Category Archives: Mix Tape

Mix Tape: Fall Songs

Everyone has got Summer Jamz but what about Fall Songs?

Here are mine.

Some reference autumn explicitly; others just make me feel it deep inside like bourbon and cider.

This is the soundtrack to which leaves fall and the air cools.

Enjoy it because it doesn’t last long.

Autumn Sweater – Yo La Tengo

 

“We could slip away,
Wouldn’t that be better
Me with nothing to say,
And you in your autumn sweater”

This is the song that more or less inspired this list. It makes me feel Fall-ish even when it isn’t fall.

Prior to hearing it, I didn’t even think of Fall as a musical motif. Now it seems obvious.

The album on which this song appears  – I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One – is also an indie rock staple. The whole haunting masterpiece is worth a listen.

No Name #3 – Elliot Smith

 

“Watched the dying day
Blushing in the sky
Everyone is uptight
So, come on, night”

Elliot Smith was a genius and so many of his songs give me something to feel even if I don’t know what it is.

No Name #3 makes me feel fall. It was part of the legendary Good Will Hunting soundtrack. It actually played over the iconic “Do you like apples?” scene.

Incidentally, I’ve been looking up fall movies and Good Will Hunting appears on a lot of those lists. It is (almost subtly) an excellent fall movie, set in New England with multiple stops on college campuses.

Regardless, Elliot Smith’s entire catalog makes for good fall listening. But this song in particular.

And if I were making a winter playlist you can bet your ass “Angel In the Snow”  would be on it.

Song For the Dead – Sea Wolf

 

“You’ll move like a tiger
Into the thicket
Claws in the dirt
You’ll sing like a cricket”

Some of my favorite lyrics right there and there’s plenty more where that came from. This song is rife with eery imagery and dark allusions. It’s also another case where I really would recommend the entire album (Leaves In The River).

On it, you’ll find two other songs I considered putting on this list – “Black Leaf Falls” and “Leaves in the River“. I find them both strangely enchanting and the latter is about getting drunk and meeting a mysterious girl on Halloween.

Choctaw Hayride – Allison Krauss + Union Station

 

I listen to a lot of folk and bluegrass music in the fall – often while drinking bourbon or Octoberfest beers. What better time could there possibly be for hayrides and hoedowns?

There are no lyrics in the song it just makes me feel like I was literally raised in a barn full of hay bales.

Satin In a Coffin – Modest Mouse

 

“Are you dead or are you sleeping?
God, I sure hope you are dead”

I put Modest Mouse on my Halloween playlist a few years back. This song is creepy for many of the same reasons “Devil’s Workday” is. Isaac Brock’s voice and banjo accompaniment makes for a disquieting sound.

And yes Good News For People Who Love Bad News is a boss album.

Bonus lyrics from “World at Large”:

“The days get shorter and the nights get cold
I like the autumn but this place is getting old”

November – Tom Waits

 

“It only believes
In a pile of dead leaves
And a moon
That’s the color of bone”

Yeah. That’s the stuff. That’s the creepy, gravelly-voiced guy who narrates my fucking nightmares.

Give me another hit…

“November has tied me
To an old dead tree
Get word to April
To rescue me
November’s cold chain”

Mmm yeah. One more for the road…

“Made of wet boots and rain
And shiny black ravens
On chimney smoke lanes
November seems odd
You’re my firing squad”

Love you Tom Waits.

Moondance – Van Morrison

 

“A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling
To the sound of the breezes that blow”

Here’s a random fact about me: I don’t like songs that are explicitly about sex.

I don’t consider myself especially prudish, I just don’t love hearing people sing about fucking. Not explicitly anyway. You can sing about it if you want but at least have the courtesy to couch it in a metaphor or innuendo or something.

This song is explicitly about sex. So it skeeves me out a bit. Still, I can find a way to appreciate it in the fall because it manages to capture all the smoothness and tempered excitement of the season.

I feel like fall is more romantic than it is sexy. It’s not the bikini block party summer is. It cools things down. Its flirtations and liaisons are more subdued.

I think Van Morrison captures that with this song.

Autumn Leaves – Edith Piaf (From Koye)

 

“C’est une chanson, qui nous ressemble
Toi tu m’aimais et je t’aimais”

In writing this post, I listened to more than a few versions of this song, including those by Miles Davis, Nat King Cole, and Eric Clapton (Speaking of which, when we get a minute can we please talk about this picture of Eric Clapton.) But this one was by far my favorite.

