Wednesday, May 27, 2009

POW! Superhero songs! KAZZAM!

I promise to start taking this blog a little more seriously soon (I'm working on a longer post I hope to have up by the end of the week), but in the meantime here's something daft to keep things ticking over.

I've been spending a lot of time in the company of superheroes of late, mainly in novel form (allow me to recommend books by Andrew Kaufman, David Schwartz and Gregory Xavier Bolliard on the subject), although there were also a couple in the pub the other night.

Let's enjoy five songs from the land of bright-coloured capes.

The Heart Strings - Kids (Try Fly Blue Sky, 2008)

Albert Hammond Jr - Cartoon Music for Superheroes (Albert Hammond Jr, 2006)

The Jam - Batman Theme (In The City, 1977)

Tenacious D - Wonderboy (Tenacious D, 2002)

Spin Doctors - Jimmy Olsen's Blues (Pocket Full of Kryptonite, 1992)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Stuck In The Past

My current obsession with Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears got me to thinking about the number of records released in the last couple of years that are entirely stuck in the past. In a good way.

This is dangerous territory for a band. Any time you base your sound on a time that passed somewhere north of 30 years ago, you run a risk of being written off as something of a novelty all too soon - it's like being a covers band even as you write your own stuff. While the likes of Richard Hawley and the Felice Brothers have nailed it, there are plenty of bands like The Darkness out there to serve as cautionary tales. But here are five records I think get right.

By the way, all these are off debut albums except the Bellrays, who always mixed a bit of soul into their garage rock but really brought through the Motown sound on Have A Little Faith.

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears - Sugarfoot (Tell 'Em What Your Name Is! 2009)

Pete Molinari - It Came Out of the Wilderness (A Virtual Landslide, 2008)

She & Him - I Was Made For You (Volume One, 2008)

Eli "Paperboy" Reed & The True Loves - Am I Wasting My Time (Roll With You, 2008)

The Bellrays - Third Time's A Charm (Have A Little Faith, 2006)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Batter Up

So I spent most of my working day with thoughts wandering off to what this first post might be about. Where to begin? In the end, I figured, what with this being an introduction and all, I'd go with my other great love - and, incidentally, my day job - and make it about sport. So here is a sports journalist's guide to some of the best songs about sport.

You'll notice right off the bat (see, you get sports analogies too), that this list is dominated by Americans and American sports. There is a reason for this. The Brits, it seems, are just plain rubbish at singing about sport. If we don't get boozed up and turn it into some manner of terrace anthem, it's not happening. The Americans, on the other hand, have written 101 great baseball songs, and plenty about football - their football, that is - too.

Neil Hannon, he of the Divine Comedy, is out to change this with his new band, the Duckworth Lewis Method, who will sing exclusively about cricket. We'll wait to see how that works out. In the meantime, away we go... Boxing has produced plenty of great records, and we don't mean Eye of the Tiger. We could have gone with Dylan's epic Hurricane here (or even a British effort, The Hours' Ali In The Jungle) but it had to be this from the Felice Brothers, who might just turn into prolific sport songters, given their ode to baseball, Cooperstown, on the new album.

The Felice Brothers - Ballad of Lou The Welterweight (Tonight At The Arizona, 2007)

When it comes to American football, the college game has always stirred deeper passions than the NFL, so I guess it's only natural you'd want to propose marriage at a Tennessee-Florida game. Todd Steed explains how. 

Todd Steed & The Suns of Phere - Peyton Manning Shirt (Knoxville Tells, 2002)

The Drive-By Truckers might have got the football nod - legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant is a lead character in their Southern Rock Opera double album - but instead we'll leave it to them to explain NASCAR culture. 

The Drive-By Truckers - Daddy's Cup (The Dirty South, 2004) 

Choosing a baseball song was hard, so I chose three. As if to show the sheer number of baseball songs out there, Peter Buck's 'supergroup' The Baseball Project churned out an entire album last year. Rather than going with my favourite of this dirge-filled effort (that would be Harvey Haddix), I went with the most topical. You get to thank Manny Ramirez and his failed drugs test for Broken Man.

The Baseball Project - Broken Man (Vol. 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails, 2008)

I suspect there are a lot of Pearl Jam fans that don't know this exists, but Eddie Vedder is a huge Chicago Cubs fan, and wrote this last year to mark the team's 100th year of ineptitude in the field of winning the World Series. I don't know to what extent non-Cubs fans appreciate it, but you tell me...

Eddie Vedder - All The Way (Live in Chicago, 2008)

We'll close with this, which isn't quite in line with theme, not strictly being about sport, at least not entirely. But I doubt I'm going to have many posts without a Neil Young song, and I'm not about to start now.

Neil Young - For The Turnstiles (On The Beach, 1974)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Big Apple Soul

Pic: SP
I spent Easter in New York so there's a vintage Manhattan mix for this first post. Most of the interesting bands seem to be coming out of Williamsburg and Brooklyn nowadays but this is a tribute to a time when Manhattan island was pulsing to the sounds of jazz, soul, salsa and funk - and most points inbetween. Ok, so not all of these groups were NYC-based (Brubeck is Californian; the Beasties' sampled San Francisco's Blues Project) but I hope the mood stands correct...

Pete Rodriguez - "Oh, That's Nice!" (Ay, Que Bueno!, 1967)

Mandrill - "Fat City Strut" (Just Outside of Town, 1973)

The Dave Brubeck Quartet - "Take Five" (Time Out, 1959)

Beastie Boys - "Flute Loop" (Ill Communication, 1994)

James Brown - "Down And Out In New York City" (Black Caesar, 1973)