Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Decoy’s Completely Biased Non-Definitive Guide To Music


Spice Girls - Spice (1996)

Though I’d say my favourite Spice Girls songs are “Spice Up Your Life” and “Too Much”, which are both on their second album Spiceworld (1997), you can’t go past their first album Spice for a non-stop pop-fest. (NB: By the time I’ve finished writing this - having listened to both again - I think I like Spiceworld more). In July 1996, with the single “Wannabe”, the girls hit the scene like Godzilla (if Godzilla was a massively marketed corporate girl-group in platform boots and Union Jack miniskirt). They were like Beatlemania & the Sex Pistols & the Village People all rolled into one, transcending the mere music to become pop icons. They were easy to hate, but hard not to like - they were designed to be loveable. You had five characters to choose a fave from (Scary). And the music was fun. R&B grooves (“Last Time Lover” and “Something Kinda Funny”); revamped disco (“Who Do You Think You Are?”); and the gals even sang a ballad for Mum (“Mama”). So I can admit it now: ‘Hi, my name is Decoy, and I’m a Spice Girls fan’. They were a hipflask in the pocket of many reformed pop-oholics, and I now stand by it as a perfect example of 90s pop; catchy upbeat melodies with clean breezy harmonies. I dig the trading-off of lines between the girls - (in descending order of vocal ability) Sporty’s signature soar; Baby’s icing-sugar lilt, Scary’s punchy faux-reggae-rap, Ginger’s cheeky Monroe thing, and Posh couldn’t really sing, but was still an important part of the group strut. Who cares if the Spice Girls were a transparent construct of the corporate music industry and the tabloid media? Girl Power was quite endearing and sweet looking back now. And I already feel nostalgic for that time, the late 90s, pre-Paris Hilton, when a 56k modem was still faster than a 28k modem, when things seemed somehow more innocent. Which is revisionist thinking, I know. But this is one of my favourite soundtracks for those happily self-delusional occasions. On those nights, I crave simplicity, I just really really really wanna zig-a-zig ahh…




Bat For Lashes - Fur and Gold (2006)

I guess if you get invited to open for Radiohead on part of their Rainbows tour, you must be doing something right. Natasha Khan aka Bat For Lashes received this honour. And you can kinda see why, because one thing that struck me when I first heard this album, was upon hearing the 2nd track “Trophy” (an hypnotic raga that works its magic with a pagan paced chant: ‘Heaven is a feeling I get in your arms…’), I thought: ‘Hmm, sounds like In Rainbows.’ Now don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t. I mean, if Radiohead were a one woman band called Bat For Lashes and had been listening to a lot of Kate Bush and Bjork and Cat Power, and released their debut in 2006 titled Fur and Gold, then it may’ve sounded something like this. With me? Both have employed those little egg-shaker maracas to cool effect. Both try to do inventive stripped back things in regards to instrumentation (especially percussion). Both use lyrics to paint suggestive images that are as meaningful or as meaningless as you wanna make them. Both use atmospheric silence to dim the moody spaces between the core instruments. Both seem old school and contemporary at the same time. And both are beautifully understated. The vocal melodies in “Trophy” when she hits the line: ‘Creatures of love feed…’, or the ‘When you love someone but the thrill is gone’ chorus in “What’s a Girl to Do?” are like torches in a dark forest - you feel safer with them around. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself walking around your home humming strange mantras like: ‘Tahiti we don’t got no name…’ and ‘There is no turning back…’ and ‘She really loves him, Prescilla’. Whatever the case, like In Rainbows, as soon as this album finished - as if trying to isolate the allusive addictive ingredient - I was compelled to play it again. And again. And again. And again.

(Plus the video for “What’s a Girl to Do?” was one of the coolest/spookiest post-Donnie Darko videos I’ve seen in years…dig it.)

Watch the video here at the GritHouse.



Kiss - Music from 'The Elder' (1981)

