Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
Apart from Flood and Apollo 18, I don't often listen to TMBG albums. Mostly, I like a fair amount of songs, but some of them just ... don't affect me. I can't remember the last time I listened to their early work, until I put together this combination of their first two albums: They Might Be Giants and Lincoln. It's called Stovepipe Hat because I prefer Abe to Nebraska.
She's An Angel is a nice little surreal story about love in the time of anxiety, which is all times when you're the subject of a TMBG song. And who wouldn't want to fall in love at a dog show. 1.) You get to be at a dog show. 2.) You meet someone cool enough to also be at a dog show AND they fall in love with you? Best Meet Cute Story ever. Also, props for not having to throw your body off a building.
The song I am most grateful for having an excuse to listen to more often is Kiss Me, Son Of God, which really sounds like it belongs on Flood. The blood of the exploited working class is also one of those things that I hear is delicious, but I'm just not into tasting myself.
The countrified Number 3 is the most Throwaway Novelty song that I like from their early work. I vacillate between really enjoying the hoe-down quality to regretting including this song on the album. It's, at least, short.
Ana Ng sounds like it comes much later in their discography. There's so much narrative in this song. It's a short story disguised as a peppy "alternative" 80s song.
My grandfather owned boats. Not just things that floated on the water (which he only owned one at a time, unless you count dinghies), but also giant cars that my family always referred to as boats. The kind of cars you could fit a dozen children in the back of. Boat Of A Car reminds me of the few road trips we took in those vehicles.
I was tempted to put TMBG's Homestar Runner songs around Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head but they'll come on a later album. I like any song that makes me think of muppets. Even if it has an 80s drum breakdown.
Pencil Rain actually sounds like it could have come from The Smashing Pumpkins post-Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness period. But without the whiney Billy Corgan voice. It's the harp / keyboard with the horns in the background. But I really enjoy the whole concept of pencil rain. Sometimes I gotta write things down, and am without writing implement.
If there's a better song title than Youth Culture Killed My Dog on a TMBG album, I can't think of it. I like the title so much that I included it on the album even though the song is a bit too All Over The Place in tone for me to get into. The Michael Jackson hee-hees are fun, and the return of the word puppet are great but the overall senitment of the song is pretty bleurgh.
Lie Still Little Bottle is the closest thing on this album to a Tom Waits song (he's the other artist I'm reimagining albums for right now). I would totally buy both an album where TMBG covered Tom Waits songs, and one where Tom Waits covered TMBG songs. The fact that neither of these albums exist fills me with sadness.
The plaintive narrator of I've Got A Match brings me disproportionate feelings of joy. If I were wearing a stupid looking hat, I would take it off at their command.The plucky strings on this song are also made of expansive joy.
Is Chess Piece Face the inspiration for TMBG's Apollo 18 album? Because it definitely has the appropriately fuzzy guitar and echoey vocals. It is the first song on the album that made my Dudefriend make a sour face. Again, though, it's mercifully short.
I was once bitten by a Rabid Child when I was a teenager. I worked in a summer camp when a tiny vampire who was mad at a different adult, grabbed my head, pulled it toward him and bit me on the neck. This song references the Chess Piece Face from the previous song. Though, I couldn't explain why without looking at the lyrics.
I was not a Rabic Child, but you could argue I was occasionally feral, and during those feral times, I did love playing with a Piece Of Dirt. I am fortunate enough to be immune from the wiles of the voices that bother and influence the narrator of this song.
You made my bed / Now you have to sleep in it might be my favorite lyric on this album. It's near the beginning of Stand On Your Own Head which has a return to the hoe-downiness foundearlier on the album.
They'll Need A Crane is the second best song about cranes I think of. Jason Mraz gets top honors there. But I do enjoy the bounciness of the repetition in this song.
I don't know why I so much want to make a video for Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes but I do. Dancing skeletons? People with heads caving in from happiness? Dominoes? The crunchy guitars. Random screaming at the end. Sign me up and give me a camera and some SAG unapproved extras.
Speaking of screaming. Shoehorn With Teeth is a terrifying concept. I don't know what else to say about it. Deathlok should have covered this track.
It brings me stupid joy to put a song called Don't Let's Start near the end of an album.It's another echoey song with a very late 80s/early 90s guitar riff repeating in the background.
Another contender for my favorite lyric on the album: If it wasn't for disappointment / I wouldn't have any appointments. Snowball In Hell is a fun, talky way to close out this album.
I'm pretty much precisely the right age to love Pearl Jam, and understand why some others don't. I was fourteen when Ten came out, Vs seemed to come out immediately after, and had a different feel, then Vitalogy. They released three albums while I was in high school, and I loved all three, and convinced the record store I was working for that we should do a midnight opening for the release of No Code. It was not a huge success. But I still loved the band.
