Category: The Daily Loper

Certain Songs #548: Guided by Voices – “Over The Neptune / Mesh Gear Fox”

gbv propeller Album: Propeller
Year: 1992

“Alright, rock ‘n’ roll!
G!B!V!
G!B!V!
G!B!V!
G!B!V!”

This is where the legend begins. Sure, Guided by Voices were a band prior to Propeller, but this is still where the legend begins.

The big rock. The prog rock. The lo-fi. The pop hooks. It’s all here on nearly six minutes of poorly-recorded yet still transcendent bliss. “Over The Neptune / Mesh Gear Fox” might not be the longest song ever recorded by GBV, but it’s the longest of the 229 Guided By Voices songs that are in my iTunes.

Which means that it’s completely atypical — 175 of those songs are under 3:00, with the shortest weighing in at 0:18 — and that’s also part of their legend somehow.

The point being is that we’ve landed on a band I’ve loved for over 20 years now, and that 229 songs in my iTunes is what — a half?, a quarter? a hundredth? — of the songs they’ve actually issued.

Just like calculating Pi, it’s impossible to any device known to mankind to fully count how many songs that Robert Pollard has written and released. That’s also part of the legend.

Of course, none of that would even remotely matter without songs like “Over The Neptune / Mesh Gear Fox,” which connect in reality, as well.

Like during the “Over The Neptune” part when Pollard sings the chorus over chugging and churning guitars.

And hey, let’s throw the great party
Today for the rest of our lives
The fun is just about to get started
So throw the switch, it’s rock and roll time

After the second chorus, the guitars start heading for the stratosphere, seemingly unstoppable until they suddenly run out of steam and start tumbling back to Earth, but Pollard seems non-plussed, swimming in the middle of the tide below until the drums bring “Mesh Gear Fox” fully online, stately and anthemic.

And oh, mesh gear fox
Put out another bag of tricks from scientific box
Time’s wasting and you’re not gonna live forever
And if you do
I’ll come back and marry you
No use changing now, you couldn’t anyhow and ever

Like so many GBV songs, the lyrics con’t make complete linear sense, and yet the emotion with which Pollard invests “I’ll come back and marry you,” does make complete linear sense, so when the guitars — some combination of Mitch Mitchell, Jim Pollard and Tobin Sprout, no doubt — start squealing against each other until the fade, the whole thing feels like a rock ‘n’ roll fever dream that came creeping in from some other dimension.

What even was that? Oh right. The beginning of a legend.

“Over The Neptune / Mesh Gear Fox”

“Over The Neptune / Mesh Gear Fox” performed live in Oslo in 2011

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Certain Songs #547: The Greg Kihn Band – “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)”

Greg Kihn Breakup Album: Rockihnroll
Year: 1981

Because I actually kept records for a short period of time, I can report that I saw The Greg Kihn Band six times between March ’81 & October ’82.

Why? For one reason, neither Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty were playing Fresno during that time period, and while seeing The Greg Kihn Band wasn’t even close to seeing Bruce or Tom — both of whom Tim & I road-tripped to see late in the summer of ’81 — it was a reasonable enough simulacrum, especially considering the amount of effort it took to get to the Star Palace, where he played a lot of those shows.

No one who wasn’t there is going to believe this — including middle-aged me, at this point — but Greg Kihn always killed when he played Fresno. His songs, which sounded OK on the radio, somehow gained extra power when he was performing them live.

This made it easy to root for him, despite — or possibly also because of — the ongoing series of puns against his name that made up his album titles. Early on, there was Next of Kihn (a good one!), and from 1981-1985, Rockihnroll, Kihntinued, Kihnspiracy, Kihntagous, and Citizen Kihn.

It’s like they had a drunken band session at some point in 1980 where they brainstormed all of these album titles and then figured that since they already had the titles, they might as well record the records. The biggest problem was that I never liked his records all that much.

Which is why I pretty much stopped following him at some point during that run — I doubt I heard all of 1983’s Kihnspiracy, which had his biggest hit, the MTV-driven (and Weird Al parodied!) “Jeopardy.”

