Ask me: "Music you secretly love that totally goes against your image/we wouldn't expect..."

>> Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Michelle doesn't so much ask a question as she presents a list of items I believe she wants a response to. I think I'll break her comment down point by point over the next few days, starting with:

Music you secretly love that totally goes against your image/we wouldn't expect...

I have an image?



I like to joke that I like so many different kinds of music I actually have no taste. Between that and not being sure what you fine folks expect me to listen to, I'm not sure how, exactly, to answer this one.

It might be easier, in some ways, to respond to what I don't like that people might think I would. I actually don't care for The Pretenders all that much. Never got into XTC, though there are a few of their songs I enjoy. I have a love/hate relationship with The Cure, really, really really digging them in small doses (a greatest hits album, maybe hitting the skip button every odd track or so, is about perfect), but get really annoyed by them when I listen to more than a few random tracks (and I mostly prefer their zippy, poppy stuff like "Friday, I'm In Love" to their mopey and serious stuff, like that godawful Albert Camus track they did early on, "Killing An Arab" or whatever they called it). Same kind of thing with Smashing Pumpkins. I simply cannot stand Pearl Jam, just can't even listen to more than a few seconds of Eddie Vedder's grunting (though the song "Eddie Vedder" by Local H is fucking made of awesome). I really don't like Yes, though a few tracks like "All Good People" and "Heart Of The Sunrise" kind of almost win me over and I'll usually crank them if they come on the radio ("Owner Of A Lonely Heart" is a channel-change during the first three chords if I have to wreck the goddamn car to make it happen; sorry). With the exception of "Watching The Detectives" and that one lovely track he gave to one of the X-Files albums, Elvis Costello annoys the fuck out of me. I just don't get Cream--I mean, I get them, three super-talented musicians and all that--I just don't get why anyone would want to listen to them. I used to be a huge Billy Joel fan when I was a kid, but I've gotten to where there are really only two albums of his I have much tolerance left for. (Piano Man and Streetlife Serenade if you want to know... okay, and I guess The Nylon Curtain is still alright. So, three.) I don't have a lot of use for Metallica. And Styx, I am sorry, sucks; Styx is what Queen would have been if Queen had been a bunch of really boring American douchebags trying to rip off all of Queen's good songs but only if they could make them a lot less interesting. Like, "Renegade" is basically "Bohemian Rhapsody" without all that crazy awesome badass opera shit in the middle, and "Come Sail Away" is sort of like if you took "Seven Seas Of Rhye"* (one of Queen's weakest cuts, actually) and somehow made it even more irritating or perhaps possessed the precognition to realize it would actually be kinda awesome if Trey Parker sang it in a funny voice almost thirty years later (which is a pretty fucked-up form of psychic ability, y'know). (Or maybe I just love the Cartman version because, y'know, I just really, really hate Styx.)

Sorry, what was the question again?

What do I like that somebody wouldn't expect me to? See, I still don't know what people might expect. Anyone want to clarify, and I can see if I can defeat your expectations in the comments thread?

*Sort of. Okay, upon further reflection, maybe that one's reaching, but I'm leaving it in. You wanna know why? Fuck Styx, that's why.


Anne C. Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 2:13:00 AM EST  

I think citing the Cartman version of "Sail Away" counts as going against your image. (Granted, you don't actually "love" it...)

unwrater = when you put a drop of it and a drop of water together, you might just rip a hole in the space/time continuum.

Nathan Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 9:00:00 AM EST  

Interesting list. Here's how we compare:

-Pretenders: Loved 'em.
-XTC: Meh. They were OK and a few things I really liked, but mostly forgetable.
-The Cure: They barely registered on my radar.
-Pearl Jam: They were always at the top of my "channel changing" list. I don't think I've ever listened to one of their songs all the way through.
-Elvis Costello is a God. You're going to hell. (only one more reason, though)
-Cream: I really like(d), but I think of them as just a brief moment in time. Not a lot there, but what there was, was great.
-Billy Joel has always made me want to buy a gun.
-Metallica & Styx: Fuck. Them. Really! Those assholes got PAID for that shit. Fuck. Them.

