Lonely hearts who’ve misinterpreted this column’s heading on the Voice Web site are welcome to skip directly to the rather pervy L.L. Cool J single, if they want.
Chumbawamba: “Enough Is Enough (Kick It Over)”
“It wasn’t hip anymore/They were playing our tune, but it was clearing the dancefloor”: “Tubthumping” didn’t last long, did it? But struggle goes on, long after the thrill of struggle is gone. “Same idea, different song/Where have all the anti-fascists gone?” They could be at the Republican convention. Starts out structured like Trevor Horn-era Yes, video-killing-radio-star chords surrounding angelic pomp-warbles—Chumbawamba are clearly at their most propulsive when alternating airy piss-the-night-away chirping with low take-a-whiskey-drink shouting. On the cover: Austria’s anti-immigration asshole Joerg Haider, who has heiled veterans of the Waffen SS as “decent people who have character.” The mood inches toward doomsday like the Ramones visiting Bitburg, and the stark Jamaican basslines roll until “Enough Is Enough” evolves into Willie Williams’s “Kick It Over”—just like when the Clash did “Justice Tonight,” or “Armagideon Time,” whatever its real name is. All that, and a not-bad anarchist lightbulb joke.
Gerhard Potuznik: The 20th Door EP
“Vienna, under heavy manners,” Chumba’s single starts; the heavily mannered Vienna sausage who stuffed this six-song 12-inch used to record for Falco’s Austrian label, and he’s produced Chicks on Speed! Gothic-cloister austerity slices and dices, cuts and splices, clangs and sputters, glitches and itches through wacky PowerBook breakbeats; technobursts zoom around like paper airplanes. It’s probably just as well that you have no idea what the guy’s fruity voice-of-woe is going on about. In fact, the main reason you know he’s woeful is because you know Ian Curtis was; his glacial melodies hark back to all those old Joy Division dirges dancing with Mr. D: “Decades,” “Disorder,” “Day of the Lords,” “Dead Souls.” And side two’s vinyl is manufactured in a way that keeps trapping your stylus in Chinese-water-torture loops, so love tears you apart again, and again, and again.
Oneida: Steel Rod EP
The bonus instrumental, unnamed at track six, pulls you through an endless journey that goes nowhere in a mouthwatering way—an organic version of Potuznik’s stuck-in-groove maelstrom. The chromosomal “XXY” could be a sequel to “YYZ” by Rush; other lyrics concern guns, hot rails to hell, and Southern cops with railroad ties wrapped around their necks. So the Link Wray concertina twang and chooglin’-down-the-dirtroad Creedence cover fit right in, but like Queens of the Stone Age (or California’s unjustly obscure Fatso Jetson), Oneida temper sludgier guitar-fudge impulses with a science-lab keyboard-hook angularity out of provincial skinny-tie new wave: Pere Ubu, Devo, the Cars. And especially MX-80 Sound, whose E=MC2 sound the deadpan-then-pained climbing pitch of “Tennessee” fabricates so well that I was surprised to learn these Dixie-obsessed reefer-rockers come from Brooklyn, not the southern Indiana college town that spawned both MX-80 and Oneida’s record label Jagjaguwar.
Jessica Simpson: “I Think I’m in Love With You”
Southern Indiana is Cougar country, too. Here, J.C. Mellencamp’s most famous riff frames a little ditty about Jessie and Nick, two ‘Merican kids drowning in ick—Nick, of course, being her 98-degree paramour Lachey. The backseat that Jessica’s a debutante of takes a backseat to Backstreet, and she’s looking like the most bubble-brained American fool of the entire teenpop nation. But her vocal is bubbly enough as upbeat Mariah/Celine goes, if only thanks to multitracking.
Hoku: “How Do I Feel (The Burrito Song)”
No Cougar-style suckin’ on chili dogs outside this Tastee-Freez, but it’s not far off. You can even sing it to the tune of “Tom’s Diner”: “I was free when we met/You were eating a burrito/With a girl, some brunette/At El Torosco’s.” Are teenage girls really so obsessed with hair color? Don Ho’s daughter’s previous tiny-bubble hit, you may remember, was “Another Dumb Blonde,” which could’ve used some of these 10cc analog doodles and Cher cyborg effects. Add in M2M’s great number about how they “may not have the blonde hair you like,” and you’ve got a trend.
