You’re Gonna Need a Bodybag – Hit the Lights

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Song: You’re Gonna Need a Body Bag
Artist: Hit the Lights
Album: This Is a Stick UP…Don’t Make It a Murder

I hate to admit it, but a series of unfortunate events swept away my entire Saturday in a big wave of angst and grumpiness. These events were not of the catastrophic variety, but were frustratingly annoying enough to cause several fist-clenches, a few teeth-grinds, and very nearly a foot stomp. At one point, I found myself driving home with an incoming of angry texts chirping from my phone in the car’s cup holder and jerky drivers cutting me off at crowded intersections..and then the perfect song for a shitty day jumped out of the recesses of my convoluted iPod library and took the liberty of blasting itself through my warbly car speakers.

Do you even remember when Hit the Lights was a thing? I don’t. It was probably back when I was playing in the mud at Warped Tour, crushing on Emo-boys who stole my eyeliner when they dumped me, and lamenting my extremely terrible summer concert decision to crowd surf through a Relient K set (I know, I know: Relient K? Really? Go ahead and mock me). “You’re Gonna Need a Body Bag” didn’t even register on my music radar until I heard it blaring down the hallway in my college dorm some 3 years after it was first released on their 2005 album This Is a Stick-up…Don’t Make It a Murder.

Oh, poorly-named “pop punk,” how I loved you once.

This song is seriously pissed off. It’s perfect for your high school angst or, in my case today, your irresolute denial that adulthood has made it unacceptable for you to stamp your foot in public just because everyone sucks and you’re in a bad mood. I consider it an excellent blend of whining, over-dramatics, and allusions to potential psychopathy. Had my mom heard it, I would have had to assure her that I am not actually harboring any homicidal tendencies, and I no longer associate with eye-liner-stealing emo boys.

lyrics1A well-trained eye may be able to take the angsty lyrics and decipher some commentary on what the song’s about: namely, that asshole who is tough as Rambo when he’s shielded by his equally-asshole friends, the one you dream about defeating in some historically epic The Outsiders-esque rumble when he’s got no toadies behind which to hide. As my eyes are only trained in retrospect, I enjoy this song simply for the “turn it up to eleven and holler out the words through the open car window” factor (or, as I call it, free therapy).

So, if you’ve had a pretty shitty day, or you’re just a former Warped Tour mudslinger clinging to the pop punk of your bygone high school days, give it a listen. Note, though, that it is exactly the kind of song that makes elderly people fear for your soul, should they have their hearing aids tuned up enough to hear the words.

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Words – The Monkees

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Song: Words
Artist: The Monkees
Album: Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones

One day, you’re going to be sitting at team trivia night at your very favorite dive bar, sucking down Bud Lights and laughing with your friends, and the DJ-turned-game-show-host is going to ask the question:

What was the B-side to “Pleasant Valley Sunday?”

You should really have me on your team, because I totally know this one. In 1967, The Monkees released one of the albums on which they insisted on playing their own instruments, and the double-sided hit single featured “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” and one of my personal favorite Monkees songs, “Words.”

This song starts out sounding so very sixties, like maybe it would fit perfectly in a Broadway revival of Hair. I mean, there are chimes, man. But it picks up quick, and Micky Dolenz belts out a hook that’s catchy enough to make you dance around in the driver’s seat even though you’re stuck at a red light and the truck driver in the lane next to you is pointing and laughing (really happened, twice). There’s a little gravity in there, too–the lyrics highlight the love-and-lies of a relationship, and there’s just enough ire and desperation in his voice to drive the point of it home.

When I was a kid, if ever my dad got roped into babysitting my cousins and me, he’d cue up his VHS taped-off-the-TV episodes of The Monkees’ television show. In our infinite childhood wisdom, we called them “the funny Beatles” (we had a lot to learn). “Words” featured in the end credits of the “The Monkees in a Ghost Town” episode, which I vividly remember because it is also the episode that featured an aging Lon Chaney, Jr, as a bank robbing villain (seriously, you need me on your trivia team).

