Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Top 5 Bond Songs

A Bond song is a very particular thing. It needs to work in the context of the film, particularly in the ultra stylized opening title sequences, and as a pop song on its own. At best, they are icons in and of themselves that not only evoke the intrigue and sexiness of the films, but get stuck in your memory forever.

I saw Quantum of Solace over the weekend, and needless to say I've been thinking about Bond a lot. Here are my Top 5 Bond Songs:

  1. Goldfinger - Shirley Bassey

    Perfection. Everything works together brilliantly. Shirley's sultry voice, the golden girl, and a thrilling song. Every other title sequence should aspire to match it.

  2. Diamonds Are Forever - Shirley Bassey

    Shirley Bassey was made to sing Bond songs. Her style is ideally suited to the nature of the films. This song is classic. Seriously, who hasn't heard it forever? And what girl doesn't know that men are fickle, but a diamond is forever? Shirley lays it out gorgeously. Though it is perhaps the best song, it comes in at number 2 only because of the lameness of the titles.

  3. Live and Let Die - Paul McCartney

  4. This Bond song probably is the best stand-alone song. There may even be those who either don't connect it with the film or who don't even know it's a Bond song. It works in context too though. It revamped the nature of the Bond song, and yet stayed so true to it. While the title sequence is less than stellar, it's got writhing ladies and fire. what else do you need?

  5. You Know My Name - Chris Cornell

  6. As far as title sequences go, this is by far my favorite. The way the card suits and poker tables are combined with the gunfire and fist fighting is brilliant. Literally brilliant. Did this win any awards? It should have. And Cornell's song is totally in step with the new direction of the Bond films. Like the new Bond, it has a bit of an edge, it's less polished. And it perfectly suits the title sequence. Slightly forgettable? maybe, but as you're watching it, it is amazing.

  7. The World Is Not Enough - Garbage

    I'm not a fan of any of the Pierce Brosnan Bond songs except this one. It is definitely a throwback to the classic Bond songs while managing to be it's own song and not merely pastiche. You can almost imagine Shirley Bassey singing it (not to say Shirley Manson does anything less than beautiful job). The titles themselves are typical of Bond (the silhouettes, the colors), but they take a backseat to the song.

Honarable mention - Thunderball - Tom Jones
Who doesn't love Tom Jones?

Notice that nowhere EVEN CLOSE to my list is the odd Jack White/Alicia Keys "Another Way to Die." It's not the greatest song to begin with, LET ALONE a good Bond song. In the context of the opening sequence, the first chords worked but then it just lost it. I remember thinking it wasn't working as I was watching it. Now, that's never good, is it? Chris Cornell's was a little forgettable (because it didn't share the title of the film perhaps?), but it was perfectly executed in context. Hopefully Cornell's return to form won't be a fluke (cause let's face it, most of the recent ones have been pretty forgettable).

This list was partially inspired by a top 5 Bond girls list by my good friend over at The Lish List. check it out.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none. None more black.

I can't believe I'd never seen This Is Spinal Tap before today. What kind of a music fan am I? One that claims to also be a fan of movies and hilarious parody? Mockumentaries and deadpan humor are my favorites! I am ashamed of myself.

Spinal Tap lived up to all my lofty expectations. (It reminded me constantly of my hair-metal-loving friend, Claire, and our Rock Band band, Motorknife). This film is brilliantly written, both in the dialogue and the songs. "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight," even though it's a parody song, is a great song! And consequently, is still stuck in my head. It's like Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, it's a parody film, but it loves what it's parodying, and it actually is what it's parodying. Spinal Tap is a band with a set of legitimate, if slightly ridiculous, songs. It's not hard to believe why people thought this movie was a real documentary.

So, thank you vh1 classic (and dvr) for finally making it possible for me to see This Is Spinal Tap. My life will never be the same.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Review: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' Rapid Response EP

Albums are taken out of context all the time. For some albums, there’s little difference listening to it when it came out or much later, or knowing why it was made or not. Many albums have nothing other than an artistic thesis. But others have a very pointed agenda that has nothing to do with art. How do we evaluate these albums? What had to be sacrificed musically in order for it to relevantly, and timely, address social problems?

Ted Leo’s Rapid Response – EP is one of those albums. Out of context, it is a hastily thrown-together, poorly-produced collection of only partially thought-through original songs and covers. In the pantheon of Leo’s (excellent) releases it would easily rank last (including his oft-forgotten, puzzling, self-titled, lo-fi debut). More than anything else, it sounds like a promising demo. This from a man who we’ve come to expect quality releases from? Unacceptable. You wonder who let him release this when it’s so obviously sounds unfinished. A glance at the linear notes lets you know why.

