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Saturday, August 2, 2014

SpinTunes #9 Round 2 Reviews: John DiBello

Reviews for SpinTunes #9, Round 2 by John DiBello

Hullo folks hullo! Round Two! My, my, it seems like only two weeks since round one. Time flies when you’re having your heart broken, which is what this collection has done to me like a petulant ex-girlfriend twelve times (plus five Shadow Gals who broke my heart but I didn’t rank ‘em on it). That’s why in addition to my reviews I’m also giving each song a rating named after one of all the girls I’ve loved before, as Willie Nelson has made a living singing about and suing me over. Will your song receive the relatively minor connection of the lady who didn’t save the last dance for me at the final sock hop of the year at Teen High (Yes, I went to school in Anytown, USA, ZIP code 12345). Or will it be branded as that duplicitous hussy who dumped me faster than her movie career took off following her star turn in the film Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael? Yes, I’m naming names and shaming shames to remind you that the things we do for love, all that walkin’ in the rain and the snow when there’s nowhere to go, might just actually be worth it if you can get a good song out of it.

Enough introduction. LET’S PLAY THE FEUD! I mean, SPINTUNES!

1. MC Ohm-I “Love Her Again in Hell”
Love this one, plain and simple, because to me there’s nothing more satisfying than thinking of the perfect rejoinder to a heartbreaking dress down by a duplicitous loved one. Sure, that perfect rejoinder comes ten and a half months later, but who among us hasn’t wanted to yell after the retreating perfect rump of that once-loved snake-in-the-grass ”I’ll see you in hell!”? I find this phrase is an excellent fit for all occasions in life, from vowing vengeance on your lifelong nemesis to counter service at Kentucky Fried Chicken. MC Ohm-I twists that with a wish of “it's swell that one day I'll get to love her again in hell,” a turnabout both barbed and adoring in one fine line. With a funny, on-target hip-hop refrain reminiscent of pop culture rapper Adam WarRock, one of my favorite indie artists of the comics and anime world, MC Ohm-I’s created the theme to that time in my life following April Park around on the sci-fi convention floor carrying her manga purchases like a happy lovesick puppy. She was Voyager and I was Next Gen and never the Alpha and Beta quadrants shall meet.

2. Brian Gray “Otisburg”
Brian Gray has been paying attention. That’s very, very clever, Brian. No, not as sinister as a confidence game or the duplicitous way Bridget Evans smiled in my face all the while going to second base (not with me). I said last round that I am a sucker for tunes based on comic book characters, and here’s one, served up on a plate like fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, and pretty darn tasty it is, too. The music and lyrics are fresh and funny and ‘fluenced by comic book origins along with the plus of not being by the Spin Doctors. In 1978’s Superman: The Movie, “Otisburg” is the name of the town that hapless henchman Otis (Ned Beatty) imagines he’ll be in charge of once Superman’s nemesis Luthor takes over the world. Now, have I read the lyrics right? Is this in fact a love song from Otis to the human being least deserving of being loved, Lex Luthor himself? If so, that is brilliant and wonderful and at as attractive as my infatuation with Lily Lorris, who was as pretty as Lana Lang but as sharp-tongued as Lois Lane.

3. Governing Dynamics “Where the River Meets the Earth (Film Noir Blues)
An exceptionally apt genre here: doesn’t the game of love always have us singing the blues? The guitar sound here is absolutely sublime mixed with the scratchy Tom Waits-flavored vocal, which honestly, is the only thing in life you want with the flavor of Tom Waits. This solid mix and bang-on-target approach to the challenge of SpinTunes 9-2 will have me returning to this track for repeated listenings, probably late at night when I’m morosely leaning on the bar of a seedy tavern, staring balefully into a mostly-empty slug of whisky and thinking about Mindy Sullivan, as shiny and as sharp as a stiletto between the ribs. She’s still got me singing the blues.

4. Jerry Skids “Another Apology”
Jerry gets the lyric award from me this round (pin it on your bulletin board and look upon it fondly, Jer!) with the second verse of this SpinTune, which I quote not merely to fill up space in my review but also because I’m jealous of the lines “Another dial tone, another stomach flu” and “good evening, Mrs. Hyde” and a post-pop-styled musical beat quick and groovy enough to dance to and cutting enough to sob along with. It’s a charming juxtaposition with clever lyrics that reminds me of the effect (not necessarily the style) of upbeat tunes with morose lines by Morrissey or Sophie B. Hawkins, bemoaning the broken promises of a love. Not that I’m trying to point our anyone in particular, Karin Johansson, when you told me there’d never be anybody else in our lives when in fact there had been somebody else in the past fifty minutes.

5. Steven Wesley Guiles “True Blue”
Ever see the movie That thing You Do with America’s Sweetheart (Male Division), Tom Hanks? (Seriously, doesn’t everybody adores him? One day we’ll find out that he murders nuns and orphans and stores them in his basement, and we will still love him like he’s our own favorite uncle.) That movie succeeded in the difficult task of introducinga pop song that we’d enjoy hearing eleventy-seven times throughout the film. It’s short, it’s catchy, it’s an infectious earworm of a pop song. Ditto that for Steven Wesley Guiles entry. I’m diggin’ the bebop doo-wop rhythm of this one and its catchy, straightforward (but not simplistic) lyrics perfectly capture the heartbreak of that One Girl you’ll always be faithful to no matter how many times she backs over your cat and her heart (not necessarily in that order). I’m looking at you, Jodi Zeck.

6. Turboshandy “Some Idea of You”
I never thought we’d have radio stations which would feature and oldies hour called “Nine O’Clock Nineties,” but history has often proven me as wrong as a very wrong thing stapled to a incorrect answer to a mathematical problem, using a SwingWrong stapler. Frankly, if I want to listen to the popular hits of Pearl Jam, Radiohead, and Oasis, I’ll listen to them on the media for which they were intended: Sony's Digital MiniDisc. And I’ll be copying Turboshandy’s tune over to MiniDisc as soon as I’m done writing this entry, because it reminded me of the nineties: a lovely bittersweet mix of a fuzzy grunge instruments sound dipped in sharp, pointed and poignant vocals about how the idea of a love never quite matches the reality. Unrequited love of the 1990s Mona Laurent knows what I’m talkin’ about here: the song is edgy and heartbreaking as she is.

7. Army Defense “Don’t Fool Yourself”
Man, this round brings back a lot of memories, and they’re not all memories like the ones of my first crush Martine Weston who literally never knew I was alive (thanks to that unfortunate kindergarten incident with the wooden hippopotamus puzzle and the finger paints). There’s a solid variety of different sounds and approaches in this second SpinTunes round that takes me back in my life. Army Defense’s gentle tune is on first encounter almost a quiet coffeehouse guitar folk ballad, until you pull the lyrics sleeve out from the LP and stretch out on your bed under the Logan’s Run poster and let the words sink in, “in the morning you're still drunk and driving home high / the windows stuck the rain is on your arm, in your eyes / so, don't fool yourself.” It’s sad and sharp and personal and universal and it’s about Every Lover and Martine Weston. It’s about love. And how love is not always the best thing in life.

8. James Young “Moth”
Nice lyrics, nice melody, nice song: an inoffensively apologetic attack on a terrible, terrible lover in a mildly catchy tune that wouldn’t be out of place in an small-budget indie movie starring Ellen Page as a Brooklyn hipster who must balance her life and art against her love for poorly-shaven artisanal food truck proprietor Jared Leto, with a cameo by Bill Murray as Mr. Ellen Page’s Dad. This one falls near the middle of the road, both in my ratings and in my interpretation of Round 2’s challenge. It’s a doomed romance defined by intentional lyrical clich├ęs: moth to a flame, blinded by the light, chewed up and spat out. This romance is obvious and mid-road, like my infatuation for casually normal girl Kayleigh Baum, hard to hate even after the incident with my pet moth and her candle.

9. Kolton H. “Sacred Drug”
Moody! Introspective! Menacing! Suitable to being poetically compared to a crippling and incapacitation drug addition! That’s not just my ultimately doomed infatuation to black-hearted Pandora St. Fearfield but the ominous one-key piano melody set behind an electronica rave and a shadowy vocal that Barnabas Collins woulda been envious of. This is an elaborate portrait in song of the intoxicating rush and the venomous sting of love, the pain as cold and solemn as a graveyard that has sold plenty of black wall paint to love-rejected teenagers and has made a mint for Evanescence. Dammit, Pandora St. Fearfield, I take no pains but plenty of pleasure in telling the world that your real name is Susan Smith and you’re a poser, no matter how much black lipstick you buy.

10. Zoe Gray “Jesse’s Girl”
The phrase “Jesse’s Girl” reminds me of Rick Springfield, and it’s natural for anyone thinking of Rick Springfield to remember his starring role in that 1970s classic: the Saturday morning animated cartoon Mission: Magic, right? And much like Rick Springfield’s gradual dawning realization of the fact that he’s trapped in a magical cartoon fantasyland of psychedelica with some school kids and their way-too-sexy for kids’ cartoons Wiccan schoolteacher, Zoe Gray’s lyrics expose more and more of Jesse’s careless attitude and casual playing with her heart as it progresses. A bright and cheery vocal and catchy tune belies just how much of a heel the narrator/singer is better off without. Ironically, it’s us, the tune-listeners, who are more aware of it than the singer. Lovely pop candyfloss with a venomous serpent surprise inside, not unlike Babs D’Angelo, red-headed siren of seventh grade who took my gift of Five Flavors Life Savers and left me with the sour taste of year-old pickle juice.