(Various): The Mad Circus EP
More fast food! A couple months ago Wendy’s or somebody hosted a contest to find out who could write the best hamburger anthem, and here you go. “We can do it and make a sandwich,” the Detroit Grand Pu-bahs’ cartoonish squeak starts, then stops, then starts again. It keeps losing itself. “You can be the bun, and I can be the burger.” Easily up there with Little Feat’s “Hamburger Midnight,” Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” Michael Hurley’s “What Made My Hamburger Disappear,” even Focus’s “Hamburger Concerto: Well Done.” It’s the cutest techno record of the year, too: very daft, a little punk. Mad Circus also has a Flying-Lizards-monotoned “Light My Fire,” as covered by some un-funeral-pyre-like entity calling itself Run/Stop/Restore and using the Mac program where you type in words so your computer can talk in a, um, computer voice. Plus a sprockety little space-age symphony from Mas 2008—Germans trying to sound like Detroiters trying to sound like Germans, as much Harold Faltermeyer scoring Beverly Hills Cop as Derrick May getting a sad Cecil Taylor antilogic out of seemingly disconnected notes. Though there’s that, too.
Dandy Warhols: “Bohemian Like You”
A rhapsody about pretending to be “bohemian” (whatever that means at this point, whatever it ever meant) in order to get laid by a girl who thinks she is. More snideness would defeat the purpose, and “Monkey Man” congas and Some Girls hoo-hoo-hoos and thick “Brown Sugar” guitar come in and level the slacker singing anyway. He pledges to cook you something natural, wonders why that poor shlub you always make sleep on the couch never gets bent about it. If there were a couple of couches, like in Beck’s “Loser,” he could occupy the loveseat.
Everclear: “A.M. Radio”
“Unemployed Boyfriend” on Everclear’s new album is a more articulate stating of “Bohemian Like You” ‘s cynically horny theme, but “A.M. Radio” is where Art Alexakis really stakes his claim as grunge’s first grumpy old man. “The VCR and the DVD/There wasn’t none of that crap back in 1970/We didn’t know about a World Wide Web”: Just take those old records off the shelf, he’ll sit and listen to ’em by himself. He’s turning diary pages, looking back at the years go by like so many summer fields. When he was 17, it was a very good year for cruising around dazed and confused in his sister’s Pinto, dreaming Jimmy Page would come to Santa Monica and teach him to play. Neo-Luddite lo-fi fuzziness builds into hyped-up moondog energy, apt for the amplitude modulation that taught Art all he needs to know. And just in case you think sampling’s some newfangled invention, “electronic transmission and tape recordings” reproduce kids’ voices begging Mom to turn on Chico and the Man or Good Times—and also reproduce Jean Knight “Mr. Big Stuff” beats and disco whistles, even though Art never liked disco, which hasn’t stopped Everclear from growing into a decent dance combo lately. On the album, when “A.M. Radio” ends, “Brown Eyed Girl” emerges out of the airwave ether, and the band croons along.
L.L. Cool J: “Imagine That”
Mr. Big Dick (sorry, Schoolly), here’s who he thinks he is: Though L.L.’s clearly spinning his wheels through this Penthouse Forum role-play, his latest sexcapade is still a less irritating rap ballad than “Going Back to Cali” and a more entertaining one than “I Need Love.” The limo-fuck and threesome fantasies are pro forma, and the bit involving your office Xerox machine would make more sense if he didn’t waste the handcuffs on your boss. But that descending rocket of synth at the start flashes you back to the Sweet’s “Fox on the Run,” the guy’s talented at describing his subjects’ wardrobes, and his schoolgirl scenario has a more jailbait-bumpin’ lover’s-rock riddim than when Sting sang “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” Nobody starts to shake and cough like the old man in that book by Nabokov, but L.L. does work in The Iliad and The Odyssey. Watch out Hoku and Jessica—sometimes it’s not so easy to be the teacher’s pet.
Village Voice, 12 September 2000