Songs of the Week
June-July 2004

July 26, 2004 

Hotel Columbia
Jesse Malin

From the 2004 Artemis album "The Heat"
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Catchy, conflicted jingle-jangle from ex-D-Generation frontman hits the ground running, guitars ringing like the Clash's Police on My Back, and revs up from there, as the narrator tries to alternately seduce ("Call me up! Call me up!") and dump of the object of his hungry heart. The sunny strumming slugs it out nicely with the increasingly ticked off lyrics: "You can cross me off your list / Of all the pretty things you miss / And I ain't never going home / 'Cause I don't wanna be alone..." before concluding that "I'll be okay, you'll be okay." Don't believe it for a moment...

July 19, 2004   

Summer's Killing Us
The Tragically Hip

From the 2004 Zoe Records album "In Between Evolution"
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Just in time for their annual summer blitzreig, Kingston, Ontario's finest offer up this ballsy, rocking slice of life on the road ("It's just sing, sing, sing all day") coupled with a few slyly subversively precious intellectual musings ("Does summer just exist in its praises?"). But the boys never forget they're also here to rock you -- after all the philosophizing and bitching they beckon you to "Come on up, we got something to show you" and then promise to "do you like the dishes." And they do. Without apology or condescension. Neither tragic or overly concerned with hipness, the Hip just kick ass. Got a problem with that?

July 12, 2004   

 If You Gotta Go, Go Now
Bob Dylan
From the 2004 Sony album "The Bootleg Series, Volume 6: Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall"
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America's greatest song-and-dance man tosses out a four decade-old sunshiney pop gem, all frothy sass and nudge-nudge wink-wink asides, delivered back in the day when Zimmy was allowed to be goofy and giddy and just entertain the folks. Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica, this spirited, infectuous live take from a 1964 concert is both fun and funny, a boyish Dylan (and the crowd) caught up in the simple joy of making music. Dylan would never be this loose or innocent again. And neither would the crowd. So if you gotta go, go now. Or else you're gotta stay all night

 July 5, 2004  

Taste You
Melissa Auf Der Maur
From the 2004 Capitol album "Auf Der Maur"
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One of Montreal's own finally steps into the light, out from the large shadows cast by bon vivant columnist dad Nick, not to mention Courtney and Billy. Flying solo, the ex-Hole and ex-Smashing Pumpkin bassist's lyrics may need work, but she gets by on rock'n'roll 'tude and a pleasantly grungy dynamic sense that recalls Black Sabbath as much as anyone. Taste You, a chugging, bass-heavy song of lust, dark whispered desires and layered vocals, pop-rocks the sweet spot, and the alternate bilingual version, with Melissa murmuring à la français is even better, a slowly building musical Big O. Ooh la la.

Alternate French version available on French import (EMI)
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June 28, 2004

Who's To Say

From the 2004 Cass album "If We Can't Trust Doctors..."

This Detroit quintet, fronted by husband/wife Dan and Tracee Miller, has received the roots-rock Americana stamp of approval from such diverse sources as Uncut Magazine and flavour-of-the-month Jack White, while critics seem contractually obligated to name-drop the Carter Family in their reviews, but this haunting downer original about sexual obsession, with its pop flourishes and morose but loping singalong chorus reminds me more of the Beatles or Crosby, Stills and Nash at their gloomiest. White actually covered the song himself as a B-side, and returns to lay down some tasty guitar, but the real star here is the deliciously downbeat vocals against an acoustic wash of guitars, pedal steel, banjos and maracas.

 June 21, 2004  

Tonight We Ride
Tom Russell
From the 2004 Hightone album "Indians Cowboys Horses Dogs"
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Singin' tall tales spinnerr Russell long ago earned his Stetson -- he's not one of those pre-fab suburban poseurs singing MOR kitsch with an affected twang. This exhilarating call-to-arms gallops right through American history, encompassing impressionistic shotgun blasts of everything from Pancho Villa and General Pershing to dirt town whorehouses, prison escapes and bleached bones in the desert. Yeah, it may be macho myth-making, but it also rings hard, true and bullshit-free. Russell's unflinching vision pulls this ditty up to fist-in-the-air anthem standards, a two-fisted blend of Bob Dylan and John Ford that totally rocks. When Russell sings "tonight we ride," who doesn't want to saddle up?

 June 14, 2004  

 You Should Have Been Loved
The Proclaimers
From the 2004 Persevere album "Born Innocent"
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Forget the carefully airbrushed, chinless neo-soul "revival" allegedly spearheaded by the MTV hordes -- Craig and Charlie never went away. This is pure fun -- a giddy shotgun marriage between the Everly Brothers and the Coasters. This cut rollicks and roars, an uptempo call-and-response blast of Stax-Volt via Glasgow that, in a perfect world, should be loved on the charts all summer long. When the Reed boys testify to the glory of love, you better believe it -- they mean it, man.

June 7, 2004

Wicked Rain/Across 110th Street
Los Lobos & Bobby Womack
From the 2004 Hollywood album "The Ride"
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The feisty little band from east LA tries to Santana things up on their latest, suffering a rash of guest superstars (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Richard Thompson) that isn't quite enough to blow them out of career cruise control, but this joyful collaboration with original soulman Bobby Womack positively cooks. Wicked Rain, resurrected from Kiko, their 1992 masterpiece, gets funky enough, but when Womack segues into his classic blaxploitation anthem, all bets are off. It's all bass and strumming guitars and call-and-response, an instant party that wraps up with a heart-grabbing heavenly flourish of pure soul. Wicked, indeed.

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Kevin Burton Smith
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