Tag Archives: Oasis

2011: Record Machine

2011 sucked. There’s no other way to put it. The year started with a devastating personal loss that I still haven’t really recovered from, and was followed by months of depression and unemployment (which were already problems.) I started working again in July, but there has still been a definite feeling of uncertainty and sadness hanging over me.

Music, usually a source of much comfort, escape, and pleasure in the past, wasn’t really that big a factor in things this year. I’d say about 75% what I did listen to were podcasts; comedy (Adam Carolla, Pretty Good Podcast, Totally Laime, Doug Loves Movies), soccer (Guardian Football Weekly, BBC World Footbal Phone-In), or history (New Books in History, BBC Witness.) I guess this is the 21st century equivalent of switching your car stereo over to AM. Listening in on in-depth human conversations on topics I was interested in by people whose pseudo-company I enjoyed was much more of a comfort to me than listening to music.

All that being said, when I did to listen to music it was to already-established favorites (60s mod and psychedelic, 90s Britpop, and the contemporary purveyors of such) that I went to. Listening to my mix probably won’t unearth any hidden gems; most of my picks were singles and songs that received some kind of exposure (how else would I have heard them if I wasn’t putting in the effort on my end) though there are a few exceptions where I went with an album track over a single. Perhaps most telling is that as I’ve read over other various Top Tens of the Year and Best of Playlists, not only do I not recognize the vast majority of names on them, I don’t really care to.

Alright, that’s enough negativity, on to the tunes that did move me in some way this year. The format is the same as years past; I’ve kept it to CD length, and sequenced it to play as such. (Actually, according to iTunes, this clocks in at 1:20:01 but it’d be easy with some slight post-production trimming to bring it under the limit.)

You can download it here:

http://www.divshare.com/download/16403959-1fb

And here are the liner notes…(click on the song title to hear)

1. Aaron Tveit, Jr. – “Goodbye” from Catch Me If You Can: The Musical

In the summer, just before going back to work, I had the opportunity to visit New York City with my sister and her family. All of us Broadway aficionados, it meant a lot of shows, which was fine by me. Musicals remind me of my childhood and continue to be a good source of escapism when things are down. While on this trip I did have the surreal pleasure of seeing Rock of Ages with Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez seated directly in front of me, but the next night I went off by myself to see the musical adaptation of Frank Abagnale, Jr’s entertaining story of his years as a fleet-footed con man in the 60s. (My sister and company went to see Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) Already a successful book and 2002 film, the musical was an enjoyable, light-on-its-feet jaunt through the time period, with pleasing 60s design and era-aping tunes. This song, however, came at the end, when Frank decides to give up his transient life on the run, and do his time. He is saying goodbye to his wastrel youth; it is sad and wistful, reluctant but accepting. This is a feeling I’ve shared for much of the year. It is the penultimate song of the show, but I felt it’s a good track to start with, beginning at the end.

2. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – “(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine”

On August 29, 2009, backstage at a festival in Paris, France, Oasis, my favorite band of all time, dissolved. Noel and Liam Gallagher had had their last blow-up. Two bands emerged in 2011 from the wreckage; Beady Eye (Liam and the rest of the final line-up) and this (Noel and friends.) Beady Eye came out first but they will be addressed at the end of the mix. Noel’s album showed he still has the undeniable gift of writing the best choruses you’ll ever hear and will be humming for ages. While lacking the swagger and snarl of Oasis (perhaps for the better), it was a back-to-front masterpiece of 10 nearly perfect songs. This one was the track that immediately jumped out at me; it had its origins in the latter days of Oasis, and gets the full treatment here. As skyscraping a chorus as you can imagine this was a magnificent statement of intent. Admittedly it kind of has an anticlimactic coda (I want that hair-raising chorus just one more time!) but for those few seconds when the power chords are hit, the strings swoop in and Noel’s voice soars, all is right with the world.

3. Cast – “See That Girl”

The year’s other most welcome return for me musically was the reformation of Cast, an underrated Britpop band that broke up in 2001 after the bizarre, fan-alienating Beetroot record (which I actually liked.) Ten years on, founder John Power (bassist of The La’s), got the old crew back together and recorded a delightful new album of Mersey pop. It’s unlikely they’ll get to the States (I don’t think they got over here the first time around either) with this release but I love it and has been my most listened to record after the two Oasis offshoots.

4. The Rifles – “Tangled Up in Love” 

Another straight-ahead Britrock outfit, this song has provided the bed music of countless soccer highlights, and it does work its way into your head quite effectively. To be honest, I don’t really have much else to say on this, just a good tune.

