Saturday, February 4, 2006

MUSIC: The Perfect Songs, Part IV

Cue up the mix CD, once again, here we go, three more of the songs I deem in my mild-mannered way to be as perfect to my ear as a song can get. And to review, here's Part I, Part II, Part III. Onwards:

Click here10. "Sweet Jane," by the Velvet Underground. The VU were one of the all-time greats, the missing link between Beatles and Bowie, the slinky, leather-clad, smoky underside to 1960s hippie pop. They were odd and kind of creepy, but man, could they play a tune. And maybe none of their drug-and-debasement-obsessed songs was any more cheerful than this dreamy sing-along, with its snap-your-fingers beat, Lou Reed's nonchalant croon and that can't-ignore-it chorus. It's sunny pop... except if you actually listen close to the lyrics, and then you realize it's all a lot more complicated than that. Is the singer making fun of sweet, innocent Jim and Jane? Or is he envious? Like everything the Velvet Underground did, it's several things at once, but you can't help nodding your head to this one. "You know that women never really faint / and that villains always blink their eyes."

Click here11. "Tomorrow Never Knows," The Beatles. You could make a list of Perfect Songs with nothing but The Beatles on there, of course. This is one of just a couple dozen that could spring off the top of my head, but I thought it'd be an interesting one to include because it's not one of their most heralded. But it's a fascinating track from "Revolver" that almost precisely marks the dividing line between "yeah yeah yeah" Beatles and "I am the walrus" Beatles, John Lennon's psychedelic ode to... well, not sure exactly, but it's a hazy red apocalypse of a song, full of doomsday imagery and a feeling like a merry-go-round slowly running out of steam. For some reason, I always imagine seagulls flying over a deserted beach in a blood-red sky when I hear the opening (And I just learned from this wiki that seagull noise is actually Paul McCartney laughing playing backwards. Freaky, man.) Anyway, it's one of the best album closers ever, in my mind. "Turn off your mind, relax / and float downstream / It is not dying"

Click here12. "In Your Eyes," by Peter Gabriel. Is it obvious? Oh yes, it's obvious, the backbone of every romantic lad and lass's mix tape in the past 20 years. We're the Lloyd Dobler Generation, grew up watching John Cusack hold that boombox in "Say Anything" and realized hey, that's the way to be. Romantic but not a wuss (he kickboxes, for cryin' out loud), Lloyd was a stone-cold player. And "In Your Eyes" is one hell of a song, Gabriel's yearning, religious ode to love as an ideal. It's not the way the world is, but how it ought to be in some ideal universe. After a particularly rocky high school love affair, I must have played this song 4,219 times. In fact, if I had to be pinned down, I might have played this song more than any other song in my life. I don't listen to it as much these days, but it's still that Lloyd Dobler anthem that cuts into the heart of truth. "Love I get so lost, sometimes / Days pass and this emptiness fills my heart"

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