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Decoy's Completely Biased Non-Definitive Guide To Music

Marcy Playground – Marcy Playground (1997) • Girl Talk – Feed the Animals (2008) • Jaco Pastorius – Jaco Pastorius (1976)

Marcy Playground – Marcy Playground (1997)
Marcy PlaygroundMarcy Playground (1997)

One band that got lost in the shifting sands of the post-grunge years was New York’s Marcy Playground. They were never gonna be a revolutionary band, but I think they were certainly victims of bad timing, and changing trends within the industry. This, their debut, produced the single “Sex and Candy” which became quite a big hit and propelled them into the spotlight for a while. But it soon faded. And they seemed to disappear from the radar. The thing is, this band wrote some really good songs. Their sound was undeniably Nirvana-influenced, especially songs like: “Poppies” and “Saint Joe on the School Bus”. But it was their other tracks where I feel they came into their own. Songs like: “Ancient Walls of Flowers”, “A Cloak of Elvenkind”, “One More Suicide” and “The Vampires of New York” that came to symbolise what I dug about Marcy Playground. Catchy laconic tunes with a weird obscure semi-acoustic bent. The lyrics have an ironic detachment that makes them kinda boring on paper, and you’d think kinda (not very funny) jokey to be sung, but what made it all work was the melody being sung, that carried these words was usually so instantly friendly – like old songs you knew at school or nursery rhymes – that the irony became (at its best moments) a kind of sweet and tender poignancy that came across sadly defeated and nostalgic rather than maudlin or navel-gazing or whatever. Really an underappreciated band and album…

Girl Talk – Feed the Animals (2008)
Girl TalkFeed the Animals (2008)

Gregg Gillis…a mild-mannered Pennsylvanian biomedical engineer by day…and by night, as the moon rises and the lunatics come out to play, he tears the lab-coat off (quite literally, sometimes) as he morphs into his dance-crazed mash-up DJ alter-ego: Girl Talk. A 21st century superhero, armed with his trusty laptop and FM radio, mashing together all manner of songs and samples and beats into a juicy form of dance pop. The songs he uses as source material for his digital alchemy are so disparate (eg: Jay-Z, Toni Basil, Rod Stewart and Aphex Twin – within one song) that it’s a true feat of sonic collage to combine such wildcard elements into a highly listenable context. And it’s these skills as an arranger that stands out after repeated listens. Even though upon a first taste one is seemingly bombarded with countless pop references, the restraint exercised allows the listener to identify the samples and enjoy the fresh juxtapositions (or if you’re slow, like me, at least get a sense of them – and it’ll come to you later, probably while you’re brushing your teeth, getting ready for bed). The tendency for some would be to push it to further extremes into Breakcore territory. Which is still interesting, but stops being as much fun for me. (Plus, who can dance to breakcore?) And that’s what this music is, above all else – Fun. With each release, he has always pushed more samples into each song, clocking up something on the order of thousands of pieces of song. He has continually tested the limits of the form without losing the playfulness. Perhaps one day we’ll see the logical extension of his ideas, and he’ll release a one song album that contains a snippet of every song ever recorded! His Mash’em Opus. Now there’s a challenge…do it, Mr. Talk…I’m there dude.

(I should probably point out that despite my love of music, I can’t dance to save my life. My free & easy use of words concerning dancing are simply meant for you…if you are so inclined to shake it. And I hear you saying: ‘Hey, Decoy, that’s classic, me too, I can’t dance either -’…well, let me just stop you right there – nah, friend, you can dance…okay?…compared to me, you can dance…trust me…)

Jaco Pastorius – Jaco Pastorius (1976)
Jaco PastoriusJaco Pastorius (1976)

One of the saddest stories in 70s/80s Jazz, is the untimely death of Jaco Pastorius at the age of 35. The man could play electric bass like no other. And he made some great recordings with other 70s jazz hounds like Pat Metheny and Paul Bley. I first heard him on Joni Mitchell’s jazz-laced Hejira (1976), where he played on four tracks. But that same year saw the release of this, his first official solo effort. Here, with songs like, “Come On, Come Over”, “Continuum” and “Okonkole Y Trompa” he finally got to show the world he could back up his lofty claim: “I am the greatest bass player in the world.” Upon meeting this cocky cat, Joe Zawinul (the acclaimed jazz keyboardist who played with Miles Davis during Miles’ groundbreaking electric period, and who went on to form Weather Report) thought he was full of shit, and himself. But Joe went home and listened to Jaco’s demo tapes and subsequently recruited him for Weather Report’s next album, Black Market (1976). Jaco would stay with them for five more albums as a full-fledged member of the band, before releasing his second solo album Word of Mouth (1981). His playing was very influential not only in the world of Jazz, but you can trace his sound and style through funk’s evolution and even the alternate-grooves of Primus and Red Hot Chili Peppers. He had an effortlessly smooth style, and his dexterity is really something to behold. Shifting from rhythm-section to lead and back again, he could be at once a blur of notes and then a big bulbous drone throbbing behind the scenes. Even if you’re not a fan of jazz or funk or whatever else you’d call his music, he probably remains an influence on something you’d like, such was the impact of this outrageously talented (and unfortunately tragic) musician/composer.

