Sunday, August 31, 2014

(It's Not Nostalgia) It's the 80s Express--Pt. 7

76.  "She Blinded Me With Science"--Thomas Dolby

Released 1982
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  5

Quirky synth-pop every inch as dumb as science ain't.

Spotlight on Frankenstein, y'all!  Dolby kills the role with a closet full of unblemished white coats, a drawer stuffed with chromed goggles, and walls covered with dog-eared blueprints and graphs.

Lust and love are just alternate ways to say alchemy and science anyway.  Twisted wires and spilled chemicals satisfy the tactile and olfactory desires.  Nerds need to hump, too, fluids transferred from rubber to tube to create an abomination that will surely stand as the mad geniuses' most exultant triumph even as it accelerates his descent into delirium.

Keep It?  YES

75.  "Little Red Corvette"--Prince

Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  6

Prince is a martian.  From the first seconds of "Little Red Corvette"--nothing less than a nighttime stroll through Centralia while blitzed on opioids--it was apparent that under the radar would no longer be an optional route for this oddball genius.   The feelings I experienced hearing this track for the first time are comparable to the feelings I experienced the first time I saw a picture of a pug wearing a shark outfit:  a little scared, quite uncertain, but ultimately very very happy.

Keep It?  YES

74.  "Faith"--George Michael

Released 1987
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Wham! disbanded in 1986, to the surprise of no one.  Singer George Michael was clearly ready to embark on a solo career, as evinced not only by the runaway success of "Careless Whisper," the closing song of their breakthrough album Make It Big, but by the fact that the single was released under his name only in most markets worldwide.  Despite the fact that the song was not only on a Wham! record, it was even co-written by Michael's lesser half in the group (the "wh" to his "am!" if you will) Andrew Ridgeley. 

As one bum's free ride came to an inglorious end, an even crazier one was about to begin for the man born Georgios Panayiotou.  Gone were the Day-bright tunes with the clothes to match.  Things got a little bit darker, a little bit deeper, and a lot bit beardier.

And people ate it up.

But, pretty much every single from the album Faith is more memorable than its title track.  "One More Try" is one of the few pop songs of its time that not only dared to surpass the five-minute mark, but remained riveting listening throughout.  "Father Figure," good Christ, I still don't know whether to use my hand to pick up the phone and call the law or...use it for...something else.  However, I can't really take voters to task, because I see their reasoning.  Limp Bizkit's cover version of "Faith" a decade later made everyone feel sorry for the original.  And I get it, I do; so many of us feel that protective urge when we see someone or something getting bullied.

Keep It?  NO

"Head Over Heels"--Tears For Fears

Released 1985
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  3

Believe it or don't, "the ugly Wham!" did not make an appearance on the original list.  They scored two number ones in '85, and what's more, both songs are still widely remembered and appropriated to this day.  "Shout" appeals to the arena crowds with excess energy to burn; "Everybody Wants To Rule the World" has fueled several thousand road trips, boosted a hundred or so montages to total greatness, and revealed the inveterate snobbishness of so many Patti Smith fans.  Both are also top-notch tunes that deliver much while demanding little.  But "Head Over Heels," the third single released from Songs From the Big Chair, is something more, something truly unique.  It's ad hoc psychotherapy set to music that isn't sure whether to be cheerful or doleful.  Because why wow a potential lover with your proficiency at the smallest of talk delivered in the flattest of affects when you can send them reeling with moody analytical monkeyshines?

The weight of expectations placed upon one's shoulders--by the very people who should know better, no less--is an obstacle found in many affairs d'amore.  I have to admire Roland Orzabal here--the girl who has captivated his attention may look as though she's freshly emerged from a bathtub full of hyacinths and honey, but he can tell that underneath that immaculate shell runs blood roiled by years of doubt and distrust.  Best to nip things in the bud.

The lyrics suggest a hopeful future for the duo, but the music remains equivocal.  The classic piano intro is a bit down in the dumps; even the "la-la" chorus that sees us out seems preoccupied.

Ask Siri to define epiphany and the chorus to "Head Over Heels" will blare from your phone.  Keep asking, over and over, until finally Siri asks you if you just might be too dumb to even hold your smartphone.  Worth it.

73.  "99 Red Balloons"--Nena (originally recorded in German as "99 Luftballoons")
Released 1982
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  2

Two friends go halfsies on a bag of red balloons.  They trek to a nearby beach, fill the balloons with air, and let them go, up up up and away into a starless sky.  Just as the cops always pull over red cars hauling ass on the highway, so do air traffic controllers evacuate their bowels at the sight of unaccounted-for colorful objects.  Must be the bad guys doing the bad things!  Maybe!  All over the world, governments are tossed into a panic.  With full beards and empty heads, the world's leaders send long ton toys into the air.  Turns out nothing solves a problem like nuclear holocaust.

In true 80s fashion, most people were too busy dancing and/or chugging wine coolers to absorb the song's message, but that's the fault of the song itself--it's so fun.  Nothing about "99 Red Balloons" discourages you from running onto a beach and hurling objects up towards the moon so that you can then shoot them down with your (literal) hand gun, hooting and hollering all the while, oblivious to the possibility that some dipshit in a tower will decide that those things shaped like aluminum cans might be spacecraft and the entire beach should be bombed for the good of humanity.

Keep It?  NO

"Only the Lonely"--The Motels

Released 1982
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  9

"Harden My Heart"--Quarterflash

Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  3

The only "tie," as I couldn't separate these two songs for all the Pound Puppies in the world.  Both are led along by moody female vocalists exercising their freedom to stretch syllables as they rue toxic relationships.  Both feature lush, pretentious sax solos.  Most crucially, both whoosh me back to a time before regiments and schedules, before I was expected to be anything more than alive, when the weekends were special only because that's when Dad worked nights and Mom would wheel out the grill to mark up some nice thick steaks.  Or maybe she'd steam up some fat shrimp and stir up a bowl of cocktail sauce.  Or, she could decide to fry up some homemade onion rings and stink up all three stories of the house.

The TV would be on channel 18 all night, turned up to max volume so no one in any room would miss hearing what they couldn't see.  No worrying about waking up Dad, no worrying period.  Our family was still pretty close then.

