Archive for 90s

Pathos

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 16 August 2009 by eT

Pathos: noun a quality that evokes pity or sadness – ORIGIN Greek, ‘suffering’.

So that’s today’s memory lane
With all the pathos and pain
Another chapter in a book where the chapters are endless
And they’re always the same
A verse, then a verse, and refrain

– Aimee Mann, ‘4th of July’

The first solo album by Aimee Mann, the singer of 80s pop group ‘Til Tuesday, was a burst of tuneful and knowing guitar pop from an artist who would go on to craft a series of quality releases and be nominated for an Oscar for her songwriting for the film Magnolia.  The album Whatever, released in 1993,  contained the wistful ‘4th of July’, with its elegant verses displaying Mann’s deft lyricism to good effect.  This track impressed Elvis Costello so much that he raved to Q Magazine about it, burnishing Mann’s strong reputation in Britain.  It was certainly a treat to see her perform in London with support from Jenny Owen Youngs in July 2007.

Here’s a live performance of the song from the Jools Holland archive: 

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Apathy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 30 June 2009 by eT

Apathy: noun lack of interest or enthusiasm — ORIGIN Greek apatheia, from apathes ‘without feeling’.

Oh don’t look in those eyes
Bluer than blue
Rules on the rise
And if I wear apathy‘s crown
Don’t call me highness
It’s a long way down

(Michael Penn, ‘Long Way Down’)

Watching a promo for New Zealand-born director Christine Jeffs’ new film Sunshine Cleaning recently, I noticed that the soundtrack was arranged by Michael Penn, an artist that I’ve been following for around 15 years now.  Penn, the talented brother of actors Sean and Chris Penn, came to prominence in 1990 when he won Best New Artist at the MTV Awards, but like several other artists I’ve posted about here, he’s never attained the fame that is his due.

I first came across Penn through his 1992 album Free-For-All, and I instantly fell in love with his songs – particularly their melding of slightly off-kilter lyrics with a rare sense of how to construct a great tune.  Later I found out that he’d married fellow singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, who I’d also been following for years, and it seemed a perfect match.  Now if I only lived in the US and could track them down on a joint tour!

In Long Way Down (Look What The Cat Drug In), the opening track from Free-For-All, Penn deploys the word ‘apathy’ to useful effect in his tale of jealousy.  Admittedly, it’s not a fully-fledged 25-cent word – maybe only 15 cents?  But it’s still a great song.  Here he is performing it on an undated Tonight Show sometime in the 90s:

Habitual

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 23 June 2009 by eT

Habitual: adjective 1 done constantly or as a habit. 2 regular; usual.

Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as Parklife
A morning soup can be avoided if you take a route straight through what is known as Parklife
John’s got brewer’s droop – he gets intimidated by the dirty pigeons – they love a bit of it (Parklife!)
Who’s that gutlord marching… you should cut down on your porklife mate… get some exercise!

(Blur, ‘Parklife’)

Sure, it’s not the meatiest definition in these pages, but Blur deserves credit for spicing up their pop lyrics with a little more zest than was strictly necessary.  Parklife was the title track of their third album, and was the third charting single from the album, reaching number 10 in the UK top 40 in September 1994.  The recording and its accompanying video highlighted the role of actor Phil Daniels (best known for his role in Quadrophenia and the soap EastEnders) as the Mockney narrator of the song, but 15 years after its release it’s singer Damon Albarn’s relentless goonery and mugging in the video that’s most striking.  If you can get past that it’s still a catchy slice of the Britpop boom at its apex.

Bona fide

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 22 June 2009 by eT

Bona fide: adjective genuine; real.  adverb chiefly Law without intention to deceive — ORIGIN Latin, ‘with good faith’.

I’m bona fide hermit out with the sun
I admit that it’s not everyone’s ideal existence
Or their idea of fun
Seems to work for me
I’m waiting for the moment
The time will come I know it
The strength of my conviction will recognise my soul

(Stellar, ‘Part of Me’)

Boh Runga, who has incidentally got a new solo album out at the moment, originally came to prominence through her snappy pop outfit Stellar.  (I refuse to add the superfluous and attention-seeking asterisk at the end).  Their first album, 1999’s Mix, was a strong collection of potential singles, with the downbeat Part of Me following the up-tempo What You Do (Bastard) into the New Zealand top 20.  In the first line of Part of Me, which reached number 4 in the local pop charts, she injects a little Latin primer to set the scene for an above-average lyrical effort.  Perhaps it contributed in some small way to Mix winning album of the year at the New Zealand Music Awards in 2000, although I suspect Runga’s quality allround song-writing and (if memory serves) American producer J.D. Souther‘s knob-twiddling work also played a major role.

Anointed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 11 June 2009 by eT

Anointed: simple past tense and past participle of anoint (to apply oil to or to pour oil upon, etc., as a sacred rite, especially for consecration).

Hey sunshine!  I’ll never take your pride

You’re what I need, you’ve been anointed

This is the highlight of your miserable life

A pessimist is never disappointed

(Theaudience, ‘A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed’)

Indie band theaudience (one word, no space) are best known today for being the launching-pad for the later solo success of their singer, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, but their second charting single also displayed a useful command of the rock dictionary.  (Or, if you will, the ‘rocktionary’).  With its knowing lyrics and the louche qualities of Ellis-Bextor’s vaguely disinterested delivery, this was one of the small gems of the late Britpop period, reaching number 27 in the UK charts in 1998.  Go on, have a listen – you’ve still gotta love that sky-high chorus, and as I’m sure the band quickly realised, it didn’t hurt to have a singer who looked as good as that.

Fandango

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 8 June 2009 by eT

Fandango: noun, a lively Spanish dance for two people, typically accompanied by castanets or tambourine.  (In this context, used to describe the general situation i.e. ‘the whole situation’.

Lingos busting while the guitar sways

B-side copy for the radio plays for something

I knew I blew the whole fandango

When the drum programmer wore a Kangol

(Teenage Fanclub & De La Soul, ‘Fallin’)

Here’s a blissful warm-hearted tune from the soundtrack to the otherwise forgettable 1999 film Judgment Night.  Whoever thought up the idea of pairing up the disparate elements of Daisy Age rappers De La Soul with Glaswegian indie strugglers Teenage Fanclub certainly had their Brilliance Socks on that day.

Equivocate

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 8 June 2009 by eT

Equivocate: verb, to use ambiguous or evasive language.

When heroes go down, they go down fast

So don’t expect any time to equivocate the past

When heroes go down, they land in flames

So don’t expect any slow and careful settling of blame

(Suzanne Vega, ‘When Heroes Go Down’)

From Suzanne Vega’s angular, quirky Mitchell Froom-produced 1992 album ‘99.9F°’, this short and sweet power-pop burst is a slice of tuneful perfection, and there’s no equivocation in that analysis. I always look forward to the triangle near the end, but then I’m weird like that.

Suzanne Vega – When Heroes Go Down