Certain Songs #291: Death Cab For Cutie – “Transatlanticism”

dcfc Album: Transatlanticism
Year: 2003

Like a few others of their Pacific Northwest contemporaries that started around the turn of the century — Modest Mouse, Long Winters, The Decemberists, etc — I missed the very early Death Cab For Cutie albums, not discovering them until they made an album that one way or another cut through the static.

In the case of Death Cab For Cutie, that album was Transatanticism, though how it came into my life, whether via the radio or album reviews or even on one of those TV shows aimed at millennials, I have no idea. I’m just glad it did, if for no other reason that the epic title track.


Certain Songs #290: Dead Kennedys – “Moon Over Marin”

Dead-Kennedys-Plastic-Surgery-Disasters Album: Plastic Surgery Disasters
Year: 1982

While I missed the Dead Kennedys legendary performance at the Belmont Ballroom on our nation’s 205th birthday, I was lucky enough to see the Dead Kennedys a couple of times in the mid-1980s.

The second time was in 1985 at the Wilson Theater, and all I remember about it was Jello Biafra going off on a long rant about Safeway, and it seeming a bit weird to see them in a theater setting as opposed to a club setting.

The first time? Ahhhhh, therein lies a bit of a story . . .


Certain Songs #289: Dead Kennedys – “We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now”

Dead-Kennedys-In-God-We-Trust-Inc. Album: In God We Trust, Inc EP
Year: 1981

“California Über Alles” is a helluva song and a hardcore landmark, but as satire, it felt a bit off. Like there was any chance of Jerry Brown becoming President in 1980 (or 1992) (or any year, really), as the ill post-malaise winds were already beginning to blow.

Which I why I’ve always preferred the sequel/update, 1981’s “We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now.” It was all very well and good (and funny) to attack Jerry Brown from the Left for being a fascist hippie, but when the Gipper was elected, it was all hands on deck.


Certain Songs #288: Dead Kennedys – “Holiday in Cambodia”

Album: Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables
Year: 1980

I’d heard of Jello Biafra before I’d ever heard a note of the Dead Kennedys’ music.

Back in 1979 — as an early indicator of his lifelong comittment to being a provocateur — he ran for mayor of San Francisco. And as we had a subscription to the San Francisco Chronicle, I followed the news of this punk rock guy running for political office with great interest.

He didn’t win, sadly — that would be Dianne Feinstein, sigh — but I’ve always liked that he did it, and the both the clearly ironic and the clearly serious points of his platform felt equally well thought out and impossible to execute.


Certain Songs #287: The dB’s – “Today Could Be The Day”

somfrontcover Album: The Sound of Music
Year: 1987.

I somehow doubt the two things are related, but just as the Rolling Stones ended the mostly lyrically downbeat side two of their classic Out of Our Heads with the upbeat, optimistic, harmonica-driven “One More Try,” the dB’s end the mostly downbeat side two of The Sound of Music with the upbeat, optimistic “Today Could Be The Day.”

Which is just as well, because after songs like “Think Too Hard,” “Never Before and Never Again, “A Better Place” and “Looked at The Sun Too Long,” it was clearly a great call to end on a note of hope.