11. Sid Brown “I’m Just Too in Love with Loving You”
Sid is bullseye on target with his definition of love turned sour thanks to a careless, hurtful lover: often the idea of being in love with him/her/Tina Carson is more important than the person himself/herself//Tina Carson. It’s got a pleasant but unsurprising singer/songwriter feel, a warm herbal tea that could be ironically enlivened by a few drops of venom: perhaps a little twist of the knife/salt in the wound/Tina’s sarcastic, encyclopedic insults. I don’t want to get too critically literal (not like Tina) with each SpinTunes round, but Sid undermines his own intent by defining the song after the emotion and not the person — technically the opposite direction this second race is supposed to be run.

12. Steve Durand “One More Chance”
A moody blues riff kicks this jazzy torch tune off, feeling like a smoke-infused musical interlude in a black-and-white noir detective movie chock full o’ private dicks, gats, frails, and cement overshoes in a size that’ll last you the rest of your short life. I quite like the originally and unique approach of this forties-flavored tune, showing that SpinTunes genres don’t have to be limited to the music of our lifetimes. I applaud the concept and approach more than the song, though. I was reminded too much of Peggy Lee’s “Why Don’t You Do Right” throughout, and the concept seems a little bit too ambitious for the execution, which would have benefited from a more full orchestral sound, a slower and bluesier pace, and a deeper, more soulful vocal. Like Lew Archer rubbed out like by Brigid O'Shaughnessy and my romantic intentions cruelly gunned down by Kit McCarthy, this one’s got the stuff that dreams are made of, but it’s only a paper moon.


Shadow Tunes, oh how shall I rate you? Five songs that are excellent and lovely and don’t count for the final tally, much like my utter infatuation with the Go-Go’s doesn’t count in my real life…oh wait, five songs, and five Go-Go’s. I think you can figger out how this is gonna go.

1. Felix Frost “Jasper”
An eloquent and polished plea for life lessons with the rhythm of a sixteen bit video game and the refraining chant of an angel, all addressed to Mixed Martial Arts Fighter Mike Jasper. Actually, I’m not certain about that last bit at all so I just guessed, but I love the song, just like I love Jane Wiedlin even when she’s confusing me by riding on a dolphin or talking about bondage on a reality show. Both are poppy and positive with a new wave beat, and both have appeared in the Star Trek movie The Voyage Home. (Note: Felix Frost may not have actually appeared in Star Trek: The Voyage Home.)

2. Megalodon “The Harsh Light of Day”
I’m sorry Megalodon’s in the Shadow category this round, ‘coz I really enjoyed this jazz/pop love/hate fusion of how “she took all my credit cards / drained all my bank accounts / not gonna fall for that again.” Been there, done that, bought the souvenir tee-shirt, but I only wish I could express the experience as eloquently in song and words as Megalodon. Much like I’m green-as-Kermit envious of Charlotte Caffrey for writing the sublime “We Got the Beat.” Both are songs I’m gonna listen to again and again.

3. Dr. Lindyke “Nothing But Love”
Doc’s toe-tappin’ tune is a funny and fatal checklist of the gleefully committed sins of That Darn Woman (“she’s an honorary member of the fraternity”). Made me laugh with its clever lyrics and upbeat optimism, much like Belinda Carlisle “Heaven Is a Place on Earth,” especially since the Voyager probe has shown us that we all know Heaven is a place on Neptune.

4. Heather Zink “Love at First Sight”
“Love at First Sight”’s dueling duet is a great idea: a cool and brainy lesson that love is a two edged blade and that in any relationship both parties can be at fault and be replaced at any time, set against a charming melody as dependable and steady as the drumming of Gina Schock, whose crimes include writing songs for Miley Cyrus, and yet I can’t help but love that girl. See what I mean?

5. Plentitude “Are You Here”
The theme of this SpinTune round is most elegantly expressed, in my opinion, when there’s a harsh dichotomy between realization of and self-delusion over how conniving, carelessly, hurtfully rotten that past love was. “Are You Here”’s wish for a second chance with a lover as cold as ice is easy on the ears and hard on the heart. Not unlike the legal "irreconcilable differences" that led to the Go-Go’s replacing Kathy Valentine, although I much prefer Plentitude’s lyrics to wading through the stacks of dense court case files exchanged in Valentine v. Carlisle, Wiedlin, Caffrey and Schock.

Wait just one darn minute! Maybe I shoulda rated these Five Shadow Tunes against the Spice Girls! Let’s see…Sporty, Ginger…hmmm…Scary…Baby, then Posh. What, it’s too late and too lame? Ah well…next time for sure. Zig-a-zig-ah!


  1. John! Thanks for the review!

    I am glad we are in agreement on so many things here, haha. I had been looking for a challenge that was well suited to blues (a few have come up, but then the actual concept I came up with didn't really work), this was finally right on target.

    I am also glad a lot of people are hearing Tom Waits. Totally what I was going for. Usually when I'm going for something specific, people either don't hear it, or hear something completely different. Disheartening. Confusing. Confidence-shattering. Not the case here. Thank you.

    I also hereby retroactively dedicate this song to Mindy Sullivan, wherever/whoever she is.

  2. Thanks G.D.! But Mindy doesn't deserve it. Bwah-ha-ha-ha!