Best tunes of 2001: #8 Pulp “The night that Minnie Timperley died”

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At number eight on my best tunes of 2001 list, we have “The night that Minnie Timperley died”, a track that also figured on my Top five Pulp tunes post I did back at the beginning of this year.

This particular song appeared on the iconic Britpop band’s seventh and final album, “We love life”. It was never released as a single so I likely didn’t hear it in 2001. You see, I didn’t purchase this album the moment it was released into the record stores. Indeed, and as I’ve mentioned in other posts in this series, I was rather poor when we first moved to Ottawa in 2001, with not enough disposable income to lavish upon the purchase of many compact discs. I certainly remember looking longingly on the album’s simple cover and its adornment of block letters spelling the band’s name when I tortured myself by browsing through Record Runner, my favourite independent music store at the time, long since closed down. I had to content myself to the snippets I could catch on the internet, like the first single “The trees”, until I had stowed enough money working overtime at my call centre job.

When I finally put the CD in the tray and pressed play, track number three hooked me on first listen. To my ears, it most certainly should have been a hit, save the dark subject matter. Not that this has ever stopped Jarvis Cocker and company before. Never one to shy from the dark underbelly of humanity, Cocker mines a dream here, telling the story of a teenaged girl’s murder, lurking in the minds of both the victim and the predator. A song that starts so upbeat (“There’s a light that shines on everything & everyone”) but ends so dark and twisted (“And he only did what he did ’cause you looked like one of his kids”). It feels like Jarvis is playing with us. And if you didn’t pay enough attention, you could be easily fooled and taken in by the funky drum beats, handclaps and jangle, alien synth washes, and Who-worthy rock and roll guitar and bass slam riffs.

It’s brilliant stuff that proves this group was great right up until the moment they broke up.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.

100 best covers: #82 Travis “Baby one more time”

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So here’s one that you can place firmly in the fun column.

I came across this particular cover during a brief period in 2001 where I was a bit obsessed with Scottish alt-pop band Travis and I was on the hunt for everything they’d recorded. Appearing as a B-side to the 1999 single “Turn”, it was recorded live and you can actually hear the laughter from the audience as they start to recognize the song. The band themselves can be heard snickering at the beginning, especially at the forced falsetto moments, but by the end, they are indeed performing it in earnest.

I also didn’t recognize the tune at first during my first sampling of it. It’s slowed some, performed stripped down to only an acoustic guitar with Fran Healy being joined, gang style, by the rest of the band on vocals. When it clicked, I still couldn’t believe what I was hearing and that’s what I think is so wonderful about it. It’s the surprise factor. A teen pop song performed by a pop band of a different sort and it works. I think so anyways.

As for the original, I’m pretty sure I don’t have to work too hard to jog your memory about it. Which is good because I can’t say I know much about Ms. Spears. However, I certainly have been overexposed to a bunch of her songs over the years and this one was particularly ubiquitous at the end of the nineties. I remember watching the video for the first time in disbelief. It was so obviously a ploy, a riff on the catholic school girl fantasy, but it worked. The song was huge, making her over from a former Mouseketeer to a pop star in the blink of an eye. Still, she likely got too big, too fast, given her tabloid ready lifestyle, and has had to forge more than one comeback over her career.

It’s probably pretty obvious by now which version I prefer. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a hate on for the Britney, nor her version of the song. It’s well written and has a great hook. Her style and sound is just not to my taste.

Do you have an opinion on the matter? I’d love to hear it.

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

Best tunes of 2011: #23 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! “Hysterical”

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Here at number twenty three of my Best tunes of 2011 list, we have “Hysterical” by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. For this post and song, I’m going to plagiarize myself a bit from some words I wrote back in 2011.

In the fall of that year, I drafted the first of what would become many best albums of the year lists, the first bunch being for my old blog, Music Insanity! (yes, I still have all the content, despite decommissioning the site). In that first list, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah made a surprise appearance in the top ten. The following somewhat explains:

“When their debut album came out in 2005, it was much hyped by all and hyperboles were unleashed from all directions (e.g., the best indie album ever!). I personally thought the hype a bit much but did really enjoy the album. It sounded to me like it was informed by the geek rock post-punk bands of the late 70s and early 80s, bands like the Violent Femmes, the Talking Heads, and Devo. It was peppy, poppy, and sat nicely in just the right space on the weird scale. Unfortunately, when “Some loud thunder” came out two years later, I couldn’t get into it. I was never able to put my finger on why but I guess to me, it just didn’t sound like the same band.

“Fast forward to 2011 and I had all but given CYHSY up for dead because I hadn’t really heard much from them in three to four years. In September [of that year], they released “Hysterical” (self-released domestically, but with indie label help in Europe, like their previous albums) and I gave the band another chance – as I often do for bands in whom I have seen shades of brilliance. This time around, I was pleasantly surprised to find CYHSY back to energetic pop that I fell in love with in 2005. It was as if that second album had never happened.”

I’ve since grown to appreciate “Some loud thunder” but still enjoy the band’s first and third albums better. “Hysterical”, the title track on the latter of the two is great example of the energy we can find there. Frenetic, danceable drumming over washes of synths, the melodic and jangly guitar work, and overall “new retro” sound. But what really holds the music together is the vocals of Alec Ounsworth, whose voice and singing mannerisms are the amalgam of Gordon Gano and David Byrne.

Turn up the Geek rock and bring the noise!

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.