>Album Review: "Music from the Adventures of Pete and Pete" by Polaris

>Perhaps if you don’t love and cherish The Adventures of Pete and Pete as much as I and most kids my age weaned on Nickelodeon do, this “Polaris” music might not appeal to you. Let me sum it up for you: mellow mid-90’s alt-pop-rock with a kinda-sorta warbly voiced singer. There are 12 songs on here and most of them sound the same. If you aren’t into this kind of music then you can just CHECK OUT right now.

But hey, this music serves as the soundtrack to one of my favorite television shows ever, so maybe the fact that every lovely little tune on here reminds me so strongly of Pete and Pete is feeding a bias strong enough for me to not see the EXCESSIVE MUSICAL SHORTCOMINGS present on this disc. But I don’t think so – not only does this music fit the mood of the show to an almost impossible tee, it’s also (at its worst) a collection of perfectly agreeable jangle-pop melodies. And, to me, it’s a soundtrack to a bygone era – that of the mid-90’s, which to me feels like some kind of ethereal, idealized wonderland. Childhood music, you see. Hearing this music, I think of suburban streets and cats I used to own. Maybe this is because Pete and Pete covered all these themes?? Probably.

And oh, the melancholy on this record. I feel it in my bones. Oh sure, you’ve got your poppy, zippy numbers: well-known Pete theme song “Hey Sandy,” the catchy-as-hell “Saturnine,” and the wonderful “Summerbaby” which was memorably used as Little Pete’s long-lost favorite song in the show. But oh jeez, then there’s the dreamy “She is Staggering,” often used in romantic scenes in the show, and “Ivy Boy,” with its vocal-less piano chorus that always puts me in an oddly reflective mood for some reason. Even peppier numbers like “Waiting For October” and “Coronado II” have this reflective, sad undercurrent showing through. Those echo-ey “ooooh-oh” vocals in the background of “Coronado”? Maaaan.

CONFESSION TIME: I listened to this album, “Ivy Boy” especially, shortly after I had to put my cat down this summer. He was fifteen years old, and memories of his life inevitably forced me to think about my old house and my old neighborhood. Somehow this music fit these memories like a glove. Maybe this explains something??

I love the first eight songs on here. The last four, I’m not as familiar with and I hardly listen to them. But they still evoke those same feelings. Jeez, it’s weird reviewing an album like this – I have no idea how anybody either not familiar with the show or from the same generation as myself would feel about this music! It’s so personal. It’s like it mine. Journal music or something. I don’t know, I’m rambling right now.

If you are a fan of the show, definitely pick it up. It’s like you’re listening to the show, I kid you not! But it’s all kind of samey so you might not appreciate it as an album, per se. Maybe it’s best listened to in small doses. But those small doses, man. It’s a fine listen once in a while. A fine trip down memory lane.

Which makes me think: I didn’t even like Pete and Pete all that much as a kid. I just didn’t get it. I didn’t actually fall in love with the show until maybe like 3 years ago. So as a kid, I did not know any of this music. And yet, it still makes me think of my childhood. How does this make any sense?? Is it just that common mid-90’s sound? Oh, the mysteries of life.

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>Carson, We Hardly Knew Ye: A Trubute to TRL

>Kids, have you heard the news? TRL died today. That’s right – after ten glorious years at the top of the business, the only program on MTV that bothers to show music videos anymore is leaving forever. In the age of late-night VH1, FUSE, and MUN2 (it’s Spanish okay), America has just run out of love for TRL. How sad.

I know what you’re asking yourself – why? And you’re not alone; it’s a question every warm-blooded American across the country is asking themselves right now. What sparked the tragic downfall of America’s Greatest Countdown? Was it when Carson left? When N*Sync broke up? When Eminem lost his sense of humor? When Blink did that crappy “Miss You” Song?? God, I don’t know. We’ll never know, will we? And asking these questions will not bring our beloved TRL back. We, as a nation, have to let this one go.

