MUSIC: The Perfect Songs, Part V
Click it, roll it. Part five of the ongoing series on The Perfect Songs (rewind: part one, two, three, four). For this installment, something a bit different: Perfect Songs that jump-started my interest in a band. One song can act like lightning, inspire you to check out a musician's album, then to obsessively pick up as many other albums as you can until the world ends and you realize you have 600 CDs to move to New Zealand somehow. But I digress. Here's three more of the songs that make the world a sunshiney place:
13. "My Impression Now" by Guided By Voices. The impossibly prolific band released about a zillion CDs before calling it quits in 2004; back in 1994, yours truly was a humble intern for Billboard magazine in New York City, working in an ivory tower in the heart of Times Square, riding the subway every day and generally a tiny cog in a big machine, but having a blast. Working at the music industry's biggest trade magazine, it goes without saying I got lots of free stuff from the promo pile. This one short EP by this band I'd never heard of caught my eye. I put it on back in my dorm room cubbyhole, and heard the song "My Impression Now," which sounds like a pop song from another planet beaming through space dust to faraway earth, a greatest hit that never was. Hooky, happy and sad together and just darned fun to listen to, "My Impression Now" got me hooked on GBV, following the ups and downs of their career through a cascade of great albums. It's low-fi silly pop song goodness and one of the many things I took back from New York with me at the end of that strange humid summer. "My impression now / Stand on the edge of the ledge / Jump off cause nobody cares"
14. "I Feel So Good" by Richard Thompson. This venerable British folk/rock guitar whiz has been crafting smart songcraft since the 1960s, but he's always been more or less a cult figure. I first heard this tune back around my freshman year of college circa 1990 or 1991, one of Thompson's few songs to break through to the radio market. And what a song it is, a raging breakup song anchored by Thompson's dazzling guitar work. It's all cocky bravado, a grin full of malice, about the guy who's over his girl and ready to head out and cause some pain to someone else to get even. Somehow Thompson's gleeful singing of the song makes it an anthem for all of us who've been hurt and want to just dish a little out every once in a while. Listen to it full-blast driving southbound on the interstate at sunset with the window rolled down and your head sticking halfway out. "Well I feel so good I'm going to / Break somebody's heart tonight..."
15. "Sister Jack" by Spoon. And here's a more recent find. I wrote about discovering my first CD by this Austin, Texas band last year, and months on it's still a genre-twisting delight of a record. Here's the song that kicked it off for me when I downloaded it; three minutes or so of blissful bop that recalls early tunes by the Who, with Beatlesy (I'm not using the word Beatles-esque, dammit) harmonies, handclaps, and more. It may not mean much of anything – after reading the lyrics, I'm even less certain what it's about ("I was sold for suspect drawings / Underneath a makeshift awning"??) but like all good pop songs, it's whatever you want it to be. I picture a van leaving town, saying goodbye to friends on a fine autumn day, and hitting the highway to see what's next. It was a good run. "Always on the outside always looking in / I was in this drop D metal band we called Requiem"
Special bonus round! Because it's almost Valentine's Day and I forgot to buy you any candy, the first three people who post comments below I'll mail you a copy of my nifty Nik's Perfect Songs Vol. 1 CD which contains all 15 of the songs listed so far in this series plus a secret bonus track. Shazam!