Generally speaking, I prefer Michael Nesmith’s contributions to The Monkees cannon more than anything else, but I’ve found myself queuing up this Micky-powered hit constantly lately. It’s not the hard rocking, let’s-prove-we’re-musicians sound of, say, “Not Your Stepping Stone,”  but it works and works well. Give a listen:

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Let’s Fiddle About

So Tommy was on television tonight. While watching it, I was struck with three non-epiphanies:

1. I really kinda love Ann-Margret.

2. Even thinking about Cousin Kevin sends me reeling back to all my childhood nightmares, and makes me wonder why my dad thought it was okay to let second-grade-me watch this movie.

3. I totally forgot I had a pseudo-music-blog that used to be fun.

Thanks, Tommy. I’m going to blog again…and maybe smash the mirror.

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Interesting Christmas Songs

I love Christmas–the family, the decorating, the hiding my Legolas action figure in the creche because it’s still hilarious–but Christmas music is generally a teensy bit too cheer-filled and jolly for me. By this point in the season, though, it’s hard to avoid. Here’s a collection of a few holiday-themed songs that I think are good ones, particularly if you, like me, need a little kick in the ass to get into the holiday spirit.

Christmas Is the Time To Say I Love You–Billy Squier
Happy Holidays, 1981! Alright so Billy Squire may be an MTV creation, 183520but this song is pretty sweet. It originally aired with accompaniment by the “MTV Choir,” whatever the hell that is, which makes me think of bygone days of Yuletides passed. If Dickens would have lived in the 80s, the first spirit to visit Scrooge would have been making out with his beloved with this song playing on an 8-track in the background, and he’d have shouted, “Oh that I might sponge this song from my head, it’s just so damn catchy.” Literary humor.

Thank God It’s Christmas–Queen
There was once a poor boy and nobody lovedQueen_Thank_God_It's_Christmas_single_cover him and he asked Santa Clause for a kick-ass gift for Christmas, and so Santa gave him Freddie Mercury. It was like that gift your mom gets you and says you have to “share” with your siblings, though, because everybody gets to listen to Freddie, all year round. Not a toe-tapper, “Thank God It’s Christmas” is one of my favorite Christmas songs. It’s all about how life and love are really hard but sometimes Christmas gives you a chance to be happy. Also, no damn jingle bells in the background.

Step Into Christmas–Elton John
elton-christmaspartyI was born two days before Christmas (on Festivus, actually) and in my family, the first place your parents brought you after you got released from the hospital was not to your house, but to my grandfather’s bar. That’s where the family was gathered, and where they went to meet the new babies. Trashy, maybe. But as the story goes, the day they brought me “home,” my aunt Ginger got a little Christmas tree for me at the bar and when my mom carried me in, “Step Into Christmas” started playing on the juke box. So this song has a bit of a special place in my heart.

Christmas–The Who
Gremlins is my favorite Christmas movie, and this sad number 115114099from Tommy is only slightly less festive. Every time I hear it, I think of poor Ann-Margaret wondering how a man who’s never seen the light can be enlightened while Tommy sits in his new toy car and has no idea that it’s Christmas. It’s like anti-jolly, but I think it classifies as a Christmas song, because, you know, presents and stuff.

Jingle Bell Rock–Bobby Helms
250-px-bobby-helmsInteresting? Maybe not. But if everybody had a rockabilly Christmas, the world would be a happier place. I think this is the consummate “get into the holiday spirit while drinking rum and picking tinsel out of your hair” song.

Father Christmas–The Kinks
This is the only Christmas-themed song I’d listen to year round. Though it may be wrapped in a violent pthe-kinks-father-christmas-arista-2ackage and angry ribbons, I think it’s more of a stark, necessary reminder that the poor, starving people in Africa are not the only people poor and starving on Christmas (or any time). It’s typical Kinks–hard rock and no apologies–but it’s also meaningful, if you can get passed the Santa-bashing: “Have yourself a merry, merry Christmas/Have yourselves a good time./But remember the kids who’ve got nothing/when you’re drinking down your wine.”

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Today is December 23rd so I’d like to wish you all a very happy Festivus!

