Posts Tagged ‘16 Horsepower’

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

One disqualification this evening:

Napoleon XIV
“They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” was funny when I was 11. The only sounds beyond the vocal, if you can call it a vocal, are from a tambourine, a drum, ambulance sirens, and someone slapping a thigh (presumably his own thigh, but who knows). All of the non-vocal sounds are on a loop. The vocal is speeded up in places to emphasize the narrator’s dementia. The words are not at all clever and in fact reveal the narrator to be a passive-aggressive SOB and a master at inducing guilt. The B side of this surprise hit, which outstrips “Transfusion,” “The Purple People Eater,” and anything involving chipmunks for sheer weirdness and/or plain dumbness, is, of course, “!Aaah-ah, Yawa Em Ekat ot Gnimoc Er’yeht”

There was a record company called Gennett. During the Great Depression, when money was short, they fixed leaks in the roof of their building by nailing their surplus records over the holes. I can’t think of a better use for copies of “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!”

All right then. Let’s go 12!

12 Rounds
Basically two people, Atticus Ross and Claudia Sarne. Has the name Atticus become fashionable again? I like Apollonia better. Their 1996 debut, Jitter Juice, won them an advocate in Trent Reznor, who signed them to his own label. I want my own label and as soon as this blog starts making money I’m going to go out and get me one. Ross has worked with Reznor on various Nine Inch Nails albums and film scores. I can see why they get along so well as they’re both big navel gazers, though Reznor rocks so very hard and Ross so not so much.

16 Horsepower
As soon as I read “alt-country” I threw down my guns and walked away, but the little bastards shot me in the ass. 16 Horsepower is one of the happiest surprises in this project. The first song I heard in their YouTube mix was “Black Soul Choir,” and I was sold in under a minute. By the second song, “Haw,” which evokes the Old West and Pink Floyd, I was chair dancing, using my co-workers’ chairs. Then came “Heel on the Shovel,” and how great a title is that? Pretty good song, too.

David Eugene Edwards is the man behind this music. He looks like a young George Thorogood with worse hair. His voice is nothing special and yet it wails with all the emotion we thought we left behind in the Depression. The man is from Denver, but from Denver in what era?

I haven’t heard all of their music yet, and I’m not crazy about their ballads, but what I can say so far is that if you don’t like Springsteen’s Nebraska, you might if it had a beat. That’s how I’m hearing 16 Horsepower.

East 17
The boy bands keep on rolling, this one suggested by Loyal Reader Bill Seabrook, who had to put up with them back when he was just a kid and all he wanted was to find 17 other guys in the British Isles to play baseball with. East 17’s name comes from a London postal code. That trick never works – just ask 3OH!3.

The boys (the youngest turns 40 next year) danced, sang, and rapped their way through the 1990s, or at least until people got tired of them. “It’s Alright” is typical of their ouevre; it’s strongly reminiscent of Madonna. Oops! Britney could have done it again.

They had a hit in 1992 with “House of Love,” which sticks in your head whether you want it to or not. It would sound strong in a club where you could dance to it. Sitting here with my headphones on, I keep thinking they’re playing Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” at twice the speed. It just ended, and with an explosion, too, just like Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” Cool. You have to like pretty white boys pretending to be gangstas and singing/rapping about people needing more love. I wonder if they ever considered touring with House of Pain (another gaggle of white rappers) or covering Van Halen’s “House of Pain”? Probably not.

Heaven 17
Their name is from A Clockwork Orange, which makes me want to reread it. Heaven 17 was a branch of the British Electric Foundation, which was started by computer wizards who turned to the synthesizer to make dance music. This was a radical idea in the 1970s when Roxy Music and David Bowie were playing around with keyboards. It became the industry standard in the ’80s. Gary Numan, an artist I like very much, at least in the beginning of his career, took the synthesizer and went to the dark side of the moon. Depeche Mode found a somewhat sunnier space between Numan’s vision and sea foam like Heaven 17.

