Musings on music delivered when I dig myself out.

Five gay men, cleaning one house

Or the Fischerspooner/Billy Squier mash-up, "Everybody Wants You to Emerge"

So it's kind of cheesy that this from the Queer Eye For the Straight Guy soundtrack ("Everybody wants you to emerge? Like from the closet? That's hilarious!"), but I can't fault producers David Collins and David Metzler for putting it on there. See, the problem with a lot of mash-ups is that many times it isn't about how great the newly crafted song is, but rather how fucking out there (maaaaaan) they could get with their artist selection. You could listen to the song and and identify that, yes, that was The Beach Boys and 50 Cent, but no, you didn't want to hear it again.

Somehow, this tune gets over the hump of Kitschville and actually cruises into Good-Shit City. The song is a product of Fischerspooner's "Emerge" and "Everybody Wants You" by Billy Squier, whose songs have been the source of a bunch of new material lately (see Dizzie Rascal's "Fix Up, Look Sharp"). The track syncs up perfectly from the beginning -- Fischerspooner's synth waves superimposed flawlessly on Billy's guitar riff, vacant vocals muttering "Uh huh, that's right" here and there. The prechorus and chorus include plenty of EQ knob twiddlin' and riptide sound effects for those paying attention, but most everyone will be too busy dancing to the beat of the plastic handclaps and the meaty guitar hook to give a damn. Although I think they could have done more with Squier's track, this is a superb example of what a successful mash-up could be: a bit flashy and a ton of fun. Fellas, leave your boys at home.

Franz Ferdinand -- Franz Ferdinand
Domino Records; 2004

Alex Kapranos, guitarist and lead singer of the Scottish band Franz Ferdinand, has been quoted as saying, "We don't use any [effects] pedals or any of that rubbish. Pedals are for people who can't write good tunes." Although I'm not sure whether or not I agree with that, I can say this: Kopranos is at least correct in relation to his own band. Franz Ferdinand, the band's full length debut is prime evidence of this theory's accuracy -- a stunningly simple platter of post-punk gems.

Franz Ferdinand brings together all the ingredients one needs for post-punk: guitars that can disco, bass that can bounce, and hi-hats that clench open and shut on backbeats. By themselves, these would be nothing special. What ties this all together is unbelievably catchy songwriting. Kapranos and lead guitarist Nick McCarthy have a real knack for writing rhythms and melodies that hook into the listener's brain and leave them dancing in delirium.

Take for example "Take Me Out," their first single off the self-titled album. The song starts out with steady guitar lines and persistent drumming, then WHAM! 50 seconds in, the original song structure strips away and a monster disco smash is in its place, dicing guitars leading the stomping conga line. The infectious chorus (and its variations) of "I say don't you know / You say you don't know / I say take me out" is sure to get even the dullest of mopes to tap a foot.

What's fantastic about Franz Ferdinand is that it's not just one or two pretty great songs wading among nine other bits of filler -- it's all delectable. "Tell Her Tonight" is an angular romp that contains both sneering calls and Beach Boys-influenced three part harmonies. Album opener "Jacqueline" springs from acoustic lullaby to jet-propelled scorcher, providing us with the album's greatest line: "That's why we only work when / we neeeeed the money!" Even "Cheating on You," the album's weakest track is a treat; using lyrics so simple that one can't help but think it's all a bit of satire about pop music.

As if it weren't enough to help write 11 mind-numbingly catchy songs, Kapranos shows off his literary skills as well, penning illustrative lyrics that flesh out each tune. His masterpiece is "The Dark Of the Matinee," a tune about flirting at school, containing the astute lyrics "You take your white finger / slide the nail under / the top and bottom buttons / of my blazer / Relax the fraying wool / slacken ties...." The song even serves as a jibe to hipsters with "I charm you and tell you / of the boys I hate/ all the girls I hate.../ How I'll never be what I hate;" poking fun at their silly pretensions.

