Tuesday, August 31, 2004

With you I'm not shy to show the way I feel.

As you're all well aware, I'm prone to sicknesses of the ironic variety. This blog merely showcases one of them. Most recently—in addition to my inexplicable desire to watch the worst movie ever, Stephen King's Dreamcatcher, repeatedly on cable—my guiltiest of guilty pleasures is currently the '70s soft rock hit.

It seems that in the '70s, men and women songwrights alike suddenly felt safe sharing the let's-work-through-this journal entries their therapists made them write by turning them into "deep" and "meaningful" ballads rife with metaphors and analogies and general "I'm OK, You're OK" wussiness. Gone was the ambiguity of the lyrics of the '50s and early '60s when everyone was dreamy and breakups were poppy. All of a sudden, it was okay to whine like a bassett hound, tell the truth, open yourself up to everyone and, subsequently, face severe ridicule from "real" rock stars. And all without any real vocal passion. Weird.

Until the past year or so, I actively ignored (that's possible, right?) the genre, primarily because it brought back memories of being trapped in a car with my chain-smoking mother on my way to the horror of nursery school and kindergarten in Crown Point, Indiana: the time I got in trouble for using my middle finger to guide my eyes as I read a book; the time I had to sit at the lunch table all day because I wouldn't eat the egg salad sandwich being forced upon me; being scolded for singing the "it's a bitch, girl" line of Hall & Oates "Rich Girl" ... all of these memories come flooding back the second I hear the beginning strains of any successful '70s sap.

I predict my temporary fascination with this once-despised genre will end within the next few weeks, but for now it's here and I'm its biggest fan. But I'm not the only one. Observe ...

  • Floorfilla "Sister Golden Hair" (America cover)
    Next to country and smooth jazz/R&B, most soft-rock covers appear to be of the Eurotechno variety. Recipe: Hire someone who can summon a Jamaican accent for the spoken intro, speed up the beat, eventually throw in a carnivalesque, Vengaboysian (shut up, it's a word!) pipe organ and be sure to periodically give the chick's vocals that warbly effect initially popularized by Cher's "Believe." Et voila! You and your friends are unwittingly raving to the oldies. Helpful hint: Take the X a few hours before downloading.

  • 58 "Alone Again (Naturally)" (Gilbert O'Sullivan cover)
    If half of Bran Van 3000's members were ex-heroin addicts and Baz Luhrmann was producing their album, this could be the product. Instead, we've Nikki Sixx, Barry Gibb's son and a few other rock weirdos to blame for this. Not as bad as I thought it would be, but not necessarily good.

  • Millie Jackson "Just When I Needed You Most" (Randy VanWarmer cover)
    Oh, yes, Millie! This is how this song should sound. I mean, the motherfucker is leaving you. Just when you need him most! I need to hear the ire, and the often-blunt Millie couldn't resist adding her own little "fuck you" asides because she wants you to feel what this song is really about. Much better than the Japanese boy-band [name unknown] version of this track that literally took me seven hours to download the other night. And much more strong and passionate than the original, although I will say that "VanWarmer" is an all-too-apropos name for someone who writes touchy-feely '70s ballads.

  • Matthew Sweet "Magnet & Steel" (Walter Egan cover)
    I love Matthew Sweet, but he doesn't really do much with this. I'd rather hear a terrible cover that tries something new than a competent cover that's not different enough from the original to matter. Luckily, this is from the Sabrina the Teenage Witch soundtrack CD (there's such a thing?), so until now, no one had to hear it. Heh.

  • Rockell "We Just Disagree" (Dave Mason cover)
    Zzzzzzzzz. Cheesy freestyle "diva" Rockell is only nominally talented. Dave Mason's association with Steve Winwood, a soft-rocker whom even irony will not allow me to enjoy, ensures my disinterest. [Shudder.] In my opinion, a true case of the bland leading the bland. [Note: For a great Rockell-related cover, Rufus Wainwright covers the originally-recorded-by-Rockell track "Instant Pleasure" on the Big Daddy soundtrack and gives it a depth you'd never expect upon hearing the original.]
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