Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Great Songs You May Never Have Heard (3)

I'm sure that after only two entries, some people are already starting to worry that I'm a) only going to be posting links to country(ish) rock and b) I won't be talking about anything too recent. I can assure you that I won't be sticking too close to any single genre or time frame, although today we only move sideways for musical style.

I'm sure there are many people out there who remember the song "Welcome to the Boomtown" by David + David. The album hit Billboard's Top 100, and the song itself peaked, I believe, inside the rock top ten. This surprises me, to be honest. You don't think of a song with the lyrics "Now he smokes much too much/Got a permanent hack/Deals dope out of Denny's/Keeps a table in the back" as being something that will even make a minor stab at the top of the charts. We are, after all, a society that tends to prefer our music poppy and schmaltzy. Grit and anger always hovers just over the edge of the horizon, the property of disaffected youth who prefer punk and its offshoots or rap that isn't all about bling and booty.

The rest of the album is filled with gems, and I encourage you to seek it out if you don't already have it. "Swallowed by the Cracks," "Ain't So Easy," and more, the album is riddled with bitter, angry music, a worldview that gives us characters who skate on the edges of life, and yet is eminently listenable.

David + David didn't last as a group. For whatever reason, platinum-selling status didn't agree with the pair, and they broke up. David Baerwald moved on, writing songs for others, recording his own albums, and even helping form the Tuesday Night Music Club (a name you might recognize if you are a fan of Sheryl Crow).

Baerwald has recorded some gems during his solo career, but for me his absolute standout album has to be Triage. The cover alone tells you you're in for more grit and anger: two bloody hands, palms out towards the camera, with an American flag in behind.

Triage starts quietly enough, and indeed much of the album is fairly quiet, at least musically speaking. The lyrics, though, slam home throughout. Most of these stories go the same way as Boomtown, except that now Baerwald ramps it up, taking it from the lowlifes and hustlers on the street corner to the larger world around us. And instead of empathy, what we often get on this album is anger.

Rage, even.

The song that screams out the loudest, that in my opinion drowns out every other rock and roll political protest song (I'm looking at you, Green Day) is the marvelously-titled "The Got No Shotgun Hydra Head Octopus Blues." This song brings it up right quick, what sounds a bit like crickets in the background, followed very soon by Baerwald yelling, almost grunting. Then the bass line starts along with the drums, a steady, propulsive rhythm. Baerwald sings the first line, then the guitar finally kicks in, and the song is off to the races.

When I was a DJ at a university radio station, this song made it into as heavy a rotation as I could allow it, but that's likely the only radio play it ever got in those parts. And that's a shame.


Great Songs You May Never Have Heard (1) and (2)

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