Sunday, March 13, 2005

Nerdiest

My boyfriend is the Grand Poobah of Nerd Nite.
I am the Fairy Princess.
Sometimes I DJ music there.
This question is asked of me often: "What is the nerdiest song ever?"
I ponder.

Contenders:
1. "Mexican Radio," Wall of Voodoo. Singing nerds.
2. "One Night in Bangkok," Murray Head. Chess nerds.
3. "Public Library," Jonathan Rundman. Dewey decimel nerds.
4. "Spanish Flea," Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. Lounge nerds.
5. "Nerds," Buck 65. Rap nerds. Really.

There's this station in Washington state, 91.3 FM KBCS Bellevue-Seattle, that hosts a show called Nerd Rock. I was excited. Then I looked at their playlists. They included songs by Beck (popular nerd, so kind of cancels out nerdism), David Bowie (glam nerd? no such thing!), Marvin Gaye (he sang about sex, immediate disqualification from nerd school), and Ladytron (just no). Nerds around the world cry out in disappointment for misrepresentation.

Nerds? Please weigh in here.

Monday, March 07, 2005

A love song for Bill Conti

There are a few movies which, for better or for worse, put together the little pieces of me -- my Intelligent Design, shall we say. To name a very few:
"Footloose" (watched half of it in a video store when I was 10 and otherwise not allowed to watch "adult" movies)
"Pretty in Pink" (filmed in Elgin, Illinois, right near my hometown)
"The Pirate Movie" (so much to be said about this wonderful, worthless piece of musical plagiarism that I'll save it for another time)
"The Goonies" (featuring the young hobbit, the other Corey, and the girl from "Lucas")
and
"The Karate Kid"

You'll note that the first four films listed above have some pretty classic soundtracks, right? Kevin Bacon in tight jeans inspires Kenny Loggins, Molly Ringwald in a homemade prom dress plays muse to the Psychedelic Furs, Kristy McNichols and Christopher Atkins channel Gilbert & Sullivan (like I said, some other time), Cindy Lauper pretends she's actually written a song about the Goonies. And the "Karate Kid" has... it has.. umm... hang on a minute...

...no recognizable soundtrack. What?

There is a common misconception that Peter Cetera's uber-ballad, "The Glory of Love," appears in the first move. Actually, the only remotely popular song from Ralph Macchio's first attempt to do the crane kick is Bananarama's "Cruel Summer." "Cruel Summer" is a decently good song -- but what is Bananarama remembered for? All Music calls them "The most successful British girl group in pop history." Was this before or after the Spice Girls? They released eight albums but had only one other song that stuck on the charts, a cover of the Shocking Blues' "Venus" that has currently been resurrected for a razor commercial. They covered the Doobie Brothers. They dressed like Madonna, post-"Like A Virgin" and pre-"True Blue." One of them married the guy from the Eurythmics. In short, they were totally forgettable. And who but the most devoted Pat Morita fan could ever associate "Cruel Summer" with Ralph Macchio in short shorts and a Jersey attitude? No one remembers that Bananarama had a hit in the "Karate Kid" soundtrack because the movie wasn't about producing pop hits.

No, the meat of the "Karate Kid" soundtrack is an occasionally subtle score by the master of sports-movie orchestration, Bill Conti. (You may know Mr. Conti best these days as the man who cued the orchestra to cut off Hilary Swank's "I'm just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream" acceptance speech at the Academy Awards. He may have been remembering all too vividly that she nearly ruined the Karate Kid legacy with her buck-toothed performance in "The Next Karate Kid.") Mr. Conti was the ubiquitous genius behind the music in "For Your Eyes Only," "F.I.S.T.," the 1987 "Masters of the Universe" movie, and the "Dynasty" and "American Gladiator" theme songs, among many other choice soundtracks. His awesome orchestration in the "Karate Kid" is a score that triggers our expectations for the come-from-behind triumph in the same way his music did for that other great sports-underdog story, "Rocky." Who can ever forget the cymbal crash when Mr. Miyagi claps his hands together in preparation to fix Daniel-san's leg before he can hobble out to deliver the final, improbable nose-breaking kick to the impossibly good-looking, feather-haired, dirt-bike-riding black-belt, Johnny Lawrence? This is one of the last great movies that had an orchestrated soundtrack that equalled the plot -- predictable in all the right ways. The John Williamses kept on pumping out suffocating, look-at-me scores well into the '90s, along with diminutive and bland Danny Elfman ditties, but Bill Conti's music is like a Red Sox win: karmically right, cosmically uplifting, propelling you towards that moment when you stand there in Fenway Park with both arms raised above your head, roaring down at the field in unison with 36,297 other fans. I think every Sox fan imagines that a Bill Conti soundtrack is playing at that very moment, that the players are running and leaping in slow motion, and that in just a minute, the credits will run away into perfection, the lingering triumph of the music making every win a milestone.