5. Babybird – “Jesus Stag Night Club”

Stephen Jones was on last year’s mix and returned again with another fine record of clever, catchy arch pop, of which this was the leadoff track. I especially dig the “Sympathy for the Devil” echoing ‘woo-woos‘.

6. Deer Tick – “Let’s All Go To The Bar”

A loving nod to my surrounding environs, this is a Providence band that has achieved some national and even international recognition. A rollicking tribute to this town’s appetite for the hard stuff that is fun… and accurate. 🙂

7. The Vaccines – “Wetsuit”

Hotly tipped by the UK press at the start of the year, these Londoners mainly kept up the rock end of things with a short, sharp record that barely cracked 30 minutes. This, an elegiac tribute to carefree summers of youth, was my favorite track, though somewhat misrepresentative of their hard-driving sound. The Instagram video is lovely as well.

8. Coldplay – “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”

Coldplay get a lot of flack from the hipster music community, but it seemed like some were starting to come around. The reviews for their album were mostly positive. I read a comparison that finally put a finger on their appeal; they’re the new ABBA. Shamelessly melodic, lush, loads of mass-appeal, often a guilty behind-closed-doors pleasure for people., and they will probably get a lot more critical respect in the future. I agree, though I’ve never been particularly shameful of my genuine like of them. This song was a big one for me when it came out in June, and effectively soundtracks my memory of the Stanley Cup Finals of this year, which my beloved Vancouver Canucks made for only the third time in their 40+ year history. They’re still Cup-less after losing a dispiriting seven game series to the Boston Bruins, which put me at odds with my adopted region for much of the summer. Still, many a pleasant, early summer’s evening stroll (but back in time for face-off!) was spent with this on the earbuds.

9. Elbow – “Lippy Kids”

Elbow are a band whose mass-appeal (in the UK at least) I’ve never really quite shared. Occasionally they have a good anthem, and I was a legitimate fan of their 2003 record Cast of Thousands, but how they continue to be festival darlings and seeming British cultural touchstones eludes me. Still, I did like this atmospheric slow burner, whose chorus gave their album its title.

10. The Crookes – “The Crookes Laundry Murders, 1922”

A band that that so desperately wants to be the Smiths it hurts, just look at that title. They don’t quite have the tunes yet, but it’s still early days. I did like this forlorn story song about an infamous murder case in interwar Britain. Crookes is a neighborhood in Sheffield where they hail from, BTW.

11. Cornershop – “Once There Was A Wintertime”

Another long term favorite of mine, the ‘shop released an album this year with Bubbley Kaur, a Punjabi singer. Admittedly a little of this goes a long way but this track was a highlight for me; dig the Bacharachian horns, even if they are chopped up quite a bit.

12. The Kooks – “Junk of the Heart (Happy)”

An undeniable, brilliant single, admittedly the parent album didn’t quite live up to the lofty expectations it raised. It was OK, but kind of samey and nothing as memorable as this slice of pop perfection.

13. Viva Brother – “New Year’s Day”

Bloke rock to the extreme, this slinky rocker is very ear-wormy. One of only three concerts I attended all year (the two Oasis offshoots being the others.)

14. Brett Anderson – “This Must Be Where It Ends”

One of the delights of this year was the deluxe reissue treatment the Suede back catalog received. Singer Brett Anderson also quietly put out his best solo album to top it off. His previous solo efforts were wispy, melancholy affairs that were pretty much in one ear out the other. This one however was his most Suede-y and with the news that a proper new Suede album is in the works (which would be the first in a decade) this is a pleasing signpost of what could be one of the great comebacks of next year. Let’s hope the title of this song does not come true.

15. Snow Patrol – “Life-ning”

Another band that gets a lot of critical scorn, but pleases the masses and myself, this awkwardly titled mellow number was my favorite track from their album, describing the things he wants in life. I especially like the line “Ireland in the World Cup/Either north or south” It’s not the World Cup, but the Republic of Ireland (i.e. the south) will be at EURO 2012 next summer, their first major tournament appearance since the 2002 World Cup.

16. Death Cab for Cutie – “You Are A Tourist”

I was largely indifferent to the Death Cab album this year, but I did quite like this, the lead single. Moody but melodic. Cool one-take video too.

17. The View – “Best Lasts Forever”

A Scottish band that I’ve been aware of for a while but never really listened to much before, their record Bread and Circuses really caught my ear, and was one of my favorites. Opening track “Grace” was slated to kick off this mix for a long time, but eventually this big, sweeping happy sing-a-long took its place.

