On record, the number is an elliptical folkie conceit, and the seductiveness of the piece dries up before it’s over. The video makes the song rich, confusing, scary. In a green-yellow wash over black-and-white footage of Mayan peasants smiling (Guatemalan peasants? Mexican? Hollywood extras?), or standing in mud—the mud crusting around their feet like leprosy—or staring straight ahead as if the only thing to do about death squads is wait for them, a view from the inside of a battered worker’s car focuses on a revolver dangling from the rearview mirror. “Twist in My Sobriety,” Tikaram sings again and again—what does it mean? A break with the monotony of ordinary life, she says in an interview, which doesn’t speak for the people you’re watching. Or does it? The phrase rises out of the video, malevolent and impenetrable, on MTV destroying everything around it, except for Metallica’s “One.” 2. Guadalcanal Diary, “Always Saturday” (Elektra)
“I want to live where it’s always the same… I wish I lived in a shopping mall”; it’s the Beach Boys in hell, “I Get Around” as “I Don’t Wanna Get Around.” “So many choices, it’s not fair/I hop in the car, and I just sit/There.” The melody snaps, the performance seems to have no real stops in it, the sound is irresistible, you resist the message before you’ve quite grasped it. The strategy is old, and it will never wear out: take a negative idea and put it across with all the positive energy you can.
3. Janice Banally, Harman Yellowman, Toby Topaha, et al., “I Think We’re Alone Now,” theme from Have You Ever Seen a Rainbow at Midnight?, video on Navajo children’s art by Bruce Huck (Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, Santa Fe, New Mexico)
The kids in Huck’s class made good art; what I can’t get out of my mind are the harmonies they put on the old Tiffany song.
4. Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, Rock and Real (Rounder CD)
Bleeding-heart, guitar-led small-combo rock from the man whose Iron City Houserockers made the best mainstream rock ‘n’ roll of the early ’80s with Have a Good Time But Get Out Alive. This isn’t on that level, but “Freedom’s Heart” and “How Long” (with the only good lyrics anyone’s produced on the Iran-contra crimes) say the next one might be. For there to be a next one a few people will have to buy this one.
5. Monotones, “Book of Love” on The Newlywed Game (Barris Entertainment)
Intro: in a montage of ancient photos of just-marrieds, the lips of the frozen brides and grooms mouth the song like a Terry Gilliam Monty Python mock-up.
6. Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, “SEE THE REVOLUTIONARY WORKS OF A 60s RADICAL” (ad copy for Courbet Reconsidered)
“He was a firebrand, assailed by critics as an upstart in muddy boots. He was a rebel who challenged the preconceptions of the ’50s establishment, leading his radical movement into the ’60s. The 1860s.”
7. James Brown, “I Feel Good” (wake-up call, Discovery space shuttle, March 14)
8. Nick Kent, “Roy Orbison The Face Interview” (The Face, February)
“I first saw Elvis live in ’54. It was at the Big D Jamboree in Dallas and first thing, he came out and spat on the stage… It affected me exactly the same way as when I first saw that David Lynch film. I didn’t know what to make of it. There was just no reference point in the culture to compare ”
9. Elvis Costello, “You’re No Good” on “Veronica” maxi-single (Warner Bros. four-track CD)
Maybe the dank, drum-machined version of the Linda Ronstadt hit was vengeful payback for the guilt Costello felt collecting checks for the Ronstadt covers he says he hated; that’s what it was on the radio. My CD had a fine opening, a few seconds of “Whole Lotta Love.” But the tune went on to its conclusion, to be followed by “Rock & Roll,” which was followed by… a whole disc’s worth of the best of Led Zeppelin. So much for futurism.10. Untouchables, “Agent Double O Soul” (‘Twist/ Restless)
Not as good as Edwin Starr’s ’65 original, better than the last nine James Bond movies.
Village Voice, May (?) 1988 (TBC)