The Music Meme: Day 19

Day 19: A song you're currently obsessed with


My musical obsessions are like the wind, coming invisibly from nowhere, changing at a moment's notice, but generally keeping things cool and making sure the atmosphere does not become too oppressive. On those occasions when I can trace the sudden appearance of a new obsession, I find that they often come from one of three places: they'll either be triggered by making a new purchase, by hearing an old favorite, or by stumbling across a reference in print.

My current obsession was sort of the latter two. One of Facebook's features, familiar to many of you, is the On This Day feature, which allows you to go back a year, or two years, or five years, and observe the anniversary of whatever trivial topic was creating a hideous argument among your friends. Sometimes, however, you get lucky and find some kind of meme that you and your social circle were happily enjoying. A week ago or thereabouts, I discovered a years-old discussion based on a meme I had misread; you were supposed to post the cover of a great album, but I somehow read it as "post a GREAT cover of a great album," which is a whole different thing. I mean, Radiohead's The Bends is a fantastic album, but I can't say I'm especially fond of the cover:

Radiohead The Bends.jpg.By contrast, World Party's album Goodbye Jumbo is a great record with an absolutely fantastic cover, so I dutifully posted it on FB:

World Party Goodbye Jumbo.jpgWhen this image popped back up in my 2017 feed, I had the typical reaction to seeing a familiar album cover--"Wow, I haven't heard that one in a while"--and didn't think about it much. Not until a few days later, that is, when the second trigger kicked in: shuffle play.

For the record, I'm well aware that the streaming music service Spotify doesn't pay the artists very much money at all, which is a shitty thing to do. Despite that, I still use it, for two main reasons: one, it is a very handy way to preview music I'm thinking of buying or artists whom I might go see in concert. In this, it's much like radio used to be, except that I'm in control and don't have to wait for the next random play so I can hear that song again, and the exposure generates some revenue for the artist. Two, most of what I play on Spotify is music I already own; in the case of World Party, I own both Goodbye Jumbo and their following album, Bang! (and I really should get their debut, Private Revolution...), so by playing them on Spotify, I'm actually providing a fractional payment to Karl Wallinger, WP's sole sustaining member and songwriter. If I just listened to the copy I already bought, he'd get nothing else.

But all that said, I had put one of my playlists on shuffle mode, and up popped "Way Down Now," a song I have loved since the first time I heard it. One reason I love it is the sheer joy of its arrangement; for all the dark and disturbing lyrics, it's an extraordinarily upbeat song. Another reason I love it is the way it wears its influences on its sleeves. For example, in the video linked above, you'll notice two slightly twisted homages to classic rock, with the bass player plucking a McCartney-style Hofner bass and Wallinger himself switching to a Hendrix-style Stratocaster; the twist is that the bass player has flipped over the Hofner to play it right-handed, while the left-handed Wallinger is doing exactly what Hendrix did: playing a right-handed guitar in the lefty configuration. 

The most obvious influence, however, is that rapidly galloping bassline, whose pattern is a near-perfect imitation of Keith Richards' bassline from "Sympathy for the Devil." In most circumstances, I might be appalled by this counterfeit, because it's one of the most familiar songs in the rock and roll catalogue--it's not like I was going to be the only person who noticed it. But Wallinger just sails along cheerily, right up to the three-minute mark, when the singers cut loose with a chorus of "Woop woo!" in a perfect imitation of the Stones. "See?" they seem to be saying. "It's a Stones song! We know it as well as you do!"

In any case, it came up on shuffle, and I immediately did what I do when I'm obsessing over a song: start trying to learn to play it. I went with my bass first, slowly working out the fingering for the rather busy part, then switching to guitar to chop out chords and sing through it. Now that I've got it mostly down, I figure I'll spend a few days playing with it, adjusting matters here and there to make them sound better. And then, after living inside this song for up to a week... something else will shuffle past, and the cycle will begin anew.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on August 24, 2017 9:13 AM.

The Music Meme: Day 18 was the previous entry in this blog.

The Music Meme: Day 20 & Day 21 is the next entry in this blog.

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