For quick energy, take Cranberries

I could name many songs or albums I respect on an artistic level but don’t particularly care to hear all the time. Sgt. Pepper’s is one — the album redefined what’s possible in music, but it’s not an everyday listen. Much of Aimee Mann’s music can be a wonderful expression of your feelings one day and a dreary listen the next, just as Coldplay’s The Scientist is so beautiful and poignant that I would be a miserable wreck if I heard it more than once a week. A lot of prog rock is interesting in its experimentation but not really the sort of thing that pumps you up for a day at work or makes the commute go faster.

It’s rare to hear the opposite, a song that is a fun listen but would have to be called an abject failure artistically. I happened to hear one today — the Cranberries’ unusually upbeat ode to drug addiction, Salvation.

Oh, it’s a pleasant bouncy tune. It’s just a little strange to hear “To all the kids with heroin eyes, don’t do it / Don’t do it / ‘Cause it’s not, not what it seems” at a pace and rhythm better suited to a Husker Du outtake or perhaps one of Midnight Oil’s more energetic numbers. And then the “a ha ha / a ha ha / a ha ha” after the chorus sounds like they’re trying to record Aerobicize with the Cranberries!

Sometimes, lyrics and music are a good fit without being an obvious match. That’s my take on Suzanne Vega’s Luka, so unfairly derided in one of the VH1 snarkfests by Mo Rocca and company. The cheery setting is all part of the kid’s facade of good cheer, hiding the abuse he’s enduring.

It’s hard to make that sort of argument for Salvation, especially when the horn section takes over. A good R&B kissoff to a cheating lover, maybe. A call for political action, sure. But a plea to come back from the brink of addiction? Only if it’s an addiction to sleep, because this is a great wake-up song and a fun listen in spite of itself.


Child-free and rubbing our noses in it

This is a free country, more or less. So no, I don’t care if people decide to adopt the “child-free” lifestyle.

What bugs me is the “child-free” attitude.

Here’s the thing — the decision to go without kids wasn’t some flash of brilliant insight that you had and we parents didn’t. Yes, people who don’t have kids have more spare time. They can focus on their careers, their health, their meditation, their personal growth and their sex lives in ways that those of us whose schedule revolves around nap times cannot.

To which I say this: Duh.

It’s about choice. Those of us who decided to be parents (and were lucky enough to make it work) gave up that time to do something else we find fulfilling. Child-free folks have the freedom to do what they want. So do we. This is what we want.

If you’re child-free (voluntarily, of course), you’ve made a choice. A valid one. But smarter?

Let’s take on some of the arguments from the story I linked above:

There were larger issues too, such as environmental concerns and worries
about an overcrowded planet.

That may be a valid reason not to have five kids. But it’s not a reason to avoid having two. That’s how many it takes to replace you and yours, and it doesn’t even take into account all the people who can’t have kids.

Besides, one of the biggest problems facing this country is the economic crisis we’ll have when the number of retired people grows so large that younger folk can’t make the Social Security and Medicare payments. So in that sense, having kids actually helps to avoid future crises.

Zombie Parents from Planet Zygote

Oh, you poor poor dears. Tired of hearing your former friends babble on and on about their kids? Well, that’s what’s going on in their lives these days. Has it occurred to you that they might be bored with your endless prattle about your trip to Morocco or your convoluted sex life?

The last bit is interesting:

Forget-You-Nots: DNA-free ways of leaving a piece of yourself here on Earth after you die, like planting a tree, getting a street named after you or donating all your money to your alma mater.

Hmmmm. If you decide to spend some of your surplus free time doing good works, that’s sensible. Childless folks certainly have more time for community service and perhaps more money to donate to an alma mater. But if the whole reason you’re doing it is to get something named after you, that’s a little tougher to defend as a smart and moral choice.

And if you’re THAT impressed with yourself, then shouldn’t your genes survive?