Phantom of the Opera Overture (From Brittany)

 

Yeah. Tasty. Everyone knows the first few bars of this song but it really cranks the whole way through. It really takes you places. Classic.

Thriller – Michael Jackson (From Greg)

 

“It’s close to midnight
and something evil’s lurkin’ in the dark
Under the moonlight
you see a sight that almost stops your heart
You try to scream
but terror takes the sound before you make it
You start to freeze
as horror looks you right between the eyes
You’re paralyzed”

Yes. Fuck yes. A thousand times yes.

It’s so perfect it ought to be obvious. I’m mad I didn’t think of it.

At the end of the day, it’s really the only song you need.

Happy Fall Everybody!

Mix Tape: Class Warfare

Class Warfare.

It’s a struggle that dates back to the Plebeians and Patricians of Ancient Rome. It was personified by the populist crusade of Robin Hood in the Middle Ages. And it was settled quite violently during the French Revolution of the Enlightenment, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and all the strikes and skirmishes in between.

It endures to this day, obviously, with the 1% vs. the 99%.

So it’s no surprise that a such a timeless conflict has its ballads.

Honestly, there are so many songs about the subject, the ones I list below are chosen practically at random.

And yet, it’s all so terribly one sided. Every single song written on the subject seems to come from the side of the poor/working class.

I couldn’t find any songs about suppressing wages, circumventing the tax code, or buying a vacation home.

I’m not going to speculate as to why. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

In any case, here is a small sampling of what’s out there…

16 Tons – Merle Travis

When I was a kid, we used to sing this song in music class. It’s kind of a weird thing for a bunch of kids to be singing in school, when you think about it. But I remember wondering back then what exactly the “company store” was.

Well, now I know that these were basically just stores that sold food and other daily necessities. However, they were owned by the company that employed you.

Not only that, most of the low wage workers rented rooms, beds and sheets from their employer as well, effectively sending their entire paycheck right back where it came from.

Eventually, this gave rise to the company town – entire towns owned and operated by a private company.

The most famous of those was Pullman, Chicago, which was owned and operated by the Pullman train car company in the 1880s. This ultimately ended in disaster.

The economic panic of 1893 crushed Pullman’s business. The company slashed wages, but kept prices in its company stores, as well as the rents on its houses. The result was one of the largest strikes in U.S. history – the nationwide railroad strike of 1894.

Some 250,000 workers boycotted Pullman, riots caused $80 million in damages and 30 people were killed before the government stepped in.

It’s easy to forget that people died striking for things like fair wages and an eight-hour work day. But it happened.

The roots of class warfare run deep in America.

Kill the Poor – The Dead Kennedys

They say punk is dead, and in a sense, it is.

But the dream lives on.

Never before, or since, has musical rebellion been so direct, so hostile, so abrasive.

As a movement, punk rock was a direct assault on contemporary values – one that eschewed capitalism in favor of a lawless anarchy.

It raises the stakes far above the battle for decent wages and a respectable living to a fight for our very souls.

It’s not just about capitalism now, it’s about materialism. To a punk, the working man is stuck on a treadmill – a circular pursuit of material excess meant to keep us all in line.

He is governed by unjust hypocrites. Social orders are established not for the public good, but to protect and expand the interests of the elite.

Hence the lament of Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys whose morbid, hyperbolic satire set the standard for punk rock class warfare.

1422425609_cc8e8c2244

In “Kill the Poor,” Biafra sings of a world in which the wealthy finally exterminate the poor using a nuclear bomb…

“The sun beams down on a brand new day
No more welfare tax to pay
Unsightly slums gone up in flashing light
Jobless millions whisked away
At last we have more room to play
All systems go to kill the poor tonight…”

You almost wonder why rich people don’t do it – just eliminate all the “takers,” “thugs,” “punks,” and “welfare queens” in one fell swoop…

Maybe because if they did, there’d be no one to pick the crops, scrub the toilets, and clean the dishes.

Thatcher Fucked the Kids – Frank Turner

At the height of the 1980s U.S. punk movement, Ronald Reagan was the living embodiment capitalist excess, cronyism and  inequity. As such, he was and a frequent target of the U.S. hardcore punk movement.

So too was his British counterpart, Margaret Thatcher.