That said, while I probably ended up getting sick of it at the time, his first big single, “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)”, is easily my favorite of the songs I heard, and the rare power pop single that actually became a huge pop hit, reaching #15 in 1981.

Hooked a snaking guitar line and as well as Greg Kihn’s “ah ah ah ah ah ah oh” after every line of every verse and featuring a chorus where against big staccato chords he shouts:


They don’t write ’em like that anymore
They don’t write ’em like that anymore

The best part was at the end, when drummer Larry Lynch added an awesome drum roll hook to the chorus, so the drum rolls, guitar chords and Kihn’s vocals were all battling each other for supremacy while combining to create what remains an irresitible chorus.

It’s also ironic that a song that traded in nostalgia to a certain extent has also kinda come true: for better or worse, they don’t write ’em like “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)” anymore.

“The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em”)

“The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)” performed live in 1981

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Certain Songs #546: Green on Red – “That’s What Dreams”

Green On+Red+Gas+Food+Lodging+-+Red+Vinyl+546388 Album: Gas Food Lodging
Year: 1985

Here’s the thing about the so-called “Paisley Underground,” the loose collective of bands that produced some of the greatest alt-rock of the 1980s: a lot of them ended up being proto-Americana bands.

I’m thinking primarily of The Long Ryders, The Dream Syndicate and Green on Red, the key members of which of course fueled Danny & Dusty’s still eternal The Lost Weekend.

I mean, after all, The Long Ryders were never all that psychedelic in the first place, The Dream Syndicate mostly on the basis of Karl Precoda’s guitar, and Green on Red primarily because their early sound was dominated by Chris Cacavas’s swirling organ.

But that clearly changed when Chuck Prophet joined the band, and you can hear the difference in the long, stately opening to their greatest song, “That’s What Dreams.” His opening guitar lick is basically saying, “Hey Neil Young fans, check this out!”

Meanwhile lead singer Dan Stuart is down, but not totally out:

It seems nobody has any faith anymore
Well isn’t that what we invented heroes for
Got the word at 10 that I was through
Still a young man, so I know that ain’t true

That’s what dreams were made for
That’s what dreams were made for

When the rest of the band join in with Stuart on the chorus, “That’s What Dreams” becomes something entirely new: an early anthem for the slacker generation. Sure, maybe our lives currently suck, but we can dream, can’t we?

Then Chuck Prophet weighs in with a helluva guitar solo, zigging and zagging and circling around Cacavas’s ever-atmospheric organ, after which Stuart has one last thing to say:

It seems a handshake means nothing today
Lifetime of work sold down the river for a man’s weekly pay
Guess I’ll just be bored the REST of MY LIFE
It’s better than giving up the fight

That’s what dreams were made for
That’s what dreams were made for
That’s what dreams were made for
That’s what dreams were made for

The way that Stuart hit “REST of MY LIFE” was full of fire and passion, and as amplified by drummer Alex MacNicol’s extra hard snare crack, you could tell that he wanted pretty much anything but that to be his fate. And it certainly wasn’t his dream.

My dream for “That’s What Dreams” was not unlike my dream for a bunch of other great mid-80s alt-rock songs: that it somehow would garner enough airplay — where, it wasn’t actually clear — to break through to a mass audience. At the time, it was inconceivable to me a song like this wouldn’t be huge if it was actually exposed to a mass audience.

I was probably wrong, but that’s what dreams were made for.

Fan-made video for “That’s What Dreams”

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Certain Songs #545: Green Day – “Are We The Waiting”

Green Day American Idiot Album: American Idiot
Year: 2004

Like the rest of Western Civilization, I overrated Green Day’s American Idiot when it came out in 2004, and have spent the subsequent decade underrating it.

On one hand, it’s easily their best — or at least, most consistent — studio album. On the other hand, it’s pretty much overwhelmed the rest of their career, and that past decade has seen Billie Joe Armstrong either embracing it — the Broadway musical or the 21st Century Breakdown album — or trying to figure out how to make people forget it, as in the Uno!, Dos! & Tre! records.

