Category Archives: Rich Bunnell

Results: Commercials

Rich Bunnell

The Brave Little Toaster Soundtrack – Cutting Edge

The retail realm is a harsh mistress to the products it peddles, with one-time technological marvels subject to sudden replacement whenever the Next Big Awesome Thing hits store shelves. That reality forms the core of the 1987 animated film The Brave Little Toaster, in which five old-timey appliances set out into a world that, they soon discover, long ago decided it was no longer in need of its services. Who needs a clunky upright vacuum cleaner when you can just pick up a DustBuster? The hell is the use of an electric blanket when you’ve got central heating? Why toaster, when toaster oven?

The film’s musical numbers repeatedly underline this bleak reality, ranging from a B-movie vamp crooned by pawn-shop Frankensteins to a Don Henley-esque plea for help sung by junked cars on their way to being crushed into cubes. Toward the film’s end, our heroes encounter their technological successors, who employ the language and aesthetic of commercials to rap to them about how much more suited for the modern world the next generation truly is. The comforting part is, beyond all of the endless references to the “edge,” to a 21st-century audience, the phrase “I’m micro-solid state, and that’s no static!” is fifty times more dated than a toaster could ever fear to be.

C. Shaw

Modest Mouse – Gravity Rides Everything

To my mind, the appearance of this song in a Honda Odyssey commercial early in this decade was really the beginning of a massive movement within advertising to recruit indie (meaning “cheap”) song licensing for their commercials. The benefit to this gamble is obvious: they come cheap, and if a band makes it big, the car company or whoever can claim some of the credit for breaking out the artist and use this as a recruiting tool for future song rights. And if the band doesn’t make it big, who cares, no one will remember that ad in a month anyway.

From a music perspective, this is not quite so positive – thenceforth comes the indie backlash. For Modest Mouse after 2002, it went:

1. Be an awesome band with a devoted cult following
2. Have your song in a Honda commercial
3. Appear on the OC
4. Release a new album (Good News for People Who Love Bad News) to chart success (!)
5. Get modest (pun intended) reviews, and be seen as rich asshole sellouts
6. Release another album (We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank); collaborate with other NPR-whore sellouts (James Mercer of The Shins); get kind of bad reviews but sell lots of copies
7. And now you’re basically Metallica. Good luck getting a positive review in Pitchfork ever again.

This all misses the point – the song and the album it came from are incredible. In particular, Gravity Rides Everything sounds like nothing else in the Modest Mouse catalogue. The singing is reserved – it almost sounds laid back, as much as Isaac Brock’s wacky lisp and general craziness can possibly resemble relaxation. But when the sliding atmospheric merges with the acoustic foreground, it really sounds like everything will “fall right into place,” as the optomistic lyrics suggest.

Of course on the surface, it seems ridiculous to begrudge an artist a few dollars for an ad placement, and I used to argue about this with people all the time. But after “This is Our Country,” I would like to, ahem, begrudge the shit out of John Cougar Mellencamp. With a hammer and sickle. It’s just too bad that the indie backlash had to hit such a great band.

Vishal Trivedi

Regina Spektor – Music Box

If you’re an Iron Clef reader, you probably know that I don’t mind watching an artfully done commercial. But I admit that I had decidedly mixed feelings when I first recognized the strains of Modest Mouse’s “Gravity Rides Everything” in a commercial for the Nissan Quest minivan… Auctioning off your song for a TV commercial is pretty much the apotheosis of sellout behavior. Do you really want your bitchin’ tune to be forever associated with some product or brand you have absolutely no relation to and care nothing about? On the other hand, I understand the motivation. If you’re lucky enough that your art can pay the bills, why not let it? It’s not like Modest Mouse wrote the song with Nissan in mind. And even if they had, writing a good jingle is an art form in and of itself. Who hasn’t had a cleverly annoying jingle stuck in your head at one point or another? [I’d link you one of Vonage’s pernicious “Woo-hoo, woo-hoo-hoo” ads, but I think just this mere mention might be sufficient to ruin your afternoon] But I like Nissan all right and it wasn’t a bad commercial so it didn’t really bug me. Still, I was somewhat more disappointed to hear one of my favorite bands, Hum, get chosen as the soundtrack for a Cadillac commercial. Come on, I wanted to implore the band, Cadillac is for old people. And besides, the ad kinda sucks. I suppose this is something we’re going to have to get used to though, as people of our generation begin to grow up and inflict their tastes and aesthetics upon the marketing world. Already I’ve heard Lush, Minus the Bear, and Explosions in the Sky play as outro music for NPR programming. I guess I’d rather hear Hum abused than have to listen to the bloody Eagles or Rolling Stones everywhere I turn. Is it hypocritical to say that it only bothers me when the actual ad or product doesn’t live up to the song? Maybe.