"Tough love" is the most counterproductive method of helping someone imaginable.  My heart was soft back then, and it's soft now.  That damn thing has gotten me into and out of so many messes.  Only real difference between then and now is, back then I had time

"I'm gonna harden my heart/I'm gonna swallow my tears."  Yessir.  Yessir I will.  Today is the day. 

No, it isn't.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

(It's Not Nostalgia) It's the 80s Express--Pt. 6

80.  "It Takes Two"--Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock

Released 1988
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  36

Rob and Rodney weren't an all-time hip-hop duo like Erick and Parrish or Keith and Chris, but "It Takes Two" is one of the genre's all-time great songs, braggadocious lyrics over brazen sampling that enhances any night out, whether by the grill or in the club.  It's all party and bullshit.  Create your own space.

Rob Base's basic rhyme schemes could have been overwhelmed by the monstrous beat if he didn't have personality in excelsis.  By verse four, the line between written and freestyle rhyme has been blurred as Rob disses America's favorite burger after earlier on having tsk-tsk'ed America's favorite drug.

Twenty-six years later, "It Takes Two" makes current mainstream rap seems soulless and spineless.  You kids get off my lawn unless you're there to do something fun.

Keep It?  YES

79.  "Don't You Want Me"--The Human League

Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Gender politics at play.  Take a side, or don't.  Probably not worth the trouble when the most vitriolic disagreement between the couple concerned make-up.  She's moved on, dude.  Moved on to a new Svengali, one with an even more androgynous look, with an even bigger Roxy Music poster in his bedroom in his much larger apartment, with access to more luxurious make-up.  Back to trawling clubs for the just-born, buddy.

"Don't You Want Me" is a nice little bite of marshmallow creme, without the chocolate and cracker.

(Producer Martin Rushent claims Susan Salley needed sixty takes to nail her verse.  My Lord.)

Keep It?  NO

"Destination Unknown"--Missing Persons

Released 1982
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  42

My go-to existential crisis love theme.  Dale Bozzio and the boys remind listeners--with era-appropriate phlegmaticness--that one day they will hear nothing, so live well in the mean times.

A pulsing chunk of new wave sung by a flesh and bone Dazzler would seem an unlikely candidate to make my mood morose even as it makes my muffin move, but the afterlife is a funny thing that way.

Spiritualism may appear to be a flimsy hat-rack, right alongside the classic Christian vision of Heaven.  Each set of believers posits that a person's experience does not end once physical death occurs.  The non-corporeal form persists onto a spiritual realm.  (While Christians have named such a place, Spiritualists have not.)  This is a nice thought. It is not entirely comforting.  'Cause we are living in a material world and I am a material girl.  I have no real comprehension of a world beyond ours.  Spiritualist belief insists that the soul retains the experiences and memories of the shell, but there is a very real possibility that oblivion is all that awaits.  I personally suspect otherwise.  And if I'm proven wrong, at least won't have the opportunity to be disappointed.

78.  "Call Me"--Blondie

Released 1980
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

If prostitution were as effervescently cool as "Call Me" makes it sound, I'd be in my scar-free tenth year of fakin' for a livin'.

Neither man nor machine can resist the spell-binding sounds conjured forth by Giorgio Moroder , AKA "Young Orpheus."  Add on a generous amount of sexy woman for whom hard work is easy money--that would be the one the only the Debbie Harry--and dance to the ignition until consciousness is lost.  Angels and snakes, tirelessly tempting each other.

My God, she has multiple tongues!  You might not have to dance to pass out after all.

Keep It?  YES

77.  "Candy Girl"--New Edition

Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  46

Great, another song about the general-ass ways this person loves this other person.

I never got into New Edition.  Jackson 5 did it better years before, and Another Bad Creation did it better years after.  "Candy Girl" was their introduction to the world at large, and while it didn't blaze up the pop charts, it did hit top spot on the Billboard R&B chart.  Two years later, New Edition finally cracked the top ten of the Hot 100 with "Cool It Now."  Yet this relative underachiever is the one VH-1's voters went for.  Doesn't matter; everything these kids were attached to rotted my teeth faster than Coke (or coke) and their cutesy-pie day-glo-explodo fashion sense gets to me thinking what bahr each member is.

Puppy love is only acceptable between puppies.

Keep It?  NO

"Hill Street Blues Theme"--Mike Post

Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  10

Earlier this year, the fine folks at Shout Factory atoned for the sins of 20th Century Fox when they blessed humanity with a 34-disc box set compiling all 144 episodes of the greatest television drama ever, in the best quality, all official and stuff.  Yep, five great seasons of "good" guys and "bad" guys, justice served and unserved, from the streets to the courts, it's all in there.  As well as those two seasons of the mephitic "Norman Buntz Show," which is what happened when writer/producer David Milch could no longer keep it in his pants when thinking about Dennis Franz's rough-hewn, rule-bending cop character and the other writers in the room were too scared to plea for decency.  

Befitting a network show that refused to be procedural-as-usual, Mike Post's piano piece gorgeously evokes the melancholia inherent in the emotionally hazardous world of law enforcement.  Street cops, junkies, whores, big-time pushers and small-time puller--the heartbeats and nerve impulses of every character, both integral and peripheral, can be heard in this serene counterpoint to the cranky, cranked-up streets they roam.

Amusingly, even as the theme song was climbing the Billboard charts on its way to the top ten, the show itself was languishing in the bottom ten of the Nielsen ratings.  While Hill Street Blues would never reach the popularity of other NBC shows of the era (Cheers, LA Law), quality storytelling and pioneering presentation guaranteed a loyal audience sizable enough to appease the suit-and-tie guys.  Good thing, too; without the influence of HSB, dramatic television would not have evolved to the point where it single-handedly justified the medium itself being considered an "art form." 

Also, we never would have been introduced to Vic Hitler, the narcoleptic comic. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

(It's Not Nostalgia) It's the 80s Express--Pt. 5

84.  "All Night Long (All Night)"--Lionel Richie

Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Name a more vile use of parentheses in music history.  Oh shit you can't.