It's been a while since Conti wrote anything for a worthwhile movie -- in fact, "Karate Kid" was really the last of the best, if you don't include Rocky II though V and the upcoming "Rocky Balboa." But Bill, thank you. What would the Go! Team have been without you?

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Apologizing

I abandoned this blog. Let's not mince words. It's true -- I left it like a baby on a doorstep, a toddler in the mall, a cassette tape under my bed. Chastise me. I deserve it. I threw my formidable wit (oh please, you shouldn't have!) to the winds. I watched Jen dump Jerry on "The Bachelorette." I hosted a party where I maintained totalitarian control over the iPod dance mix. I saw "Million Dollar Baby" and "The Next Karate Kid" in the same week. I listened to the Psychedelic Furs whilst working out. I started reading Thomas Pynchon. I watched it snow again and again and again and still forgot to wear my boots. I bought recycled toilet paper. I briefly considered and then forgot about moving to Santa Fe. And this blog languished just like "Chinese Democracy."

Apologies and welcome to the rebirth. In the immortal words of Lionel Ritchie, "Hello! Is it me you're looking for?"

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

1984

There are few things that I find as totally, mind-blowingly, incomprehensibly weird as Tina Turner covering a David Bowie song. And yet, she did. Oh yes, she did.

"1984" started out as a paranoid delusional disco freak-out on Bowie's 1974 "Diamond Dogs" album. Ms. T added some nice Miami Vice synthesizer and what sounds like the New York Gay Man's Chorus without their shirts on. She gets all soulful and thigh-baring in a song that is essentially about George Orwell. "Beware the Savage Jaw in Nineteen Eighty Four," Tina/Bowie sings. Then, "Who could ask for more? Nineteen Eighty Four!" Not me! Lyrically, this song is obviously brilliant. And do I really need to add that this song was included on her "Private Dancer" album, released in -- some producer somewhere is obviously patting himself on the back for this one -- 1984?

Tina, I love you. "Better Be Good to Me" is a tour de force. I wanted to be your private dancer too, even though I was seven and jailbait. But oh holy god of all very fucked up things, "1984" is the most awesomely bad disaster. It's like community access television. So horrifying that you have to see how it turns out in the end.

Please, find it and listen. Please.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Today I was trying to open the Boyz II Men website...

...and it crashed my computer.

I find this hilarious.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Todd Baechle will not like this

My friend Colin hates the Faint. It's a point of pride with him. I used to like them. In fact, I once made out heavily on the dance floor during one of their concerts with a guy I was seeing while they were playing "Casual Sex." And didn't realize how unironic and vaguely lame that was until much, much, much later. To top it off, the Faint released "Wet from Birth" last year, and it was frighteningly bad. So this is from and for my friend Colin:

http://www.dropkickthefaint.com/

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Roxette, explicated

The year was 1989. I was 12. I wore Revlon Pink Foil lipstick and favored a hairstyle that involved spraying the front half of my hair until it was shellacked into a wall that climbed off my forehead and resisted all weather types. My jeans were French-rolled (or pegged, if you were from the Midwest). I had a neon blue and yellow Columbia windbreaker and a Vuarnet t-shirt my mom had bought me from TJ Maxx. I was in the middle school band. And I loved Roxette.

Clearly, there was something about them. Two Swedes, who may or may not have been related and/or in a relationship. Per Gessle, former frontman for the enduring Swedish supergroup, Gyllene Tider, in black leather and a face like a man with lockjaw, on guitar. Marie Fredriksson, whose hair could have lit up New York City during a blackout, on vocals. Popularized in the U.S. by an American exchange student living in Sweden whose only customs declaration when he returned home was a cassette of "Look Sharp!". Their goal: to best ABBA as the number-one Swedish male-female group to ever sing in English. We were all charmed.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that "Look Sharp!" and its follow-up, 1991's "Joyride," changed my life, but I was unabashedly obsessed with them. Despite their ubiquitous presence on the airwaves, I thought of them as my find, an "obscure" pop duo who had managed to sneak their clever little lyrics about men who hit like hammers and girls who tasted like raindrops into the hearts of every pre-pubescent female across the country. For a girl who purposely chose the B-side to every pop single as her favorite song-of-the-month, Roxette was perfectly bad. The mangled English metaphors, the bland lyrics hidden by lush production and catchy hooks, the pop-rock hair that hinted at what Bon Jovi might look like if they cleaned up. Roxette were my Swedish penpals, educating me on the Big Three topics of American pop songwriting: making it on my own, losing love, and breaking up. When I slow-danced to "Listen to Your Heart" with a budding cellist named Bill at the spring 7th-grade formal, I pretty much thought life, or music, couldn't get any better than that.

