RANDOM RULES: J-DOG YASCRUMSKEE
Admit it, flinchy thirtysomethings who spend way too much time online: You’ve fantasized about The Onion A.V. Club interviewing you for Random Rules, the not-frequent-enough column wherein a musician or familiar pop culture presence sets their ipods on shuffle and waxes nostalgic or eloquent or embarrassed or defensive about whatever songs pop up to give them away.
Our iTunes libraries, while as distinctive and revealing as fingerprints, are from a wider perspective all kind of the same: we’ve all got songs we feel cool for liking, songs we pretend to be embarrassed for liking, songs we are legitimately embarrassed for liking, songs we heard on the school bus that we will take to our graves, songs that somehow remind us of our parents, at least one (and hopefully more) old-school hip-hop song, songs that “the kids” like that you’ve begrudgingly taken a shine to, songs that can actually elicit a visceral emotional response under the right (or wrong) circumstances, a song that blew your mind the first time you heard it in high school but that you now find literally unlistenable and as impossible to defend as it is to delete, a TV theme song or two, a song you recorded while fooling around with the recording software that came with your computer that you actually think turned out sort of all right but that you’d rather slit your own throat than play for anyone, “Africa” by Toto, a song from the soundtrack of a movie you loved as a kid, a couple songs by a group or musician your friend is desperately trying to get you to like but that you just can’t get into, songs from school dances, songs you had sex with people while listening to, and a bunch of insane, inexplicable shit you downloaded while drunk one night and haven’t had a change to weed out. Not knowing what song I’ll have to reveal and rationalize to you is legitimately exciting, and a little frightening. I vow that I will not allow myself to skip songs, as that is the coward’s way. By the way, J-Dog Yascrumskee is what I am going to change my name to once I become famous, so that is the heading you will see on the A.V. Club page when I one day engage in this musical interview for real. Hope you’re ready, Josh Modell!
Okay, here we go! Fun! Whee! Good!
“Slow Dog” – Belly
Hey, it’s Belly. Why do I feel ashamed when I like girl bands such as Belly? I feel the scorn of many female friends who find cutesiness of this magnitude to be disgusting and of no use to anyone. Well cram it up your assholes, you cranky-ass fucking bitches! I’m gonna walk up and down my street with a boom box cranking Belly! Screaming WWWWHHOOOOOOOOOO! TANYA DONNELLY, OLD TOWN, WHADDAYA THINK, GOOD STUFF HUH? YEAH! MAR-EEE-YAH CARRR-REEEE A RI-FLLLLLE! SING IT WITH ME NOW! Wow, am I ever not going to do that. That’s the least true claim I’ve ever made. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do less. Anyway, I actually only know about three Belly songs, and this is the only one I really like, so I don’t know where this whole Defiant Belly Defender act is coming from. In high school I somehow subscribed to this weird service where every month I got a VHS tape in the mail that had ten or twelve new “alternative” videos on it, and I have to say that many of my most treasured songs came from those silly tapes that I enjoyed so much. I felt ahead of the game! Surely would my peers’ jaws drop when I regaled them with my impressions of the latest cuts by such underground groups (or “undie music”) as I Mother Earth, The Candy Skins, and Dink. I could now call the college radio station and request songs that the DJs would likely not only have immediate access to but would compliment me for selecting. Soon enough I would be so cool it would hurt Tom Waits’ feelings. MARR-EEEE-YAH CAAAAARRRRY A RI-FLLLLE! WHOOOOO!
“Hell Yeah” – Neil Diamond
I was hoping a little Neil would turn up in this. <—Don’t ever let me say that again.
