Best tunes of 2010: #19 The Like “Wishing he was dead”

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What happens when you’re a teenaged girl with aspirations of being in a rock band?

If your father is an established producer/musician, he puts together a band made up of other teenaged daughters of musicians and producers and sets you loose on the music world. Right?

Okay. So that doesn’t happen every day but it is an approximation of the beginnings of Z Berg’s now-defunct girl group, The Like. And this story could easily have ended up being a cautionary tale of satisfying your kids’ whims if she hadn’t been at all talented and proficient at writing pop songs. The Like’s first album, 2005’s “Are you thinking what I’m thinking”, mined the poppier side of 90s grrl rock, sounding a bit like Elastica or a more upbeat Garbage. Then, things were quiet for five years before Berg returned with a slightly different lineup and an overhauled sound.

It’s very likely to me that it was producer Mick Ronson that inspired in the now twenty-something ladies a taste for sixties girl groups and mod culture. You can hear this old school essence in some of his other work but with The Like and their second album, “Release me”, everything clicked. Z Berg, along with Tennesse Thomas, and newcomers Reni Lane and Laena Geronimo, dressed the part, made videos that looked from the 60s (see the one below) and put together some really fun tunes. And the critics took notice, many of them calling the new album a marked improvement on the debut. Unfortunately, the band in this form didn’t last much more than a year, going on hiatus in 2011 and performing a one-off show in Japan in 2013, before disappearing again for good.

“Wishing he was dead” is the lead off track on “Release me” and instantly transports you back fifty some odd years to a brighter and vividly technicolor time. It calls to mind the heartbreak songs of the era but changes the plot somewhat in that the singer feels more anger than sadness and feels called to more action than just crying at home into her pillow. “If I could kick his head in, fickle little boyfriend, I’d be satisfied,” Berg sings. “If I could smack some sense into his senses, I might feel alright.” But even with all this inferred violence, it takes a page from “My boyfriend’s back” with a sound that is almost cheerful in its angst. “Wishing he was dead” is peppy drumming, jumpy guitar riffs, dancing organs, and Z Berg’s delicious vocals, backed up, of course, by her tough girl gang. Good fun, all of it.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.


Best tunes of 2000: #4 Belle And Sebastian “Legal man”

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At some point in the early 2000s, the full season box sets of Gilmore Girls began being released on DVD and my wife, Victoria and I bought them and watched them all, as they were released, one season at a time. I’m not going to go into the wherefores of why I enjoyed and got hooked on the show right now but let’s just say that I did. The reason I mention this idiosyncrasy of mine this morning has to do with one of my favourite scenes that occurred at the end of episode 14, season 2 (no, I don’t have them memorized, I had to look it up).

Lane, the best friend of Rory (the younger of the Gilmore girls), is the Korean-American daughter of first generation immigrants, who is a music fanatic and snob. During the episode in question, she is grounded by her strict, traditional mother, something that happens frequently during the show for several reasons but in this case, it is problematic because the new Belle And Sebastian single is due to be released and she simply must be one of the first to hear it. Rory, being the good friend that she is, procures a copy for her and orchestrates a drop off as Lane and her mother are walking through town, an intricate plot involving the town weirdo Kirk running interference while Rory’s mother’s employee, Michel, posing as a jogger, drops the disc in Lane’s bag (watch the scene here). It’s hilariously like something out of Mission Impossible and all the while, the first part of “Legal man”, the single in question, is playing as soundtrack, lending the scene a 60s spy movie feeling.

Belle And Sebastian, as you are hopefully aware, are an indie pop collective out of Glasgow, Scotland that formed in 1996 and that were so prolific, they released two full-length albums in their first year of existence. The following year, they released three EPs of songs that never appeared on their LPs, something they would become known for doing. They also became known for twee-inspired chamber pop, whose witty and biting lyrics acted as counterbalance to the light tone of the music. Numerous releases and personnel changes later, B&S are still a going concern.

“Legal man” is the title track off another one of those standalone singles/EPs that I mentioned above, only being available on that release until the song and its two B-sides were included on the “Push barman to open old wounds” compilation. It is two and half minutes of frenzied bongo drumming (by Snow Patrol’s Jonny Quinn), snarling sitars, whirling hammond, and fun backing vocals by Rosanne Suarez and The Maisonettes. As you can imagine, with all those ingredients swirling in the lava lamp, “Legal man” is a retro and mod revivalist romp that spells magic on the dance floor. So get out your beach blanket and let’s boogie!

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2000 list, click here.


Vinyl love: Blur “Parklife”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Blur
Album Title: Parklife
Year released: 1994
Year reissued: 2012
Details: 3 of 7 in Blur 21, anniversary box set, black vinyl, 180 gram, 2 x LP, Gatefold sleeve

The skinny: A thematic and sonic continuation, Blur’s third record almost sounds like its material was recorded during the same sessions as ‘Modern life’. In my opinion, this Blur at their best, Britpop in full bloom, and likely my favourite of their albums, from beginning to end.

Standout track: “This is a low”