Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Archive for June, 2010

Request Line: “So Lonely,” “Devil Town,” “Road to Zion”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 23, 2010

I decided why not push my luck and hope that Andrew answers a second of my request

New request:

“Devil Town” – Bright Eyes
“Another Girl, Another Planet” – The Only Ones
“So Lonely” – The Police
“Road to Zion” – Damian Marley ft. Nas

Yeah, why not. Already took a shot at “Another Girl, Another Planet” though, so it’s gotta just be the other three.

Will admit–I had no idea this was a cover. The first time I remember hearing the song was during a montage in season one of Friday Night Lights (though Wikipedia tells me this was not the Bright Eyes version, but rather another cover by some folky scrub named Tony Lucca–they basically sound interchangeable so I’m going to talk about them as such). Heard it here and there for a little while, and again in the awful promos for season three, before looking into it before writing this article, where I found of course that the original was by cult hero Daniel Johnston. I don’t really know nothing about Johnston, aside from the awesome “Casper” off the Kids soundtrack and the fact that you’re contractually obligated to use the word “cult” at least once per sentence when talking about his music, but it seemed to make a decent amount of sense as being his song, and it made me wonder if hearing the original would diminish whatever respect I had for the Bright Eyes version.

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Request Line: “Maxine,” “Peg”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 11, 2010

Reader James Kushner e-mails:


Friday request:

“Maxine” by Donald Fagen

Thirty or so years later, I’m still blown away by the whole Nightfly album– how the prince of hip cynicism released an album that looked back on his hopes for maturity and sophistication from when he was a kid, and did so with no irony or cynicism at all. The frustrated adolescent sexuality and dreamy longing of “Maxine” is the high point of that album. And oh, those close harmonies.

Or, you might have a stab at “Peg” by Steely Dan. I regard this as the defining Studio Pop Construction of its era, in the same way that “Good Vibrations” was the defining Studio Pop Construction of the ’60s. (Rick Marotta is the hero of that recording.)

P.S. Re “Jessie’s Girl”: I remember reading, long ago, that that song did not have any bass guitar in it. Listening to it closely through my crappy computer speakers, I couldn’t tell if that was true or not. If so, that would be remarkable for a radio-friendly rock hit, no?

I think I can probably make time for a stab at both.  One I know extremely well and one I don’t really know at all, so hopefully they’ll balance out.

I’ve heard about The Nightfly for a while, and I think I even had it downloaded at one point, but all I’d really heard from it before this point was the hit single “I.G.Y.,” a delightfully breezy number that I always assumed carried some seething undercurrent of regret and/or resentment. Of course, the more I read about The Nightfly (and from your request itself), I gather that this may have been the one time in his career when Donald Fagen’s snazzy pop songs didn’t disguise sordid tales of gang rapes and last-stand benders, and weren’t delivered through a sneer and a double-scotch, but were rather just straight-faced, wide-eyed takes on the era of his adolescence. A little weird for me to think about–Fagen (and by proxy, Steely Dan) without the snide wit seems like it would make as much sense as an Andrew W.K. album with only a mild sense of enthusiasm. An interesting experiment, though, so let’s see.

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Request Line: Sam Cooke Pandora Station

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 9, 2010

Friend of the blog Kyle writes:

Step 1 – Create a Pandora station with “Sam Cooke” as the only criteria.
Step 2 – Listen to it for an hour
Step 3 – Tell us how much better your life is

I can definitely do at least two of those, Kyle. Tell you about the third in a bit.

I should say that my experience with Pandora is rather limited. I’ve only used it once, really, and signing into my long-dormant Pandora account months after reveals that when I did, I created three stations, each based on single songs: Pearl Jam’s “State of Love and Trust,” The Meters’ “Cissy Strut” and (surprise) Icehouse’s “Electric Blue.” I vaguely remember them all being vaguely unsatisfying for largely the same reason–they were all too random, and yet not random enough. As someone who tends to eschew traditional LP listening for more of a song-oriented, varied approach in his personal music-listening time, and as someone who invariably spends many time-killing hours in front of a computer a day, it would seem that Pandora would be perfect for me. But little things about its uncontrolled atmosphere end up irking me–the way it would opt for live versions of songs instead of their obvious studio counterparts, the way it would repeat artists with precious little discretion, the way it chose songs that were either superficially similar but conceptually very different, or the other way around. For whatever reason, I guess I need a human element in my random music listening–the feeling that someone who knows what they’re doing is programming or at least overseeing the schedule to make sure that it never gets homogeneous, and never devolves into complete chaos.

Anyway, despite not opting to use Pandora much on my own time, for such business as this, I could certainly think of worse ways to spend an hour. Here’s what Pandora came up with for a Sam Cooke-themed station, from 12:16-1:16 AM EST on June 9th, 2010:

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Request Line: “Breaking Glass,” “Stevie Nix,” “The Obvioius Child,” “Only Wanna Be With You”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 8, 2010

Reader Justin writes:

Ok, as a long time reader, occasional commenter, here are my four carefully chosen picks:

Breaking Glass – David Bowie
Stevie Nix – The Hold Steady
The Obvious Child – Paul Simon
Only Wanna be with You – Hootie

Carefully chosen. I respect that.