Two things pop into mind upon hearing this news. One, I realize that 1998 was ten years ago. (Ughhh.) Two, I realize that TRL, despite its crass commercialism and questionable musical content, made me love music videos – and pop music in general – as an ever-developing teenager. I mean, the show started right when I hit the sixth grade, and peaked right smack dab in the middle of the seventh; boy bands, rap rock, irish girl pop (come on, B*Witched ruled) were all over my radar. Hell, I watched TRL before I even bothered listening to the radio when I went to sleep! That’s gotta mean something, right??

Oh, sure, I stopped watching the show after I grew a couple balls my freshmen year of high school (I guess 9/11 changed everything… but not really). Carson Daly left, popular music turned from teen-pop confection to crunk and that “I Kissed A Girl” song, and I started listening to the Beatles. But for all intents and purposes, TRL was the most important music-based TV show in my formative years, and I will never forget it. Even when they only played like 30 seconds of a video, I still loved it!

Here’s a few of my personal favorite popular TRL videos from back in the day. A warning: you’re not gonna find much of anything past 2001 here.

Korn – Freak On A Leash

Say what you will about the song itself, this is one cool video. I’ve never been a Korn fan, and probably never will be one, but this video was one of the first to attract me to TRL. Not only is it a compelling mish-mash of animation and live-action, but it’s got a part where there’s a bullet, and you see the bullet go through shit in slow motion like the Matrix. My favorite part: the bullet narrowly misses a fat man cannonballin’ it into a pool.

N*Sync – I Drive Myself Crazy

Boy bands always had great music videos – mostly ‘cuz they had the money and the fame to pull it off. Hell, most of the success of late 90’s boy bands could be directly connected to their success on TRL. My personal favorite has to be this one, featuring the members of N*Sync goofing around in a looney bin jaded by their past lovers. See, they were all materialistic and mean to their ladies, so they got dumped and went crazy and ended up in a mental institution – HENCE the video, HENCE the SONG! But then at the end they’re all released for some unexplained reason, and their WOMEN end up replacing them! Ha ha! I have no idea how that makes any sense!

Sum 41 – Fat Lip

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the ultimate pop-punk cream dream. Kings of Rock Sum 41 play in the middle of a GEEEEEEI-GANTIC skatepark, with black-haired lip-pierced dumb teenagers moshin’ around, skating in cardboard suits, riding around in shopping carts, shaving a girl’s head – you name it, they’re punkin’ it. There’s even a 13-year-old-lookin’ kid getting macked-up on by some HOT CHICKS! Man, I wished I were him back in 2001. “Fat Lip” was already the most cartoonishly ridiculous pop-punk song ever recorded when it came out – all it needed was an even more ridiculous video.

Sugar Ray – When It’s Over

I remember thinking when this song first came out, “Man, Sugar Ray are BACK!” It was mid-2001, two years after the Raymen graced us with such laid-back classics as “Every Morning” and “Someday” – and now here they were, with a bangin’ new tune and a bangin’ new video. The concept: the five Sugar Ray dudes can’t think of a video for the song (how META!), so we get a glimpse of what each one wants to do. That’s right – we get to peer straight into the minds of some of the early 2000’s best pop musicians. After a bunch of weird detours, hunky lead singer Mark McGrath puts a stop to it all, saying “Why don’t we do what’s right for the SONG?” And they do – the rest of the video is just the band ridin’ around on mopeds and partying down. And ain’t that just what Sugar Ray’s all about??

Come back to us, Shuggs. We miss you.