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Argyle–The Brendan Hines

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Song: Argyle
Album: Good For You Know Who
Artist: The Brendan Hines

T’is the season. For getting really, really, rediculously sick. Today, it seems, is my turn to be down under the weather. And when I’m sick, I like to listen to The Brendan Hines.

I can tell you very little about the band, but I know the man–Mr. Brendan Hines himself–is an actor best known for his role on the defunct television crime drama Lie To Me with Tim Roth. Intrigued when I saw him on the show about two years ago, I looked him up and found that he was a part of an eclectic musical group bearing his name. Cue harmonicas.

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“Argyle” is just one of the whimsical yet strangely honest songs on The Brendan Hines’s album Good For You Know Who. After I bought the CD, I was pulling an all-nighter one night in my college’s library and decided it would be excellent background music to a twelve page paper on Henry James. Unfortunately, the other kids in the library at three am did not agree and informed me rather promptly that I had forgotten to plug my headphones into my computer and was blaring “Argyle” for everyone to hear.

Oops.

Anyway this is my favorite song from the album, mostly because Hines’s voice is deep and strong but partially because it’s one of those sad songs you sing with a smile on your face. Lots of “lalas” and “dadadas.” The songs are a little weird, but I prefer to call them whimsical. “Argyle” notwithstanding.

y  I may be high on cough medicine right now, but even if I wasn’t, I’d still love this song.

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Songs In Review: My Opinions on 121212

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I love the idea of charity concerts, the Bob Geldolf Live Aids, the Comic Reliefs, the 121212 concert for Hurricaine Sandy relief. I liked the idea of this one even better because as a Jersey native, both my family and the families of those close to me suffered from the winds and waters of the nasty late-season storm. My civic duty compells me to remind you that if you’re in the position to give, you can do so here.

I preface the rest of my post by admitting there is nothing I can say that would take away from the selfless, heartfelt contribution of the artists and musicians last night. The surly music lover in me, however, has an opinion on the concert as a showcase of music. Prior to the show, the Huffington Post mused that 121212 would rival such past performances as Monterey Pop, and even Woodstock, but despite the particularly awesome set list, my overall opinion was that the concert fell a bit short of the intended mind-blowing factor.

Yeah, there was none of that, Bill.

First, I call your attention to the audience. From what the cameras showed in the floor section, the arena was filled mostly with wealthy middle-aged yuppies. Ideal for a rock concert? Perhaps not. The only people who could afford the rediculously priced tickets? Definitely. A lot of the banter fell flat, and I doubt a single one of them knew Dave Grohl was still a thing. I’m not sure if the crowd played a part in the song choices for the evening, but I personally went into it expecting a rock concert, and ended up with a freakishly long collection of slow, dull, boring bits.

A few thoughts on the performers:

  • Clapton is still God, and anyone who says differently is selling something.
  • The Who’s Keith Moon video got me a little teary.
  • Kristen Stewart can’t read off a teleprompter and should perhaps take a remedial public speaking course.
  • I always consider Eddie Vedder a pleasant surprise. Same goes for last night.
  • Springsteen’s set made me wish for Clarence Clemens and then it made me wish that Springsteen would go away for a long time.
  • Chris Martin loses music credibility by announcing that “The Beatles” were on next, when in fact it was only one member of the Beatles who took the stage.
  • Adam Sandler can still be funny. Who knew?
  • Macca rocked hardest. Typical.

I watched the concert with my dad, who saw all these old men in concert–often at Madison Square Garden–when they were in their rock star prime, and though the years have definitely passed, it was clear that some songs are just timeless. Some voices, though, are not. It was a little sad to see Roger Waters unable to hit his own notes, especially when he’d had such an incredible voice to begin with. 121212_Concert_RogerWaters_AnotherBrick_480x360Unlike Springsteen, however, Waters knew when to pass the vocals onto someone else (although whoever that guy was singing with him on early songs was…not so awesome).

