Posts Tagged ‘Richard Cheese’

In Part II of our series on rock and other genres poured through the coffee filter of what I’m loosely calling “lounge,” our Spotlight Team turns to the man who believes he’s cheddar, the singular most popular cheese in the world, when he’s not even Venezuelan beaver cheese and in fact the van broke down ages ago: Mark Jonathan Davis, better known as Richard Cheese.

RC-LOGO-VEGAS-PREMASTER.jpgLounge Against the Machine (2000), Tuxicity (2003), Aperitif for Destruction (2005), I’d Like a Virgin (2006), OK Bartender (2010), Supermassive Black Tux (2015), and too many more to fuck with

Cheese’s raison d’etre is to sing lounge versions of songs that are tasteless (Nirvana’s “Rape Me”), anything with an impolite word (Radiohead’s “Creep,” Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up”*), songs that can be rearranged in preposterous ways (U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” rewired as a cha-cha), or songs that were already dumb when they were hatched (Nena’s “99 Luftballoons”).

* I am thankful that “Smack My Bitch Up” only has eight words. (The other four are “Change my pitch up.”) The eight words are credited to five writers, which sounds like the writing credits to the typical Star Trek movie.

Weird Al makes up new lyrics for existing songs to express his own ideas. Cheese lets the existing lyrics speak for themselves by setting them in this fake Vegas tiara. After four or five cuts on the first album you’ve basically heard everything he’s going to give you in the next hundred, but he does have some surprises up his cummerbund. His cover of “Only Happy When It Rains” by Garbage is serious and almost emotional. That’s a tsunami in a shot glass for Cheese.

Cheese’s voice is above average, but it’s brassy, without much nuance. He can growl, sort of, but he never loses his passing vocal resemblance to Steve Martin. His arrangements are for small groups of musicians who can really swing, and I like how he compresses almost everything into a 2-minute formula so you’re never marooned in his shtick for long. His best cuts are his covers of “Creep” (clever) and Coldplay’s “Yellow” (hilarious). His jazz arrangement of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” has some voltage. However, his real contributions to popular culture are his album titles.

There’s not much call for Richard Cheese around these parts, and if in fact he ever infiltrates our place of residence I hope the dog eats him.

Consumer note

If you ever see Cheese live: He’s sick and tired of people yelling “Free Bird!” at his concerts. Be sure you yell it.

Coming up in Parts III and IV: People who sing like they mean it.


Call me Scooter

Writing is dark and lonely work, and no one has to do it. No one will even care much if it doesn’t get done at all, so that choosing to do it and to try to do it well is enough of an existential errand, enough of a first step, and for whatever my money and counsel’s worth, enough of a last step, too. (Richard Ford)

No one has to do it. And because no one has to do it, because no one is standing over you with a whip and a chair, it’s very easy not to do it. I’ve written more words in my favorite coffee shop in Portland and on the fifth floor of the Vancouver Community Library than I have at home. That’s because both places have plenty of plugs for my wheezy laptop (the coffee shop also has raspberry coffee cake) and I can’t connect to the Internet in either. Well, I might be able to connect if I knew their wireless passwords, but I’ve never asked, and even if I knew them, my laptop would probably refuse to cooperate. It’s a real pal that way.

Today, after an interview for an editing job, some miscellaneous job-search stuff, and a walk in the fleeting sunshine, I got down to the business of fiction. But because I was working at home, I was immediately distracted by my email. I dealt with a couple of recruiters, answered messages I didn’t have to answer, and shut it down.

Then a question arose in what I was writing, and instead of scribbling it in my notebook to look up later, as I would if I were between bites of raspberry coffee cake, I succumbed to the Great God Google. Of course, I spent more time online than I needed.

I finally got in my hour and a half, but I would’ve been more efficient if I could learn to keep our instant-gratification culture at arm’s length. I probably could’ve hit two hours. If you blow 30 minutes online, you don’t get those 30 minutes back somewhere else.

Elizabeth Benedict said it best: “Write like a maniac. No one else will do it for you.”

Tomorrow’s challenge: How to end Chapter 5!

Random Pick of the Day
Paul Anka, Rock Swings (2005)
I respect Paul Anka for his creativity; he wrote for Buddy Holly and Frank Sinatra, and how many people can say that? But Anka is also responsible for three crimes against humanity: “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” “Puppy Love,” and the ultimate in offensiveness at the molecular level, “(You’re) Having My Baby.”
Havin’ my baby
What a lovely way of sayin’ what you’re thinkin’ of me
Havin’ my ba– [sound of Hulk smashing puny human]

But admit it, Run-DMSteve, the man can sing. Rock Swings, an album of covers of mainstream and alternative hits from the 1980s and ’90s, stomps Pat Boone’s I’m In a Metal Mood (1997) into the dirt. Boone doesn’t take his metal originals seriously, plus he wouldn’t know how to deliver a song if he worked for FedEx.

Rock Swings is not Richard Cheese and his deliberately cornball covers (Aperitif for Destruction, 2005). Anka rearranges his choice of songs to find their essence, then delivers them as if they were the American songbook. Not every song works, but frankly I was stunned by his interpretations of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Throw in Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” and you’ve got a disc that just slips in as a Buy.