Tag Archives: Response

Results: Puberty

Yohan John

The Who – Pictures of Lily

It’s my second turn at Iron Clef, and this time there’s voting! Oh, the peer pressure! Sounds a lot like … adolescence! To be very honest, my own adolescence was pretty laid back. In my lazy little home town, I was more or less unaware of the trials and tribulations of adolescence in urban India. My only notion of what being a teenager was supposed to be like came from Archie comics and The Wonder Years. My entry for Iron Clef this week is the song that first popped into my head when Alex mentioned the topic to me. The scribes and historians describe “Pictures of Lily” as a tribute to the Sin of Onan – masturbation. I probably wouldn’t have interpreted the lyrics that way myself, but it sounds reasonable. At any rate, if masturbation isn’t irrevocably linked with adolescence the world over, then I don’t know what is. The Who’s Pete Townshend has always struck me as an adolescent who never grew up. Only someone completely up his own arse could write a rock opera like Tommy. And yet he also wrote My Generation – the quintessential anthem of confused, stuttering, angry, independent youth. Proof that even a wanker can be a genius (and vice versa).

Here’s a little factoid that amuses me: The American writer and poet Dorothy Parker named her parrot Onan. (I hope its obvious why!)

Th McCaffrey

The Queers – Ursula Finally Has Tits

Ah, puberty. The gooey-est period of time in a person’s life. At first I thought I would try to find a song that expressed the spiritual changes a young girl or boy might go through during puberty. Perhaps a coming of age song: Neil Young’s ‘Sugar Mountain?’ Or something else just as poetic and nostalgic. Then I thought, no, there’s only one thing (ok, two) that could adequately sum up why all the angst and zits and gangly limbs and dead brain cells and boners in math class (or was that just me?) and door-slamming and warm beer and skipping school and ruined underwear were worth it: Boobies.

I don’t know if it was because I was stoned through my entire pubescent existence and forgot if anything was even heartwarming at all, but I do know that what I remember the most is boobies. So, boobies it is. Boobies: The other reason(s) besides teenage angst to be loud, immature and full of beer.

The Queers were loud, immature and full of beer. Puberty made me loud, immature and full of beer. And now, in my late twenties, I remain loud, immature and full of beer (oh, and zitty). The Queers’ ‘Ursula Finally Has Tits’ is about a young female punk rocker named Ursula who finally gets her tits and the boys get all excited and drink more beer.

Crass? Sure. Immature? Of course. But what else is the average fourteen-year-old heterosexual male going to get excited about? Besides, the only thing as exciting as boobies back then was rock and roll, and you remember why you got into that in the first place? Don’t you…? Boobies.

Svenllama Lisa Xu

Big Star – Thirteen

Huge thanks to Lisa for pinch hitting for Svenllama!
Early adolescence is such an awkward and unfortunate time. Exaggerated misery being another one of its noted hallmarks, I could be remembering that period of my life inaccurately, but really, what’s not to like about junior high? It’s cliquey as hell, no one listens to the same music as you do, the math teacher hates you, you hate your parents, and you go to the Friday night dance alone. High school is another thing altogether, but at least you’re easing out of puberty by then.

In any case, “Thirteen”, Big Star’s gentle paean to the first pangs of blossoming love and youthful rebellion, is probably the only song that would ever make anyone want to be thirteen again. Its sweetly tender riff and yearning harmonies wrench an enormous amount of poignancy out of such expressions of romantic hesitance as, “Maybe Friday I can/Get tickets for the dance.” Recorded in 1972 by young men reared on the British Invasion of the ’60s, it’s a nostalgic picture of rock’s adolescence, too – a reminder of a time when rock took itself seriously as an idealistic force. “Thirteen” is a metaphor for music as an entreaty, a supplication as emotionally honest (and maybe as doomed) as the efforts of a 13-year-old trying to woo a girl with talk of breaking the rules and how very important the Rolling Stones are. Its beauty suggests that buried beneath all of the painful awkwardness, there perhaps may have been something worth remembering from going through puberty after all.

For all of these reasons, it was also the perfect song for Elliott Smith to cover. Both versions are great, though, and will melt your heart just like they would.ve in junior high.

