Posts Tagged ‘101 Strings’

I thought I had finished listening to and saying stupid things about every band with a number in its name that we collectively thought up, but I was wrong, as I so often am. Loyal reader and Southern industrialist corncobb has unearthed two bands that I’d overlooked: 8-Ball and Infinity. Thanks a lot, loyal reader and Southern industrialist corncobb!

Well, this blog wouldn’t exist without my loyal readers. Actually, it wouldn’t exist without WordPress. So in the interest of completing Let Me Count the Ways Week, which is now in its 10th frakking day, I gave these groups a good listening to. And boy was I sorry.

8-Ball and Infinity were both founded in the 1990s, 8-Ball in Japan and Infinity in Norway. 8-Ball is associated with several songs that are used in video games or with video magazines. “(Need for) Speed” uses unnecessary parentheses and shows how closely these boys have listened to Deep Purple, though Deep Purple wouldn’t spend five minutes listening to 8-Ball. “Can’t Carry On” sounds like Candlebox moving from California to Seattle in the ’90s and pretending to be a grunge act. “Masquerade” is something the Foo Fighters would scrub out of their swimming pool.

That brings us to Infinity. The Infinity gang loves Madonna. To her music they add just enough rapping to keep their grandparents on edge. The only song they have that is even halfway listenable is “Sleeping My Day Away,” and that’s because they didn’t write it – it’s a cover of a song by the Danish rock band D-A-D. No, I am not starting a project where I review bands with capital letters for names. I’ve already done ABBA and AC/DC anyway.

The one thing I like about Infinity is that this summer they toured Norway as part of the “We Love the ’90s!” tour. I have no idea what the ’90s was like in the home of the Norse gods, but it probably wasn’t like what I saw in the first Thor movie. I’ve always wanted to visit Scandinavia (Special D just put her head in her hands) and if I ever get to Oslo you can be sure I’ll report back on “We Love the ’90s!” I’d be crazy to miss it. Imagine the band merch!

The summing up
A couple of weeks ago, I gave Special D what I’ve written on my novel so far, all 25,000 words of it. She gave me her usual excellent feedback. Since then I’ve been thinking pretty hard about what she said and where I think my book is going. Listening to 110 or so bands with numbers in their names and then unfairly judging them and dismissing their life’s work in a few biting sentences was a fun project for my off-hours.

Despite the crappy bands this project stuck me with (Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, The Four Seasons, and 101 Strings lead that pack), I ended up listening to a lot of music I liked: U2, Three Dog Night, Gang of Four, The Bobby Fuller Four, The Jackson Five, Nine Inch Nails, UB40, The B-52s, Galaxie 500. For once I’m going to emphasize success rather than failure, and that means I want to single out the bands I didn’t know or didn’t know well and that happily surprised me: 2 Nice Girls, Timbuk 3, Sixpence None the Richer, 16 Horsepower, Matchbox Twenty, and 50 Foot Wave. I was pleased to reacquaint myself with 10cc’s “Neanderthal Man” and that Dean Moriarty song by Aztec Two-Step.

A warning: Don’t ever put a four in your band’s name. The 14 bands in that sad category were offset only by Bobby Fuller, Gang of Four, and The Four Tops.

Thanks to everyone who suggested bands and put this list together. I never would’ve gotten half of them without your help. For the record, here they all are, including the acts I reviewed in the two months before Let Me Count the Ways Week started on August 25:

.38 Special

Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
One Direction
KRS-One

2 Live Crew
2 Nice Girls
2 Unlimited
2Pac
Amon Düül II
Aztec Two-Step
Boyz II Men
RJD2
U2

3 Doors Down
3 Mustaphas 3
311
3OH!3
Fun Boy Three
Loudon Wainwright III
The Three O’Clock
Third Eye Blind
Third World War
Three Dog Night
Timbuk 3

4 Non Blondes
Bobby Fuller Four
Classics IV
Four Bitchin’ Babes
Four Men & a Dog
Gang of Four
The Four Aces
The Four Freshmen
The Four Fellows
The Four Havens
The Four Horsemen
The Four Seasons
The Four Tops
The Four Toppers

Ben Folds Five
The Dave Clark Five
Deadmou5
Five Finger Death Punch
Five for Fighting
Five Man Electrical Band
Maroon 5
MC5
Q5
The 5th Dimension
The Five Satins
The Jackson 5
We Five

Apollonia 6
The 6ths
Six By Seven
Sixpence None the Richer

7 Seconds
7 Seconds of Love
L7

Crazy 8’s
8Ball
8-Ball

Nine Inch Nails

10cc
10 Years
Ten Years After

12 Rounds

16 Horsepower

East 17
Heaven 17

Matchbox Twenty

UB40
Level 42
Black 47

50 Cent
50 Foot Wave
The B-52s

MX-80
M83

The Old 97’s

Apollo 100
Haircut 100
101 Strings
blink-182

Galaxie 500

Area Code 615

1000 Homo DJs

1910 Fruitgum Company

10,000 Maniacs

Do as Infinity
Infinity

I hope all of you reading this in the United States are enjoying the end of the Labor Day weekend and not freaking too much over the resumption of gainful employment tomorrow.