I think I left somebody out, but we're mostly in agreement. I'll add that I never cared about Guns & Roses and even though I never cared about AC/DC during their heyday, I've come to appreciate them.

vince Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 9:34:00 AM EST  

Elvis Costello - great! Cream - great! Billy Joel - it really depends. Styx - there are a few songs I like. The rest are pretty much "meh."

Having read your music postings, I've always found your music tastes very eclectic, so I'm not sure finding you liked any particular artists would surprise me.

Except maybe Miley Cyrus. Now that would greatly surprise me.

Random Michelle K Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 9:45:00 AM EST  

OK, Elvis Costello and XTC are probably our major points of disagreement here.

Cream: never got 'em. Billy Joel: like some of his stuff a LOT, other stuff less, but his music (like Elton John) is perfectly in my range, so I love singing along. Which counts for a lot. Cure: I associate entirely too much with being morbidly depressed and doing things I shouldn't. (shudder) Yes: I love one album (the one with Leave It coincidentally) and otherwise change the channel.

Metallica has some good songs, but I much prefer Megadeth.

I saw Pearl Jam & Smashing Pumpkins when they were opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers right before they became big. Both were fabulous live acts that knocked my socks off. However, Ten is the only Pearl Jam album I truly love. (That was really a fabulous concert, second only to see Megadeth in a small venue in Huntington. Or maybe seeing Sugar live at a local bar.)

What I meant by your image, was discovering your that you actually liked pop-ish stuff.

I actually liked Milli Vanilli--but then I never watched MTV, so I really liked their vocals, and didn't get why people wanted their money back. I also saw LL Cool J in concert.

If you told me you loved 80s rap (as I did) I would find that totally unexpected.

Janiece Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 9:57:00 AM EST  

It would tickle me no end if you were a secret, screeching fan of...The Jonas Brothers.

Eric Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 11:24:00 AM EST  

If you told me you loved 80s rap (as I did) I would find that totally unexpected.

Even after I included It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back in the "'80s didn't suck" featurettes?

'80s rap is such a wide field that it really depends on who we're talking about. I quickly came to loathe the Beastie Boys' first album (though "Fight For Your Right (To Party)" has long since become one of those contagiously impossible-not-to-sing-along with anthem), but adore Paul's Boutique and Ill Communication (who doesn't). Arrested Development and Run-DMC were great, other acts maybe not so much. I tended to dig edgier stuff--I still don't own any NWA records, but, yeah, I was that white guy who thought they were pretty bitchin'.

A further wildcard in all this is time. I didn't like the Beasties in the '80s but came to love them. I didn't like Patti Smith the first times I heard her back in the day (thought she was awful, frankly), and at some point had a road-to-Damascus moment (via a U2 cover of "Dancing Barefoot," actually), and became utterly smitten when I was in law school. I was a huuuuge Billy Joel fan in the day and came to sort of despise him by the time I was in college.

And there are some acts, to be clear, I appreciate but don't necessarily like. I'm not going to knock anyone digging Elvis Costello the way I knock someone digging Styx, because Costello is a talented songwriter who I just mostly don't connect to while Styx just sucks. (And confession: I did like Styx when I was in the single digits in the '70s and too unsophisticated to appreciate how bad they were. That time thing again.)

Along those lines, and maybe this is the surprise folks were looking for or maybe not, there are acts where I see the merits but they're not just my thing. Christina Aguilara has a lot of raw talent in that voice and Justin Timberlake definitely has a solid voice and a charisma that comes through on his singles (he's also a helluva dancer); I don't think I'll be buying any of their albums, but I'm not going to piss all over them the way I'd piss over Britney Spears' work--Ms. Spears is a mediocre singer and I've seen better dancing at a strip club, so what is she bringing to the table now that she's outgrown the kink of her jailbait image? I'm not familiar enough with their successors' (Miley Cyrus, The Jonas Bros.) oeuvres to say how they stack, to be honest. Those kids obviously aren't performing music that's meant for me, anyway--it's very precisely targeted at a Disney audience of a certain age.