By Decoy Spoon


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  1. Great stuff. I’m intrigued by Pastorius, will check him out for sure.

    ..and I challenge you to a “Bad Dance”-off. No way you’re worse than me. We’re talkin Elaine Benece bad.

    Posted by iseefilms | February 11, 2009, 9:55 pm
  2. iseefilms – Thanks man. Yeah, Jaco’s well worth a suss, for sure…

    And man, WOW, if you can dance as good as Elaine then that’s way beyond me… 😉

    Tellya what though, that’s not a bad idea – a Bad Dance Off…hmm
    We could even turn it into a Reality TV show…
    We could call it: So You Think You Can’t Dance?
    Let’s do lunch Faystar. That’s a million dollar idea right there…

    Posted by Decoy Spoon | February 12, 2009, 12:21 am
  3. More later, but I used to listen to that Marcy’s Playground all the time.

    and I love Girl Talk.

    Posted by Bill Donovan | February 12, 2009, 11:29 am
  4. If I could play bass like Pastorius then I wouldn’t be writing on this blog…

    Posted by Max Drake | February 12, 2009, 6:19 pm
  5. happy valentines day,
    and also, LOL, Happy Friday the 13th.
    I find it strange that 13 is suppost to be so unlucky, being an American, because 13 is the number of my country, 13 colonies, etc, its in everything govt, and the culture just under the surface, yet it’s unlucky,
    Hey, Decoy, write something about Elvis. I’d love to hear your opinion.
    I’ve searched the internet, and found that you can buy organic roasted chocolate nibs and they are good for you and make you feel good. I’ve been unable to find any here and thinking of trying them. Have any of you ever tried them? Just wondering. I always associate valentines with chocolate and red flowers.

    Posted by Shea | February 12, 2009, 10:57 pm
  6. I believe you can dance. Read drawing on the right side of the brain. you can dance if you wanna…….

    Posted by Shea | February 12, 2009, 11:02 pm
  7. Decoy, annoyingly iTunes doesn’t carry Girl Talk, I wonder if it’s because of copyright concerns?

    Jaco Pastorius sounds like he might have had narcassistic personality disorder. It’s where you see the world as extension of yourself – espcially other people, and you have to do something amazing to justify your viewpoint. I am infering from your reference to a tragic life that he had some other problems? I guess I can wikipedia him and see.

    Posted by Bill Donovan | February 13, 2009, 10:02 am
  8. i dont dig GT. lil lite for me.

    i’m more of a spank rock kinda guy.

    i also enjoy sex and candy.

    i play bass, but i’m also not an yngve malmsten fan either. but it’s good. understand what gettin’ at?

    Posted by deryke | February 13, 2009, 7:23 pm
  9. Hey people…thanks for the comments.
    I’ve been away over the weekend, so just getting around to a reply now…


    Shea – Elvis, eh? Ok, I’ll see if I can crowbar him in there one day for ya. And, Shea, you may be right, maybe I just don’t “wanna” dance. I am lazy, so that makes sense 😉

    Bill – Yeah, you may be right. GT’s music does certainly raise issues in regard to Copyright and Intellectual Property etc. So there could well be problems there…Still, I don’t think he’s been sued by anyone yet..(?)

    “Feed The Animals” was available (In Rainblows style) as a free/pay-what-you-want digital download thru the label’s (Illegal Art) website, and I’m sure you could still find it for free there (or somewhere) 😉

    And yeah, I’m sure Jaco had a massive ego (which is hardly rare for the performing arts), but I think he was Bipolar, and that was exacerbated by his struggle with drugs…But the way he died was just really sad…a waste. You can find out about him via some websites with tributes etc…

    deryke – That’s cool if you dont dig any of the stuff I’m writing about. It’s ‘Biased’. And yeah, GT is pop music basically. I’m not too familiar with Spank Rock, but I’ll suss them out. Cheers.

    And man, I haven’t heard the name Yngwie Malmsteen for a LONG time. That gave me a smile. I wonder what that swedish shredder is up to these days…(?)

    Max – Keep plunking away bud…

    Anyway, thanks for reading the post guys, and thanks for the comments…

    Posted by Decoy Spoon | February 15, 2009, 1:04 am
  10. The lead singer of Marcy Playground is my neighbour. Nice fella!

    Posted by Teena in Toronto | February 15, 2009, 8:09 am
  11. yngve !!!!!


    Posted by deryke | February 15, 2009, 3:27 pm
  12. Yngwie!

    That’s classic….true Decoy – the last time I heard that name was when my brother was around back in high school, listening to Malmsteen and other dudes like Satriani and Zai and bands like Scatterbrain (I think that’s what they were called)….

    My bro loved all that guitar god and hyperkinetic punk stuff…

    Taking me back here….

    Posted by Max Drake | February 15, 2009, 6:19 pm

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