Category: The Daily Loper
Album: Crazy Rhythms
On their debut album, 1980’s Crazy Rhythms, The Feelies had it both ways: they looked like total nerds, what their preppy shirts, normal haircuts and not one but two guys wearing glasses.
But their music was weird and unpredictable: they often started with a couple of nicely strummed guitars, and usually ended up with a big ole rave-up with offbeat percussion instruments coloring the song throughout.
So a song like album-closer and title track “Crazy Rhythms” is barely a song at all, but more of an excuse to bounce guitars off of each other, which is why Glenn Mercer just rushes through the verses so they could get to the fun part — the rave-up!
Said rave-up starts with drummer Anton Fier’s (the future Golden Palomino, not the future Letterman drummer) just-crazy-enough drums marching in lockstep with bassist Keith DeNunzio, who holds down the fort while Fier just slightly messes with the beat.
Eventually Mercer and Bill Million come in with their guitars, picking and strumming against that beat and against each other. Sometimes one drops out, or the other picks it up and plays something new against the beat.
There are no guitar solos here — just two rhythm guitars that strum and churn and storm for a while. And strum and churn some more. And eventually they decide that it’s time to stop and let Mercer rush through the verses again one last time.
“Crazy Rhythms” live at CBGBs, 1978
Album: Fear Fun
Because everything he does feels like it’s coated in five layers of irony and then dipped into a vat of insincerity, it’s hard for me to get a read on Father John Misty, who has now released two albums of otherwise relatively conventional Laurel Canyon rock.
But anyone who can cover the Ryan Adams cover of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Slate” with a drop-dead Lou Reed impersonation is going get extra attention from me.
Luckily, it helps that he can an incredibly funny and observant lyricist, as on “I’m Writing a Novel,’ which starts with:
I ran down the road, pants down to my knees
Screaming ‘please come help me,
That Canadian shaman gave a little too much to me!’
And I’m writing a novel because it’s never been done before
It’s that last line that kills me: he nails the arrogance of every single writer ever — including your humble servant — who rationalizes their own need to write by pretending they have something new and different to say.
As the song moves on, it falls into a groove that could have come directly from Willy and The Poor Boys, while Misty piles on absurdity after absurdity.
I rode to Malibu on a dune buggy with Neil
He said ‘you’re gonna have to drown me down on the beach
If you ever want to write the real’
And I said ‘I’m sorry, young man what is your name again?’
Of course, I’ve lived in California my whole life, so I have no idea how much this type of stuff plays anywhere else — it’s incredibly L.A. heavy, and after nearly 15 years of living in L.A., I’ve come to love songs that make fun of it probably a bit to much.
So it’s impossible for me to resist a song that sounds like it coulda come out in 1970, but ends with an ace couplet like:
I’ll never leave the canyon ’cause I’m surrounded on all sides
By people writing novels and living on amusement rides
Official Video for “I’m Writing a Novel”
Album: You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby
Heh. One thing is for sure: if you have a problem with repetition, you probably can’t stand “The Rockafeller Skank,” which repeats its only — sampled, natch, cos no actual human could sing it — verse dozens, hundreds, millions of times.
Check its Google Play lyrics page to see what I mean.
That repetition meant that half of the people who loved “The Rockafeller Skank” as a novelty song; the other half loved it as a disruptive piece of art and the third half loved it as both!
That third half is probably where I land: “The Rockafeller Skank” is an amazing production, with something completely amazing and new coming around every single corner while also remaining exactly the same throughout the entire song.
At the same time, it was fun and weird to sing along with that verse:
Right about now, the funk soul brother
Check it out now, the funk soul brother
Also adding to both the genius and novelty arguments: the fact that the erstwhile Normal Cook called the song “The Rockafeller Skank” instead of “Funk Soul Brother” You know that right now — almost 20 years later — there are people right about now who have this song stuck in their head without knowing what it’s really called.
