Monday, July 27, 2009

Twee Pop for Reginans? Reginanites?

A friend recently walked up to me and said, "Scruffy, twee something something." Well, he didn't really use the words "something something", but I forget what they were. I was trying to play croquet. Nevertheless, the poor fellow wanted me to give him some musical recommendations. I told him it wasn't my forte.

But I'll give it a whirl. Urban Dictionary tells me that twee pop is a "[t]ype of indie pop that is known for simple, sweet melodies and lyrics, often combined with jangling guitars; twee is also British slang for something almost sickenly sweet". I also learned that a band called Tullycraft put out a song called Twee, sang lyrics such as "fuck me, I'm twee", and released some humourous tunes such as Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend Is Too Stupid to Know About. T-shirts that whisper "Twee as Fuck" or "Twee Fucker" have reportedly been worn by someone - you, maybe?

So now I know that I don't know jack about twee. Here's what I'm calling twee anyway.

twee tunes

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Name Game V.2: Red Rider VS. Red Riders

Photo by bobster 855 from here.

Has every possible band name based on the English language been used already? Probably not yet, but the tipping point may be coming soon. This series of posts is being created to ensure you can tell the which from the what.

Red Rider was a Canadian band that released four albums from 80-84. The band was distinguished by its thoughtful lyrics that often included a literate outlook, such as Scruffy's personal favourite, Neruda. Inspired by songwriter/vocalist Tom Cochrane's ideas about poet Pablo Neruda and his writings, the band hit its creative peak with Neruda's finely-tuned atsmospherics. Guitarist and pedal steel player Ken Greer was a prime example of a musician who served the song in an era when flashy finger-tapping from Eddie Van Halen was still considered cool. Below you can listen to/watch Neruda's Light in the Tunnel/Human Race, which was a gutsy choice for single and video considering that vocals don't even make an entrance for more than 2 minutes. Any resemblance to the chorus of ubiquitous 1997 hit Tubthumping by Chumbabwumba is probably coincidental, but if Chumba's lyricist happened to be in Canada in 1983 and heard any FM radio, Human Race could not be missed. You can also stream the whole album (as well as the other three Red Rider albums) on Ken Greer's website.

To backtrack for a moment, Lunatic Fringe was actually the band's biggest tune, it still gets airplay not only in Canada but in the States. I heard it on the radio in Vegas recently. Sorry I can't post the original video (embedding has been disabled on YouTube), it was even more dated than Human Race, terribly-synced music and video. If you'd like to see the original go here, or if you'd like to see a really rough live version by Todd Rundgren go here.

Red Riders is a band from Sydney, Australia who have released two albums so far. The newest, Drown in Colour, dropped July 10th, 2009. As opposed to the classic rock/sometime art rock of Red Rider and Neruda, Red Riders are potentially just a tad too clever for radio in North America at the moment. Their songs have hooks that aren't overly obvious, sweetly jangly guitars that temper restrained riffing, and a solid-but-subdued rhythm section (except on tracks like My Love Is Stronger Than Your Love where the bass 'n' drums are the engines in the verses). If The Church were younger, starting out today, and had ten cases of Jolt Cola under their belts, Red Riders' songs might be the result. Or a not-so-over-the-top dramatic Cure, perhaps - oops! Just checked their listed influences on myspace, and those two C-words were both listed. And I thought I was being perceptive. A funny kid's nightmare video for Ordinary to boot.

The video for You've Got a Lot of Nerve is not as amusing - quite dull actually, but I like the song, which you can download here.

So, which will you have - Red Rider or Red Riders? Do you think the name was taken from the holiday classic A Christmas Story?