My favorite reactions were the “back-to-basics” Foxborough Hot Tubs album and the Demolicious compilation that came out after the Uno!, Dos! & Tre! albums, about which I’ve just now realized that I’ve only heard Uno! and disliked it enough to not bother with the other two.

In any event, none of this has to do with my favorite song from American Idiot, “Are We The Waiting,” which is less of a song than a piece of atmosphere combining two of my favorite things: a modified Phil Spector beat and punk rock football stadium chorus.

But I really love the way Billie Joe sings the verses with a weary resignation:

Starry nights, city lights coming down over me
Skyscrapers and stargazers in my head
Are we we are, are we we are the waiting unknown
This dirty town was burning down in my dreams
Lost and found city bound in my dreams

It’s really a neat trick for him to sing the words of the chorus all by himself over those Spectory drums and a lonely guitar in the middle of each verse, so when the guitars ramp up and the massive overdubbed vocals kick in during each chorus, it manages to keep the melancholy atmosphere of the song, which is part of why it’s my favorite Green Day song.

I mean, in the first wave of punk, the massive chorus vocals usually signified unstoppable power. The backing vocals on the choruses of “White Riot” or “Anarchy in the U.K.” helped make it seem that riots and anarchy had already started, and The Clash and The Sex Pistols were just capturing the sounds of England falling apart in real time.

But in the case of “Are We The Waiting,” it feels like Billie Joe has placed himself in the middle of a generation that is all stuck in the same place just standing around waiting for something to happen. And in fact, they’re not even sure that’s what they’re doing, so they just keep screaming the same question and futilely trying to answer it.

Are we?
We are.
Are we?
We are.
The waiting?
Unknown.

Fan-made video for “Are We The Waiting”

“Are We The Waiting” performed live in 2005

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Certain Songs #495: Geto Boys – “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”

geto boys mind
Album: We Can’t Be Stopped
Year: 1991

The key to Gangsta rap’s massive popularity was, of course, larger-than-life celebrations of the dangers and rewards of the gang-banging lifestyle, as millions of teenagers who would freeze from fear from actually having live any of these scenarios got off pretending they were as hard as the guys in the songs.

Kinda like superhero comics. In fact, somebody should chart the rise of the popularity of superhero comics vs. the popularity of gangsta rap. No black superheros? Have you ever heard “Midnight” by Ice-T? That’s some Batman-level shit right there.

Anyways, my problem was that I was slightly older, so while I appreciated the reportage, the violence and misogyny always made me uneasy. So I mostly gravitated to songs that looked at the life from different angles — the devastating “Dead Homiez;” the exhilarating “Gotta Lotta Love” and the paranoiac “Mind Playing Tricks on Me.”

Rapping over a icy cool Isaac Hayes sample, the Geto Boys spin verse after verse filled with same themes that powered six seasons of The Sopranos — that a life where you fuck people over on a regular basis, a life where you could be killed at any moment — “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” tells stories that could come right out of a session with Dr. Melfi:

Day by day it’s more impossible to cope
I feel like I’m the one that’s doing dope
Can’t keep a steady hand because I’m nervous
Every Sunday morning I’m in service
Playing for forgiveness
And trying to find an exit out of the business
I know the Lord is looking at me
But yet and still it’s hard for me to feel happy
I often drift while I drive
Havin fatal thoughts of suicide
BANG and get it over with
And then I’m worry-free, but that’s bullshit

In the end, Bushwick Bill is down on his knees pounding the concrete while hallucinating a beatdown, and the song just fades to black, with no relief in sight.

And man, what if David Chase thought to score that last scene of The Sopranos to “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” instead of that fucking Journey song? Maybe it would have been too on the nose — as we see all of those folks at the diner who might or might not be ready to kill him — but it would be kind of cool to see how that scene would play.

That said, Tony Soprano wouldn’t be caught dead listening to this song,

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page