Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Songs that Changed the Landscape of Human Thought and Understanding: LFO's "Summer Girls"

In a philosophical climate of intense skepticism, philosopher Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury boldly told his Seventeenth Century contemporaries "truth exists" in his 1624 text De veritate. And if we needed any more truth, we need look no further than LFO's "Summer Girls." Has there ever been a more truthful song? It is littered with tactile and metaphysical truths. During the height of the Internet bubble--when stocks in online Bubble Wrap stores were going for $620914 a share--pop-rap soul brothers LFO (Lyte Funky Ones) had the temerity and foresight to take advantage of Sublime and Sugar Ray's inexplicable popularity to create an infectious tune that made us all forget about our incredibly low unemployment rates and high credit scores. "Summer Girls" exposed other boy-pop rivals (N*Sync, Backstreet Boys, Hanson, 98 Degrees, 2Ge+her) for what they were: innocuous, hollow shams. For one thing, LFO knew the pure power of a good non sequitur. As the boys sing: "New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits / Chinese food makes me sick." There are plenty more, but I don't want to overwhelm you with their brilliance. To return to my earlier theme, notice how these are also both truths? NKOTB had a bunch of hits (thirteen of 'em, depending on who you ask), and, invariably, Chinese food, at one time or another, has made each and every one of us sick. Similarly, Larry Bird's jersey number was 33, William "Billy" Shakespeare did write a bunch of sonnets (154 to be exact), Macauley Culkin really wasn't "home alone," and every straight male in the Western world has claimed their name was Rich while diggin' on a girl "from Abercrombie and Fitch." Plenty of established rock icons have performed classics about Summer, from The Beach Boys and Don Henley to David Hasselhoff and Blue Cheer. But none of them even sniffs the brilliance of LFO's "Summer Girls." No matter how skeptical the most cunning philosophical mind, said philosopher cannot deny that "Summer girls got it goin' on."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hype: Joanna Newsom's Have One on Me

Many months ago, early buzz for a new Joanna Newsom album began after the singer/songwriter/folkie/harpist performed a two-and-a-half hour set of mostly new material at a secret show somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

Months passed without additional news. Then, two weeks ago, Drag City posted an intriguing cartoon on their website:

Following the publication of this cartoon, Pitchfork quickly confirmed that Have One on Me would, in fact, be the name of a new Joanna Newsom album, and the album was slated for a February 19 release in Australia, and February 23 in the U.S.

Over the last two weeks, a few pieces of information and opinions about Newsom's upcoming album have surfaced, only to be quickly targeted and removed by Drag City's crack information suppression task force.

Now, finally, we have some solid info. Today, Drag City listed Newsom's new album for preorder as both a 3xCD and a 3xLP, also announcing that the album would be released everywhere on February 23 (sorry Australia).

So what else do we know about the album? Well, according to some deleted twitter/tumblr/blog action, the album has been described as a "blessed tower of plenitude." A prominent English music critic tweeted (in another removed post) that Newsom's new album was longer than All Things Must Pass (2:04) and Wu-Tang Forever (2:01) but shorter than Speakerboxxx/Love Below (2:14) and Sandinista (2:24). That would put the album's length somewhere in the 2:10 range. This, coupled with the the fact that the album is both 3 CD's or 3 LP's indicates that rather than three discs full of music, we'll have three collections of songs that hopefully work as individual units as well as a unified whole.

We also have some song titles snagged from a recent setlist. Among the new songs played in Sydney were "Jack Rabbits," "Have One on Me," "Ribbon Bows," "In California," "Easy," "Soft as Chalk," "Autumn," and "'81." We also know that "'81," which Drag City was streaming from their website earlier, and someone on a message board that will remain unnamed, managed to dig up the Mp3 of, appears to be the third of six songs on the first disc. That doesn't mean much, but it's something.

The most exciting thing about all of this is simply that, after four years, Joanna Newsom is releasing a full album of songs that should total over two hours of new music. Judging from the studio recording of "'81" and the songs from the Sydney bootleg, these songs will be every bit as good as anything Newsom has done in the past, while managing to bring fresh ideas into the mix.

I'm off to preorder the album so that I'll have it spinning on my turntable ASAP (read: February 23), at which time I'll share more detailed thoughts.

Until then, enjoy this video from Sydney:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Contra--Vampire Weekend

I picked up Vampire Weekend's Contra today and love it. Seriously love it.

My two year-old son loves it. He put on headphones and started clapping his hands and smiling.
The band's website has a free download of the opening track, Horchata, but the whole CD is really worth getting.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Songs that Changed the Landscape of Human Thought and Understanding: Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy" (1975)

1975 was a monumental moment in history. The Vietnam War ended. Gerald Ford struggled through his first full year as President of the United States. OPEC continued to shape the global economy. Epic lines of cocaine and lime green leisure suits were getting people an almost annoying amount of ass. But none of these signal events in human history rivals the release and subsequent success of Glen Campbell's paradigm-shifting hit "Rhinestone Cowboy."