Iron Monkees and The Trooper Believer

I can see some Maiden fans getting really, really angry about this mash-up. However, it was passed on to me by uber-fan Alf Catolico, who seems to genuinely enjoy it. I especially like how the backing vocals were left in to frame Bruce Dikinson's wail. What do you think Neil Diamond would feel about it? After all, he wrote the Monkees' hit in the first place.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rick Astley Kicks Nirvana's Ass

Here you go, because Kurt Cobain was a goof who couldn't be bothered to wash his hair, made millions from his Pixies rip-offs, hooked up with the kookiest woman in the universe, and fought with geniuses like Axl Rose and Billy Corgan. Astley was the most mesmerizing dancer since James Brown, had more musical talent in his pinkie than Cobain, had a finely-streamlined helmet, jealousy-inspiring fashion sense, and a winning grin. Courtesy and

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

To the Moon!

The anniversary of humans landing on the moon passed us by this week, so I started thinking about how many songs refer to space or the moon. A random sample of cds close at hand told me...maybe too many. Do you think songwriters dream about what's about there more than others, or are we all fascinated by what we don't know?

Here's one from Crooked Fingers, Under Sad Stars, found on the the band's self-titled album.

Some technical difficulties sent my spacey playlist all wonky, but you can go here to grab the rest. You'll find:

The Waterboys - The Whole of the Moon
Possum Dixon - Crashing Your Planet
Scruffy the Cat - Kissing Galaxy
Eat - Red Moon
Bryan Ferry - Gemini Moon
Scruffy the Cat - Moons of Jupiter
Rupert Hine - The Wildest Wish to Fly
Crooked Fingers - Under Sad Stars
Pixies - Space (I Believe In)
Fountains of Wayne - Lost in Space
The Church - Under the Milky Way
The Church - Texas Moon

Of course, many people don't believe there ever was a moon landing. See the proof below. I wonder what Courtney Love thinks about it?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pointed Sticks

I'm jumping the gun a bit here, but one of the most anticipated releases for me right now is supposed to come out on November 1st. Pointed Sticks have just completed recording for the album, which will be entitled Three Lefts Make A Right. Maybe the best thing to ever come out of Vancouver, Pointed Sticks formed in 1978 and released the excellent record Perfect Youth in 1980. Unfortunately, the Sticks broke up soon afterwards. Here's a taste of their punky pop genius, badly-synced and all.

Pointed Sticks remain for me a band that fell into the early Canuck punk category even thought the band always remained resolutely tuneful, as opposed to shredding ears and dipensing political opinions (which is cool if you're another BC band like DOA). Like The Diodes in Toronto, no one really knew what to do with bands that tempered their punk with well-crafted melodies at the time. Nevertheless, Pointed Sticks should be revered for making music as timeless as The Undertones and as accessible as Green Day - if you've never heard Out of Luck or The Real Thing, download them for free from their website today. Here's another tune - remember that bands didn't really make videos before MTV and MuchMusic, so this is What do You Want Me To Do interspersed with photos circa 1978.

The band got together 25 years after the fact and have been playing sporadic shows ever since. Here's What Do You Want Me To Do as the reformed band did it in 2006.

Pointed Sticks have been giving away free mp3s of their classic songs here, pick 'em up and wait, like me, for the new one.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound

So far this year, maybe the coolest thing I've heard and seen is JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound. Hailing from Chicago, JBUS is making the most joyful sound ever, timeless tunes that fit in with Otis Redding, James Brown, Sam Cooke, and maybe a few other soul legends. Download here, comment below to tell me who you think it sounds like. For self-proclaimed influences, the band lists not only James Brown and the Stax, Motown, Atlantic, and Chess labels, but also The Clash, Iggy and the Stooges, Bad Brains, Lenny Bruce, and the SST and Dischord labels.

I first saw/heard JC Brooks and the Uptown sound with this video. I love how JC introduces their cover of Wilco's I Am Trying to Break Your Heart by saying that it's a song "by our favourite Chicago soul singer" - Jeff Tweedy should be happy about that, don't you think?

Her's the video for Baltimore is the New Brooklyn. Looks like the '70s can come back in a good way, doesn't it?

Buy the album Beat of Our Own Drum or listen to samples here.

Blitzen Trapper - Video for Black River Killer

I don't go looking for music videos because I'd simply rather listen. But once in a while one sucks me in because I really like the artist, like this one I found at You Ain't No Picasso.