Eminem – The Real Slim Shady and Blink-182 – All The Small Things

Seriously, there are so many videos I haven’t covered here it’s embarrassing. It doesn’t help that my white-boy instincts have tainted the legacy of Nelly, TLC, Jay Z, and numerous other hip-hop artists that deserve my prized recognition in this blog post. So I’ll take the lazy way out and include the two most notable “joke” videos during TRL’s peak – videos that perfectly encapsulated almost every aspect of TRL culture in the span of three minutes. While Blink-182 cheerfully parodied the videos for “I Want It That Way,” “Someday,” “Genie In A Bottle” and “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” Eminem thoroughly dissed weirder targets like Tom Green’s inexplicably popular “The Bum Bum Song” and a bizarro love triangle between Fred Durst, Christina Aguilera and Carson Daly. Sure, they’re completely dated – nobody that wasn’t alive in 2000 is going to know just what the hell is going on in these things – but as pop-culture catch-alls, they pretty much work perfectly. It was videos like these that made my dumb teenager self watch TRL every single weekday.

Get ready to pull out those Kleenexes come this November, Requestophiles. I know it won’t be easy.

>On Our Musical Heritage (or Why I Reserve The Right To Like A Hanson Song)

>How strongly are we shaped by the music we grew up with? This is something I’ve been pondering for a while: how whatever music blasting out of our stereos in our formative years jolts our brains into valuing different aspects of sound far into adulthood. This whole “good taste” in music really is a load of nothing when you think about it, ’cause hey, maybe all we’re doing when we hear music we like is reacting to an impulse implanted deep, deep within our brains when we were like 3 years old! Maybe that obnoxious kid on your street who you always see loudly skateboarding on the sidewalk is only wearing that Linkin Park T-shirt ’cause he has to! ’cause his tainted brain demands it!!

Listen, I’m no scientist, but I demand my theory be tested by the greatest scientific minds of our era. If there’s any weight here and we all work hard enough to fund the project, we can make any good impulses toward Linkin Park extinct by 2020.

Either way, I can’t help but ponder this ‘cuz the more I remember my own musical upbringing, the more I realize how fucked up it was. Perhaps some comparison is in order; since reading Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life, chronicling a handful of seminal American indie bands in the ’80s, I keep hearing about these kids in their 20s viewing the music they grew up with in the ’60s and the ’70s as the ultimate ideal, holding it dear to them and funneling it through this exciting new music they were creating. At the same time, they were a generation of kids separated from the first wave of rock ‘n roll in the ’50s, instead being weaned on ’60s hippiedom and ’70s slick arena rock; as the Replacements put it, they were forced to celebrate their own “fucked-up heritage.”

And man, that flabbergasted me. If growing up with ’70s rock was already considered fucked up as far back as the ’80s, where does that leave kids like me? Nowadays all that slick-radio-ready Boston/Aerosmith/Kansas shit is called “classic rock,” which gives people our age the impression that it’s music from a simpler, purer time (yes… the ’70s). So jesus, what does that say about us? I was a kid born in the late ’80s, a time where more than a few people already considered rock ‘n roll dead two or three times over. For a while I was raised on Broadway musicals and almost nothing else, save for ’80s pop like Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan, Prince, and the Footloose soundtrack. Once I finally started getting into new pop music, it was already the late ’90s, a time where even so-called “alternative” rock was on the skids and teeny-pop music was at its zenith of artificiality thanks to the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears. Besides teen-pop, some of music’s worst genres ever were springing up in droves: emo-pop, rap-rock, punk-pop, nu-metal, ska-punk, faceless R&B, crunk, Latin dance-pop, and obnoxious novelty acts like the Bloodhound Gang and the Baha Men. Oh, and Creed were there, too.

Jesus. If Paul Westerberg’s upbringing was fucked-up ’cause of Styx, mine must be real fucked up.

Now, any logical kid my age would either try to suppress these shitty musical roots by any means possible, or embrace them so much that they somehow think Sublime were better than the Beach Boys or something. Most of the time it’s either one or the other. In my case, once the Beatles and a legion of classic rock bands invaded my stereo commando-style to “save” my taste in music, I pretty much became the former – a rock ‘n roll purist vehemently against the stupid music of my generation. Problem is, deep down, I wasn’t really a purist, I just wanted to have decent tastes in music and not look like the 12-year-old TRL-watching goon I used to be. Suppressing my instinctive attraction to all that stupid shitty late-90s pop was something I could never get away with for very long.

