Roll out, roll out for the mystery tour. Well, it’s not a mystery, but this week’s selection of songs will definitely take us places. From the east coast, to the west…Dear God, I’ve never hated John Mellencamp as much as I do right now.
Since half the journey takes place in the
US and Canada, we’re splitting this up into sides,
winding up in the Far East. Hope you like sushi.
Side One: North America
"Wichita," The Jayhawks (Hollywood
Funny to think that there was once a time when the Jayhawks were tagged as Black Crowes knockoffs. Does anyone even miss the Black Crowes? Not as much as I miss the Jayhawks, I’m willing to wager. Please come back soon, Gary.
"Wascana," The Waltons (Cock’s Crow)
When someone asks you what the last great Billy Joel song was, play ‘em this folk-pop ditty from one of Saskatchewan’s finest, and see if they bite.
"Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues," Todd
Snider (Songs for the Daily Planet)
Ah, the hidden track. That’s what Todd Snider’s biggest taste of success was: a hidden track. My question: why on earth would anyone hide a song as funny and as spot-on as this satire of Seattle in the early ‘90s? "Space needle. Eddie Vedder. Mud ‘n honey!"
"Brooklyn-Queens," 3rd Bass
(The Cactus Album)
The late ‘80s may have been a dark time for pop, but it was a spectacular time for hip hop. Streeeeeetch, boooooiiiiiiing.
"Texarkana," R.E.M. (Out of Time)
Remember when Mike Mills actually played a significant part in R.E.M.’s songs? Truth be told, I much prefer "Near Wild Heaven" over this, but I wanted include cities on Earth, despite Belinda Carlisle’s claims to the contrary.
"Hollywood," World Party (Bang!)
Wouldn’t she? I don’t care if he’s only recorded two new songs in the last seven years: Karl Wallinger’s one of the coolest guys in rock.
"Cleveland Rocks," Ian Hunter (You’re
Never Alone with a Schizophrenic)
It is as sad fact that, of the handful of kids (I define "kids" as anyone under 30) who actually know this song, most of them will tell you that it was written by the Presidents of the United States of America. Sigh.
"LA," Elliott Smith (Figure 8)
This is how I choose to remember Elliott Smith: upbeat. I’m still mad as hell at him for checking out like that, but songs like this soften the blow a little.
Side Two: London and beyond
There is a world out there, and while we could have spent this entire second side panicking on the streets of London, we decided to spend only a few days in Merry Ole England before hitting the road.
"Guns of Brixton," The Clash (London Calling)
It is an unwritten law that all bass players must know how to play "Money," "Jungle Boogie," and this.
"Battersea," Hooverphonic (Blue Wonder
I actually learned me a little geography the first time I heard this. Hooverphonic soon turned into a wimpy little synth-pop band, but this, which is like Massive Attack doing drum ‘n bass, is just stunning.
"Rumble in Brighton," Stray Cats (Built
History has diminished just how kickass the Stray Cats’ breakthrough album was. There was much more to these guys than "Rock This Town," that’s for sure.
"London Loves," Blur (Parklife)
David Bowie is surely still trying to figure out how to sue them over this song.
"Vienna," Ultravox (Vienna)
Boom. Boom boo-boom. Ka-Kaaaang. Is there a more signature electronic percussion track than this? If there is, well, it means nothing to me.
"Tokyo Expressway," Fluid Ounces (The
Seth Timbs is a poor man’s Ben Folds, only without the snark and general crotchetyness. You have to love a song with a chorus of "There was a party everywhere I went tonight / And that was all right." That is all right, indeed.