Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Tramps Like Us and We Like Tramps": Top 100 Songs of the '00s, Part Seven #40 - #36

Nobody asked for it but here it is anyway: More frequent entries! Fewer songs per entry! Helvetica!

40. Secret Santa Cruz - Lifter Puller (2000)

"Cash advances and Jenny's back on campus."
And that's how the story begins. On this eve of the re-(digital)-release of Lifter Puller's entire catalog and accompanying coffee table book/oral history, let's think back to the 2002 release of their double CD Soft Rock, itself the band's entire catalog minus their final studio album and a few stray songs. I imagine Craig and Steve and the guys sitting on bar stools arguing about how to order the songs, immediately eschewing chronological presentation because why derail the party early with Lazy Eye and make the party-goers wait 'til chillout time for the fast stuff? So Tad said "why not start with the newest stuff, then hopscotch back and forth and back again, ending with the debut because I wasn't on it anyway, and we'll keep songs in the order on which they appear on their album of origin?" Craig said "cool but we'll throw them a few curveballs," secretly relishing the fact that only the sturdiest of those lazy listeners who insist on listening to albums in track order, never even reaching for the remote or the knob or the iPod buttons, will get rewarded/numbed by the 41st song: Mono (the Metal Machine Music of the 21st century).

What all this track order stuff means though is that the album starts with Secret Santa Cruz, which tells us the story of Jenny and the guy with the teeth and how you can get it on the porch, and most importantly, the tale of "some hedonistic rodeo, cowboys kissing cowboys, trading magazines for videos."

39. Daft Punk is Playing at My House - LCD Soundsystem (2005)

"The furniture is in the garage." James Murphy sings with glorious joy about a much-anticipated party that requires relocation of the house's furniture to the garage, thereby creating sufficient space for a dance floor where the furniture once sat. Sounds like a wild, plausibly enjoyable party. Everyone likes this song; most people love it. The Taco Bell/Pizza Hut song samples it. This song's ubiquity is surpassed by very few songs on this list, one of which should be arriving at #28 in the near future. (I am fully aware that many of you may never have heard this song. I humbly admit to you that I didn't hear it until 34 months had passed since its release. Enough analysis. Just play it.

38. Charlemagne in Sweatpants - The Hold Steady (2005)

I think I've seen this guy Charlemagne. Stevens Square park, Minneapolis, January 1990. I was visiting from California for winter break. I looked at out of my friend Other John's window, toward the park. A man in a fake down vest and baggy sweatpants paced with purpose on the dead hard cold dirt, wondering where it went wrong. What the hell happened back in San Francisco in '76... some nights he was the best in town. He retraces his steps, trying to figure out his reputation has been reduced to low rent Midwest pimping. He asked if there was gas in the car. He should have asked if there was enough gas in the car.

(this paragraph presumed you accept my contention that the Charlemagne in this song is the same as the one in Kid Charlemagne, Steely Dan's legendary 1976 song. I can't explain, however, how the Dan's Charlemagne is clearly an adult in late-hippie-era California and the Steady's Charlemagne is likely a teenager in 1990s Minnesota.)

And how did it take 30 years for someone to come up with this song's "tramps like us and we like tramps"? And how did it take me one year to discover the Separation Sunday 5-part Youtube "movie" which features this song in the first half of part 3 and allows you to pretty much hear that entire classic Hold Steady album:

37. Hellhole Ratrace - Girls (2009)

If I still required songs to inspire me and give my life meaning, this song would show up on inspirational mix CDs I make for myself and listen to as I drive for important events like big meetings and first dates. But, these days, I require songs and people to inspire me. It was easier when I just needed the songs. Maybe I'll switch from songs and people to songs and cats.

36. Gentle on My Mind - Mark Eitzel (2000)

Here, America's troubador covers a John Hartford song made famous by Glen Campbell. In it, a wayward soul shows appreciation for someone keeping him from straying too far, getting too lost. He covets more from that someone but holds back from asking for it, for fear of losing too much. Beautiful thoughts and sad-eyed melancholy emanate from our finest vocalist. In the end, neither beauty nor sadness can prevail. No, in this song, music wins.

This song is off of Eitzel's award-winning 2000 covers album Music for Courage and Confidence. Which award did it win? I gave it an award for "having an idea for a covers album and then setting out to find the perfect songs to cover and then nailing it in the studio, to the point that a young man in Minneapolis doesn't drive straight home from work one day, just so he can listen to the Snowbird / Help Me Make it Through the Night / Gentle on My Mind troika before pulling into the driveway and walking into the house so he can play Scrabble and plan a wedding when in reality he should have played Scrabble and planned a marriage." There were no other nominees for this award.

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