Clicking through MySpace, one comes across tons of dreck, but every once in a while a diamond gleams in the pile of trash, some virtually anonymous flash of brilliance blinds the brain with humor, underdog sass or gumption. If I were one to make mixtapes (or CDs), here’s a handful of songs that would make the cut. The Launderettes, “What Would Joan Jett Do?”: Oslo’s all-girl Launderettes announce themselves on MySpace as “Fuzz, Fjords, Farfisa & Frenzy.” If you’ve got Sirius radio, you may have heard “WWJJD” off the band’s Wicked Cool album Fluff ‘n Fold. If this one strikes your rock fancy, check out “I Wanna Jump Your Bones.”
Vidar Vang, “Under Six Strings”: Neil Young meets Springsteen in this alt-country churner from the 2002 EMI album Rodeo. Oslo’s Vang is just one of a number of Scandinavian bands who manage to keep alt-country fresh and evolving. You can’t go wrong with Vang’s “In the Shadow of Elvis” either.
The Kissinmas, “Disco Punk (Is Too Easy)”: Neo-mod pop punks the Kissinmas have found a home in France for their brand of guitar-driven pop that recalls bands like Supergrass and occasionally the Kinks. There’s more power than pop in most of the songs, but “Disco Punk” has all the violence-prone moshpit edge anyone could ask for in a pop band.
Le Maximum Kouette, “Et Alors”: These Parisian rockers tend toward soft and poppy, but this song (translation: “And Then”) is straight up badass garage rock, and the video has all the French fashionista style one would expect if they turned Che Guevara loose in the Dior store. Giulia Cardia, “I Must Not Chase the Boys”: With her pouty good looks, Italian native Cardia kills with this saucy Abba-style pop-rocker. It’s ironic that the song is not a single from her 2007 album Mi Va, perhaps because it’s sung in English.
Jubal Lee Young, “I Don’t Know What I Want”: In this verse of opposites (“I don’t wanna come down, I don’t wanna be high, I don’t wanna live, I don’t wanna die”), Muskogee, Oklahoma’s Young hits that Chris Knight country-rock groove like a sledgehammer on a railroad spike. The son of Steve Young, who wrote Waylon Jennings’ hit “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean” and Eagles hit “Seven Bridges Road,” Young the Younger gets everything right on this one.
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Richard Bicknell, “Sebastian at the Metro”: Unless you follow the alt-country world with myopic intensity, chances are you missed Bicknell’s 2003 album Baby Lightning. Critic Peter Cooper cited “Sebastian at the Metro” and “DPL” (Deep Purple Lounge), two songs written from a gay perspective, as the tracks that elevated Baby Lightning above being just another well done alt-country album. As far as I can determine, Bicknell is the only male artist in alt-country – a highly homogenous and hetero-centric genre – who openly announces his gayness on MySpace. If these songs don’t get you, you might want to schedule a human decency check up. – William Michael Smith