In fact, you could make the case that Thatcher was even more loathed.

This woman was so hated that when she died in 2013, “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead” topped the UK iTunes chart for online downloads. (Punk song “I am in Love With Margaret Thatcher” got the number six spot.)

The Iron Lady has some very famous haters, too.

Morrissey called her “a terror without an atom of humanity” – a sentiment he expounds on in a song called “Margaret on the Guillotine.”

In his song “Tramp Down the Dirt,” Elvis Costello – who I always thought of as a mild-mannered guy – tells Thatcher: “There’s one thing I know I’d like to live long enough to savor. That’s the day when they finally put you in the ground. I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.”

Where does all of this animosity come from?

Well, as with President Reagan in the U.S., there was a push towards privatization and away from government services. Public housing was sold off. The social safety net was scaled back. And the tax burden was shifted from the rich to the poor and middle class.

All of this created a situation whereby the late 1980s a small portion of U.K. was enjoying a boom, while the rest was suffering.

And so a lot of British people hate Margaret Thatcher.

That includes Frank Turner, a musician whose song “Thatcher Fucked the Kids” falls into the small “fuzz folk” or “folk punk” niche. It carries the same angry punk ethos but shifts the focus from ripping guitar chords to melodic arcs and lyrical story-telling.

It’s a satisfying melding. Sometimes, punk can be too grating and folk too boring. So you mash the two together and there’s a nice middle ground.

Changes – Tupac Shakur

It goes without saying Tupac died too soon.

But in addition to that obvious tragedy, one of the things I find so unfortunate about Tupac’s career  was that the content of his music shifted from social plight to self-aggrandizement and childish feuds.

He went from rapping about police brutality, drug addiction, single mothers, sexism, and life growing up in a poor community, to rapping about drinking Alize, fucking groupies, and killing his enemies.

It was a huge waste of a mind, and a voice, that could be so profound, so incisive, and so transformative.

The song ‘Changes’ is kind of obvious or cliché, but it’s also Tupac at his best. You can see how many of the thoughts he posits remain relevant 20 years later…

“Cops give a damn about a negro,
Pull a trigger kill a nigger, he’s a hero…”

“We ain’t ready to see a black president…”

“There’s war on the streets and war in the Middle East
Instead of a war on poverty,
They got a war on drugs so the police can bother me…”

So it’s really no surprise that when he wasn’t smoking weed and downing thug passion at a club, Tupac managed to build a movement, what he called “Thug Life.”

People hear that phrase and think it’s just gangsta slang, but it wasn’t. Thug Life was a call for change. It was a philosophy that  recognized of the failings our socioeconomic system, but also advocated for improvement from within.

On the one hand, Tupac never blamed anyone for doing something illegal or outside the system to survive or get ahead. If you need to sell crack to feed yourself or your family, then you need to sell crack.

That’s just the way it is.

But on the other hand, if you’re just an absentee father, running the streets and shirking your responsibilities… Well, that’s a problem, too.

I look at where so many 90s rappers ended up. Dr. Dre is hawking Beats. Ice Cube is doing family-friendly movies. Snoop Lion is doing whatever the hell he’s doing. I wonder what Tupac would be doing if he were alive today.

Would he be out there selling 2pac brand liqueur? Or would he be saying some real shit?

I wish he were still around, and that more wisdom and maturity would  have come with age.  I wish he would have turned away from all the trouble that money, guns, and hos bring, and instead focused on the social plight he opined on with such sincere poetry.

I wish he refined the Thug Life message and reached his full potential as a powerful voice in American society.

On one level, Tupac’s death is the same tragedy we see every day – the tragedy of another young black male lost to gang violence.

But it’s also the tragedy of a man who was strong enough to survive five gunshot wounds, but weak enough to succumb to the material excess wrought by his creative talent and entrepreneurial success.

It’s the tragedy of a visionary artist, a genius, whose mind couldn’t navigate the booby traps inherent in our society to fully exploit the opportunity that abounds.

J-Money Mix Tape: This Is Halloween

As many of you know, I’ve been actively seeking creepy sounds for the Halloween season.

Some of you were even kind enough to offer up your suggestions. And they were, in fact, absolutely terrifying.

So I’ve decided to include some of them (as many as I could!) in this mix tape offering.

It’s broken into two categories…

The first are songs that scare me, J-Money.

The second section includes songs I solicited from friends.

