Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Spring Cleaning Soundtrack, '16

And as you sweep the room
Imagine that the broom
Is someone that you love and soon
You'll find you're dancing to the tune
                  - "Whistle While You Work"
My first exposure to NRBQ was on Stay Awake, Hal Willner's 1988 oddball salute to the musical legacy of Disney Studios. NRBQ covered "Whistle While You Work," retaining and capitalizing on its upbeat architecture, while throwing in a few stalls and dissonant whistles to please the listeners who bought the package for the smirks and sneers.*

I loved it -- love it still. It's bright, catchy, celebratory, delightful. At the time and the age I was at, it took very little enticement to dance around my shabby apartment, happily imagining the broom was the latest gal to turn my head.

And so it is that, nearly 30 years later, as I roll up my sleeves for spring cleaning, I find myself reaching for NRBQ's Brass Tacks (2014).

The qualities from '88 are all there -- the assured musicianship, the cheeriness, the humour, the (at times) lacerating intelligence. Just one example of the latter: even semi-aware listeners of "I'd Like To Know" -- a sweet, low-key Louvin Brothers style of serenade -- can't help but register a growing awareness that the one being serenaded is almost certainly reaching for her-or-his phone by the third verse, and Googling "How to obtain a restraining order."

But the album and the band are finally devoted, not to irony and knowing winks, but sheer delight -- an effect I can appreciate any time, but especially this particular spring.

Unexpected discovery of the Spring:

      Oz Noy, Who Gives A Funk.

Not sure how I stumbled across this, but if (like me) you've never heard of this guy, you've almost certainly heard him play with one of your favourite performers. The disc credits are a who's who -- and if you can't wait for Mr. Noy to click his ball-point and sign and send you a CD then page over to your preferred digital warehouse and commit a few sheckels for primo blues- and funk-based delight.

I finally watched the Coen Bros' Inside Llewyn Davis. I get that there are moviegoers who simply can't enjoy watching the bros play cat-and-mouse with yet another too-clever-by-half schlemiel -- but I am not one of those people. I will admit to much laughter, even as I understood I was watching the unraveling of a kid whose life had been previously untouched by grief.

Which one's the cat?
The Coens do a terrific job of communicating just how infectious a music scene can be -- O Brother (and its subsequent best-selling soundtrack) capitalized on this, and Llewyn does it also. It sure ain't glamorous -- those precious moments of bliss that occur in performance are heavily bracketed by the unnecessarily adolescent psycho-dramas the characters generate. And yet the bliss occurs.

Hey, it's May the Fourth! Here's a clip, starring two recent alumni from Star Wars, singing next to Justin Timberlake. Check out the non-verbal cues -- Llewyn's disbelief at the rubbish he's being paid to perform, followed by the realization he's just stepped in it with said rubbish's creator, the uncertainty that generates in them both -- and then the final surrendering to the song. Sure, it's a farcically bad novelty tune. But it's fun!

Don't forget about delight, y'all.

*Supplied by Ringo Starr and Tom Waits, respectively -- among others.


Joel Swagman said...

Oh wow. I completely didn't realize Adam Driver was in this movie. I saw Inside Llewyn Davis a couple years ago, but didn't have any reason to remember that actor at that time.

Darrell Reimer said...

It's a miniscule role, easily forgotten. We saw it after Ep 7, so the connection was immediate and obvious.