myTunes: Academy Fight Song, Accidentally in Love, Accidentally Like a Martyr, Accidents Will Happen, Accordian

19 Apr

‘Academy Fight Song’, Mission of Burma, Signals, Calls & Marches

I tracked this song down after reading Our Band Could Be Your Life, a very excellent book about some of the seminal bands of the 80s underground/alternative scene. Mission of Burma start with the generic 80s punk sound but utilize a good deal of feedback and effects work to give the sound a bit more depth. The song deals with some sort of relationship, the narrator looking down on someone who has in some way sold out for lack of a better term. He looks down his nose at people who need to inhabit this unnamed school, deriding it as underlit and urine-soaked. But the turn at the end, “I’m not judging you, I’m judging me” a narrator’s realization that he himself needs something, maybe that he doesn’t fit into anywhere like his subject does at the academy. It chugs along at perfect headbobbing tempo, doing nothing groundbreaking with the rhythm or arrangement (aside from the previously mentioned effects, which were created from the band’s live feed by sound engineer Martin Swope), instead just presenting a muscular, straightforward, highly effective punk song. Four stars.

‘Accidentally in Love’, Counting Crows, Shrek 2

Yeah, yeah, I know. I downloaded this soundtrack to put on an MP3 player I was giving to my little boy (I also downloaded the Chipmunks and Kidz Bop, but those were swiftly deleted afterwards) and a few of the songs have made it in into the library. This, of course, was the opening song of Shrek 2, and became just as ubiquitous as All-Star did when Shrek 1 was out (and the whole year or so before as well, damn I’m glad that song finally died). It was originally going to be a Weezer song during the opening credits, but Rivers didn’t want what was then an unfinished demo being featured in such a way. That song was the pretty awful “My Best Friend”, which we will get to much much much later. But on to this song, it’s just happy sounding, isn’t it? Very uncharacteristic for Counting Crows, who had previously dedicated an entire album to Adam Duritz’ break-up with Courtney Cox. No, this song is pure sunshine and lollipops, as befitting a children’s film. The lyrics are pretty sickly sweet, but there are a few little touches that at least make it tolerable. Keeping it uptempo helps a lot, as does the sort of silly habit of having the background vocals constantly echo the word love. There’s some subtle piano work and midrange guitar riffing adding some flavor to the arrangement, although the movie version adds in an acoustic intro and break that would have improved the album track. Ultimately, it’s hard to hate, but I have much better fluff to turn to when I need it. Three stars.

‘Accidentally Like a Martyr’, Warren Zevon, Excitable Boy

I had meant to do a review of this CD, to try and give it a little bit of love because I think it gets overlooked alot when in fact it’s pretty much Warren Zevon’s greatest hits. This particular song isn’t actually one of those hits, instead it was the pleasant surprise of the album. The lyrics are a bit repetitive, but what is there is golden. Zevon is of course best known for his more acidic or darkly humoured songs, but he was even better at these emotional pieces. The verses paint the perfect picture of someone who has lost someone dear to them, hinging on the brilliant line “Never thought I’d have to pay so dearly for what was already mine,” overtop of that most underrated of instruments, the slide guitar. When used improperly, a slide guitar just screams honky-tonk, but when used correctly, it conveys a mournful tone that no other instrument can really match. The texture for the refrain is homophonic, the piano chords stabbing on the beat and some of Warren’s hired hands supplying sweet background vocals. The real clincher of the track is the trick Zevon pulls after the refrain, slipping a simple mixed meter instrumental break into a pop song and letting it lead to a fuller sound in the second half of the song. And again, the mournful guitar runs throughout. An unfairly overlooked track. Five stars.

‘Accidents Will Happen’, Elvis Costello, Armed Forces

I have the Rhino issued Best of Elvis Costello 2 disc set, which for whatever reason does not have any sort of chronology to the arrangement of the tracks. In real life, this song came out in 1979, on Costello’s third album. The Attractions were operating at full power (this is the first album to actually by listed as Elvis Costello and the Attractions), and this is one of the songs where the musical performance totally overruns the vocal performance. Costello can always be counted on for incisive lyrical work, but the words are mostly drowned out in this piece. His guitar stabs precisely along with the drum beat, while the trademark Steve Neive carnival-style keyboard runs roughshod. Even the bassline gets a few places to stand out, instrumentally this is a great piece. The structure of the song, with a rising post-chorus leading into a sort of ambient break, is miles ahead of the usual punk fare that the Attractions would have started out playing with. Its only downfall is Costello’s vocal performance, which as I said before, is hard to understand, and what is there is nearly done in by his usual vocal tics being amplified for some reason. It’s enough to push it down from the ‘hope it comes on the shuffle soon’ category to the ‘have to be in the mood’ category. Three stars.

‘Accordian’, Madvillain, Madvillainy

We already get another appearance from Metal Face, in a much better effort than “ATHF”. Madvillain is a collaboration between MF Doom and Madlib, a stunningly talented producer and jazz arranger. This song is built on a looped accordion that’s not entirely playing on the 4/4 beat, giving the song a little bit of an off-kilter feeling while Doom does what he does best, which is spout total nonsense about how great he is, stringing together obscure references and put downs at a relative slow crawl. Other MCs try to impress with their speed, Doom just goes off on a free-associative stroll, not even stopping for a chorus. No homophobic slurs or misogyny in this one, no one getting shot, and only two expletives. Plus he pronounces “swords” like “swards” for rhyming purposes, which is a kind of endearing. Four stars.


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