29 February 2024

29 February 2024 - Faith No More - We Care a Lot

If you know Faith No More, you likely know them from their later stuff.  This song, however, was one of their first - featuring a different lead vocalist than you might recognize.

The original lead vocalist and principal songwriter was a man named Chuck Mosley (who passed away of a presumed heroin overdose in 2017).  The lyrics for this song were written by Mosley and Roddy Bottum, the latter of whom also had a hand in the music.

This version, the best known, is from their 1988 album Introduce Yourself, but was originally recorded for their 1985 rare debut We Care A Lot.  At this time, you can really hear the Bad Brains influence on the band - very bass-heavy, very activist.  

Now, compare that to the harder, sparser version from their 1985 debut.  Yes, lyrically, it's a little different, but the musical differences are actually more apparent here - with a more drum-heavy mix going on here.

Mosley left the band soon after - some say he was fired, but it seemed to me to be more of a creative direction thing, as Mosley wanted to do less hard rock and more acoustic stuff.  Bottum has characterized it as "fired without being fired" and somewhat amicable.

The band did not abandon their best known early song, though, and released a live version of the song in 1991 as a single, with Mike Patton on vocals.  It's a different song, and Patton does a lot of ad-libbing while trying to hold onto the legacy of Chuck Mosley. 

The band did eventually break up, but reformed with Mike Patton on lead vocals - and of course they still perform this song (as they did here in 2015), which still carries the anger and activism Mosley and Bottum wrote in 1984.

By the way, anyone questioning whether or not the Mosley departure need only look to this performance from 2010, which featuted him on vocals with the band performing several of his songs, including, yes, "We Care A Lot".  

Here he is with the band AGAIN in 2016, a year before his passing, performing the song and others from their reissued debut,.  He sounds great (and looks awful). 

As far as we can tell, that's the last time the band has performed live, although they've scheduled other shows that were cancelled. 

28 February 2024

28 February 2024 - MC Hammer - Pray

"Pray" is the answer to a trivia question.

What is MC Hammer's biggest chart hit?  

Answer: "Pray", the third single from Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em.  

That's right. Not "U Can't Touch This". 

Both songs have a lot of similarities.  Both feature prominent samples that are easily identifiable - this one samples Prince's "When Doves Cry" (and, in a great example of a fact you cannot unlearn, it also interpolated "We Care A Lot" by Faith No More).  Both are a little boastful, although this one a little more humbly so. 

It is a preachy song, but also enjoyable.  

27 February 2024

27 February 2024 - Matthew Sweet - Sick of Myself

In 1995, Matthew Sweet released his album 100% Fun.  His fifth solo album, it would be the biggest thing he would do for his whole career - including generating this big hit single, his only appearance on the US pop charts.

Really, Matthew Sweet has made a career making great pop-rock music in relative obscurity.  So how did he get his gem in his hands?

Well, he wrote it.  And performed most of it himself.  Sure, he had a couple of guitarists and a drummer backing him on this track.  Richard Lloyd's guitar is particularly strong here - but the licks were crafted by Sweet.

Here are Sweet and Lloyd performing the song live on MTV in 1995.  You can see Richard just shreding and Matthew giving his all.

Sweet still performs, too.  Here he is, with Jason Victor backing him on lead guitar, at the Paste Studios in 2017.  With no rhythm section to back them, the song just becomes a guitar god dream, complete with trick ending.

26 February 2024

26 February 2024 - No Doubt - Spiderwebs

This was the single that directly followed "Just A Girl".  That single after a huge hit song is usually the indicator on whether or not a band has the legs for a long career.  

By most measures, "Spiderwebs" ended up being a bigger hit, charting higher on most charts and getting more mainstream radio airplay.  History might remember "Just A Girl" more, but this song... it was a bigger deal.

Written by Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal, it's clearly a song that leans heavily into their ska roots, while continuing the pop/rock sound that permeates the whole Tragic Kingdom album.  It started off much slower, but the single release ended up being a pretty funky tune.  Lyrically, it, like others on that album, their first without Eric Stefani (their prior principal songwriter and Gwen's brother), is a very personal song, of breakup and turmoil (likely the breakup of Kanal and Gwen Stefani was the subject).

Believe it or not, the band is still together. Sure, Gwen is a lot busier nowadays - with her solo career and other obligations - but in this performance from 2012, it doesn't look like they aged a day and have not lost a single beat. 

Several years later, in this performance released in 2023 but likely a little older than that (the copyright is 2020, and they reportedly have not played together since 2015 (but are playing Coachella this year), so we're going with that), they still had not lost a step.

23 February 2024

23 February 2024 - M.I.A. - Boyz

Few artists do as good a job bringing Middle Eastern, Indian and Tamil beats to western Hip Hop as well as M.I.A. consistently does.  

This is a song that absolutely throws EVERYTHING at you - drums, horns, jumping, more horns, more drums, samples - and does not stop.  It is an upbeat dancehall track and in your face, and it's all about, well, boyz.  It's a fun, happy, upbeat song that ended up being a dance hit and a minor pop hit in the US.  Co-written by the artist and Switch - both of whom also produced the track - the song includes strong influence from Tamil music - from M.I.A.'s home country of Sri Lanka.  

It's a delight, seriously.

M.I.A. also puts on a hell of a live performance, such as this one from 2018 at the Sakifo Music Festival.  You can see the Tamil drums in full effect in this performance - they are really used to get the song's unique sound. 

22 February 2024

22 February 2024 - Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - Something That I Want

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are a band that has lived on the fringe of rock.  They're certainly a talented, straight-ahead rock band.  They've gotten some airplay on adult alternative radio, and have only hit the Billboard Hot 100 ONE time - in 2012, with "Stars" (a future song for this blog, no doubt).

This song, today's song, was not released as a single.  It was kind of a throwaway song.  And yet, without knowing who the artist is in a lot of case, this song is beloved and probably the band's best known song.  It is credited by Potter as "the only reason I was able to pay my bills" during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You see, the song played at the end of the 2010 Disney movie Tangled, over the closing credits.  And it goes HARD - not a song you'd expect in a Disney movie.  Written by Grace Potter herself, it is a tour de force.

Someone must have known, because a video for this song, filmed at Disney Animation Studios and featuring Potter, was filmed. And it was fun!!!

Now, sit down, because I'm gonna hit most of you with knowledge.

Grace Potter was on an episode of One Tree Hill in 2008 - two years before Tangled was released.  Guess what she performed?

The song was slightly rewritten and definitely rerecorded for Tangled, but it was a repurposed song.

Even though the band is still together, Grace Potter's work over the last ten years has been largely solo.  This performance in 2020 was a solo performance, but she still pulled out her best know song.

And, by the way, this woman is a rock star.  No doubt.

21 February 2024

21 February 2024 - Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force - I Wonder If I Take You Home

This story starts with Cult Jam, a Brooklyn-based R&B group, led by a vocalist named Lisa Velez.  At age 14, Velez auditioned for a group of R&B producers and performers who called themselves Full Force.  

Somewhere along the line, they decided that Lisa Lisa's name should be pulled out separately.  

This single, released in Europe in 1985, was such a huge radio hit AS AN IMPORT that CBS decided it needed a US release - and yes, it was not only a huge hit, but also would go on to be one of the most sampled songs in history.  

The song was written by Full Force, and they also perform on the track.  It's, of course, about teen sex.  And, in this case, there's a pro/con list - they are, believe it or not, extoling the virtues of saying 'yes'.  By the way, Lisa was 18 when she was singing this.  

Cult Jam broke up in the early '90s, but Lisa Lisa still performs.  She still has the same energy, too, as is clear in this performance from 2022.