Fancy Plans… Guide to Rock and Roll Vol. 5 (Nothing Exceeds Like Excess)June 11, 2009
As long as the horse remains dead, we at Fancy Plans… will continue to beat it. If, at any point, the horse is revived, we will swiftly re-kill it and commence beating it immediately. So without further ado, the latest installment of the apparently neverending Fancy Plans… Guide to Rock and Roll.
Alice in Chains
Also-rans during the Pacific Northwest’s “me-too” onslaught, Alice in Chains funneled Layne Staley’s love for all things Led Zeppelin and/or heroin-related into a monotonous blend of po’-faced confessions and overweight riffage.
Staley’s introspective lyrics dealt with his own personal demons: horse, smack and heroin. The band’s song titles tended to reflect that. Some choice selections are:
- Me and Julio Shooting Up Down by the Schoolyard
- Man in a Heart-Shaped Box
- Rainy Day Junkies #12 and #35
- Tourniquet of Smackhound’s Desire
- Brother, Can You Spare a Bindle?
- Smack’s a Good Man, Brother
- Train in Vein
- God Help Me, I Loves Me Some Horse
- My Apologies for Throwing Up in Your Closet
The brainchild of Bryan Ferry, the man who would be lounge king, Roxy Music was always classing up the joint with their avant-garde music, artful crooning, wicked smart lyrics and nekkid women album covers.
Their breakthrough came in 1982 with Avalon, Ferry’s tribute to the world’s foremost purveyor of strategic board games. In fact, the band’s love of Axis & Allies frequently found them engaged in marathon sessions, which would often force them to hit the stage late and still dressed in Nazi garb. Onstage banter often contained cryptic quotes, such as “Eno, you fool. You played right into my hands,” and “Berlin will never fall!” The refusal of Ferry to recognize British air superiority was the main factor in Eno’s decision to leave the band.
Bryan Ferry soldiered on with Roxy Music and a fairly prolific solo career, continually thrusting his success into the faces of his former classmates, who teased him mercilessly about his last name. Each album cover was successively nuder, as if to point out the massive amount of trim Ferry was getting, despite his last name, “pansy ass” singing and “gay” wardrobe.
One can hardly begin to discuss the extremely prolific output of expert knob-twiddler Richard D. James (aka Aphex Twin) without recounting some of his alter egos and side projects: AFX, Caustic Window, Richard “Humpty” Vission, Sine Wave, Men Without Hats, Mike and Rich, White Cell Count, Didgeridoo, Gak, Polygon Window, The Most Exalted Potentate of Love, Philip Glass, Calx, Unlistenable Twaddle, Narwhal Extractor, walloFsoUnd, Power Pill, Alice Deejay, Dixie-Narco, Q-Chastic, Richard D. James: Medicine Woman, I Makes Me Own Instruments, Harold & Kumar Go to Cornwall, etc. Which scarcely leaves time to discuss anything else.
Less a band than major label backwash from the mid-90’s “alt.rock” signing sprees, (“Hell, we signed Toad the Wet Sprocket and Better Than Ezra! Why the fuck not!”) Blind Melon swiftly hoisted their own petard with a jangly single and an omnipresent video featuring what appears to be a Special Olympics costume contest.
Lead “singer” Shannon Hoon milked his “tortured hippie” schtick until his career came to a sudden halt due to the untimely cocaine overdose of the “Bee Girl.” With Blind Melon rudderless (and talentless), the remaining members filed for Chapter 11 cultural bankruptcy, opening a primo “alternative” slot which the major labels swiftly filled with Blowfish.
Born in the summer of ’69 in Anytown, USA during a 4th of July parade, at the corner of Main Street and Cliche, Bryan Adams grew up to be a platinum-selling artist despite no one ever admitting to being a fan of his.
As he tirelessly strives to out-bland late-model Bon Jovi and the Goo Goo Dolls, Adams may face his biggest challenge in Aerosmith’s soundtrack-ready power balladry.
Bryan Adams: the anti-Velvet Underground: despite record sales in the millions has never inspired anyone, anywhere to start a band.
Of all the art school rejects who have started bands, Bauhaus was by far the artiest. (Unless you count the Artful Dodger, purveyor of British 2-step. We won’t because 2-step is a combination of R&B and drum n’ bass, two awful tastes that taste awful together.)
Known everywhere as “the only goth band ever,” Bauhaus trafficked in dark lyrics and minor chords. Their lead singer, Peter Murphy, possessed the most overwrought and over-enunciated English accent to ever grace vinyl, a title he held until a young Al Jourgensen put Chicago on the map with his New Romantic synthpop group, Ministry.
So arty were they, in fact, that Peter Murphy dissolved the group simply because the band name wasn’t “arty” enough, forming Dali’s Car with Mick Karn in 1984. The other members of the band went their separate ways, taking on various odd jobs such as Lead Singer in Tones on Tail (Daniel Ash), Interchangeable Member of the Jazz Butcher (David J) and Drummer in Tones on Tail (Kevin Haskins).
The other 3, as I will affectionately call them right now, went on to form Love & Rockets, the greatest psychedelic pop band to ever boldy snatch their name from a published work without having to append a “UK” to their U.S. releases. (See also: Chameleons UK, Charlatans UK, Chemical Brothers UK (Dust Brothers US), Carter USM UK, British Sea Power UK.)
Another 4AD band, following This Mortal Coil’s blueprint for medium success. The Twins hew closely to the atmospheric dreampop of their labelmates, but have created a distinctly unique sound of their own, perhaps mainly due to Elizabeth Fraser’s vocals.
Critics have found it hard to describe their sound accurately. “Ethereal” gets tossed around. A lot. “Dreamlike” gets trotted out. But to truly pinpoint this band’s sound, one would have to create entirely new metaphors and comparisons, like:
- “What gauzy purple sounds like…”
- “Like Nick Lowe, only female and balding…”
- “Like Kate Bush fronting Chapterhouse, with the guitars set to ‘pillow.'”
- “Like This Mortal Coil, only less coiled and more mortal. With a chick sort of singing…”
Note to fans keeping score at home: the Cocteau Twins are not actually twins, like the Thompsons, Aphexes and Toxics.