However, this one totally does:

Yes, I believe they’re wearing items from the JC Penney catalog.

This vote is for sale.

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Results: Nonsense

C. Shaw

Faith No More – Ugly in the Morning

This song is a perfect illustration of the brilliant psychotic circus that made Faith No More such a great band, and impossible to classify. A soaring echoed vocal starts this song, with an unremarkable melody. This is Anysong, USA for the the first 35 seconds, until the aliens invade:

“And the stomach turns…

Say nothing without wasting a word
I know exactly what you meant…
Chawaajkhfh khsljkhf kjhj!!!
Glhakjnksn fjknedhu!!!”

Just listening to this song, there is no way you will figure out those words, and while there is a lyric sheet somewhere, it sounds like utter nonsense. In general, of course, after breaching a certain level of hardcore-ness, (Isis, Mastodon, Dillinger Escape Plan) the words stop mattering all that much, and it’s cliche to say that the voice becomes another instrument in the band. In particular, no small amount of prose has been spent in trying to sum up the percussive impact of Mike Patton’s finely tuned throat. But the real reason that I think he’s so incredible, in all of his forms – Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk, guesting for the DEP – is that his blistering unintelligible screams sound so accessible. In 1995 when this album came out and I had it on repeat in my car, I had no idea what the fuck I was yelling, but that didn’t stop me from singing along to every second of this song. And frankly, it’s just a whole lot easier when you don’t have any words to memorize.


David Boyk

Jhoome Re Jhoome

Kishore Kumar, one of the great Bollywood singers, starred in Jhumroo, the classic story of a small-town boy who comes to the city and makes it big as a yodeler (sadly not in this song). The singing parts of the song make sense, but as far as I can tell, the crazy shouting is just nonsense. Apparently there’s some sort of racist Chinese caricature in the movie, too, which is probably what you’re hearing there.

If that’s not enough Bollywood nonsense, here’s another Kishore song for you. MTV India isn’t that great, but what is great is their self-promotions. They’ve got some sorts of ad geniuses working for them, making spots like this one:

“Mooch Nahin To Kooch Nahin” means, more or less, “If you don’t have a moustache, then you’re worthless.”

Also, despite what Alex wrote in my description, I’m not a connoisseur of anything, except maybe water fountains.

Rich Bunnell

The Fall – Mountain Energy

“So I went fishing / A note from a fish said / ‘Dear dope, if you
wanna catch us / You need a rod and a line / Signed, The Fish'”

For close to 32 years, The Fall have served as a rotating mouthpiece for the ramblings of Manchester mumbler Mark E. Smith. After 25 full-length studio albums and Jeebus knows how many EPs, live albums and archival releases, Smith’s lyrics still have yet to be adequately transcribed by the techniques of modern science, with no potential breakthroughs in sight. “Mountain Energy,” the second track from the band’s 2004 release “The Real New Fall LP,” stands as the man’s closest brush with the thought processes normally associated with human beings – and it still doesn’t make any goddamn sense. As far as I can tell, the lyrics serve as a depiction of Smith’s frustration with the casual interactions and activities that make up everyday life – renting a car, fishing, applying for a mortgage – but exactly what Dolly Parton and Lord Byron have to do with any of this still has yet to be determined. Whatever Smith has been trying to say for the last three decades, the United Kingdom must be in on the joke, or else there would be no explanation whatsoever for the following BBC broadcast:

