Hey there! Welcome to Teatro Triste del Clown.
This site started out as something else and then a few years ago, we got it into our head that we were going to write about every song in our music collection. Memo and I have been doing this for years – I’m going forward in the alphabet and just recently started on the letter J and Memo, as it happens, is also on the letter J. As of this writing. It might be a while before I update this pinned announcement again, so, well, yeah.
For a brief overview of my limitations as a music writer, click here. Memo writes with considerably more intelligence than I!
Our Webmaster, Christoph, joins us from time to time.
The Index of what we’ve done so far keeps growing.
If you’re interested in joining us, drop me a line.
Jonathan Richman’s work – both as a solo artist and as the leader of The Modern Lovers, hasn’t been packaged especially well for the digital age. For example, the classic first Modern Lovers album isn’t packaged on iTunes with the correct cover, which made me concerned that it might be some sort of tribute album. iTunes is sneaky like that.
We’ll be listening to the song “Pablo Picasso” twice – once now (because I downloaded a copy of the song credited to Jonathan Richman) and once when we reach The Modern Lovers. Its kind of stupid.
The first version of this song I heard was by Burning Sensations from the Repo Man soundtrack:
It took me a little while to get used to The Modern Lovers’ original but I’ve become a big fan of Richman’s vocal delivery style in the last few years – simple, naive and maybe a little sly.
The song also has a central truth – Pablo Picasso probably never was called an asshole. Not like us.
Let’s enjoy the World of Warcraft video for this song:
“Re: Your Brains” proved to be one of Coulton’s most enduring and well loved Thing A Week compositions. Coulton writes that the success of this song was the first indication that quitting his job wasn’t a terrible mistake.
The conceit of the song is charming – this is a memo written from the zombie of an office employee to a living human who is still staving off the encroaching zombie apocalypse. The zombie uses buzz-words, condescension and faulty reasoning to attempt to entice his former co-worker to let them in. Then the chorus of zombies kicks in and the song moves up to a whole other level of awesome.
This is the final track we’ll be exploring from Mr. Coulton. I’m intrigued enough by his work, however, to purchase more of it in the future.
“Stroller Town” is a delightful Beach Boys style pastiche, in the vein of “I Get Around” or any of their songs about fast cars. Its sung from the point of view of a baby who likes to race in his stroller. This is another song that I’d only spoil by discussing at length, so I have to encourage you to go listen to it on your own.
Excerpt from this cover starts here.
Rick Springfield original:
Coulton takes Springfield’s suspicious lover song and slows it down, making it a little creepier and anxiety-ridden. I’ve never been an especially big fan of Springfield so this cover of “Don’t Talk To Strangers” doesn’t really do it for me, just on basic principal alone.
George Plimpton was a fascinating American character with a long and storied life. Coulton’s “A Talk With George” is a kind of tribute to the great man. Coulton really likes this song and with good reason – despite its simplicity, it has a strong message about living life to its fullest. Like George did.
“Chiron Beta Prime” actually segues really nicely into “Take Care Of Me.” Something about the sudden ending of the former and the cool guitar hook of this one blend together just perfectly. “Take Care of Me” also features an accordion solo because why the hell not?
Lyrically, the song seems to be about an extremely lazy (or, from his perspective, helpless) dude, asking his living companion (partner? parent? Roommate?) to act as a sort of total servant. He can’t even turn on a light by himself. He’s functionally helpless.
Oddly enough, its pretty hilarious.
World of Warcraft video:
“Chiron Beta Prime” is a science fiction themed Christmas song about a dystopian future where robots rule. Coulton feels this kind of song “feels a little lazy,” but acknowledges he still enjoys playing it. Its a fun song, especially on first listen. The humor doesn’t really survive past that initial listen, but its still a pretty catchy holiday song anyway.
Mash of Coulton concert footage and footage of Stephen Colbert curling:
“Curl” is the rocking celebration of curling (the sport) that it always deserved. Not surprisingly, it has become one of the most popular songs from the Thing A Week project.
What I like about it is that Coulton has included certain sports rock tropes in the song – the opening lyrics through “dreaming of gold” are also the closing lyrics, the bombastic backing vocals are genius (a double meaning of “rock” that I never thought I’d hear) and the contrast of the hopeful verses with the “cheer for the USA” choruses are all amazing.
I admit, I sing along loudly to this one and the utter ludicrousness of the actual sport just melts away. Melts in a good way, not in a “ruins the arena for curling” way.
According to Coulton, “So Far So Good” was major turning point in both the Thing A Week project and in his development as a songwriter. He feels like for most of the previous weeks, he struggled or cheated, but things “finally got good” starting with this song.
Its a simple, serious soft rock number about a break up, but a break up where the protagonist is already in the early process of healing. He’s past the “take me back, oh poor me” phase and into the “one day at a time” phase. Some nice, gentle work on all the instruments here from Coulton – you can tell why he’s pleased with this song after even just one listen.
World of Warcraft Video:
The Spiffworld folks have made some seriously hilarious WoW inspired videos for a number of Coulton’s songs. I admit, they’re funnier because I get the WoW references, but I hope they’re enjoyable to a non-WoW audience, too.
Soterios Johnson is a real guy – the local host of NPR’s Morning Edition in New York. “Dance, Soterios Johnson, Dance” was a reworking of a song Coulton created this song to support John Hodgeman’s Little Gray Books lecture series. The song basically details the second life of the titular newsman – at night, he becomes a raver. Its a simple and charming conceit and the song is certainly a sing-a-long, after a fashion. Or, rather, once you figure out how to pronounce Soterios Johnson’s name.