Don’t get me wrong here – I loved all that classic rock. Furthermore I still love all the punk, indie, alt-rock, post-punk, hardcore, whathaveyou business that I’ve been neck-deep in since I started college and let my tastes mature. But I’ll be honest, it is necessary – crucial – for me to listen to the Replacements or Richard Hell about as much as, say, the Backstreet Boys or Blink-182. This isn’t because I consider those bands to be equal in terms of artistry, oh no. It’s even gone beyond mere nostalgia, although that still plays a big part in it. No, this music is my heritage now. I grew up with it, and it’s mine. It’s part of my DNA. Whatever record executive masterminded these songs succeeded 100 percent of the way, because even in my adulthood they have never escaped my brain. So instead of dismissing them as the passing fancies of a pre-teen, I’ll play them over and over, let them bury themselves further and further into my skull until one day I’ll spit them back out with some burst of artistic positivity. Make them work for me.

And hell, why shouldn’t I? This stuff isn’t going to destroy my matured adult tastes anytime soon. It just makes me feel good, in a way that a Fugazi song never could. Yeah, my musical upbringing could be considered unnatural, but if anything all those obnoxiously-catchy songs have taught me the value of a good melodic hook. If I can let the good aspects of this music influence me, why worry about the bad? And hey, once in a while I’ll find a band I grew up with that I don’t have to be ashamed about. Last year I heard Hanson’s “MMMBop” for the first time since I was ten, a song I hated when it was released; all the sudden, it sounded fresh and wonderful to me. Just a few days ago I heard another one of theirs, the later “This Time Around,” which sounded even better to me. Keep digging and once in a while you’ll find a diamond in the rough.

I guess the bottom line is this: whatever your musical heritage is, feel free to hear it, twist it, burn it, bury it, smash it, dance to it, blast it, celebrate it in any way you see fit. No matter how fucked up it is, you have that power.

>Pissin’ The Night Away: Five More Fun Selections From My Nostalgia Playlist

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It’s just one of those days.

In my unending boredom tonight, I casually looked over my iTunes nostalgia playlist, a sense of pride flowing forth. “Wow, Sean,” I thought to myself. “125 songs. 125 cherished memories. You’ve certainly done a wonderful job in documenting the musical zenith of your youth. Pat yourself on the back!”

It was a wonderful feeling, but of course one that would not last very long. For soon, another voice inside my head would chime in – the voice of a gruff, angry 15-year-old skateboarder shouting “What the fuckin’ tits, dude? Where the fuck is ‘Break Stuff’??”

The 15-year-old was right. I had some downloading to do.

Here are five new songs I stumbled across tonight.

Limp Bizkit: “Nookie”

So here’s the deal. I’m sitting at my desk in 6th grade Social Studies; the teacher hasn’t shown up yet, so everybody’s just shooting the shit. This girl I’ve known since 2nd grade is sitting in front of me – not facing me, of course, ’cause we aren’t talking. All the sudden I hear her singing to herself – “Well I guess it would be nice / if I could touch your boddddyyyyy…” Within seconds, the kid behind me chimes in – “I know that not everybody, has got a body like youuuu…”

Now, this was unusual. For one thing, you know, there’s two 12-year-olds singing to one another unprovoked in Social Studies, which actually wasn’t unusual to me at the time. Honestly, I just didn’t know the fucking song. “Wh… what is that?” I ask the girl sheepishly.

“What the hell?” She looks at me like I’m from fucking Saturn. “It’s Limp Bizkit.”

“Yeah, seriously!” the kid behind me chimes in again. “You gotta know Limp Bizkit!

“Oh… okay.” What did I know? The only music I listened to at the time was the Ragtime soundtrack. I didn’t understand any of this “cool kid” music.

