Spitball Army

Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space.

Spitball Army random header image

Listening Notes: 13 April 2008

April 13th, 2008 · No Comments

The B-52’s / Funplex
The B-52's Funplex
Here’s my general longtime feeling about The B-52’s: they are a group of energetic entertainers who release party records that no one seems to dislike, and that most anyone with a mind to, and with a modicum of musical talent, could make.  I’m thinking, in particular, how easy it would be to entertain a room of people with only a simple rhythm track and a microphone: invite members of the crowd to the stage to exultantly exclaim, with clear pronunciation a la Barack Obama, lines like “Come here, you little butterbean, you…Come on!!” or “Here comes a Great Dane, trotting down the lane!!”  There’s the makings of a fun party, where everyone feels an equal part of the action, as long as they aren’t standing in the corner snickering at the uninhibited fools with smiles on their faces.

All that said, I’ve always had a great time listening to albums by The B-52’s, and Funplex is no exception.  It’s a dance record, a party record, a rockin’ record to listen to in the car.  It’s not high art, but there are enough people attempting to make music like that while, strangely, hardly any even attempt to make records like this.  The B-52’s know what works for them and they want everybody to have a good time listening to them doing it.

Case in point, the song “Love in the Year 3000,” in which Fred Schneider gets to sing, er, exultantly exclaim, lines such as “Robots, bootybots, erotobots!” “You turn ’em on, they turn you on!” and “We’re in the spandex spiral vortex!” over a New Wave beat that sounds like Devo’s “Whip It” brought down a notch in speed.  No heaviosity about that, but it is an absolute blast to listen to.

If this weren’t the Age of Cynicism, Funplex could have been an integral part of this summer’s soundtrack.  I imagine that it’s still possible.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Simon & Garfunkel / Live 1969
Simon & Garfunkel's Live 1969
First, the bad news: the only place I was able to find this CD was at a neighborhood Charbucks.  There is no Hear Music logo on the back of the package, so I assume that it’s not exclusive to them, but it wasn’t available at the Barnes & Noble music department here or at amazon.com.  So, it may be a bit of a challenge to find it, but when you hear the good news, you will hopefully make the effort.

And the good news is…?  This is a wonderful CD!  Live 1969 is a collection of performances from the late ’69 tour that Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel embarked upon a couple of months before the release of Bridge Over Troubled Water.  Part of the thrill of hearing four of the songs here is that we can imagine being in the audience and hearing them for the first time, before the Bridge album was owned by and listened to by everyone in America and became a part of the national cultural vocabulary (a fifth song from the album, “The Boxer,” had already been released as a single, and was all over the radio airwaves at the time of these concerts).  This performance of “Why Don’t You Write Me,” for instance, may be as close as Simon & Garfunkel ever got to full-on rock and roll, and the simple delivery of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” with only a piano accompanying Art’s sweet but raw vocal, brings the house down with deafening applause.  “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright” is given a vivid reading, with guitar, bass and conga accompaniment that recalls a private samba, unlike the wistful, string-laden version on Bridge.  There is also a stunning version of “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her” that, for me, beats the pants off of the studio recording.

As a collection, this CD is a good overview for those unfamiliar with the duo’s career, as most every “hit” is included.  For the fan, the few revelatory moments mentioned above (and there are others) make this essential.

Tags: music

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment