Posts Tagged ‘Trent Reznor’

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.

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.

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)!

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, 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 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!

Write every day

I subscribed to The Writer when I was in high school. I remember reading about a writing couple, Borden Deal and Babs Deal. (They don’t make names like that anymore. Can’t get the stuff.) They always said to each other, “Well, I’ve hit 50 pages, looks like I’m writing a novel.”

Well, I’ve hit 50 pages. Actually, 56. Looks like I’m writing a novel. I’ve put together a notebook of reference material and I even have a vague sense of where I’m going. I hope to show some real progress by the time this marathon ends on August 2. I’ll report in every day on what I’m up to.

Today Special D and I went to some garage sales, met some interesting people with interesting junk in their garages, and then I wrote a cover letter and answered three essay questions for a job I want. This is one of the weirdest forms of writing, making yourself sound like the greatest thing since Kim Kardashian met Kanye West. After a creative nap to rinse my brain, I worked on my book for an hour and a half. I hope my 300 fellow Write-a-thonners had good luck as well!

My thanks again to the three people who have pledged actual money to support Clarion West and see me through this thing:

Karen G. Anderson
Mitch Katz
Laurel Sercombe

My book is set in the summer of 1947 in what’s called the Intermountain West. I’ve been reading books from that era and earlier to help put me in the right frame of mind. I didn’t get far with John Steinbeck’s East of Eden (his descriptions of the Salinas Valley are beautiful, but his characters are like sermons). Right now I’m reading Hal Borland’s Country Editor’s Boy, a memoir set in Colorado in the teens and ’20s. The writing can be kind of earnest, but this is a man who even in middle age could recall his boyhood and put it in words. Like Ray Bradbury, without the airborne prose.

Borland wrote When the Legends Die, which was made into a film with Richard Widmark. He also wrote a memoir called The Dog Who Came to Stay. The title sums up that book so perfectly that I probably don’t have to read it.

BTW, Special D has also entered the Write-a-thon, but we refuse to be called Babs and Bord.

See you tomorrow!

Not-So-Random Pick of the Day
Boston, Boston (1976)
I am not Boston’s fan, but today is Accused of Lurking’s birthday and he definitely is. Lurk holds a special spot in my life, and so out of friendship and love I listened to all of Boston for the first time since the Normans invaded New England.

I am still not their fan, but I credit computer wiz Tom Scholz with creating not just one of the best-selling albums of all time, but a debut album that could easily stand in for his greatest hits. Scholz had all the talent he needed from the first note of the first track, and how many musicians can make that claim? In fact, in the beginning Boston was solely Tom Scholz. The only person I can think of who made a similar splash all by himself was Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine, 1989).

But there’s more to Boston than the music. In the summer and fall of 1976, I could not go to a party without hearing this album. Thus the songs on Boston will always conjure for me my old joie de vivre, my youthful hopes, and the geometry of certain females.

Random Pan of the Day
3OH!3, Omens (2013)
Boston may not be my style but it beats the brains out of this thing. Not only did these derivative snore masters from the 303 area code choose a name as stupid as Fun., !!!, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Portugal. The Man, they’re responsible for Kei$ha. Tom Scholz never did any of that to us.

R.I.P.: Slim Whitman, multi-octave country yodeler, who wanted to be remembered as a nice guy. “I don’t think you’ve ever heard anything bad about me, and I’d like to keep it that way. I’d like my son to remember me as a good dad. I’d like the people to remember me as having a good voice and a clean suit.”