July 6, 2010
The Boys of Summer
It’s summertime. Let’s sing about it!
The Beach Boys | “Don’t Go Near The Water” (from Surf’s Up)
No American band has said more about the importance of catching waves and spending time at the beach than the oft-underrated/overrated/underrated again Beach Boys. In 1971, the Boys kicked off their Surf’s Up album by imploring folks to stay out of the water because of – you guessed it! – all that gross pollution. “Toothpaste and soap will make our oceans a bubble bath,” Al Jardine and Mike Love lament over an upbeat whiteboy funk groove typical of this era of the Boys’ work. Sure, they sound as naïve as they did just a few years before extolling the virtues of a surfin’ safari, but the song is damn catchy. And it’s maybe more than a little appropriate for the folks on the Gulf Coast right about now.
The Morningsides | “Summer Song” (Single)
A kind of New York supergroup, featuring members of the retro-rock band The Wowz and singer-songwriter Chris Maher, The Morningsides only have one single from 2004 to their credit, but it’s a keeper. The A-side, “Summer Song,” features the soap opera-like antics of a star-crossed couple in the verses while the chorus pays tribute to summer radio anthems, the kind that have choruses as catchy as the one featured here. The band’s sound has the same ‘60s garage rock crunch you find on a lot of Wowz songs, but the vibe is notably looser and noisier, bringing to mind Pavement. Maher’s slightly strained vocals similarly recall Stephen Malkmus but not in a way that seems slavishly copied.
Casey Holford | “Summer Storm” (from All Young And Beautiful)
Casey Holford sometimes has a stripped-down acoustic sound you expect when you hear the phrase “New York singer-songwriter.” However, a lot of his 2005 album All Young and Beautiful features a very slick power-pop sound reminiscent of the best of Fountains of Wayne. On “Summer Storm,” Holford lectures the weather occurrence of the title to stop soaking things he prefers better dry, like, say, his shoes or the kitchen floor. Despite this device of singing to the storm, the song is far from cutesy. Holford’s inventive guitar work and arpeggio-filled vocals are so enjoyable, they often distract from the substance of the lyrics anyway. But this focus on the minutiae of life characterizes the writing of many of Holford’s songs, and this poppy confection is an excellent gateway to the rest of his work.
Billy Idol | “All Summer Single” (from Whiplash Smile)
Amidst a wash of synths and slightly twangy guitars, Billy Idol’s “All Summer Single” sounds a teensy bit like Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” except with an insistent Casio drumbeat reminding you we’re smack in the middle of the ‘80s. The tune successfully evokes the sweat-soaked atmosphere of a hot summer night while Billy moans about kicking around New York, missing the girlfriend he just split up with. There’s not much here in the way of verses or choruses; Billy mostly just pouts and vamps for four and a half minutes. He’s got the charisma to pull it off though.
by Justin Remer