2003 June 23

When the monkey is high, you do not stare

I have to mention some new music I've discovered recently. I had been getting turned off pop music in an everything-on-the-radio-sounds-like-something-I've-heard-before kind of way, but in quick succession three albums have woken me up again.

For one thing, somehow I missed an entire Madonna album in 1998 -- and I mean it: until this past week I had no idea "Ray of Light" existed, nor do I think I'd ever even heard the title track on the radio. Now, that was the year I finished my thesis and moved to California, but geez, I didn't realize I'd been as out of the pop culture loop as all that. And damn! What a track to have missed! For the first time, there's something by Madonna staking out territory on my personal Top 40. It's just ecstatic music.

Second is A3. My radio station in Denver, KTCL -- most baddest kickingest-ass radio station I've ever lived under -- played their "Ain't Going to Goa" briefly when I was there, and I've been looking for anything else by them ever since, really. I finally found their album, Exile on Coldharbour Lane, and it's all as wonderfully psychedelic as "Goa." They describe themselves as "sweet, pretty, country acid house music;" I'm tempted to go with something more like "techno gospel". Whatever it is, it bounces and tumbles along in the most funky kind of way, and you've got to love a band that claims to represent the First Presbyterian Church of Elvis Divine, and sings:

'Cos the righteous truth is, there ain't nothing worse than some fool lying on some Third World beach in spandex psychedelic trousers, smoking damn dope, pretending he gettin' consciousness expansion. I want consciousness expansion, I go to my local tabernacle an' I sing!

The other song you may have heard is "Woke Up This Morning", which is being used as the theme to "The Sopranos".

And then there's Robbie Williams, that Cat turned me on to this weekend. The music is basically uptempo pop, but it pulls influences in from more places than I can identify, and some of the songs are genius -- just brilliantly loony. Exhibit #1 is "Me and My Monkey", a kind of Spanish brass-heavy ballad, like Copacabana with horns forward, about a Fear-and-Loathing kind of road trip to Vegas in the company of a sociopathic monkey.

And at the elevator I hit the 33rd floor
He had a room up top with a panoramic view it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before
He went to sleep in the bidet and when he awoke
He ran his little monkey fingers through the yellow pages
Called up escort services and ordered some okey doke
Forty minutes later there came a knock at the door
In walked this big, bad-ass baboon into my bedroom with 3 monkey whores
‘Hi, my name is Sunshine. These are my girls. Lace my palm with silver baby oh yeah and they’ll rock your world’
So I watched pay per view and polished my shoes and my gun
Was sticking on Kurt Cobain sing about lithium
There came a knock at the door and in walked Sunshine
‘What’s up?’
‘You better get your ass in here boy your monkey is having too much of a good time’

Yeah, sing it, Robbie. (Another pointer -- check out his video for "Rock DJ", available from finer mpeg pirates everywhere. I won't spoil it for you, except to say the full Monty is just his warmup. Brace yourself.)

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