They faded out of my interest in the 21st century with less frequent albums, and less-focused writing. Their music sounded blander to me for a few years, returned to interesting, and then disappeared completely from my radar.
When the first track from their impening release showed up on Youtube, I was excited. I'm a little less excited with their second pre-release single, but I'm intrigued to see what they do with this album. In that spirit, I decided it was time to give a bit of a primer for people who loved the band but lost track, or people who are curious why so many GenXers still care about a grunge band in 2020.
The first album is way extended. I owned all the singles from the album, with all the B-Sides. I bought a bunch of Pearl Jam Bootlegs from record stores, including the legendarry Bad Radio Sessions of Eddie Vedder. I certainly haven't included all the material from that era. No weeping original version of "Betterman" or the Oh So 1991 "Bee Girl" song. But they had some fun non-album tracks, ad some interesting outtakes from Temple Of The Dog (which would be on my Chris Cornell discography, not Pearl Jam's).
This album is my version of a story hinted at by Vedder's lyrics. It starts from the idea of the song / video for "Jeremy" but takes it in different directions. It's not a story I would consider writing now. It's peak Angsty Teen In The 90s. But that was the album Ten. It was so suicidal. So contemplative. So what happens next. So the problems in my life aren't women's faults, and yet women and fathers are at the crux of them.
The bookending of this album is pretty essential to how I hear albums, and how I reorganize them. So I have preserved Once as the opening track, with it's slow climbing intro before the guitars crash in. If you want to read Vedder's story of the songs on this album, there are plenty of articles. That's not what I'm going to do here. This is a reimagining based on his lyrics. This opening track is our narrator, a teenager absolutely at the end of his tether. He's looking for anything to latch on to and get himself under control, but it is not happening. It's not hard to imagine the angry destructive sequences a video for this song would have.
There's a lot on this kid's mind as he gets on the bus to school, and he and his friends (not all sociopaths are loners) joke around about Dirty Frank the bus driver, saying that he's a serial killer and probably a cannibal. They don't seem to suspect what the main character of this story is up to.
State Of Love & Trust was one of the first Pearl Jam songs I heard, as it was on the Singles Soundtrack that my roommate and I each bought. It's how I was introduced to Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, The Smashing Pumpkins, Chris Cornell, Soundgarden, and Screaming Trees. The narrator is thinking of the awful things he's done, and listening to the voice inside (his) head. He's considering ending his own life instead of going through with massacring his school. And he decides to live.
One of the voices that helps him get through the situation is from a girl he met when he was briefly institutionalized. He doesn't even know what her name is. They talked once. She told him about being abused by her father, and how when she lashed out, her mother had her committed. How her mother wants her to "get better" and go home, but Why Go back, knowing she'l just be abused again? She decides her version of "getting better" will be different. Neither he nor we ever find out what happens to her. But he loved her, and imagines being with her again, and that keeps him moving forward.
"Why Go" fades beautifully into Black on both the original album, and this reimagining. Here the narrator imagines a romantic encounter with the girl from "Why Go", and gets flustered. So he goes outside to get some fresh air to clear his head. But it doesn't quite work, as he remembers that the second time he saw her, she didn't acknowledge him, and he doesn't know why.
Wash is still walking outside. Still thinking. Still wishing. Still will he. Still won't he. Still hormonal response to girl he doesn't really know, and yet knows her most intimate secret. Still isn't sure anything he's ever done is right. Still. Still.
Still walking. He reaches the school's Garden. How has he not run into everyone on his little walk around the school? How is he still thinking about this girl who probably hasn't thought of him in months? He decides the way back to her is violence. And he heads back towards the school.
He reaches the Porch and uses a payphone (Hey, it's 1991 here), and checks the messages on his machine (ibid). There are none. He decides he's going to go for it. Go into the school and make the news.
But he doesn't. The crux of this idea. The crux of the album. The video that changed how seriously kids myage watched videos was Jeremy, and in that video an abused kid decides to bring weapons to school and ends up killing himself in front of his horrified class. Things happen differently there. Our narrator isn't Jeremy, but he's in class with him. And they're not friends. But they're similar people. Only this Jeremy doesn't kill himself, but reads a story about killing himself in front of his class. I can't imagine that won't, at least, end up with him in the guidance counselor's office. He's not our concern, though. Jeremy goes off to live his best life. Meanwhile, the teen we've been following decides not to do anything. Today. Tomorrow is not a promise. But today, everybody lives. Nobody has to know what he never quite planned.
The kid goes back to the porch after class, debates whether it would be worth getting in trouble if he smoked a cigarette, and decides against it. He's thinking about that girl again. He's imagining them meeting outside of the hospital. A beach would be great. Yellow Ledbetter has him pndering whether (he's) the boxer or the bag.