Then I started watching TRL. Then the “Nookie” video came out, with bad-boy Fred Durst swankin’ on down the street with that legendary red backwards Yanks cap, rappin’ about some BITCH who put his heart in a fuckin’ blender (like that Eve 6 song). Then came that chorus about the aforementioned “Nookie” (a term which I was not yet familiar with) and sticking a cookie up your… YEAH! Then came Fred Durst getting harassed and arrested by a bunch of thuggish cops for rockin’ out TOO DAMN HARD (which I’m sure wasn’t staged AT ALL).

And ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be damned if my life wasn’t changed.

In other words, I’ll be damned.

It’s funny, though; downloading the album – aka TOTALLY RAW AND UNCENSORED – version of this song, you notice a few things. For one, the song isn’t really censored all that much, and the legendary “Stick it up your YEAH!” was apparently totally intentional (which makes the line all the more hilarious). Secondly, there’s this little background voice that serves as the answer to many of Durst’s lines: “Should I be feelin’ bad? (NO!) Should I be feelin’ good? (NO!)” “You would think that I’d be movin’ on… (MOVE IT!)” “I can’t believe that I would be deceived (But you WERE!)” This adds a whole new dimension to the song, not unlike John Lennon’s little quips in Paul McCartney-written Beatles songs such as “Getting Better” and “Hello Goodbye.”

Yeah, that’s a fair comparison.

So in conclusion: “Nookie” is better than Sgt. Pepper.

Small note: I can recite almost every lyric to this song. If you put it on, I’ll sing along. Just a warning.

98 Degrees: “The Hardest Thing”

About a second or so before I put this song on (for the first time in like a decade), I realized – through some inexplicable cosmic force – that I remembered almost every single lyric in the song. I started singing them to myself, without realizing what I was doing. It was weird.

But man, when the music kicked in, I got into it. I felt the emotion. This is a ballad, ladies and gentlemen. This is a sad song!!

Here are the opening lyrics, which I will recite here without the aid of a lyric sheet, ’cause… well, y’know:

We both know that I shouldn’t be here, this is wrong
And baby it’s killin’ me, it’s killin’ you
the both of us tryin’ to be strong
I’ve got somewhere else to be, promises to keep
There’s someone else who loves me, and trusting me fast asleep
(okay so this part’s a little hazy)

I’ve made up my mind – there is no turning back
She’s been good to me, and she deserves better than that!!

As a precocious 12-year-old, these lyrics confused me. So the protagonist is with some girl, but he doesn’t WANT to be with her, he wants to be with this other girl who treats him right. So why are you hanging out with your old flame, boys of 98 Degrees? But then the chorus puts things in a different light: “It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do / To turn around and walk away / Pretending I don’t love you.” And furthermore: “You can get on with your life / I’ve got to be cruel to be kind.” “You will never know, ’cause there can be no happy ending.”

Wait, wait, 98 Degrees – so you LOVE this girl? Then why break her heart? Why go off with some random floozy who’s been NICE to you – who you’re OBLIGATED to be with? What forces are working against you, you young late-90’s heart-throbs?? You guys aren’t Fred Durst, I’m sure you can manage to salvage this relationship! DON’T BREAK HER HEART! DON’T RESIGN YOURSELVES TO UNHAPPINESS! EMBRACE WHAT YOU LOVE!! LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR THESE FICKLE BICKERINGS!!!

…err, well. Of course things aren’t that simple.

As far as the music goes, this is your basic late-90’s boy band ballad designed to make girls swoon. But… I’ll be damned if it doesn’t… oh jeez, I’m sorry.

Let’s just move on.

Marcy Playground: “Sex and Candy”

So from what I’ve gathered, the longer the 90’s wore on, the more boring alternative rock became. I mean, yeah, Nirvana and Pearl Jam kicked in guns ablaze back in ’91, but once Hootie and the Blowfish and Matchbox 20 came onto the scene, it suddenly became cool to be blase. By the end of the 90’s we by-the-numbers alternahits from Vertical Horizon, Creed, Third Eye Blind, Stroke 9, Everclear, and so on and so forth. They were the dregs of the alternative rock scene, holding on with fierce tenacity as their era of vaguely-industrial angst-rock faded into the ether with the turn of the millenium, to be replaced by indie-folk and emocore forever.