There’s a lot to be amazed by when it comes to the Jewish Elvis, but if you ask me, it’s his conviction that’s got him where he is today, and where he’s been for – let’s face it – ever. Neil Diamond can sing literally the dumbest, most worthless, asinine, brain-squashingly, guts-churningly excreable lyrics known to man, and you’d think Shakespeare, e.e. cummings, and God had joined the Beatles and recorded the meaning of life in a celestial studio produced by Butch Vig. Because he means it. Neil Diamond means it so hard. And we like it when people mean it, because usually they don’t. So it really sticks out when they do. Cause it’s nice. Neil Diamond’s voice is like a tree: You can cut it down if you want to, but you can’t argue with it. In “Hell Yeah”, Neil Diamond elects to whip out the difficult-to-observe-with-any-degree-of-reverence phrase “a hoot and a holler” right out of the gate, and then proceeds to rhyme that unfortunate sentiment with “ringing like a bell that you only wanna foller”, and despite what would strike any sane songwriter as a surefire recipe for a heapin’ helpin’ of No One Will Ever Buy Your Albums Again Casserole, he pulls off a winning, wistful look back at the highs and lows of a full, remarkable, and above all, he realizes, a lucky life. By the time he’s belting out the final HELLLL YEEAH HE DIIIIIIIIIIIID, suddenly you’re on top of a mountain shaking your fist defiantly at the sun and carrying a sharpened stick with your opponent’s head on it. Then “Kokomo” starts playing and you have to figure out how to get down.
“Orangeworker” – For Squirrels
What’d I tell ya? It’s another song from those wacky altern-VHSes I used to get through the post. This was an interesting band whose founding members were killed in a van accident and that’s how that story ends. Despite it being a pretty blatant REM impersonation, it’s a really nice song, one that I would imagine REM would like to have written themselves. Smooth move not writing “Orangeworker”, REM! Nice chorus, and nice high-pitched hooting at the end. There’s never enough high-pitched hooting.
Man, I’d be really annoying if I were interviewed for Random Rules! I bet famous people go back and read interviews and just start repeatedly slapping themselves in the face for being so dorky and uninteresting.
“Doot Doot Ploot” – The Hidden Cameras
I only downloaded this because the title made me laugh, but it turns out most everything this band does is super catchy and intermittently unsettling, good qualities both. Warning: if you listen to this, it will remain in your head for a really long time, and you will not be able to do anything about it.
“Poor Poor Pitiful Me” – Warren Zevon
I got an earection for Warren Zevon two or three years back. He was just precisely what I was needing to hear at that particular time. Sometimes that’ll happen, and it’s good. I think Linda Ronstadt’s version of this song is more widely known, but Warren wrote it and does a better job singing it. Nothing sounds quite like Warren Zevon singing a song. Except maybe Warren Zevon singing a waffle iron. I don’t know. Forget I said that, please. I would have been happier if “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” had come on, but this is fine, I’ll take this one. It’s fun to sing and play guitar to this one too if you’re an embarrassing geek with a guitar like some people I know and am.
“Draw the Line” – Aerosmith
I like old Aerosmith, I’m not gonna lie to you. Everything up to “Permanent Vacation”, with a few exceptions here and there, is for the most part stuff I generally enjoy. That old “Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits” album from Columbia House was one of the first CDs I ever purchased, and I listened to the whole thing quite frequently. By the time they managed to crap out this song, the Aerosmith guys were pretty well mainlining entire Walgreens inventories on a regular basis, and it shows in the half-assed riff that powers the song. It sounds like someone angrily and rapidly ascending and descending a small staircase. I like it.
“Glory of True Love” – John Prine
A simple afterthought of a song that grew on me. It helps that he mentions Albuquerque. There’s not much to it but I notice I never skip it when it comes on. It’s not as good as Glory of Love by Peter Cetera, but fuck, the guy’s not God, okay? Why don’t you ask him to kill a mountain lion with his bare hands while you’re at it?
“Werewolves of London” – Warren Zevon
Wah, iTunes, you already gave me a Warren Zevon one! And everyone knows this one! I don’t look as cool now! Wah, iTunes! Wah! Well, anyway, I don’t always feel like hearing “Werewolves of London”, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love it, and it features my favorite opening rock song lyric ever: “I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand/Walkin’ through the streets of Soho in the rain”. That’s beautiful. Anywhere you go from there is gonna be good.
I gotta go to bed but that was fun. J-Dog out!