The best song on Low, perhaps? Certainly the most underappreciated. I guess Low made its reputation largely on the weirdness of its instrumental second side, but it’s the crazy new wave stuff on side one that actually holds up as really being ahead of its time, and as some of Bowie’s most purely badass work. “Baby, I’ve been / Breaking glass in your room again.” Fantastic opening line for any number of reasons, mostly that it implies so much resignment and truly pathetic desperation without actually saying anything particularly damning–Bowie was never the type to dwell in self-pity, so he just kind of lays it out there in one mundane but surreal detail and lets you draw your own conclusions. Combined with the last line, in which Bowie appears to give the game away by suddenly blurting out “YOU’RE SUCH A WONDERFUL PERSON!!!,” but holds on to add the tempering qualifier “…but you got problems!“–it’s really a wonderfully snide, cutting, fucking funny little song.

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That Guy Salute: Jim Joyce, Umpire of Baseball’s Credibility

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 3, 2010

Over the next few days, you’re going to hear a whole lot of hubbub about a controversial call that took place in last night’s game between the Tigers and Indians. Facing catcher Jason Donald with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was one retired batter away from a perfect game, a feat to ensure his place in baseball immortality. As Donald grounded sharply to first and Galarraga rushed to cover the bag and take infielder Miguel Cabrera’s throw for the sure put-out, the accomplishment looked to be in the books. But umpire Jim Joyce ruled Donald to have beaten the throw, granting him a base hit to ruin the perfecto. Showers of boos rained from the Comerica Park stands as what at first looked to be a questionable ruling turned out, upon replay, to be just a straight-up blown call, as the ball clearly beat Donald by a good half-step. Tigers color man Rod Allen (always one of MLB broadcasting’s more entertaining figures) memorably lamented upon review: “Oh! my! goodness! Jim Joyce, nooooo!!!!

Instantaneously, Jim Joyce reached such a level of infamy that quizzes like “Detroit Tiger Fans Worst Umpire,” “The Worst Umpire in the World,” and my personal favorite, “Perfect Games that Jim Joyce Has Blown,” all popped up on Sporcle within about a half-hour, and the comparisons to Don Denkinger ran so rampant that the Denk briefly became a trending Twitter topic. And as much as we’d like to defend his ruling–that it was a bang-bang play, that Donald wasn’t that far off, that maybe it was close enough to a tie and the tie always goes to the runner–there’s really no sugarcoating it: Dude blew the call. But while Joyce may have destroyed what should have been a career-making night for Armando Galarraga, he ended up saving (whether consciously or not) something much more important: The integrity of the Major League Baseball perfect game.

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Posted in Clap Clap ClapClapClap, That Guy Salute | 5 Comments »

Request Line: “Round Here”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 2, 2010

Reader DO IT writes:


Hey man, round here, we don’t take orders. Lucky for you, I was kind of looking for an excuse to write about Counting Crows anyway.

Of all the major rock stars of my youth, I’d probably have felt the safest in assuming that Adam Duritz would never merit any significant re-evaluation. If anything, I thought it was ridiculous that we ever gave this guy as much credence as we sort of did–I would look at the AMG’s description of the Crows as an “angst-filled hybrid of Van Morrison, The Band and R.E.M.” and laugh as I pictured the horrified look on the respective artists’ faces at being on one side of that comparison. Duritz was a classic example of an artist taking himself so unbelievably seriously that he ended up convincing others that he was worthy of the treatment as well–despite being a white man with horrific dreadlocks and a penchant for uninspiring figurative language, who ended up dating 1/3 of the primary cast of Friends. As a kid I thought he was brilliant, as a burgeoning music critic, I thought he was an an idiot, and after that…well, I didn’t really think about him very much at all.

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Request Line: “Turn My Swag On,” “Summer Babe,” “1979,” “Creep”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 1, 2010

Reader David writes:

I thoroughly enjoyed your previous Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em analysis, so here goes:

Turn My Swag On – Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em
Summer Babe (Winter Version) – Pavement
1979 – Smashing Pumpkins
Creep – TLC

I thoroughly enjoyed writing my previous Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em analysis, so good call.

I got a question why they hatin’ on me?” asks Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em in one of the crucial lyrics to “Turn My Swag On.” To be fair, DeAndre, we had pretty good reason. My love for breakout hit “Crank Dat Soulja Boy” is very well-documented, but as I mentioned, it was the last I wanted to hear from Soulja for at least another decade–a second hit made about as much sense to me as hearing how Los Del Rio were going to follow up “Maccarena.” And when second and third singles “Soulja Girl” and “Yahhh!” graphed a decidedly downward slope for Soulja’s career trajectory, I figured we were pretty much out of the woods. Then the new album’s “Kiss Me Thru the Phone”–a somewhat cute but largely deplorable puppy-love tune, featuring former kid R&B star Sammie in some weird display of young’n solidarity–began its slow trek to the top five. Much to my horror, it looked like the public was no longer ticking down the seconds until they could forget about SBTE, but getting ready to accept him as a legitimate pop star.

So how to his explain his absence from recent works disparaging pop successes who failed to heed the call to GTFO? Well, simple: Because “Turn My Swag On,” his very next hit, was about 100 times better than it had any right to be.

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