Aliens in a Buick ate my pi??a colada in the rain

July 29, 2011


I was all set to write a lame entry in which I whined about how my current cats snuggle only fifty percent as much as my former cats, and that neither of the newbies sleep on my head like both of the oldsters did. But that about covers it. 

Let’s move on to “The Piña Colada Song.”

I have previously extolled the virtues of Justin Currie’s (Del Amitri) lyric-writing prowess and I stand by that. He is an amazing conjurer of images. But my friend Kimberly reminded me of one of the great storytellers. She caused a few of us tonight to zoom back to the turn of the 1980s and Rupert Holmes.

I immediately dug out my two Rupert Holmes albums because I was determined to have a bit of nostalgia even though I should really be going to bed. Then I had a major anticlimax when, unlike six months ago when I played the eponymous only album by the British duo Metro, the twenty-year-old belt in my turntable decided that it couldn’t make it up to full speed. I’m pretty easy-going but even I have my limits. Seventy-percent of normal tempo just doesn’t cut it.

Then I remembered that last night I got my Spotify invitation. This afternoon my coworker explained to me that unlike Pandora (which I adore), Spotify lets you choose what you want to listen to, and lets you listen to whole albums. Spotify to the rescue! I’m having my Rupert Holmes fix.

I have never though of Rupert Holmes as a favorite artist, even though I like everything he does. Then, by the end of the first verse of “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)”, I realized that the reason why I like his music is because, by and large, he’s one of those clever weavers of a tale accompanied by the perfect tasty melody. The entire “Partners in Crime” album is like that.

My other example of such an artist is Thomas Dolby, on his “Aliens Ate My Buick” album. Sheer genius, that one is. Every song is a story with an ironic twist that advances the plot. Even if there’s not much of a plot, there’s still some clever turn of phrase that is never in danger of being mundane. Not necessarily subtle, but reasonably clever.

As I write this, I’m realizing that Justin Currie is a great storyteller. What he doesn’t do, that the other two tend to, is thump you over the head with precious self-awareness. Justin Currie is just snarky and cynical—and also clever—but not particularly ironic.

When I was a college English major, in one of my classes we learned to think of “irony” as “a cruel twist of fate.” I don’t mean the above ironic like that. I mean it like Alannis Morrisette’s—you know, “like ray-ee-ain on your wedding day.” Obvious.

Quite a lot of the time, you end up wondering some time later if Justin Currie really meant that, or if he meant the other way you could think of it. Not obvious. If you want the zinger, look up the lyrics to “Plus Ça Change,” which he recorded as The Uncle Devil Show. He’s in a league of his own. 

There’s a lot of between-the-lines going on with Justin Currie. Rupert Holmes and Thomas Dolby put it right out there. Honorable mention goes to Dan Wilson (Trip Shakespeare, Semisonic), though he deals more in metaphor and double entendre. Honorable mention also goes to Bernie Taupin (Elton John) and Kate Bush and the kids in Nickel Creek. So on and so forth. I’m not attempting to be all-inclusive. I know there are many others. I’ve lost a little focus.

What all these folks have in common is that they don’t write the simpering “ooh baby you’re so fine I’m glad you’re mine let’s bump and grind” kind of lyrics to the bump and grind kind of beat. 

So thanks, Kimberly, I’ve had some fun music memories this evening. 


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