Tuesday, 26 March 2013

10 Of Johnny Zhivago's Guilty Pleasures

Is Lent over yet? Has it even started? I don't know...shockingly it's a ritual that I never participated in. We all have our guilty pleasures that we love to indulge in once in a while and it's no different when it comes to music. You know what I mean. You're hosting a party or having mates over and a song comes on your playlist that you forgot was there. Everybody stops dead in their tracks and gives you that "Explain yourself" look. Here's 10 of my musical guilty pleasures. Don't Judge Me!

1. "Back For Good" - Take That

I decided a while ago that there is no use in complaining about boy bands that seem to pop up in clusters every five years or so. As long as there are 14 year old girls in the world, these groups will be around. Take That was Britain's answer to NKOTB and The Backstreet Boys, reaching their peak in the mid 90's. Take That were intended to be more focused on musical abilities rather than spinning dance moves and hair-styles. (though that stuff was there too). "Back For Good" was the band's biggest hit and was actually written by one of the group's members. This is also where Robbie Williams got his start...watch for him pretending not to care about being in this video...

2. "Viva Forever" - Spice Girls

From boy bands to girl bands. I thought I was gonna go through life simply hating everything the Spice Girls did. Up until they released "Viva Forever" it was real easy. I tried to dislike this song, but it refreshingly didn't feature all the typical "ra ra girl power" themes of their earlier work. Also it was tinged with the Spanish flavour that swept the pop music scene in the late 90s...which I have a soft spot for.

3. "My Sacrifice" - Creed

I suppose I can understand why people disliked Creed. The videos were full of self-indulgent religious imagery and their songs tend not to be too adventurous. The band didn't help with their off-stage antics either. The bass player was fired for saying Eddie Vedder wished he could write songs as good as Scott Stapp (the band's front man) and Stapp himself was known for many acts of public, drunken, douchebaggery. I tend to let the songs speak for themselves and they have some good ones "My Own Prison", "Higher" & "What's This Life For". I singled out "My Sacrifice" because it was released near the end of Creed's initial run and one had to be careful who's company they played it around.

4. "Cry Me A River" - Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake has certainly redeemed himself in recent years. With his acting roles and showcasing his sense of humour on SNL, a wider audience has warmed up to the former Mouseketeer. Back when "Cry Me A River" was released though he was fresh off his "OMG FOR REALZ" relationship with Britney Spears and was still known as that N'Sync kid. So being the tough, brash, punk I was back then...it was shameful that I actually liked the song....I felt guilty....heyyyyy

5. "Old Man & Me" - Hootie & The Blowfish

This one I don't really feel to guilty about. Hootie & The Blowfish were on the receving end of some serious (and undeserving) hate in the mid 90's. After having one of the biggest albums of the decade they were public enemy number one by the time Fair Weather Johnson was released in 1996. Why? Why was it such a punchline to admit you liked them all of a sudden. Rucker's got one the best voices in Alternative (and now Country) music and their album Musical Chairs is a near masterpiece. I blame the name of their band and their involvement with the TV show Friends. Also anything that gets too big is bound to be labelled by the hipster crowd as 'lame'. Back then a band couldn't rely on the internet and if radio stations and tv music thought you were lame....well bye bye audience.

6. "Ghost" - Fefe Dobson

Though i'm not much of a fan of her other songs "Ghost" definitely makes my toe tap. IT MAKES YOURS TAP TOO! DON'T DENY IT!!! Besides i'm supporting homegrown talent. The young Ms. Dobson was born in Toronto, Ontario.

7. "Pocket Full Of Sunshine" - Natasha Bedingfield

Yeah....I dunno. Some songs are just well written and well executed, and it doesn't matter who performs it. I'm a grown man and shouldn't be rocking out to a bubblegum, pop song like this. At least that's society's opinion. Not only is this not the type of music people expect me to like, it's been used in all kinds of shows and movies who's audiences fall well outside my own demographic. (Degrassi, Desperate Housewives and The Hills)

