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

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.

Vol. IV expands the tracklist from 14 tracks to 20 tracks and cranks up the alt-rock stylings times ten. It also contains the first hints of my musical taste that would eventually evolve to where it is now -- stodgy and artistic and pretentious. Still, this is mostly "the hits."

The Lemonheads, "Mrs. Robinson"

It's a Shame About Ray
Why it was included: Its inclusion in the film Empire Records is well known. I was also going through a bit of a Simon and Garfunkel phase.
What memories this song currently elicits: Rocking out, pretending to be doing it with Liv Tyler and Renee Zellweger from Empire Records.
How the song holds up today: Evan Dando's cover is a surprisingly raw-sounding (at least, production-wise) cover that still sounds pretty alright.

Superdrag, "Sucked Out"

Regretfully Yours

Why it was included: Superdrag were one of what I would call post-geek rock bands to crop up after Weezer stopped being popular to the masses.
What memories this song currently elicits: This video (above) is particularly striking for the way the lead singer is first working at a fast food restaurant, then PUSHES THE STUFF DOWN LIKE NOBODY'S BUSINESS.
How the song holds up today: Still an efficient, fun slice of geek rock that still gets me amped up for going for long marathon-training runs.

Elastica, "Connection"

Why it was included: Girl rawk + synth + Brits = a slice of 90s alt-rock heaven.
What memories this song currently elicits: Not much about the actual song, but I know that singer Justine Frischmann was Damon Albarn of Blur's girlfriend until they broke up, which led to arguably Blur's greatest album, 13. (Hmmm, I'm gonna have to listen to that one again today. "Tender" is still good.)
How the song holds up today: This song could still be on the Radio K charts, as it's a perfect blend of straight-up pop and slightly-edgy attitude. Golden!

Gin Blossoms, "Follow You Down"
Congratulations, I'm Sorry

Why it was included: I wanted to keep the mood of the compilation up. Also, I didn't have any Gin Blossoms songs on any other compilations.
What memories this song currently elicits: Sadly, my most vivid memory of the Gin Blossoms is when I saw them play at Riverfest in La Crosse, WI, in 2002 or 2003, long after their heyday, and with none of the slightly uncomfortable edge that the late Doug Hopkins gave them with hits like "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You". They kept talking about how the cops were chasing them around on jet skis on the Mississippi River, and I cried.
How the song holds up today: Well, it's not nearly as good as "Hey Jealousy" because its relentlessly sunny melody is not offset by relentlessly dark lyrics. But, the lyrics in this one are a little more dark than I thought, though more like a ripoff of "Hey Jealousy". "Hey Jealousy" is good!

Bloodhound Gang, "Fire Water Burn"
One Fierce Beer Coaster

Why it was included: It's a joke song, sorta! Also, it says M-F in the actual version, instead of the "hee-haw" side effect I had previously heard on the radio.
What memories this song currently elicits: I am looking at the CD, owned by BQ (Big Qualler, aka my older brother), and noticing that the CD is actually designed as if it were, indeed, One Fierce Beer Coaster.
How the song holds up today: Pretty despicable, and a symbol of everything I hate about suburban culture. Raise your hand if you sang along to the "We don't need no water, let the motherfucker burn" line and knew that it was originally from a George Clinton song and/or were not thinking about how it was great to mock hip-hop music. DESPICABLE! Still kinda like the lyric about Frank Black, though: "So if man is five, and the devil is six, then that must make me seven / This honky's gone to heaven." Wait, he called himself a honky, which is also despicable. ARGUKSDFHLWKFJWELFR. I wish I could tell 17-year-old Qualler not to listen to this garbage.

Marcy Playground, "Sex and Candy"

Marcy Playground
Why it was included: The mood was taken down a little more mellow from "Fire Water Burn", so it was an appropriate time to drop this Pavement-lite smash single on y'all.
What memories this song currently elicits: Man, I really wanted to like this song more than I did. I mean, I wanted to really love this song. But then I heard actual music by Pavement, and I pretty much dropped this one.
How the song holds up today: Again, it's pretty remarkable that music like this was hugely popular at one time -- rock music that sounds spare and kinda boring. So, in that respect, it holds up decently, because it doesn't sound all that dated.

Stone Temple Pilots, "Crackerman"

I skipped this one because it is so terrible. Please don't listen to this song, ever; just listen to "Vasoline" instead.

The Refreshments, "Banditos"
Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big and Buzzy

Why it was included: STP (which was only included on this comp because my parents told me I couldn't buy their album Core but I borrowed it from someone else and wanted at least one track from that album) brought the mood up, and it was time to drop another hit.
What memories this song currently elicits: I remember my friend Ross telling me something about a song where they sing about Capt. Jean-Luc Piccard, and that sounded like it'd be a genius song.
How the song holds up today: It's pretty dorky, even for my standards. But, it's also relentlessly fun, in the same mold as Free Energy of today -- straight-up fun. And yes, they sing about Jean-Luc Piccard.

Jewel, "Hands"

Why it was included: For the sole reason of being before the track that comes after it. (Also, I liked Jewel.)
What memories this song currently elicits: Seeing Jewel read her poetry from one of her poetry books at the Mall of America. Spoiler alert: her poems suck! (Also, I liked Jewel.)
How the song holds up today: Pretty god-awful, but fantastic for over-the-top karaoke versions. Watch the actual "Touched by an Angel"-inspired video and be prepared: your hands might try to poke out your eyeballs. (Also, I liked Jewel.)