18. Adele – “Someone Like You”

Easily the musical phenomenon on either side of the Atlantic this year, I was certainly not immune to this album‘s, and specifically this song’s, heart-rending appeal. Its tear-inducing effect even got its own Saturday Night Live sketch. I debated including this as it would almost seem redundant, it being so ubiquitous this year, but it deserves its place nonetheless. Many was the day where I would hear this on the cafeteria radio at lunch and would be in a funk the rest of the afternoon no matter what I put on to try and counter it. Something so powerful can’t be denied.

19. Beady Eye – “Wigwam”

Returning to the other band to rise from the ashes of Oasis, this epic was the highlight of Liam’s record for me (though the perfect 2-minute “For Anyone” was a close second). The album itself was full of blustery, bluesy rock n roll chock full of attitude. Some of it brilliant, some it forgettable. Hearing this track live took it up another notch though, the big build up before the final sing-a-long kicks in (around 2:20-3:50 here) is etched in my concert-going history book. One note: be sure to lower the volume before this track starts, this is easily the loudest damned mastered album I’ve ever heard. I lost count of how many times I jumped when a track from it would come up on random and bludgeon my ears.

Enjoy everyone!

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The Onion AV Club Questionnaire and The Girl in the Dirty Shirt

One of my favorite running features in the Onion A.V. Club is what they call AVQ&A, where each of the regular staffers answer some pop-culture related question. Being professional pop culture writers they answer at length and go off on amusing tangents with each weekly question.

There is a new one each Friday, and while enjoying today’s (What’s your favorite deep album cut?) I thought, this would be an interesting thing to answer myself. So I copy-and-pasted each of the questions into a document and came up with…The Onion A.V. Club Questionnaire.

Some of the questions were time-specific, so I did some tweaking to make them more evergreen. I will answer some of these from time to time, but with 71 questions, unless I did it rapid fire style, I can’t do them all in one blast. So please, feel free to comment with your own responses, or just go off and think of them on your own.

To the AV Club themselves, please consider this an homage to your brilliant forum and witty writing. In other words, I hope you don’t sue or cry plagiarism. Pretty please…

And here it is…

Wait, one quick note: I answer #21 at length after the list.

1. What movie have you spent the most time arguing about?

2. What would you name your imaginary band?

3. What was the first album you bought with your own money?

4. What was your most embarrassing early celebrity crush?

5. What’s your most-rewatched movie?

6. What album have you spent the most time arguing about?

7. What one book would you most like to make the rest of the world read?

8. What canceled-before-its-time TV show do you miss the most?

9. What is the best live music show you’ve ever been to?

10. What was your most memorable Halloween costume?

11. Do you have a well-known film/album/show that you’ve specifically resisted from viewing, etc. for whatever reason?

12. What was your most disappointing concert experience?

13. What are your pop-culture “sacred cows”? What entertainment opinions do you consider so inarguable that attempts to argue the subject provoke instant rage or frustration?

14. What is the worst movie-watching experience you’ve had in another person’s company (be it a date, your parents, classmates, etc.)?

15. What piece of pop culture do you most fondly remember looking forward to at the time?

16. What band, currently broken up but still alive, would you do anything to see play one last live show?

17. What are your pop-culture guilty pleasures? Nothing that you’re proud to be different about—nothing based out of nostalgia, irony, or a love of kitsch or camp.

18. If you could make a single book, film, or album required material to graduate from high school, what would it be?

19. What handful of songs would you put on a mix-tape for someone you love or are trying to woo?

20.What’s your most treasured pop-cultural possession?

21. Are there “deep cuts” you wish artists had released as singles so the rest of the world knew how great those album songs were?

22. Maybe you never understood why critics go apeshit for The Velvet Underground and Nico. Or maybe you didn’t think that No Country For Old Men was that great. Whatever it is, everyone has at least one work of art that they just don’t understand the hype about. What are yours?

23. Who is your all-time favorite bad-ass from television or film?

24. Are there any actors, directors, etc. who you now consider blacklisted because of a particular work or group of works? Is there anyone you will take a lifetime pass on?

25. What songs/bands that you used to like can you not listen to anymore because of the memories you associate with them? I’m thinking along the lines of the favorite band of an ex that broke your heart, a dead friend’s favorite song, and/or the song that was playing when you got some particularly bad news.

26. Which artist gets a lifetime pass from you, whatever else he/she may do?

27. Which works of fiction create a world (or a version of reality) that you’d consider most enjoyable to live in?

28.What’s your favorite album of 2010 so far?

29. Looking ahead to July 4th: “What part of pop-culture makes you proudest to be an American?”

30.Who would you say represents us as “our Beatles,” or the Great American Rock Band?

