Monday, April 07, 2008

Pissin' The Night Away: Five More Fun Selections From My Nostalgia Playlist

It's just one of those days.

In my unending boredom tonight, I casually looked over my iTunes nostalgia playlist, a sense of pride flowing forth. "Wow, Sean," I thought to myself. "125 songs. 125 cherished memories. You've certainly done a wonderful job in documenting the musical zenith of your youth. Pat yourself on the back!"

It was a wonderful feeling, but of course one that would not last very long. For soon, another voice inside my head would chime in - the voice of a gruff, angry 15-year-old skateboarder shouting "What the fuckin' tits, dude? Where the fuck is 'Break Stuff'??"

The 15-year-old was right. I had some downloading to do.

Here are five new songs I stumbled across tonight.

Limp Bizkit: "Nookie"

So here's the deal. I'm sitting at my desk in 6th grade Social Studies; the teacher hasn't shown up yet, so everybody's just shooting the shit. This girl I've known since 2nd grade is sitting in front of me - not facing me, of course, 'cause we aren't talking. All the sudden I hear her singing to herself - "Well I guess it would be nice / if I could touch your boddddyyyyy..." Within seconds, the kid behind me chimes in - "I know that not everybody, has got a body like youuuu..."

Now, this was unusual. For one thing, you know, there's two 12-year-olds singing to one another unprovoked in Social Studies, which actually wasn't unusual to me at the time. Honestly, I just didn't know the fucking song. "Wh... what is that?" I ask the girl sheepishly.

"What the hell?" She looks at me like I'm from fucking Saturn. "It's Limp Bizkit."

"Yeah, seriously!" the kid behind me chimes in again. "You gotta know Limp Bizkit!"

"Oh... okay." What did I know? The only music I listened to at the time was the Ragtime soundtrack. I didn't understand any of this "cool kid" music.

Then I started watching TRL. Then the "Nookie" video came out, with bad-boy Fred Durst swankin' on down the street with that legendary red backwards Yanks cap, rappin' about some BITCH who put his heart in a fuckin' blender (like that Eve 6 song). Then came that chorus about the aforementioned "Nookie" (a term which I was not yet familiar with) and sticking a cookie up your... YEAH! Then came Fred Durst getting harassed and arrested by a bunch of thuggish cops for rockin' out TOO DAMN HARD (which I'm sure wasn't staged AT ALL).

And ladies and gentlemen, I'll be damned if my life wasn't changed.

In other words, I'll be damned.

It's funny, though; downloading the album - aka TOTALLY RAW AND UNCENSORED - version of this song, you notice a few things. For one, the song isn't really censored all that much, and the legendary "Stick it up your YEAH!" was apparently totally intentional (which makes the line all the more hilarious). Secondly, there's this little background voice that serves as the answer to many of Durst's lines: "Should I be feelin' bad? (NO!) Should I be feelin' good? (NO!)" "You would think that I'd be movin' on... (MOVE IT!)" "I can't believe that I would be deceived (But you WERE!)" This adds a whole new dimension to the song, not unlike John Lennon's little quips in Paul McCartney-written Beatles songs such as "Getting Better" and "Hello Goodbye."

Yeah, that's a fair comparison.

So in conclusion: "Nookie" is better than Sgt. Pepper.

Small note: I can recite almost every lyric to this song. If you put it on, I'll sing along. Just a warning.

98 Degrees: "The Hardest Thing"

About a second or so before I put this song on (for the first time in like a decade), I realized - through some inexplicable cosmic force - that I remembered almost every single lyric in the song. I started singing them to myself, without realizing what I was doing. It was weird.

But man, when the music kicked in, I got into it. I felt the emotion. This is a ballad, ladies and gentlemen. This is a sad song!!

Here are the opening lyrics, which I will recite here without the aid of a lyric sheet, 'cause... well, y'know:

We both know that I shouldn't be here, this is wrong
And baby it's killin' me, it's killin' you
the both of us tryin' to be strong
I've got somewhere else to be, promises to keep
There's someone else who loves me, and trusting me fast asleep
(okay so this part's a little hazy)

I've made up my mind - there is no turning back
She's been good to me, and she deserves better than that!!

