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Sean William Scott

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

More Mixed Bag Review-a-palooza 

Via Larry Young, The Couscous Express Soundtrack.

Despite the number of kids running around town with Murphy's Law t-shirts on, I think I've managed to successfully avoid hearing any of their songs until now. "How to Start a Fight" is enjoyable and clever in it's own loud and fast way, which is all I really ask of rock music sometimes. Sick Of It All's "Step Down" has a nicely nostalgic sound for me, reminding me of all those identical sounding bands I used to go to clubs to see all the time. I've got a soft spot for British reggae/ska, so "Bring Back the Skins" was great. Judge Dread's singer reminds me a bit of Ian Drury, but then, ahem, a lot of Brit ska/reggae tends to sound alike. And you can't go wrong with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, so "How Why Wuz" is a great follow-up. If anything, the only flaw with Bill Withers' "Lovely Day" is that it's a little too mellow for me.

Desmond Dekker's "Pickney Gal" gets things back on track with the kind of mellow song I can get behind. "Return of Django" by the Upsetters is one of those very rare instrumental songs I don't lose my patience with, and it serves as a nice bridge to the second Dekker song, the enjoyable "What Will You Gain." "Liquidator" by the Harry J All-Stars is, however, one of those instrumental songs that I just lose my patience with, at the very first high-pitched note in fact. It may be Mike's influence, but I can kind of dig "found-music" type recordings, especially when the people putting them together actually have a sense of music and aren't just trying to make something obnoxious, so I dug Pete Rock's "What Would You Do?" Fat Hooligan's "Skinhead Girl" is gloriously loopy and strange, and has the right amount of loud and fast to keep me happy.

Dropkick Murphys is another one of those bands that, despite the frequency with which I see their t-shirts around here, I've avoided hearing. Unlike the other Murphys band on this disc, if "The Gauntlet" is typical of their output, I've not missed much. The theme to Grand Theft Auto didn't really do much for me either, but then there's a reason why I usually turn the sound way down when I play video-games. The emphasis always seems to be on tunes that can loop endlessly without being too distracting rather than on making something that sounds good. Then we get a double dose of instrumental tracks, by Pete Rock and Gang Starr, that both fell on the "lose patience with" side of the instrumental music scale. Dilated People's "The Platform" left me cold as well.

But we get back into the swing of things with the Circle Jerks' "Wild in the Streets". And I'll probably lose all kinds of credibility in some circles if I confess to being a secret fan of the Offspring, but "She's Got Issues" is a great example of the less than serious take on music the band has. Minor Threat's "Good Guys Don't Wear White" is a fun little tune that doesn't really stay with me too long after hearing it. "Modern Day Music" by DJ Rob Swift isn't a bad song on it's own, but rap music is one of those genres that continually frustrates me. I feel like I should enjoy it more than I do, but it feels like a chore trying to find performers in the genre whose work I do enjoy. So, on the next track, "All I Need," I end up enjoying the parts with Mary J. Blige much more than the parts with Method Man. And she's not given much to do other than sing in the back-ground. The disc ends on a high note, though with "Still the One" by Punk Covers...I have a few of their tracks too...but, seriously, I've got a fondness for covers and loud and fast music, so this track makes a nicely final comment on the disc.

Overall, I'd say that about half of this disc really worked for me, with the rest of the songs falling somewhere between "ok" and "just not interested."

Greg's Contribution to the Mixed Bag

Starting up with "P Control" from Prince, my first thought was, "My God, when did Prince lose all his subtlety?" But then I realized that, no, he never really was that subtle in the first place. So not one of my favorite artists, and an obnoxious outing for him at that. The Indigo Girls have never done much for me either, so neither "Come on Home" or the later "Tether" are likely to be replayed by me much. I've just never grown fond of the female folk-singer with a guitar thing. Steve Earle's "The Truth" is very jangly, but I like it a lot. A band I'm not familiar with at all, Marillion, is represented by three songs here, "Genie," "You're Gone," and "Neverland." All three songs were pleasant enough, but they didn't really grab me. Actually, "You're Gone" sort of sounds like a U2 song, and that right there is probably enough to keep me from getting too excited. John Legend's "Let's Get Lifted" has pretty much the same effect. It's a nice enough song, but just not my thing.

Now, "White Collar Money" by the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs I feel like I should like more. It's got all the ingredients and sound of the kind of music I generally like, but this particular song was just sort of there and never really gelled for me. I'm pretty sure it's not them, it's me. But the follow-up is a great Magnetic Fields song "Papa Was A Rodeo." Any song that basically transcribes the conversations of a gay trucker in a bar is going to be aces with me. The Steve Earle/Lucinda Williams duet, "You're Still Standing There" is a strong follow-up and a very enjoyable tune in it's own right, with more of that jangly sound from the disc's earlier Earle track. "Better Or Worse" by Liquid Jesus has an interesting quality to it. I'm not quite sure I like it, but I don't dislike it either, and I keep coming back to it in an attempt to pin down what about the song I'm hearing but unable to articulate. "Streams of Whiskey" isn't my favorite Pogues tune, but I really like the Pogues in any case. I can't say the same for "Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangster" by the Geto Boys. It's got just about all the elements of rap music I find frustrating in one song, and I just have to skip over it.