8. "Photograph" - Nickelback

Perhaps the winners and sole nominees of  the "Most Hated Band On The Planet" award. Seriously. It doesn't matter what crowd you're in or what you're talking about throw Nickelback's name out there and just watch the negative reactions. Most people will claim they hate Nickelback, but if you ask them i'm sure they can't tell you why beyond "Uh, cuz they suck!" Somehow it became cool to hate Nickelback, many radio stations even promote a "no Nickelback guarantee" Jesus! In my opinion it's herd behaviour. "I better say I hate Nickelback so I i'm not singled out and made fun of...even though I don't mind a few songs" Sure, many of their songs follow the same themes. False macho-bullshit-posturing. Fucking whores and slamming beers. Which can be tiresome, but they have some shining moments. "Photograph" is a very relatable song and there's no denying "How You Remind Me" deserves praise. I wish Nickelback would get into new territories and go back to releasing interesting music...but they are no where near my most hated band. nor should they be.

9. "I'd Do Anything" - Simple Plan

This one is on a slippery slope for me. Sometimes I'll get sick of it halfway through the song. I think at the time it was released I was young and dealing with pretty much exactly what the song is about, so I was drawn to it Mark Hoppus' blink-and-you'll -miss-it cameo helps this song too. I've never like a Simple Plan song before, nor have I liked one since....this one is self-induced guilt. Not much static comes from my peers when this one gets played.

10. "It's Just My Luck" - V.I.P

I have no words for this one. I just...I sicken myself....

I'm not proud

I've pulled back the curtain a bit here!

What have you got to show me??


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

10 Green Songs

A little under a week until St. Patrick's day folks, the day where we all pretend to be Irish, head to the pubs in our finest greens and get pants-shitting drunk. Definitely one of my favourite days. Maybe you're hosting a party or maybe just want to be festive in your own right, and if you are the colour green is bound to be a part of it. Here are some green-themed songs that can flesh out your playlist

1. Alkaline Trio - "Jaked On Green Beers"

It is a definite certainty if you're heading out for a few pints on St. Patrick's day one or two of them, or the ones around you, will be dyed green. Why not? And what better anthem to down those emerald beverages than "Jaked On Green Beers" by Alkaline Trio. As far as I know the only place to get this song is off the 2002 Atticus clothing line compilation Dragging The Lake.

2. Alexisonfire - "Emerald Street"

This is what many of the roads can be called the morning after St. Patty's day, since y'know they're covered in puke in shades of green. Alexisonfire named this song after a street in Hamilton with a shady reputation and what is the guitarist/vocalist's name in Alexisonfire? Dallas Green....whoa...

3. George Baker Selection - "Little Green Bag"

This song will live on in modern movie infamy as the song the 'ramblers' stroll down the street to in Quinten Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. The song itself was supposed to be titled "Little Greenback" which is actually the lyric in the song, but it was misprinted on the original pressings of the single and the name just stuck. The album was even renamed so audiences wouldn't be confused.

4. Incubus - "A Certain Shade Of Green"

One of Incubus' earliest hits. It features a reference to 2012 AD. Incubus were known to feature lyrics and themes about the supposed end of the world on that fateful date. Not that Brandon Boyd or any of the boys actually believed it, I hope not anyway, because someone would have to tap them on the shoulder and point to a calender. This song got it's title as Boyd was driving around and hadn't noticed that a red light had changed to green, a passenger in the car asked "What are you waiting for, a certain shade of green?"

5. Misfits - "Green Hell"

The last Misfits album of the Glenn Danzig era is the legendary and ultra-rare Earth AD/Wolf's Blood. It's raw and noticeably more aggressive and metal infused than previous Misfits releases. "Green Hell" would go on to be covered by Metallica in 1987 which is what brought the song back out of obscurity.

Geez, after loading that "Green Hell" video I got caught up watching Misfits/Metallica videos on Youtube...almost forgot I was writing a blog entry...haha

6. Pearl Jam - "Green Disease"

Pearl Jam's 2002 album Riot Act often get's looked passed. Sure it wasn't as commercially successful as Ten or hyped as Yield but it's got some brilliant moments. I feel it's because it was released in the wake of 9/11 and was very politically charged, also the incident at 2000's Rokslide Festival shrouded the album in a fog. At it's core it's a Pearl Jam album, with everything you'd expect and "Green Disease" is one of those songs that wasn't a single, but remains a silent hit to this day. Other Riot Act tracks to check out "Thumbing My Way", "Love Boat Captain" and "Save You"

7. Legion Of Green Men - "Synaptic Response"

Ok this one's title doesn't have the word "green" in it, but it also doesn't have any lyrics so I think it's alright.
It's an older song by Legion Of Green Men who were signed to Silent Records back in the 90's. Got some funk to it...as well as a visually interesting video.

