Monday, March 04, 2024

It Came From the Outer Boros (An Occasional Series): Special "Domestic Bliss" Edition

From just last week, please enjoy pride-of-Brooklyn pop/punk youngsters Wifey and their infectious and hilarious debut single "Mary Ann Leaves the Band."

I gotta say, I haven't heard anything quite as cool as as that since the glory days of Fountains of Wayne (who, you will not be surprised to learn, Wifey proudly claims as an influence). Meanwhile, in case you can't make them out amidst the glorious clatter of the jangly guitars and stuff, here are some representative lyrics...

It's mostly men in the marching band/ And not one girl's half as cute

As Mary Ann at her music stand/ My God, that girl knew how to handle a flute

Told her my name at the football game/ And once again when we played the state fair

But ever since she met Johnny K/ Well her priorities have been elsewhere

Mary Ann finds herself a man and then the band starts falling apart

Mary Ann finds herself a man and then the band starts falling apart

Now here she is, skipping practices/ The kids in woodwind are all licking their wounds

I sit alone with my saxophone/ But Mr S won't let me play the blues

The music school don't feel as cool/ The other girls are relieved

But since you quit, we play like shit/ I'm jumping ship for the chess team

Oh Mary Ann, I beg of thee/ I'm pining for you as we plod through Yankee Doodle Dandy

This Becky girl can't play your parts as skillfully as you/ Her breath control is spotty, and I heard that she eats glue

Sure Johnny's got a car, and his sleeve tattoos are cool/ But don't you think it's kind of weird he hangs around the high school?

He's 32 years old and he still lives with his mom/ Pretty sure it's illegal for him to come to the prom

And let me just say, and for the record, that reading the above was the most fun I've had with my clothes on so far this year.

Meanwhile , these kids...

...describe themselves thusly (and be prepared -- this is without question the greatest band promo bio in rock history).

Wifey is a Brooklyn power-pop band formed by Teddy Grey and Carly Kerr, two hot dorks who prove that the theater-kid to punk-rocker pipeline is still claiming innocent victims. After working together on an R-rated Garfield musical (don’t ask), the two bonded over a mutual love of bubblegrunge, emo, and DIY, and began crafting the catchiest songs ever written. They were soon joined in marriage by Mickey Blurr on lead guitar, and Chris Canieso on drums, and the rest is history. The honeymoon phase never has to end with Wifey, thanks to their earworm hooks, enticingly questionable lyrics, and lovely harmonies that could only come from the happiest of marriages. Matrimony never looked so good.

Debut EP “Just A Tease,” (alternate title: “Future Classics”) is the first taste of their ear-candy. Mixed and mastered by Billy Mannino (oso oso, Ben Quad, saturdays at your place), “Just A Tease” features five songs that will remain lodged in your head forever, whether you like it or not. In a scene revolving around confessional songwriting and baring your soul, Wifey has the decency to be tasteless, and are deep enough to be shallow. The hole for loud, dumb pop songs is wide open and Wifey is more than happy to fill it.

With hooky tunes revolving around timeless subjects such as getting drunk, girls whose names end in Anne, and the addictive substance known only as “Candysauce,” Wifey is a power-pop band with real power. Influenced heavily by the melodic punks that came before them (Lemonheads, Green Day, Joyce Manor) and embodying the “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus” ethos, Wifey’s songs are as exciting as a sugar rush, and only slightly less hazardous to your health.

Hey -- they had me at "the theater-kid to punk-rocker pipeline." Absolutely priceless. Anyway, I can't wait to hear more of their stuff -- like that aforementioned EP promised for later this year? C'mon guys, get with it!!!

Bottom line: Wifey is my new favorite band, and I'll keep you posted on what's going on with them as things develop.

Friday, March 01, 2024

Weekend Listomania: Special "Bad Taste is Timeless" Edition

[I first ran a version of this one back in 2009 -- yeah, yeah, I know, that blows my mind too -- but when I stumbled across it for the first time in ages the other day, it struck me as pretty funny and worthy of revival, so here we are. As is my wont, I've added an entry and done some rewriting, just so you don't think I'm a complete slacker asshole. -- S.S.]

Post-Elvis Group, Solo Artist or Song You've Taken the Most Snark For Liking From Folks Over the Years!!!