I know you guys didn’t know I was going to use your suggestions for this, and honestly I didn’t, either. It just happened.

In any case, thanks for your feedback!

Let’s get to it…

Songs That Scare Me 

Teddy Bear’s Picnic – Henry Hall and His Orchestra

 

Of all the songs on this list, this one scares the most shit out of me.

Just what is this?

Is this supposed to be a kids’ song? Because it sounds like something Jack the Ripper would sing while gleefully tormenting a prostitute.

For a song about teddy bears, this is the least wholesome sound I’ve ever heard.

The creepy voice… The shifts from high to low… The ominous, yet gleeful tone…

And above all else, lyrics that are terrifyingly vague:

“If you go down in the woods today you’re in for a big surprise… You better go in disguise…”

Okaaaay.

Well first, aren’t the woods a public space? Shouldn’t I just be able to go whenever I damn-well please?

Nope.

Because the Teddy Bears are lying there in ambush “beneath the trees where nobody sees” to “hide and seek as long as they please.”

Okay, well, why this particular day then? This sounds like a ritual. Is today the day the Teddy Bears harvest organs?

Is that why I need I need a disguise? Lest I be discovered to be an intruder? Then what?

Who knows?

There’s only this ominous warning at the end:

“If you go down in the woods today you better not go alone!
It’s lovely down in the woods today but safer to stay at home.
For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain because
today’s the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic.”

Good God. What the hell is going on in these woods?

Who are these “Teddy Bears”?

Who the hell is Henry Hill, for that matter? And how many kids did he molest and leave in the forest before hanging himself from the nearest branch?

These are questions for which we will never have answers.

Gooble Gobble, One of Us – Freaks

 

It would be easy to look at this clip and say it’s not so much the song as it is the circus freaks singing it.

And that’s probably true… to a point.

Still, the song itself is creepy.

I can’t imagine being at a party and having my hosts break into this weird chant of acceptance. You could just go with “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” you know?

And if you’re truly accepting someone into your ranks, freakish or not, you need not say so explicitly in the song’s lyrics. That just makes it sound sarcastic.

I like to think I’d be polite in such a situation, but I definitely understand Cleopatra’s reaction. Depending on how things had gone to that point, and how intoxicated I’d gotten, I might freak out, too.

Tom Waits… Just Tom Waits in General

 

Everywhere I looked, and everyone I asked offered up one Tom Waits song as another.

And rightfully so. He’s an awesome, brilliant musician, whom we all love. And yet, his music can be both bizarre and creepy.

Oily Night, Murder In the Red Barn, What’s He Building In There?

Take your pick.

Stay weird Tom Waits, stay weird.

Skulls – The Misfits

 

I talked about the Misfits in my last Mix Tape review.

I’m a big fan, and this is one of my favorite Misfits songs. I just feel strange singing along to lyrics involving misogyny, serial murder, and decapitation.

Mr. Danzig:

“The corpses all hang headless and limp.
Bodies with no surprises.
And the blood drains down like devil’s rain.
We’ll bathe tonight.
I want your skulls, I need your skulls…”

Give’em this: When they write a song called “Skulls,” they make it about skulls.

The Devil’s Workday – Modest Mouse

 

The horns… the banjo… Isaac Brock’s unhinged vocals… It’s a spooky sound.

Some lyrics:

“Gonna take this sack of puppies,
Gonna set it out to freeze.
Gonna climb around on all fours,
‘Til the blood falls out my knees.”

Kinda reminds me of “Country Death Song” by the Violent Femmes

Goodnight, Irene – Leadbelly

 

A lot of these old recordings creep me out, and that’s especially true of Leadbelly.

After all, this is someone who went to prison for shooting and killing a man (a relative no less) over a woman. He got out of jail on good behavior, only to go back five years later for stabbing another guy in a fight. And while serving that second term, he got in a fight with another inmate, who stabbed him in the neck.

Finally, after leaving prison for a second time, Leadbelly records this, his signature song, about pursuing a sexual relationship with a minor.

The whole thing sounds terribly menacing. It’s got that whole “If I can’t have you no one can!” vibe that makes me picture him slowly strangling this poor Irene girl with guitar string whilst shushing her to sleep.

He also intimates a desire to commit suicide, either by drowning himself in a river or overdosing with morphine.

