John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

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My review of tomthedog's mix

OK, now it's time to examine tomthedog's own contribution to his eponymous Great LJ CD Exchange.

I knew a little something about his taste in music from reading his LJ and his weblog, so I expected to enjoy his CD. And, I did. Tom did something I gave some consideration to: he inserted little snippets of dialogue in between some of his songs. This had the (intended?) effect of making his CD seem less like one long mix of music than six shorter mixes. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

First up after a brief clip from Army of Darkness is the Who, performing "Long Live Rock." I knew Tom's CD would contain a Who song—for Tom, the Who is to music what armadillo are to the animal kingdom for me. Next up is a Who cover: the Queers, doing their take on "The Kids are All Right." It's a solid pop-punk take on the song, different enough from the original to make it enjoyable. The first mini-mix concludes with two songs I remember hearing frequently on the radio a few years ago: "The Kids Aren't Alright" by the Offspring, and Local H's "All the Kids Are Right. I liked both these songs just fine when they were popular, and promptly forgot about them once they fell out of common rotation.

The second mini-mix kicks off with that Statler and Waldorf clip I linked to yesterday. Funny! Even funnier is the song that follows it: "Green Eggs and Ham" by Moxy Früvous. Oh my God, what a great song. It stays true to the spirit of the original while putting a unique modern spin on it. I really hope Dr. Seuss got to hear it before he died. That piece of sheer brilliance is followed by a cute (and surprisingly political) Barenaked Ladies song, "Ballad of Gordon."

Another clip from Army of Darkness leads into the 1994 Refreshments class, "Banditos." I love this song, so it was good of Tom to include it on his CD. Unfortunately, it seems slightly out of place among the other songs on this segment of the disc, all of which have a certain old-timey feel to them. Two of them are genuinely old: Der Bingle's seminal recording of "Swinging on a Star," and Patsy Cline's "Never No More," which I'd heard before but didn't know by name. Also in this mini-mix: Ben Folds Five's cover of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" and Hoyt Axton's "Jealous Man." "Raindrops" is hardly my favorite BFF song, but I will never ever complain about having to listen to Ben Folds Five. The Axton song is good; I'm not necessarily a huge fan of country music, but to the extent I do like it, I like old school stuff like this far, far, far more than the contemporary stuff you hear on country radio these days.

And then comes one of the greatest movie quotes of all time: "I got news for you, pal, you ain't leading but two things right now: jack and shit. And jack left town." That makes me laugh every time I hear it, even after listening to it ten times in a row. I'm chuckling a little just thinking about it.

After that we have a pair of punk-pop tunes: "Three Small Words" by "Josie and the Pussycats" and "Stuart and the Ave." by Green Day. I actually prefer the former; it's an underappreciated gem, 2 minutes and 55 seconds of pure pop-punk goodness. (Brief aside: I realized the other day that "Three Small Words" is, lyrically at least, almost exactly like the Cole Porter classic "You're the Tops." It talks about ace high royal flushes and ten ticket thrill rides instead of Arrow collars and Mahatma Gandhi, but in principle they're the same.) The Green Day song is nothing special; most Green Day songs sound pretty much the same to me. Next up is "Driver Education," a surprisingly rocking little number from Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. I think I'd like to hear more of her solo work. That one is followed by Tenacious D's "Tribute." I remember seeing a video for this on VH1 Mega Hits last year; I liked it then, and I still do. And speaking of lyrics that consistently make me laugh, "Nay; we are but men. Rock!" gets me every time.

The we have another sound clip, one I didn't recognize and didn't particularly like. That's appropriate, because it leads into the only part of Tom's disc I didn't like. Tool's "Aenema" and Therapy?'s "Hey Satan -- You Rock" are the only mis-steps on the whole album. The third song in this section is somewhat better: Queens of the Stone Age's "Go with the Flow." Oh well, I can just excise these from the playlist and pretend they don't exist.

Thing improve considerably with the next sound clip, from John Carpenter's They Live: "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum." That introduces another cover, Pegboy's rendition of the Cheap Trick classic "Surrender." It's OK, but it's not nearly as good as the original. Also, the song seems a bit out of place here, because it's followed by two explicitly political songs, "By the Time I Get to Arizona," Public Enemy's response to the decision by the Arizona state government to not recognize Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday as a state holiday, and the brutally sad anti-war song "And the Band Played 'Waltzing Matilda'," as performed by the Pogues. It's a little odd to hear a quintessentially Irish band like the Pogues singing a fundamentally Australian song, but damned if it doesn't work. Shane MacGowan's raspy voice perfectly conveys the bitterness of the wounded veteran from whose perspective the song is sung. Ending the CD with such a downer was an unusual choice, but it works.

Or rather, it would have worked. But the CD I got actually ends with another snippet of dialogue and a charming little ditty about the joy of slaughtering kittens. Whoops! Should've quit while you were ahead, Tom.

All in all, Tom put together a very good CD. I didn't care for the hard rock songs he included, but the modular format he used to construct the mix makes it easy to pretend they aren't there.

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