Sunday, December 20, 2009

"We knew you were a dancer when we saw you at the City Center": Top 100 Songs of the '00s, Part 11: #22 - #19

I have a dilemma. I have 22 spots left. I have 24 songs left. I could retroactively push everything down two spots and knock #100 and #99 off the list. The Hold Steady (#100) would survive, their ambitious grandiosity distributed across my list like Dairy Queens on a Midwest interstate - just when you want one, you see it there looming on the horizon and is it one of those Dairy Queens that shuts down in winter? God, I hope not. One fewer Steady song and this list will survive. Craig Finn - he of the short effective signature and the economical yet devastatingly meaningful personal message - will survive. Nick Lowe (#99) would take the news a bit harder. He worked hard on that album. His reinvention as a grey-maned winking wan crooner was a complicated one. Some would say that's what he always was. This edit would push Gravenhurst down to 100 and we could all breathe easier. But that would be asking you - my loyal reader(s) - to edit your own memories and rank everything two spots lower than I asked you to, in paragraph-length entreaties that fell into one of three categories: disturbingly wordy, densely brilliant, or confounding.

No, there will be no numeric changes. To rectify this problem of 24 songs for 22 spots, I am dropping a completely different Hold Steady song, one that I had pegged for the #20 - #16 range. Not because it doesn't deserve the honor but because more glory will be laid upon those 718-by-way-of-612 blokes and that damn little hoodrat of a song in the very near future when my top albums list comes out.

("No more music lists!" you say. Please Ali, write about your work day, write about your relationships, write about YOU. Not to worry - this was the decade of the song, not the decade of the album. That list will not be nearly as long. And in 2010, I will again reconsider the possibility of writing about myself, that bastard enigma that I am.)

To fix the other problem, I will do what the Oscars do when anyone deserving of accolades fails to get nominated or awarded in a volume appropriate for his/her legend. In other words:
Will Oldham aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy, I award you the Blueprint Blue Lifetime Achievement Award; you just have to agree to me dropping that one love song you wrote. Think about it - LIFETIME Achievement. Really, you deserve it. Besides, anyone who can give the following quote about his music and its tendency to disturb also deserves my respect (and my fear):
"Because I know what a cocksucker I am, how loathsome I am, and how loathsome most people are. And rather than have someone hate the record because they have discovered it's not what they thought it was, I'd rather go ahead and be, like, 'OK, go ahead and listen to this, but be aware that it's not a clean situation you're getting into; don't cry to me that you're disappointed, because I'm telling you now, it's a nasty business. But enjoy it, please!'" (The Guardian - March 19, 2004)
Now this happens to be the very first BpB Lifetime Achievement Award. And considering that Oldham's moniker of choice, Bonnie "Prince" Billy is essentially initially identical (B 'P' B) to the shortened name of this blog (BpB), I will design the award after you, Mr. Billy. I will commission a sculpture to be made of you - specifically, of the way you look in this photograph:

Okay now that the difficult task is done, let's commence with the list. This is where the dirtiest work gets done - the top of the world, the vista from which only genius can be heard. Let's start with a couple of people who, along with Bonnie "P", could make up 60% of a kickass new version of the Traveling Wilburys.

22. The First of the Gang To Die - Morrissey (2004)
Morrissey has had quite a decade, hasn't he?
  • In 2004, he writes the best song about Los Angeles gang culture that anyone - L.A. native or gangly Brit - could conceive of writing. He nails the pious yet touching romanticism of the dubious fallen heroes of the gang wars (aka the thug life, dba the informal economy).

  • Also in 2004, he sits on a plane next to my friends Monica and Jason as they jet to Mexico for a honeymoon. He is travelling alone. They remain married and are expecting child #2 in that Valhalla of Promised Lands, Madison, Wisconsin.
  • In 2008, his song Everyday Is Like Sunday is used by the NFL Network to sell.... football. If you told me that this would happen back when he was asexually telling shoplifters to unite and hang the DJ, I would have laughed. But then I would have collected my thoughts and reconsidered. Sure, it could happen. A Morrissey song accompanying video images of a brutal masculine sport.
  • After years of being closed and advertising the words "We will rock again" on its marquee, Hollywood's Palladium reopens to something like 14 sold-out Morrissey shows in 2008. 
  • This year, he willingly participates in one of the best album cover photographs ever:

21. Paper Planes - M.I.A. (2008)
You're either with me or against me on this one. After all, I once wrote that this song made me want to marry M.I.A. and you know about my problems with that's saying something. I've actually considered making this song my ringtone. Which is an even bigger commitment than marriage. Not that my phone rings that often. I don't know. Take it away, M.I.A:

20. In Our Bedroom After the War - Stars (2007)
This song is about the end of the world. Or the almost-end of the world. Two people make it through relatively undead and now what? Now they have to move on. Which is to say this song is a metaphor about the end of a relationship. Two people wake up. In THEIR bedroom so you know it lasted a while. They know the war is over. 

What I can't figure out is: Do they both know they're doomed, that one of them is sleeping somewhere else from now on? OR Do they think they've got a shot because the end of the song promises a new beginning - "Here comes the first day!" 

Or is this song really just about the end of the world? Wait... I think it's about Katrina. I'll let you all decide...

...Okay, this is the only version of this song on youtube that gives the full uncut studio version of IOBAtW and it's apparently someone's home-edited tribute to a Grey's Anatomy love story plot. I've never watched Grey's Anatomy - can someone tell me... is it supposed to be a comedy? Actually, given that Sandra Oh starred in a really good end-of-world epic film (Last Night) made by Canadians (just like Stars), this is kind of poetic:

19. 4Dix - Lifter Puller (2001)
Really? This is what you're putting here, Ali? Another song about seamy / possibly nonexistent / romanticized Midwest subculture... another messy song about Nightclub Dwight and 15th&Franklin and the cross-significance of rock and punk? And if you really want to put a punny song about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on your list, what about Prefab Sprout's Love is the 5th Horseman

(Pausing while some one of you listens to Love is the 5th Horseman)

Now you see why, don't you? If you can find it, just listen to the bridge of 4Dix - the way it all comes forward and back and FORWARD again. Listen to the badass female vocalist delivering her sparse lines with the economic precision of Ian McKellan in a Pinter play and the soft strength of freshly served buttermilk pancakes on a cold spring day layered - not slathered - with butter and NO syrup.  Holy crap. This is brilliant. This song is brilliant!

Should this be higher? Top 5 maybe? Am I really putting that Julian Casa-fakename song ahead of 4Dix by LFTR PLLR? The freaking Fruit Bats ahead of the one true song about Jenny's downfall? Maybe even those weak-kneed Norwegians Kings of Convenience in front of a band whose silence between notes could kick their asses back to Bergen? Ali, please reconsider. Don't put this song so low.

(Pausing to reconsider)

No, I'm keeping this song here. Number 19. Not to worry, LP fans - their voice will be heard somewhere in the top 18. As for 4Dix, I can't seem to find a linkable full version of it anywhere. Maybe if you go to and type 4Dix in the search box, they'll give you more than the 30-second sample I got. Or just email me. Or read the lyrics. Or wait patintly and maybe someday I'll play it for you in the car as we cross the Mendota Bridge or the Washington Bridge or the Washington Avenue Bridge or the Continental Divide... or as we cross from Lynwood into Southgate searching for an open KFC.

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