Eric Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 11:33:00 AM EST  

Oh, two more quick things:

Anne C.: I crack up every time I hear Cartman doing "Sail Away," not sure if that counts as love or not....

Michelle: comparing Metallica to Megadeth isn't entirely unlike comparing The Monkees to The Beatles. If those losers hadn't fired Mustaine, would there be any comparison at all? I exaggerate just a little: Metallica's Cliff Burton albums are solid and might deserve to be filed near Megadeth in the "M"s on the record shelf. But St. Anger, on the other hand, goes in the "Whiny Little Bitches" aisle, not "Metal/Hard Rock" with the Megadeth discs.

Jeff Hentosz Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 11:38:00 AM EST  

I notice that though Michelle's prompt said merely "music," the answer and discussion sticks to pop/rock exclusively. So far it's all entirely within image. Here are some of my favorites outside that box in order to try and shift the paradiggum:

Classical: Sergei Prokofiev, Ralph Vaughn Williams, Aaron Copland, Camille Saint-Saëns

Jazz & Instrumental: Vince Guaraldi Trio, Jean-Pierre Rampal and Claude Bolling, Anthony Phillips, Bruno Coulais, William Ackerman

World & Ethnic: Brave Combo (polka), Panjabi MC (bhangra), Wayne Toups (zydeco), Johnny Clegg (mbaqanga and Afro-pop)

Folk & Standards: Leon Redbone, Christine Lavin, Jonathan Coulton, Simon & Garfunkel, Roger Miller

Over to you...

Eric Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 12:17:00 PM EST  

I thought about talking about classical, actually. There's a lot of classically-themed or neoclassical music I like; particularly soundtracks--John Williams, Ennio Morricone (I like Elfman, but he's really not a neoclassical guy... then again, maybe Morricone isn't either, really). But I've come to the realization I'm not a big classical guy. Mozart's alright, and Holst and Aaron Copland, but I'm not too big on the genre overall. It's not something I seek out. I don't think that'll surprise anyone.

I was late to jazz--dabbled with a few jazz purchases in high school, but didn't really get into jazz until the late '90s, listening to Bitches' Brew for the first time and having the scales lifted from my... well, ears, I guess. But here again, I don't think there are any surprises or variances with my image: I've blogged about Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard and Medeski, Martin & Wood as well as a few jazz/pop vocalists like Nina Simone and I think I may have mentioned my regards for Cassandra Wilson at some point. Probably haven't mentioned that I dig Mingus, but again with Davis and MMW mentioned, that's probably a complete un-surprise.

Folkwise, I think Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger have all received hat tips around here--so no surprises, I'd imagine. I'm only missing one S&G studio album and I think Bookends has been discussed here or elsewhere at some point. I also once made a Kingston Trio reference elsewhere in an exchange with some UCFers that I'm pretty sure nobody else got. What'cha gonna do?

In terms of standards, I've come to dig a lot of pre-Kennedy stuff. I don't think my liking Sinatra or Ella will surprise anybody, either.

I have a world-music-shaped hole in my record collection, though that's partly because the concept baffles me a little. I mean, you go in a record store and they have Clannad and Fema Kuti on the same shelf because they don't know where else to put them, and they call it a "category." Oh, and I still own some of the former (though I'm down to one song digitally and the tapes I have stashed somewhere are probably unplayable now) but still need to pick up some of the latter. It's hard, anyway, to kind of go through what might-as-well be called "Other" if that didn't sound vaguely racist.

Anyway, great points, Jeff, about focusing on the pop rock and thanks for bringing it up, and if I somehow surprised anyone with this comment, hey, yay me?

