Vagina Music Roundup
If the kind reader will indulge Wack in a little cultural trend analysis: In the movie Walking and Talking (1996), Ann Heche's husband (played by Todd Field) turns off a cassette of Lilith Fair-esque warbling during a road trip, saying, "Do we really have to listen to this vagina music all the way there?" much to the consternation of Ann H. and her pal Catherine Keener. Years later, in an episode from season four of Six Feet Under (2004), a female friend turns off a CD emitting similar trills from Lauren Ambrose's bedroom stereo, saying, "Okay, you guys are gonna have to change this vagina music, like, immediately!" to which our Claire Fisher merely chuckles. Now that's progress! In this spirit we would like to fling open Wack's doors to recent CDs pertaining to all things vaginal.
Jasy Andrews, Little Girl, Versailles Records
This youth-encrusted, fourth-generation, Joni Mitchell-style singer-songwriter is certainly an example of vagina music nonpareil. Andrews credits herself with playing "lead piano" on this 18-song double disc. Does that mean she uses only her right hand? And there's no "rhythm piano" credit, which doesn't seem fair. Hey, check it out: She does "Private Dancer," a Bon Jovi song and "Patience" by G'n'F'n'R! Sample lyric: "Stay with me tonight / And I will treat you right." Hmm, where have we encountered rhyme schemes like this before? Oh, yes, that's right: Everywhere We do kind of like the distorted Keane-painting-style eyes on the discs, but we wonder if they're actually supposed to be creepy Lyric from the title song: "I'm just a little girl and I'm on my knees." And we'll just let that one go.
Various artists, The 40 Year-Old Virgin: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Shout Factory
That rarest of things, a surprisingly good soundtrack to a surprisingly good film, this s/t even sports a clear narrative flow from song to song. Joe Walsh documents the untested lover's "Life of Illusion" to kick things off; his resolve is declared to the strains of Michael McDonald's smoky yacht rock rendition of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"; and so on through Asia's "Heat of the Moment," Smokey Robinson's "Virgin Man," JoBoxer's "Just Got Lucky," Dr. Hook's "Sharing the Night Together" and Survivor's "The Search Is Over." There's solace for those who've never experienced vagina, odes to the enjoyment of vagina and even, perhaps, a caution to the perils of unsanitary vagina in James Brown's "I Got Ants in My Pants (And I Want to Dance)."
The Pussycat Dolls, PCD, A&M
Everything's spicier in America, even the Spice Girls, whom these vagina-themed, hip-pop/R&B bombshells brazenly rip off. There's a difference, though: Where the Spice Girls at least pretended to be all about female solidarity, these chicks are all about division. The insanely catchy single "Dont'cha" finds molten-hot singer-dancer Nicole Scherzinger (a.k.a. Talented Pussycat) sorely tempting a fellow at some dumpy gal's expense. No "If ya wanna be my lover, ya gotta get with my friends" for these Pussycats. Bonus vagina content: heavy camel-toe action on the back cover of the CD booklet; some variant of the word vagina is beeped out on "Beep"; the clitoris theme of "Buttons" ("Push on my button / but you keep frontin' / I ain't seen nuttin' but you sayin' what you'll do to me"); the possible masturbation theme of "I Don't Need a Man" ("I don't need a man to make it happen"). All that, and a terrible cover of the pussy -- in the sense of wimp -- anthem "Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go."
Three 6 Mafia, "Pussy Got Ya Hooked" (single), Hypnotize Minds/ Sony Urban
Introduced as being "one for the ladies," this track opens with the strains of a string quartet and a female choir taunting the Three 6 dudes with the titular words. "Hell naw," bark back the fellas, who elaborate with a few verses. Fairly standard "perils of good pussy" gangsta rap tune elevated to something more by cool classical track.
Anthrax, Anthrology: No Hit Wonders (1985-1991), Island; and Alive 2 (2005), Sanctuary
Wack pretty much decided these guys were total pussies way back when they tried to distance themselves from their own name around the time of the post-9/11 terrorist threats. They were all like, "Right now it's not cool to be named Anthrax" Oh, boo-hoo! Come the fuck on, dudes! You're supposed to be big, mean, heavy and metal! If you wanted people to think you were all nice and shit you shoulda called yourselves Tulip Stamen. It's like when people got upset when that Dimebag Pantera guy got shot onstage by a crazed fan. Tragedy? That's authenticity, man! Walking it like you talk it. Go on and play some John Denver/Jewel-type shit if you don't wanna get your ass shot (actually, Denver's private plane crash death was pretty badass, come to think of it). But, as Ali G would say, we digest. Damn, this is a whole lotta Anthrax: 42 songs over three discs! It's like the Lord of the Rings trilogy of '80s hair metal These guys do seem to have gotten better as they went along, though. The "Sweet Leaf" quote pretty well rips at the end of their version of "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath," as does the Hava Nagila bit that starts the proto-rap-metal jokesterism of "I'm the Man." The cello (we think) intro to "Be All End All" is a nice touch. Plus "Now It's Dark" is a bald-faced tribute to Frank from Blue Velvet. ("Don't you fuckin' look at me," indeed). Also: They recorded with Public Enemy back when that meant something, and they do a totally boss Joe Jackson cover ("Got the Time"). They're still pussies, though.
WHERE'D THE O GO?
The late Waylon Jennings's hell-raising son Shooter plays in The Woodlands this week, and we thought we'd continue our wang-dang-sweet-poontang theme by asking him about the title of his CD Put the O Back in Country, what it was like watching his hot girlfriend get blown to bits on The Sopranos and other weighty topics.
Wack: What in the hell does the title of your album mean?
