A few weeks ago, I went to a P. Diddy-themed pool party where a fellow bacchanal was shooting Polaroids of bikini-clad lovelies. As one developed, I momentarily thought I spotted a boom mic hanging in the sunset-rimmed snapshot. That's when I started to worry: Maybe summer doesn't really exist. Maybe it's just a modern invention created by pop singers.
"Summer means happy times and good sunshine," Brian Wilson notes in a recent New York Times Magazine profile. "It means going to the beach, going to Disneyland, having fun."
"Is summer your favorite season?" asks interviewer Deborah Solomon.
"No," he says. "I like fall."
Of course he does. For a Beach Boy who's terrified of drowning and who admits that his "good sunshine" songs were written to fend off some pretty dark times, summer is just a song.
I think I heard that song this week--the lyrics had something to do with svelte Speedo-attired gentlemen feeding me saltwater taffy down by the shore. Just one chorus, and I was dusting the sand off my computer, ready to bring this column back from its mini-vacation.
I hope this feeling lasts, Mr. Wilson. Because I like fall, too.
Staraoke, Tuesday, July 6 at Grumpy's Bar and Grill Every karaoke singer I've seen at Grumpy's thinks he's a star, including my all-time favorite tune-challenged performer, whom I once saw engage in some dirty dancing to Patrick Swayze's "She's Like the Wind." (Like the wind, he blew.) But tonight, a real, live, US Weekly-certified star grabs the mic. "That's Lili Taylor," I whisper to my friend. He stares back at me blankly. "You know, that awesome actress from Six Feet Under? Mystic Pizza? I Shot Andy Warhol?"
"Okay, she was the girl in Say Anything who sings, 'Joe Lies (When He Cries).'"
You may remember that there were 63 songs all written about Joe. Taylor opts out of all of them, instead choosing Macy Gray's "I Try." She's good, too, emulating Gray's smoky growl and motioning with patented Gray gesticulations--you know, the kind that suggest her invisible hand puppets have joined her for the chorus. Later, Taylor sparks up her lighter when crew members from Factotum, the Charles Bukowski-inspired film Taylor is shooting in the Twin Cities, follow "I Try" with renditions of "Tainted Love" and "That's Amore." The latter song causes one couple to slow dance with roses chomped between their teeth. "Aw, young love," coos the woman next to me. Scuze-a me, but you see, back in old Napoli, that's just lust.
Mark Mallman, Friday, July 9 at the Triple Rock Social Club The fact that Mark Mallman is standing onstage at the Triple Rock holding a giant werewolf head is a little bit disturbing. I mean, everyone knows that the rightful place for giant werewolf heads is at the bar, where they can slaughter nerdy journalists and sip drunkards' blood in peace. Plus, when Mallman sends the cabeza spinning on a rotating stand, its eyes flashing red, you know there's gotta be a headless werewolf somewhere in the crowd, arms folded, waiting patiently for Mallman to let it maul man.
The crowd is willing to take that risk. "Who else does this for you?" the shaggy-haired local rock star asks halfway through the extended breakdown of "Better People Do It Better." "Who does this? The Honeydogs? Semisonic? Trip Shakespeare?" There's a dissenting murmur in the audience. "Okay," Mallman admits. "Maybe Trip Shakespeare have done this for you...but that was with a gorilla head!" More murmuring. Mallman shrugs, and before anyone can point to the gargoyle skulls or leprechaun noggins used by local bands of late, he launches into a riveting keyboard solo that sounds like someone threw a piano down M.C. Escher's stairs. As bassist Kat Hixon and guitarist Ryan Smith comply with Mallman's adamant requests for more disco riffs, the song escalates into an epic clamor that climaxes when Mallman raises his lycanthropic backup singer in front of his face. "Buy my CD!" the werewolf shouts in its best death-metal voice. "I mean, buy Mallman's CD! Obey! Obey! KILL!!! Thank you, have a good night."
First Annual Twin Cities Band Slam, Sunday, July 11 at First Avenue "This is our second song," announces the multi-instrumentalist for the Formerly Known. "We like to call it 'Second Song.'"
Me, I like to call that particular musical number "The Lazy Bastards Who Wrote Me Refused to Come Up with a Title." Still, by the time the folksy trio reaches their first lovely, circuslike kazoo interlude, I'm cheering along with the audience for every one of the band's generically named singles.
"Either you guys are really drunk or really nice," says the virtuoso kazooist. Someone throws a wadded-up beer-bottle label toward the stage. "Have some more drinks," the guitarist suggests.
As it turns out, the Formerly Known end up having a lot more drinks--a whole case of James Page, in fact, which is awarded to each member when they win second place in the contest. First place, and all the other contestants' entry fee money, goes to the harder-edged rock group Lübrador, whose moniker sounds like the common name for the rare dog breed canis leg-humpus. "Thank you. Spay or neuter your animals," the guitarist suggests when he claims his prize. Then his eyes twinkle with a more humane alternative: "Or lubricate them."
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Animal Collective, Sung Tongs (Fat Cat) Animal Collective's endless-summer songs are faded from the winter, calling out from a Hawaiian postcard lost in an ice house. "This house is sad because he's gone," moans a ghostly, childlike voice on the first track, as tropical guitars repeat the same phrase over and over again. The Brooklyn group's stuttering lullabies refuse to move on--the looped melodies haunt you like half-remembered conversations until entire pop histories whisper within them. On "College," nonsense Beach Boys harmonies sigh beneath quicksand feedback. The squeaky guitar strings on "Winters Love" tweet like sunrise birds heard on the walk home from an all-night party. The hand claps and ecstatic wah-la chants on "Sweet Road" could have come from a distant school yard that no one can find. By the time the final track arrives, the lyrics have been so distorted by pedals and sequencers that you probably can't transcribe a single sentence from "Whaddit I Done." But the melody is so archetypal, you feel you know the words to these songs--as well as the words you can't find to describe them.
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