8. Fleetwood Mac - "Green Manalishi (With A Two Pronged Crown)"

Fleetwood Mac was formed in part by legendary guitarist Peter Green along with his friend Mick Fleetwood. Green didn't handle the initial success too well and was consumed with guilt over his sudden wealth. He became addicted to LSD and many other hallucinogenic substances. He cites a dream about a green dog as the inspiration for this song, which would be Fleetwood Mac's last hit with Green in the line up. He would later be institutionalized for schizophrenia as a result of drug abuse.

9. The Lemon Pipers - "Green Tambourine"

The tambourine is something of an instrument from the Renaissance era it seems. Not only do artists not write songs about them anymore, they rarely even play them. It's difficult for singers to do sweet jump moves and kicks while playing a tambourine I suppose. This song was inspired by a street performer busking for change in front of a bank while playing the tambourine.

10. Green Day - "Green Day"

When someone is celebrating their 20th birthday that falls on the 20th of the month it's called their champagne birthday. There should be a name for when bands perform a song thats the same name as their group. Bad Company have done it. Rolling Stones too and also Green Day. It's fitting that they open this song with the sounds of a bong being hit, a green day is like a sick day, expect you take the day off to smoke weed all day. All day. How glorious...

Hope to knock another one of these out before the 17th!

Happy St. Patty's Day!


Thursday, 7 March 2013

10 "Same Title Different Song" Songs

There are only so many words in the English language, so having multiple songs with the same title isn't something that's too surprising. The confusion that comes from it can be interesting however. I'm not talking about cover songs, I mean completely different songs with the same title. I could have gone with hundreds of songs called "I Miss You" or "Alive" or the many variations of "I Love You" but I went with titles that seemed a little less likely to be duplicated. Alas, they were.

1. "Biko" - Peter Gabriel / Bloc Party

After Peter Gabriel left Genesis and went solo his music took on a very African feel for a while. "Biko" was an example of this as it is about anti-apartheid veteran Steve Biko. He even includes some South African language in the song. Bloc Party's "Biko" uses the term as one of endearment. Singer Kele Okereke is of Nigerian descent and remembers the term being used by his parents when he was growing up.

2. "Tangerine" - Led Zeppelin / Moist

Off the underrated and often overlooked Led Zeppelin 3 "Tangerine" is a sweet acoustic song which features Jimmy Page using a steel pedal. That device gives the song a southern almost country vibe. Perhaps this is the reason why it was ignored by many rock radio stations. It remains one of my favourite Zeppelin songs.
Moist's 1996 album Creature was as close to a perfect record as they got. The third single was "Tangerine" and though it's difficult to decipher David Usher's lyrics at times the song was a success and even picked them up an award at Much Music's annual video award show.

3. "Some Kind Of Wonderful" - Grand Funk Railroad / Sky

Grand Funk are another of those bands who made a living making obscure songs popular by covering them and because they were so obscure audiences often believe the songs were their own. "Some Kind Of Wonderful" was originally by a group called the Soul Brothers Six, Grand Funk's version was by far the most popular. In the late 90's Canadian duo Sky came on the scene with their first single also named "Some Kind Of Wonderful". Upon listening to the tune it's clear to hear that it is not a cover version of Grand Funk's song of the same name, but a certain Much Music VJ i guess didn't do her homework. When she interviewed the group she asked why they decided to do a cover song for their first single. The band quickly corrected her and the VJ was not seen on TV much after that.

4. "High Lonesome" - The Gaslight Anthem / Avail

I actually discovered The Gaslight Anthem when they opened for Thrice, Alkaline Trio and Rise Against at a concert in Toronto a few years ago.  A couple days later I saw their CD The '59 Sound in the store and picked it up. One reason I actually purchased it (yes some people still do that) was because there was a song called "High Lonesome" which I knew as the name of a song by punk group Avail. I wondered if it was a cover and heard enough praise about Gaslight Anthem that I picked it up. Turns out it was no cover and high lonesome is a name for a type of bluegrass music pioneered by Bill Monroe.