Heaven 17 (and their sibling The Human League, another branch of the BEF) are among my guilty pleasures. I’m not claiming that “Let Me Go,” “Penthouse and Pavement,” and my favorite, “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang” are songs that will live forever, because they aren’t and they won’t. But they do make me pump up the volume. The Andre Norton Effect is undoubtedly at work here, since these tunes are all from the larval stage of my adult development.

If I had to place Heaven 17 in the hierarchy of ’80s synthesizer dance pop outfits, I’d rank them below Simple Minds, The The, Talk Talk, and Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, on a par with Howard Jones, but above flash-in-the-pans like The Spoons (“Nova Heart”) and Information Society (“Pure Energy,” which you may remember as the song that sampled Spock saying “pure energy”). They are way above A Flock of Haircuts. The undisputed kings of this kind of music were Duran Duran (and, for about 15 minutes, Thomas Dolby). All of these acts appeared in the immediate wake of MTV. They were all made for each other.

Matchbox Twenty
Their debut, Yourself or Someone Like You (1996), is probably the biggest-selling rock album of the decade…probably because it sounds like everything else. This is the guitar sound that all post-grunge bands tried to achieve. It makes me think of mainstream acts like Dave Matthews and Blues Traveler as well as ’70s arena-rock heroes Lynyrd Skynyrd and even Black Oak Arkansas. Matchbox Twenty’s sound may not be original but it’s entertaining and the perfect party soundtrack. Nobody wants to hear from a critic at a party. Nobody wants to hear from a critic most of the rest of the day, either, which is why Special D channeled my energies into this blog.

Matchbox Twenty’s first hit was “Push,” which is so mellow that I can’t understand why it ever got anywhere. But almost everything from their first album turned to gold, especially “Long Day,” “Real World,” and “3am.” Their singer and songwriter, Rob Thomas, could be the voice of the ’90s. You couldn’t escape him on alt-rock radio or even on the headbanger stations.

Thomas is the kind of guy who can do just about anything he wants to do, even though I have never understood how he does it. In 1999 he co-wrote and co-sang “Smooth” for Carlos Santana’s comeback album, Supernatural. Like everything having to do with Thomas, I thought this was adequate, but it soon became the most popular tune on the planet, proving once again that any idiot can write about music….Early on in this blog, I praised the man for his voice, which I still do.

In 2005, Thomas released a solo album called Something to Be. I thought “Lonely No More” was an OK song. Of course, it was a smash.

Rob Thomas supports animal rights, gay rights, and the rights of the homeless. He once wrote, “Each of us has a short ride on this earth and as long as we stay in our lane, and don’t affect someone else’s ride, we should be allowed to drive as we see fit.” That’s a hit with me.

UB40
The guys in UB40 met in a line at an unemployment office and decided to form a reggae band. Must’ve been a slow line. The money to buy their first instruments came from a compensation payment following a bar fight. Not all of them knew how to play these instruments. One of them called himself Astro and gave himself the title of Toaster. One of their first songs was a condemnation of Margaret Thatcher over Britain’s high unemployment rate. How can you not love them?

Their first successful album was Labour of Love (1983). It was made up of covers and included Neil Diamond’s “Red Red Wine,” which I still think is beautiful. Same goes for their cover of Al Green’s “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)” from Labour of Love II (1989).

Although UB40 have filled most of their 18 studio albums with other people’s hits, their best stuff in my opinion is on Rat in the Kitchen (1986), which was all theirs.

Level 42
The only album I know by Level 42 is World Machine (1985). I know the dance hits “Something About You” (which I like) and “Lessons in Love” (which I like a little less). I’ve read that they started out fusing jazz and funk and then tried fusing soul and R&B and eventually resorted to making one of their members sing, but I haven’t worked up the motivation to check this out. I have heard “The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)” from 1984. It’s funky for sure but it’s never going to make anyone forget Earth, Wind & Fire.

We’re down to the last 18 bands. Over the next couple of days we’ll travel from 47 to…infinity (but not beyond)!