As a precocious 12-year-old, these lyrics confused me. So the protagonist is with some girl, but he doesn't WANT to be with her, he wants to be with this other girl who treats him right. So why are you hanging out with your old flame, boys of 98 Degrees? But then the chorus puts things in a different light: "It's the hardest thing I'll ever have to do / To turn around and walk away / Pretending I don't love you." And furthermore: "You can get on with your life / I've got to be cruel to be kind." "You will never know, 'cause there can be no happy ending."

Wait, wait, 98 Degrees - so you LOVE this girl? Then why break her heart? Why go off with some random floozy who's been NICE to you - who you're OBLIGATED to be with? What forces are working against you, you young late-90's heart-throbs?? You guys aren't Fred Durst, I'm sure you can manage to salvage this relationship! DON'T BREAK HER HEART! DON'T RESIGN YOURSELVES TO UNHAPPINESS! EMBRACE WHAT YOU LOVE!! LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR THESE FICKLE BICKERINGS!!!

...err, well. Of course things aren't that simple.

As far as the music goes, this is your basic late-90's boy band ballad designed to make girls swoon. But... I'll be damned if it doesn't... oh jeez, I'm sorry.

Let's just move on.

Marcy Playground: "Sex and Candy"

So from what I've gathered, the longer the 90's wore on, the more boring alternative rock became. I mean, yeah, Nirvana and Pearl Jam kicked in guns ablaze back in '91, but once Hootie and the Blowfish and Matchbox 20 came onto the scene, it suddenly became cool to be blase. By the end of the 90's we by-the-numbers alternahits from Vertical Horizon, Creed, Third Eye Blind, Stroke 9, Everclear, and so on and so forth. They were the dregs of the alternative rock scene, holding on with fierce tenacity as their era of vaguely-industrial angst-rock faded into the ether with the turn of the millenium, to be replaced by indie-folk and emocore forever.

And of course, there was "Sex and Candy." "Sex and Candy" didn't shake things up too much, as you can imagine. Bored vocal, kinda lazy instrumentation, kinda-sorta-catchy chorus that sticks in your head without you even realizing it. "Oh, hey, 'Sex and Candy'. Uh, yeah. That song's alright. It's no 'The Hardest Thing' but it'll do."

Honestly, though, in my blossoming adolescence, any song with the word "sex" in the title automatically caught my attention. I was a sick little child. But candy? What does candy have to do with sex??

The Offspring: "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)"

"Americana" by the Offspring was the first CD I ever bought. Now, for someone who is obsessed with music, I guess you could call this a landmark moment, but I can't really make that kind of pronouncement. I mean, it's not like I went out and bought fucking "Abbey Road" or some shit - "Americana" was just a 6th grade whim, which makes sense 'cause it was basically an album made for 6th graders (see: Korn, Limp Bizkit, Blink-182).

This was the song that did it for me. Dexter Holland - in his shouty, vaguely cynical voice - rips on some poser guy who thinks he's a rapper and listens to Vanilla Ice. I thought it was funny, mostly 'cause my friends thought it was funny too, so I got the album. Other songs included "The Kids Aren't Alright" (remember that Who song? Yeah, I didn't get the reference either) which bitched and moaned about how all teenagers are drug addicts or something, "She's Got Issues" which bitched and moaned about Dexter's INSAAAANE girlfriend, and "Why Don't You Get A Job" which stole its structure from "Obladi Oblada" and bitched and moaned about a lazy white-trash woman who sits on her ass all day (they switch the genders up near the end, but you know, only briefly - just to appease all the feminists out there, I guess).

All in all, it was kind of a shitty album that all my friends loved 'cause there were lots of swears in it. I've known many people who have claimed that "Americana" was the Offspring's "sell-out" album, mining for big pop hits and abandoning their punk roots. But that's a crock of shit - the Offspring had a HUGE hit back in '94 with "Come Out And Play," a song that was nearly identical to "Pretty Fly." They were sell-outs from the word "go," and a total product of the 90's - a homogenized "punk" band with lyrics about Ricki Lake and getting tattoos. Don't try to make them out to be cool.

