August 25th, 2009

pop'n music best hits

Here, sitting in my room, with The Replacements and Hüsker Dü...

It was my mum's birthday last weekend (well, I suppose the weekend before last now - 15th), so we went out with her in central London. First we went to Grant & Cutler, the foreign language bookshop, to buy her some German books. We discovered several weird new language-learning techniques, including a course you can do on your iPod, and a course that encourages you to learn German phrases by setting them all to music and singing along. Personally, it seems that my language-learning ability died after school, as I didn't get anywhere with German or Italian at university... but I have a ridiculously good memory for the lyrics of songs. So we bought her the CD and I'm curious to know how she gets on with it.

Then we went CD shopping. We went into Sister Ray, which has historically been the kind of shop that concentrates on electronic, industrial and gothic music - they sell other stuff, but only to pay the rent. If it's weird, on an indie label, and ideally in a language that your average British person would not understand, they'd have it. Even now, they are indie hip enough to still sell paper fanzines, which have more-or-less died out since the internet became a thing that everyone has. I, however, did not get obscure music. I bought albums of classic rock, most of which are hopelessly unfashionable:

Def Leppard - Hysteria Deluxe Edition. Somewhere, I have a tape (paid-for) of Hysteria that I've had since the late 80s. I found it again recently going through boxes and was all excited because I've been wanting to listen to it. But could I find it the other day when I was desperate to hear it? No.

Hüsker Dü - Candy Apple Grey. Many years ago, bethdeth, who I knew from the Wildhearts Mailing List, gave me a tape of this. It wasn't the greatest quality, like many taped copies of other tapes. My indie-kid credentials have been seriously dented all these years because I never got round to buying any Hüsker Dü albums. Shocking!

Journey - Greatest Hits. I blame Rock Band. Really, I do. Songs of extreme earworm that are right in my vocal range (how did those AOR guys sing so high?).

Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine. Because neither Richard nor I already owned it and it is the best NIN album.

Poison - The Best of Poison: 20 Years of Rock. Again, blame Guitar Hero/Rock Band. I've always had a secret fondness for hair metal and Poison in particular, but I hadn't realised how many good songs they had until being forced to listen to them as part of a game.

Soul Asylum - Black Gold: The Best Of. The Soul Asylum album Grave Dancers Union is in my non-existent Top 20 Albums Of All Time list, and I love all the Soul Asylum/Dave Pirner tracks on Kevin Smith movie soundtracks... yet I've never got round to buying any more of their stuff. I suck.

Velvet Revolver - Libertad. The recommendations on our Sonos system keep suggesting we should listen to Velvet Revolver, and so far we've liked all the tracks.

I was almost cringing taking my little collection up to the counter to pay. Surely these CDs would mark me as hopelessly non-indie with no street cred whatsoever? and I was mentally preparing for an argument where I pointed out all the weird and interesting stuff in our collection at home. (Hey, my favourite band Freezepop spent something like 8 years not only on an indie label, but on an indie label owned by two of the people in the band!). And indeed, the young tattooed & pierced guy with strange spiky hair behind the counter said "Oh cool, you have a really good collection here - we were actually going to put that Journey CD on next". I just accepted that comment, and paid my £50.

Halfway down the road, it hit me. He wasn't being sarcastic. Apparently I'm old enough now for the stuff I liked as a kid to be considered retro. I don't honestly know how this makes me feel.

Gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide.

The other thing we did for my mum's birthday was go to see the musical version of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I'd asked Richard to get the intermediate price tickets for all 3 of us, but Richard decided he didn't really want to go (musicals not being his thing), and instead got the expensive tickets for my mum & I, as this worked out to be the same amount of money. We had absolutely fantastic seats in the stalls where you could see everything!

The London version of the production has Jason Donovan starring as Tick, which leads to amusing riffs. For example, Adam/Felicia wants to be Kylie Minogue, and Tick says "I always fancied Scott, myself" - which brought the house down. Also, the costumes! The Village People's song Go West was accompanied by cowboys and cowgirls in silver PVC. Another song had dancers dressed as fairy cakes in crinoline dresses. The paper cup that you make the cake in was the crinoline over a hoop. Their bodies and the top of the dresses were the icing, with big dots for Smarties. And their headdresses were like birthday cake candles, which lit up at an appropriate point in the song.

Also, the scene where they paint Priscilla the bus pink to cover up the homophobic abuse written on her was done with many LEDs on the side of the bus, and the dancers dressed as paintbrushes. PAINTBRUSHES! Honestly, whoever came up with the costumes for this show has an amazingly warped mind. The LEDs were then used later for other songs with other designs, like rubber ducks floating on a pond.

I really can't describe how good it was in words. It was just the gayest thing ever. If West End musicals weren't so damned expensive, I'd have gone again already. And I came home wanting to be a drag queen when I grow up, which confused everyone. ("But... to be a drag queen, you'd have to wear high heels and shave your legs and wear make up and do all those other things which you reject as part of 'normal' femininity!").

Video links of the month.

It's 4 am. Why am I still up? Evidently I need to post all the videos that I have cluttering up tabs in my browser history.

Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom. Incredibly catchy high-pitched silly song accompanying a video of cute creatures eating. I'm sure you've all seen this before because it was posted on livejournal while I was in Boston a month ago, but just in case you need cheering up and baby animals do it for you...

Again, I think most people have seen this already, but it is both Scientific and Musical, so therefore deserves to be spread some more. World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale (sound essential). Having got the audience to sing two notes of the scale by jumping between positions on the stage, it is amazing when he jumps to a third place (as yet untaught), and the audience intuitively sing the correct note. Some people have argued in the comments on Vimeo that it is Western-scale-centric to assume that this knowledge is innate and that people from other cultures with different tuning patterns would have a different expectation, but it's still really cool to observe.

There are also two videos where Bobby McFerrin improvises "songs", which are really interesting because he uses other parts of his body as well as his voice as musical instruments. He can sing in chords and use his chest as percussion. Song One. Song Two. I like the second song a lot.  

The Worst FanFiction Of All Time: Halos in Space (needs Flash, no subtitles). stellarwind tells me that some of the stories on are so bad, people made videos with readings of them. This scares me. As does the grammar in the following excerpt: "Joe Chief had to fly fast and go a round tings liek alien ships and things. Then out of no where BOOM happend and the back of the espcape ship fell open n one of the army guys fell out and explodd in space then another one closed it and said "NOOOOO HE WAS MY BROTHER!" and then got tired and slept." My brain hurts now.

Lobster Magnet (needs Flash & has subtitles). A silly pastiche of bad shouty thrash metal, which apparently dates from 2000. Not sure how I've managed to miss it for so long. Features epic lines such as "Magnet's made of iron, lobster made of meat", "Don't put a lobster on a plate. He'll use his magnet to escape!" and "Left claw north, right claw south". Will probably appeal to people who like Homestar Runner and Weebl songs.

Finally, a video I found all by myself: Pok&Watch by MewtwoEx150 on YouTube (sound not necessary). Shows rather amusingly what Pokemon would have looked like if it had come out at the time of the Game & Watch.

Bed now, it's several hours past my bedtime :) Well, you know, I post to livejournal in bursts - nothing for days then 3 or 4 posts all at once...
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