Beyond that, Lionel sounds like he hosts a chill shindig.  More of a clambake than a block party, nothing stronger than Coronas to alter yer beast.  No one will be getting laid tonight.  Might be some making out, but the second even one ass gets pinched--party over!

Keep It?  NO

"Rio"--Duran Duran

Released 1982
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  14

Duran Duran played the game with grandiosity and aplomb.  Nick Rhodes' spidery synthesizer and Simon LeBon's crypticisms garnered the post-match headlines, but the secret weapon was John Taylor's chic bass playing.

The intensity of the splashing colors, the texture of the expanding lines, the overall movement--Duran Duran were pop artists nonpareil.

83.  "Kiss"--Prince

Released 1986
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

So...Prince can make washing dishes sound sexy, correct?  I mean, in the unlikely event that his hollow-eyed cadre of purple-clad kitchen workers ever turned mutinous, thereby forcing him to scrub plates until replacements could be secured.

"Kiss" is hot sex even before the tiny man opens his mouth to let syllables flutter out.  Once he does, though, you've got a scorcher on your hands.  And on the rest of your body.

From proclaiming his preference for a warm body over a cool face to informing the listener that "Women, not girls/Rule my world," Prince is being a man about matters.  While busting out the falsetto.

Women don't necessarily crave the bad guy.  Women just might want the guy who knows when to be decent and when to be indecent, for mutual benefit.  Take your shoes off.  Let your hair down.  Do it up.

Keep It?  YES

82.  "Tempted"--Squeeze

Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  Did not chart

"Tempted" has somehow endured despite exuding all the sexiness of a sandpaper roll.  Pasty Brit attempting to sell me on the Amis-osity of his general existence might have been successful if the song didn't sound like it was written in the 60s, recorded in the 70s, then finally mixed and released in the 80s.

Reality bites, but fantasy chews.  "Tempted" is toothless.

Keep It?  NO

"Prince Charming"--Adam and the Ants

Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  Did not chart (did, however, spend a month atop the UK singles chart...well done)

Lock your bathroom doors, ladies and gents!  Adam's come calling!

Acoustic meets electric meets marching band whose horn section has come down with malaria.  Part hypnosis session, part pep talk, "Prince Charming" came equipped with an arm-y dance that basically made it impossible for one's inner fabulousness to remain suppressed for one second longer.

Fight the wooden soldiers!  Assail the carbon copies!   You heard the general:  "Ridicule is nothing to be scared of."  (Which doesn't mean you're not allowed to tremble.)

Goddard's London is closer to Godard's Paris, so wear that bag proud. 

81.  "Word Up"--Cameo

Released 1986
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  6

Oh, I may receive some manner of crap for this one.

Whenever I hear "Word Up!" I think of bad sex at even worse parties.  The too-imitable nasal vocals of the superbly monikered Larry Blackmon carried these five interminable minutes of blunt force trauma to great success.  Dude's got a "weird thing" to show the ladies, then implores us to dance by sprouting the hoariest of all the hoary hip-hop exhortations.  The flags could not have been more red.  This ball could not get more corn.

Keep It?  NO

"Physical"--Olivia Newton-John

Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Oh yeah.  I'm preparing for a horse frisbee to the face.  But that's okay.  I'm not the same, I have no shame.

Surprise!  "Physical" is a hilarious and great pop song.  I'll compare it to an hour of cardio in that it just makes me feel good.  Much of the enjoyment comes from the cognitive dissonance experienced when hearing the queen of goody-good-shoes soft pop go practically soft-core.  The musical track itself isn't really very sexy, just an easy dance of nervous guitars and horns.  The lyrics, however, indulge in exaggerated winks and nods that grow ever more absurd until that glorious chorus, which is so alluring in its unstoppable corniness that even people who grit their teeth down by an eighth of an inch when they hear it can't imagine their lives without it.

Olivia had her My Fair Lady moment in Grease, going from clean-cut expatriate to smokin' leather goddess, but her real-world image was always closer to the virginal cheerleader than the put-out queen.  Donna Summer's pleas for "Hot Stuff" were nothing if not believable.  The look, the voice...she screamed sultriness without having to scream at all.  When Olivia starts in on "body talk," one can reasonably infer these will be face-to-face discussions.

But that's a large part of the appeal.  ONJ's late friend Karen Carpenter gave off similar vibes throughout the solo album her brother kept vaulted until presumed profitable.  Whether or not these milquetoast ladies singing frankly about the fun stuff worked, and to what extent, I think we can all agree--who the hell expected that from them?

"Physical" was second only to "We Are the World" on the list of biggest-selling singles of the decade.  The latters absence on this list is understandable, as it is even more wretched than it is well-intentioned, but I feel some denial was happening among the voters when it came to "Physical."  Just because the leg warmers were ugly doesn't mean the song should be punished!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

(It's Not Nostalgia) It's the 80s Express--Pt. 4

88.  "Ain't Nobody"--Rufus and Chaka Khan

Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  22

So undeniable, Quincy Jones wanted it for Thriller.  Luckily for us, "Ain't Nobody" ended up with Rufus and Chaka.

Ladies, none of us can sing as well as Miss Yvette (unless Aretha Franklin or Chan Marshall are reading this, in which case--heeeeyyy) but the magic of amour convinces us we can.  The best part of a relationship (besides the companionship, both clothed and naked) is having a legit reason to belt out the chorus to "Ain't Nobody" in the shower.

The emotional topography is all rolling hills.  Ain't no valleys.  Don't need no stinking valleys.  This is a love curvaceous.

Keep It?  YES

87.  "Rock Me Amadeus"--Falco

Released 1985
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

AKA "Rock Me Hot Potatoes."   (credit:  my older brother)

A year after Milos Forman's Oscar-winning Amadeus debuted on movie screens, another Austrian composer came along and captivated the collective imagination of the first world.  For a bit, anyway.

The original "Rock Me Amadeus" was performed primarily in German, so Falco's label encouraged a number of edited and remixed versions for release in various world markets.  I am concerned with only two versions:  the "American" version and the "Canadian" version.

