Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Red, White, Blue

Here I am, at home still. On holiday, not self-isolating although it comes to much the same thing. Turns out I did have an extra week off after all. Whether that will extend under current conditions remains to be seen but nominally I will be back to work on Sunday, since the new holiday regime takes start and finish dates excruciatingly literally.

Being at home means blogging but as the conversation went over at Paeroka's place, sometimes our gaming patterns sell us short on ideas for things to write about. Well, not really, because I can bang out a thousand words on pretty much anything. But even I wouldn't always want to read them.

So, let's have another round of Musical Death Match! It amuses me and that's mainly what I'm here for, after all. Don't know about the rest of you...

I let slip in the last episode the existence of certain hot-button themes and tropes guaranteed to get my attention in song titles or the names of bands. There are quite a lot of them. I don't propose to offer a list. Well, not today.

The ones I mentioned, all present in Baterya Fox's Tracy's Blue Cigarettes (playing in the background as I type this) were girls' names, colors and drugs. Let's go for... colors! In fact, let's go for Red, White and Blue.

Not for any patriotic reasons, god forbid, but in honor of Krzysztof Kieślowski's Three Colors trilogy, none of which I have ever actually seen but all of which, at one time, I meant to watch and then, predictably, never did. Guess I'll have time soon enough if the lockdown happens...

Fortunately, there are more than enough of all three hues to make for a fair contest. Blue, as you might guess, has the most. Even if I excise all those using "blues" rather than "blue", the tally comes out like this: eight for Team Red, five for Team White and a whopping thirteen for Team Blue.

Doesn't matter! This contest isn't going be won by force of numbers. It's all about the feels. Ding! Ding! Round One! Except, wait a minute... this being our first three-way death match, I haven't really thought ahead on how the framing might work. D'oh! I guess we'd better take each competitor as they come.

No fewer than four of the red entries come from Girl In Red so we'll lead with her. I found her by way of a collaboration with Beabadoobee. The two bedroom pop phenomena joined forces on a peaen to the novel that introduced me to one of my favorite authors of the last ten years, Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park

I already embedded that one above, out of competition. Girl In Red's solo entry is 4am. I love the desperate surge of it, the way the lyric captures those wolf hour terrors. I also love the way the video compresses Warhol's five hours of Sleep into less than two minutes.

White's first riposte could hardly be in greater contrast: a heavy metal trio covering Paul McCartney and Wings' Jet. This is not the kind of thing I normally spend time on but I've always had a soft spot for post-Beatles McCartney (well, until the '90s) in general and the Band on the Run album in particular plus I'm big on covers that do something different with the source material. The White Swan certainly do that.

Representing Blue today we have Look Blue, Go Purple with Cactus Cat, one of the most New Zealand tunes you could ever hope to hear. They missed the cut in the Cats vs Dogs match but here they are, flying their colors (well, one of them) in finest Flying Nun style.

And the winner is... Girl In Red! Authenticity isn't entirely out of fashion, not quite yet. Round Two!

Swaggering into the ring with their inimitable indie-diy-tweerock Canadian cool, it's Cub with Flaming Red Bobsled. Cub were one of the early discoveries I made when I began trawling YouTube, back in my Jeffrey Lewis/Kimya Dawson antifolk days. Cub themselves have nothing to do with the antifolk movement, don't play anything like it and predate it by at least a decade. But, hey, personal history is personal.

Facing off against the Cub trio for White we have Tiny Magnetic Pets with Girl In A White Dress. Okay, I should say right up front, this is not a fair contest. I started this post with a mention of tropes that get my attention and this one has half a dozen of them! Size descriptors, science terms, pets, girls, color and items of clothing. Wouldn't matter if the song was no good, of course, but it's great. And it's also new, for once, recorded in late 2019. Bonus points!

What can Blue bring to the floor? Well, oddly, despite having the most in the locker, the choices aren't great. Several of the best ones I've used in previous posts so they're out. Let's have... Oh, I know... Mazzy Star doing Blue Flower on Jools Holland's show.

Mazzy Star are kind of the motherlode for this kind of slowed down fuzzpop. There's some kind of line of descent from the Velvet Underground via Cowboy Junkies but the Hope Sandoval fronted outfit would surely get their name in bold in any rock family tree.

And the winner of round two? Mazzy Star just shade it for Team Blue with Hope's lack of affect and that borrowed V.U. riff.

Third and final round! Will Red or Blue land a knockout punch or will White sneak in for a split decision and a three way tie? Let's find out...

Up now for Team Red we have the magnificently-named Care Bears On Fire with a cover of Red Lights, a tune originally performed by long-forgotten NY powerpoppers, The Marbles. Here's the original, which really isn't very good at all  - so thin... and that guitar solo! I love the glam inflection of the Care Bears version and that tempo change mid-number just kills in a way that's wholly absent in The Marbles lack of attack. Okay, maybe it can't quite stand with the Care Bears seminal Barbie, Eat A Sandwich, but what can?

Follow that, if you can, Team White. And guess what? It's another cover! Only this time it's a cover of a classic, not some mouldering oldie out of the bargain bin of time. It takes nerve to take on Grace Slick's bravura crowd-pleaser, White Rabbit, especially if you plan on doing it while playing the congas but Elephant Revival pretty much get away with it. Or do they?

Just one more to go. Could it be another classic cover? Maybe Aly Cabral Tindig's brittle rendition of the Velvet's Pale Blue Eyes, heartbreakingly performed before an uncaring coffee house crowd that never once stops gabbing? Probably not.

No, but it is another cover. A strange one. The enigmatically named Banfile, about whom I know just about as little as it's possible for one human being to know about another, gives one of Lloyd Cole's lesser tunes the deeply mannered New Romantic treatment. There aren't an awful lot of Cole covers around but the few there are tend to be heartfelt, like this.

The judges are conferring and...yes! It's a win for Care Bears On Fire as I'm sure everyone could see coming. Which means the contest overall goes to Team Red!

Thanks for coming. Please take your litter with you and drop it in the bins provided on your way out. Til next time!

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