The boys in FF are equal opportunity lovers too, it seems, or at least not afraid to play up a lil' bit of homoeroticism. "Michael" is a sweaty cavort in the disco that takes root from both Bowie and George Michael. The song would have fit perfectly in the 1970's sexual liberation, using lyrics like "This is what I am / I am a man / so come and dance with me Michael."

Franz Ferdinand is as solid a debut full-length as any band could hope for. The members of Franz Ferdinand have stuffed their album to the seams with ear-catching melodies, hooks, and body-movin' rhythms, all while keeping it simple. With this album as such a high water mark for the band, it makes one wonder whether or not they'll be able match such great expectations in the future. If you want my prediction, I'd tell you this: if Kapranos and Co. stick with their current course, they're going to be putting out "good tunes" for quite awhile.

Will I never learn?

Or The Von Bondies single, "C'mon C'mon"

There's something to be said for a band that can be brought up on the tutelage of an esteemed musician like Jack White, decide they no longer want to be known as his finger puppets and still make a record that delivers. As a matter of fact, "C'mon C'mon" is like a huge middle finger to to their former mentor -- it's so fucking catchy even White would wish he had written it.

The beginning is deceptively calm and easy-going, like a boxer lacing up their boots. What follows is a flurry of guitar slices and low-blows from the bass. Singer Jason Stollsteimer (who sounds a tad like the frontman of Death on Wednesday but significantly more pissed off) shows no fear of using his outside voice and rips through lyrics like "With my teeth locked down I can see the blood / Of a thousand men who have come and gone." The chorus is a non-stop combo of punches that at once reminds me of The Vines, The Donnas, and The International Noise Conspiracy, and it hits like a haymaker. Even though the song is short, it's addictive qualities will have "C'mon c'mon!" running through your head all day. Perhaps this is what Stollsteimer will be hearing the next time he sees Jack and The White Stripes will be more like black and blue.

Sondre Lerche -- Two Way Monologue
Astralwerks; 2004

Much like a fine wine, cheese, and records (to hipsters, at least), Sondre Lerche has only gotten better over time. The young singer/songwriter from Norway released his first album and major label debut, Faces Down, at the tender age of 19 in 2002. Now 21 years old, Lerche is a bit more worldly and wise, the results of which are found on his sophomore album, Two Way Monologue.

Lerche has always seemed to be more mature than his years would suggest. While many artists at the age of 19 were still figuring out how to emulate their idols without being caught red-handed, he was writing full-on chamber pop gems and swoon-worthy acoustic ballads. Two Way Monologue takes over where Faces Down left off, showcasing both his musical talent and skill for writing lush backgrounds.

While the backing arrangements Lerche crafted for Faces Down dabbled in psychedelica and Latin-tinged rhythms, Two Way Monologue expresses his profound love for Nick Drake's regal baroque writing. "Love You" is an exquisite instrumental that opens the album like the ornate cover of a book -- heavy with hazy strings, mellow guitar and swells of French horn. "Days That Are Over" starts with a single swaying organ line and expands to pings of keyboard dancing around a flirting guitar and hits from the laid back percussion section. "It's Too Late" is the album's most intricate track, perfectly expressing how Lerche can fit everything from xylophone to keyboard wiggles into a song without making it needlessly overbearing.

Just as with his knack for writing, Lerche's expressive voice sounds more seasoned than one would expect of a 21 year old. A touch of Lennon, a dash of Cohen and a smidge of youth, Lerche's warm pipes have a familiar quality about them, like a friend one hasn't seen in awhile stopping by unexpectedly. Unlike the few vocal bumbles of Faces Down, the pitch control on such octave-reaching songs as "Stupid Memory" and "It's Over" shows that Lerche has learned to harness his amiable croon.

The lyrics Lerche sings on Two Way Monologue are nearly as charming as the voice he sings them with. "Track You Down" tells the tale of lovers gone their separate ways ("We often joke it's over but it's never enough") reuniting by chance ("I saw you, you saw me /And you were naked, which was weird"), only to part once again ("But in that space in time we played the strangers again"). Lerche even acknowledges the stumbling block English can be for him on "On the Tower," his honesty coming through as an endearing trait.