Eric Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 12:19:00 PM EST  

Oh, to clarify: the missing S&G album isn't Bookends, it's Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M..

Carol Elaine Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 2:07:00 PM EST  

You're missing Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.? That's just not right!

(Then again, I no longer have my old vinyl collection, which included every S&G album, and I haven't gotten around to replacing them with digital versions yet. But Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. is probably my 2nd favorite S&G album - after Bookends.)

I have no preconceived notions of your musical tastes - you've always struck me as an eclectic fellow. I will say, though, that it your stance on Elvis Costello and Cream surprise me.

See, I vehemently disagree with you about Elvis Costello. While I wouldn't call myself a mega-fan - in that I don't have all of his music and am not intimately familiar with his discography - I completely adore everything of his that I've heard. Hell, "Allison" was my ring tone for a very long time (BTW, Holly Cole does a lovely cover).

I like Cream quite a bit. Pearl Jam, too. Neutral on The Cure, meh on Billy Joel. A dear friend of mine - who is a talented composer/sound engineer/music editor - toured with Yes some time ago and worked on one of their albums, which tickled him silly, since he was (and is) a huge fan of theirs before all that happened, so I admit I have a soft spot in my heart for them, and I enjoy their music when I hear it - musical masturbation can be fun to listen to, as long as the musicians are talented.

I need to know: your position on Leonard Cohen's work? I am very much pro-Cohen, though I admit that in some case I prefer others' covers (John Cale's cover of "Hallelujah", for instance, though Cohen's original recording of "I'm Your Man" is my preferred one for that song - and the song that got me into his music).

mattw Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 2:11:00 PM EST  

Oh man, if y'all are ever in Chicago, don't talk smack about Metallica in front of Brandi. They're her favorite and any time we talk about music, she tells me about how Metallica is sooooo much better than the stuff I listen to. I find the Beatles/Metallica debates quite interesting. I wasn't a fan of Metallica, but I've grown a small fondness for some of their music, mostly the S&M album, which was live with an orchestra.

My younger brother and SIL are really big Styx fans. I don't get it. My SIL, however, likes Styx now, without Dennis DeYoung. She even has a Tommy Shaw spoon and has seen them many, many times in concert. My SIL is Weird.

Have you ever listened to The Eels? They are one of my all-time favorites and I have yet to find an album (barring the one that was a bunch of B-sides and remixes thrown together) that I haven't liked.

Eric Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 3:10:00 PM EST  

CE: I'm tempted to say there's only one position on Leonard Cohen, but I suppose the fact I don't go with the conventional wisdom on Costello raises the question. Cohen is amazing, I like both "early" and "late" Cohen almost equally well (maybe a slight preference for "early"), and my favorite LC song is "Famous Blue Raincoat."

There are almost too many good Cohen covers out there to do a sensible list. Notables on top of Cale's "Halleluah" include: Joan Baez does a fantastic take on "Suzanne" on From Every Stage, Johnny Cash's version of "Bird On A Wire" and Concrete Blonde's version of "Everybody Knows" might be a smidgeon better than the original. Nick Cave's take on "Tower Of Song," however, was just embarrassing, fucking hell--you know how sometimes you hear something and wonder what they were thinking; well Cave's version of "Tower" is one of those where you get exactly what he was thinking, you just can't understand why he thought it was a good idea.

Matt: I can't think of any Eels cuts, I just remember the name as being a band I heard a song by somewhere and liked. Obviously I don't own any of their stuff, but I think I may have them on a wishlist somewhere.

mattw Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 3:58:00 PM EST  

I believe the only Eels song that was on the radio (probably only alternative stations) would have been Novocaine for the Soul off of their Beautiful Freak album in 1996.

They have a lot of music in movies and TV: all three Shrek movies, SCRUBS, Road Trip, etc. There's a lot more that I can't think of right now.

A lot of people think their Electroshock Blues album is their best, and they might be right.