I'm not a particular fan of PJ Harvey. On most days I can take or leave her. She makes good music, but I never really feel the urge to hear it on my own. "Send His Love To Me" is pretty on par with that trend. Good song, but I can't get too excited about it. Of course, "When All Is Said and Done" by Abba is great, if only because it's by Abba and I'm not even sure it's technically possible for them to have recorded a song that isn't good.

So the songs on this disc that I liked, in general I really liked. And the few songs that I actively disliked are outnumbered by the songs that I thought were just sort of okay. But there were a lot of those songs that were just sort of okay. Which, again, doesn't mean that they're bad, just that they aren't working for me.

Hembeck Mix One

"Go All The Way" from the Raspberries opens the disc, and it's a jaunty little tune that does a good job of establishing the mood for the rest of the disc. Upbeat, and not entirely serious. "Sweet City Woman" by the Stampeders and "All Summer Long" by the Beach Boys continue with that theme. I'm more taken with the Beach Boys tune, mostly because I had a very strong and strange obsession with the Beach Boys in my middle school years. Both tunes are good, but all three tracks together are in that category of music I've mentioned before that is nice enough on it's own, but in the long run doesn't really grab me or motivate me to rush out and hear more. Of course, Fred then throws "It's Raining Men" by the Weather Girls, which is such a gloriously silly song with such catchy vocal melodies, I forget all about the first three songs anyway.

"I'm an Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande" by Bing Crosby is up next. In general, if I may quote, "I don't dig that kind of crooning chum," but it's still a breezy song with lots of fun turns of phrase. Next is The Knack with "My Sharona," a classic song that I can really think of nothing to say about. It's so classic it's almost beyond discussion. The Police have never really grabbed me with their music, but "Every Breath You Take" is one of the few songs of theirs I do enjoy, so it's a welcome presence here. And "One Fine Day" by the Chiffons is another one of those simply classic songs that defy easy description. The girl-group sound of that period has always been one of my favorites. Although, no disrespect to John, Paul, George and yes, even Ringo, but I burnt out the part of my brain that could appreciate the Beatles long ago. They're right up there with Elvis and Pink Floyd and The Who in bands and performers who, through no fault of their own other than their popularity, have largely ceased to entertain me (okay, so maybe in the case of The Who it's more than just their popularity). So while "I've Just Seen A Face" is a perfectly swell little tune, I just have no particular interest in ever hearing songs by the Beatles ever again.

However, "A Little Respect" is one of my favorite Erasure songs, and there's a lot of good songs of theirs to choose from for that title. Dean Martin's "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm," with it's jazzy inflections, is more my style of crooning, so that was nice. "Morning Train" by Sheena Easton is a bit of an odd duck. It never sounds like a Sheena Easton song to me, for some reason. "Romeo and Juliet" by the Reflections is another great 60s vocal group, and I like the sound of the male vocal groups from that period almost as much as I like the girl-group sound. Steely Dan is yet another band that I've mostly avoided hearing up until now. "Bodhisattva" has some nice musical hooks, and it's a toe-tapping tune, but it doesn't make me want to hear any more Steely Dan right away. "No Time" by the Guess Who is a bit closer to my taste in 60s music. I can't quite describe why this sound works for me, and so many other highly praised bands of the period just leave me indifferent or hostile, but I do really like their sound.

And, ah, Bow Wow Wow singing a song of theirs that I haven't actually heard before, somehow. "C30 C60 C90 Go!" has a very catchy beat, and a hard driving drum line you have to get behind, and this is speaking as someone who, in general, doesn't overly dig the whole drum sound. A very cool song. Speaking of which, the drum beat on "Sing Sing Sing" by Benny Goodman is really good as well, and this is a great swing song. Unit 4 Plus 2 has the distinction of being one of the few bands on all the mix discs I've received that I've never heard of before. "Concrete and Clay" has a sound that's fairly typical of the "British Invasion," a musical style I'm never quite sure if I like or not. I tend to go back and forth on it. This is a good song regardless of all that. And then we get "The Word," another Beatles track, and one that does less for me than "I've Seen a Face." Sorry. "It Feels So Good" by Sonique has some very nice vocals, but it's a tad over-produced (I know, I like the Scissor Sisters, I have no call to be complaining about over-produced music...). It sounds good, but I can see why we haven't really heard anything else by Sonique. This song would just blend in with all the other music being played in the club. "On and On and On" by Abba is up next, and this is a great dance tune. But then, it's Abba, what do you expect?

Rounding out the disc we get "Rendezvous" by the Greg Kihn Band. It's a strong song, and Kihn has a lot of vocal qualities that I like. I may be strongly tempted to seek out more of his material. And the last track, and I probably shouldn't be too surprised by this, is "I Ripped My Pants" by Spongebob Squarepants. I'll be upfront. I don't get the appeal of Spongebob. The show just doesn't work for me. The song is cute and silly, all qualities I can get behind in a novelty song, but man, that sponge-voice just kind of grates on me.

I really liked this disc a great deal. It's a very good selection of music that all blends well together, even the songs that I'm not very enthusiastic about.


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