Who Put the Laughter in Slaughter?
Rock God edition
So for about 30 minutes Thursday night, I appeared much cooler than I am. I had five songs play on KNRK radio tonight as part of the Widmer Brothers Perfect Playlist. Gustav, a Portland-area alt-rock legend, kindly mentioned my book launch a whole bunch of times. What a mensch.
For those wondering which five songs I picked:
1. KILLERS: THE MAN
As a novelist, I love the concept of the “unreliable narrator.” The self-description of the narrator is hilariously flawed. “Don’t try to teach me/I got nothing to learn.” Classic. Plus, of course, Brandon Flowers might well be the most naturally gifted vocalist in pop music this decade.
2. TOM PETTY: LAST DANCE WITH MARY JANE, 2009
Such incredibly imagery in this one. Petty seemed to virtually choreograph his lyrics. If you were shooting this scene, you wouldn’t need to ask any questions. He lays out the visuals so cleanly.
There's pigeons down in Market Square/
She's standin' in her underwear/
Lookin' down from a hotel room/
Nightfall will be comin' soon/
…It was too cold to cry when I woke up alone/
I hit the last number, I walked to the road
3. THE REVIVALISTS: WISH I KNEW YOU
Another example of great scene-setting. So much of rock is youth-oriented, so the notion of longing to meet someone “when I was young” is unusual and evocative. Plus, the stripped-down guitar seems to power the song forward with so little effort. (Guitarist Ed Williams, maybe?) This song just makes me happy.
4. POE: HEY PRETTY
Almost every single cut from “Haunted” (2000) is worth listening to over and over again. All of her lyrics knock me out. I like the album version of “Hey Pretty” without the LA-Noir voice-over, to be honest, but that version, which is in rotation at NRK, is pretty great. Poe is the prototypical storyteller. Just excellent stuff.
5. FOO FIGHTERS/THE PRETENDER
The lyrics are great, yeah, but it’s the absolute power of Dave Grohl’s vocals that knocks me out. And the transition bridge just before, “I’m the voice inside your head, you refuse to hear” gets me every time. It’s not his ability to go from 0-to-60 that impresses me, it’s going from 60-to-0.