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Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Short one today at Freeway Jam, uao needs his sleep tonight.
We haven't had a 10-song keyword playlist in awhile, and since we've talked plenty about drugs & rock 'n' roll, it's high time we address the missing component of the old rock battle cry: sex.
Sex has always been a primary lyrical concern in rock; the very term rock 'n' roll is a euphemism for it. Rock music has accompanied sex, been a prelude to it, been an excuse for it, been a running commentary on it.
So tonight, just for cheap thrills, I thought I'd generate a random playlist from songs containing the word "sex" (or "sexy") in the title. Surprisingly, I only have 27 such titles; apparently, and perhaps not so surprisingly after all, most sexual allusion in rock has been in the form of double entendres, puns, metaphors, and allegories. So this is by no means an overview of sex as subject matter; merely a playlist of songs that wear their sex in their very title.
Let's see what comes up. First 10 titles randomly selected by Media Center are profiled, Jam Tags, 1-5 stars follow.
1. Gun Club: Sex Beat ****
Another strong cut from Gun Club's 1981 post-punk roots-rock classic Fire Of Love. Here, they stick closer to their punk roots, instead of the crazed psychobilly they specialized in. This sounds very much like contempraries X with a hint of country added, both in playing and singing. The lyrics are typical of Jeffrey Lee Pierce; a rambling, crazed take on voodoo, sex, dope, and death.
2. Marianne Faithfull Sex With Strangers ***
Strange, willfully experimental, late period Faithfull co-written with Beck. From the 2002 album Kissin' Time, this features a dark electronic backing with an odd, staccato rhythm. You'd have to know the whole Faithfull story to appreciate this music, how she used to be beautiful and have a sweet voice, how she nearly died from heroin while she was dating Mick Jagger, how she made an unlikely comeback in the late 70's as a gravel throated quasi-punk artist, how she's been able to reinvent herself periodically ever since. If you're hip to all that, you'll appreciate how contemporary she manages to sound here, even if she relies very heavily on a number of guest stars. If you're not aware of her history, this is definitely not the best place to start, although Beck fans ought to give it a listen.
3. Prince: Sexy M.F. *****
Vulgar classic hard funk from Prince, reminiscent of Sly Stone with the JB's backing. This has a great horn section, jazzy guitar and sax solos, and some very tasty organ soloing. Prince sings and talks his way through this with a nasty buzz to his voice. This is one of Prince's very best slabs of 70's inspired funk, vital and contemporary when it was released in 1992. The album it comes from, which had that stupid symbol for a title is a lot more uneven, a clumsy concept album as embarrassing as most of Prince's other "concepts", but he gets point for calling it "a rock soap opera", and it does contain some of his hardest hitting music of the 90's.
4. The Divine Comedy: Generation Sex ***
The Divine Comedy is the alias of Neil Hannon, a British singer/songwriter who sounds like Morrissey singing in front of Electric Light Orchestra. That sounds pretty awful, and while this isn't awful, it does take some getting used to. A satire of the oversexed rich, the lyrics are overambitious but funny, and the production is quite a job, if a little over the top. He has ardent fans in England, less so in America. Musically, this is classically flavored pop with a busy 90's beat. For fans of Pulp looking for something vaguely cerebral, maybe.
5. Roger Waters: 4:41AM (Sexual Revolution) ****
Roger Waters' first solo album after leaving Pink Floyd, The Pros And Cons of Hitch Hiking is a strange, often tuneless affair, reminiscent somewhat of The Final Cut. Each song represents a feverish dream in the early dawn hours; it's a compelling listen if you really force yourself to sit through it. This is one of the better cuts from it, featuring an extended guitar solo by none other than Eric Clapton, who also toured with Waters in support of this album. I always thought Waters and Clapton were a weird pairing, turns out they got together because their wives were friends.
6. Berlin: Sex (I'm A...) [Extended Version] ****
No double entendres in Terri Nunn's vocals here, as she boasts of being a bitch, slut, little girl, whore, and virgin all rolled into one. Nor will her orgasmic panting and moaning in this extended version leave any doubt what this is about. Which is fine, more power to her, I like a direct woman. Matt Reid supplies state of the art new wave synth washes, the drum machine is programmed to "fast", and Rick Olsen gets a good guitar solo, and some ska-like riffs in. When all is said and done, this is a novelty hit more than anything else, but it's a pretty good one, and a fine example of what 1982-era new wave sounded like.
7. Rod Stewart: Do Ya Think I'm Sexy? ***
Okay, I've been taken to task a few times for things I've said about this song here and elsewhere. But let's keep cool heads here. For Stewart, this faux-eurodisco was an exercise crass commercial bandwagon hopping. It's hammy. The band, faceless session players mainly, are fine, the synth riff that is the meat of this song is as catchy as anything Abba ever produced, the bridge is weak, the sax solo out of place. If you love it, fine, you're allowed to. Me, I'll let it play if it comes on. But I never seek it out.
8. The Stray Cats: (She's) Sexy + 17 ****
Rockabilly revival from Long Island. For rockabilly, this has most of the right moves, but it doesn't quite get the job done. Brian Setzer's fast fingers know what they're doing on guitar, and their hearts are in the right place. Still, this is a little long for a traditional rockabilly cut, the drums are mixed unnaturally out front, the arrangemet is derivative, the lyrics nothing special. The Stray Cats were an important part of the rockabilly revival of the early 80's, but their best cuts appeared on the previous album, Built For Speed.
9. James Brown: Get Up (I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine) *****
The godfather of soul helps to godfather 70's funk here. His backing band includes bassist William "Bootsy" Collins and guitarist Phelps "Catfish" Collins, who'd later lend their talents to Parliament and Bootsy's Rubber Band. The playing is the very definition of tight, Collins' liquified bass and Collins' funk riffing rival the Godfather's primo improvised soul shouting for attention, the horns are clean and funky, this is an all-time classic.
10. Macy Gray: Sex-O-Matic Venus Freak *****
Speaking of funk, Macy Gray delivers a powerful slice of it right here, updated with some trip-hop flourishes, but bass-heavy and molten. Her unique voice is one of the most likable and soulful of the era. In some ways Gray helped restore soul and funk as an alternative to rock after urban r&b had gotten ballad heavy and dull. Sly and the Family Stone fans would dig this. The achievement is that Gray's soul and funk workouts never seem retro; it's new music for now people.
Hmm, not sure how "sexy" this playlist is. I don't think I'm gonna burn a copy and run out for some booty call; it isn't exactly the greatest make-out mix in the world. The best of it is easily the three funk numbers; those would do the trick. The rest of it is interesting, but didn't get me panting. The Berlin cut is the only one really dripping with sex. Must be the keyword; sex is better sometimes when it's a little more subtle.