We had dinner with touring relatives at our favorite Italian restaurant, Portofino, to which I bestow my highest rating: five spicy meatballs. The following day we had lunch at a place they introduced us to, Corbett Fish House. Corbett’s serves food without gluten unless you insist they inject some. Normally, I enjoy gluten, in my bread, as a skin cleanser, and to keep my chess clock greased. I had some misgivings about the gluten-free fish and chips they were whipping up for me in the kitchen, but they turned out to be absolutely fabulous!

One disqualification today:

The Century Men
This was an intriguing name until I discovered that it’s a Baptist men’s chorus. If they’re willing to put down their Christmas carols and pick up Afroman’s “Because I Got High,” I’ll reconsider.

All right. Let’s go…83!

M83
Launched by two Frenchmen, Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau, though only Messr. Gonzalez remains today. They formed in 2001 and four years later took the bold step of introducing singing to their records. Gonzalez makes epic pop music that’s not afraid of large gestures and sweeping emotions or of riding dangerously close to the border of Mordor. Excuse me, the border of prog-rock.

The album I’ve heard is the two-CD set Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (2011), which is probably the closest M83 gets to the mainstream. The mournful and oh-so-very Depeche Mode “Midnight City” deserved all of its air time on alt-rock stations. “Reunion” is like a brighter Depeche Mode, as if Gonzalez added a few drops of The Police. “Claudia Lewis” sounds like the fun side of the New Wave, like a Gonzalez collaboration with Heaven 17 (but not Haircut 100).

This year, Gonzalez finally got a project that, on paper, matched his musical ambitions: the soundtrack to the science-fiction film Oblivion. Unfortunately, Oblivion barely broke even with the critics on Rottentomatoes.com, and I can’t say that the soundtrack fared much better. However, “Waking Up” would’ve been perfect on the soundtrack of the new Superman movie. It stops at a svelte 4 minutes and is better than almost everything in Man of Steel ‘s overstuffed score.

The Old 97’s
More alt-country, dammit. At least it’s not more folk-rock. I listened to most of their second album, Wreck Your Life (1995). The first track, “Victoria,” sums things up: Good writing (“This is the story of Victoria Lee/she started off on Percodan and ended up with me”), but music that wobbles between country-rock and country-country. There’s not enough rock for me, plus Rhett Miller cannot sing. Too bad, I love his first name. There’s some twangy Duane Eddy guitar on “Bel Air,” although it doesn’t go with this very angry song.

I also listened to 1999’s Fight Songs, but naturally the tracks I liked best, “What We Talk About” and “Murder (Or a Heart Attack),” are the ones that have the least to do with anything country.

Apollo 100
As they used to say on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea before the stunt man in the monster scuba-diving suit started wrestling with the model of the Seaview, “Rig for collision!”

Apollo 100 will forever be remembered for their 1972 instrumental hit, “Joy,” which is based on Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” not counting the guitar solo and the part that sounds like a sea chantey. The final 30 seconds, though, are unexpectedly strong.

Among the songs that Apollo 100 singed with their retro rockets were “Hang On Sloopy,” “Lady Madonna,” and the William Tell overture.

The only significant thing about Apollo 100 is that their guitarist, Vic Flick (now that’s a name!!), was the first guitarist to play the James Bond theme. He was also a session musician for A Hard Day’s Night. Vic Flick knows all the chords. Mind he’s strictly rhythm, he doesn’t want to make it cry or sing. An old guitar is all he can afford, when he gets up under the lights to play his thing.

Haircut 100
As New Wave bands go, I can objectively state that Haircut 100 is more boring than a 45-minute PowerPoint presentation read aloud word for word by a guy whose sole ambition is to stick with the company for another 20 years and then retire. The shock waves still echo from their debut, Pelican West (1982), which gave us two sand traps that invade every ’80s hit package: “Love Plus One,” which sucks, and “Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl),” which – what a coincidence – also sucks.

101 Strings
When I was 11 or 12 I had a friend named Bobby. We both went through an intense ship-building stage. We’d get together at his house (which was quieter, and where there was no danger of my 4-year-old sister and her pre-school thugs destroying our models) and set out our battleships and cruisers in intricate fleet patterns in his huge living room. Bobby’s family had something I’d never seen before: shag carpeting. The deep pile was perfect for our navy, helping to disguise how out-of-scale the ships were to each other.