He writes her off. In his head, of course. In real life, there's no real way to write off someone who probably hasn't thought of him. He grabs a bus, not a school bus, a city bus, to the beach to blow off some steam, and to Not Be Home. He needs to be on the beach so he can't hear her voice or her Footsteps in his head anymore. Instead, he ends up with the voice of his hospital assigned therapist talking to him. He confessed things to her that he wishes he hadn't but she'd been kinder than anyone else in the hospital. Still, she'd reported some things back to his family that he wishes she hadn't.
He walks into The Ocean to be dramatic. Not suicide dramatic. Floating in the ocean dramatic. Thinking about her again dramatic. But it's deliberate now. It's not voices. It's not hoping for any actualization. He's just drifting, and letting his mind unravel.
When I was in high school, my roommate had a mixtape from a friend called Windowsills. It was songs to listen to while being melodramatic and dreaming out a window. There were many references to suicide. And, while not being suicidal at all myself, I asked a bunch of people on my floor, what song made them think of suicide. That this didn't get me sent to a therpaist myself is remarkable. Deep was on my mix because it even references windowsills. For the purpose of this album, the kid is still in the ocean, diving down and swimming under water for as long as his breath holds. Then gasping back up into the air.
Breath is not about the gasping in the ocean. But about going home. About having skipped the last half of school and being pretty sure his horrid parents know. It's about it now being past curfew and his not having even done anything bad. No violence. No alcohol. He didn't even smoke. Just cut classes to calm himself, and take a dip in the ocean. And then he just walked home instead of taking a bus.
We leave him at the door, and see his father's view of the day Alone. His girlfriend has left him. Just like his wife left him. Because he's awful. And he knows he's awful. And he knows he's a lousy father. And he was an awful husband. And he might just be a awful person. And he walks around the town, and the beach, the same way his son did. And he saw him cutting class. And he saw him doing nothing destructive. And he went home. And he got there first. And he's just as suicidal.
The story that the teenager told the therapist? He knows that his father is not his father. That the guy that's been poorly raising him is just some guy his mother married. Some guy that was better than his real father was. That his real father is no longer Alive, that he will never get a reconciliation there. He remembers the conversation with his mother. How she left. How she left him with the man who doesn't know how to raise him.
The album ends here as the original album ends. Though I don't like how it flows out of "Alive", Release brings us to the kid sitting on a windowsill. (Which once again gets referenced in the song.) Once agan, he's considering suicide. He's considering the legacy of his dead father. He's considering the legacy of the man who's raising him. He's considering the mother who left, the stepmother who left, the father who left, the acting father who he wishes would leave. We don't get an answer about what happens to any of these people. We fade out to credits. Because it was the nineties, and everything was edgy and ambiguous, and dark.
I'm a Marvel fan. I came to comics through the X-Men. And while I did enjoy the Tim Burton Batman movies, it wasn't until the X-Men movies that I loved comic movies, and it wasn't until the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I Loved comic movies. Yea, I liked the first two Nolan Batmans, but that's pretty much it. The DC Cinematic Universe isnot for me. And that's ok. I have loved several seasons of their cartoon properties. Teen Titans was amazing. Batman The Animated Series was wildly inconsistent, but the good epiodes were years beyond other comics-based cartoons. Batman: The Brave & The Bold was a blast. Both incarnations of The Justice League, and the Young Justice cartoons are about as perfect as you can get. But the live action shows?
Obviously the 1966 Batman show was iconic and necessary, even if it's complete cheese. The original run of The Flash was ... fine. Birds Of Prey was watchable. And then came a new wave of DC shows. For the most part, pretty good. But not all good.
This particular reimagining is how I would string together a series of related shows to form a fun, watchable universe. Usually, I do ten episode seasons of condensed storytelling, but I'm going to go for twent to thirty episode seasons because that's how long these stories seem to need in a season. This is mostly a Flash reimagining. It has some Shirtless Arrow, even though that show isn't my favorite, because that's where The Flash spun out of. It has some Brave And The Bold episodes because those characters spun out of The Flash, and some of them are ridiculous and joyous. Supergirl started too campy for me, but then it got into a groove that I enjoyed. Black Lightning has been solid since the first episode, and I'm thrilled it crosses into this continuity. As of this writing, I haven't seen Batwoman yet, but Im'm hoping it's fun. There will be no Gotham. I hate that show. If you like it, awesome. I may have seen all the Batman shows I need to see at this point, and that one had some fun moments, but, overall, I just didn't care. It's hopefully the last time I'll mention it.
Season One is all about Barry Allen, his friends, and family, coming together to create The Streak, which isn't the best name Cisco has come up with.