Rarely does a song about the professional ins and outs of the music industry make a splash with the public at large. Today, hipster kids with Nudie suits who've never even seen a rodeo on ESPN love The Byrds' "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" (1967), but since it's not a Dylan cover nor plagiarizes from King James's Bible, it never caught on the public at large. Enter Glen Campbell. His groundbreaking 1975 hit was the cynical how-to for the aspiring and soul-less musician that even John and Jane Knowsnothingaboutmusic could get into. Campbell had previously played guitar in The Champs, joining the group shortly after they recorded their immortal party song "Tequila" (1958). He also served a brief stint as a Beach Boy, subbing for Brian Wilson in live shows during the first of his nervous breakdowns. This would suggest he'd be the last guy on Earth who'd become a megastar in Nashville, right? Well, thanks to Jimmy Webb giving him access to his songbook and a few other strokes of luck, Campbell became the guy he sings about in "Rhinestone Cowboy." Long before American Idol, Campbell sings about "a lot of compromisin' on the road to my horizon," but, unflappable, he's "gonna be where the lights on shining" on him. As a result, he's now bombarded with emails from people he "don't even know" ... well, actually, letters. Does anybody remember writing letters, those things old people used to send to each other in the mail? Well, you get the drift. In summation, 1975 was the year that making artistic compromising became hip -- clearly a transitional moment in the history of life on this planet. Nowhere near a country song (it's straight pop, with only a hint of the most saccharine of countrypolitan string-sections), "Rhinestone Cowboy" has far-reaching implications for mankind. It is also a de facto country classic because of the place of the "rhinestone" in the pantheon of country music fashion. For some reason, I keep thinking about Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton ...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Talking Heads--"Once in a Lifetime"

Maybe my favorite Talking Heads song. No matter how much I watch Stop Making Sense, it never gets old.

Personal Reevaluation: The B-52's

For as long as I've known who they were, I've always considered The B-52's a novelty act. Much of this has to do with the fact that their big hit when I was becoming aware of popular music was "Love Shack," and outside of that, I vaguely knew of "Rock Lobster" from back when I'd listen to WOXY's yearly Modern Rock 500 countdown.

Then I watched the Terri Garr episode from Saturday Night Live's fifth season. The B-52's were the musical guest that night, and my perception of them has been forever changed. Watch:

Their second song of the night, "Dance This Mess Around," was even better. What I realized while watching these performances was that The B-52's weren't--at the beginning anyway--a kitschy novelty act, but a full blown explosion of retro style and punk rock urgency. Having made this realization, I sought out the band's debut LP:

I've been listening to The B-52's self-titled debut album constantly for a week now. The album manages to sound both outrageously bold, and mysterious. In other words, it's a perfect record for gonzo dance parties, but was also wonderfully surreal listening for driving around in a thick-as-balls Stillwater fog two nights ago.

Perhaps the most surprising discovery I've made in listening to The B-52's is how textured and rich a listening experience the album provides. Keep in mind, up until now, I've always regarded the band as one-note pranksters. These textures don't present themselves as layers might in more richly produced albums, but in drastic shifts, often times in the vocals. On a track like "There's a Moon in the Sky (Called the Moon)," for instance, Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson's vocals veer wildly between outerspace wails and bratty, girlgroup chants, while on "Dance This Mess Around," Wilson's vocals swing between an almost Patti Smith sneer and something even punker and more piercing. Adding Fred Schneider's carnival-barker-with-ADHD vocal spasms into the mix only increases each song's energy.

The B-52's is a riveting album because these vocal textures--along with the impressive rhythm section--give the album a surprising energy. The album surges and pulses with a raw rock and roll energy that not many people can even begin to associate with the band's retro shtick.

Maybe, now that SNL's fifth season is available, more people will recognize how great The B-52's were, back before they were just that band that did the "bang bang bang on the door" song that you heard at your cousin's wedding.

As for the present, anyone know if the 2008 comeback album Funplex is worth checking out?

Monday, January 18, 2010


Welcome to our blog, PoMo Jukebox. You're initial response will undoubtedly be something along the lines of, "oh wow, just what we need, another music blog." We at PoMo Jukebox can not fault you for thinking that. The internet is full of blogs, and a lot of them make music their focus. So what's the point, then? What are we trying to accomplish? What can we bring to the table that thousands of bloggers haven't brought already? Probably nothing.

What we hope to achieve here at Pomo Jukebox is simple: we want to share our thoughts on music and our experiences listening to music. We have no real aspirations beyond that—we love music, we think music, some of us even eat, drink, breathe, and dream music. And we also like to write.

Hopefully, you, the reader, will get something out of this blog, be it a kick-ass recommendation, an interesting perspective, or perhaps just something to read while killing time between appointments. I won't make any promises, but we'll try.

As for the content of PoMo Jukebox, we're hoping to keep things varied. Plenty of blogs and music websites focus on reviews. We'll write those sometimes. Other blogs just focus on presenting new music to their readers, sometimes without context even. We may do that occasionally, but we hope to do more. Our goal is to approach music in a way that is thoughtful and engaging. Sometimes we'll write album reviews. Sometimes we'll write essays about what's on our minds, or what is happening in popular (and not-so-popular) music. Maybe, from time to time, we'll post mixes or other media. We might mix in some live reviews, but as long as most of us are rooted in Oklahoma, don't expect many.

Perhaps our goals are best illustrated by the blog's name. Right now, the pop music landscape is more diverse than ever, but also more fragmented. It is our hope that, through discussions of our own interests in and experiences with music, we might help to shed some light on what pop music is at this moment in time, and help ourselves and you—the reader—navigate the rapidly changing, difficult to read waters of our culture.

For the time being, we'll probably update 3-5 times a week. So stay tuned, and enjoy. We look forward to your comments and feedback.