Truly there are very few low spots on Two Way Monologue, the only real exception being the odd "Wet Ground." Lerche sounds uncharacteristically froggy and frazzled, and the backing vocals come off too quirky to mesh well with the somber pace of the track. If nothing else, it gives the listener a view of just how good the rest of the album is.

For a guy that writes and performs like he's been at it for thirty years, Sondre Lerche seems to have never heard of the sophomore slump. He's created a fresh platter of baroque and indie pop delicacies that only evince improvement from his debut. Two Way Monologue is an uplifting and enjoyable release and a great achievement for the wise beyond his years Lerche.

JC Chasez -- Schizophrenic
Jive; 2004

One thing that's exceedingly difficult for band members who decide to strike out on their own is proving that they were crucial to the group's success, not just the chump who rode in on coattails. Justin Timberlake did it; his album Justified sold millions of copies, making him the first boy band member to have any real notoriety outside the parent-approved shell. Seeing this, JC Chasez -- also of N'sync fame -- thought to himself, "Well hell, I can do that too!" and recorded his solo debut, Schizophrenic.

But there are key differences between Timberlake and Chasez. For one, Timberlake was quite obviously the central -- and hottest, if I must say so myself -- member of N'Snyc and Justified exuded that same sort of "I'm the Man" confidence. Chasez's supporting-character role in the group didn't afford him the same luxury to fall back on, so he had to create a new image for himself. His choice? Uh, well, he kind of chose to be a lusty sex addict.

Schizophrenic is a fine how-do-you-do to fans who expect the same saccharine sweet sentiments they found in their now dusty N'Sync albums. Instead, Chasez puts forth songs like "All Day I Dream About Sex," where he spits "All day long I dream about sex and all night long I think about sex," and the equally wince-worthy "Keep in mind I'm a love machine, baby / 24-7, call me any time you need some."

The sexcapades don't stop there, as in the next song Chasez asks a girl to copulate only moments after meeting her in the club. He seems to have no shame about his vices, and even self discloses about his more... personal habits on the Kylie Minogue-like track "Come To Me." While only some of his songs get into the same amount of raunchy detail, Chasez is all about his new and very adult image.

At the same time, it's evident that Chasez realizes how risky a move being only a love junkie would be, because other songs downplay the trait, both musically and lyrically. Rather than using all hump-thump electro landscapes or even more traditional dance tracks, Chasez resorts to guitars, and lots of them. "She's Got Me," "Right Here (By Your Side)" and "Something Special" are like JC fronting Jack Johnson tunes -- no chances are taken with melody and the yawn factor is set to "Barenaked Ladies."

"100 Ways" is what I would hesitate to call funky, mainly because listeners will be too busy rolling their eyes at Chasez's cock-sure bravado to notice the backing band's failed attempt at groove. JC reaches to his roots to round out the album, including dance pop songs like mediocre if catchy "Some Girls (Dance With Women)" and the excellent Basement Jaxx production, "Shake It." It's almost like he's trying to cover all the musical bases since no one style particularly fits.

Not surprisingly, the songs that show the most promise are Chasez's departures from the Don Juan 2k4 persona. "Dear Goodbye" is a richly textured ballad of rippling guitar arpeggios, strings, and tingly bells that are so pretty that JC sounds -- get this -- classy! The heavily Police-influenced "Everything You Want" may be ersatz reggae, but its backbeat rhythm compliments Chasez's Sting impersonation perfectly, ratcheting it to album standout status.

So in some ways Schizophrenic is both a success and a failure. It helps Chasez establish the new persona of sometimes romantic, sometimes voracious lover and gives him a venue to attain musical cred. At the same time, it's a pretty small step forward, as Schizophrenic has very few tracks with as much gusto as Timberlake's hotshot debut. Perhaps horny wasn't the hook for Chasez to hang his hat on. Next step, Mr. Niceguy!

I Got Love For

ATOM 0.3

Establish Contact:

Last posts


Add to your Kinja digest