Tuesday, 10 June 2008

I'm gonna leave this town, gonna leave it like I found it...

Blake Babies "Out There" [taken from the album Sunburn - Hollywood Records, 1990]

Sometimes, a pop song just hits you in the right place at the right time. I'd never heard anything by Juliana Hatfield, save from a glimpse of a video on an episode of Beavis & Butthead, outside of her enchanting work as Evan Dando's foil (and muse) in the Lemonheads. It took a chance encounter in the Union Bookshop at my university for her songs to fall into my lap; the music playing in the shop, while I was idly waiting for my housemate to finish browsing the drama section, sounded like sunshine - shimmering shards of jangling guitars, a girlish coo, and the distant hum of Evan Dando in the background. I later found out it was by Ms. Hatfield's group from her days prior to being a Lemonhead - albeit songs from their comeback album, God Bless the Blake Babies (2001).

Consequently, I rooted around the internet for anything I could find, and came up with an album entitled Sunburn - often cited as their best. After two songs I was smitten, and I found myself stuck on 'Out There', a track which sounds like waking up to the first day of summer; the Peter Buck-esque guitars chime like the sun pouring in through the curtains, while Hatfield purrs and growls her way out of the speakers, leaving the listener (or at least, me) instantly enchanted. Like a less heartbroken cousin of Lisa Loeb's "Stay (I Missed You)", the song has early 90s written all over it in the best possible way; it's painful to admit, but they just don't write 'em like this anymore...

Thursday, 5 June 2008

I think I was overcome by a spontaneous emotion...

Weezer "Miss Sweeney" [taken from the deluxe edition of Weezer (aka: the Red album) - Geffen, 2008]

It's no secret that I think Weezer are one of the best bands in the entire world; yes, their output since 1996 has been patchy, but each album has had its charms. 2001's Weezer (aka: the Green album) was allegedly an attempt to write ten perfect pop songs, none longer than three and a half minutes, all following the same structure. Maladroit, which landed the following year, was less considered, but did feature 'Keep Fishin'', the freshest sounding Weez single since the nineties. The only real dud in their catalogue was the clunky Make Believe, which replaced Rivers Cuomo's idiosyncratic observations and witticisms with catch-all platitudes which, when coupled with Rick Rubin's bland, shiny production, fell flat on its arse.

The band's newest album, another self-titled effort, ranks comfortably with their best; throwing any rules out the window (aside from the catty singles 'Pork & Beans' and 'Troublemaker', written on demand to keep the label happy), there are power-pop sonatas ('Dreamin''), multi-part epics ('The Greatest Man That Ever Lived', as I very briefly blogged about for Young Turks here) and even tracks by other members of the band, the highlight being drummer Pat Wilson's piledriving 'Automatic'.

Miss Sweeney' crops up on the deluxe edition of the album, which contains four extra songs, all of which have some of the most interesting lyrics in the Weezer canon. The song starts off as a minor-key "rap" (in the style of R. Kelly's era-defining Trapped in the Closet), before diving headlong into a classic, crunchy and, above all, cuntstruck Weezer chorus. A paean to unrequited office romance - the boss slipping the secretary declarations of love in between memos - it happens to be the best of any of the tracks released for Weezer. Lord knows why this was left off the album - apparently at the insistence of every member of the band aside from guitarist Brian Bell (who always was the coolest member of the band...).

The abundance of extra tracks scattered across various formats of the record will no doubt have Weezer obsessives creating their own ideal ten-song running orders, but 'Miss Sweeney' is almost certainly one that fans will unite over.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

I was your other, that's what you said...

The Lodger "A Year Since Last Summer" [taken from the album Life is Sweet - Bad Sneakers Records, 2008]

Everyone knows the best pop songs are the short ones; Life Is Sweet, the wonderful second album by Leeds indiepop heroes The Lodger, is an understated 35 minute flurry of handclaps and heartbreak. One of its highlights, 'A Year Since Last Summer', rushes by in a brief two minutes - still, that seems to be all it needs. Its lyrics are similarly brief, but perfectly express the melancholy of a love gone wrong ("The photograph is fading now, a year since last summer..."), belied by the short, sharp and irrepressibly jangly guitar attack that surrounds it, which barely allows you time to catch your breath between verses. While there are catchier tracks on the album - namely 'The Good Old Days', a pretty strong contender for single of the summer, if not the year - there are few as addictive.


As ever, I apologise profusely for not updating this thing in ages; exam season somewhat put the kibosh on my urge to write anything whatsoever. Thankfully, that's all over now, and with a long hot summer ahead, expect plenty more gems in store.