Leo quite clearly delineates that this release is literally a rapid response to the violence at this year’s Republican National Convention. Released on September 15th, two weeks after the event, its goal was to be heard while still relevant. In addition, all proceeds from the EP were donated to Democracy Now! And Food Not Bombs (Touch and Go, the label representing Leo, offered the digital only EP at different price levels, depending on the generosity of its buyers). As Leo explains, “This isn't meant to be some grand sweeping statement on our part - it's just a way for us to contribute SOMETHING real to the lives of real human beings, and show our material support for those whose actions and thoughts we value in this ideological struggle.”

So, can he be forgiven for half-baked ideas and craptastic production (Garage Band? Really, Ted?). A particularly unforgiving friend of mine (who is also an ardent Ted Leo fan) assured me that releasing an EP in two weeks is no excuse; that a good song can be written quickly and perhaps this is a sign of Leo loosing his touch. I disagree. I give the man the benefit of the doubt. I believe that it is the message that’s most important to Leo, and the music can take a backseat on the particular release. Because honestly, it’s not all bad. “Paranoia (Never Enough)” is rousing and sing-along-able (and having seen this song played live, there wasn’t one person in the crowd not shouting “Paranoia!” along with the Pharmacists). “I Got Your Number” is a buoyant cover, logically following the two originals, that easily sticks in the head. Is it Leo’s best work? No. Is it his most noble, and perhaps most passionate work? I think so. It may never make it on my most played list, but I will never begrudge him the fact that he did it.

Rapid Response can be purchased here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Retrospective Thursday: BSS at NYU

September 4th, 2008

A caveat: I am not a Broken Social Scene fan. That isn’t to say I don’t like them, quite the contrary, I just can’t call myself a fan. I couldn’t name you more than a few songs, and I could sing you even fewer. I’m actually more familiar with Kevin Drew’s excellent solo album Spirit If…. That being said, I know who they are and many of my friends are BSS fans. So when I found out that they would be the headliners of my school’s annual mystery concert, I was curious but undecided. An opening set by the French Kicks and the fact that it was free was enough to convince me.

It was, in a word, AWESOME. My beloved French Kicks were preceded by Pattern is Movemen, a dynamic two-piece with energetic beat and wailing vocals, but whose beards and banter upstaged their songs. It was seeing them live that originally made me a fan, so I was thrilled to be seeing the Kicks again. Their set was Swimming heavy, but it pulled from their old releases well. I was disappointed not to hear “So Far We Are” but found a new favorite song in “Carried Away.” Definitely the best use of a maraca I’ve seen all year.

Since I don't listen to a lot of BSS, I was irrationally expecting a mellow set, but was really pleasantly surprised when they rocked. Plus, Kevin Drew is really hot, in a bearded, flannel-wearing, Canadian Eddie Vedder look-alike kind of way. Coming in, I was most curious to see exactly how many of them there would be (as their rotating membership is famous). I told my friend before they came on “If there are less than 10 of them, I’m walking.” I was only partly kidding. At the least there were 6 (after Kevin Drew's mic broke, then his amp broke and he left the stage) and at the most there were 12 (including 5 horn players and Land of Talk’s Lizzie Powell as the only female presence). Actually, I guess there were 13 at the most, if you count when Kevin Drew pulled up a kid from the audience and had the band play a song along with him.

The set was upbeat and dynamic, including songs from the solo albums of Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning (“Fucked Up Kid” and “Hit the Wall”) as well as a Land of Talk cover, for obvious reasons. I couldn’t name you the songs, but no one in the audience looked disappointed. Then again, the freshmen who mainly made up the audience probably wouldn’t have been disappointed by anything. For the closing number Kevin Drew invited everyone to come up on stage and dance. Whether or not he expected it, he got what he wanted. Probably 80 percent of the audience ended up onstage. Julia and I were too far back to join, but the stage was so crowded, it was ridiculous! He kept telling people to stop coming up but they just kept coming. They managed to keep playing despite kids crowding the mics and jumping up on amps, I have no idea how they did it. It was pretty crazy and I'm so glad I went even though it was mostly stupid freshmen.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An Introduction

Tonight I met my friends at Soho Park for some amazing burgers and onion rings. The talk involved how sad it is when good songs become cliches (spurred by Blondie's "One Way or Another" later followed by The Go-Go's "We Got the Beat") and what we listened to in middle school. In the fifth grade Ryan had much better taste than I. He listened to Ben Folds Five, I listened to the Spice Girls. I'm not ashamed.

My introduction to music outside the mainstream came rather late in my life. And it is 100% my fault. In high school I lived in a musical theater bubble. While my friends were seeing the New Pornographers, I was seeing Hairspray. But that all changed a few years ago. I was 19, fresh off my first year at NYU and increasingly frustrated with theater when I was introduced to the world of non-mainstream music. And I can say with no hint of exaggeration that it changed my life. The actual moment, a certain Sunday afternoon with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, I will go into more detail about later.

I am now a musician myself, living in Williamsburg, the heart of hipsterdom. And let me tell you, life ain't easy among the tragically hip. I know what I like, and I don't pretend to be cool. So this is me, not trying to keep up, just trying to have some fun. Shall we?