The Vandals, "Jilted John"

Why it was included: It was a hilarious song! Also, my friend Ross sang it a lot about a guy we knew named Gordon who he did not like very much. And, it was hilarious to put this song right after the totally overwrought Jewel (whom I did also like.)
What memories this song currently elicits: See above.
How the song holds up today: Turns out, The Vandals did not originally perform this song, so the song above is the original version by the British "Weird" Al, Graham Fellows. Overall, enjoyable.

Marcy Playground, "Saint Joe on the School Bus"

Marcy Playground

I'm bypassing this song on account of being a second song from the same album. Also, this song commits the penalty of Flagrant Use of the Flanger pedal. Just wait for the flanger; it'll kill you.

Kara's Flowers, "Myself"

Fourth World

Why it was included: Post geek-rock was at its highest point by this band that would later become Maroon 5.
What memories this song currently elicits: Wishing Weezer sounded more like this; also thinking to myself, "Man, this guy sounds a lot like a Muppet!" Then, a few years later, when I would hear "Harder to Breathe" by Maroon 5 for the first time, I thought, "Man this guy sounds a lot like a Muppet!"
How the song holds up today: Man, Maroon 5 could have been the greatest geek rock band of all time. Instead, the dudes in the band went to college and "discovered hip-hop" and became lame. Sad. This is still a good song.

Fastball, "The Way"
All the Pain Money Can Buy
Why it was included:
After a string of minor hits and trifles, I had to drop a mega-hit on y'all.
What memories this song currently elicits: This was another song that I think I really wanted to love, but couldn't totally love, but I didn't know why. Now I know why: it's kind of a boring song. (Side note: are the late-90s the era of Dudes With Rob Thomas haircuts? First the guy from Superdrag, then the guy from Fastball? Weird.)
How the song holds up today:
Erm, it's perfectly mediocre. I still don't know why this was such a huge hit, though.

311, "All Mixed Up"
Snooze. Next.

Crash Test Dummies, "Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm"
God Shuffled His Feet
Why it was included: One could not get through a compilation from the 90s without including this song. It pretty much defines the 90s, even more than Barenaked Ladies' "One Week" does.
What memories this song currently elicits: Hearing this for the first time and finding out it was not a "Weird" Al song was mind-bending!
How the song holds up today: I listened to this to this again not long after watching the Lost finale and it made me feel extremely wistful and spiritual. Listen to the final minute and you'll know what I mean. Weird, huh?

Fastball, "Fire Escape"
All the Pain Money Can Buy
Snooze. Next

311, "Down"
Why it was included: I'd had enough pussyfooting around, so it was time to bring the rawk.
What memories this song currently elicits: After initially hating this band, my cross country teammates broke me down enough to grow to like 311. Although, I think I respected them a lot more than I liked them (until they released that cover of that song by The Cure, which was downright awful.)
How the song holds up today: For being part of that rap-rock movement in the late 90s, this song is surprisingly efficient and pulverizing. Not pulverizing in a Refused way, but pulverizing in a modern rock kinda way. All in all, this song is still pretty good.

The Refreshments, "Down Together"
Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big and Buzzy
Still the most hilariously dumb album title ever. But, we're gonna skip this one, too.

Tori Amos, "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
Crucify EP
Why it was included: I thought it was kinda funny that anybody would cover this song in such a stately, dramatic way, but I was also kinda captivated by it.
What memories this song currently elicits: Ross told me about this hilarious "Smells Like Teen Spirit" cover by this weird chick named Tori Amos, so I had to hear it. It was downright puzzling.
How the song holds up today: Well, Nirvana has aged extremely well, and likewise, so has this song. And, this version of the song strips away the alt-rock stylings of the original for what it is -- a remarkably simple yet complex pop song in a minor key. Actually, quite good. Quite.

Sublime, "What I Got"
Why it was included: You gotta finish a comp with something more upbeat than that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" cover! (Also, you gotta love Mojitos! Am I right?)
What memories this song currently elicits: Hearing this for the first time on the alt-rock satellite radio station that the local classic rock station picked up every Sunday night. Sunday nights really were for alt-rock back in the day with that radio feed, combined with MTV's 120 Minutes. It was a good time.
How the song holds up today: The message of this song seemed trite when I was 17, but feels a lot more appropriate at 27, at an age where when I bend over, I involuntarily make a grunting noise (usually something like "aghhhhhhhhh!" or "unnnhhghhghghhh!") Because, life is too short! So love the one you got! Cuz, you might get run over, or you might get shot! Not gonna deny it -- I genuinely love this song.

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  1. Blogger Unspar! | 11:46 AM |  

    Qualler, did you go to Zone for the Holidays in '98 or '99 or whenever that was? Cuz this mix totally reminds me of that concert.

  2. Blogger qualler | 2:57 PM |  

    I did not, sadly, but it sounds like it would have been amazing!

  3. Blogger chris | 4:41 PM |  

    Songs that at one point made my own personal mixes (which were also not for girls, but on cassette, and I also printed out liner notes for, but featuring mostly just badass Word Art):

    Superdrag "Sucked Out" - I remember thinking "Whoa! There really are no rules in rock and roll! You can just scream and sound like an idiot and it somehow ends up sounding awesome!"

    Elastica "Connection" - I remember thinking "These chicks are hawt but black clothes and apathy scare me."

    Marcy Playground "Sex and Candy" - I remember thinking "No one would like this song, myself included, if they didn't sing the word 'sex' in the chorus."

    The Refreshments "Banditos" - I remember thinking "I don't like country, but I like when it's only kind of country and has pop culture references."

    Kara's Flowers "Myself" - I remember thinking "So this is what underground music sounds like. Cool!" It is not what underground music sounded like in 1996, turns out.

    311 "Down" - I remember thinking "Rap is much better when it makes you want to headbang." Turns out that wasn't true either.

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