And of course, there was “Sex and Candy.” “Sex and Candy” didn’t shake things up too much, as you can imagine. Bored vocal, kinda lazy instrumentation, kinda-sorta-catchy chorus that sticks in your head without you even realizing it. “Oh, hey, ‘Sex and Candy’. Uh, yeah. That song’s alright. It’s no ‘The Hardest Thing’ but it’ll do.”

Honestly, though, in my blossoming adolescence, any song with the word “sex” in the title automatically caught my attention. I was a sick little child. But candy? What does candy have to do with sex??

The Offspring: “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)”

“Americana” by the Offspring was the first CD I ever bought. Now, for someone who is obsessed with music, I guess you could call this a landmark moment, but I can’t really make that kind of pronouncement. I mean, it’s not like I went out and bought fucking “Abbey Road” or some shit – “Americana” was just a 6th grade whim, which makes sense ’cause it was basically an album made for 6th graders (see: Korn, Limp Bizkit, Blink-182).

This was the song that did it for me. Dexter Holland – in his shouty, vaguely cynical voice – rips on some poser guy who thinks he’s a rapper and listens to Vanilla Ice. I thought it was funny, mostly ’cause my friends thought it was funny too, so I got the album. Other songs included “The Kids Aren’t Alright” (remember that Who song? Yeah, I didn’t get the reference either) which bitched and moaned about how all teenagers are drug addicts or something, “She’s Got Issues” which bitched and moaned about Dexter’s INSAAAANE girlfriend, and “Why Don’t You Get A Job” which stole its structure from “Obladi Oblada” and bitched and moaned about a lazy white-trash woman who sits on her ass all day (they switch the genders up near the end, but you know, only briefly – just to appease all the feminists out there, I guess).

All in all, it was kind of a shitty album that all my friends loved ’cause there were lots of swears in it. I’ve known many people who have claimed that “Americana” was the Offspring’s “sell-out” album, mining for big pop hits and abandoning their punk roots. But that’s a crock of shit – the Offspring had a HUGE hit back in ’94 with “Come Out And Play,” a song that was nearly identical to “Pretty Fly.” They were sell-outs from the word “go,” and a total product of the 90’s – a homogenized “punk” band with lyrics about Ricki Lake and getting tattoos. Don’t try to make them out to be cool.

My second CD ever was “14:59” by Sugar Ray, an album which I still kinda enjoy listening to. I mean, neither album is quite as good as “98 Degrees and Rising” by 98 Degrees, but what are you gonna do?

Smash Mouth: “All Star”

Ahh jeez. Come on.

I know this song. You know this song. It was in Mystery Men, that movie with the zany alt-superheroes. It was in like 50 car commercials. I think it was in Rat Race. It was all over the fucking place.

And yet, despite its rampant overplay-factor, it’s still a likable song. Not a great song, mind you, but I kinda like it. It’s catchy, it’s amiable, it’s not too annoying. I approve.

Two things: I used to think the lyric went “Hey now, you’re a rock star / Get the show on, get laid.” Now, I had no idea what getting “laid” meant, I had just heard the term used somewhere – and I had no idea that, in all logic, it made perfect sense. I also had no idea what the lyrics meant; at this point of my life, I assumed that any lyrics to any song had some story tucked away inside of them, some narrative that made perfect sense if you paid close attention (a result of growing up with musicals, where every lyric is intended to push the story along). So of course, these lyrics frustrated me: “The ice we skate is getting pretty thin / the water’s getting warm so you might as well swim / the world’s on fire, how ’bout yours / that’s the way I like it and I’ll never get bored.” Ka-whaaa? And that part near the end about the guy asking for change?? I dunno. I don’t follow, Smash Mouth!

All in all, a fun song. No “The Hardest Thing,” but I can’t ask for the moon, baby.

