Kofi's hat

Kofi's hat

MP3s, music news and reviews, and a sprinkling of pop culture. Named by Aqualung's Matt Hales, after his son.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Ink in my blood, a song in my heart. Metaphor is my middle name.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Grammatically Incorrect But So Much Stronger Than Us

Something completely different feels necessary, to cleanse our minds and ears of all that German manufactured cheesy bubble-pop from the last post.

Sweet relief comes from a 1990 compilation album called The Edge Of Rock. I'm not sure how many of the tracks were on the edge of rock then, let alone now:

1. Camper Van Beethoven - "Pictures of Matchstick Men"
2. Lucinda Williams - "I Just Wanted to See You So Bad"
3. Dinosaur Jr - "Just Like Heaven"
4. Winter Hours - "Roadside Flowers"
5. Close Lobsters - "Lovely Little Swans"
6. Syd Straw - "Future 40's"
7. Mary's Danish - "Can I Have a Smoke, Dude?"
8. Meat Puppets - "Light"
9. The Lemonheads - "Luka"
10. Wire - "In Vivo"

The Camper Van Beethoven, Dinosaur Junior, and Lemonheads songs were much too popular to be merely on the edge of rock; the same probably goes for the one by Wire. They were major alternative (or as the kids called it "modern") rock hits, and that's not edgy, man. No way. My grandma listened to modern rock hits. Well, she might have... okay, my grandma probably didn't, but plenty of grandmas probably did. Camper was covering an old-timey hit; that's custom-made for cross-generational appeal.

My favorite track on the album is the breezy, tartly nostalgic one performed and co-written by Syd Straw and REM's Michael Stipe. On Edge, it's titled "Future 40's". On Straw's 1989 album, Surprise, the song is called "Future 40's (String of Pearls)". I was surprised when I found out about the different titles. I prefer "Future 40's", although I'd like it more without the possessive apostrophe.

Whatever it's called, it's a beautiful song. As usual, Stipe takes his "side" work no less seriously than his work with R.E.M. His vocals, somewhat more serious and emotional than Straw's, are more the song's heartbeat for me. I do love the way they harmonize together, and I love both of their performances on the song.

I was surprised again when I saw the cover art for the single. Yikes. There is a gigantic disconnect between the cover and Straw and Stipe's lovely song. They could have done better with that random flickr CD cover art meme, if they could figure their way around certain time-space barriers, seeing as how flickr wasn't around yet and such.

The video was a more pleasant surprise. Yes, I searched for it, by name. Still, I didn't expect to find it. The video is disappointingly Stipe-light. However, as the person who posted it points out, it's heavy on Athens scenery. Plus, Straw gets into retro-character in a "square", old-fashioned dress and apron as she bakes a pie and lip-syncs the song:

"Hey man I'm making moves
and I am so much stronger than you.
I am so much stronger,
I am so much stronger than you."

Syd Straw (Feat. Michael Stipe) - Future 40's (String ofPearls) (on The Edge of Rock and Surprise)

During R.E.M.'s 1989 Green tour, right before "I Believe", Stipe apparently often sang lines from "Future 40's". So I'm guessing this video is from one of those concerts. (Note: the first lines are from a poem - possibly one Stipe wrote.)

Stipe's side projects are often so interesting and good. Perhaps once he's rested up from touring in support of (the excellent) Accelerate, he'll work on another one or two... Straw is rumored to plan on releasing a CD this year. And the future still looks more or less like the 40s. (Pastel refrigerators... that's 1950s, right? We're getting closer.)


Blogger xolondon said...

What a great post!

I have that Syd record on CD now. I love Future 40's and Hard Times best. She's had some great songs over the year - remember CBGB's?

I am also shocked to see Winter Hours mentioned here. I had the cassette with Roadside Flowers, but anyone who likes that jangly era needs to own the album with Island Of Jewels and Hyacinth Girl. Let me know if you'd like any of those songs.

3:53 PM  
Blogger trill42 said...

Thank you! Yes, she has; yes, I do! And yes please jangle me up. I only have "Roadside Flowers".

6:49 PM  

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