“I wish I’d never seen your face,
I’m sorry you ever was born.
Goodnight, Irene…”

And if that’s enough, then there’s this song.

Songs That Scare You

Hamburger Lady – Throbbing Gristle

 

This scares me.

The fuck is this?

From an online commenter:

“Throbbing Gristle tried to create a disorienting aura to illustrate the pain, despair, and confusion of a woman who was burnt so badly that her flesh looked like hamburger meat. They also tried to create an ominous, evil sound to display the cruelty of keeping someone like that alive. It’s a very disturbing song.”

Alright. Well thanks for that! See you in my nightmares!

Kidz Bop

 

Yeah, totally. I get it.

Sure these kids are annoying but they’re scary, too. They’re really everything that’s wrong with the upcoming generation.

They dress like hipsters… They hide lackluster vocals behind outlandish choreography… They’re way happier than they have any right to be…

They’re really just a bunch of entitled fucks.

And worse, in this particular video, they’re giving their phone numbers to strangers (unsolicited), which is the exact opposite of what they should be doing.

Especially with sickos like Henry Hall running loose.

You dumb kids deserve what’s coming to you: Underemployment, crippling debt, shattered illusions, and a Teddy Bear picnic.

Kids in General

 

This one comes standard. Everyone knows kids are creepy.

What is it about this kind of broken playground music that’s so chilling, though?

Logically, I don’t understand it, because I never met a kid who scared me.

Kids, they’re not so big. You can push them right down or whatever. They’re so weak.

But if you were to happen across one perched listlessly on an overgrown fountain, singing a song like this on an overcast day?

It’d be fucking terrifying.

Kids are weird.

Carnival Music

 

Obviously. This is another no-brainer.

You got a carnival; you got freaks, carnies, and clowns.

Japanese Weirdos

 

What can I say? It’s a weird culture.

But whatever. If they want chocolate give them the damn chocolate. They look like they bite.

DIMMU BORGIR – Progenies of The Great Apocalypse 

 

No. Just no.

These guys are trying wayyyy to hard.

I keep picturing them at their day jobs. Guys like this wear facepaint so you won’t recognize them when they’re toasting your sandwich at Quiznos.

Look guys – Kenny, Bill, Kevin – we all love Halloween but it can’t be year-round. I know full-well you’re not going home to sacrifice anybody. Your mom would never let you get away with that on her new carpet.

There’s not even enough room in the trailer, anyway.

If you wanted us to believe you were spawned from Hell you really shouldn’t of blown 3/4 of your budget on that stripper flopping around on a leash.

You’re damned alright, but not to a fiery inferno. More like an Arby’s in Des Moines with perpetually sticky floors.

J-Money Mix Tape: Alien Invasion

I’ve been thinking about ways to review music here for a while now…

What I’ve decided is to assemble short playlists with each individual song sharing a broader theme.

It’s a new feature on Drunk and Humble: J-Money Mix Tape.

Today’s Theme: Alien Invasion

Earth People – Dr. Octagon

 

On the whole, Dr. Octagonecologyst is one of hip-hop’s most influential albums. It’s ground-breaking for its unique lyrical style (Kool Keith as Dr. Octagon) and inventive production (Dan the Automator).

Make no mistake about it, this is a modernist work.

I had a professor in college who used a famous quote from Ezra Pound to explain modernism: “Make it new,” he said.

And that’s exactly what Dr. Octagon did.

There’s a small niche genre called “Afrofuturism.”

Afrofuturism combines elements of reality with science fiction and fantasy. But whereas the larger science fiction genre is traditionally white (Captain Kirk, Luke Skywalker, etc…) this sub-genre focuses on Afrocentricity.

That is, it’s a genre through which black people (a people whose history has so long been oppressed, repressed, fractured and forgotten) can either re-imagine the past or conjure up a whole new future for themselves – a future outside the bounds of predominantly white culture.

The artist Sun Ra gets credit for pioneering Afrofuturism in music. And Parliament Funk expounded on it.

But it was Dr. Octagon who brought the genre literally into the future by melding it with hip-hop. And the result was a whole new type of music, Trip-Hop.

Kool Keith was so bored/dissatisfied rapping about this world that he invented one of his own, along with an extraterrestrial alter-ego – a gynecologist and surgeon who transcends both space and time.

So his rhyming goes beyond guns, gold chains and clubs, and even the more nuanced social commentary of hip-hop’s early pioneers. It’s a mash-up of medical terms and techno-speak.

