Tuesday, November 15, 2005

1:00:01 Ben Franklin to Camden City Hall - Duncan Sheik - MatthewSweet/Altered Beast

I really didn't want to go running today, but kind of kicked myself out the door expecting to do about half an hour, max. But when I got to the peak of the Ben Franklin bridge, I decided to run out the hour. This is the first hour long run I've done for quite some time, maybe since I was in New Orleans.

The run took me into downtown Camden. What an ugly city. Philadelphia seems to have retained some of the charm of each of the Centuries it has lived through: a little colonial architecture, nice new buildings, etc. But Camden looks like it was born in 1955 and died in 1970, and no one told the inhabitants yet.

I bought the eponymous Duncan Sheik CD back in 1997 based on having heard "She Runs Away", which really is a very nice song that is very representative of that era. But for some reason I could not remember listening to it all the way through.

Now I know why. It is maudlin from start to finish. Excellent maudlin music, but maudlin. After about three songs I wanted to kill myself, but kept hoping for an upbeat song. It never came. I suppose this is a good album to listen to if you are feeling too good about yourself and want to feel rotten.

I read a review of this album and it kept going on about how Duncan Sheik picked up where Nick Drake left off. No, no, no. I believe that Duncan Sheik was influenced by Nick Drake: listen to the descending chromatic scale on Sheik's "Little Hands" and then to Nick Drake's "Chime of the City Clock" from "Bryter Later" and you can hear that. But Duncan Sheik just did not get the quirky, bittersweet feel of Drake's work.

Fortunately, I ran so long that the album ended and I went to the next one on my MP3: Matthew Sweet's "Altered Beast". Magnificent. First off, after my 45 minute maudlin-fest with Duncan Sheik, the first few crunchy distorted guitar chords of "Dinoasaur Act" were a welcome breath of fresh air. And "Devil with the Green Eyes" covers some of the same material that Sheik does, but does it in a more appropriate, "NRRRGGG ROCK AND ROLL!!" style that makes you run faster, not throw yourself off of the bridge.

This is the album with "The Ugly Truth", which is pretty well known. There are two versions, the first one kind of a tongue-in-cheek hill billy version and the second a tongue-in-cheek rock and roller. I don't know which one actually released, but I like both and believe they should not exist separately.

I read a review that gave Sweet some grief for his song "Holy War" (from "Girlfriend") saying that it was dated because it protested Gulf War I. How lucky for Sweet that his song is completely appropriate again. Maybe if we keep electing members of the Bush family into office, we can continually come up with half-assed excuses for attacking Iraq every ten years or so, and Matthew Sweet will never go out of style.

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