31. Mental As Anything
Speaking of funny... I first saw Mental As Anything open up for Men At Work. Two wild and crazy Australian bands. But while I came for the fun, I stayed for the Mental's great songs. They had a Squeeze/Difford and Tillbrook vibe where two songwriters traded off riffs of love and loss. Every week, I find myself singing one of their songs: often "Spirit Got Lost" or "Brain Brain". I want to buy all of their CDs, but they are hard to find in the states.
32. Moxy Früvous
One of those bands your friends will tell you, "You've *got* to hear this!" In my college days, we played "Bargainville" over and over again. "Once I was the King of Spain! Now I work at Pizza Pizza..." So, why did Barenaked Ladies become a huge hit, while Früvous has languished? I dunno. But like the Ladies, this band decided to give up on songs about spanish pizzamen, and turned to serious brooding love songs. Maybe that's the price to pay for growing older, but I think something rare went away when they broke up.
I can't believe at the age of 17, I played this cassette in the car stereo so my mother could hear it. I was enamored of the song "Car Bomb", which sounded like the feelings and emotions that were bouncing around my head at the time. I loved the whole cassette, including the song "Christianity Is Stupid", so I sent away by mailorder for all their back catalog. Imagine my surprise when a copy of their "A Big 10-8 Place" CD was sent along with a plastic baggie of grass. I thought the band had thoughtfully sent me some pot, but it turned out to literally be a bad full of grass. Yes, the band is strange.
Negativland got in trouble for releasing a CD single called "U-2" (ostensibly about the spyplane) with a cover of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (with a joke ending of, "Oh here is it... it was under the couch next to the bottle of 409"). Then there was media jokes on Pepsi, Casey Casem, and Black Flag's Greg Ginn. They were the first postmodern media deviants to inherit the "Merry Pranksters" mantle, and when their music stands up to the message, it's great.
The ultimate bar band. And I mean that literally: they used to have a deal where they would play anywhere, anytime if you paid their travel expenses plus a $5,000 fee. There was a time I seriously considered it. Guitarist Al Anderson and keyboardist Terry Adams would trade solos like veteran jazz musicians, grinding out 12-bar blues, old country standards, and creative original songs. Sometimes on stage, they would haul out a "Magic Box" where they would instantly select and play song requests from the audience. The fact they could play anything at the drop of a hat, from Three Dog Night to Thelonius Monk, shows what amazing musicians all four members were.
I once saw NRBQ in a parking lot for the anniversary of a local barbeque joint. And it was a stunning performance, full of searing guitar and keybaord solos on top of solid rhythm-and-blues tunes. Al left the band in 1994, and I'm not such a fan of his replacement. They've been playing in various configurations since 1967. He was replaced by the bassist's brother, and I think everything went downhill after that. But sometimes the original quartet plays together. I'd love to see them again sometime, because life's too short.
I just hit their website, and ordered $180 of CDs. Writing this post reminded me how much I love their much: amazing original songs and Irish and English standards. Chopper on the bass, Alan Prosser on guitars... I love their version of "The Bells of Rhymney", a rocking melodic mess that's harder and more trad (and rad!) than anything the Dropkick Murpheys put out. Proof that old guys who are talented musicians can rock out harder than anything put out by punks with amplifiers.