I can attest that here in the States, "our" version was not exclusively played on pop radio.  In a number of markets, DJ's flipped over the vinyl and spun the "Canadian" mix as well, some even deciding it to give it precedence on the airwaves.  Choosing which I myself prefer?  Now that is a challenge.  Wait--no, it isn't.

Unlike the film, which focuses not only on Mozart's superlative musical gifts but also on the corrosive envy of fellow composer Antonio Salieri, the song is all Wolfie, all the time.  The American cut is an Austrian dude rapping in German about how Mozart was a pimp, a "punker," and a "rock star."  It flows like an actual song.  It's one flaw--the crooner bridge--is forgivable when you consider the entire picture and realize an Austrian guy is rapping in German.

The Canuck mix starts off with some ditzy hook and dares to feature a horribly mistaken saxophone solo.  The defining element, though, is the dull intonation of "Amadeus Cliff Notes" instead of Falco's endearing rap.  If I wanted to learn more about Mozart (and I did), then I will read a biography about Mozart (which I also did).  If I want a spoken word history lesson over ostensibly danceable music, I will listen to Paul Hardcastle's "19."

As tempted as I am to proclaim that yet again America triumphs over her neighbors to the North, I can already hear the rebuttal.  To which I reply:  You really should just give us your free health care--we need it much more than you do.

Keep It?  NO

"Der Kommissar"--Falco

Release 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  Did not chart

Falco was the Tigger of Europop.  Bouncy, mischievous and charismatic.  As well as mononymous.  "Der Kommissar" is another tersely-rapped-verses-kooky-chorus offering that After the Fire made a top five smash in America just one year after Falco's original proved to be a hit virtually everywhere else but.  Both versions are worthy of inclusion on any "Best Of the 80s," which is a solid indicator of a truly great song.  I give the slight edge to Falco.  He sells me on the sounds and codes of the cliqued-up street scene, the myriad ways the grave-resistant urchins communicate with each other.  I've always dug how that sneaky dude with the top hat dances before ripping his trench coat open.

86.  "I Want Candy"--Bow Wow Wow

Released 1982
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  62

The Strangeloves didn't have a hit with this "cover" of "Willie and the Hand Jive" back in 1965, so hell if I know why a difference seventeen years made.  The guitar tone is instantly the most interesting thing about it, digging deep as it does into the flesh between my shoulder blades, the scorching agony helping me forget that the song's mixer and the band's drummer were apparently engaged in a blood feud at the time of recording.

Candy is sex...but not all candy is created equal!  Specify.  'Cause you may crave a Hershey bar sans almonds and wind up with a Butterfinger.

Keep It?  NO

"Money For Nothing"--Dire Straits

Released 1985
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

The visuals bowled audiences over, but the sounds were tidy too.  "Money For Nothing" missed VH-1's list for one of two reasons:  either viewers didn't feel comfy voting for a track that features MTV in its secondary hook; or, they were apprehensive about voting for a song with repeated utterances of a homophobic slur, regardless of the context in which it was used. 

Some of my readers might be thinking there's a third option:  not enough people enjoyed the song enough to vote for it.  Unlikely!  How does one not love a song whose origins can be traced to a crude appliance store employee popping off on all the "yo-yo's" miming their latest trash on the color TVs?  How does one not love that chorus, wherein the banality of retail is transformed into a battle cry?  How does one not salute the chutzpah of Mark Knopfler just deciding hey, I'll steal Billy Gibbons' guitar tone for our new single!

"Money For Nothing" also inspired one of my most outstanding personal mondegreens.

Actual lyric:  "What's that?  Hawaiian noises?"
Misheard lyric:  "Who are ya, noises?"

I still get a kick outta thinking dude is talking to strange sounds.

85.  "Addicted to Love"--Robert Palmer

Released 1986
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

The video is timeless:  pale models made up to resemble mannequins sway precariously to benign synth-pop, as the weight of the instruments placed around their necks threatens to snap their bodies in twain.  'Cause all music sounds better with women around.  (Except reggae and country music, which are unsalvageable.)

I wonder how many voters selected "Addicted to Love" strictly on the strength of the song.  While pop tracks as a rule purr for your time, this one rubbed up against us shamelessly.  The guitars are supremely guileless; the drum machine was pre-set to "cardiac arrest"; that synth-line was played by someone with inordinately fat fingers; and Mr. Palmer himself sounds in desperate need of a trusted laxative.  How in the hell did this ever go to number...oh.   Right.

Keep It?  NO

"Johnny and Mary"--Robert Palmer

Released 1980
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  Did not chart've come a long way, baby?

If all you know of the late Robert Palmer's work are his MTV-era smash hits, "Johnny and Mary" is liable to strike you like frogs raining down from the sky.  His hushed, clingy delivery is several worlds removed from his more famed (and more forced) performances, giving the bubbly new wave track a doleful air.   The titular couple are long-suffering, both collectively and respectively, and while clues to solutions for their dissatisfaction and malaise are scattered throughout the home they share, there is no twist to the tale.  Nor is there any closure.  Johnny is probably even now still running around, trying to find.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

(It's Not Nostalgia) It's the 80s Express--Pt. 3

92.  "You Got It (The Right Stuff)"--New Kids on the Block

Released 1988 
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  3

Oh-oh oh-oh-oh!


I was on the cusp of adolescence when the white, older New Edition began taking over the pop charts.  I cringed as their sugar-smothered songs subjugated the radio.  I sighed at all the other girls in middle school arguing over which Kid was the cutest, or which one sang the best. I felt bad for Danny, as he was never brought up in either of those conversations.

Here I am over twenty years later, still in disbelief that anyone anywhere bothers to remember these guys with anything other than the utmost derision.  NKOTB songs had all the guts of a Jack the Ripper victim.  "The Right Stuff" is not an outlier in their catalog, friend-o's.  There are no outliers.  No guilty pleasures, no begrudgingly tolerable album tracks.  Top to bottom, these douchenozzles warbled on top of some of the worst music of the decade.  Like so many disposable poppets, they were good for a Weird Al parody and nothing else.

Keep It?  NO

"You Got It All"--The Jets

Released 1986
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  3

What even is the right stuff?  Is it something physical or metaphysical?  Is it something motional or emotional?  Wouldn't it be better to be with someone who has it all? 

