Rewind Reviews #8 - By Volume

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Rewind Reviews #8

Songs I Love from Bands I Don’t Author: on July 20, 2013
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The theme for this week’s edition of Rewind Reviews is stated quite plainly in the title. The following three entries are all songs that I love in one capacity or another from band’s that I do not. Compared to the past few weeks this is certainly a more straightforward topic, which is great, really, because I don’t want to use this space for my philosophical wanderlust all the time. Now, I feel like a disclaimer is necessary here: these are songs from bands that I don’t particularly care for, but that does not necessarily mean I think they are bad — not at all. In fact, a number of the artists involved in the songs below I have a certain level of respect for, that I have even liked quite a lot in a past life. Still, these are songs that I frequently listen to (frequently being a rather loose term here) from bands that, outside of these songs, I don’t listen to frequently nor care to listen to frequently. But enough of this jumbled mess, on to the songs!

Barenaked Ladies — “Call and Answer”

I have always felt there was a strange duality to the Barenaked Ladies; on the one hand they were the band responsible for “If I Had A Million Dollars” and “One Week”, which, to my money, are kind of lame in their quirkiness. But people grabbed onto these songs as if they were essential slices of Canadiana. On the other hand, there are some really talented people involved in this band and some of their songs really show their great deftness as songwriters. It’s usually when the band goes into a contemplative mode that you really get to see their songwriting proficiency laid bare. “Call and Answer” is a perfect example of the kind of reverence and melodic gravitas that the Barenaked Ladies can pull together. The first half of the song moves along nicely enough, with its lyrical themes of a relationship on the threshold of rupture, but it’s the finale that really grabs your attention. After a short instrumental interlude, the main chorus returns before a rousing coda highlighted by some elegant but forceful piano touches and a wonderfully melodic vocal turn from Steven Page. Quite simply, it’s one of the lovelier songs of the late 90s.

Lagwagon—“May 16th”

Ah yes, high school: that awkward time that I would rather not revisit because the only people who really want to revisit high school were the ones that had a really great time there. Furthermore what’s the deal with that? Lagwagon were a big part of this time for me, which isn’t to say I was a punk, I’m pretty much the least punk person ever (does that make me punk? Answer: no). No, I just had a soft spot for a certain kind of music during these developing years while I was still in the midst of my classic rock kick and before that fateful day when I first heard Spoon and was introduced to the wide world of contemporary indie. Lagwagon fit that soft spot to a tee. Well, it’s been nearly a decade since that Lagwagon phase and I don’t listen to them anymore, that is, except, on May 16th, officially Lagwagon Day. But really, “May 16th” represents the best Lagwagon have to offer. They were always a better band than their contemporary brethren like NOFX, and “May 16th” showcases just why. There’s that bit of metal-like precision in the drumming and the inventiveness to actually change meter in their song. Granted, that’s not what many would consider technicality, but in relation to other punk bands of that ilk, they were heads and tails above the rest. Plus melodically the song is rather interesting and catchy. It’s still a fun song to listen to these days — even if it usually sits in some forgotten corner of my music library, waiting for its commemoration day.

Johnny Cash featuring U2—“The Wanderer”

This one is a bit of a cop-out since it is the featured artist and not the lead performer that I don’t particularly care for. What is there to say about Johnny Cash, in any regard, that doesn’t edge toward cliché? U2, however, are a different story. Let’s just save the ranting on music and ethics for another day and say I don’t care too much for that band, and maybe the draw of this song is that Bono is relegated to some oohs and aahs near the end of the track. But it’s a pretty great song that taps into the vaguely apocalyptic, almost Paradise-Lost-sympathetic-Satan, mode of lyricism that highlights the best of Cash’s output. By apocalypse, I’m not speaking so much about fire and brimstone, the destruction of the world, but rather I mean the word in its etymological roots, that is, to revelation. The steady synth and bass pulse provides a foundation for some of Cash’s most apocalyptic musings. The eponymous wanderer becomes a figure of revelation as Cash’s raspy voice haunts of its spectre-like existence, wandering the “streets paved with gold” with “a bible and a gun.” It’s a song built around the collision between U2’s softer side and Johnny Cash’s always reliable rustic and minimal touches of catharsis. The result is something more memorable than you might initially expect from the pairing.

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