So that’s all for now. I assure you, as long as I am alone on a Sunday night, this will happen again.

>Five Fun Selections From My Nostalgia Playlist

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Eiffel 65: Kings Of Cool

For a big chunk of my teenage years – say, from ’99 to ’03 or so – I listened to the radio. A lot. I’m talking morning, noon, night, whenever I got the chance. Hell, it listened to it in my sleep, to the point where I had trouble sleeping if the radio WASN’T on (a quirk that I still have yet to shake). Before long, I knew every song that played front-to-back, every lyric and every note. Backstreet Boys, Enrique Iglesias, the Offspring, fuckin’ Vertical Horizon – you name it.

Did I like all the songs I listened to? No, not really. But that didn’t matter. To me, whatever music was playing on the radio (New Haven’s KC101, to be exact) was THE music, and that was it. I rarely bought CDs or downloaded music as a kid – it was all the radio. So even if I didn’t love every song that played, I KNEW every song pretty damn well. Not that I admitted this to anybody at the time, of course. My pop music obsession was confined to me and my basement. If people knew that I had the lyrics to “Backstreet’s Back” down to a science, I would not be viewed well by middle school society.

Anyway, not too long ago I decided to compile as many of these old songs together – as many as I could remember – and keep them in a super-special iTunes playlist. Since my tastes in music have become infinitely more snobbish in the years that have passed, I obviously view these songs in a totally different light (by that I mean, I feel like I am above them. You know, ’cause I’m cool and I like Pavement and shit).

But some of these songs still really get a rise out of me. Even if it’s just a reminder of times passed, it’s something, and I find myself listening to them a lot more than I expect.

So HEY – why not put my playlist on random and talk about a few of these songs? Who wants some cheap nostalgia?? I know I do.

Song 1: “Steal My Sunshine” by LEN

You know, this is still a fun song! It’s real summery, man. Very upbeat, cutesy vocals, very sweet and lightweight. I’m especially fond of it because it came out during the summer of ’99, which might have been my favorite summer ever even though I barely remember it. But I was 12 and dumb, so it must have been great.

It’s a cotton-candy song. Sweet and delicious. The main singer guy has this kinda raspy voice, but then there’s this girl with this very high-pitched cute voice. There’s lyrics about making sticky buns. The cute-girl-voice sings “If you steal my sunshine!” for every verse. Like, it’s very very happy. But it’s such a sweet relic of the late 90’s that I can’t help but love it. Apparently LEN was a rap group, but shit, you could never tell from this song. Maybe that’s why they fizzled out so quickly – people bought their album expecting sunshiney-pop like this, and they got sub-Beastie Boys rhymes. Hmm.

Jesus, this song came out the same year that “Nookie” did. I can’t even believe that.

Song 2: “Angel of Mine” – Monica

This isn’t much of a song – your basic 90’s RnB ballad, nothing to write home about. But I have kind of a funny story about it so let me divulge.

When I was in middle school, we had lots of dances. Like, every month, all us 6th-graders would huddle into our gym, dim the lights down low, and engage in a few hours of awkward awkward dancing while “Rockefeller Skank” played over and over. The closest thing any of us came to any kind of intimacy was when a couple started hugging during a slow song. That was pretty much it.

Naturally, being the chicken-shit little nerd I was, I avoided this “dancing” business like the plague. I would always find some excuse – I’d leave the gym, I’d hold on to a glass of punch, I’d sit alone and keep my head down, you name it. Hell, I even chatted up some of the teachers chaperoning. In a word, I was pathetic, but I didn’t care. I was scared to death of physical contact with a female. Occasionally my good friend Rob Schwartz – ever the ladies man – would attempt to break me out of my shell and hook me up with a girl (sometimes forcefully). But I never yielded.

Except for once, of course. This one time I was executing my never-fail “sit down and bury head in arms” technique when a random girl tapped me on the shoulder. Looking up, I saw that she was tall, kinda lanky, but not remarkably unattractive. She took charge immediately.