I may be giving songwriter Rupert Holmes too much credit for intent, but he definitely deserves praise for versatility.  After cementing his own one-hit wonder status with some unscrupulous cruise-ship pop, he gave supernovas to two other artists.  One was a jaunty cannibal-rock novelty tune, and the other was a demure R&B ballad that I'm positive went down a storm at all those school dances I never attended. 

Holmes' lyrics are puppy-love pablum, but the young Wolfgramm family sway along to the innocence, delivering a killer chorus that doesn't need reinforcement, but hey, can't hurt.  That sax part is pure Friday night at the diner sipping a milkshake and wondering if life will get easier when you get older.

91.  "Walking On Sunshine"--Katrina and the Waves

Released 1985
U.S Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  9

Repetition is the key that I will jam into some poor person's left ear if I hear "Walking On Sunshine" ever again.  Which I most certainly will.  As will you.

The worst of the song's multitudinous sins is being more thrilled with life than should be allowed.  A woman in a long-distance romance has just received a letter from her schnookums and she's so overjoyed that she's practically...y'know.  Ever eat a PB & J crafted by amateurish hands?  You end up biting down on a sandwich that is either too sweet or too dense.  This is that PB & J.

To boot, one of the most retroactively unfortunate band monikers ever.

Keep It?  NO

"Song For a Future Generation"--The B-52's

Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  Did not chart

Some folks can't make it through these interplanetary personal ads set to new wave music without dry heaving.  Still others swear "Future Generation" is a feel-good must-have, a zany cosmic gift barely fit for earthlings.

I am of the second group.  I am the Empress King President Queen of the second group.

All five B's take the mic for the first time in their recorded history to deliver on a fabulous concept that encapsulates their indomitable spirit sure as any outrageous bouffant wig ever did.  Skinny-dipping on Titan, and the living's easy.

90.  "Wild Thing"--Tone-Loc

Released 1988
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  2

Meet Tone-Loc.  By day, a working stiff.  By night, a working stiff at play.  That's right, Tone-Loc is a player, not a pimp, and if you are unaware of the differences, a major one is that a player's hat is never worn on his head.

Meet "Wild Thing."  A guy with a voice so deep that people stopped whatever they were doing the first time they heard it raps tawdry tales over familiar classic rock sample.  Great for the first twenty listens, good the next ten, the impetus for a killing spree every listen thereafter.  Far too many juvenile verses that do not reward further scrutiny.  (Dude's MC name shoulda been Too Long.)

Tone-Loc followed up his smash debut with "Funky Cold Medina."  Many noticed it was pretty much the same song.  Few seemed to care.

Keep It?  NO

"I Feel For You"--Chaka Khan

Released 1984  
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  3

Love song?  Read my fingertips--"I Feel For You" ain't a love song.  Pure lust--naw, that's an oxymoron.  "I think I love you."  Well then, until a decision has been reached, let's shuffle back to bed, eh?  Don't you wanna be my harmonica?

There's just something about getting her taco popped that inspires a woman to somersault into a pool of liquid gold while wearing a silver catsuit.

89.  "Brass in Pocket"--The Pretenders

Released 1979
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  14

Chrissie Hynde wasn't radical enough for the future generation of grrrls, but variety is the spice.  Her sassy-assed alto shunned sentimentality to voice formidable portraits of needy-yet-strong (reverse that) women of the world.

Keep It?  NO

"Talk of the Town"--The Pretenders

Released 1980
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  Did not chart

Maybe change sucks.  Certainly stasis sucks out.

Refusal to politicize her art aside, Hynde's taste in games leaned more toward chess than Hungry Hungry Hippos.  As a restless lass eager to express herself despite lacking a sufficient handle on my talents and ideas, the Pretenders were practically easy listening music.  Now, as a restless woman with a much surer understanding of her creative center, I hear a song like "Talk of the Town" and recognize the brilliance.  Not only is it structured like a grease-slick short story, it's bound together by a Byrdsian guitar riff.  I tend to be a sucker for a Byrdsian guitar riff.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

(It's Not Nostalgia) It's the 80s Express--Pt. 2

96.  "Down Under"--Men At Work

Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Americans were, for a time, besotted by Australians.  So quirky!  Like a fun version of the English!  Crude?  Lovably boorish.  Aggressive?  Straightforward.  Oi?  Haha.

An attempt at resuscitating national identity by celebrating what made their country special to begin with, "Down Under" is loaded with in-jokes, the best being "chunder" as a colloquial for vomit, and a sporadic flute riff that borrowed from the nursery rhyme "Kookaburra."  Oh, Australia.  You certainly are good for a larf.

Keep It?  NO

"Overkill"--Men At Work

Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  3

Yep, Men At Work were no one-hit Joeys.  Neither, for that matter, was their homeland.  Near the end of the decade--years after "Down Under" introduced us to Vegemite--Crocodile Dundee hit theaters and turned actor Paul Hogan into an immediate A-list Hollywood sensation at the age of 47.  On the small screen, viewers were bowled over by the manic majesty of footballer-turned-singer-turned-shill "Jacko."  INXS were selling millions of albums as women who'd grown tired of masturbating to thoughts of George Michael's well-groomed facial hair turned to Michael Hutchence and the apparently brush-resistant growth sprouting from the top of his head.

Well, "Overkill" was better than pretty much all of that.  "Down Under" came with the leafy greens and unhinged orange slices, but "Overkill" slathered black 'cross the canvas before carefully applying browns and grays with the delicate touch of a watchmaker.  Is it paranoia or hypervigilance?  Either way, get thee to a typewriter!

95.  "Only In My Dreams"--Debbie Gibson

Released 1986
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  4

The aural equivalent of a baby sneezing.  Oh, Debbie Gibson wrote this herself?  That's super!

Once upon a time, you meant something to me.  Then some other thing happened.  I miss you.  Without you I am incomplete--just like the word "you."  I am but Ms. Pac Man with no ghosts to give chase.  At night I slip into feverish reverie after feverish reverie, reliving our glory days and nights.  Deep in my soul, I know that one day, our hearts will reunite, and we will finally get to second base together.

