RM Francis Week in Outsideleft concludes with one of our favorites items, the ritual destruction of someone's sacred cows. Five records RM would go the ends of the earth before hearing again. Amongst all of the love, in RM's case, for the Black Country, even for what is beneath the Black Country here's a little much needed hate. Sock it to 'em RM!
RM Francis: I’ve got an eclectic taste in music, and have no shame in enjoying things seen by some as guilty pleasures or explicitly uncool. I love prog – Jethro Tull, Marillion and Blodwyn Pig. Equal is my affection for Girls Aloud and Little Mix. I listen to Ice T and John Coltrane, David Bowie and Megadeth, Throbbing Gristle and Abba and Bach. I do have taste, but a lot of it is about attitude, some of it is about orchestration and lyricism, and in some ways about the connective tissues between what an artist intended and how they executed it.
But enough of what I like and why. This is all about songs that should never have seen the light of day. For me, this comes in a few categories: the inauthentic and overblown; the absolutely overworked; the flat and the dull; and, the laughable, but not for the right reasons. Where music goes to die.
GOO GOO DOLLS - IRIS
The Goo Goo Dolls' Iris, with its saccharine lyrics and melodramatic delivery, often a go to song for the first dance at a Wedding Breakfast, is appalling in every conceivable way. It’s trying so hard to be poetic and heartfelt, but I see nothing but cliché in the lines and overreach in the vocals. There’s always some soy milk drinking, floppy hair sort at an open mic night who feigns emotional wounding and howls their way through a rendition – that’s part of my hatred, if I’m honest. A sort of Look how sensitive I am pleading that just rankles against everything I know to be good and authentic.
PAUL SIMON - YOU CAN CALL ME AL
Paul Simon’s gifts to popular music are too many to count. He’s a maestro of songwriting. This one, from his bloated album, Graceland (which is nowhere near as good as Neil Diamond’s Tap Root Manuscript, by the way) is a song that feels like Simon lost a bet. And then he raised the stakes and lost again and he kept raising and losing until a pretty decent melody got drowned in overproduction. Hey, Paul, if you lose this bet you’ve got to put a slap bass solo, African beats, a brass section, a three chord synth lick, some Ladysmith Black Mambazo singing, a tin whistle solo, and go na na na na na for an annoyingly long time, AND you’ve got to have Chevy Chase do the lip sync in your video too. And he did all these things and continued to ask us to take him seriously. Nah.
THE MOCK TURTLES - CAN YOU DIG IT
With a band name taken from Lewis Caroll’s twisted children’s book, you’d expect some awesome psychedelic experimentation, or least the quirky English folklore in the ilk of Syd Barrett or The Coral. But no, what you get is Happy Mondays and Stone Roses vibes, stripped of all grooves and virtuosity, left out to dry in a hot sun and then put on record. It’s the blandest and most flat pop song I know. There’s no rise and fall or shifting dynamics. The lyrics read like he just made them up. And not in an improv Damo Suzuki way. In the way an aging and cynical birthday card rhyme writer might just toss another “roses are red” verse out again. The guitar solo, if you can call it that, could be perfected in an afternoon by my 89 year old arthritic grandmother. Can you dig it? I’ve tried and the answer is an overwhelming NOPE.
ALL I NEED IS THE AIR THAT I BREATHE (All versions, but especially this one:)
The Hollies are up there with the great vocal bands of all time – their tone and their harmonies are sublime. I forgive them for covering this appalling Hammond and Hazelwood track. But I hate this song. I hate every version, and I hate that it seems to have been rerecorded endlessly and that each cover is the same crappy slow, drawn out dirge. Olivia Newton-John did a version that sounds like someone had a gun to her head in the vocal booth – shaky and whimpering her way through the longest three and half minutes you’ve ever sat through. KD Lang attempts to do something interesting with south east Asian drones and synths, but as soon as that dreary melody hits it sounds like Bjork took a little too much ketamine. The worst of the worst has got to be from 80s hair rockers, Alien. I can’t even begin to … no I’m not even gracing it with more thought.
CRAZY TOWN - BUTTERFLY
The early noughties saw a flood of really bad pop rock imitations of Godflesh, Korn and the Deftones. It was called Nu Metal and it was awful – sentimental, self-absorbed, woe is me nonsense with no sense of attention to the twisted roots of the bands mentioned above. Like all such things, Nu Metal got diluted into the mainstream and produced its own bubble gum, safe for the kids versions. One such band was the zenith of this. Posing and posturing like they’re the inheritors of funk legends, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers (and I know, we’ve been waiting since Blood Sugar Sex Magic for those guys to write another good album), ladies and gentlemen, I give you Crazy Town. They’re neither crazy or a town … or a band really. We’ve seen white boys like Eminem and Adam MCA Yaunch, who knew how to ride the broken beats of hip hop DJs and shift rap into new realms. Then you’ve got pantomimers like Vanilla Ice. Crazy Town are basically that, but with some guitars and tattoos. When I say guitars, I mean the sort the Mock Turtles use. When I say tattoos, that’s about as interesting as this band and this song are. It’s rap with a silent C, and the sort that New Kids on the Block would think was cool. Oh, and despite the video and the lyrical content, this is not a parody.
Thanks for indulging me in letting of some much needed steam on these horrendous songs. Before I go, a special mention to You Get What You Give by the New Radicals. Yuk, not even good enough to make my list.
RM Francis Week: Introduction
RM Francis Week: Review - The Chain Coral Chorus
RM Francis Week: Where Creation Begins
RM Francis Week: Landmasses and Landmarks
RM Francis Week: RM Francis The Week Interview
RM Francis Week: Teethgraters - 5 Tunes RM Francis would go to the Ends of the Earth to Never Hear Again
RM Francis at Outsideleft⇒
7th June, 2023, Outsideleft Night Out with RM Francis tickets here