My second CD ever was "14:59" by Sugar Ray, an album which I still kinda enjoy listening to. I mean, neither album is quite as good as "98 Degrees and Rising" by 98 Degrees, but what are you gonna do?

Smash Mouth: "All Star"

Ahh jeez. Come on.

I know this song. You know this song. It was in Mystery Men, that movie with the zany alt-superheroes. It was in like 50 car commercials. I think it was in Rat Race. It was all over the fucking place.

And yet, despite its rampant overplay-factor, it's still a likable song. Not a great song, mind you, but I kinda like it. It's catchy, it's amiable, it's not too annoying. I approve.

Two things: I used to think the lyric went "Hey now, you're a rock star / Get the show on, get laid." Now, I had no idea what getting "laid" meant, I had just heard the term used somewhere - and I had no idea that, in all logic, it made perfect sense. I also had no idea what the lyrics meant; at this point of my life, I assumed that any lyrics to any song had some story tucked away inside of them, some narrative that made perfect sense if you paid close attention (a result of growing up with musicals, where every lyric is intended to push the story along). So of course, these lyrics frustrated me: "The ice we skate is getting pretty thin / the water's getting warm so you might as well swim / the world's on fire, how 'bout yours / that's the way I like it and I'll never get bored." Ka-whaaa? And that part near the end about the guy asking for change?? I dunno. I don't follow, Smash Mouth!

All in all, a fun song. No "The Hardest Thing," but I can't ask for the moon, baby.

So that's all for now. I assure you, as long as I am alone on a Sunday night, this will happen again.


Adam said...

I remember 4/5 of these songs. The 98 Degrees one I can't remember offhand... maybe if I heard it, I'd remember it, but as far as boy band groups go, I only remember the Backstreet Boys and NSync.

I heard "Nookie" for the first time in a similar manner where you did... EVERYONE was singing that goddamn song back when I was in middle school... the "Stick it up your YEAH" part confused the piss out of me because I thought everyone was just censoring themselves for some unknown reason, but nope...

I always liked "Sex and Candy" and still do. Catchy tune. I wonder if the rest of the album is any bit decent.

I only knew of the Offspring song cause of Weird Al's "Pretty Fly for a Rabbi," which still amuses me. Similarly, Bob Rivers did a parody of "Come Out and Play" called "Wrong Foot Amputated..." and I remember Weird Al used to parody that one live as "Laundry Day." Were the Offspring so popular to warrant TWO stabs from Weird Al?

"All Star" was also in Shrek, during the title credits. That was another one all the middle schoolers went nuts for and it started to annoy me after the third time I heard it though. There was one song they did I kinda liked back in the day but I can't remember which one it is... actually it might've been "Then the Morning Comes." Most of them are interchangeable I think.

The "getting laid" bit brings back an old memory of how pop music introduced me to that lovely turn of phrase. I was eight or nine and big into Elton John, and I used to sing all of his songs to my parents (how they tolerated it I will never understand), and one night I happened to be singing "Sweet Painted Lady" out loud in a parking lot of a Blockbuster in Holmdel, New Jersey. "Getting paid for being laid" was the lyric and my poor mother had to shush me up...

So thanks Sean for bringing back those memories. I only wonder (and fear) what the kids of today's "All Star" is.

Jesus that thought kinda freaks me out.

Anonymous said...

Woah Woah Woah. I like your blog man (esp. the Christgau skepticism) but lumping Third Eye Blind with those bands and calling them "the dregs of the alternative rock scene" shows you either haven't listened to their whole first album or you have no taste! That album is a masterpiece. "Losing a Whole Year", "I Want You", "The Background", "Graduate". Take another listen, it's a Great album

Anonymous said...

Shit just read you going away letter. Very poignant and real. Don't want my past comment about Third Eye Blind (if you ever check it) to sound too harsh. And get all in you head. Just a little urging to give it the album another spin. Very worth it. I'll be reading some off your other posts soon. too bad you've signed off. I know exactly that doubting feeling of your own taste when high minded arbiters tell you what to like. It's silly and they're wrong. Stick to your guns...and give that album another listen if you have the chance.