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Qualler Visits the Classics: Mark's Amazingly Spectacular Megatunes, Vol. III

It's summer (and I'm using "it's summer!" as an excuse to do pretty much anything and everything this year) and you know what comes with summer, besides sunshine, beaches, beach balls, baseball, cookouts, and more: summer organizing. And, as a result of some summer organizing, Brigitte and I re-discovered many of the CDs that I had buried underneath a bunch of other crap. One of my best discoveries was the six-volume compilation I made between 1997 and 2001, titled Mark's Amazingly Spectacular Megatunes. A few facts about these compilations:

1) I did not make them "for" anybody other than myself. Nope, not for girls, even. (Ha! Girls!)
2) They were not inspired by the Now That's What I Call Music series (though this revised blog feature is very much inspired by Nathan Rabin's excellent blog series "Then That's What They Called Music!" over at The AV Club.)
3) Each volume featured custom-made art made by me via MS Paint featuring a slightly different guy I painted with a monochromatic background.

My recaps start with Volume III not because of some lame George Lucas-style reasoning in starting with a volume in the middle but mainly because Volumes I and II are actually mostly just songs from the Singles soundtrack and the compilation that came out in the mid-90s featuring songs from the TV show Friends. Volume III is the first one to contain the hits that hit me the hardest between the ages of 15 and 20.

How I plan to review this compilation, and Vols. IV-VI throughout the rest of the summer, is by recollecting the reasoning for including the song on the compilation, digging through the memory banks and pondering the thoughts that come through my mind when I hear the song, and reporting back on its purported quality as I hear it today. I hope you have as much fun with this as I am having. With all that said, below is the tracklisting. Enjoy.

Goldfinger, "Here In Your Bedroom"
Why it was included: That style of ska-tinged punk rock was all the rage with my friends when I was in 9th grade, and I somehow obtained a copy of this song despite the record being one of those Parental Advisory records.
What memories this song currently elicits: This song really makes me reminisce, not in a necessarily great way, about sweaty teenage dudes with bleached spiky hair when I was a young'un. Dudes that I sorta hung out with, but not totally directly.
How the song holds up today: Still pretty fun to crank the volume to while running or while driving with the windows down.

Cake, "Never There"
Prolonging the Magic
Why it was included: It was one of those semi-hits by Cake that also worked as a great second track on a compilation, especially with the dial tone that leads into the timeless "I need your arms around me, I need to feel your touch" lyric.
What memories this song currently elicits: I remember hearing this song on the local alt-rock station in the La Crosse, WI area, 105.5 FM "The Buzz" (which is no longer an alt-rock format) and considering it a pretty awesome and pretty smart song.
How the song holds up today: It's still moderately clever, with the lead singer's sing-talking. Hearing this song one too many times in a row brings a lot more sugar buzz than it did when I was 15.

Bad Religion, "21st Century (Digital Boy)"
Stranger than Fiction
Why it was included: It was another song in the line of "edgy" alt-rock that was on the fringe of being popular. Bad Religion was one of those bands that kept almost getting a big breakthrough to the mainstream.
What memories this song currently elicits: Actually, this doesn't make me remember anything in particular, other than maybe recommending my bandmates to listen to it (albeit most likely unsuccessfully).
How this song holds up today: This holds up really well! It's still a slice of blue-collar pop-punk that is more serious-minded than the Blink 182-style pop-punk that dominated Vols. IV and V (more on those later) yet still a little tongue-in-cheek. And, the lyrics still hold up today.

Fountains of Wayne, "Radiation Vibe"
Fountains of Wayne
Why it was included: Before the Grammys awarded Fountains of Wayne with the "Best New Artist" award in 2003, Fountains of Wayne was one of those geek-rock bands in the vein of Weezer who were, also, in 1997, a popular "new" artist. So, I included this song (and another from this album) on the compilation.
What memories this song currently elicits: I have to reach back so as not to be confused with the memories specific to the Welcome Interstate Managers days in 2002 and 2003, but waht I conjur up is riding around in cars with my friends with the windows rolled down and rocking out to FoW's now patented tongue-in-cheek (or is it?) hippie worshipping via catchy choruses and big sweeping lyrical motifs.
How this song holds up today: This is still a pretty alright song. And I mean that -- it's still perfectly "alright." Nothing groundbreaking, but not terrible. I wouldn't push it out of bed, metaphorically speaking.

