Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Archive for April, 2010

Friday Request Line: “Jessie’s Girl”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 30, 2010

Reader Noir writes:

As long as I’m here, how about Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” for the Friday request line? Nobody I have ever known named Jesse has spelled their name with an i.

Me neither, actually. I would think that the “ie” spelling would imply femininity, too, because that makes  it look like it was a nickname for “Jessica.” (Which very briefly inspired me to wonder if there were gender layers to this song that I had not yet considered, but the “he’s a good friend of mine” line in the opening stanza kinda puts that to rest. Oh well.)

Anyway, it’s just as well that you bring that up, since as far as I can tell, it’s the only semi-legitimate grievance one can really have with “Jessie’s Girl.” In the post-MTV era in popular music (which actually can be defined as the “post-‘Jessie’s Girl'” era, since that was the #1 single in the country when the channel launched) you’d be hard-pressed to find a dozen hit songs as note-perfect as this song, as immaculately crafted and structurally sound. It blows my mind a little bit that according to Acclaimedmusic.net, music criticism’s most reliable aggregate compiler of consensus opinion, the song is not even one of the 3000 most-acclaimed songs of all-time, beaten out by such timeless classics as The Coral’s “Pass It On,” Beastie Boys’ “Ch-Check It Out” and Primal Scream’s “Country Girl.” (Seriously, “Country Girl”? I don’t even think Primal Scream liked that song). It’s always a shame when the rock critics of the world are outclassed by web comic Penny Arcade, whose  Gabe was once absolved of co-protagonist Tycho’s murder on the grounds that he said that “Jessie’s Girl” wasn’t “all that great.”

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Posted in Request Line | 7 Comments »

Take Five: Delineating the Qualifications for “M! V! P!” Chant Recipients

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 25, 2010

You know the scene. A star player on a home team gets fouled, and as he goes to the free-throw line to take his compensatory shots, the crowd serenades him with the salutatory chant: “M! V! P!…M! V! P!” The implication, of course, is that the crowd is endorsing their franchise player as a worthy selection for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award.  But while these chants may have been more practical in nature once upon a time–it’s hard to say exactly when, where, why or for whom they started, and they might even have their roots in other sports–these days, the award is handed down by adoring crowds with precious little discretion. For instance, during a recent playoff contest between the Bulls and Cavaliers in Chicago, I noticed that Bulls point guard Derrick Rose being the recipient of such a chant. Now, Rose is indeed a fine player, one who has played particularly well this post-season, and one who one day very well may find himself in post-season-award contention. But the kid is just a second-year player who was ineffective and/or injured for half the season and has yet to even make the All-Star Team (whoops, he actually made the ASG this year, though I’m not entirely sure how). In any event, MVP, he is most certainly not.

Now, truth be told, I absolutely love this custom of NBA culture. During the right situation, with the right crowd and the right player, these chants can be absolutely electrifying, the most vocal, emotional and appropriate way for a fanbase to show their true appreciation for their beloved star. But I would like to install some sort of system to ensure that the players receiving these accolades are indeed worthy of such honors. If we keep letting the bar slip lower and lower like this, soon enough they’re gonna be yelling “M! V! P!” at Andray Blatche during Wizards home games. Amusing as that would be, it would cheapen the credibility of the chant far more than I’m comfortable with.

So I have a short list of player categories that, in my opinion, qualify him for the fan-MVP designation. If your guy does not fall into any of these categories, please find a more appropriate three-syllable chant to proffer during his next appearance at the charity stripe.

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Posted in Clap Clap ClapClapClap, Take Five | 9 Comments »

Friday Request Line: “Moonlight Over Vermont,” “Be My Baby,” “Kerosene,” “Shaved Head”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 23, 2010

Reader Brent writes:

And my four…

Captain Beefheart “Moonlight on Vermont”
The Ronettes “Be My Baby”
Big Black “Kerosene”
Rheostatics “Shaved Head”

Digging the four-song requests, people. The diversity is also appreciated.

My primary memory of Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica is probably the same as a good deal of other burgeoning young music crit-types–the first album that I ever willingly talked myself into liking. Well, maybe that’s not completely accurate–I definitely remember having to convince myself that Loveless and Velvet Underground and Nico were worth sticking with despite my initially puzzled reactions to them. But those albums quickly became normative for me, and shortly thereafter, loving them was an easy and ultimately reflexive reaction. Trout Mask Replica was more like “Wow, this is pretty cool, right? Look, I’ve actually made it through all 79 minutes of it…twice!” Within a couple months, though, the only times I would ever touch the CD was when I moved it down a slot in my CD binder to make room for an album that came before it alphabetically. (Yes, I did this every time I got a new CD, which is the reason why 75% of them eventually got scratched beyond the point of playability).

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Posted in Request Line | 6 Comments »

Commercial Break: The Worst Wife in Commercial Banking

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 20, 2010

Molly Culver, what have you done to yourself? I liked you well enough back in your VIP days, and you were one of the more tolerable regular commentators on the I Love the _____s Vh1 series. Is playing the most smug, self-centered, and thoroughly oblivious shrew in TV advertising really the best career move you can muster these days?