Clapton was flawless, no fluff just music, doing his part and reminding everyone that ol’ Slowhand is the best guirarist of all time. Zac Starky on drums during The Who’s set made a difference in a good way, kudos to his talent. And to be fair, Bon Jovi was pretty damn alright last night, though if you tell anyone I said that, I’ll deny it to my grave.

The piece d’resistance, of course, was Paul McCartney. He even dedicated a song to me and my dad–that is, the only die-hard Wings fans left in America. I think the most rock and roll moment of the night was when he told the crowd about “jamming” with the remaining members of Nirvana: they called him up and invited him and “I went, you know, like ya do.”121212-sirvana Geez, Macca is still so cool, and he knows it. Bringing artists like McCartney and Nirvana together, I think, is what concerts like these are supposed to be all about.

And to open with “Helter Skelter.” Unexpectedly perfect.

In all, I must say, the show sounded much better on the radio. It was playing live (with a little delay) on all the Clear Channel stations, and Billy Joel sounded particularly sweet on the airwaves. There was something way wrong with the sound on the television stream– the singers’ voices were muffled at times–but it was crisper on Q104.3, sounding more like a Live At Five track than a live concert. Also the censor-bleeps weren’t so far delayed that everyone heard the curse and missed a random word two verses later.

Favorite moment of the night: Pete Townsend saying, “Everyone have a fucking beer.” Will do, sir.

Least Favorite moment of the night: Alicia Keys screaming all the way through an incredibly too-long set.

Note: Extra points if you spot the Princess Bride reference in this post.

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Hold On–Alabama Shakes

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Song: Hold On
Album: Boys & Girls
Artist: Alabama Shakes

“Moaning in the moonlight.”

That’s how Rolling Stone magazine described Brittany Howard’s voice when they crowned her band’s song “Hold On” as the best song of 2012. Heaven help me, Rolling Stone, but I agree with you for the first time since you put Lennon on your very first cover ever. Today is 12-12-12, so I wanted a particularly kick-ass song for today, and I don’t think ANY SINGLE SONG released this year (or last, to be honest) has kicked my ass quite as thoroughly as Alabama Shakes’s “Hold On.”

Alabama Shakes is a four-man southern rock band, and while the throwback guitars and actual real music for a change are fantastic, it’s Howard that makes all the difference. She croons, she screams, she would have been more than welcome to perform at Woodstock, had she been alive then. She reminds me of Janis, all deep and gritty with so much soul. Sometimes it’s easy to forget she’s only in her early twenties–partially because most girls her age are pop princesses and she’s the real deal–but more likely because when she sings, she sounds like she’s been through hell and back without losing a single bit of spunk.

MTV Hive Live In NYC Show Featuring Alabama Shakes

 Alabama Shakes is not quite a blast from the past–it’s crisper, in a way, than the days gone by–but rather a band strong enough to take the roots of old rock and roll and blossom up in today’s world. I’ve heard them classified as country, and there is more than enough southern twang for me to agree, but I like the way Rolling Stone puts it better: “dusty funk.” No stetsons, promise. It’s more of a CCR, down by the bayou sound. Without the moustaches. 

Personally, I like to think of Alabama Shakes as southern rock (contrary to public opinion, there are other southern rockers besides Skynard), but all that really matters is it’s a good song and it’s so different. Seriously. Everybody today wants to be unique, right? Well Alabama Shakes actually manages to pull that off. Finally 2012 has managed to present a new act that doesn’t call to mind PBR and wool scarves.

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“Hold On,” to me, is a song to turn up real loud when you’re rolling down the highway (except I live in Jersey, so it’s more like a song I turn up loud to piss off all the people sitting in traffic around me). It is not a song to keep confined to your headphones; start it up and let it fly, man. Even if you’re just rambling around your kitchen while it plays. If you, like me, are a twenty-three year old nobody who isn’t doing to well with the whole real-life-thing, cue up “Hold On,” and feel a little stronger.

“Hold On” is the first single off Alabama Shakes’s April 2012 debut album Boys & Girls. They’ve been nominated for the 2013 Grammys in all the big categories, so I hope there are more people rambling and rolling to this song in the near future.

I beg you, please, y .

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