Archive | October, 2018

Certain Songs #1357: N.W.A. – “Straight Outta Compton”

Album: Straight Outta Compton
Year: 1988

“You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.”

Those words, spoken by future mogul Dr. Dre, are the introduction to one of the most influential albums ever, N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton.

We’re now three decades from this particular musical moment, and time and respectability has diluted — if not obliterated — the impact of Straight Outta Compton to the point where nobody blinks an eye at the fact that a major motion picture dramatizing that moment even exists.

But in 1988, to a privileged white twentysomething like me, Straight Outta Compton felt a bit like a transmission from outer space, where I couldn’t really relate to the circumstances under which it was created, but it sure was fascinating to me.

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Certain Songs #1356: Nova Mob – “The Last Days of Pompeii / Benediction”

Album: The Last Days of Pompeii
Year: 1991

We’ve already discussed how, after the break-up of Hüsker Dü, Grant Hart almost immediately got on his horse and released the eternal classic single, “2541,” and then followed that with the mostly overstuffed Intolerance, which at least featured one of the greatest songs ever about trying to get off the horse, “The Main.”

Since all of that, of course, Grant Hart has passed away, which will probably make the mean things I’m about to say in regards to his next project, Nova Mob, seem even meaner.

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Certain Songs #1355: The Normal – “T.V.O.D.”

Single, 1978

The Normal was the nom de pop of a guy named Daniel Miller, who felt that even the minimal amount of guitar playing required to be a punk was too damn much, and so he bought himself a synth and recorded a single seminal single that perfectly straddled the border between novelty song and profound statement.

There were a few songs like this as the DIY sea change associated with the punks reverberated across wannabe musicians who didn’t really give a rats ass about punk guitar music. Suddenly, anything was possible.

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Certain Songs #1354: Nirvana – “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For a Sunbeam (MTV Unplugged)”

Album: MTV Unplugged
Year: 1993

Coming full circle with Nirvana in a way: I opened these posts with one of their obscure covers, and I’m closing it with the greatest cover they ever did.

It goes without saying that even in 1993, the original Vaselines version of “Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam” was pretty fucking obscure. Hell, I’d bought The Way of The Vaselines in 1992, and I had totally missed it. So when it popped up as the third song on the MTV Unplugged broadcast, it was a beautiful surprise.

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Certain Songs #1353: Nirvana – “About a Girl (MTV Unplugged)”

Album: MTV Unplugged in New York
Year: 1993

Recorded in November of 1993, and airing a month later as a Christmas present, Nirvana’s appearance on MTV Unplugged encapsulated almost everything that made them a great band — only the noise was missing — and provided a tantalizing glimpse to the future as well.

Like all things Nirvana, it’s nearly impossible these days to look at it as a performance in and of itself without trying to dissect it for clues, but I’m convinced that it would still be remembered as a classic performance even if it hadn’t become a inadvertent self-provided eulogy.

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