Author Archives: critterjams

Daler Mehndi – Tunak Tunak Tun (1998)

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Happy 20th birthday to this classic, which was the first viral video I ever saw. Not that I could’ve known it at the time. The idea of something becoming famous through the internet was still a foreign concept to me. Most people didn’t even have the internet at home back then. I sure didn’t. “Tunak Tunak Tun” sits at 91 million views on YouTube right now, though the real number is surely much higher. The SonyMusicIndiaVEVO version has only been online for about four years, before which there were multiple copies, one of which had at least 100m, if memory serves correctly. Not to mention that this primarily circulated during the pre-YouTube era. So it could be well over a billion. Who knows?

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Todd Rundgren – One Long Year (2000)

51LvP0+3IwL._SY355_Today, Critter Jams wishes a happy birthday to one Todd Harry Rundgren. Not only is this his 70th year on the planet, it’s also the 50th anniversary of his first LP with the Nazz, and approximately 45 years since he felt he had anything to prove whatsoever. Todd’s catalogue is full of left turns and did-he-really-do-that? excursions, resulting in a body of work so eclectic and strange that it was really no shock when I saw him perform last year and he started hopping around and rapping into the mic against a video MC. Maybe it was a shock to the other folks in attendance, who just wanted to hear “Hello It’s Me” and that damn Lambeau Leap song. But Todd has never been much for fanservice, especially since he’s cashed in enough that he doesn’t have to be.  You take your chances with him.
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Daphne & Celeste Save the World (2018)

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Daphne & Celeste Save the World is a throwback, both in an obvious way and a not so obvious way. In the first sense, this is just another step in the long line of sequelitis that’s affected our culture since the turn of the century: be it the New Kids on the Block, Full House, Alvin & the Chipmunks, Wolfenstein 3-D, Beavis & Butthead, Aqua, whatever…nothing ever truly goes away anymore, for better or (mostly) worse. For the most part this is just a natural product of modern day living in a capitalist society; pop culture ruled our childhoods so hard that every 30-something with cash has fond memories of something. Now, Daphne & Celeste are not really one of those things; you may remember one of their two hits, you might have remembered that they got bottled off the stage at Reading, you may have even had their CD as a child and annoyed the hell out of your parents with it. But even if you did, you probably have not thought of them since 2001, when Daphne & Celeste got dropped by their label and became…I dunno, librarians or whatever.

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Sting & Shaggy – 44/876 (2018)

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The best thing about this album is that if you listen on Spotify, it’s listed as a Sting album, but every track is annotated as “with Shaggy”. So the song titles become “Don’t Make Me Wait with Shaggy”, “If You Can’t Find Love with Shaggy”, “Just One Lifetime with Shaggy”, and so on. Fitting, because it’s still strange to think of Shaggy as a featured performer. I know the dude’s got like a dozen albums out there, but I still have a hard time thinking of him as anything more than a guest star – the guy you get to spruce up your crappy single cuz your lead can’t carry it by themselves (see also: Busta Rhymes). Even on “It Wasn’t Me” he sounded like a guest on his own song ($2000 Jeopardy question: Who was the other guy? Rickrack or something?). So naturally, one’s thought when it comes to this album is “why is Sting doing this?”, as though just anyone can waltz into New York and record an album with Shaggy.
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Telex – Neurovision (1980)

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Now that Eurovision is going on, I figured it would be a good time to revisit an old favorite. You see, back in 1980, Telex were tabbed to represent Belgium in the contest, and as such responded by writing an intentionally droll song that was just called “Eurovision”, with overly literal lyrics about the contest itself. They performed the song with all the enthusiasm of a high school student forced to give a presentation in front of the class. At one point Michael Moers pulls confetti out of his pocket and starts sprinkling it around. Even if you don’t understand the lyrics, it’s worth watching:

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The Tangent – Not as Good as the Book (2008)

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“HOLD ON!!! for a moment! The sky’s as blue as when I was young!
And I’ve as much right to play there as the young guys, beneath a billion-year-old sun
And I still have my fingers, and they still push the keys
‘Cuz everyone I know got older… at the same rate as me”

Recently in the New Yorker there was a piece called “The Persistence of Prog Rock” which explores the continuing fascination with genre, particularly that small pocket of about five years in the early 70’s which produced most of its popular work. For some the appeal of prog was that it was something more, a way to break free of conventional song structures and chord patterns and onto something that could one day be every bit as revered as Bach or Mozart. For others it was just the thrill of hearing guys play such technical music at a breakneck pace, the same way someone might get a kick out of watching someone speedrun an old NES game. But whatever it is, there’s no doubt the genre has persisted; the audience may be smaller and the money may have dried up decades ago, but there was something about that music which infected teenage brains and gave a select few a direction in life.

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Kraftwerk – 3-D The Catalogue (2017)

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At some point, it all changed. When you think of Kraftwerk, there are essentially two distinct entities there. One is the forward-thinking, massively influential technopop band that released albums on a regular basis and consistently evolved their sound as technology allowed. The other is the group of perfectionists who treat their discography as a timeless artifact, one which requires gradual upgrading and polishing every now and then, like an exhibit in a museum. I am not exactly sure when one transitioned to the other – somehow, I feel the five-year process of digitizing and re-sampling that led to 1991’s The Mix had something to do with it – but the fact is that Kraftwerk today seem diametrically opposed to the Kraftwerk of yesterday. During the group’s heyday there was still a sense of adventure and improvisation about them; the group would perform on analogue instruments and show some semblance of personality on stage. Just watch Bartos and Schneider in this clip; they seemed to actually recognize the humor in their work, in a deadpan sort of way. Nowadays Kraftwerk is four men on stage trying to move as little as possible, to the point where you can hear people ask if they’re doing anything at all; the animatronic mannequins that take the stage during “The Robots” are more lively than the actual humans. The classic lineup has been reduced to the 70-year old Hutter and three guys you probably can’t name, even though two of them have been in the group for over 25 years (the other is someone named Falk Grieffenhagen, who may not be a real person).
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