31. What pieces of entertainment have authentically frightened you?

32. When did you each first individually realize that you were pop-culture geeks?” Which is to say, the first time we realized we cared about some facet of the entertainment world maybe a little more than our friends, or a little more than was necessarily appropriate as far as those around us were concerned.

33. What are your best pop-culture-related memories of the past decade?

34. What’s your personal pop-culture cause, the thing people always scoff at you for liking and that you always try to convince naysayers to give a first (or second or third) chance to anyway?

35. Have you made any pop-culture pilgrimages?

36. What’s your favorite song? No hedging with three or four. What’s your favorite song? You are allowed to say, “It changes all the time.” But I’m asking you right now.

37. Is there a piece of pop culture that absolutely, 100 percent never fails to make you laugh? (Or at least smile?)

38.What movie/TV show/album/whatever would you like to be able to see/hear again for the first time?

39. What age-inappropriate (or not) movie did you see as a child that scared the shit out of you at the time, but now seems ridiculous?

40.Here’s a Q&A suggestion in two parts—what piece of pop culture will you insist on sharing with your children, and what piece of pop culture was passed down to you from your parents?

41. Which films make you cry?

42. I’m curious about art you didn’t like the first time you consumed it (despite the fact that you felt you “should” like it), but then upon returning to said art after some period of time, something clicked and you just “got it.”

43. What bit of pop-cultural ephemera still sticks in your own personal quote machine that few people get?

44. What are your favorite local advertisements, the ones you and your friends/family remember for years after they aired?

45. What is the one song/band that is summer to you?

46. Did you ever see a video or TV performance from a band that made you fall instantly in love with them?

47. What do you think about when you think about Michael Jackson??

48.What was your first job, and what film/book/song/etc. do you most associate with it?

49. What pieces of pop culture would you like to have displayed at your own wedding? If already married, what music or literature did you have at your wedding?

50. So if someone asked you to recommend a first comic or graphic novel, what would you recommend?

51. What are the websites do you visit when they’re looking to get their procrastination on?

52. What celebrity do you think would make a good best friend?

53. What covers do you dream of hearing? Which filmmaker should adapt what book or short story? What are your ideal artistic collaborations that don’t yet exist?

54. What popular / acclaimed art did you come to too late in life to really enjoy?

55. If you could permanently wipe one cliché—character, plot, anything—from the future of culture, what would it be?

56. What story clichés do you actively enjoy, or at least usually find effective?

57. Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met face to face?

58. was wondering what blind spots you had growing up that an older you wishes you knew about. Is there anything you guys missed out on?

59. Do you guys have any incredibly specific micro-genres that you feel you might be the only fan in the world of?

60.What music do you like to work out to?

61. What entertainment do you specifically seek out when you’re sick and miserable?

62. What’s your “drop everything” movie? The movie that whenever it comes on or you happen across, you have to stop whatever you’re doing and watch it through to the end.

63. Do you have any CDs/films/books that are linked to anything for you personally, and that you try to experience as part of a tradition? For example, a holiday movie you always have to watch around the date.

64. What kind of music/movies/podcasts/TV shows you listen to while working?

65. Do you have any pop-culture resolutions? Is there a genre you finally intend to get into, an artist you want to explore, a book you haven’t read yet but plan to, a movie or filmmaker or movement you’re overdue to experience?

66. What did you feel obligated to watch/read because you didn’t want to miss out on some big cultural thing, even though you knew you’d hate it?

67. What are you a pop-culture completist about? (You own every album and all B-sides, or complete filmography, or bibliography, etc.)

68.Has there ever been something in pop culture you’ve fallen hard out of love with?

69. If you had to choose one Onion article that defined who you are, that you identify with so much that it actually makes you a bit uneasy, which would it be?

70. What are your pop-culture rules? That is, the up-front guidelines that will prevent you from seeing/reading/listening to something, or that will guarantee that you’ll see/read/listen to it even if reviews or word of mouth or past experience with the creators have been negative?

71. Do you ever crave certain foods after watching a particular movie or television show?

Appropriately I will answer today’s question which sparked this idea.

21. Are there “deep cuts” you wish artists had released as singles so the rest of the world knew how great those album songs were?

Oasis – “The Girl in the Dirty Shirt”

Track number six on their infamous 1997 album Be Here Now, this is one of the band’s greatest, most underrated songs. The story goes that chief Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher walked into a room where his then-wife had recently spilled something on her shirt. She was mortified and embarrassed, but Noel laughed and said something to the effect of “I love you, why would I care if your shirt was dirty?” The proverbial light bulb went off over his head, and a new song from his prolific, possibly-substance-fueled mind was born.