They had a huge console stereo system in the same room, and so we played records while we played. Bobby’s mother (who was infinitely patient) and father had a collection of Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, who at that time were bigger than Jesus. We went straight for those. Other records in the stack were puzzling. What were we supposed to do with How to Strip for Your Husband ? We somehow knew to stay away from it. We also knew, without any guidance, that we shouldn’t play anything by 101 Strings.

101 Strings were launched in 1957 with the mission of  warming over, cooling off, and de-boning popular hits, movie scores, classical themes, and anything with a whiff of ethnicity. If in 1957 or 1967 or 1977 you believed that that Perry Como ruffian should take it down a notch, then you probably had a 101 Strings record in your collection. Or two. Or a hundred.

For this project, I put on my favorite button-down sweater vest, cranked the volume to an ear-bleeding 3, and listened to 101 Strings smother “Love Is Blue,” “Riverdance,” and “Tubular Bells.” If we lived in a taller house, I would’ve jumped.

blink-182
These California skateboarders have been playing the same kind of music for 20 years: pop-styled punk or punk-styled pop (The Ramones wrote the original playbook) from the point of view of the older male teenager. They were in their 20s when they started, for godsakes, but in their 30s they were still writing about kissing some girl and what they’d like to do to that girl’s mom, all with plenty of bathroom jokes and eye-rolling contempt for adults (which, as I’ve already noted, they are).

Their music sounds monolithic to me; bad singing, enthusiastic but sloppy drumming, the same Foo Fighter guitar licks. If you were making a party mix, you’d slip in a blink-182 as part of the buildup to the really good songs. I should mention that “All the Small Things” (from Enema of the State, 1999) would’ve been perfect for The Donnas, the female version of the Ramones, and that on the album blink-182 (2003) they performed a duet with Robert Smith of The Cure on “All of This” and even played the piano. (Don’t rush off to download it.)

blink-182 and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001) are the albums to listen to. Take Off Your Pants includes a song we never hear but desperately need at Christmas, “Happy Holidays, You Bastard.” Radio stations should play it as the lead-in to “Santa Claus and His Old Lady.”

Tomorrow: I’ll start with Galaxie 500 and see if I can go home already!

When I took up the challenge of reviewing every band with a number in its name, I thought it would be something mindless I could do while doing some other, more serious, thing. Well, it was often mindless (to cite one example, One Direction), but overall this project has proven to be more interesting than it had any right to be.

Why are there so few band names with numbers?
You loyal readers came up with 110 suggestions. I thought that was a lot – but how many bands have had major-label releases in the past 60 years? Surely there have been thousands, and that’s just in the English-speaking countries. Why are so few numbered?

Don’t expect an answer to that one, but I can tell you that approximately half the names on our list are variations on two, three, four, and five. That makes sense, since most bands have two, three, four, or five members. 101 Strings actually has more than 101 musicians plucking strings. I don’t know why they’re so modest when they’ve done so much to destroy our way of life.

Threat level: Not exactly off the scale
The rest of this lot falls into no discernible pattern, though you could make a small category of names that seem to threaten: World War III, World War Four, Five for Fighting, Nine Inch Nails (Trent Reznor), 10cc, 50 Foot Wave, The B-52s, MX80, 101 Strings (I always thought that one was a threat), 1000 Homo DJs (we’re here, we’re queer, we refuse to play “YMCA”), and 10,000 Maniacs. Frankly, none of these bands seem particularly threatening, unless you fear Reznor’s brand of relentless self-pity.

Get right out of town!
I decided to disqualify any act that wasn’t listed at Allmusic.com, or, failing that, in Wikipedia. Also, the act had to have at least one album from a major label – something you could find for sale at eBay or Half.com. This led to surprisingly few disqualifications of your suggestions.

  • Less Than Zero: It’s an Elvis Costello song, it’s a Bret Easton Ellis novel, it’s an early Robert Downey Jr. movie, it’s the name of several albums, but it’s not a band.
  • 2 Tribes: This is a song by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and some electro outfits. It’s not a band.
  • Devo 2.0: Mark Mothersbaugh cooperated with Disney to make disneyfied versions of his original songs. O the humanity!
  • The Five Jones Boys: George Jones played with four other boys, but they didn’t use a number. Also, they’re country. That reminds me: No country.

Much as I love jazz, I disqualified the entire genre. If I hadn’t, I would’ve been overrun by trios, quartets, and quintets.

Welcome to By the Numbers Week. Tomorrow night: One is the the loneliest number!