Songs I wish they had at iTunes

Mostly obscurities I found through my Launch player …

Midnight Oil, Time to Heal — I have the essential Oil trilogy of Diesel and Dust, Blue Sky Mine and Earth and Sun and Moon, but I haven’t sprung for anything they released as they wound down their career, more or less intentionally. This is the type of song an angry protest band should release near the end of its working life — an anthem, heavy on the acoustic guitar, looking to a brighter future. Over several brilliant albums, the Aussies told us what was wrong in the world. Only fitting that they wind up with what’s right, or what should be right.

Dubstar, Just a Girl She Said — Set almost ironically to some dreamy keyboards, this song delivers biting sarcasm sung gently. It’s a far better feminist anthem than 99.9 percent of the stuff delivered by shrill lab assistants with acoustic guitars who aren’t the Indigo Girls.

Big Country, too many to name — Eventually, I’ll just have to break down and buy Why the Long Face? at Amazon, if only I could figure out which version to get. You Dreamer is a great tale of intervention (“How can someone find me if no one knows I’m lost?”), and God’s Great Mistake is a good effort at reclaiming Christianity that rocks a lot harder than you’d expect from Big Country. Or maybe I should get one of their live efforts, where their thunderous sounds comes across even better than it did on their ’80s breakthroughs.

Poe, too many to name — Her concept album Haunted includes the playful Not a Virgin and the creepy title track.

Los Lobos, Peace — They have the live version, but I’d prefer the studio take, which makes better use of the looping acoustic guitar riff that invites you to sing along.

Melting Hopefuls, She’s a Big Boy Now — Basically making fun of overly butch women. A male singer couldn’t get away with it.

Stretch Princess, Freakshow — She just wants a boyfriend with a brain cell, damn it. And she sounds like she deserves it.

Smithereens — Come on, guys, I have a lot of old store-bought cassettes to replace. I bought them all once, but I’m not buying it again on CD. Put your 10 best on iTunes, and I’ll buy ’em.


Great moments in rock

There’s a truck ad these days with a Stereophonics song blaring, “Fiiiind my way! Freeeeee my soul.”

It’s High As The Ceiling, and it’s a good classic rock song — especially for a song recorded 20 years or so after classic rock died.

The “great moment” is the opening. The first 30 seconds of this one should be in some sort of textbook for how to start a rock song. A couple of guitar effects kick it off, only to be overpowered by a great riff. The vocals kick in, then the drums and bass, and then we’re to the part you hear in the truck ad.

Possibly the best 30 seconds of rock in the last five years or so, and it’s followed by another 2 1/2 solid minutes.

Well worth the 99 cents I spent to add it to my budding Stereophonics collection.


Things I’m thankful for

1. No one who reads this will care that I ended a sentence in a preposition. It’s not even a sentence, actually.

2. My son and all my family.

3. The candidates who ran the most negative campaigns in Virginia … lost.

4. We have the capability of rebuilding a section of interstate on the fly after a tanker fire. Wow.

5. The Office is still on the air.

6. The BBC still exists, more or less intact.

7. I’m learning to shut off the computer on occasion.

8. Dogs.

9. People around the world who are determined to do good things even as their governments do evil.

10. The Simpsons


Christmas Carols

Yes, we’re already watching them — The Muppet Christmas Carol and Mickey’s Christmas Carol. They’re OK, but repeat viewings can get a little tedious.

I think Mickey (Mouse — in case you were thinking it was Mickey Roarke’s Christmas Carol or something like that) does it a little bit better. Mickey’s Scrooge is an animated duck with a Scottish accent that gives him a more amusing edge than in most productions. The Muppet Scrooge is Michael Caine, who does his usual professional job but is pretty much the same old Scrooge you’d see in any other adaptation.

It’s too bad NewsRadio never had a chance to do a version of their own. Jimmy James would be the best Scrooge ever, and Dave is a ready-made Cratchit.

A Dickens take wouldn’t really fit the format of The Office, though Dwight would be an interesting Marley.

Perhaps an ER adaptation with Kerry Weaver as Scrooge, Greene as Cratchit and Romano as Marley. They could bring back the other cast members they’ve killed off as the ghosts.

Perhaps not a Kids in the Hall version, simply because I don’t see where Scott Thompson would fit in one of his Buddy monologues, and I don’t think that would stop him.

I’ll stop there.