The lineage runs Morrison, Patti Smith, then me: Screw Rock 'n' Roll Top 69 Singles of 2006, Nos. 41-45
I know pretty much nothing about Pony Up!, except they're a gleeful, not-quite-twee indie pop band from Montreal who have this one irresistable song. It's the sort of thing in the vein of the Career Girls' "End Credits," Architecture in Helsinki's "Like a Call" or Showbag's "Perish Union," all of which I was absolutely fantastically in love with about 5 years ago, and still would be if I could find more of it. But I can't. (Showbag and the Career Girls are both defunct, short-lived Australian bands. I know there are international equivalents, but I can't think of any right now, apart from this track. Sort of like Stars, but more twee, or Peter Bjorn and John, but punchier. Maybe like Ben Kweller's first record, if he had a girl singing with him. Get in touch with me if this sounds like your kind of thing, and I'll hook you up with the Showbag and Career Girls tracks.)
Anyways, I came across "The Truth About Cats and Dogs" on the radio here, which is pretty unusual, because I don't listen to the radio much, and I almost never discover new music from it. The station was Triple J, which generally plays a mix of indie rock, polite hip hop and teenage oriented rock. Kind of like NPR if it were college radio. "Cats and Dogs" is a very well crafted piece of effervescent guitar pop, wistful and longing, but not at all lethargic, and it's quite a lovely track. Download it. And if any of you Canadians know anything about them, I'd welcome some info. And, I've just realized, I should probably try to check out their album. It amazes me that I can sometimes be so into a song, but not even think of checking out the band's album. MP3s have totally made me a singles guy.
They don't make rock songs like "Front Back," and by that I don't mean they don't make rock songs that are laid back Mannie Fresh car tracks that bounce like the Easter bunny and roll on and on like a perpetual motion machine. Even though they don't make rock songs like that. What I mean is that you never get young rock acts hooking up with some veterans, re-doing one of their older tracks and coming up with something just as essential as the original. Rock bands don't really do remakes, for a start. You'll get the odd novelty sort of thing, but there are precious few rock bands who take all the essential elements of an older song, and then insert themselves into the track to create something new yet still identifiably a part of the original work. I guess rap acts don't usually do cover versions, though. Wouldn't it be awesome, though, if you could pick up, oohhh, say, a new Walkmen record, and track two on the album is the Walkmen doing "Debaser," and it has the Pixies, and though it has the same basic structural elements of the Pixies' "Debaser," and the same hook as "Debaser," it isn't just a cover version with a showy guest spot, it's actually a completely different song called "Debaser"? You know what I mean?
OK, that'd probably turn out pretty lame. But when it's T.I. doing UGK's "Front Back," it turns out not lame at all, and I don't care which one I listen to on any particular day, because they're both very fine songs. And I will say this about UGK: there's this theory, which I don't support, that the South is on top currently because they respect their veterans, instead of casting them aside and forgetting about them. You listen to UGK, though, and you realize that they don't need charity; they make folks today keep on caring about what they do because they keep on making music worth listening to. So all those New York veterans who don't feel they're getting the love from the new generation they deserve - look, I feel you, that's sad. But I ain't heard nothing like "The Game Belongs to Me" or "International Players' Anthem" from Kurtis Blow this year. For that matter, I haven't heard anything like those from Nas, either.
A.F.I.'s Decemberunderground was rather unexceptional - Ian Cohen's review at Stylus was right on. That said, "Love Like Winter" is everything the album should have been, and that's the reason I do singles lists like this. Cohen identified "Summer Shudder" as the single that deserved a huge video treatment, and if that track actually had been released as a single, it may well be occupying this place on the list, since it was another highlight on the record. Still, I can't front on "Love Like Winter," and it did get that video treatment, even though my idea of an ideal A.F.I. video would be one that didn't feature Davey Havok. Sorry. The guy just looks entirely different to the voice I hear on their albums. I'm imagining a fragile pretty-boy goth, and I instead get a weird lopsided insectoid. Not pretty.