Barenaked Ladies, "One Week"
Why it was included: Um, have you HEARD this song?! It is the most obvious hit song that represents what it meant to be a hit song in the mid-to-late 90s, maybe ever.
What memories this song currently elicits: This brings on one of those inevitable parent-kid crossovers, which I think happened. One, because the band is named Barenaked Ladies, which is definitely not something kids should be listening to (except for those parents who understood that it was a joke name, cuz the guys in the band are totally not barenaked ladies) and two, because it is one of those timeless, catchy, constantly-repeated songs. You can't escape it.
How this song holds up today: Well, considering Brigitte and I have been singing it to each other 24/7 since I first re-introduced it to her, I guess it still has the power to overtake one's life. Please also note the insanely 90s-esque video above, featuring the one singer guy who kinda dances by bobbing up and down a lot during the chorus and the other guy wearing a zoot-suit with a leopard print open collared shirt underneath. Oh the 90s, how I do not miss you. (Side note: Are these guys the biggest nerds in alternative rock history? Perhaps so.)

Meat Puppets, "Backwater"
Too High to Die
Why it was included: This is total grunge cred, especially after Nirvana covered a few songs by the Meat Puppets on their Unplugged session, and to add some cred to this compilation, I added this song.
What memories this song currently elicits: This song reminds me of staying up from 11:00 pm to 1:00 am watching 120 Minutes on MTV on Sunday nights and totally digging Matt Pinfield's sweaty-dude yammering about what cool music is.
How this song holds up today: Total snoozefest. It is the first surefire "skip" when we listen to this compilation in the car. Everything about it, from the lackadasical singing, to the sorta-Nashville rhythm and harmonies, to the way-too-bendy guitar solos, makes me just feel sleepy today.

The Cardigans, "Lovefool"
First Band on the Moon
Why it was included: After that brief cred-building detour with the Meat Puppets, we return here to the hits, and this was among the biggest hits of its era. And, I really needed some songs sung by a chick!
What memories this song currently elicits: All I can think of is commercials, though I'm not entirely sure if that was because it was featured in commercials in the 90s or if it was later in my life. I also vaguely remember how smokin' hot the singer was. That's Scandinavia for ya.
How this song holds up today: It can definitely be played next to other songs like Camera Obscura's "The Sweetest Thing" in the line of Songs That Sound Superficially Really Happy But Actually Contain Really Depressing Lyrics. And for that, I give The Cardigans extra points, because now this song works on a 90s nostalgia trip and as a genuinely fun and clever tune.

Eve 6, "Inside Out"
Eve 6
Why it was included: Keep the hits COMING! I needed more songs in this vein, the kind where I really liked the radio singles (you know, the ones played on 105.5 "The Buzz") but subconsciously knew the rest of the album probably wasn't all that great.
What memories this song currently elicits: Riding in the back of a bus, after a Cross Country, or Knowledge Bowl, or Math Team (yes, I was in Math Team) meet, singing the chorus to this song, and its climactic final go-through of said chorus. I'm pretty sure it happened more than once, Mathletes singing along to a song that talks about being tied to bedposts.
How this song holds up today: Still pretty goddamn catchy, even if today the song is just a little too in love with itself with lyrics like "SoCal is where my mind states / But it's not my state of mind." They don't make choruses like this one anymore, do they? Anywhere? (I'm sincerely asking, because I don't think pop-rock choruses are nearly as wordy as this one is these days.) Also please note the extreme 90s-ey music video above, complete with constantly re-focusing cameras, monochromatic walls with holes shaped like hearts cut out, and the lead singer wearing one of those hemp necklaces.

Rage Against the Machine, "People of the Sun"
Evil Empire
Why it was included: I had a few bigger, more mainstream, radio hits in a row, so I had to pulverize my (that's right, my!) eardrums a little bit.
What memories this song currently elicits: I remember feeling like I did care about the socio-political ramifications of Rage Against the Machine's music, but then not really understanding anything about them, other than "Rally round the family / with a pocket full of shells" meant something about how families probably shouldn't be around pockets full of bullets.
How this song holds up today: Now, Rage Against the Machine's second album Evil Empire sounds a lot more phoned in than it did to me when it first came out. These days, I like "Killing in the Name" much more.

