Monday, August 20, 2007

Weekly iPod Shuffle: 8/19/07

[From now on, I'm going to include my iTunes rating [* to *****] for each song. Why? Because I said so, that's why.]

1. "Razor Face," Elton John
From Madman Across the Water, the last album he recorded before becoming an international superstar. The lyrics don't quite make sense, but that's par for the course with Bernie Taupin. (My rating: ****)

2. "Misery," Green Day
There comes a time in the life of every veteran band when they try to move away from their roots and explore something different. For Green Day, that time came with 2000's Warning, a largely mediocre album of bland pop-punk sheen and wacko sonic experiments like this one, a story-song polka (complete with organ and Spanish guitar solo). They wouldn't really find a new forum for their voice until a few years later, with American Idiot. (Rating: ***)

3. "The Horizon Has Been Defeated," Jack Johnson
You don't have any significant contact with my sister and not come away with a Jack Johnson CD or two. And his music is so compelling -- relaxing, laid-back grooves with not-quite-stoned lyrics and beach party atmosphere -- that it's hard to complain. (Rating: ****)

4. "Abracadabra," Steve Miller Band
You have to understand: the temptation to use this song as the backdrop of a scene involving mages for our Hunter game is so great, I feel like I have to physically restrain myself from using it. It helps that it's cheesy '80s synth crap, but it doesn't help that I have an inexplicable love for it. (Rating: ****)

5. "Surrender," Cheap Trick
My sister and I just spent three hours playing Guitar Hero II, and this song was our grand finale. It's a unique song, in that it manages to be sound both pop and punk, both off-center and completely mainstream, all at the same time. And it's got one of the best choruses ever written. (Rating: *****)

6. "Lump," The Presidents of the United States of America
Most interesting fact about this one-hit wonder: instead of using a guitar and a bass, like any other normal band, they use a "basitar" and a "guitbass," self-engineered two- and three-stringed instruments that create a uniquely rumbling sound. Second most interesting fact: despite this being their only hit, the Presidents were awesome. Always the way, huh? (Rating: *****)

7. "Locomotive Breath," Jethro Tull
Coolest story ever, retrieved from a book I have lying around here somewhere: Tull's record company freaked out over the lyric "got him by the balls" from the third verse. To cover it for play on the radio, they edited the single version, removing the offensive testicle euphemism. But for whatever reason, they weren't content leaving the space blank, so they spliced in a word from another part of the song, rendering the line into "got him by the fun." "Do we detect a new euphemism being born here?" wrote the authors of the book. "A kick to the fun? That guy's got brass fun? I was out there freezing my fun off?" Indescribably hilarious. Oh, and the song rocks, too. (Rating: *****)

8. "In God's Country," U2
Unfortunately, I have no pithy stories to tell about U2 or this song. Luckily, this song -- from their much-hailed album The Joshua Tree -- is spectacular, one of the finest tracks they've ever recorded. The way the first line of the chorus is delivered ("Sleep comes like a drug in God's country") is spellbinding. (Rating: *****)

9. "Eddie Walker," Ben Folds Five
A track cut from the band's superlative debut album (which I won't shut up about until each and every one of you has a copy, you bastards). It showed up later on their, um, let's say wildly uneven rarities collection Naked Baby Photos. The song is a decent piece of work, but it's easy to see why it got the axe. (Rating: ****)

10. "Outside the Wall," Pink Floyd
Those around him urged Roger Waters to include this song as a coda to The Wall -- they felt it needed, at long last, one pure moment of humanity, to avoid making it a misanthropic dirge. So Waters complied, providing this brief piece to conclude his story of paranoia and fear. It's a simple melody on violin, with Waters speaking directly to the listener while the backup singers echo him, pleading for you to pay attention to those who love and care for you: "And when they've given you their all, some stagger and fall; after all, it's not easy banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall." Barely audible at the end of the track is Waters mumbling, "Isn't this where--" Should you care to listen closely to the beginning of the first track of the first disc of the album, you'll hear another half-phrase, just as quiet: "--we came in?" Ah. It's a cycle, you see. When I was eight, this was the coolest thing I'd ever heard. I'm twenty-six now, and it might still be. (Rating: *****)

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