In a recent article for Vulture, Questlove describes Kool Keith’s lyrics as “scatological, philosophical, philological, neurological, at times defiantly illogical. They thrum with the thrill of discovery, of what’s unknown and — despite the torrent of terminology — only half-articulated.”

They even almost make sense sometimes, but sense isn’t the point here. This is an elaborate sci-fi fantasy played out through stream-of conscious wordplay that is complex, visceral and imaginative.

This is a kaleidoscope of rhyme that, seemingly disparate, connects a sophisticated tapestry of words through assonance, consonance, and internal and slant rhyme. Ryhmes appear, disappear, and reappear at unexpected times and places.

At first glance, it looks like a mess, outerworldy even. But it’s really controlled chaos.

What’s more, is that for all the subtly, sophistication, and imagination Dr. Octagon brings lyrically, Dan the Automator matches him every step of the way. His driving beat, symphonic layers and sci-fi nuances turn the rantings of a linguistically gifted madman into a rich and varied soundscape.

It’s like we’re being taken for a ride on Doc Oc’s spaceship. And you better buckle the fuck up.

It’s achievement enough to create a metaphysical universe in which this lunacy can exist, but to bring that universe to life through sound is something else entirely.

Turbulence – Deltron 3030

 

Dr. Octagon comes from the year 3000. And just 30 years later comes another intergalactic anti-hero Deltron Zero (Del the Funkee Homosapien).

Like Dr. Octagon, Deltron is joined on his journey by Dan the Automator who takes his considerable skills with production to the next level.

The layers of instrumentation, sound effects, and texture are both multiplied and amplified, giving Del (maybe the most underrated emcee I know of) a huge playground for his linguistic talents.

His vision is also somewhat clearer and more consistent (not to say better) than Kool Keith’s. Deltron interacts directly with alien technology and creatures in a post-apocalyptic universe. Indeed, only the force of Deltron’s rhyming powers, fortified by the Automator’s beat, can save us from total subjugation.

That’s made perfectly clear in “Turbulence” where the planet earth is revealed to be nothing short of hellscape.

It’s so bad, in fact, that Deltron himself is ready to blast off to Mars just to get away. But before he does he makes sure to paint us a not-so-pretty picture.

A small group of elitists and an all powerful ruler govern society. Workers are forced to conform through brainwashing and propaganda. And resistance to the order means imprisonment, or even a lobotomy.

Does Deltron save us? I’m afraid not. There’s only so much one man can do. And despite all of Deltron’s juice he’s incapable of overturning the new world order.

He may battle the odd spacebeast here and there. Every now and then he jumps to the defense of a citizen. But he also spends a surprising amount of time smoking weed and reading Cosmo, resigned to the fact that change is a lost hope.

I guess Deltron is more like a Han Solo-type, who’s more content to make a living than try to save the world.

Still, his journey is a remarkable one. And in what is largely a sequel to Dr. Octagonecologist, Deltron matches and even surpasses his predecessor.

Clean Elvis – Dan Reeder

 

Departing from the realm of sci-fi trip-hop we come to a completely different genre, indie folk.

Here we find one of my favorite artists in Dan Reeder.

Reeder usually sings about really concrete, tangible things. Other songs of his include “Three Chords, “Food and Pussy” and “Work Song.” These are very straight-forward, almost hymnal songs.

That makes “Clean Elvis” something of a departure. It keeps the lulling melody but it replaces the folksy lyrics with abstract ruminations on bio-enhancement, technology, and of course, alien invasion.

As with all of these entries I have no idea what this guy was thinking when he wrote this.

It’s fucking insane.

Still, I’ve listened to it enough to formulate my own interpretation…

The lyric that always strikes me when I listen to this song is:

“When I say Vietnam it sounds just like Coca-Cola.
I believe most anything as long as it’s not real.”

Again, I can’t speak on Reeder’s behalf and say this is a commentary on the commercialization of warfare but that’s the association I make.

It makes me think of of the war-for-profit military industrial complex, as well as the more subtle corporate invasion.

Coca-Cola is the most iconic U.S.-based multinational – a company whose trademark is recognizable throughout the world. It, like many others, has planted its flag on foreign soil around the globe.

Now, I try to keep things light on this blog, and I’m not going to get too far into this…

But I think we can all agree that many wars have been fought on behalf of business. And it’s no stretch to say warfare itself has been the United States’ chief export over the past few decades.