Even amongst hardcore Kiss fans, this is an oddball. It’s considered a strange sidestep on their Hard-Glam-Rock/Heavy-Metal timeline. Having previously worked with producer Bob Ezrin on their Destroyer album (1976), and perhaps after seeing the success he’d had with Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979), Kiss enlisted his services again for a full-blown concept alb, with the whole swords and castles and fantasy bit. It bombed. But me and my D&D role-playing buddies loved it. Along with Pink Floyd, Queen, Yes, Jethro Tull, and King Crimson, it became part of the soundtrack stable for game nights. The title and cover were all we needed to see, really. Coz it was an album that sounded like its cover: A mock gateway into in the cavernous imagination of four NYC cock-rockers (in capes and make-up) trying to go Tolkien. Which - God bless’em - didn’t really work. And this was the reason most Kiss fans wrote it off. It tried to be a prog-rock concept album, but also wanted to be a rockin’ Kiss album. It was Kiss out of their depth, trying to work within a genre they weren’t really familiar with. But that was one of the album’s charms. There is an un-ironic innocence to it (kind of). You can tell they’re trying (kind of). Some of the lyrics are embarrassingly corny, like a teenager’s first attempt at fantasy storytelling, covering all the clichés of the genre. (That’s why it suited D&D so well.) The opening line of the album is: Like a blade of a sword I am forged in flame, fiery hot, which is actually one of the better ones. There’s “Odyssey” with: From a far off galaxy/ I hear you calling me/ We are on an odyssey/ Through the realms of time and space/ In that enchanted place/ You and I come face to face. (Sung like they’re spotlighted on a dry-iced stage with a skull in their hand.) And it just gets better with the chorus: Once upon not yet/ Long ago someday (See what they did there? - Clever wordplay). But like I said, I love it. “The Oath”, “Just A Boy”, “Odyssey”, “Dark Light”, “Under The Rose”, “A World Without Heroes”, they’re actually cool songs, and Bob Ezrin knew how to make things sound epic. So if you wanna rock out in your lounge room Tenacious D style, it doesn’t get much better than this.

By Decoy Spoon

11 comments:

  1. You have mentioned some of the good songs Manz, although besides 'Spice Up Your Life' I like 'STOP' by Spice Girls as the best. I know I know, it's matter of personal choice. But these bands mostly come & go, my loyalties stays with Bryan Adams, MLTR, Westlife, Shania Twain & George Michael sorts though.
    www.studentloaninfo.org/blog/

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  2. Hi Sally - thanks for the visit.

    I wish it was I who wrote this post, but I can't take the credit! "Decoy’s Completely Biased Non-Definitive Guide To Music" is always penned by Decoy Spoon - one of the GritFX staff who co-authors this blog.

    He's a cool guy... I'm sure he appreciates the comment :)

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  3. Bob Ezrin did a lot of work with the new Pink Floyd that i thought was pretty cool. But The Elder was a complete oddball, like you said. Never was able to listen to it, so I can't say one way or another if it's good.

    Although, I'm one that will listen through anything from Syd Barrett and be in heaven, so I might like it.

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  4. Yea... Seems like two hundred years were passing from those moments of my teenage when i used to buy "Bravo" magazine's full of Spice Girls articles... God! What times...! '97, '98... But, i like only old rock!... Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones and other legends... From '96-'99, well... The Kelly Family! Bell

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  5. Decoy, my man...you never fail to impress with your eclectic tastes...

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  6. Oh, so it's ok to say you like The Spice Girls now? Phew..there was a time when I would have been lynched if that got out.
    I always thought they were harmless fun...just a shame they somehow blew it later on. Remember their attempt at Hip-Hop on the last album? Dear me..
    Thanks Decoy, for not being afraid and opening the door for all of us closet Spicers'.

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  7. ...and I loooove Bat for Lashes. I also recommend it to anyone.

    Nice Decoy...nice.

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  8. Hey people...Thanks for leaving some comments...Always nice to hear from some fellow music lovers.

    sally - I admire your tenacity. It must be a real committment to be a fan of that list ;)

    Manz - Cheers for the clarification. I'll forward any future complaints and/or hate mail to you shall I? ;)

    Wayne - You're right, Bob Ezrin's production on A Momentary Lapse of Reason and Division Bell was great. I think he even helped out with a couple of compositions (though I may be imagining that) And yea, Elder just isn't as bad as everyone says...it's worth a revisit. Maybe. ;)

    Vanea Bell - Yep, time flies. Most of the 'Girls' are probably singing "Mama" to themselves now...

    Max - Thanks Max, I never would've guessed that underneath that stoic Fox Mulder exterior beat the heart of Spice Girls fan... ;)

    faystar - Damn straight Sister (I mean, Brother), we've lived in fear for long enough! Time to unite! Strength in numbers!

    True man, even though she wasn't my fave, the party was over when Ginger left. The demons had their claws in all of them, pulling them apart into doomed solo careers. (Which is why I don't really count the 3rd album, Forever. Minus Ginger, it just wasn't the same. I guess it was fitting the only decent song on that album was called "Goodbye")

    Still, lets celebrate the few years and two albums they gave us before the inevitable self-destruction...

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  9. Oh yeah, and Bat For Lashes has a new album out in April, called Two Suns...

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  10. not a big fan of any of these, but I am impressed with the wide variety of music you are interested in,
    The spice girls are pretty, and Kiss, well, their kiss.
    Recently listening to live Alice in Chains 1996 on the tube,(they opened for Kiss a few shows) and layne staley says on one of the clips, Hey,I see all these people dressed up like members of kiss, how come nobody's dressed up like me?
    No familiar with the other band.

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