Mathematicians, please do not come after me for my misuse of infinity.

This is it! Big finish! Let’s go…500!

Galaxie 500
A band from the end of the 1980s that I like a lot, though to my ears they’re just variations on The Dream Syndicate and The Velvet Underground. But I like those variations. Sometimes derivative can make you happy.

Galaxie 500, which was named for my Dad’s old car, was two men and one woman who met at Harvard and discovered they were all shoe-gazing, self-involved emos. Their dreamlike musicianship, sweet dispositions, and melancholy outlook suit me perfectly. On their 1988 debut, Today, in “Oblivious,” they sang, “I’d rather stay in bed with you/Till it’s time to get a drink.” Robert Cristgau in his review wrote, “What kind of decadent is that?”

I should mention that singing is not their strong suit. Their vocals either fail to stick or get in the way, as in their cover of George Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity.”

On Today, they covered Jonathan Richman’s “Don’t Let Our Youth Go to Waste,” a title that sums them up. At a show I went to in Boston in 1979, Jonathan Richman stole my date right in the middle of the dance floor, so you see, I have a deep connection with this scene.

Area Code 615
This is the Nashville area code, and the nine gentlemen in this group were all Nashville studio musicians. Some of them had played on Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline and decided to stick together. Their fellowship of the ring led to Area Code 615 and two albums, their 1969 self-titled debut and 1970’s A Trip in the Country.

These songs are instrumentals mixing country, funk, soul, and rock. The first album is mostly covers, including several of The Beatles. “Hey Jude” is pretty funny with a banjo and a harmonica, but I’m not sure they were trying to make me laugh. (When the original “Hey Jude” was released, my Grandma Rose, who was in her 70s and who grew up in Austria speaking Yiddish, was upset because she thought The Beatles were singing “Hey Jew.”)

“Lady Madonna” builds to a country hoedown. The harmonica replaces Otis Redding on “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” It’s not great but it has its own quiet strength. Their cover of “Classical Gas” sticks like glue to Mason Williams’ original, but that country cracker-barrel flavor gives it some novelty appeal. I rate this disc a Listen but not a Buy.

The second album is all orginal material with touches of jazz, particularly on “Devil Weed and Me.” Their best-known (the one with the most hits on YouTube) and probably best track is “Stone Fox Chase.” Their best title is “Welephant Walk.” Their best effort was the first album.

My guess is that, like The Byrds’ (Untitled) from the same era, you have to be a musician to really appreciate these discs. Session musicians, like back-up singers, rarely get the credit they deserve, and I hope these boys enjoyed their hour upon the stage because they sure could play.

Though I sometimes use this blog to make negative remarks about country music, I am compelled to admit that Nashville Skyline is a phenomenal record.

1000 Homo DJs
Al Jourgensen of Ministry created this band in the ’90s. There is absolutely no reason to buy a 1000 Homo DJs CD, but you should definitely download their cover of Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut,” which not only rocks the house, it rezones the neighborhood. You can find it on the 1994 Black Sab tribute CD, Nativity in Black. (While you’re over there, check out what Megadeath did to “Paranoid.”) This cover of “Supernaut” does very little that the original didn’t do, but it has somehow been recorded 1000 times harder.

Trent Reznor sang the vocals on the first draft of “Supernaut,” but after his record company whined about it, Jourgensen had to redub them. This makes Reznor the only person to appear more than once on this list: For his own band, Nine Inch Nails, for his advocacy of 12 Rounds, and for this thing.

Musical history note: One of Jourgensen’s bandmates in this venture dubbed himself Wee Willie Reefer.

1910 Fruitgum Company
The late ’60s “bubblegum” phenomenon would make an interesting study, but I am not about to study it. I lived through it and that’s enough. In fact I didn’t even play any of these songs because they are still echoing in my brain.

1910 etc. was the first group explicitly put together to produce this lighter-than-air musical alternative to the harder rock of the time. They released three albums in 1968, and the title song of each hit the Top 40: “Simon Says,” “1, 2, 3 Red Light,” and “Goody Goody Gumdrops.” Just typing these titles raises my blood sugar to unsustainable levels.