Sweet Pineapples! Now you can




Filed under Lisa Xu, Response, Th McCaffrey, Yohan John

Results: Lord of the Rings

Jay Bohland

Pete Seeger – Listen, Mr. Bilbo

I’m told that J.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy has permeated the very fabric of our society. It’s not clear what that says about me since I’ve neither read nor watched the products of Tolkien’s fantastical fantasies (I have a feeling, though, that it says good things). With that foundation, it was clear to me that my direction would be to send readers on a musical journey that was as indirectly related to the actual topic as I could muster, and to follow that up with a clip that would sufficiently poke fun at the brotherhood of Hobbitville. While selections from the Flight of the Conchords were tempting, they were too obvious, and too relevant.

Instead, I’ll use the character “Bilbo Baggins” from the Hobbit and LOTR to get me where I need to go, which is to the banjo-powered populist world of Pete Seeger. Seeger’s 1946 admonition, “Listen, Mr. Bilbo,” lets Theodore G. Bilbo, then Senator from Mississippi, know how he feels about his racist ways. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Lord of the Rings, but it’s a delightful song that may still have relevance in certain parts of our country today.

To please the Iron Clef, however, I’ve also located this lovely video that sufficiently characterizes my stereotypes of the LOTR community, all the while teaching us the history of nuclear physics. It also makes the strong connection between Michael Flatley and Lord of the Rings that I was desperate to make when this contest started. And it made me giggle a bit.

Jeff Blake

Bunnynoser – Ravendell

“Then Illuvatar said to them: Of the theme that I have declared to you, I will now that ye make in harmony together a Great Music. And since I have kindled you with the Flame Imperishable, ye shall show forth your powers in adorning this theme, each with his own thoughts and devices, if he will. But I will sit and hearken, and be glad that through you great beauty has been wakened into song.” – The Silmarillion

This week’s theme is Lord of the Rings, and Tolkien loved music. Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Illuvatar, the Father of All (Tolkien also loved names and titles) creates the world through song. Everybody’s singing in Tolkien: Tom Bombadil sings a tree into submission in the Fellowship (good job there Tom), dwarves kick up a chorus line after eating a fantastic brunch, bunches of bar songs, and page after page of chants about long dead characters gadding about and getting it on.

My thoughts and devices turned to a party at the vegetarian-themed Co-op ‘Lothlorien’ in Berkeley, CA. A room was turned into “Ravendell:” people dressed as elves with glow sticks and danced to this techno-remix of LotR music. Showing the same modesty as Bilbo did in Rivendell (Book II of the Fellowship, Chapter 1 “Many Meetings”), the creator Bunnynoser stated:

“The funny thing is, I think that song is terrible. I made it as a joke for a Lord of the Rings/Rave party but everyone seems to love it. I suppose the Information Age is really just the Age of Fleeting Novelty.” Oddly enough, that’s exactly what Tolkien called the Fourth Age. Now sit and hearken, and be glad that great beauty has been wakened into song.

Himanshu Mhatre

Nightwish – Ever Dream [tribute video]

The relationship between the Lord of the Rings(LoTR) epic and world of music has quite a history. While itself taking admirable inspiration from the Wagnerian opera Des Ring der Nibelungen (a.k.a. the Ring Cycle) LoTR has in turn been a source of abysmal inspiration to music artists (esp. of the popular culture) for the past four decades. Its early influences are quite evident in works of bands like Led Zeppelin (Battle of Evermore, Misty Mountain Hop, etc…) and have been rejuvenated recently by the advent of the movie trilogy with artists spanning cultures from electronica through metal each showcasing their appreciation of the epic with the flavors and aromas of their niche music genre. The question about what could be the best musical representation/inspiration/tribute/accompaniment/experience for LoTR is bound to spur out diverse (and sometimes conflicting opinions). The sophisticated classical listener, for instance, might argue that Wagnerian pieces such as Ride of the Valkyries are the most appropriate, the timid classic rock enthusiast would point bands like Led Zeppelin (Battle of Evermore / Led Zeppelin II), the energetic modern rock devotee would allude to groups like Arcana XXII (Mordor / Fallen From Grace), while the complacent admirer of new age music would hint to artists like Enya (May It Be / LoTR OST).

But among all this hodge-podge of genres and loyalties another species of admirer lays completely ignored and unrepresented. The development of sites like youtube and of advanced multimedia editing software have seen the rise of a new form of artist – the tribute fan (aka the fan). Modern day fans have become adept at exhibiting their appreciation for movies, music and video games by combining elements of all three forms of media into an audio/video medley that collectively enhances the experience as a whole. But unlike the more popular artists, these aficionados are generally anonymous (and unanimous) in identity and get little or no limelight.

