Monday, February 9, 2009

6. Motion City Soundtrack vs. Fear of Pop vs. Matthew Sweet

vs. vs.
"Capital H"
by Motion City Soundtrack
from Back to the Beat
  "In Love"
by Fear of Pop
from Volume I
  "Sick of Myself"
by Matthew Sweet
from 100% Fun

"Capital H" (9 plays at Last.fm, tied for #299): This song appeared on an early Motion City Soundtrack EP, and then was rerecorded for the Epitaph re-issue of their debut LP, I Am the Movie; the former is the version on this list. It's the thing in the MCS catalog that best combines their ramshackle beginnings with their synth-driven melody and vocal mania. It's also maybe the most fun live track ever -- the little two-note kick-off and big synth waves get a crowd jumping like nothing else I've ever heard. Maybe more than any other song in this competition, this tune is pure energy. The rerecorded version is not, unfortunately; it's much more subdued and sacrifices a lot of personality for professionalism. If you can find the Back to the Beat version, I highly recommend it.

"In Love" (7 plays, unranked): Ben Folds has got some problems with women. There were a few Ben Folds Five songs that strongly hinted at it ("Song For the Dumped," most notably), but his solo material goes there a lot more directly. When his Fear of Pop record came out, though, very little of that stuff had been produced yet. This tune -- a template for his later production of William Shatner's Has Been -- is by far the standout from that project. Over a soft and quirkly melody, with Folds doing a 60's ballad in the background, Shatner gives an incredible reading of a diss track to an anonymous woman. The last verse is just devastating: "I can't tell you anything, and I... can't.. commit! You're right! I can't commit! To you. I will always treasure our time together. I don't feel enough of anything to harbor the kind of disdain that you'll maintain. You painted me into what you wanted to see -- and that's fine! But you will never know me." On top of that, the music really is terrific, in the vein of then-recent BFF tunes such as "Smoke" and "Selfless, Cold and Composed."

"Sick of Myself" (8 plays, tied for #395): Most cite Girlfriend as Matthew Sweet's breakthrough album, but for me he moved to the next level with the four muted quarter notes that open this tune and his fifth album, 100% Fun. He adds some "power" to his "power pop" here -- the sound neatly foreshadows his Specter-esque In Reverse -- and encapsulates the sound of a fairly broad 90s movement that also included bands like Urge Overkill and the Lemonheads. It's a tune that is immensely hummable, with some great garage guitar work and fun use of false stops at the end.

VERDICT: The other two songs would've won in a lot of other match-ups, but "In Love" is going to go a long way in this competition. On top of all of its awesome qualities, I suspect it's also partly responsible for the cultural resurgence of William Shatner in the last decade, and it's hard to overstate the value of that.

1 comment:

Space Oddities said...

Oooh tough choice. I would have to vote matthew sweet. I looove him to death ever since I saw him in concert when I was fourteen. Sick of myself is such a great song.