Eric Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 5:00:00 PM EST  

Ah, but Matt--I don't listen to the radio per se! Big fan of Indie Pop Rocks! over at SomaFM, which is where I think I heard them if it wasn't on a soundtrack somewhere. I've also become a big fan of satellite since becoming a SiriusXM subscriber last July or August, with Sirius XMU being high in my list of favorite stations (I don't think I heard them there, though).

The only broadcast station I ever listen to is the local NPR affiliate.

Random Michelle K Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 6:51:00 PM EST  

The only broadcast station I ever listen to is the local NPR affiliate.

That also does not surprise me.

Ah Beastie Boys. Licensed to Ill came out my senior year in high school, and with "I Got My Mind Set on You" I have very fond memories of people being silly.

Random Michelle K Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 8:34:00 PM EST  

Re: XM,

I primarily listen to Real Jazz, the NPR stations, Bluesville, and Chill (techno).

We also listen to the Sinatra channel and the 40s channel with Grandmom.

John the Scientist Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 9:14:00 PM EST  

The Holst surprises me, he's also one of my favorites, along with Sibelius.

I, too am baffled by the "world" category. When I was in the USSR, books by English authors no one had ever heard of were quite popular, and when people asked me what I thought of X, I'd oftne reply "who?".

Some of them were actually quite good (Jerome K. Jerome and Ethel Boole Voynich being the two I most enjoy), but you just know they got tossed in the Soviet bookstores for reasons totally unconnected with their popularity or lack thereof in English-speaking countries, mostly because someone thought they were exotic but with enough safe themes people could relate to in translation.

I think a lot of "world" stuff lands on our shelves for similar reasons. I tend to feel like a carpetbagging, cultural-appropriating douchebag for falling for something like that. In a reverse case of the same phenomenon, Kenny G. is really, really popular in Taiwan.

Under "world", I tend to stick to Russian, Japanese, and Chinese artists whom I know (and know why) sing something meaningful to people in their own countries.

My favorites have to be Alla Pugacheva, Vladimir Vysotsky, Bulat Bulat Okudzhava, Mashina Vremeni and Kino from Russia, Kiyoshi Hikawa from Japan, and Feng Fei Fei, Tsai Chin and Theresa Deng from the Chinese orbit. I don't think any of them show up on our "world" shelves.

chaedu - how a Frenchman with a cold pronounces "chateau"

Eric Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 10:07:00 PM EST  

I'm a sucker for Japanese punk and some J-Pop, but usually glom onto it if it gets played by an indie station (e.g. I discovered Ketchup Mania via Indie Pop Rocks!) or from a soundtrack (e.g. I discovered Pillows, I imagine like a lot of Americans, from the anime series FLCL). It's been awhile, but sometimes I'll tune in to an online station specializing in such stuff (if you're a Winamp user, try going to SHOUTcast Radio under "Online Services" if you haven't already--there's more online stations than you can waggle a cursor at).

Random Michelle K Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 10:10:00 PM EST  

Now see, I like not understanding the lyrics to "world" music.

It lets me focus on the music and the beauty of the voice.

World music I like: Ladysmith Black Mombazo, all the Cuban stuff to come out of Ry Cooder's Buena Vista Social Club, almost anything Celtic, the Klezmatics (I've seen them live: fabulous), and a couple albums I picked up when I took a belly dancing class (albums the teacher played that had tracks I liked) .

And Brit pop. That counts, right? Because it's not American? ;)

Eric Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 9:28:00 AM EST  

Now see, I like not understanding the lyrics to "world" music.

It lets me focus on the music and the beauty of the voice.

On a similar note (no pun intended), I love Sigur Ros' "Vonlenska" (a.k.a. "Hoplandic") songs--songs written and performed in a pseudolanguage, vocal sounds that sound like words but aren't, and are open to meaning whatever the listener hears in the "lyrics." ( ), with the vocals performed entirely in Vonlenska, is one of the most gorgeous rock albums ever recorded.

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