Believe the hype, now you can…

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Results: Be My Baby

Oliver Hinds

[At Oliver’s request, no editing was performed on his entry. Sorry. -Ed]

Melvins – Creepy Smell

melvins explored a complete space by drum intros and won’t stopped as now they have 2 drummers. i certainly could find “be my baby” intro in their catalog. sure enough, my track from ozma album satisfied. ozma is a great, great one. this is not the best song on ozma. you should’ve been listening to “oven”. or “at a crawl”. both tastily made. but let us talk around this one. several reasons to like this one present. these reasons are listed in order below.

1) whispered intro are lyrics from a gene simmons solo album. what?

2) the refrain at the end is “creepy crover”. the name of the song is “creepy smell”. crover is the drummer’s last name. does this suggest that dale crover has an offensive odor? cross reference with “you disgrace me” at the middle of the song. maybe they are saying he stinks at drums? personally i think the drums here are only slightly sub-melvins-par. and they certainly aren’t smelly.

3) several tempo changes are used. always works as a cheap way to impress me.

4) how many bands have their own nikes? (i don’t know the answer to this, but i’d like to)

5) The stream-of-consciousness riffing and just-for-pretend-sloppy-but-really-asshole-tight performance is vintage melvins. its a good example of how they managed to remain unpopular enough to keep the respect of the important fans for more than 20 years. just try to bang your head to it. i guarantee you’ll look like an asshole.

Rich Bunnell

The Spongetones – “(My Girl) Maryanna”

It’s true that Ringo is secretly everyone’s favorite Beatle, but it’s more for his doe-eyed innocence than his – admittedly underrated – musical chops. On the Spongetones’ 1984 single “(My Girl) Maryanne,” the one-time cover band envisions an alternate reality in which Ringo was set free and allowed to pursue his lifelong dream of a full-time career as conductor of Shining Time Station. Meanwhile, the remaining Fab Three recruited drummer Hal Blaine to infuse their music with the same legendary percussive cannons that made “Be My Baby” such a wonder to behold.

Rhino’s 2005 compilation “Children of Nuggets” is jam-packed with artists whose hyper-sincere imitations of their tonal papas is exactly the reason why their songs are so great. The Spongetones are possibly the most blatant masquerade act on the whole four-disc set, but christ, what a truly glorious masquerade. It’s a witty concotion that’s as grinding of an earworm as anything on “Rubber Soul” – and in the end it’s the spirit of the Ronettes that lets the whole affair fall into place.

Megan Costello

The Blow – Parenthesis

As a closet romantic, I am a sucker for a good love song. They’re my first choices to stumble through at Karaoke bars, professing my unrequited love to a microphone and a room full of strangers. I know I will survive, that I’m a lovefool. I take my cue from the ticking of the midi drums and the second the familiar cadence comes on over the PA, I know that someone out there will be my baby.

Others much more talented than myself roam the karaoke circuit looking for love and inspiration. There is no doubt that Portland, Oregon duo the Blow, self proclaimed karaoke-bar hoppers, found inspiration it in the The Ronettes. Made up of Khaela Maricich and Jona Bechtolt, the Blow released Paper Television in late 2006, an album chock full of quirky love songs.

“Parenthesis” is the jewel of the album and has been stuck in my head since early last November, when I first heard Khaela perform it live. No sooner did the backing track beat its way through a slightly altered but drum intro, did I know I had a new favorite song. Khaela bounces her way through odd proclamations of unconditional love, just begging you to sing along. She doesn’t literally say “be my baby,” but the thought is there. Your heart beats along with the song and you wish you too could find someone to partner your parenthesis.

And just in case you thought I was lying about the karaoke thing, check out the music video.

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Filed under Megan Costello, Oliver Hinds, Response, Rich Bunnell