Steinbeck on Random — 6.2.06

Last week’s theme was Death Cab For Cutie. This week’s theme: The Flaming Lips (mentioned on three songs).

Just so you know.

1. “Thank You Jack White (For the Fiber-Optic Jesus That You Gave Me)” – The Flaming Lips
Fight Test EP

No one will ever accuse The Flaming Lips of being a normal, boring band. Case in point: this song, from the single/EP for “Fight Test.” It’s a tender story of a blossoming friendship between Wayne Coyne, singer for The Flaming Lips, and Jack White of the White Stripes. While on tour with Beck, as the story goes, Wayne received a fiber-optic Jesus statue from Jack, of which Wayne was eternally grateful. Thus, the song was born:

Backstage in Detroit/And the room is full of smoke and apprehension/We’d been playing shows/As the warm-up and the band for Beck Hanson/In walks Jack, says – “How’d ya do?” (Oh yeah)/Then he handed me this wonderful statue.

It’s truly one of my favorite Lips songs. A few years later, The Flaming Lips covered The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”, complete with new words. Does anyone know if they’ve toured together? I’d go see Beck, The Flaming Lips, and The White Stripes any day.

2. “Life In a Glass House” – Radiohead

The last song from an album that really just served as a “B-Side compilation” for Kid A, “Life In a Glass House” broods on as a swanky, horn filled dirge. The fact that it’s backed by a brass horn section makes it infinitely more appealing, and makes the entire record seem more worthwhile, like Radiohead actually bothered to make Amnesiac sound like a full record and not just a collection of outtakes. I like it, but I like most of Radiohead’s stuff, so there you go.

3. “Unchained (live)” – Willie Nelson & Johnny Cash
Storytellers (Live)

I remember buying this album, my first foray into serious country, and loving all of it – not just for the songs, but for the truthfulness that both Nelson and Cash exhibit in between (and, ultimately, during) each song. And though the two artists rarely sing together on any songs, and they only trade songs a few times, it’s still a great collaboration.

4. “Section 11 (We Sound Amazed)” – The Polyphonic Spree
Together We’re Heavy

The first song off of Together We’re Heavy. It does a great job of setting up the rest of the album – preparing the listener to be hit with the “religious-cult/ultra-clean-convent/Flaming-Lips-sounding” sounds that The Polyphonic Spree specializes in. They’re different, for sure, with a band that seems to grow larger and larger by the minute, all wearing robes and being happy and acting as if they’re all on drugs.

They’ve got a big sound, because they’re a big group. They specialize in choruses with lots of voices, and lots of sound, and lots of instruments. Hooray for big groups of people with hippie mentalities and a stash of instruments!

5. “Forever Longing The Golden Sunsets” – The Appleseed Cast
Mare Vitalis

I always liked this song from the super-emo Appleseed Cast – the first guitar lick is incredibly energizing, unlike the sleepy nature of most of their music. However, there are few songs from this album that I know very well, because I never really caught on with The Appleseed Cast bandwagon very well.

Now, apparently, they’re kind of a big deal – an underground darling of indie rockers who want to like something even more out of the mainstream than Sirius’ Left of Center (Channel 26). They’ve gotten better, too, but I always think of the few Appleseed Cast songs that I liked and leave it at that. I gave them a chance in college, and I can always say I knew about them back in the 90s.

6. “I Wanna Riot” – Rancid
Roots Radicals

This, officially, is the only Rancid CD I still own – the special single that came with And Out Came The Wolves. It was sold separately at times as well, but I bought it at Best Buy, packaged with what was their new album at the time.

Of course, this and the A-Side, “Roots Radicals” are my two favorite Rancid songs, and I couldn’t bring myself to sell this single during my days of “sell everything I haven’t listened to in three months” phase. Either that, or they wouldn’t take it at Last Stop CD Shop. I dunno.

7. “Mother” – Tori Amos
Little Earthquakes

I really only know From the Choirgirl Hotel, as far as Tori Amos goes, so this one is foreign to me. It’s long – nearly seven minutes – and it sounds like Tori Amos, with the pianos and haunting voice and all that. Unfortunately, I can’t do the song much justice – it’s actually quite beautiful, though for the life of me I can’t distinguish what the lyrics mean. Maybe someone can help me out – they seem sad, but everything Tori does sounds sad in certain lights.

8. “Neverevereverdid” – Architecture in Helsinki
In Case We Die

Architecture in Helsinki is my new “weird band I really like” of 2006, though this album came out last year. It used to be The Polyphonic Spree, and before that bands like P.E.E. and older The Flaming Lips occupied the spot.

This song is just horns and moaning in the beginning, but it’s pretty sweet. Then, it talks about a stalker. So yeah, Architecture in Helsinki, ladies and gentlemen.

9. “Pictures of Me” – Elliott Smith

I love this Elliott Smith song. Well, I love all Elliott Smith songs. One thing I always like about Smith is his ability to swear in such a peaceful way – like “fuck” is just a normal word, like “car” or “pictures.” I guess for him, it could have been.

10. “Hey Mama” – Kanye West
Late Registration

Here’s one of the hard things to like about Kanye West – I can’t tell whether or not he is brilliant or cheesy. I mean, “Hey Mama” is a great song, full of emotion and praise for his mother and for all she’s done in life, but at the same time, some of the worst rap lines I’ve ever heard are contained in a five minute span. I’m sorry, but a guy that puffs himself up as much as Kanye West does shouldn’t be mentioning Chicken Soup for the Soul – not in a sarcastic or ironic way, but with real emotion, like he learned a lot from the stories and from his mother’s own chicken soup.

Oh well, the jury’s out on this one. I like it today – very good. Tomorrow? Cheesy as hell.

This was lovingly handwritten on June 2nd, 2006