Self-explanatory, obviously, and no arbitrary rules whatsoever, you're welcome very much. Basically, if anybody's ever looked at you with an alarmed raised eyebrow when you noted that, oh, Filth by The Swans was the record you'd most like to have played at your memorial service, then this category is for you.

And my totally top of my head Top Five is:

5. The Ohio Express -- Yummy, Yummy, Yummy

Bubblegum crap, right? Blah blah blah. Turn in your Rock Writers of the World union card, Simels, you're embarrassing us.

Fuck that shit. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- if you turn off the goofy vocals on the left channel, and just listen to the instrumental stuff on the right, what you'll hear is as tough a rock instrumental track as anybody has ever made. I'm talking Rolling Stones or Velvet Underground tough here.

4. The Beach Boys

Not so much these days, of course, given that it's now generally conceded by all who walk upright that Brian Wilson is a genius, the Gershwin of his generation, but the Beach Boys have gone in and out of fashion so many times over the last 60(!) years that it's hard to keep track. Back in the hippie days, however -- particularly after the whole debacle of Smile -- the attitude in the counter-culture was that you had to be a hopelessly bourgeois square to take them seriously (in this country, at least; the Brits knew better). In any case, at that point being a Beach Boys fan was essentially the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, and I don't mean Mike.

3. The Guess Who

Seriously, back in the 70s, I can't tell you how often I would mention my fondness for these guys, only to notice that the people I was talking to were moving away, ever so slowly but firmly, from where I sat.

The clip above -- a medley called "Hi, Rockers!" -- is my favorite of several true gems from the band's masterpiece album. The transition from the hilarious beer-soaked barroom meeting of the minds that opens it into the seraphically lovely clavinet-driven "Heaven Only Moved Once" and finally the witty mutant rockabilly revenge number "Don't You Want Me" -- complete with faux Jordanaires harmony vocals -- is, frankly, a marvel to behold, and from where I sit one of the very greatest moments in 70s rock. I'm not kidding about this!!!

2. Procol Harum

These guys, although there's still a perception out there that they were one-hit wonders (hah!), actually get a fair amount of respect now -- it's amazing how often I run into people who turn out to be closet fans. So I'm mostly including them here because the luminous NYMary, annotating a piece I'd written about the band in the early 70s for reprint in these precincts, couldn't resist taking a shot at "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (bless her heart). I think the phrase she used was "Dodgiest lyrics ever..."

Naturally enough, then, the clip above is "Repent Walpurgis," a lyric-less instrumental that remains one of my all-time fave Procol numbers. It's a live version, featuring the classic five piece original lineup with Robin Trower and Matthew Fischer (the latter four decades away from settling his authorship suit over AWSOP) at the Fillmore West on April 11, 1969. How do you say "awesomely magnificent" in Yiddish?

And the numero uno artiste(s) or song for whom my enthusiasm has gotten me shunned from time to time is obviously --

1. The Four Seasons -- Marlena

The Four Seasons, despite (or perhaps because of) their metamorphosis into the inspiration for a world-wide hit Broadway/film musical phenomenon, remain somewhat less than hep in certain rock critic circles. I, of course, have said on numerous occasions (including here, if memory serves) that their great run of hits -- spanning the period between "Sherry" in 1962 through, say, "I've Got You Under My Skin" five years later -- comprise the purest pop confections in the history of the genre (the grittier class conscious romanticism of "Dawn" and "Rag Doll," and those songs' influence on Bruce Springsteen, is, of course, a subject for another day).

In any case, my advocacy of "Marlena" (which I think is their most profoundly silly accomplishment, and that's meant as a compliment) has gotten me into trouble on a couple of occasions, most notably sometime in the late 70s, when I -- along with twenty or thirty other folks, mostly writers and musicians -- was asked to make a list of our Five All-Time Favorite Songs by New York City rock colossus WNEW-FM (the station then played everybody's lists over the course of an entire day). I don't remember all five songs I picked -- one was The Who's "Glow Girl" -- but I did nominate "Marlena," and I recall that after the deejay ID'd it as one of my choices, I got at least three frantic phone calls from erstwhile friends questioning my sanity. Okay, I exaggerate just a tad, but you get the idea.

In any case, I think history has vindicated my assessment.