I am so very uninterested in hearing lost-love songs from young girls who sound as though they've yet to be finger-popped. 

Keep It?  NO

"What Is Love?"--Howard Jones

Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  33

Calling shenanigans on so-called "unconditional love," now that I like.  Is such a thing possible?  Howie argues in the negative--how can it be, when the mere human mind is incapable of holding the very concept, and the body even less so.

Don't attempt to grasp that which can only be tickled.  Banish "true love" to the shadows.  Kiss your lover's warts, and allow them to kiss yours.  Abandon illusions of eternity, discard delusions of glamour--just embrace the fusion.  *well-placed hand clap*

Don't trust me?  Trust Jonesy, then.  He's wise enough to invite along a chorus of his damn self, after all.  He's also self-aware enough to turn "love" into an 18-syllable word.

94.  "Start Me Up"--The Rolling Stones

Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  2

Are you ready for some football?  I mean what Americans refer to as football, not what virtually every other country refers to as football, but who cares we're better than England at both sports now anyway.

The Stones' status as sex gods has always bemused me.  'Twas strongest in the Sixties, persisted throughout the Seventies, even hung around for a spell in the Eighties till gravity sold off all the stock.  Truth is, the only member of the band who ever looked worthy of a sober fuck died young and still couldn't avoid wrinkles.

I don't hate the Rolling Stones; I was just never in love with them.   The greatest contribution they've made, far as I can figure, is the riff to "Jumpin' Jack Flash," which is so goddamn good I want to perform a flying headbutt on a flaming woodpile every time I hear it.  Keef has bred other champions, though, the last in line being the riff for "Start Me Up."  Forgives every sin contained within the song's three and a half minutes, even that dreadful observation about dead guys.

"Spread out the oil/The gasoline."  Load the ship with the rocket fuel! 

Keep It?  NO

"Burning Up"--Madonna

Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position: Did not chart

How was "Burning Up" not Madonna's first number one?  It wasn't even a number!  I'd say that explains its omission from The Immaculate Collection, but "Dress You Up" is absent as well, and that gem hit the top 5.  (Perhaps they couldn't choose between two songs with "Up" in the title and decided to include neither.)  I'd go so far as to call "Burning Up" my favorite Madonna tune, just over "La Isla Bonita."  Both make me want to disrobe, but only "Burning Up" inspires me to roll around on the nearest uncomfortable surface.

Old yearning meets new attitude.  There's Madonna's appeal in a nutshell.  "I'm not the same, I have no shame."  (Such a good Catholic girl.)  She's appealing to a lover, a listener, a whole world.

Incidental sounds pop up clutching full buckets, but the bottoms are quickly incinerated.  Useless to resist, but useful to insist.

93.  "Cars"--Gary Numan

Released 1979
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  9

The first of two songs on the list that were actually released in late 1979.  The pedant in me wants to disqualify them, but what's a few months, really?

I don't drive, can't drive, won't drive.  I am a basket of frayed nerves, and the basket has problems of its own.  Furthermore, I am a writer--my mind cannot help but shoot off in all directions whenever the fuse is lit.  So, relating to a song about vehicular sanctuary isn't in the cards.

None of that truly affects my appraisal of "Cars" as a singular smash, however.  Freshly discharged from the Tubeway Army, Numan marched out a song about Earth's most popular form of travel, set to rearranged intergalactic communications.  His robotic delivery over bloodless synths makes me think we should just let the damn things drive themselves.  And if there are still accidents, well, you should have been nicer to your car.  (I know if some dumb mofo threw up inside of me, I'd be furious.)

The Moog is a tempting yet tenuous way to travel.  (Most people can't even pronounce it properly, for starters.)  Roadways are liable to appear and vanish before your eyes (even if they're closed).  Gripping the steering wheel and envisioning stars, dodging asteroids, and ducking space junk is kinda fun--I'm imagining, just like you--but when you have to stop and pee, the gas station restroom remains a stark reminder that we're living in 2014 and nothing in our daily routines can be described as "hovering" except for the flies.

Keep It?  YES

Monday, August 25, 2014

(It's Not Nostalgia) It's the 80s Express--Pt. 1

Here's one I've been yearning to do for some time now.

Beginning on 10/30/2006, music video network VH-1 aired the first of five episodes counting down the Top 100 Songs of the 1980s as voted on by fans (I almost said "viewers," before realizing that wouldn't necessarily be true).  I adore that decade like Pooh adores honey.  I could rub the 80s all over myself and just lay there naked and...

I was born in late '77, so the 80s were my time.  So much bat-shit craziness went on, and you didn't need to be old enough to see the uncut video of "Girls On Film" at an after-hours club to be swept up.  (Manimal?  Garbage Pail Kids?  Fucking jelly shoes?)  The popular tunes of the times could be no less loony; but beyond the gravity-defying hairstyles and sense-defying outfits, the cream of the era's music holds up.

My initial plan was to review the 100 songs.  Simple enough.  But I realized that while many of the selected songs were indeed among the finest the decade had to offer, many more were not.  At least, not by my exacting standards.  So, after certain tracks that I did not deem worthy of top 100 status, I will be offering up a review of my replacement choice.  In all, I will be talking about 164 tunes over 25 days.

I am the Sherri Martel of this blogging shit.  I am the Marsha Warfield of this blogging shit.

Hold tight, have fun.  There's no better time.


100.  "Working For the Weekend"--Loverboy

Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  29

The ideal summer vacation for the rigidly middle-class is epitomized by this power-pop-goes-the-hard-rock hit.  I'm talking hot beaches, cool cars, and tuna burgers.  That the song accomplishes this without blowing is indeed a feat to be feted.

No better place than the start to say:  most of the songs on this list are lyrically asinine.  Most pop songs in general are lyrically asinine.  So for "Weekend" to rate a discussion about how brain-dead its words are, well, that's how you realize we have an egregious offender.  Beyond the "romance/chance" rhyming, virtually every line begins with the words everybody's or you.  There's a real sense of narcissism slashed once over with paranoia.

But, there's also that nearly-visible insistence on looking forward to the good times.  Those times when the coffee can wait.  When body and mind can regenerate and re-organize.  When anyone can be as cool as singer Mike Reno, rockin' side to side with mic in hand, wearing an outfit made entirely from cherry-flavored Fruit Roll-Ups.