With a stuttering intro and a 12-bar blues beat, vaguely recalling their own “Shakermaker”, at first things seems like it will go into middling mid tempo rock territory. But then a light-heared, easygoing keyboard pops up and we segue nicely into Liam Gallagher’s unmistakable voice:

If I may be so bold that I just say something
Come and make me my day
The clouds around your soul
Don’t gather there for nothing

Suddenly it becomes clear what this song is. It is a courtship; an old-fashioned word but it fits splendidly. A guy likes a girl and knows her life is stressed, and he wants nothing more than to cheer her up, make her feel loved, to experience joy. However, in the following lines that working class, how shall we say, directness, comes into the equation, not to mention sense of humor.

Why d’you need a reason for to feel happy
Or shining for the rest of the world
Give me just a smile and would you make it snappy
Get your shit together girl

Perhaps that s-bomb would have made it problematic as a single but it seems very quickly after this time that profanity became the norm in pop music. Just quietly dropped from the radio edits of countless hit singles.

Next we go into the bridge, where our hero continues to prod the apple of his eye to find out what is bothering her. The piano happily chugs along with a jangly vaguely Bryds-ian guitar line, and Noel throws in a gentle, questioning guitar chord, almost as if asking “What’s wrong?” We build (something Oasis are bloody masters at) and build then we get to the glorious, happy-go-lucky infectious chorus:

Is would you maybe, come dancing with me
Cos to me it doesn’t matter
If your hopes and dreams are shattered
When you say something you make me believe
In the girl who wears a dirty shirt

It gets me every time, that simple romantic optimism. “Maybe…she’ll come dancing with me.” That’s all, nothing more. Let’s have a little fun, let’s go out, let’s be with friends. Who cares if you’re not at your best, life is for living. As someone who has experienced and continues to fight depression, I can testify that simply leaving the house is often the hardest part. But once you are out, you’re out, and things usually get better. And if that’s in the company of someone you fancy, well, all the better! Musically, Noel’s sliding guitar chord flips around to become a warm, welcoming arm around the shoulder.We happily waltz along and back into a second verse:

If you ever find yourself inside a bubble
You’ve gotta make your own way home
You can call me anytime you’re seeing double
Now you know you’re not alone

When I go through my depressive spells, pretty much the last thing I want to do is talk to someone. But here is someone saying, ‘I know it’s hard but you can call me anytime. I’m always there for you. My love and attention are unconditional.’ That is something to be treasured. The titular girl should be cheered up at least by the fact of that warm embrace. From here we go into the same bridge, and back into the wonderful, swinging chorus. No time for a guitar solo, we carry on straight into the coda; a good-times 1 and a half minute jam. When I hear this part I always picture a nice pub or party where people are hanging around having a good time; smiles and flirts are exchanged, happiness is in the air. It reminds me of this painting Le Moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir:

This is 1876 Paris, but that same vibe is palpable. Any gathering of friends where happiness, joy, and love are the order of the day. Renoir and Oasis may seem unlikely bedfellows, but they share some striking similarities. Both were very successful in their time, commericially and, somewhat grudgingly, critically. They remain popular enough today but are often dismissed as intellectually lightweight by critics (i.e. joyless snobs.) ‘Chocolate box art’ is the usual insult hurled at Renoir; ‘pub rock bollocks’ for Oasis (actually Noel said that himself about this album, which he annoyingly believes his critics on and often derides in hindsight.)

The monograph I have of Renoir is subtitled The Painter of Happiness. “The Girl in the Dirty Shirt” has made me happy for 12, coming up on 13, years. What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding? (another bloody brilliant song while we’re at it) Must everything be miserable? Renoir was asked why he painted such light-hearted subjects. I’m paraphrasing here but he replied: “There are enough ugly things in the world, I do not wish to add to their numbers.” He lived from 1841 to 1919; that is quite a chunk of history. He saw his country invaded on more than one occasion, not to mention numerous bloody revolutions.

What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, “The Girl in the Dirty Shirt”. Would it have worked as a single and been a hit? Maybe. But it would have shown the world a more playful, less bombastic, less macho side of the band. Instead, the band released the by-the-numbers ballad “Don’t Go Away” (but still affecting), and the flag-waving 9 minute epic “All Around the World” and critics wrote them off as bloated has-beens who missed their shot at glory. I don’t care about that. I love Oasis. I love Be Here Now. And I love “The Girl in the Dirty Shirt.”

p.s. – the song is so buried in their catalogue that it was performed in public exactly once. In Dublin in 1997 on a night when Liam couldn’t be bothered to sing, and Noel dutifully took over. ‘This one’s for the missus…” is what he says at the beginning.

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