Monday, August 13, 2012

"Supremely" outdone

"You Keep Me Hangin' On" came blaring through the airwaves on some bad Saturday night '80s radio show with rain and the smell of 1,000 pig asses hovering all around some patch of nowhere in Lancaster County.

It sounded good. It sounded way too good. I thought it was Exposé, or maybe even Bananarama, which would have explained why it sounded so amazing, but I knew in my gut it wasn't either group.  And I couldn't for the life of me remember who did the original.

The Supremes!

Yes, yes, it was The Supremes, and amazingly, unbelievably, outrageously, Kim Wilde, she of the equally awesome "Kids In America," had outdone the legendary Motown group that spawned Diana Freaking Ross, and she did it on their signature song. I'll admit I'm a kid of the '80s, and yeah, the slightly morbid minor-key overload of keyboards slathered all over the song really gets me, but I'm a student of the classics too, and almost always a believer that it was done best the first time.

But not this time. And not when Vanilla Fudge did it (my wife when I pulled the song up on YouTube: "Can you turn that shit off?"), or when Reba McEntire did it.

You might think it's preposterous to even consider comparing a two-hit wonder with an icon of Motown. But give a listen.

Kim Wilde, 1987

The Supremes, 1966

Friday, August 10, 2012

Upon further review: R.E.M.’s “Out of Time”

Buck's face says it all.
Why the Athens, Ga.-bred band’s seventh full-length album is a dried-up pile of vom on the side of the road and not a breakthrough Grammy Award-winning classic:

Because “Losing My Religion” is the only good song on the album; it’s timeless, actually.

Because “Shiny Happy People” is the second-most well-crafted pop song on the album.

Best album cover ever?
Because on three of the songs there are little or no lyrics, so therefore little or no thought given to the songs by one Michael Stipe: “Endgame,” “Low” and “Belong.”

Because the aforementioned songs give weight to the argument that Stipe was the one who caused R.E.M. to be “Out of Time” with the record label because he couldn’t come up with any lyrics or vocal melodies to match the otherwise lush melodies that Berry, Buck and Mills came up with.

Because “Near Wild Heaven,” one of two tracks where the unable-to-sing Mills was allowed to take or share lead vocal duties, is in the crucial clean-up spot on the album; there’s a faster, cooler version of "Texarkana" out there with Stipe on lead vocals that is actually kind of sublime.

What happened to you?
Because “Radio Song,” an experiment on par with Dennis Miller as color commentator on “Monday Night Football,” is the leadoff track, undoubtedly one of the sources of the eventual departure of Berry (yeah, the aneurysm, but …); can’t imagine the mega-cool Unibrow King going for this mess of a marriage of limp chamber pop and watered-down rap; on behalf of white people everywhere, I apologize to KRS-1.