Incidentally, the audio clip of "Marlena" above is the original mono single mix, which I was able to find only after great personal effort and considerable financial expense. This is important because most currently available Four Seasons comps have the song in stereo, and as Pete Townshend famously said about The Who's "I Can See For Miles," the mono mix of "Marlena" makes the stereo version sound like The Carpenters.

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Closed for Monkey Business: Special "The Supreme Court Can Blow Me" Edition

Sorry, but yesterday's news just wiped me out.

Barring the unforseen, regular posting -- a Weekend Listomania, maybe -- resumes on the morrow.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Blog By Numbers: Special "There'll Always Be an England" Edition

[In which we catch up with a bunch of brief and/or dumb stuff that I've been meaning to post for a while, but hadn't gotten around to for whatever reason.]

1. Les Cahiers du Wolfman Jack

Live from London in 1973 -- it's your hosts, Procol Harum, plus fellow Brits Humble Pie, Alvin Lee, and the simply astounding Steeleye Span. BTW, if you don't watch all the way through to the end of the video to see the Span (and kvell) I really don't want to know you anymore. I should add that Procol fans will recognize the line-up performing here as the one which made Grand Hotel, and boy do they sound magnificent.

Also -- have I mentioned that Steeleye's divine Maddy Prior could have had me if she'd played her cards right?

2. It Came From Queens

Queens -- get it? Okay, I'm really stretching to make this fit today's theme. So sue me.

3. Who Knew Benny Hill Was Funny?

Actually, now that I think of it, Stinky Feet would have made a great Stones album title.

4. Noted Without Comment

5. Fat Bottomed Girls

I gotta say, when I was looking on YouTube for a clip of Queen at Live-Aid, I was expecting to find something else.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Song of the Year. Okay, Song of the Year So Far, But Still...

...and also Video of the Year, and I'm pretty sure I can state that with no fear of later qualification.

In any event, from his his recently released album Armageddon, please enjoy (the previously unknown to me) Marc Ribler's Story Road, and their (co-written with Steve Van Zandt) drop dead hilarious and wonderful ode to everybody's favorite talk show host "Dick Cavett."

In all seriousness, that is so great on every level I lack the words.

On a personal level, however, I should add that I actually attended a Cavett taping back in the period most of those clips derive from. The special guest was...

...Raquel Welch, who was as, er, fetching as you might have heard. I think it was 1972, and I have no idea why I was there, but I seem to remember thinking that Bobby Rosengarden and the house band were really good, especially in their version of Leonard Bernstein's Candide overture, which was Cavett's theme song.

I should also add that I discovered the Ribler song a few weeks ago over at our pal Sal Nunziato's invaluable Burning Wood blog. So if you've already seen/heard it, mea culpa, but I just had to share. Thanks, Sal!

Oh, and I should also also add that you can snag a physical copy or stream Armageddon over at Amazon HERE.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Songs I'd Forgotten Existed, Let Alone Loved: Special "Millions of Blood-Poisoning Migrants Illegally Entering Our Country From Insane Asylums" Edition

From their way underrated eponymous 1985 debut album, please enjoy héroes anónimos of power pop Katrina and the Waves and their traitorous ode to the menacing hordes scurrying like insects across our Southern border -- "Mexico."

I hadn't heard that song, or thought about the band, in ages, but "Walking on Sunshine" (which may be overexposed, but I still love) popped up the other day on the sound system at my local watering hole, and I suddenly flashed on "Mexico." What a great track, and doesn't Katrina sing the hell out of it? (Answer: Yes. Yes, she does.)

I should add that the song was a radio hit in Canada in 1984, which I had not previously known until yesterday.

I should also add that a) the whole thing is about as infectiously catchy as can be, and (more important) b) that former colleague of Robyn Hitchcock (in the Soft Boys) Kimberly Rew is one hell of a lead guitarist,

Friday, February 23, 2024

La Fin de la Semaine Essay Question: Special "Skinny Ties Rule, Okay!" Edition

From 1986, and liver (heh) than you'll ever be, please enjoy utterly fab gear quartet The Real Impossibles and their totally kick-ass meditation on what happens "Since You've Been Gone."

Long time readers will doubtless recall my enthusiasm for these guys, but if you're new here, this is the backstory as it first appeared in 2020.