The track that I have chosen for this weeks post is one such fan tribute. What makes this particular track amazing is that it is not just a tribute to LoTR. This track is a combined tribute to Lord of the rings (LoTR), Legend of Zelda(LoZ) – Twilight Princess and the symphonic powerhouse metal band Night Wish (song Ever Dream (released as a single)). A juxtaposition of memorable scenes and events from an epic movie and an epic video game, strung together by a music made by the fabric of a genre that brings together the compositional sophistication of Wagnerian music, the energy and aggression of metal and hints of reinvigorating sounds of new age – a pastiche that would hopefully find its way to the taste buds of everyones palates.

If you think you would like symphonic powerhouse metal then you might also want to check out the more popular group Rhapsody of Fire.

Holy Fucking Shit! Now you can



Filed under Himanshu Mhatre, Jay Bohland, Jeff Blake, Response

Results: Non-Resident Indian

Chris Lucas

Queen – Bijou

A song for the Non-Resident Indian (NRI), by the Non-Resident Indian: Farokh Balsara. (known by his cooler planet-y name, Freddie Mercury). By all accounts, Bijou is an anthem for Non-Resident Indian-ness. Its instrumental nature mirrors the NRI experience perfectly: not overly flashy but brilliant technically. It is a song of foreignness, attempting to communicate primarily in a language other than English, relying on our ability to sense the meaning first. When the language of home is not enough, the English words are short, simple, and powerful – designed for maximum impact: “You and me are destined/ You’ll agree/ To spend the rest of our lives with each other/ The rest of our days like two lovers/ Forever, yeah, forever/ My Bijou” That’s. Fucking. it. The NRI knows English and how to use it better than we do.

Bijou isn’t a love letter to home, it is a voicemail about surrender left by Freddie Mercury on behalf of all NRI’s abroad. While he masterfully translates Brian May’s phrasing, it is the guitar that delivers the real message: I am not leaving, but I am not coming home either. I will miss you too.

Note: If anyone references ‘outsourcing,’ Kwik-E Marts, or submits Cornershop’s Brimful of Asha, they should be punched in the trachea. That’s just mailing it in.

Nicotina Chevrolet

The Kleptones – Bo Rhap [is damn pretty]

More flamboyant than a Bollywood musical, with more dramatic twists than an Indian soap, the music of Queen is the legacy of Zoroaster and its great-great-grandson, Freddie Mercury. I mean, really, could anything be more baroque than Bohemian Rhapsody? Apparently, yes.

In Bo Rhap, a Christmas present to fans, the Kleptones blatantly defy their Disney detractors and add one more megamix to the illegal Queen mashup A Night at the Hip Hopera. A dash of Weird Al here, a smattering of Guns and Roses there, and more obscure clips than you can shake a stick at, and you’re left almost yearning for the comforting coherence in Freddie’s original.

Freddie, who was born to Parsi Indian parents (check it) , was a complicated man, and no one understood him but his woman, and his many men, and I think maybe the Kleptones. I mean, who do you think Freddie would side with in the Disney vs. Kleptones debate? Money from royalties cannot buy joy, but chaotic creation and sticking it to corporations can soothe the pain of Christmas-time commercialism.

Freddie, you cannot be replaced. But there is someone who’s still around who may be able to measure up, not to your musical chops, but to your unexpected ethnic heritage.

Chilli, the “C” of TLC, was reunited with her long-lost East Indian/Middle Eastern father on the Sally Jesse Raphael show, perhaps explaining the vague Eastern-ness of this video, which almost rivals the Bo Rhap in labyrinthine structure. Look, she’s getting a boob job! Ack, someone’s gonna beat up T-Boz! Thank goodness they’re meditating on floating pods!

Ideally, one would play this video with the sound off while listening to the Kleptones song (or nothing), because the song itself is rather…fugly.

Matt Silver

Miles Davis – Black Satin

In the late sixties, as Miles Davis was going off the deep end and exploring all sorts of new sounds and styles, Indian music was beginning to influence various musicians in the United States. While many listeners, both at the time and currently, are put off by Miles’ increased use of electronics, I think it’s great. While recording the 1972 album On the Corner, Miles collaborated with several Indian musicians, notably Badal Roy (tabla) and Khalil Balakrishna (sitar), producing one of his worst-selling albums. Great.