"Working For the Weekend" is a unique case of a song's listenability increasing on certain days of the week.  (See also:  "Monday, Monday" and "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting).")  That may also explain it's low-as-can-go placement on this list.  Regardless, it remains a timeless American anthem.  Thanks, Canada!  (And rest in peace, Chris Farley.)

Keep It?  YES

99.  "Everybody Have Fun Tonight"--Wang Chung

Released 1986
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  2

I could buy this song coming from, say, the Hooters.  From the first beats to the final fade, all I hear is a hundred robots shuffling along in some technical approximation of fun.  They perceive enjoyment as little as a spoon perceives the taste of food.

This is music for Friday nights at shitty chain restaurants, fighting to be heard over the cacophony of small talk, liquid laughter, and the chomping of processed detritus.

Keep It?  NO

"Easy Lover"--Philip Bailey and Phil Collins

Released 1984
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  2

Goes down the gullet smooth as a swallow of filtered water.  Now, odds are good you'll also hear this song at your Ruby Tuesdays, your T.G.I. Fridays, oh your poor stomach--but "Easy Lover" is a minor masterpiece that contains more genuine cheese than the mozzarella sticks at either of the aforementioned establishments.  Phil B. and Phil C. unite in the ebony and ivory collabo that stands in stark contrast to not only Wonder/McCartney, but also Grant/Cetera, Reno/Wilson, Collins/Martin and Neville/Ronstadt.  (Yes, only two of those pairings are interracial, but they are all somnolence in stereo.  Judge singers not by the color of their skin, but by the lyrics they choose to croon.)

98.  "My Prerogative"--Bobby Brown

Released 1988
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

The first chart-topper to appear was also the vocabulary-enhancing smash of the late 80s, addressing those doubting Thomases and disliking Mikeys predicting a less-than-stellar solo career for the former New Edition cutie.  "My Prerogative" isn't a "Candy Girl" update, not even a li'l bit; it's the apex of the then-thriving New Jack Swing sound, marked by the subtlety of a sledgehammer blow to the head. The accompanying video further distanced Brown from his saccharine pop past, reintroducing him as the singing/dancing, street-savvy/sheet-ripping bad boy unable to walk two steps without performing lascivious gyrations.  Ooh child, he made it seem easy.  Gumby fade and all.

(Speaking of that video real quick--why does a woman playing a keytar look so hold up! sexy, when a man rocking the same instrument looks so awkward?)

"They say I'm crazy...They say I'm nasty."  They really had no idea, did they?

Keep It?  NO

"Buffalo Stance"--Neneh Cherry

Released 1988
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  3

"Buffalo Stance" is most assuredly not an example of New Jack Swing.  Nor is it--eugggh--"New Jill Swing."  Containing the comeliest elements of hip-hop, dance, and funk (but not jazz), Neneh Cherry's only U.S. hit was also massively influential--and yet still underappreciated.  (Where the hell they do that at?)  The usually-reliable Prince could only offer up the tepid "Batdance" as competition.  A goodly number of us started worrying for him right around that time.

A "buffalo stance" involves wrapping one's arms around one's chest while glaring off to the side.  Taciturn and tough--perhaps that attitude explains my keytar query.  Those chumps, those wanna-be big shots, prone to loud yabbering and happy hands, all those guys try to make three inches seem like a foot. When all they really have to do is how to spend ten dollars like it was a hundred.

But Neneh Cherry wasn't afraid to shot down trifling ho's of both genders--she was eager to do so, actually.  And the hell not--"hurt feelings" has never appeared on a death certificate, after all.

97.  "What I Like About You"--The Romantics

Released 1980
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  Did Not Chart

I get why people voted for this 'un.  The repetitive stomp and unchallenging chord progression makes it easy for the whole damn fam to get down.   (Totally thinking of you, young boy seated in front of me on the Greyhound who clearly loved him some Shrek 2.)  Harmonica solo?  I don't see why not.  I'm better off listening to the wind while holding cardboard tubes up to both ears and humming.  Using "What I Like About You" in a commercial is a fantastic way to discourage me from buying your product.

Keep It?  NO

"Under the Milky Way"--The Church

Released 1988
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  26

This song, though?  This song is one of those that makes me wish, in a fit of temporary insanity, that I knew how to drive.  That's the intensity of the entrancement.

Several years ago, I visited the Camp Snoopy located in Allentown, PA the weekend before Halloween, the time of year when the place was charmingly redesigned and renamed "Camp Spooky."  Walking here to here and back again, popping in and out of stores, more often than not exiting them heavier than when I'd entered, the soundtrack of the season followed me with every step.  I expected to hear them play "Thriller" three times, and I did; I anticipated hearing the theme from Ghostbusters twice, but fell just short.  Some other selections were equally appropriate and unsurprising:  "Spooky" (Atlanta Rhythm Section version), "Monster Mash," "Love Potion #9," "Frankenstein." But then I heard the gentle, wafting strings of "Under the Milky Way," and while I certainly didn't stop in my tracks--refused to, actually--I did have two very distinct thoughts:  Is this really a scary song? and This is a damn good song.

"Milky Way" is suffused with generous helpings of sanguineness and melancholy.  Those are the songs that are built to kill me slow, siphoning my soul second by second, as the glory promised and the reality shown share uneasy space with the one true certainty.

What would a world do without such songs?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

3-D Like Me: El Rostro De La Muerte

Lee Ranaldo and the Dust
Last Night On Earth

Help Me Out A Li'l Bit Here:
Lee Ranaldo--vocals, guitar, bells, vibraphone
Alan Licht--guitars, bells
Tim L√ľntzel--bass
Steve Shelley--drums, bells, shaker

(Originally written on 5/2/2014)

On October 22nd, 2012, the calamitous storm that would become known as Hurricane Sandy began life as "Tropical Depression Eighteen." By the time of its dissipation in early November, Sandy would cause billions of dollars worth of damages in seven countries, on its way to claiming 286 casualties; of the 24 states affected, New York and New Jersey received some of the most devastating damages.  In Manhattan, Lee and family were relatively lucky to only be without power.  Unable to do much else, he stayed inside and, by candlelight, played guitar.  And played some more guitar.
From these sessions of sorts would come two songs that eventually made it onto Last Night On Earth, including the heart-bracing title track.  That's what creative people do.  Uncertainty and upheaval do not quell their urge.