I looked it up and the biggest bubblegum hit of all was The Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar” in 1969. In fact, “Sugar, Sugar” was the #1 single for 1969 – not something from Abbey Road, Yellow Submarine, I Got Dem Old Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, The Band, Let It Bleed, Tommy, Santana, Stand!, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Johnny Cash At San Quentin, or even My Way.

Sometime in the early ’80s, Lenny Kaye, Patti Smith’s guitarist, came to Seattle with his own band. I don’t know what he thought of the people in that little club who kept calling out the names of Patti Smith songs, but for their encore they played “Sugar, Sugar.” Was he trying to punish us, was he being ironic, or did he just really like that song?

10,000 Maniacs
Oh boy, more folk-rock, and just in time because I was afraid we’d run out. 10,000 Maniacs were supposedly named for an ancient horror movie called Two Thousand Maniacs. Maniacs? Well, I suppose if you locked lead singer Natalie Merchant in a room with 101 Strings she’d ask for an ax or a sword fairly soon. 10,000 Maniacs’ more famous songs include “Hey Jack Kerouac” (In My Tribe, 1987), “What’s the Matter Here?” (ditto), and “These Are Days” (Our Time in Eden, 1992). I like that last one – it has a joyous power to which only the walking dead would fail to respond.

Though there were only 9,999 maniacs after Merchant left to start a solo career in the 1990s, and though this band can be glaringly obvious when they’re trying to make a point, they are still a favorite on the folk-rock circuit. I also believe they were one of the first bands to unplug on MTV. That was probably a great fit for them.

Do as Infinity
This projects ends at last, not with a bang but with Japanese bubblegum. Welcome to the face of J-pop in the new century. They’ve got their cross-hairs on an obscure, undeserved group: teenage girls who love clothes.

Somehow this formula works. Do as Infinity has racked up 14 straight Top 10 singles in the Japanese, Korean, and Chinese combined market with what to me sounds like music you would’ve heard if you were living in the USA in the 1980s. The only thing that kept me from losing consciousness while I listened is that they seem to have memorized every note that Smashing Pumpkins ever played. I kept hearing the occasional gust of guitar that could’ve come from Siamese Dream or Gish.

If you’re one of my typical readers, stay away from Do as Infinity. If you’re a teenage girl who loves clothes – what the heck are you doing here? Stick with Ke$ha.

Tomorrow night: Kudos to my faithful readers and a few thoughts on what I learned this past week.

Comments
  1. Verlierer says:

    Somebody went under a dock. He was in a jam. He’s in a giant clam. Basement? I figured you had moved up in the world by now. Do you at least have high top sneakers?

  2. Verlierer says:

    Seeking blog etiquette advice.
    Does a blog master, such as yourself, wish for wordy, overly familiar responses to each and every one of his posts or is he happier silently counting site hits in his attic retreat, without having to open the front door to strangers and querulous guests?

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      The only blog etiquette I know about is what happens at my blog. So don’t take me for an expert.

      Sir: PLEASE write away. Be wordy and overly familiar. Be sarcastic. Throw compliments and/or bricks. Monkey around. Put on your nose guard. Put on the lifeguard. Pass the tanning butter. Just be polite toward my other loyal readers when they shyly come forward with their own stupid opinions.

      “Silently counting site hits” in my attic retreat (actually, I’m in the basement) is not my idea of a good time!

  3. thecorncobb says:

    Nah, Run-DMSteve,
    I have ancestors that fought for the CSA, but the right side, for the right reasons won.
    You should not forget the past, but you should get past it.
    Slavery should be completely voluntary, between consenting adults (with a mandatory safe word).

  4. thecorncobb says:

    corncobb knows his corn & hot enough, it will pop, like J-Pop (& K-Pop) is certainly very hot, but if the review you gave of the Japanese band, “Do As Infinity” was in response to my submission, then the wrong band was reviewed, as my submission was for the Norse band, “Infinity”:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinity_(band)
    http://www.allmusic.com/artist/infinity-mn0000107087

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