And it's that problem of aesthetics that made Decemberunderground a failure and is responsible for the allure of songs like "Summer Shudder" and "Love Like Winter." Basically, any punk/pop/hardcore band dabbling in goth imagery should present an exterior that is beautiful and dark and wallowing in self-pity, something reflecting all the insecurities and melodrama of its predominantly teenage audience. These two songs are great like that, with vast, sweeping melodies, and glorious, grim imagery about burning in the summer and a world where it's "December every day." "Love Like Winter" has a threatening femme fatale dragging damaged young men into places they're not ready to go. It's introverted boys being threatened by sex and confident women, and taking refuge in icy synths and stadium-sized new wave choruses. It's living in dark rather than light, and cold rather than warmth. A.F.I., please note: next album I want to hear nothing but pre-Aslan Narnia coming from your mouths. Uh, but with huge hooks instead of fauns and talking badgers. Alright? Good.
Whenever I look at my list and see this Rapture track sitting in the #42 position, I wonder if I’ve gone temporarily insane and am trying to impress the hipsters I don’t even know who were all over “House of Jealous Lovers” back in those heady days of dance-punk hysteria. (I like “Jealous Lovers,” but I’m sure not OMGbesttrackever over it). Then I stick on “Whoo! Alright — Yeah... Uh Huh” and I’m reminded of all the ways it manages to be so simply enjoyable, even if it is little more than scrabbly guitars, thumping beats, a determinedly funky bassline and that neat breakdown with Luke Jenner complaining “People don’t dance no more/they just stand there like this,” which sounds awesome, even if it’s not really that true anymore (or so I hear… I don’t actually go to New York indie rock shows that often, me being on the other side of the world). I wouldn’t say this is better than “Jealous Lovers,” but I think I look more fondly upon “WAYUH” because it doesn’t have the air of undeserved nouveau classic associated with “Jealous Lovers.” Also, you can’t fuck with that acronym.
The other day I actually listened to the lyrics, too (apart from the not dancing no more bit), and for a band that based a song on the hook “Muh-muh-muh-muh-muh-Mustang Ford,” these words are pretty neat. I won’t quote any of them, because I think much of the pleasure is in hearing them and noting their surprisingly not-shit nature, but check them out. They’re pretty funny.
J.R Writer stepped his Killa junior flow up to levels nearly worthy of that of his Godfather/Chairman/C.E.O./Goonie-on-the-naughty-step Cameron Giles for “Bird Call,” and that was important in a year that was (as I’ve mentioned, oh, once or twice) light on quality Byrd Gang material. It also helped that he had a triumphantly majestic Develop instrumental to rap over. Writer’s performance is more than respectable, dropping lines like “No cat can match me, I’m passing fastly, who’s half as nasty?/ I got it locked from here, all the way from here to Cackalacky” like he isn’t actually a bench player, but Develop almost makes it sound like his song is “History in the Making” (to quote the album title), even if you can only believe that for the four minute run time.
Then there’s that show-stopping guest spot from Lil’ Wayne, that predicted his fourth quarter ’06 run of jumping on every second rap single and dropping a completely disposal but completely awesome verse (“Make it Rain,” “Holla At Me,” “King Kong, “You”). Y’all figured out that I’m a bit of a Weezy stan, yet? Actually, I think this version is a remix; the album edit has a fairly average Cam’ron verse instead, but that’s to be expected; the Diplomats seem to make a habit of putting inferior takes of songs on their album and saving the good shit for the mixtapes (see Juelz’s “Mic Check,” Cam’s “Get ‘Em Daddy”).
The most important thing “Byrd Call” did in ’06, though, was offer the faint, and likely false, hope that there could be talent deeper in the Diplomat camp than Cam’ron, Juelz Santana and the occasionally hilarious Jim Jones track. Now that the whole crew is imploding and the chance of any more golden era Dipset material is diminishing faster than ever, “Byrd Call,” is a fond reminder of a time when even their bush leaguers were worth paying attention to.
Labels: Top 69 Singles 2006