Shooter Jennings: It's a tongue-in-cheek joke, really. If you take the o out of country, it's spelled cunt. It's just kind of poking fun at the industry at the moment, because it's in kind of a cunty place. But the landscape of country is really changing. Artists like Gretchen Wilson and Dierks Bentley are bringing a really good, young vibe to it.
Wack: Who's the looser cannon, you or Waylon Sr.?
Shooter: I'm not no outlaw. He's the real deal. He partied harder than anybody. I don't think Elvis beat him.
Wack: Four pot busts in two years ain't nothin' to sneeze at. Any new arrests?
Shooter: I only got charged with one of 'em. We have to do a benefit concert to get out of it. But that's how "Busted in Baylor County" came about. It's in that new Dukes movie.
Wack: That song's like a stoner version of "Devil Went Down to Georgia."
Shooter: Yeah, I guess. Word-for-word true -- except for the part about them dropping the charges for autographs.
Wack: Speaking of celebrity justice, did watching your girlfriend [actress Drea de Matteo] get her head blown off in The Sopranos give you any nightmares?
Shooter: Oh, man! I knew it was gonna happen, of course. But I was still cryin.' I mean, I don't like to see her gettin' killed. -- John La Briola
ROCKIN' THE BOAT
Shut the fuck up. All of you, shut the fuck up. [Daryl] Hall and I will not stand idly by as you California vagina sailors stab the American airwaves in the balls with your shit [pause] music. -- John Oates, protesting the Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes," on the show Yacht Rock
As I opened the site -- which I have bookmarked -- and saw that there was a new episode of Yacht Rock up, I gasped. You know that jolt of elation that courses through you when your boy smacks a homer in the bottom of the ninth or when your favorite band plays the first few notes of your favorite song for the encore? That's what happened to me -- just now -- when I discovered Yacht Rock #3.
What is Yacht Rock? Well, a couple of things. Yacht Rock is a short, mockumentary-style show created by J.D. Ryznar, Hunter Stair and Lane Farnham. You can view it at www.channel101.com, which is the Web outlet for a short film series put on by two L.A.-based comedian-writers, Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab.
"Yacht rock" is also the term for the particular genre of music that is so lovingly and mockingly embraced by the show. As Hollywood Steve, the show's "host," puts it in the first episode, "From 1976 to 1984, the radio airwaves were dominated by really smooth music, also known as 'yacht rock.' These yacht rockers docked a remarkable fleet of No. 1 hits. And every song has a story behind it." Each episode tells a new tale, and the characters are a cast of really smooth guys: "music-industry mogul" Koko Goldstein; Michael McDonald, keyboardist and vocalist for the Doobie Brothers; Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina; Hall & Oates; Steely Dan; Jeff "Skunk" Baxter; Christopher Cross; Chicago's Peter Cetera; and, in this most recent episode, Steve Perry, formerly of Journey.
Basically yacht rock consists of the songs playing on the car stereo when your parents drove you to kindergarten, songs that are burned in your memory, even though you can't remember where you might have heard them. We're talking tunes like Steely Dan's "Hey Nineteen" or the Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes" or England Dan & John Ford Coley's "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight" or Dan Hill's "Sometimes When We Touch," which is a really sad song about a guy trying to be honest about his feelings. Really, what self-respecting music hipster couldn't relate to these lines: "Romance and all its strategy / Leaves me battling with my pride / But through the insecurity / Some tenderness survives"?
If you're in your twenties, these were -- and probably still are -- your parents' songs. I hereby give you permission to borrow them from Mom and Dad, just as you would an old lamp sitting unused in the attic.
You see, there's something uniquely enjoyable about yacht rock that I think a lot of you are missing out on. As my new favorite show so hilariously plays up, the genre consists of quintessentially bad music, made by musicians who took themselves and their sentimentality way too seriously. But that describes pretty much all of pop music. What makes yacht rock special is that these musicians took themselves that seriously, sold millions of records and, in the end, made some of the most innocuous music ever. Yacht rock was never brash or reckless. It had no dark underbelly (although one of Yacht Rock's funniest tacks is to give it one by, for example, making Hall & Oates a couple of shit-talking bullies). It existed in a vacuum of sorts, right between the end of disco and the beginning of synth pop, college rock and glam metal. It was neither stylish nor edgy. It stood for one thing and one thing only: itself. The goal of the musicians who made yacht rock was to engineer the most virtuosically smooth pop song possible. It was a noble, albeit paradoxical and extremely funny goal.
Take, for example, Steely Dan, a band responsible for hits like "Rikki Don't Lose that Number," "Reelin' in the Years" and the aforementioned "Hey Nineteen." (Don't think you know that last one? You probably do. It's the "Cuervo Gold" song.) Steely Dan was a talented band. Those guys had some fiercely complicated arrangements, could orchestrate difficult tempo and key changes, and could pull off some sweet harmonies. Really, go back and listen if you don't believe me. And yet all this talent was in the service of what? Advocating flange pedals? No. These songs were written in the name of smoothness itself.
Now, I don't want anyone thinking this is some kind of arch hipster gesture I'm making. I'll grant you that the main reason I like yacht rock is because I find it funny, but there's also something undeniably endearing about the music. I think it's that underneath the smooth grooves and sweet melodies, there's that charming clumsiness that goes along with white males trying to express themselves earnestly, and that's real pathos. Yacht rock is the harmonious sound of grown men tripping over their own feelings, as hilarious as it is touching. My advice is to embrace its damaged cast of characters, invite them into your record collection. As Yacht Rock's Kenny Loggins puts it, "When a friend is drowning in a sea of sadness, you don't just toss him a life vest. You swim one over to him." -- Garrett Kamps
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