Posts Tagged ‘Galaxie 500’

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

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.