Really, it’s hard to properly explain how much hatred I have in my heart for this character, or sympathy for her poor henpecked husband, who once–just once–I want to see end that ski-loft commercial by just railing into her. “Yeah, you like that, don’t you, you little bitch? You thought you were sooo fuckin’ smart with your cute little games, but now who looks like a silly fucking whore, huh?” And then he starts with the thoroughly inappropriate racial slurs. Don’t ask.

Anyway, point is, is that a surprising numbher of YouTube commentors have already summed up my feelings about these spots far better than I ever could:

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Posted in Commercial Break | 4 Comments »

Friday Request Line: “Give In To Me,” “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy),” “Saving All My Love for You,” “Hey Soul Sister”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 17, 2010

Reader MBI Writes:

Dammit, I want to pick four songs. I’m a loyal reader, you have to review them!

“Give In to Me” – Michael Jackson
“Pretty Fly for a White Guy” – The Offspring
“Saving All My Love for You” – Whitney Houston
“Hey, Soul Sister” – Train

Yup, contractually obligated. Not like I’m using the space for much else these days, anyway.

Gotta admit, this was a new one on me–I was a little too young when Dangerous came out, and if I ever caught this in one of the many Michael Jackson A-Z specials I’ve seen on MTV and VH1 over the years, I don’t really remember it. That’s one of the things I love about Michael Jackson, though, and one of the things that made him such a great pop star–dude rolls deep. What makes a pop legend, in my mind, isn’t so much their classic songs that everybody knows, but their third-to-fifth-tier types of hits–the songs that you had to either live through or specifically search out on your own to really enjoy. That’s what gives these artists their true character. You could spend hours arguing about the best Michael Jackson song is–“Rock With You” would probably be my personal choice, though it changes–but I find it far more interesting to argue about what the fourth-best single released off Dangerous was.

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Posted in Request Line | 10 Comments »

Friday Request Line: “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “A Change is Gonna Come,” “Freebird” and “Lipgloss”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 9, 2010

Reader / One More Robot editor Dean Van Nguyen writes:

Although now it’s probably more out of habit than taste, I cite ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, ‘A Change is Gonna Come’, ‘Freebird’ and ‘Lipgloss’ as my four favourite songs of all time. I want to hear the Unterberger take on these classics.

Right then.

One of the things I’ve always liked and respected about Paul McCartney–and probably one of the primary reasons that so many of his songs, Beatles or solo, have been so enduring–is that he never seems to take love for granted. Whereas a great deal of great love song writers have written about the feeling so much that they seem to take it as sort of a given, Macca seems constantly and consistently shocked, elated, terrified, and yes, amazed at the enormity of love. He refuses to be in any away jaded about it (hence a song like “My Love”) and he refuses to apologize for his arguable naivete (hence a song like “Silly Love Songs”). Maybe my favorite-ever moment in a Paul McCartney song is at the end of “Listen to What the Man Said,” when he pulls back in a near-gasp, “The wonder of it all, baby.” It’s refreshing, it’s honest, it’s enviable.

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Posted in Request Line | 3 Comments »

In a Perfect World: Damages Would Be the Patron Show of Lost TV Actors

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 7, 2010

I was pretty late coming around to it, but aside from Breaking Bad, I don’t think there’s another show on TV right now that I enjoy watching as much as Damages. The main reason I was so hesitant to give it a chance early on is that I figured it was just another stodgy lawyer show–like any number of interchangeable TNT primetime dramas, but with better actors and a couple Emmy nods. Turns out it’s basically more like a serialized film noir–one set in the law profession, but almost only tangentially so at times–and a surprisingly suspenseful, weirdly sinister one as well. Even Glenn Close, who I figured would be irritatingly overbearing in her big TV crossover, is shockingly understated in her performance; not the ham-handed Acting I would have guessed but just solid, thoughtful acting. A good way to test for me about how much I enjoy a show is whether or not I watch the Coming Up Next Week credits–I know I shouldn’t do it, that it’ll just ruin some of the upcoming surprises, but if I’m engrossed enough in a show, I’ll watch it anyway, just because I need more. And I always need more Damages.

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Posted in In a Perfect World, TV O.D. | 1 Comment »

Songs We Take for Granted: America’s “A Horse With No Name”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 1, 2010

Last week’s episode of Breaking Bad began, as it pretty much always does, with something unexplained. This is one of the show’s hallmarks, and one fo the things I always liked about it–the way it dropped you into action without preface, trusting you to trust it to unravel at its own pace. In this week, Walt was driving through the Arizona desert, singing along with the radio, when a cop pulls him over for no clear reason. Like Walt, you panickedly start racking your brain for explanations to the cop’s presence–he was speeding, or he was at some sort of checkpoint, or maybe he had finally been ratted out to the police as the meth-dealing criminal that he was. Turns out he just had a busted windshield, which we knew about from previous episodes, but me, I was convinced that the whole thing was just a dream sequence. The reason why? The song Walt was singing along to on the radio: America’s “A Horse With No Name.”

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Posted in Songs We Take for Granted | 2 Comments »