June 3rd, 2005


Bargain Music

A couple Saturdays ago Linda and I went shopping. She’d heard thru the grapevine of a new agey gift shop that was closing up and selling everything they had for about half price, and that they had some full-sized hand-made African Djembes there. So off we went into the wilds of Delaware, following mapquest’s wonky directions until we got there. On the way back we took the more direct route…

Anyway, this place gets most of its stuff through 10000 villages, which pays artisans a fair price for their work. Linda got a really cool Djembe, and I picked up a talking drum. Not that I can play a talking drum.

On the way home, we realized that it was nearing 3pm and neither of us had had breakfast yet, so we stopped at the Chester County Book Store in West Chester and were eventually served food. After that, we browsed the books and music, and I ended up buying 11 CDs (for just over $21). I bought nothing over $1.99. I’ve finally listened to them all, and can give reviews.

As you read this, keep in mind that any album with an asterisk in front of it is up for adoption, free to a good home.

*Duran Duran – Duran Duran: Long time ago, Duran Duran had two amazingly great songs: “Save a Prayer” and “The Chauffer”. On the off chance that there might be something half as good on this album, I picked it up. Like George W. Bush’s oil ventures in Texas, I came up dry. One song on this album is actually a decent enough pop song: “Ordinary World.” Outside of that, well, there is major suckage. I’ve noticed that a number of bands have an eponymously titled album some number of years after they have risen to fame. This is usually an attempt to re-imagine themselves into what they perceive is the new popular idiom. This sucked when Heart did it, and it sucked when Genesis did it. Why did Duran Duran think it would work out differently? Regardless, even if all the other songs on this album were good, it would fail simply by virtue of the abominable and immoral way they covered “Femme Fatale.”

Psychedelic Furs – Outside World: It’s not their best album. Still, any album with Richard Butler singing is worthwhile, and it’s still got that P-Furs feel. The first song on this album, “Valentine,” is very interesting – the music is reminiscent of Garlands era Cocteau Twins. Neat. A couple of the songs just plain fail. But the rest are good enough to make this a worthwhile album, even if it isn’t on par with Talk Talk and Forever Now.

*Jewel – This Way: This is my first Jewel album. I’d liked what I’d heard on the radio. None of that is on this album. Sometimes, when she’s singing sorta country style, she sounds like Michelle Shocked. But Ms. Shocked does it better. Sometimes, when she’s singing sorta bluesy, she sounds like Bonnie Raitt. But Ms. Raitt does it better. The albums is much like that throughout. It is neither offensive nor irritating, and that’s about all that can be said for it.

*Align – Some Breaking News: This is modern heavy metal somewhat in the style of Tool or Alice in Chains. But unlike Tool and Alice in Chains, it is missing some crucial element that would make it interesting. Given that all the pieces of a good band are present, the only element missing appears to be Interestingness, and it is the lack of Interestingness that makes this album uninteresting.

Back2back Hits featuring Missing Persons and The Motels: The Motels were a very cute 80s New Wave band that wrote many iterations of a song and made a short-lived career out of it. There were better bands of that ilk from that time period – bands that wrote more than one song. Missing Persons featured drummer Terry Bozzio (who played with Frank Zappa and then later in Eddie Jobson’s band, UK) and singer Dale Bozzio (whose line, “On the bus?” will be fondly remembered by Joe’s Garage enthusiasts for years to come). Dale is too adorable for words. Missing Persons suffers from excellent musicianship. I mean that. These folks are good enough to play for Zappa and in some seriously intense Prog bands, and then they hear The Pretenders and the Ramones and Talking Heads and say, “We’re great musicians, that stuff is easy. We can do that.” They fail to understand that part of what makes those band’s music interesting is that the stuff isn’t necessarily easy for them, that they screw it up sometimes, that they don’t play it perfectly. They don't understand that playing music that isn't intricate and complex doesn't mean playing music that is dumbed down to stupidity. This is why Asia, which should have been a Prog supergroup, sucked so incredibly. Missing Persons has the same problem. But… Dale is just too adorable for words. (Incidentally, Ms. Bozzio is somehow able to sing entire songs without pronouncing any “R”s - “Do you heyah me? Do you cayah?”)

*An Emotional Fish – Junk Puppets: The music is sonically interesting and certainly well-played. Still, there’s problems. The lead singer is clearly confused – he can’t figure out whether he wants to be Bono or Michael Hutchence (INXS), so he sorta wobbles between the two. The lyrics pretty much suck. It’s all very unfortunate. It’s so close to being good, that the failure is all the more tragic.

We Are Not Devo: SNFU, the Aquabats, Possum Dixon, Voodoo Glow Skulls and the Vandals cover Devo songs. What more could you ask?

Eek A Mouse / Michigan & Smiley Live at Reggae Sunsplash: I don’t know all that much as far as Reggae goes, ‘cept this: Eek A Mouse is amusing. Michigan & Smiley are less so.

Suzanne Vega – Songs in Red and Gray: Turns out I already had this one. It’s a good album, though there’s not a lot of songs that stick to your head like “Tom’s Diner” and “Luka” and “Marlena on the Wall.” I’ve found a new home for this one. Tidbit: my old friend Robin saw her play the first time she played out at a coffeehouse. Said she was so shy that she couldn’t look at the audience. I’m glad she got over her stagefright – she’s a necessary part of our musical landscape.

Sandra Bernhard – Excuses for Bad Behavior: Part 1: This is one of the most astoundingly, mind-rendingly awful albums I’ve ever heard. It’s wonderful. It’s exactly what you’d expect Sandra Bernhard to do with a band and a stage and a microphone. “Manic Superstar” blends Jimmy Hendrix and Andrew Lloyd Webber, somehow managing to stay true to both of them. “Sympathy for the Devil” is downright painful. “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” enjoys new, improved lyrics. And how can a song called “Phone Sex” be bad? (let me count the ways…)

Bargain Music – 77 003: Bargain Music is Dave, Jeff, Josh, Phil, Sean, Skeleton Man and Trey, and they should all be very, very ashamed. This album shows all signs of being really, really bad. And yet – these guys can play. They display more than a casual disregard for the limits of genre – the songs are rock, and ska, and rap, and country, and any other damn thing they can fit in, as they sing about fucking and percolators and black eyes and colostomy bags. The band they sound most like would be Sublime, so if you like Sublime, you’ll like Budget Music. Interestingly, a little research shows that Mike Watt from Minutemen and HR from Bad Brains both were involved with this album. This is the album that made the whole experiment worth-while. These guys deserve a link: http://www.beatville.com/bvr/mainbvr9003.htm

Anyway. That’s about it for now.