I've come to terms now with the fact that Roxette, in retrospect, comes off as an only slightly more intelligent version of Ace of Base. A sample of Roxette's songwriting skillz, taken from the title-track to "Joyride":
"she has a train going downtown,
she's got a club on the moon
and she's telling all her secrets
in a wonderful balloon."
Er. Is Per really a 10 year-old girl with imaginary friends? Because this sounds a lot like my fifth-grade diary. And the secret I was telling in my wonderful balloon four years later was that I was a freshman in high school when this song came out, and I knew every word. Even I was aware there was something not quite right about this; I used to hide "Joyride" inside the tape cover to "Use Your Illusion I." Soon afterwards, though, I discovered classic rock (can anyone actually discover classic rock?) and, after that, it was all flannels and bandanas and Soul Asylum. So Roxette and I parted ways, with friendship and understanding and some embarrassment, just like their songs taught me, and I completely missed their MTV Unplugged spot in July of 1993 and the hit song on the "Super Mario Bros" soundtrack, not to mention their 1996 Spanish-language album, "Baladas En Espanol." And I believe I can say with some certainty that that is a good thing: a quick browse of song titles from their post-"Joyride" catalog reveals such gems as as "Ande I En Flaska (Gabba Gabba Come On Come On Karma Karma)," "Apple in the Mud," and "Make My Head Go Pop."

Longevity or quality aside, the enduring charm of Roxette's songs, if anything, is that they now seem culled from a more innocent, dreamier time. A time where prositutes could be turned into venture capitalist princesses, before Kurt Cobain bought a shotgun and 2LiveCrew made Tipper Gore spit out her coffee, before Axl Rose became a bloated recluse who practiced yoga. Per and Marie wrote catchy pop-rock songs and earnest ballads with more of an edge than anything the Goo Goo Dolls or Sugar Ray ever released ten years later. In a time where five singing pre-teen street kids from Boston were topping the charts just by swinging their arms in the air and selling sleeping bags with their likenesses on them, Roxette were the real deal: two sappy Swedes who knew how to write music that we would love for an instant and forget for a decade.

Every band, from the little-known southern Vermont heavy metal tribute band, Asian Snow Monkey, to the KISSes of the world, has and deserves its own collection of fans and fanatics. Despite the fact that yesterday I gave a soulful rendition of "It Must Have Been Love" during an afternoon karaoke session with my boyfriend's family, I wouldn't count myself as either now, as far as Roxette is concerned. Looking back, they're just a little too earnest, a little too associated with popping zits in the bathroom mirror and stuffing my bra with Kleenex during gym glass. So perhaps it's best to close with a few words from the true Roxette fans*:

-"If it weren't for them, I don't think I'd ever have come to love music the way I do now." -Chris Gilland, USA
-"I met a lot of boys and I've always been trying to find someone who had similar sense of humour or similar look [to Per]. There's no men like him, and I feel frustrated and happy in the same time. But every time I fall in love it's CRASH BOOM BANG." -Dizzy_Miss_Lizzy
-"Do you think roxette's songs, maybe from marie, gyllene ... can be a good idea to seduce someone, or while you are dancing with your couple listening it ? or roxette songs are not this kind ?" -danrox
-"Marie's face + Per's brain + Marie's body + Marie's voice + Per's Talent + Per's Money = The perfect human being!!" -arnie
-"i read in a comment that we are the craziest fans or something like that, don´t remember the words exactly, but do you really think we are the craziest fans? i think we are a little bit crazy, i mean, we have our own expressions, like "roxer", "rox on", "keep on roxin", and when you read some of the comments you see what roxette means for a lot of people here. we talk about per´s hair, about marie´s cars, about all the things we can imagine about them. for me it´s ok, it´s very fine. it makes me have a good time here. if this is to be crazy, i´d like to be crazy all my life!" -nedved
-"what is it that roxette has to do with beds??? all these videos there's bed on it. Some of them just some scenes, but THERE IS bed on it... WHy per, why marie? what's up with the beds? whats the need for a bed on your videos?any special reason? im just wondering....=)" -rox74ever
-"Dear Marie, I thank you much have us sent the mesaje of gratefulness, always in principal place of my heart, I want you much, you greeting from a distance, my dream is to go me to suecia, and to visit you, cares you much, I want you
Andres" -Abulgarin


*all quotes taken from Roxette fansites

Tommy Lee would like another word with you

ELLE: If you were faced with the decision of having your penis or your brain shrunk to half its size, which would you choose?
Tommy Lee: I'd go with the brain. We use only, what, a tenth of the brain? So, screw it.

Yes. Even ELLE magazine is obsessed with the size of Tommy Lee's shlong. Is this the apocalypse?