Re-rewind the Clock

One EP Forward, Two-Step’s Back

Eight of the 10 singles below prominently feature guitars: an all-time record! But not a "trend," OK?

The Goo Goo Dolls "Broadway"
(Warner Bros.)

Either the best Bryan Adams hit (acne-scarred throat!) since "Summer of '69" or the best Bon Jovi hit (Catholic cowboys!) since "Livin' on a Prayer," and the chord changes from John Cougar Mellencamp's "Small Town" and the young man sitting in the old man's bar from the Iron City Houserockers' "Young Man's Bar" and "Old Man Bar" don't hurt either. A song about drinking and aging, but one that chunkily provides something the Goo Goos' alcoholic idols, the Replacements, were never much good at: namely, a beat. Plus, like Sebastian Bach letting science go too far in Jekyll & Hyde, it's on Broadway—where the neon lights shine, the lamb lies down, and you hope you don't go home alone tonight.

Jeannette Kantzalis, a/k/a the Chubbies, has heard it all before.
photo: Petra
Jeannette Kantzalis, a/k/a the Chubbies, has heard it all before.

Love as Laughter "Looks Like the City's Broken"/"Hall and Oates Have Disappeared"

The first side is about driving around looking for a parking space, giving up, then heading back home—which presumably beats spending an eternity in the city, letting the carbon and monoxide choke your thoughts away. "Hall and Oates" sounds more like the Stones (in their early- '70s muffled period) via Pavement (in their lifelong muffled period)—which is to say a very small version of the Stones—than like "Rich Girl" or "Maneater." And actually, the "Satisfaction" references on these former-Beck-crony-led lo-fi upstarts' 1998 No. 1 USA album were more satisfying. Gets to chugging as it progresses, but it'd be better if it directly addressed how Joltin' John and Daryl have left and gone away, hey hey hey, and everybody's high on consolation.

The Chubbies "When I Was Your Girlfriend"/"Fox on the Run"

Ah, the '80s: one girl disguised as two or three, hitching take-a-breath-before-singing Go-Go's melodies to Joan Jett powerchords to an almost-Prince song title. Could've used a real producer, but what the heck. "When I was your girlfriend/You were the only one/You didn't believe me then and you won't believe me now." Don't know if I believe her, either, but I'll trust that she yearns for his wicked grin and "whole damn body." Flip the vinyl, though, and you learn that despite his pretty face, the rest of him is out of place. (He looked all right before!) "Fox on the Run"—on the (high) heels of Pat Benatar's "No You Don't," the Donnas' "Wig-Wam Bam," and Girlschool's, er, "Fox on the Run"—further proves that girls tend to cover songs by the Sweet better than boys. "You talk about just every band/But the names you drop are secondhand/I've heard it all before." He was no great loss anyway.

Les Savy Fav (Rome Written Upside Down)
(Southern EP,

Sometimes talking about just every band can be fun, though—like a trivia contest. So here goes: Dismemberment Plan jazz changes hark back through off-kilter 1988 Brit unfunk stuff—Age of Chance, the Membranes—then to Naked Raygun and Big Black in 1985 Chicago. "Post-emo," somebody will probably call it, by wound-tight (outside?) Providence guys who act like grad students even if they aren't. The vocals and guitars hold a competition to determine which can be more jagged-toothed and mechanized; long-windedly declaimed sloganeering verbiage adds up to zilch. But one hiccuping moment connects rockabilly like the Fall would do it to ha-ha-ha's out of Minor Threat's statement of defeat "Look Back and Laugh." And the guitar guy is a star, gloriously evoking pinpoint Philip Glass loopage, downtrodden Joy Division blues, and finally the Gang of Four's Andy Gill, spewing cattle disease everywhere.

MC Paul Barman "How Hard Is That?"/"Housemate Troubles"

On the subject of unhealthy spewage: The cover depicts a fluffy white teddy bear pooping out a nutty chocolate bar, in slow motion. The A side—which samples arias à la Malcolm McLaren in the background—appears to start out as a letter to the overimpressed press (who've "got academic and smart confused," or is that underground rappers?), but it doesn't stay there. It's also an answer to David Allan Coe's "You Never Even Called Me by My Name," through the eyes of Biggie Smalls: "I love it when you call me Paul Barman." Plus "I don't recycle tripe/Like Michael Stipe," plus "I sleep in cow shits in Auschwitz," plus Etch-A-Sketches. Paul's flow is less about hipping and hopping than graphing quadratic equations, but who's complaining? Side B opens like a dance-step-instruction record and waxes verbose about, like, splitting the rent with a jerk, sharing the premises with your nemesis, "a bigger A-hole than I'm considered by my label." If Paul wanted to watch football, he'd go live with his dad.

Everclear "Wonderful"

Art Alexakis, who recently testified against deadbeat dads on Capitol Hill, retains his title as the poet laureate of postgrunge parenting; his new single is the latest chapter of a story he's told better than anybody for the past five years. The music is archetypal Everclear—beefing up Tom Petty's prettiest jangle, ebb, flow, and buildup with Nirvana's restlessly drummed sense of urgency—and Art drawls through the words of a little boy, caught in the middle of a D-I-V-O-R-C-E, who's been told his life's better than ever now, but who'd rather stay at school when the bell rings than come home. Misses the Star Wars poster on his bedroom wall, and his parents not fighting so much it makes him cuss and scream and otherwise act out like the real Slim Shady (crossed with Marcus in Nick Hornby's About a Boy, maybe): "Somedays I hate everything." Sad and true, and the album-of-the-year candidate it comes from ends with yet another divorced-dad song, so the story's not over yet. If you're formerly married with children yourself, your eyes will well up.

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