The most prominent use of Indian instruments can be found on the album’s second track entitled Black Satin. Apparently Davis wasn’t really pleased with the sound and ultimately dropped the tabla and sitar from his tour. Nonetheless, this album is a good example of a relatively early Indian influence in jazz and fusion (the operative word being relatively, since other jazz musicians had been experimenting throughout the sixties).

Also (on an unrelated note) for a good time watch: Daler Mehndi – Tunak Tunak.


Filed under Chris Lucas, Matt Silver, Nicotina Chevrolet, Response

Results: Turkey

Rob Law

“Hey Joey! I’ve got some stuff you just gotta try.”

“What is it?”

“Pot! You know, marijuana?”

“I don’t know…”

“What are you, chicken? Bawk BAWK bawk bawk”

“I’m not a chicken, you’re a turkey!”

And that brilliant comeback echoed in the minds of millions of now smack-addled twentysomethings, their fears instantly displaced. Avoiding becoming Joey was suddenly much more important than avoiding fifth-grade pot pushers. It has been said that the war on drugs was lost the very day this commercial aired.

And so for turkeys everywhere, here’s McLusky’s “To Hell With Good Intentions.”

McLusky – To Hell With Good Intentions

Natty Raymond

William Onyeabor – Better Change Your Mind

The omnipresent specter of avian flu has received a great deal of warranted attention in recent years. However, if you have been reading your local newspapers of record closely, you have certainly become painfully aware of the deadly spread of another global pandemic: Jive Turkey flu, to use the parlance of the experts. Vectors known to spread this dire disease are first and foremost jive turkeys. Some of the symptoms of Jive Turkey flu, also known as Douchebag’s Syndrome–eponymously named after its discoverer, the late renowned French microbiologist Jean Genet Douchebag–include the rise in “reality format” programming on major television networks, estate tax “reform,” attempts to justify the “legality” of waterboarding, as well as a propensity to invade soveriegn nations in contravention of international law. Sadly, friends, these symptoms are the proverbial tip of a behemoth iceberg of unmitigated suffering and tool-like behaviour.

Fortunately, there exist several known prophylactics that can help prevent and limit the spread and severity of Jive Turkey flu, chief among these critical dams against the rising deluge of Douchebag syndrome cases is funk, Motown, and R&B music from the 60s and early 70s. One of the most powerful yet least known innoculations against this scourge is the classic African psychedelic funk anthem “You Better Change Your Mind,” written and performed by Willaim Onyeabor. Onyeabor is a well-known West African funk musician, or “get down artist,” who is featured on the excellent 2004 release entitled Love’s a Real Thing from David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label. Real Thing is a collection of other Jive Turkey flu fighters, including Nigerian powerhouse the Super Eagles and Ofo the Black Company. Yeah, you know who I’m talking about…

The opening, almost child-like electric organ chords of “Better Change Your Mind” expertly mask the sonic smackdown that is about to befall you and any jive turkeys in the vicinity of your sweet ghetto blaster. The song is a startling blend of influences varying from really bad Ethiopian lounge music out-takes to Kenyan Karaoke re-recorded off of an 8-track…with a pinch of American blaxploitation ass-kicking sprinkled in for good measure.

Within the first three bars, you can rest safe in the thought, for the moment at least, that no jive turkey would get within five miles of such a solid fucking bass line. Gobble, gobble, bastard people. This little number opens with a lyric that can only be described as a right hook of righteous indignation and outrage. Listen up: “America, do you ever think this world is yours? Russia, hey, yeah, do you ever think this world is yours?…If you thinking so, my friends, you better change your mind…” It says emphatically and resoundingly to jive turkeys everywhere: “Wassup, my bitch…”

The American Medical Association recommends, as I do, that you listen to “Better Change Your Mind” and the rest of Love’s a Real Thing four to five times a day, preferably while walking down the streets in fitted velour slacks, a Marvin Gaye style “What’s Going On” leather trench coat, and shoes made from lizards.

A West African funk song a day keeps them jive turkeys away.

Lisa Xu

Yo La Tengo – Return to Hot Chicken

It’s not quite turkey, but the undeniable warmth of the opening track to Yo La Tengo’s phenomenal I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One is sure to conjure up memories of Thanksgiving repasts past. In fact, the whole album sounds as though it was produced and recorded in the toasty hearth of your living room, with stuffed stockings hanging over the fireplace, and everyone sleepily cozying up in armchairs. The guitars do churn every once in a while, but overall, they’re dosed up on so much tryptophan that 16 tracks of autumnal mellow almost feels like a few helpings too many.only it’s the holidays, so why bother caring?