Jane's Addiction, "Been Caught Stealing"
Ritual de lo Habitual
Why it was included: Around this time of my life, I learned that, before Porno for Pyros, there was this band that the guy from Porno for Pyros was in called Jane's Addiction. (Ba-dum ching! Get it? Cuz, I came of age after Perry Farrell's more popular band had already run its course and I, at the age of 16, only knew him from his lesser-known band Porno for Pyros. I think Chris is the only one who laughed. Sorry, everyone else.)
What memories this song currently elicits: I don't have anything specific that pops into mind, other than feeling really dirty, like literally, full of dirt. I have no idea why, other than maybe I'm repressing some memory involving rolling around in dirt and hearing this song. I dunno, man.
How this song holds up today: I really can't stand Perry Farrell's voice at all, so it doesn't hold up all that well. Also, when I played it in the car the other day, our dogs started barking at the barking dogs in the song and then tried to climb into my lap when I was driving, so that makes me feel retroactively more crabby about this song than usual.

Tonic, "If You Could Only See"
Lemon Parade
Why it was included: It fell in line with the need to have hits. I also needed some more ballads, and this one was pretty powerful as a ballad.
What memories this song currently elicits: Again, I'm not sure if this really happened at some point, but sitting in a Wal-Mart parking lot and listening to the radio. Somehow, that is really fitting. Also, more abstractly, I remember feeling like I knew exactly what what he meant when he said "If you could only see the way she loved me / then maybe you would understand / why I feel this way about our love, and what I must do." Because, come on, dudes! A woman's love is important to a man; so vitally important, that the man must become a whiny, melodramatic wimp that no woman could ever actually love.
How this song holds up today: Still good, but in a totally hilariously overwrought way, from the constipated way the guy sings the opening line, to the whiny-but-totally-serious way he presents his love problems. I would add this to my karaoke rotation if the guys voice wasn't so high and whiny. (Side note: there are waaaay too many sincere covers of this song on YouTube. Come on dudes, quit the covers.)

Sebadoh, "Too Pure"
Why it was included: My friend had an older brother (who was also friends with friend of The Blogulator Old Man Duggan, who runs the excellent blogs, Inconsiderate Prick, Royalscentricity, and Munch My Benson and who was definitely cooler than my friend and I and yet was willing to share the music he was listening to with us. One of those bands was Sebadoh, and this was one of the songs that my friend got me hooked on.
What memories this song currently elicits: This song reminds me of raiding my friend's brother's room with my friend while he was somewhere else and checking out CDs that I had only heard of from Rolling Stone magazine, like this one by Sebadoh. This song is definitely an entry point to my further interest in indie rock. Fun times, indeed.
How this song holds up today: Well, Lou Barlow is a freakin' genius, and he's proven it in Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, and even Folk Imposion (One Part Lullaby is a totally underrated gem! Think I'm gonna have to listen to that album again soon!), so it holds up very well.

Nine Inch Nails, "Down In It"
Pretty Hate Machine
Why it was included: Instead of ending with a super happy tune, I wanted to end with what was then a radio classic, back before Nine Inch Nails was totally super dark and were just sorta dark. Also, 105.5 "The Buzz" played this song a lot in the late 90s.
What memories this song currently elicits: Listening to The Buzz and hiding the copy of The Downward Spiral from my parents that I obtained via trading CDs with one of my friends in high school.
How this song holds up today: I am surprised and, frankly, a little pleased, to know that this actually just sounds a lot like Joy Division / New Order but more catchy. I always kind of wished Trent Reznor would stop being so dark so he could be recognized as the artist that he is, but this kinda fits well for him.

Coming next month: Mark's Amazingly Spectacular Megatunes, Vol, IV -- where the alt-rock classics get amped up to 11, and I start making jokes with my mix sequencing.

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  1. Blogger chris | 3:11 PM |  

    Well I will definitely be following this feature closely! I heart 90s nostalgia. My faves from Megatunes, Vol. III:

    "21st Century (Digital Boy)" was a total jam for my brother and I while driving to the record store or a movie. So fun.

    It boggles my mind why "Radiation Vibe" was the lead single for that FoW record. Every other song on it is catchier and more memorable. Great album still.

    "Inside Out" is classic. I remember that possibly being the first record I was slightly embarrassed buying because I knew it wasn't "good" but I still couldn't deny how catchy that song was.

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