How to Sell a Contradiction

For almost two years, some of my friends and I have been sharing music. We’re supposed to review/rate what gets shared with us, and share those reviews with the group, but that doesn’t always happen.

Culture Club – Colour by Numbers (1983)

This is so ’80s. The synth voices are especially telling. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like it. Well, maybe I should say that I liked this more than I thought I would.

Aside from Karma Chameleon, here are some other highlights for me:

The jazzier feel of Changing Every Day was a nice change, and Man-Shake was similarly interesting. I feel like I’d like to hear a Motown, funk or even big band cover Man-Shake with a more “jungle” beat, if that makes sense. It seems like Culture Club wanted to be there, but also wanted to be true to ’80s new wave and ended up being neither.

Mister Man seemed to channel a little reggae influence (which got me tapping my toes, but the horn licks weren’t enough for me to love the song), Stormkeeper felt like a musical tribute to Men at Work (which was interesting), but Romance Revisited took me by surprise. It seemed like a blend of Elton John and the Cure, but arranged for use in a soundtrack. It was so different, and I liked it a lot.

Here’s my big problem: I’m not really a fan boy Boy George’s voice. Victims and Melting Pot were the most prominent evidence of this. Like Romance Revisited, I may have liked the music in Victims, but I found it hard to get past the sound of the vocals.

Also, Miss Me Blind brought in some glam metal guitar, and I realized I really want more of that. The rest of the song was just kind of meh to me. Black Money was a total snoozer for me. 3/5

Thoughts from friends:

“So… I guess I’m dead. I just don’t quite get it. I feel like this is about like Bad, where it seems very distinctly 80s. This doesn’t seem to have aged well. Thriller is quite timeless, a classic album, whereas these more iconic 80s albums seem stuck in the decade, classic 80s albums.

Karma Chameleon IS very catchy, I found it stuck in my head after a few listens of the album, but to someone who hasn’t heard any of these before (at least to my recollection) it just seems more of an artifact of a bygone era than music I really want to listen to. Not that things were especially bad on this album, but (as has been said before) 80s pop really isn’t my typical cup of tea. I can listen to the super hits, and Karma will fit perfectly in an 80s playlist, but I have a hard time listening to a whole album from a single 80s artist.” 3.7/5 – Spencer

Ratatat – Classics (2006)

And I enjoyed this less than I thought I would. I mean, there’s nothing really wrong with it and it’s different than a lot of other stuff I’ve listened to, but it’s a lot the same with itself so after the initial “wow,” it didn’t to a ton to keep my interest.

I really enjoyed the almost Latin groove on Montanita (or maybe I’m letting the name of the song influence my perceptions), but I think Wildcat had the best feel. It was almost Cake-ish in the writing, but not so much in the arrangement and selection of voices. Except for the electronic-ness of it all, it almost seems like something The Aggrolites would do. I know I never will, but I’d like to hear their cover of this. Without the telephone ringing in the background.

I liked how Loud Pipes started, but it didn’t really go anywhere. Nostrand, however, started out “meh” and got better and more interesting as it went. Tacobel Canon had some almost chiptune qualities to it, which I appreciated. I liked the mostly chill vibe of Truman, but I liked the last 45 seconds (once they picked it up) more. I similarly liked Lex.

I’m not sure I would love to listen to a whole album like this all the time, but the juxtaposition between this and Culture Club was interesting. 4/5

Thoughts from friends:

“I liked this album more than I thought I would. It flows really well from song to song, and I never once felt it was repetitive. It’s definitely “listen while you work” music. My only complaint was the lack of story here. Sure, you can tell a story with words, and there were no lyrics here, but you can also tell a story with music (what is the word for a song without vocals anyway?). I just felt it never really told any kind of story, and just went track to track. But those tracks were good.” 3/5 – Tim

The UnicornThe Irish Rovers – The Unicorn (1968)

This week I’m just sharing a single. This was the first album I ever claimed as mine, although there wasn’t any chance it was actually just mine. Apparently the 1980 rerelease with blue sky, clouds and a rainbow on the label (which is the one we had growing up) is kind of rare (but not really sought after, so it’s still cheap). It took more effort than I’d like to admit for me to find it.

The Unicorn is a classic folk tune written by Shel Silverstein, first recorded by him in 1962 and the lyrics were included in Where the Sidewalk Ends in 1974. But he’s not that great of a singer.

The most famous version of the tune is easily The Irish Rovers’ version – the title track off their second album. And it’s the song for which they’re best remembered. Every time I hear this song, I’m taken back to being 5 years old. I can’t sing it without singing “some humpty-back camels” or “Hey Brudder Noah” with an Irish accent. Actually, the whole Noah story is told in an Irish accent in my mind (even though The Irish Rovers were Canadian)(by the way, so was Scotty from Star Trek).

If you’re curious (and want something else to listen to), the b-side is (The Puppet Song) Whiskey on a Sunday, which was the lead tune off The Rovers’ third album, All Hung Up. It’s about a real black street performer in Liverpool (although in the song, he’s in Ireland) named Seth Davy.

One of the songs Davy would sing while he made his puppets dance was Massa am a Stingy Man, which has the lines:

Sing come day, go day
God send Sunday
We’ll drink whiskey all de week
And buttermilk on Sunday

And that’s the basis for Whiskey on a Sunday, which (by the way) was quoted in Flogging Molly’s Factory Girls on Within a Mile of Home, which I shared last June.

Here’s what my friends thought:

“That was a fun song. You can absolutely feel the Shel Silverstein there. It was really fun and had a good consistent tempo and folk feel. So the Irish accent definitely added an element to the song. I went ahead and listened to a couple other versions for comparison, and while I don’t feel it made it better, I don’t think it made it worse either.” 4/5 – Tim

“We sang this song in elementary school. I never realized it was by Silverstein. Its a fine song, but just seems kinda hokey or frivolous to me, so I wouldn’t come back to it unless I’m playing it for my kids, which is actually likely.” 3.5/5 – Spencer


2 thoughts on “How to Sell a Contradiction

  1. Pingback: If I’d Only Thought of Something Charming to Say | An American Audio-logue

  2. Pingback: Video Game Music | An American Audio-logue

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