That warm languid guitar, exhibited on such tracks as the instrumental “Return to Hot Chicken”, is really what makes the album (that, and the bass line on “Moby Octopad”). It’s also showcased on “Green Arrow”, the other instrumental track on I Can Hear the Heart, which incidentally has always reminded me of Christmas. (For those who’ve noticed, I’ve conflated Thanksgiving and Christmas for purposes of this review. According to most department stores, the distinction is imaginary anyway.)

But since chicken really is a poor substitute for turkey at Thanksgiving, here’s another option:


Filed under Lisa Xu, Natty Raymond, Response, Rob Law

Results: Birds

Aaron Azlant

Marissa Nadler – Feathers

Briefly made indie-famous by her cover of Radiohead’s “No Surprises,” Marissa Nadler writes dependably melancholic folk that emphasizes her delicate, finger-picked guitar parts and remarkable voice, equally operatic and ethereal. The title of her most recent LP, the excellent Songs III: Bird on the Water, is already enough to guarantee 11 possible candidates for this week’s topic, although just to be sure, I went ahead and picked the one titled “Feathers.” Between its careening
cello part, its multi-tracked chorus of Nadler’s insistently whispering flora” and its sweeping lamentation (bitterly addressed to a lost lover), this track makes an ideal segue into the cover of “Famous Blue Raincoat” that follows it on the album. Baroque arrangements and anachronism for its own sake are de rigueur in contemporary folk — I personally hold to a “thee” quota — but Nadler is never tedious and her album is full of beguiling songs just like this one.

David Boyk

If the best thing ever on TV isn’t The Wire, it’s The Singing Detective, Dennis Potter’s 1986 BBC miniseries, starring Michael “The Fake Dumbledore” Gambon as a delusional, self-hating, sexually fucked-up mystery writer with a bad case of psoriasis. It’s too hard to sum up everything that’s going on in this segment, which is an early climax in the series, but basically he’s hallucinating that he’s back in the pub in his North England hometown, watching his father do bird impressions. It’s pretty sad when you watch it on YouTube, but rent the DVDs and get your heart broken.

C-H-I-C-K-E-N Spells Chicken

I guess there’s sort of a disease theme here, because this other song comes from the medicine shows that used to travel around and get suckers to buy patent medicines.
They’d roll into town, set up a stage, and have a band or a dog that knew tricks or whatever, and then you’d walk out with a few bottles of some sort of dangerous concoction, which might end up giving you jake leg. They had some good tunes, though. And they were educational – it’s true, C-H-I-C-K-E-N does spell chicken. In those days, musical genres hadn’t gotten all sorted out and segregated yet, and there was a lot of back and forth between white and black music. Some of this, like this song, was more on the racist, minstrel end, but you can come to your own conclusions about that.

Yohan John

The Trashmen – “Surfin’ Bird (Bird Is The Word)”

There are lots of obvious bird songs. The ones that flew off the top of my head (like birds) included “Bird Dog”, “Norwegian Wood (This Bird has Flown)” and even the theme song from “Harvey Birdman – Attorney At Law”. But I decided to go with this song, because in terms of birdy impact, this song has more bird per word, so to speak.

Some people find it hard to make out lyrics, so here’s a sample:

A-well-a everybody’s heard about the bird
B-b-b-bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
[A-well-a bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word] 4x
A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A-well-a don’t you know about the bird?
Well, everybody knows that the bird is the word!
A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word

And so on (with feeling).

I first heard this song in a lecture. Our quirky professor’s presentation began with a slide that informed us that this piece of pleasing insanity was an amalgamation of two songs by the doo-wop group The Rivingtons — one called “The Bird’s The Word” and the other called “Papa-oom-mow-mow.” “Papa-oom-mow-mow” in turn, was a doo-wop parody. So the song “Surfin’ Bird” (consisting largely of bird-brained repetitions of the two songs’ titles) is a parody of a parody.

The song sounds almost proto-punk. Years before The Who, or The Stooges. But the best part, of course, is that it’s funnier than avian flu.


Filed under Aaron Azlant, David Boyk, Response, Yohan John