...The Real Impossibles, fronted by Marc Platt [stage left in the video] were a mid-80s Los Angeles punkish power pop band, and a compilation of their stuff (entitled It's About Time) came out on Zero Hour Records a few months after the 2013 Zero Hour release of Floor Your Love. Which made us labelmates, of course. I had never heard of the band until the CD, but it knocked me out, and Marc and I struck up a long-distance friendship, with me mostly telling him "I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy"!, that persists to this day.

Here's a representative track, which also happens to be the coolest Neil Diamond cover since the heyday of The Monkees.

That absolutely kills me; I think comparisons to The Plimsouls are not implausible (which is about the highest praise I can give anything), and for my money the whole CD is just freaking great guitar driven rock-and-roll.

I should add that the good folks at Rum/Bar Records have recently reissued It's About Time, completely remastered and with bonus tracks, and the damn thing is better than before. If ever there was a Great Lost Album of the 80s, this is it. (Grab it at Amazon over HERE.)

Which inevitably leads us to today's business. To wit:

...and the '80s New Wave pop/punk artist/band(s) that you think should have been much better known/more commercially successful than they were is/are...???

No arbitrary rules, but if the act you posit actually started recording in the late 70s -- like, for example, The Records -- we'll let it slide.

And I mention The Records because they'd be my nominee, to the surprise of no one who's ever hung out here.

Discuss/have fun.

And have a great weekend, everyody!!

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Closed for Monkey Business

Taking a Slacker Thursday. Hey -- I'm a senior citizen, cut me some slack,

That said, I can assure you that tomorrow's Weekend Essay Question is gonna be worth the wait and a lotta fun. Hint: It involves, for a change, a particular genre and historical period that has some serious relevance to the theme of this here blog.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The Blog By Numbers: Special "This Pudding Has No Theme" Edition

[In which we catch up with a bunch of brief and/or dumb stuff that I've been meaning to post for a while, but hadn't gotten around to for whatever reason.]

1. Big Time Professional Rock-and-Roll

Ronnie Wood and friends, live at some London dive two weeks ago, celebrating Ben Waters' birthday. I'd never heard of Waters, but he's apparently highly regarded in Brit music circles as a boogie woogie pianist non pareil. In any case, these folks aren't exactly over-rehearsed, but they're having fun and it's infectious.

2. Compare and Contrast

Veterinary office heartworm display or legendary King Crimson album cover? YOU make the call!!!

3. I Had No Idea George Gershwin Ever Made a Video

Live at the Manhattan Theater in 1931, and absolutely amazing and ahead of its time. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- the greatest tragedy to befall American music in the 20th century was Gershwin's way too early death at the age of 37.

4. Are Those Two Famous Rock Stars or Just Friends of My Dad?

Graham Nash plays chess with some old Jewish guy from Queens who used to sing with Paul Simon, What I wouldn't give to have the knish concession.

5. Noted Without Comment


Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Let Us Now Praise Famous Women

From 1988, please enjoy the irrepressible Cyndi Lauper and her fabulously New Wavey shoulda-been-a-huge hit "Hole in My Heart."

Which would make a fabulous segue into "Turning Japanese," doncha think?

In any case, that's from Vibes, the largely forgotten sci-fi/adventure/rom-com Lauper did with Peter Falk and Jeff Goldblum; I loved it when I first saw it, even if very few other people did, but I'm planning to stream it tonight to see if my younger self had taste as good as I gave myself credit for.

Reason I bring both song and film up, however, is that a certain Shady Dame and I just watched the Netflix documentary on the making of We Are the World, in which Lauper features quite prominently, and I fell in love with her all over again. I don't know if I've ever mentioned it, but why Lauper didn't have Madonna's career is a question that has plagued me all these years.

As for the WATW flick, which Lauper more or less steals, I highly recommend it; it's far more interesting and entertaining than I'd anticipated, and seeing all those 80s pop celebs in one room together being all nervous, insecure and star struck (unlike the older veterans amongst them) is kind of a hoot. It's also fascinating about the logistics and technical challenges involved in the production of the titular song, and I must confess that with the passage of time I've become far less critical of said song on an esthetic level; back in the day, it struck me as insufferably self-congratulatory, but today -- not so much. It kinda works.

I should add that Paul Simon is credited with a joke during the session that had me rolling off my couch in hysterics, I'm not gonna give it away, so there's one more reason to stream the movie yourself.