“You wanna dance?”
“Uhh, yeah, I guess so.”

So we danced. My arms were on her shoulders the whole time, and we never made eye contact. I was too busy looking over at Rob, clearly awestruck; frantically he mouthed “WHAT ARE YOU DOING??” at me and I mouthed “I HAVE NO IDEA” back. It was a surreal moment.

And, umm, “Angel of Mine” by Monica was playing.

After the dance was over it turned out that it was a pity dance. You know, she saw a little kid cowering in the corner and figured that I was upset that I had nobody to dance with. The truth was so much more pathetic than that.

That was the only time I ever danced in middle school. I forget the girl’s name, but I think he got married in high school or something.

So that’s my “Angel of Mine” story. I hope you enjoyed it. Moving on!

Song 3: “I’ve Seen Better Days” by Citizen King

Oh jeez, another song from ’99? I’m noticing a trend here.

This is another song from that summer. It’s not a bad one, but a somewhat generic one. I see this song on a lot on P2P programs listed as a Sublime song, and it’s not surprising – it’s pretty much a total Sublime ripoff, as many bands were at the time. You know, it’s got that vaguely white-boy hip-hoppish vibe. But it’s kind of a catchy song.

Why I’ll never forget this song, though, is because it was used in that great scene in the pilot of “Malcolm in the Middle”, where Stevie tricks a bully into punching him, causing all of Malcolm’s class to go after the bully for hurting a crippled kid. That’s how Malcolm and Stevie became friends. It’s just endearing, isn’t it?

Man I loved that show. Didn’t it kinda suck in its later seasons? I stopped watching around sophomore year of high school.

Song 4: “Adam’s Song” by Blink-182

OK, I don’t hate Blink-182. I could, because in the scheme of things they are kind of a lame band. But they’ve still got some songs that strike a chord with me, or at least did at the time. That’s not surprising, since they were a band tailor-made for middle-schoolers. And I sure was in middle school!

“Adam’s Song” was a song I could relate to when I was 13. “I can’t wait till I get home / to pass the time in my room alone.” I was a loner, see, and I lived in my basement, so I took those lyrics to heart. In retrospect, this song does go down the cheap sentimentality route – it’s about suicide, isn’t it? “Please tell mom this is not her fault?” “Give all my things to all my friends, you’ll never step foot in my room again?” Eh. I still like the chorus, though. Kind of over-the-top, but catchy.

Again, I don’t hate this song, and I don’t hate Blink-182. All I’m saying is that I probably should. How can a cool guy like me like a teenybopper pop-punk band like this? I listen to Richard Hell for Petesake!!

Also, I’m glad Mark Hoppus sang this song. We’ve all heard Tom Delonge try to sing emotionally, and it should never be heard by human ears (The Adventure, anybody?).

Song 5: “There She Goes” by Sixpence None The Richer

So it’s a cover of that great La’s song, by the guys who did “Kiss Me.” If you don’t recognize “There She Goes” by the title, trust me, you will when you hear it – it’s practically become part of the cultural lexicon. “There she goes / there she goes again!” Yeah, that song.

But it’s a good version! It’s in a different key from the La’s version, and the drama’s ramped up a little bit (there are strings thrown in there once in a while), but other than that it’s a faithful cover of a jangle-pop gem. Oh, and it’s sung by a dame. A dame with a very sweet voice instead of the Liverpudlian drawl of the original. So it doesn’t have as much personality, but meh. It’s still a sweet song.

And it’s a simple song too, you know? There aren’t even verses – just a chorus over and over again, and a very brief middle-eight. But it’s not annoying! How many songs can pull that off nowadays?? Not “Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt,” I can tell you that.

So that’s all I’ll do for now. This probably won’t be the last time – I’ve got about 130 songs on this playlist, and I’m sure I’ll be adding more as more and more crappy old songs seep into my subconscious. Also, anything that keeps me from writing long papers about Michael Herr’s “Dispatches” is fine by me.