soundtracking with Jordan Zivitz May 2010: Insane Clown Posse, Natalie Merchant and Magnetic Fields

May 11, 2010

This week: a pathetic thematic excuse to force-feed you the greatest song ever written by homicidal creationist clowns.

Insane Clown Posse: Miracles

Once every generation, a song comes along that’s so deep, so profound, it will make you abandon everything you thought was true. This is not that song. In just over a month, Miracles — an orgy of idiotic astonishment at the 757 wonders of the world — has racked up more than 1,650,000 hits on YouTube. (To be fair, most of those hits came from me.) Clearly, by embracing God and a virulent distrust of science, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope have tapped into a listenership far greater than the face-painted Midwest suburbanites who have been obsessed with their horror-rap hits. (Personal faves: I Stab People
and Still Stabbin’.) The problem is, much like Alanis Morissette’s Ironic — which was noticeably lacking in irony — very few items on Violent and Shaggy’s laundry list of miracles are miraculous. To wit, the now-legendary line: “Water, fire, air and dirt / f–kin’ magnets…how do they work?” The song’s utter ridiculousness has been seized on by snarky commentators — Cracked.com came up with a genius Learn Your F–kin’ Science textbook, and the New York Times had an impressively thorough write-up about Clown Posse mockery. But just as nobody sings Dylan like Dylan, nobody raps about pelicans and f–k’in rainbows like the Clown Posse.

Natalie Merchant: Kind and Generous

Popular opinion says that a great song relies more on a fantastic melody than fantastic words. I guess I agree with that — otherwise I’d spend all my time reading poetry instead of listening to music — but most of my favourite artists are relentlessly polysyllabic. Every now and then, though, a song comes along to remind me that a dead-simple sentiment expressed in dead-simple language can open your heart if the music strikes the right chord. There may not be much depth to Merchant’s expression of gratitude on the cold print of the lyric sheet — and it doesn’t even RHYME, fer godsakes — but I melt from the first “la la la la la la la” to the last “thank you, thank you.” (I was originally going to pick Merchant’s Carnival for a more literal tie-in to this month’s theme, until I remembered all the happy carnies in this video.)

The Magnetic Fields: Busby Berkeley Dreams

Magnetic Fields … how do they work? With very little sleep and the world’s biggest rhyming dictionary. Put the three discs that make up 69 Love Songs in your CD changer, hit “random,” and you’re likely to get a master class in wordplay courtesy of walking thesaurus Stephin Merritt. But much as I adore this audacious, sprawling, insane journey through just about every genre of love song imaginable, a substantial percentage of Merritt’s pretzel-shaped odes to love, lust, sadness and scorn strike me as more clever than sincere. This one’s an exception. Maybe it’s the arrangement, which is lush by Merritt’s standards; maybe it’s the rare venture out of the subterranean cavern where most of his vocals come from. Whatever the case, if I had to leave 68 love songs behind, this is the one I would take with me.

Montreal music writer Jordan Zivitz recently interviewed John Lydon of Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd. before Lydon’s PiL show at Montreal’s Olympia, May 8. I recommend his story and, though it’s long, the full Q&A transcript of the interview, fits of pique included (Lydon’s, not Zivitz’s, and yes, he would have fessed up).


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