Sunday, August 24

Five Card Draw #3: From Waits to Winehouse

In which we'll have a friend of LOTD put their ipod on shuffle and write about the first five songs that play. One skip is allowed, so use it wisely. This idea is pretty much the exact same thing as something the City Paper does, so any and all credit should go to them. This week, LOTD contributor and second generation gonzo observationalist Jared Adams laments the fall of Amy Winehouse and professes his love of the Ramones.

1) The Smashing Pumpkins – Perfect (
Adore, 1998)
First off, I must assure you of what a pleasure it is to be contributing, once again, to Mr. Dogg’s Left of the Dial reviews, the finest music community and review blog on the web. Secondly, to commence with the beginning of the start of the proceedings, I must assure you of what a pleasure it is to have the Pumpkins for a jump off point. I can’t think of a more perfect song to begin with than "Perfect". The third track off of The Smashing Pumpkins follow up to the grandiose epic with the equally grandiose and epic name of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, kicks the Adore album into high gear. With an ominous single string swell the song crashes into a somber, upbeat, pop rock groove that plays like a slightly more awake 1979 with very little variation throughout. Less is more on here, reigning in the albums true beginning with gentle Corgan crooning punctuated by frantic electronic break beats and synths every so often. Perfect for any situation, your next play list could welcome this one with open arms and make it feel right at home.

2) Amy Winehouse – Me & Mr. Jones (Back to Black, 2005)
Wowzers. Isn’t it sad that I had almost forgotten that Amy Winehouse is a recording artist? And a damn good one if you ask me. Before she was the drunken Looney Tune on tabloid covers in check-out aisles the world over, she was a rough around the edges alternative jazz crooner who had paid her dues with quite a few albums and finally hit her best work yet, destined for Grammys galore. One of the more condensed tracks on Back to Black, Me & Mr. Jones is just as lyrically uninhibited, fearlessly soulful and delightfully chaotic a number as any of them. Anchored by a standard blues progression underneath Winehouse’s dominating vocals, aided by a chorus line of ladies interjecting echoes of her choice lines, it stays consistent with her tales of late nights, lame guys and her endless search for a sustainable high, which I for one hope she safely finds soon so she can get on back to the studio and record another boozy doozy like this one.

3) Ramones – Learn to Listen (Brain Drain, 1989)
Alright. I really, really love the Ramones. Love them. I do not love this album. The unhinged and invigorating Ramones fun, while sparsely sprinkled throughout Brain Drain, is almost non existent here and is traded in for imitations of Judas Priest, AC/DC and (eek!) Billy Idol-esque growls with some distracting eighties pop radio production. "Learn to Listen" is perhaps one of the least fun, but also the kindest with its 1:50 run time, making it the shortest track on the album. It doesn’t sound like any of the Ramones are singing on this one, but they are. I don’t really wanna bash it too badly though, like I said, I love these guys. It’s just a boring song and the whole album is overshadowed by the gloom that the band found itself in as this was the last studio album with Dee Dee and the last one it did for Sire before switching labels and rattling off their last three albums. If I had gotten a song off of, say, "Pleasant Dreams", well then hot damn! We would’ve really been on to something here!

4) Pixies – Vamos (Wave of Mutilation, 2004) (Fuck yesssss! - Ed.)
This particular version of the song, off the Best of compilation, comes from the band’s debut album Surfer Rosa (without the “fucking die” dialogue) and contains an overlong midsection filled with what seems to be, screams of pain, livestock moans, car crashes and erratic guitar solos making it just over a minute longer than the earliest cut off Come On Pilgrim. Musically embodying the lyrical themes of mental illness, incest and apocalypse that marked the band’s early works, the song rockets through with frustration and sincere disdain for its chosen topics. Up-tempo rhythm and furiously strummed flamenco-ish chords are shredded apart by bizarro slide guitar and shrieks. A fine example of where the Pixies came from with hints of the unique ingenuity they would impress upon a world of fans and future acts they’d inspire. I’m glad I got this little ditty and not one of their Earth shattering achievements or this’d be shaping up to be one looong long entry indeed.

5) Tom Waits – Semi Suite (The Heart of Saturday Night, 1974)
Oooooh… Just listen to it. It and the whole album. If you haven’t already or even if you have. Several times. Whether you’re a Waits novice or aficionado, whether or not you’re familiar with the, uh, new and exciting directions he started going in during the 90’s you should give The Heart of Saturday Night a listen. It’s tough to review this song without reviewing them all. The third track from Waits’ second and most celebrated album, is some of the most interesting and engaging jazz you could ever ask for. Piano driven, horn treated with Waits’ smoky tenor, which is, on this album, many, many years away from descending into the gravely demon grown of his present day recordings, dances and tip toes over the keys to seamlessly interweave his storytelling prowess with breezy melodies in a way that few of even our most cherished artists can match. As good as any song on the album, a fine early placement on The Heart of Saturday Night and an even finer fifth card to draw this time around the dial, until next time!

-Jared Adams

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