"Lecce, Leaving"--Lee Ranaldo's second singer-songwriter style album in two years retains the emotionalism of its predecessor while eschewing relative pithiness for sweeping experimental classic rock.  A considerable chunk of Lee's appeal is his voice, which is why as much as I love the tempestuous likes of East Jesus, verse/chorus/verse is a great look for the man who I would call the George Harrison of Sonic Youth if a thousand other unoriginal bloggers hadn't beaten me to the punch and spiked the hell out of it.  His tenor curls 'round sound, hitting the air like extruded gossamer, adding a measurable resonance to any song.

How 'bout my song, though?  "Jenn, Returning."  The fearless soul fights on and thus never perishes.  Much like the Dust's kick-up, a tune eager to beat me to near-death with my own heart, but hey, I was the one who removed it and handed it over to begin with.

"Key/Hole"--So far, so solid.  Thermal conduction is the energy transfer of choice today.  Connection, and reconnection, is so vital for me, for all.

I've been planning much, and planning to fail besides, so anytime I am led to yet another door, I still feel my heart jump inside my chest (I put it back when the last song ended) and I can hear the blood whirring in my ears.  Because what is behind that door is a new room.  Hopefully one with holes cut into the walls for me to look beyond.

"Home Chds"--What's home, though?  Is it something you share?  Can a person be alone and still be home?

The song chooses to sidestep such pointless existential queries and go right for the inspirational gusto:  You know what you are capable of achieving.  Get it out.  These are non-fatal blows you're absorbing.

"The Rising Tide"--Blissed-out prismatic reaction stands in sharp contrast to my reality.  Staring outside the window of my room is like checking out the same old stock footage, day in night out. Apartment buildings to the left, obscured by several large trees of almost-absurd overgrowth.  Below, parking spaces, some filled and some not, all matched with coin depositories jutting up from the pavement.  Across, more brick buildings with holes cut into their sides.  Despite the distressing lack of variety, I can't help but gaze and gaze during breaks from patching up my skiff (the one item I absolutely could not allow to languish in a storage unit). 

"I don't want to let you drown."

Even walking outside has become tedious, and I've only been at it for a month.  I do it for several reasons:  it helps with losing weight (nearly 50 pounds since last summer), the dog demands the exercise, and on occasion, stepping purposefully around this redneck haven does actually spark my imagination.  Mainly the sounds are what do the trick--the bleats and scurries of the local park life; the splashing as said life makes its way hither and yon where my kind dare not tread; hell, even the exhaust-belching cars and obstreperous children can give me useful ideas.  (By "useful" I of course mean anything that does not at some stage involve picking a brat up in a fireman's carry and throwing them through a lattice fence.)

"Last Night On Earth"--For my last night on the planet, I hope to spend less than ten seconds total gazing out of a window.  Why not climb to the top of a church masonry spire, shooing away all the birds so that I and I alone may appreciate the limitless sky?  Why not recline on sidewalks raised from age and flip through my special, "sprocket holes edition" photo album?

I'm scared that I would do nothing extraordinary, thanks to my circumspect nature.  (Delay before gain, you'll never get your hands dirty that way.)  In a universe of instability and insanity, the last thing I want is to know exactly when the lights go out for good.

"Life is so short....Don't try to make it on your own."

I am ashamed of what I have become.  A fundamentally good person, who has much to offer, but who is nevertheless an abject failure rejected by almost her entire family.  I would spend my last night on Earth apologizing to the people who do love me for ultimately proving unworthy.

"By the Window"--  Time gurgles on.  Grind on down.

The songs here so frequently start out struggling with the built-in autofocus.  Acclimation is the key, see.

Lee gives well-soaked glances at the present, rather than ogling at the past.

"Late Descent #2"--The plunge is continuous; slow and turbulent.  The extent of the agonizing declension defies all attempts at measurement.

So why not just immerse yo'self in the Ren Faire vibe happening?  Never would you hear that on any SY wreck-hard.  Just picturing Lee decked out in a feathered bard's hat, green silk vest and binding leather trousers is enough to get a person through a day and a half.

"Ambulancer"--Scratching an itch can feel so goddamn satisfying.

Okay, for all my intellectual blunderbusses who find themselves surrounded by cap guns, pay attention, 'cause the fuzzy power trip I'm currently on has me in the mood to share some wisdom.

There is no such thing as a lost cause--only one that has been misplaced.

Where one hears a wolf, another hears a lamb.  So if you need to cry out, cry out.

Believe in the compassion of others and the passion inside yourself.

Mankind is a remarkably supple beast.

You are the hero of the scenario.

"Blackt Out"--Black doubt warps the mind.  If only "riptide resister" were a paying position!  Wage gap narrowed considerably.

At eleven and a half minutes, "Blackt Out" is the Snuffleupagus of Dust Street:  large, hirsute, a bit moody but ultimately sweet-mannered.  It is, furthermore and most importantly, a brilliant way to go out.

As for me, well, I'm finished with flipping myself ass over teakettle trying to make people understand my situation.  How many different ways can a person explain that they don't want to die, but after two years of diminishing returns, they've lost the ability to imagine a tolerable future for themselves?

I require no lectures about the value of life. I have spent many hours in awe of the value of life.  Of its brevity and its intensity.  Of the shame that is wasting life.

The key is to be less concerned about receding power and more in tune with the power inherent in recession.  Then, one can hope to improve their station.

Can I do that?  Can I really do that?  Is it possible this whole time I've been fearing the worst, I've actually been preparing myself to burst through the chrysalis?  Kinda...late, isn't it?

I ain't exactly psyched to die.  I am struggling to remake the mess I have made.  Through art, we are shown the infinite possibilities inside of a finite life.  With maximum effort and the willingness to risk all, present tension can become past tense.  A life of greater distinction can be lived.