Fancy Plans Guide to Rock and Roll Vol. 10 – All F-ed Up EditionSeptember 22, 2009
Volume 10. Has it been 10 already?
Time for an anthology. If any of you have time in your lives for approximately 12,000 words containing approximately 0 facts, please let me know. I can send you the appropriate links via horseless carriage. My manservant Riley will be pleased to dictate these to you in his unplaceable Continental accent.
Tip well. Riley has a hot temper and a driver’s license. When he says he’s about to “lay a bitch out,” you can rest assured he means it.
Without further ado, whatnot and misc. bullshit, here it ’tis: Volume 10 – All F’ed-Up Edition.
Faith No More
Charged by absolutely no one to draw up the funk-metal blueprint, Faith No More charged onto the scene in 1985 with the heavily rotated single We Care a Lot. After priming the pump with a track that name-checked Transformers, Garbage Pail Kids and the police departments of various major U.S. cities, a band usually has only one way to go.
Not so with Faith No More. Following a long-running rock tradition of replacing lead singers, FNM shattered expectations (and a few hotel TV sets) by getting rid of the shitty vocalists first (Chuck Mosely, Courtney Love) and bringing in the stud (Mike Patton).
Expectations duly shattered (and repair bills passed on to label execs), the new Faith No More hit the ground rapping with their huge single, Epic. The accompanying video’s live fish execution scene shook up a stagnant metal scene in ways no one could have predicted. Suddenly everyone wanted more funk in their metal, rap in their lyrics, peanut butter in their chocolate and keyboard players in their band.
Stagnant metal scene duly shook up, Mike Patton gazed upon this wreckage (that’s a Numan reference) with a mixture of contempt and bemusement. Rather than crank out Epic v.2, the band delivered Angel Dust, a roaring disfigurement of an album which left their label heads shaking their collective heads in contempt and, presumably, musement. Or bewilderment.
The band reached their peak with a nearly note-for-note cover of the Commodores’ Easy. With their metalhead crowd left to puzzle out this inscrutable move (and scurry for their dictionaries), Mike Patton served notice that he was no ordinary lead singer, perfectly comfortable with shredding your eardrums and his vocal cords or laying you down by the fire to make sweet, sweet love at you. (And I stole that one from Zap Brannigan. But as the old saying goes, “If you have to steal, make sure you tell everybody about it.”)
At this point, the Faith No More story becomes vague, another in the multi-volume set (from the Time/Life Series Diminishing Returns). Patton split from the band to pursue side projects that ranged from “unlistenable” to “potentially brain damaging.” Keyboardist Roddy Bottum went on to form the incomparable Imperial Teen. The other guys went on to do “other guy” stuff, presumably.
Lionel Richie continued to crank out regrettable product. Like Nicole.
A group that was always “a little bit soul; a little bit hippie bullshit,” the Fifth Dimension are best known for their pioneering work done in a dimension that was two past where most bands were willing to go.
Often performing their entire tour in the fifth dimension, the band would draw huge crowds despite there being hardly anything visible on stage. Die-hard fans would claim to see brief glimpses of the band members between bright flashes of light and faint snatches of otherworldly voices. Those in the audience who were not psychotropically enhanced often claimed to have “not seen a damn thing” and that the whole “experience” was “bullshit.”
During one of their brief forays into a third dimension studio, the Fifths recorded their massive hit “Age of Aquarius,” which soundtracked a key nude scene in naked-hippie musical Hair. Hair’s producers wisely reasoned that a fair amount of nudity would be a box office draw, but theater-goers found the nudity was far less than gratuitous. In fact, because this was the Sixties and the performers were hippies, the advertised “sexy bits” were left to the imagination due to the incredible amount of hair. Said one theater-goer: “Dear God. It’s everywhere! And the smell…”
The Fifth Dimension faded into obscurity as fans flocked to bands more readily visible on stage and less likely to spin watches backwards or leave the audience members covered in ectoplasm and artifacts.
There was also the matter of the class action lawsuit filed against the band by the city of Pomona, CA. The suit alleged that the Fifth Dimension were “dicking around with forces they can’t possibly comprehend,” thus cataclysmically opening “a gateway to hell.” The court found in favor of the city as the Fifth Dimension were either unable or unwilling to attend in any sort of visible fashion. The members were ordered to pay for any damages incurred by Satan’s minions and to “cease and desist from making music and fade into obscurity.”
Anybody who knows me knows I have a weakness for Manchester natives who can’t sing for shit (hello, Happy Mondays). Mark E. Smith, he of the inimitable Mancunian drawl, has combined with various iterations of his band to produce over 1,200 albums. This includes nearly 4,500 singles, 300 live albums and 150 or so one-offs, released on anything from 45’s, cassette-only and wax cylinders. If you are new to the band, you can’t go wrong starting out with any of over 200 greatest-hits compilations.
As you make your way through the treacherous back catalog that rivals the legendary vaults of Prince or the drunken productivity of Guided by Voices, there is also the shifting band dynamic to consider. Various styles and influences will crop up as the band continually experiments with their sound.
A lot of the shift also comes from Mark E. Smith’s on-again, off-again relationship with his sometimes wife and guitarist, Brix Smith. This can also be said about his relationship with the rest of the band, although probably with a lot less sexual contact. Hence, a lot of comparison just within the Brix and non-Brix albums.
Which brings us to the pinnacle of their career: a cover of disco favorite Lost in Music by Sister Sledge, proving yet again (see above) that great bands are at their best when they cover classic pop without irony.
Of course, much like above (see also: Faith No More), this set a precedent that was followed by shitty bands whose careers never really had a pinnacle (Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes [the Who]; Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal[Michael Jackson]; the Ataris – Boys of Summer [Don Fucking Henley])
One final note: Mark E. Smith’s singing can be an acquired taste and should actually be prefaced with quote/enquote. It’s not so much singing as it is a rambling drawl with extra ending syllables. But before you start talking shit about lack of vocal talent, ask yourself this: who would you rather listen to for an extended period of time: Bob Dylan or Celine Dion?
The prosecution rests.
A Flock of Seagulls
The quintessential ’80s band, A Flock of Seagulls were truly a snapshot of their place and time, so tied to the brief “new” wave of music that they spent several weeks in the Top 40 Wishing (They Had Taken A Better Photograph). Epitomized by their stupid hairdos and overuse of parentheses, AFoS were charter members of the Haircut 100, a group of New Romantic groups whose cross-country runs were immortalized in AFoS’ greatest hit, I Ran (a 10K for Charity).
As music progressed, bringing with it hair metal and ridiculous hairdos of a different kind, AFoS remained in a creative holding pattern, doomed (as with so many other bands) to fade into obscurity, only to be harshly marginalized by smartass “blogger personalities” such as myself.
Godspeed, Seagulls. And take these fucking things with you: ( )
Posted in Music | Tagged Continental Accents, Faith No More, Fifth Dimension, Flock of Seagulls, Fucking F-ed Up, Guides, Haircut 100, Happy Mondays, Humor, Mike Patton, Riley's Laying Bitches Right the Fuck Out, Rock and Roll, the Fall |
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