And if you’re one of the people who love this song, then you also need to check out the ultra-rare “The Satisfaction Skank,” which is exactly what you’d expect: the “Funk soul brother” and “Rockafeller” samples over a breakdown of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” which I think was performed once on BBC Radio One and will be bootlegged forever.
Official video for “The Rockafeller Skank”
“The Satisfaction Skank”
Album: Ooh La La
It must say something about Faces that their greatest song wasn’t just the last song on their last studio album, but also wasn’t even sung by Rod Stewart or Ronnie Lane, but rather Ronnie Wood.
Apparently both Rod Stewart and Ronnie Lane tried singing lead, but their producer — the incomparable Glyn Johns — suggested Ronnie Wood give it a try, and that’s the take they went with.
And quite naturally, all three men laid claim to the song as they got older and it kept having more and more resonance. “Ooh La La” is like that: when you’re young, you feel sorry for the granddad in the song, but you don’t particularly relate.
And in fact, I’ll probably never relate to the verses: they’ll always read too “women are evil” for me when I’ve always had the opposite experience with women. But while the grand-dad in the song is relating his specific experience, “Ooh La La” has a bigger lesson to give, I think.
Poor young grandson, there’s nothing I can say
You’ll have to learn, just like me
And that’s the hardest way
Ooh la la, ooh la la la yeh
Just because it’s a cliche doesn’t mean it ain’t true: over the years life kicks you in the ass and in the balls and repeatedly in the face, and you make every kind of mistake, and suddenly the chorus of “Ooh La La” can cause you to burst into tears:
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger
And that’s where the genius of having Ron Wood singing pays full fruit: it’s his slightly damaged, but utterly empathetic vocal that gives the song an extra “oomph” of emotion. It’s as direct as the words.
Cazart! I haven’t even discussed the music of “Ooh La La,” cos I’ve been so fixated as outing myself as a middle-aged man who totally gets it, but the music is absolutely key to the greatness of “Ooh La La” as a near-perfect folk-rock song.
Based upon an circular acoustic guitar riff that also provides the melody in the chorus, my favorite musical part of “Ooh La La” is Ian McLagan’s piano solo, which comes in just when you’re expecting the second chorus.
At first, Mac is all barrelhouse and arrogance, playing a jumble of notes, fighting against the slow steady pulse of the song. But over time, it starts smoothing out, and eventually, he’s playing the melody of the chorus that he so rudely interrupted.
It’s a metaphor for the theme of the song!
“Ooh La La”
Album: A Nod’s As Good As a Wink… to a Blind Horse
I’ve been trying to figure out for decades why I don’t unreservedly love the Faces. I mean, there isn’t anything in their sound or style that isn’t completely up my alley.
And their influence on things that I do love unreservedly — like The Replacements — is well-documented.
So it must be as simple as the fact that Rod Stewart kept all of his best songs for his solo albums, and — with a couple of exceptions — Ronnie Lane was never his equal as a songwriter.
“Debris,” of course, is one of those exceptions. It opens with Ron Wood quietly soloing over a bed of acoustic guitars and Ian McLagan’s electric piano as Lane sings:
I left you on the debris
At the Sunday morning market
You were sorting through the odds and ends.
You was looking for a bargain
“Debris” is one of those songs that just kinda floats like a faraway cloud, never quite coming into focus, but always inviting you to come closer and check it out. At some point Rod Stewart pops in to sing some harmony vocals, like he just happened to be hanging around the studio while they recorded the song and Ronnie Lane waved him on over to sing for a bit.
Meanwhile Ron Wood’s been playing leads throughout the entire song, but they never even come close to taking the song over, because it would be rude. So even his flashy bit that introduces his solo in the middle of the song feels natural and unforced.
I get that this is what people love about Faces: the unstructured nature of their best songs, and how they’re all contributing while noone is really leading. And that approach applied to a song as gorgeous as “Debris” always makes me wonder what else I’m missing.
Fan-made video for “Debris”