Frank’s Faves on Fridays

February 11, 2011

Extreme – “Rest In Peace (1992)

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When that string quartet started in the introduction (note to self: where else would it start, idiot?), I was pretty sure that I’d heard that chord progression before somewhere. I couldn’t figure out where, though. It’s a fairly common chord progression, and plenty of people have used it, so I guess I don’t need to get het up about it (do people still use the phrase “het up”?). Anyway, while I was trying to figure out where I’d heard that chord progression before, the band known as Extreme started up and did what they’re known for doing: instrumental noodling. (In this case, it’s some Hendrix-ish noodling – but you knew that already, because you’ve heard the song.). It was such a departure from what the strings had been playing that I was left wondering why on Earth Extreme had put a relatively restrained – dare I say “tasteful” – string quartet in at the beginning. It had nothing to do with the rest of the song. No, wait… Ah, I see what they’ve done. Extreme used the string-quartet-in-the-introduction chord progression in the song’s choruses. (This is one of the disadvantages of typing while you’re listening to a song instead of listening to the whole song and then typing about it.) Fair enough. It’s understandable for a band to start their song with the chorus (it tends to be the catchiest part of the song after all), but why start it without the chorus’s melody? And why have it performed by a string quartet? Despite all of those imponderables, I’m starting to like this song. It sort of sounds like an 80’s hair metal band playing a standard strutting hair metal song with a bit of power pop thrown in. The strutting hair metal part of the song is OK, but I like the power pop parts (the vocal harmonies). I didn’t like the guitar solo, though. I thought it was pointless noodling. But then the noodling made way for some of that Hendrix-style playing that the band started their part of the song with (after the string quartet had played their wordless chorus). I thought it was a little cheeky of Extreme’s guitar player to quote some actual Hendrix (“Voodoo Child [Slight Return]“). But what’s with the acoustic guitar and bird sounds (as if the band suddenly found themselves outdoors) in the last minute of the song? I don’t get it. For me, if there’s something in a song – any song – I like there to be a reason for it to be there. Otherwise, I’ll spend way too much wondering why a musician (or producer) put it there. Now, as you know, I try to listen to a song at least three times to really get to know it. Because the thing is six minutes long (about four minutes longer than I thought it needed to be), it was a bit of a chore to get through three times. But I did listen to it three times. On the second listen, I paid attention to the lyrics more – but was not glad that I did. Also this time around, I noticed the guitar noodling during the verses, and found it irritating. On the third listen, I heard something that I hadn’t noticed at all the first two times: a child saying “Ban the Bomb” when the band pauses between 1:48 and 1:50. I suppose it’s because of the lyrical concerns in the song (i.e., war) that it was put in there. But it’s an odd thing to put in a hair metal song. All in all, I’d say that this song was an interesting diversion. (It certainly kept me busy for about an hour, typing a heap of nonsense about it.) By the way, I heard something in the MP3 you supplied that I haven’t heard in ages. Whoever originally ripped that track from CD didn’t notice that the CD had a scratch in it. As a result, there’s a digital glitch at the 33-second mark in the track. I was going to replace it with a clean copy of the track, but then it wouldn’t have given me the opportunity to say “Hey, there’s a digital glitch in an MP3!”.

David Werner – “Every New Romance” (1979)