Literally. We are the No. 1 arms exporter in the world. And through a policy of pre-emptive strike, we’ve ensured that our products reach our perceived enemies just as quickly as they reach our customers.

Just as bad, our soldiers themselves have been commodified and leveraged to extract financial gain for powerful people.

That dehumanization is what brings me to the second part of Reeder’s lyric, “I believe most anything as long as it’s not real.”

It seems to be a tacit acknowledgement of one’s own mental illness.

So whereas the first line of couplet is a nod to commercial warfare, the second line acknowledges the frequent result, mental illness.

It’s not just that lyric that makes me think of post-traumatic stress syndrome, either. It’s the mash-up of “I Will Always Love You,” and “I Can’t Help Falling In Love” that echo through the refrain.

The song is sung in the first person, as Reeder lists his super-human efforts to combat extraterrestrials, but his monologue is interrupted by the refrain of pop music. It’s almost as if the narrator’s imagination has conflated its fantasy with catchy music from the radio (maybe he’s got a plate in his head).

We’ve all had tunes get stuck in our head before, just imagine you’re an afflicted combat veteran who can’t distinguish between flashbacks from Vietnam and paranoid dreams of an alien invasion.

I think we’d all be pleading for help from Elvis.

And that’s how I think of this song…

In my interpretation it’s not just about about aliens, it’s about alienation.

Teenagers From Mars – Misfits

 

Before there was Eminem… Before there was the Insane Clown Posse… Even before there was Gwar…

There was the Misfits, a punk band founded in 1977.

Just as Dr. Octagon invented Trip-Hop, the Misfits’ aggressive, sexual and violent overtones established the framework for Horror-Punk Rock and Horror-Core Rap.

A lot of punk bands aired their grievances with society, attacking specific institutions, beliefs, and people. But Glenn Danzig of the Misfits sang about JFK’s shattered skull and Jackie Kennedy giving him fellatio.

Glenn Danzig eventually left the band, believing he was more talented and more dedicated than his bandmates. He was right, and his later work is darker and more personal. So much so that I wouldn’t attribute to it any amount of camp value.

He’s a serious and talented guy, and he was the force behind the Misfits. But as a band, the Misfits are decidedly campy and even self-deprecating.

This is even alluded to in the first few verses of Teenagers From Mars:

“We land in barren fields
On the Arizona plains
The insemination of little girls
In the middle of wet dreams

We are the angel mutants
The streets for us seduction
Our cause unjust and ancient
In this “B” film born invasion”

Obviously, there’s the explicit sexuality, but it comes in the form of a “B” movie.

That’s kind of what the Misfits are, a B-movie – even if they set out to be something more serious at the time.

But they also happen to be a really good B-movie. Think Evil Dead or Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Indeed, there are a lot of B-movies out there that have more artistic merit than today’s blockbusters.

That’s really the point: The mainstream is boring, monotonous, and governed by powerful (often shitty) people.

That’s where the whole punk rebellion stems from – a lame, out-of-touch mainstream.

And so, with the Misfits, there may be a lot of sex and violence on the surface, but the intended victims aren’t the ones who find their bodies bloodied or their skulls cracked. It’s the squares and parents that cringe at words and phrases like “insemination” and “wet dreams.”

The lyrics aren’t just there for shock value. They’re the barbed wire fence that keeps the establishment at bay, or better yet, puts it on the defensive.

The Misfits want to disrupt the system. They want to give their audience and their own teenage rebellion an avenue for expression.

Simply put, they don’t give a fuck. And they want you to know they don’t give a fuck. That’s what this song is about.

That’s why the refrain is:

“Teenagers from Mars
And we don’t care.”

As with Reeder’s song, the theme of personal alienation is personified with actual aliens. I mean, not to state the obvious, but they are called the Misfits…

So these aren’t earthbound teenagers, we’re dealing with. They’re teenagers from a whole other planet, here to blast your mindless structure and inferior connection. And they don’t care.

And as with many B-movies, I find myself rooting for the aliens in this case. In fact, I just might be a pod person – acting out my human duties like a functioning member of society, while secretly indulging in its disorder and hastening its destruction.

Maybe Danzig and I will hitch a ride with Deltron and Dr. Octagon. Reeder can stay. I think he needs to work through some issues.