Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bring Me the Head of Nathan Rabin

I'm writing this at 4am because I've forgotten how to sleep.

And insomnia all too often leads to web surfing, and I found myself at the good old AV Club reading Nathan Rabin's (pictured, right) Introduction to his latest opus, Then That's What They Call Music! where he intends to explore all of the Now collections.

My first thought was "Why didn't I think of that?" I worked for three years at FYE and we did a lot of business in used, mostly because Binghamton has a lot of drug addicts and the stealing/selling of used CDs is a good way to make money to "pay the babysitter." And one time we got in a whole mess of the early Now CDs and played through them with both fond and fatal recollections of our high school and early college years.

Rabin and I shared a lot of the same opinions--he coined the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl, which I then lifted to write a love song to Jeff Goldblum. Rabin and I share a common love of Earth Girls Are Easy and Dirty Work.

But then he dissed the Cherry Poppin' Daddies and he went too far.

I'll admit, the Daddies are the bottom of the neo-swing barrel. Before they became a wussed-out Las Vegas version of themselves, Royal Crown Revue wrote some awesomely dancible crime songs ("Zip Gun Bop" and "A Bronx Hello" immediatly spring to mind).  The Squirrel Nut Zippers bring a squeaky 20's vibe to the scene, and my favorite, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, had maintained their status as a good time every time I see them live. 

But I've always loved neo-swing.  In college, it was an excuse to wear a really flouncy dress, and at 96lbs, I (pictured, left) was the girl all the guys could swing around the dance floor.  There's a high-class sexiness too it, it envokes and image of martinis and leather couches, an image that I, as a small-town girl coming of age in the year 2000, didn't have access to.  One of my first crime stories was written to "Brown Derby Jump."  It has never been published and for good reason, but that is not the Daddies' fault. 

And a few years later, when I was living in Brooklyn, working as temp and renting a room from a pseudo-pedophile, I used to swagger down Hicks Ave from my 5-midnight shift to "Zoot Suit Riot," track two on Hardcore Pining, a mix CD my arch-nemesis/best guy friend Mike made for me.

Rabin (pictured, left) says that the Daddies are the most generic of the genre.  He's probably right--they were a ska band who hopped on the swing train for one album and then recorded the worst version of "Shake Shake Senoria" on record.  But the point is, I don't have to take this from someone who cries whenever he hears Belle and Sebastian.

No, seriously, the point is that Zoot Suit Riot is not a particuarly inventive album . . .but let's face it, what was at the time? Smash Mouth's Fush You Mang?  Lit's A Place in the Sun?  The late 90's were a barren wasteland of pop music.  But there's something oddly timeless and charming about Zoot Suit Riot.  I come back to it every so often and each time, I'm glad I did.  Maybe because it's so generic--it's strangely pre-sexual, a not-as-embarassing reminder of my stunted climb out of adolescence.  The dance floor was the only time I wasn't shy; letting guys flip me over their shoulders was the only way I knew how to get noticed.  It was a good outlet for a girl who otherwise would have stayed inside listening to Strangeways, Here We Come.

How's that for Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Mr. Rabin?


  1. You rock, Libby-- and I like that neo-swingin' lady in the garter-belt photo...

  2. This Blog rocks my One-Smith-Song world.