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After the marathon effort with that Extreme song (“Extreme” indeed), it was nice to get back to a regular, three-minute ditty. (Adopting Crotchety Old Man voice: “The way things used to be, before all that Hippity-Hop, and all that Grudge music, and all those Elmo kids with their sad Elmo music, and all that doof-doof music, and all those shrieking harpies…”) Oh-oh. I’ve just noticed: this song is five-and-a-half minutes long. What are you doing, Frank? Is this the week you’re going to throw epics at me? Will I be able to make shorter comments about longer songs? Am I ever going to finish this post? (Another note to self: calm down, Peter. It’s only a song. It’ll finish eventually, and then you’ll get to hear another one.) Back to the track… I thought this song by David Werner was going to be a New Wave synth-driven thingy (à la Howard Jones) but then the guitars cranked up and I realised: “Er, it’s not a New Wave synth-driven thingy.” It’s more Gary Numan than Howard Jones. I went looking for more information about David Werner and this song (I’d never heard of David Werner before – or at least I don’t think I’ve ever heard of him), and all sources I found say that his music is Glam Rock. I’d sort of go along with that. I guess. (I don’t think the song is especially Glammy. Well, not very anyway.) Incidentally, I found the album that this song appears on. The album is from 1979, it’s self-titled (i.e., David Werner), and it’s available over at the Power Pop Criminals blog. 1979’s a bit late for Glam isn’t it? That’s when Gary Numan et al came along, with loads of people sounding like robots with guitars (the Robots-With-Guitars sound). I thought Glam slinked off into the distance by about 1975 at the very latest. I’ve just realised that all this pondering is beside the point. The point here is to listen to this song by David Werner. Right. The song. Focus, Peter, focus. I’m listening to it now, and I can hear the Glam elements in it, but I can also hear the Robots-With-Guitars elements, too. I must admit that the very first vocal utterance in the song (David singing, in a rather Stentorian way, “I” at 0:42) made me laugh out loud and I had to stop the song. Once I had regained my composure, I played the song from the start again, got to the 42-second mark, heard David sing “I” and laughed out loud again. I started the song for the third time, got to David singing, and laughed out loud for the third time. This is terribly unprofessional of me. I’m supposed to be listening dispassionately to a track and analysing it, noting things that are noteworthy, giving my considered opinion etc., and all I can do is giggle at a man pretending to sound important. Or forceful. Or something. Right. Here we go for the fourth time. I’ll keep going this time. I’m listening to it now and thinking that David’s vocals are Glam, but they don’t suit the song. Oh, no. Not again. I just heard a sort of “Aaah” (at 0:56) after David sang “every new romance” and laughed out loud at it. But I’m ploughing ahead. I’m determined to listen to this song all the way through without stopping it every 30 seconds. I’ve just come to the chorus, and the tenor saxophone at 1:19 reminds me a lot of David Bowie‘s “Young Americans“. (Why do tenor saxophones in rock songs always remind me of “Young Americans”?) There’s another one of those silly “Aaah”s at 2:05. And there’s an even sillier “Hey” at 2:09. It’s all getting too much. I don’t know if I’ll be able to listen to this song three times in a row. I might have to listen to your other suggestions and come back to it later. Incredibly trivial sidenote: when David sings the word “romance” at 2:22 he sounds to me like Nick Lowe. (But that’s the only place in the entire song where David sounds remotely like Nick Lowe.) Do I want to point out the slightly daft falsetto singing at 2:42? No, I don’t think I do. Let’s move on. Now there’s a middle-eight that sounds as if it doesn’t belong in the song (well, it doesn’t to me). But at least it’s short. And now there are some weird female background vocals. And that saxophone is still squawking away in the background. This song is getting stranger and stranger. And now there’s a guitar solo. Why? Now the song has finally finished by dissolving into synthesizer sound effects. No, wait. The synthesizers have gone away, and now there’s a classical guitar playing something moody, but that’s been stopped by the sound of castanets. What??? I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore… (Actually I don’t think David Werner was ever a member of Kansas. Boom boom!) If I have a spare few hours, I might get back to this song, but for the love of mercy I’ll stop commenting on it right now. (I have to. Otherwise, I won’t get anything else done today.)

Sun 60 – “Tuff To Say” (1993)

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Egad! Another five-and-a-half-minute song. (I’m hoping that the last three minutes of it is a very long fade-out.) However, it is my sworn duty to listen to it all, so I will. This is like a slow power pop song, and I don’t mind it at all. Actually, I quite like it – except for the extra-long guitar solo. In order to not waste your time any more than I have already (see above), I’ll make it brief and say that I like this song. The voices, melodies, harmonies, playing etc, are all enjoyable.

Laura Warman – “Impossible To Love You” (1980)

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Yuck. In this song, Laura sings “it’s all too impossible to love you.” Well, I find this song almost impossible to like. From the synthesizer parts and the drum beat to Laura’s voice and flat singing, I’m not liking this at all. I want to make a special mention of Laura’s vocal phrasing. I think it’s awful. And I don’t mean that it fills me with awe. The more I’m listening to this song, the more dreadful I’m finding it. I’m very pleased that it lasts only 3:33.

Bonus instrumental (sort of):

Cream – “Cat’s Squirrel” (1966)

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Although you’ve provided this track as an instrumental, Jack Bruce does say (repeatedly) “Alright, alright, alright…” at one point. But you’re right, Frank. It’s an instrumental. And I like it. Teenage confession time: I had Cream’s Disraeli Gears on vinyl when I was younger, and played it a lot – but that was the only Cream album I had, and I’ve pretty much forgotten those Cream songs (and any others I may have heard in the past), so this “Cat’s Squirrel” thing (what a wonderfully bizarre name for a piece of music) is something new to me. When it started, I was a bit concerned that the sound only came from the right channel. Just as I was beginning to wonder if I need to find a different MP3 of this track, a guitar and harmonica appeared simultaneously (guitar in the left channel, harmonica in the centre), and everything was fine.

Thanks (mostly) for this week’s suggestions, Frank. And sorry about the amount of time it would have taken you to read my responses.