I used to feel bad in high school when I would use the library to take out CDs instead of books. But I got over it. One day I was sifting through the non-alphabetized mess of library CDs and I came across the David Bowie Singles Collection. The name sounded vaguely familiar so I added it to that day’s pile. I ended up listening to nothing else for a couple of weeks, and then before returning the CD to the library, I burnt a copy for myself. Felt kind of bad about that too… Anyway, I was very intrigued by him! Musically, his songs were melodic and catchy, but very often it sounded like he was purposely singing in a weird way, like he was sabotaging his own songs. He whines a lot, he yells, he groans. But obviously I realized that’s what makes him so cool. Super talented, but with a combination of attitude and seeming to not care. One of my fav songs is Rock n Roll Suicide. Its structure reminds me of White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane. It starts very calm and simple, and builds up and up until it reaches this high energy orchestral scream. So much emotion. I also loved his cameo in Zoolander.
It’s always cool when a song fits perfectly into a movie or TV show. The song brings out the emotion and weight of the scene, and the drama on screen enhances the impact and even the meaning of the song. The experience can be overwhelming in a way that would be impossible without both elements. Aside from “Right Action” in Dumb and Dumber To, an example of this phenomenon that really hit me was in the series finale of Breaking Bad. The song was “Baby Blue” by Badfinger. Without giving any spoilers, the final scene of the show is very intense to begin with. But when that song comes on, it felt like the song was written for that moment. Everything just fit so perfectly, even though the “baby blue” referred to in the lyrics is obviously not the same object of affection that Badfinger had in mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if Vince Gilligan, the creator of the show, had that song in mind for the finale 6 years earlier when the show was just starting. I was slightly disappointed when I was reminded that this song also played a pivotal role in a completely different soundtrack, in the movie The Departed. The opening line “Guess I got what I deserved” probably makes it fit into a lot of crime stories. But in Breaking Bad it worked on a whole new level, and serves as a great example of the way music can elevate a scene from powerful to unforgettable.
Here is the actual scene from Breaking Bad (spoiler alert!)
When I was younger I used to go rummaging through our house, looking for treasure or anything else that seemed interesting (this was in the days before Facebook and YouTube). One Sunday afternoon when I was about 10, I discovered an old wooden trunk hidden away deep in the storage room of our basement. I blew off some of the dust coating the trunk, and cautiously opened it up. Inside there were stacks of strange and very thin books, and this was the one right on top:
I saw the word “Dead” and I saw a creepy witch holding a knife and I totally freaked out. I immediately closed the trunk, put it back where I found it, and subsequently had nightmares about it for months. I didn’t tell anyone about the incident, but eventually I figured out what those skinny books were. They were my dad’s record collection from college, and after getting my first record player a few years later, I went through the records with my dad and with his permission I picked out the ones that looked cool. I left “Wake of the Flood” in the trunk, and that cover still freaks me out. Despite that traumatic introduction to the band, I ended up falling in love with the Grateful Dead. This was the first song of theirs that I heard.
I’m embarrassed to say where I heard this song… Dumb and Dumber To (sic). The movie was horrible but at the same time awesome. The nostalgia of the first one was able to sustain it. Anyway, they must have played this song at least 3 times during the movie. The only other thing that happened as many times in that movie was James Bond references, which were great. I found a live rendition on YouTube, and before playing the song, Franz (aka Alex) says that the inspiration for the opening line was that he was at a flee market and there was a collection of post cards. They were all blank except for one which said “Come home, practically all is nearly forgiven.” The feel of the song is meant to embody the emotions of that sentiment. The song also reminds me of the Elvis song “A Little Less Conversation (A Little More Action),” both in tone and in the lyrics.
I first heard this song on WFUV, the radio station where I discover a lot of new music (90.7 in NY). It sounded to me like James Mercer from The Shins, but I Shazam’ed it and Shazam told me that it was a song called Brill Bruisers by The New Pornographers. I don’t know what a Brill Bruiser is, and to be honest I can barely make out any of the lyrics in the song. What was funny was that I ended up looking up the lyrics, but even after I found out the words they are saying, I still had no idea what they were talking about. Maybe they aren’t saying anything. Not every weird song has deep philosophical undertones. I’ve heard people say that they don’t really pay attention to lyrics in songs, that’s not why they listen. For me lyrics are very important, and I always listen to what the singer is saying. Great lyrics can be the difference between a mediocre song and a classic. I’ve always thought that a lot of Paul Mccartney’s solo stuff could have been a lot better if his lyrics were a little more interesting/edgy/provocative. However, sometimes a song is so catchy that it doesn’t really matter if the lyrics are incomprehensible (Movits is a great example). Brill Bruisers is one of those songs. I love the harmonies, and I love the “poba obapa oh” thing they keep doing. I also LOVE the video game noise that comes in for the first time at 0:45. Listening to this song at full blast feels like riding in a convertible with the top down.
P.S.- I just found this video of A.C. Newman discussing the song. Check out what song he references, and watch till the end to see what OTHER song/album he references. This dude has some seriously good musical taste.