A periodic check of the songs getting the most play on my iPod …
Stereophonics, Dakota: I’ve been listening to this song constantly for a couple of months now, and I’m nowhere near sick of it. That’s high praise for a relatively simple pop song. The brilliance of it is that a cute little artsy trick actually works — the lyrics are all about his unresolved feelings, and the melody never resolves, either. If you’ve ever composed any music, you know that it’s pretty tough to pull that off without making something that sounds awfully awkward. And there’s nothing awkward about this song. If I had a Grammy vote, I’d just scrawl “Dakota” on my ballot and be done with it. Beautiful, timeless pop artistry at its best.
Molly Hatchet, Flirtin’ With Disaster: Best Southern rock song ever, in part because it’s one of those rare grits-rockers in which the drummer is allowed to play. There’s a subtle hint of ’70s progressive rock in this one — not enough to spoil the style or make the well-timed whistle in the guitar solo seem out of place, but enough to give it an edge that you don’t hear from the guys with the big belt buckles. And the lyrics could be interpreted as good ol’ Southern bravado (“What are the last words of a Southerner?” “Betcha I can!”) or perhaps a statement on the state of the world. With some swinging guitar, ominous bass and powerful drums, they both celebrate and lampoon life on the edge of disaster. (What I’m trying to say is this — it’s a cool song. OK?)
Dandy Warhols, Bohemian Like You: I only knew it as the theme music for the BBC’s soccer call-in show 606 until I caught it on XM. It’s actually a witty, hook-laden song that seems impossible to dislike. They don’t get much more fun that this.
Cowboy Junkies, Sun Comes Up, It’s Tuesday Morning: A nice defiant breakup song, not entirely happy but determined to look on the bright side. The pleasant yet world-weary Margo Timmins vocal, delivered in a fast, unpredictable rhythm, tells of having a whole bag of popcorn to herself at the movies, having the freedom to walk out if she doesn’t like the film and, most importantly, having those “extra few feet in my bed.”
Cowboy Mouth, Love of My Life: I generally don’t like bands that yell at me to get up off my feet. That’s my choice, thanks. But when I saw these guys about a decade ago, they won me over. “They” in this case would be Fred, their drummer, lead vocalist and general rabble-rouser. This is another breakup song, but it’s a little more animated than the Junkies effort, powered by Fred’s incessant tom-toms and chortling about the crazy woman who is no longer the love of his life.
The Cure, Wrong Number: The Cure, on occasion, can create a wall of sound that would make Phil Spector drool. For sheer bombast, this is the best. It starts with pulsing synthesizers that suggest a mix of the Six Million Dollar Man’s “bionic” sound effects and a couple of computers trying to communicate, then hits a joyous overload with a barrage of drums and guitars. By the time they toss in some random sound effects, it’s the most masterful orchestration of chaos this side of Fishbone. I have no idea what the lyrics mean — some sort of abstract thing about colors and dreams that would easily fit a Throwing Muses tune — but I don’t care. This is sheer sonic euphoria that makes the ride home go a little faster. (Unless I have the kid in the car, in which case I play things a little quieter.)