It Was 20 Years Ago Today…April 1997

Yo La Tengo:  I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One

Yo La Tengo are one of those bands who continually release solid bodies of work, but are just underground enough to seem to never break into a larger scene.  I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One was their third release on Matador records, after a run of albums on smaller labels, and their second album after their breakthrough album, Painful.

Three singles were released from this album, each will be discussed in the order they appeared on the album.  First up is “Sugarcube”, and features a distorted guitar groove and manic drum beat with vocals that seem to focus on trying to convince a partner that they will do anything to keep things together, including squeezing a drop of blood form the aforementioned sugarcube.  In other words, even if what is requested is impossible, they will attempt it just to keep the other person around.  This song is emblematic of the type of vocals for which Yo La Tengo are known, with distortion hiding twee vocals.

Next up is the first single released from the album, titled “Autumn Sweater”, another song with a frenetic drum beat, but this time it is accompanied by an organ and maracas/tambourine.  Autumn Weather tells the story of the internal struggle of a boy debating whether or not he should call of a date and a relationship as a whole because he just doesn’t feel the same joy as he did at the beginning.

The final single, both within the track listing and in the order released from the album, was “Little Honda”, a cover of a Beach Boys song.  The song was apparently originally recorded by Yo La Tengo as part of a soundcheck to make sure the equipment was picking up the instruments properly, but ended up making the album because the band thought that it turned out pretty well.  It takes a surf rock song and turns it in to a laid back vocal delivery with distorted, but not heavy, guitar.

I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One is widely considered to be Yo La Tengo’s best work (though I would rank I’m Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass higher).  It has appeared on many “best of the 90s” lists.  Yo La Tengo are still releasing music and performing together.  Their most recent album was Stuff Like That There, released in 2015.  For a band that has been together nearly 35 years, they have kept their sound remarkably consistent, a remarkable feat for any band, regardless of their level of notoriety or popularity.

“Weird Al” b-sides track list reveal

This has apparently been a video for a month, but i’m only just finding out about it.  It’s the 15th LP on a box set of all of Weird Al’s studio albums, but god this track list reveal is absolutely singular.

I’ve already got some of these songs, and it’s nothing that I am just floored over, but it’s nice that he can finally release some of this stuff officially.  Pac Man is one of the first rarities I ever searched for on the internet, back when I had text-based dialup…yeah, I’m that old…

Sgt. Pepper 50th anniversary super deluxe edition

On May 25, The Beatles are releasing their first ever “Super Deluxe Edition” of any album, and of course it has to be Sgt. Pepper.  From the video, I like that the outtakes disc has an alternate shot of the actual album cover.

 

Anyway, part of the appeal of the deluxe edition is that the Capitol Records promo of “Penny Lane” which has remained officially unreleased for 50  years, will finally be seeing the light of day.  Listen to the “trumpet ending” below.

“Pirates don’t use cell phones”

Of all the songs we’ve been hearing on kid’s songs radio, this is one of two that i’ve found enjoyable.  I had to do some searching to find it, but here it is.

The other song is “Ernesto’s Discount Superhero Power Market”, but i’ve only been able to find it as an audio track on this website, down on the Sock-a-Delic album.

Chuck Berry: 1928 – 2017

One of the fathers of Rock & Roll, dead at the age of 90.  Chuck Berry’s songs such as “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music”, “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Johnny B. Goode” have all stood for around 60 years as rallying cries for the newly created form of music.

Two quick iconic moments:  John Lennon, when asked what he would call Rock ‘n’ Roll if it were up to him, suggested that one might call it Chuck Berry.

And of course, Back to the Future, with his brother Marvin Berry…

His final chart hit, and only #1 Billboard topper was the novelty hit “My Ding-a-Ling”, a feat for which he was proud.

Rest In Peace, Chuck Berry…you earned it.

It Was 20 Years Ago Today…March 1997

Ben Folds Five:  Whatever And Ever Amen

Whatever and Ever Amen came to alternative radio at a time when “grunge” was starting to lose it’s hold.  The band features three musicians:  a bass player, a drummer and a piano player (notice there’s no guitar player in that make up).  The lead singer and songwriter was Ben Folds, the piano player.  The album featured songs about dwarves, being dumped, people who think Rockford Files is cool, and…abortion.  I will address each song in turn.

One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces

Lyrically, the song tells the tale of a dwarf who was harassed as a child and is dreaming about growing up to spite everybody he feels has wronged him.  The song is delivered rapid fire with staccato phrasing.  It highlights some of the faster tempo tracks for which Ben Folds has become known.

Song for the Dumped

As a slight contrast to the above song, these lyrics are delivered at two different interchanging rates.  The verses are delivered at a slower, not full sentence at one time, pace…which leads abruptly into the choruses, delivered at a more forceful rate.  Both verses tell the tale of a man who is dumped unceremoniously, once when the ex-girlfriend owes him money and a black t-shirt and another immediately after taking his girl out to dinner.  The stories suggest humor, but in the moment those very same things on which those recently dumped would be focusing.

The Battle of Who Could Care Less

The Battle of Who Could Care Less delivers a story of a guy who finds it difficult to “blend in” with friends, waking up late, telling tales of ideas for plates commemorating General Apathy and Major Boredom, and endlessly defending Rockford Files.  This is also the track from which the title of the album comes, as it is either the title or the lyrics General and Major Boredom are singing on the commemorative plates.

Brick

Holy Jeez, if there’s any justice in this world, this song will be played on oldies stations into the very distant future.  This song hits like a ton of bricks (pardon the originally unintentional pun), telling a compelling story of a young couple grappling with the decision and aftermath of deciding to seek an abortion.  By the way, the word abortion is never mentioned in the song.

In the 20 years since this song has been released, there are some stations which have made a decision to play this song every year at 6AM on the day after Christmas…the day and time announced in the song about when the couple have scheduled their trip to the clinic.  He thinks inwardly about how cold it is outside, tells the tale of her mom and dad having gone down to Charlotte, and feeling alone even after having found someone.

While she is at her appointment, he buys her flowers with the money made by the funds earned from gifts being sold/returned.  The “Brick” in the song is the description of how he feels she, which is giving him the sensation of drowning off the coast.

The tale ends after several weeks, when both parties have been holding in the ramifications of their decision, thinking nobody can tell, until the time when his parents ask what has been on his mind and he breaks down.  The song ends with him driving out to her apartment, embracing her and grappling with the fact that even together they are alone.  A stunning piece of word-smithy that gently tells the tale and encapsulates many of the emotions felt after coming to a decision they will remember forever.

 

In the 20 years since the release of the album, Ben Folds Five released two more albums, and Ben Folds went on to have a successful solo career.  He has recorded tracks with novelist Nick Hornby, Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman, and Pomplamoose.  The band are currently on hiatus and last performed together in 2012.