5. "Never Gonna Give You Up" - Rick Astley / Julian Taylor Band

No i'm not Rick Rolling you. Though I did find it interesting that another artist would name a song "Never Gonna Give You Up" given how much of a joke the Rick Astley song has become. At least he has a sense of humour about it. In 2008 Astley popped out of a float in the middle of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade an Rick Rolled the entire thing.  Julian Taylor once fronted the Canadian group Staggered Crossing and really this song is the one you should check out here, no disrespect to the soulful ginger, but you know the other song and have heard it countless times whether you wanted to or not. Julian Taylor's song is a thing of beauty.

6. "I Kissed A Girl" - Jill Sobule / Katy Perry

Katy Perry's debut song came out in 2008. Titled "I Kissed A Girl" it was a fluffy, bubblegum, scattered attempt to gather attention from prepubescent teens who'd latch on to it's "oh-so-edgy" hint at bisexuality. Sure it was catchy and seemed to get her noticed, but it was far from original. Jill Sobule wrote and released a song in 1995 also called "I Kissed A Girl" which came off as far more honest and featured real emotion and not just an anthem for drunken "bisexuality". But hey, it takes all kinds to turn the world.

7. "King Of Spain" - Moxy Fruvuos / The Tallest Man On Earth

Moxy Fruvous were a Canadian group known for quirky, often politically charge, fun songs. Their song "King Of Spain" is possibly their best known and features some famous Toronto landmarks like SkyDome, Maple Leaf Gardens and of course Pizza Pizza. The Tallest Man On Earth is Kristian Matsson from Sweden. His distinct voice and frenzied guitar playing has made him stand high above the folk scene and attract fans from all over the world. The Wild Hunt is a remarkable album and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fresh sound.

8. "Bad Reputation" - Thin Lizzy / Freedy Johnston

One of Thin Lizzy's shortest and most savage tunes is "Bad Reputation". Singer Phil Lynott never officially came out and said who the song was about, though many feel it was autobiographical. He lived hard and fast and died at the age of 36, though his legacy definitely lives on. Thin Lizzy may not be on everyone's lips these days but many modern groups cite them as a major influence including Rollins Band, Mastodon and Metallica. Freedy Johnston is on the other side of the spectrum. A singer/songwriter from NYC, his music had been featured in some major motion pictures and "Bad Reputation" earned him a record deal with Elektra. Nowadays Johnston keeps it lowkey and occasionally performs with old friends Butch Vig and Duke Erikson.

9. "Mixtape" - Butch Walker / Jimmy Eat World

I could have picked a few bands with the song "Mixtape". Also check out Jack's Mannequin and Big Scary.
Butch Walker was once the front man for Marvelous 3, but I feel his best work has been done on his own. "Mixtape" comes from the fantastic album Letters released in 2004. Jimmy Eat World enjoyed explosive fame when their 2001 album Bleed American was released and with help from songs like "The Sweetness", "The Middle" and the title track fans attended their shows in herds. Though their popularity has waned the most dedicated fans have been treated some some incredible music, like "Mixtape" which was the final track off their 2010 album Invented.

10. "The Suffering" - Billy Talent / Coheed & Cambria

Though Billy Talent's version is actually "This Suffering" it's close enough for me. As long as someone is suffering. Here's my feelings on Billy Talent. They've got energy and they have a few good songs. (only one great one in my opinion) but I feel they need to break out of their formula, all their songs blend together and it's not that they "sound the same", but you hear one of their songs come on the radio and it bounces off you. Like music by numbers. I think they need to rethink where their going before they become Canada's AC/DC. But that's just me....see this list isn't all songs by bands i'm in love with. However, speaking of bands I AM in love with, lastly we have Coheed and Cambria. "The Suffering" is off their third album, which is arguably their best. "The Suffering" is a high energy, relentless track who's lyrics pull at your heartstrings. You're not sure if you're meant to be upset or jovial. Such is the dynamic with Coheed's music, much like it's content, it's all over the map

Thanks all!

I'm hoping to keep this up more in March!
Drop lines where you feel!