of micro-reviews. This took several days, after many days of procrastination, but it's been interesting. I'll come back with reviews on artists that begin with 'C' at some point in the future.

*Correction: I erroneously described The Bangles as 'another British girl group.' They're American. Duh. And since the publication of this list of reviews, I've heard their song 'Walking On Your Street.' Sounds like 'Love Shack' by The B-52's. Good song.

Red Cloud

No comments: