Tag Archives: Morrissey

Collins, Phil

A few years ago, I wrote about some of my musical guilty pleasures. Included on that list was the band Genesis. I’ve had Phil Collins on the brain for a few weeks now, and I’m not sure why. Then last week I read an article about how he’s planning on playing at the opening ceremonies of the US Open at the end of this month. It’s a big deal because Collins has all but dropped off the face of the Earth these past few years. The reason for this has varied, depending on who you ask: Collins can’t hold drumsticks anymore due to a crippling back/nerve issue, he wants to spend more time with his family, he’s near death after years of substance abuse, and he’s so rich he doesn’t need to perform or record music anymore. But the biggest reason given for his extended absence from the spotlight–he got sick and tired of all the criticism.

This leads me back to my post from 2012 on my Top 5 Guiltiest Musical Pleasures. Genesis made the list, but why? It’s wasn’t because of their bizarre and sometimes beautiful early prog-records with Peter Gabriel. It was because of Phil Collins. I grew up on classic rock radio and Collins’ work with Genesis and his first few solo albums were in heavy rotation back in the 1990’s. Even today, his biggest songs like “In The Air Tonight” are played almost as often as FM staples like “Stairway to Heaven” and “Hotel California.” Growing up, Collins and Genesis never struck me as particularly cool nor did they strike me as uncool. This was not the case among my peers. I had a friend in Junior High who used to get teased mercilessly because his mother was a very, very big Phil Collins fan. I liked this guy a lot, but there were so many other things about him people could make fun of, so why was his mom being a Phil Collins fan such an issue?

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Is this the face of the most hated man in popular music?

I have two theories about why people hate Phil Collins so much. The first is that Collins was simply just too damn successful. The ubiquitous nature of his music during the 1980’s and early 1990’s made people sick of him. The same reasoning can be applied to The Eagles, who also have gone from beloved to hated by the culture at large. Getting over-played on the radio isn’t the band’s fault, but the listening public can only take so much before a backlash begins. Modern radio with its limited song rotation certainly did nothing to help either Collins or The Eagles. By playing “Life In The Fast Lane” 50 to 100 times a day, people got sick of The Eagles. Likewise, Collins was overplayed both as a successful solo artist and as a member of Genesis. Collins was a double-threat releasing hit songs by himself and with Genesis, though many people might have trouble telling them apart, especially near the end of both his solo career and his life with the band. Collins became a symbol of the old guard, his success was so great he became locked in an ivory tower. This made him the perfect target for the younger bands emerging in the 1990’s who showed real disdain for him (specifically Oasis, who were merciless in their public criticism of Collins).

The second reason Collins has become so hated has to do with Collins the artist. Phil Collins has two modes: mindless pop and painfully earnest sincerity. People can handle one or the other, but when an artist tries to exist in both worlds people start having problems. A good example of this is “Another Day In Paradise.” The song was written by Collins at the end of the 1980’s and tackles the issue of homelessness. It’s a serious subject, one that is undercut by the fact that it’s being done by a millionaire who made his fortune off of bubblegum pop like “Sussudio.” Collins tried to make both serious art and product, essentially trying to exist in two different boxes. This was something that people simply couldn’t reconcile. Making matters worse, a large swath of the listening public finds earnest sincerity fake when it’s attached to a smarmy-looking millionaire.

But none of this is very fair to Collins, is it? After all, it’s not his fault that he was so successful. And it’s not his fault that he’s able to make simple pop music and music with a bit more weight behind it. I don’t think the man’s career is unblemished (it isn’t) or that he hasn’t recorded more than a few stinkers (he has), but I do think the level of hate for Collins is simply disproportionate to his contribution to popular culture. Even if you don’t particularly like him or his music, you can’t help but admit that “In The Air Tonight” is an interesting, cool, song. In fact, I can’t think of another song that’s like “In The Air Tonight” that became a massive hit.

So I’m removing both Genesis and Phil Collins from my list of Guilty Pleasures and instead owning the fact that I like a large portion of the music he’s created. There’s been a sort of ironic appreciation of his career over the past few years, but I want it to be known that there is not a drop of irony in my love for Phil Collins. Human beings are petty, sometimes jealous creatures, and my guess is we needed a whipping boy. I’m sorry that person had to be Collins, but at least he seems to have been able to take it. Imagine someone like poor Morrissey saddled with a Phil Collins-level of public malice! He’d have thrown himself under a bus or train decades ago. I suspect that there are more than a few people placed in that awkward situation of secretly liking something that’s seemingly universally despised. If you’re such a person, my recommendation to you is to cast off the shackles of conformity and own your opinion. Unless you like Nickelback, in which case you’re not right in the head.

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CALIFORNIA NIGHTS by Best Coast

Five years have passed since Best Coast’s debut album, CRAZY FOR YOU, came out and lead singer-songwriter Bethany Cosentino is still bummed out. While nowhere close to approaching a Morrissey-level of depression, Best Coast’s songs are all pretty much about doomed love, unrequited love, broken relationships, and self-doubt. So why the hell do I love Best Coast so much? While the songs are sad, they’re catchy and sung in such a way that they come across as genuine without being embarrassingly earnest. Cosentino exudes so much hutzpah that even though she sounds sad, you feel like she’ll get over it and become a stronger person.

Now, don’t for a moment think that Best Coast is break-up music, because that’s not it at all. The songs are usually wistful with a don’t look back in anger kind of mindset. Best Coast is tragic love music that sometimes drifts into upbeat moments in the sun. Though Best Coast wears their California love on their sleeves, this music is the audio equivalent of Seattle or Portland. Dark, gloomy, but also filled with a strange Pacific optimism.

I really dig this album cover, but where's Snacks the Cat?

I really dig this album cover, but where’s Snacks the Cat?

The band’s first album was a blend of early 1960’s girl groups and lo-fi shoegaze. Two years later, Best Coast released THE ONLY PLACE, the troubled second album that every band must struggle through. And while I wouldn’t call THE ONLY PLACE a disaster, I remember finding it a bit of a disappointment. There were a handful of standout songs like Beach Boys-esque title track and the solemn closing track “Up All Night.” But for the most part, THE ONLY PLACE was a bit of a step back for Best Coast. Indulgent and a bit too self-referential, there were songs on that second album that teetered dangerously close to parody (I’m looking at you “Why I Cry”).

When CALIFORNIA NIGHTS came out earlier this month, I was looking forward to listening to it but I was cautious about it’s quality. I really wanted CALIFORNIA NIGHTS to be great. I didn’t want CRAZY FOR YOU to be the band’s nadir, and luckily (for everyone) CALIFORNIA NIGHTS is the band’s best album. The band took a little more time recording their third album and it seems to have paid off. The songs are super-catchy like CRAZY FOR YOU but more polished/better produced like on THE ONLY PLACE.

There it is, the actual "best coast."

There it is, the actual “best coast.”

The songs are still sad, but they sound so fun. The best example of this is on the track “In My Eyes.” The track is bouncy and upbeat musically while being about the loss of a relationship. “In My Eyes” has a catchy, fun to sing along chorus…that’s absolutely devastating lyrically. I really like doubt-filled “Jealousy” with its classic girl group sha-la-la’s. I also dig the moody title track “California Nights” which continues in the group’s grand tradition of extolling the virtues of the Golden State.

The single “Heaven Sent” is the albums happy love song, something the band always tries to sneak onto each record. I’m grateful that its there. Special mention should be made for guitarist Bobb Bruno, who continues to provide interesting, lush guitar riffs for Cosentino’s beautiful grief. Though Cosentino gets the bulk of the praise for Best Coast’s music, Bruno is a key ingredient in what gives the band it’s wonderful happy/sad sound. CALIFORNIA NIGHTS is a great record and is going to be the perfect soundtrack to the summer. If you haven’t yet dipped your toes into Best Coast, CALIFORNIA NIGHTS is a good place to start. So next month, when you’re hosting your Lonely Hearts BBQ, throw on little CALIFORNIA NIGHTS. Don’t forget the sunscreen.

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Morrissey drops “Satellite of Love”

British crooner, and former Smiths singer, Morrissey released a live cover of Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” today.  The song was apparently recorded two years ago in Las Vegas, but is just now being released to no doubt honor the recently deceased Velvet Underground member.  That, and the Moz also has an audio book coming out this week, but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.  Even if it is a bit of a gimmicky-marketing release, the cover is really good.

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I’m probably gonna catch a lot of hell for this but: I’m not a big Lou Reed fan.  He has a couple of really good songs, but overall I think he’s a bit overrated.  That said, I think that Reed’s songs work best when he’s being covered (I call this the Bob Dylan-effect). Morrissey brings his usual charm and almost embarrassingly earnestness to the song, which increases my appreciation of “Satellite of Love.”  In fact, if I hadn’t just re-listened to Reed’s TRANSFORMER I’d have sweared this was an original song.

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Depression & “Redondo Beach” with Morrissey

Lately I’ve hit a bit of a rough patch. I’m not depressed, per say, but I’m definitely bummed out. Nothing really big and terrible has happened, it’s just a bunch of little things all adding to a larger pile of misery. While wallowing last week, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to see Morrissey in New York this October. Of course I had to say “no” (Defending Axl Rose hasn’t made me a millionaire yet). She’s never seen Morrissey live and as someone who has I encouraged her to go without me.

That conversation got me thinking about Morrissey and why I love him so much. His band The Smiths were super influential and anyone even thinking about writing songs (happy or sad) should definitely check out the work of The Smiths. But Morrissey’s specialty is really sad songs. I can’t think of another human being who (at least on the surface) is more depressed than Morrissey. God help us all if Morrissey ever finds happiness. In fact, as terrible as it is, I truly do not wish happiness upon ‘ol Moz. I don’t think he could handle it.

Is Morrissey gay? Is Morrissey straight? Will he get back with The Smiths? I could care less about these tabloid questions that so obsess the British media. All I care is he’s fucking miserable and recording music. I guess I’m old fashioned.

Here Morrissey is sad because someone scribbled all over his guitar…

One of my favorite songs I’ve ever heard him sing is a cover of the Patti Smith song “Redondo Beach.” It’s a tragic song about two lovers one of whom (spoiler) kills herself after the couple has a fight near Redondo Beach. Morrissey released a live cover of “Redondo Beach” in 2004 in support of his LIVE AT EARLS COURT album. As songs go, it’s good even though it is pretty melodramatic. The song’s narrator sings about how he got in a “quarrel” with “you” (his lover) who he now can’t seem to find. In a seemingly unrelated bit of news a girl has washed up on Redondo Beach…and in the end it his love is gone forever because:

Down by the ocean

It was so dismal

I was just standing

With shock on my face though

The hearse pulled away

And the girl that had died it was you

Shakespeare this isn’t, but the tragedy, especially when Morrissey (our main-man of depression) is singing it I can’t help but feel bad. And I like that. I guess the same part of us that likes to watch scary movies is the same part that likes to hear sad songs. I don’t know about you, but when I’m sad I like to hear sad songs. I can’t imagine trying to hear something super-happy and upbeat when I’m feeling down.

Morrissey’s built an entire career around this sort of emo-music (please kill me in the comments for calling Morrissey “emo”) and even though it might seem a bit strange he provides a service humanity really needs. I highly recommend anyone feeling depressed, blue, disenfranchised, pissed off, confused, or otherwise unsatisfied to check out the massive library of awesomely depressing music recorded by Morrissey.

Morrissey Depression Super-Mix

1. “Let Me Kiss You” from YOU ARE THE QUARRY

2. “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me” from STRANGEWAYS, HERE WE COME

3. “Redondo Beach” from LIVE AT EARLS COURT

4. “Satan Rejected My Soul” from MALADJUSTED

5. “One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell” from YEARS OF REFUSAL

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