let’s do this like a prison break

singleFantasyHercules: the legend continues

Besides retooling the Pet Set, another project I’m working on this summer is my album of ukulele songs about the labors of Hercules.  So far, only one of the 12 songs has been recorded and here it is: “Stay A Sweetheart”:

(download)

The Pet Set played this song quite a bit at Burning Man 2008 as part of our flute & uke “Spirit of 1976 Walking Jukebox” project but we never quite found a way to arrange it for The Heaps.  The above is a solo recording with overdubbed rhodes piano accents, but the point of the project is not to force every song to use solely ukulele.  Instead, both the arbitrary Hercules theme and the 4 strings of the uke have been chosen as productive limitations.  Rather than a twee concept album of whimsical couplets retelling the story of how one man chased, bashed, and captured his legendary position, the project knowingly takes its cues from Joyce’s appropriation of the Odyssey (and will include a song about ripping off Ulysses) and creates a contemporary story with Herculian overtones.  This particular song does not so much advance the album’s story as riff on a loose theme–in this case, Hercules’ quest to retrieve a belt from the Queen of the famously fierce Amazonian female warriors.

Women have a tough shake in rock ‘n’ roll music.  The genre thrives on the (frequently unfocused) release of frustrated emotions of desire and recrimination, and since most of the songs are still written and performed by men, the experience of women BY MEN becomes a pervasive preoccupation.  I myself am far from immune–exaggerated bitterness provides opportunities for inventive similes, overwrought narratives, and delightfully cutting turns of phrase.  For me as a songwriter, it’s just a game, even when it draws from real sources, no more meant to totalize all women than it is to create a total picture of any specific woman.  Still, when added to the overwhelming number of songs offering reductive views of women from the outside, it begins to create an ugly picture of men on the inside.

“Stay A Sweetheart” offers a typology of the generic nicknames given to women in songs (“baby”, “darling”, “little girl”) to pad out the rhythm, speciously linking each nickname to a particular popular female archetype (created by men).  “Baby” is the girl cursed for leaving him to find something better, “Darling” is the girl elogized for being left behind by him, and “Little Girl” is lusted after for representing unrealized possibilities.

WHAT’s GOOD (non-exhaustive): Thai curry pizza from Dean’s in Long Beach at Redondo & 10th.  The vaguely Cobain-esque coarse yoweling in the new album by the countrified Deer Tick.

BONUS: From the same “just guitar & voice” session that yielded my Walkmen medley, here’s me playing a medley of songs by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs:

The first YYYs album was so good, then the second was pretty good, and the new one is not really good (despite its great cover).  They’ve gone from noised-up, would-be (but not quite) No Wave Iggy Pop to New Wave Blondie in studded black leather.  I’m still holding out an unfounded hope that they’ll someday return to the raw sound of their IsIs EP, but the outcome seems unlikely.

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2 Responses to “let’s do this like a prison break”

  1. […] Zombie Public Speaking « let’s do this like a prison break […]

  2. […] Here’s a fresh demo of “Punch Lion” (aka Track 01 from my ukulele album about Hercules): […]

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