Tuesday, September 06, 2011

47. Was (Not Was), "Somewhere in America There's a Street Named After My Dad" (1988)


What Up, Dog? remains pretty much my favorite album by Was (Not Was), an interesting enough act and one to never write off entirely. And while this is not necessarily my favorite song on the album, paradoxically it's the one going on this list, and reasonably high for an album track not even contemplated as a single release, at least not until a few years after the fact, and then as the third flier in promotion of an anthology product. If anything it's part of some concept I'm not sure I quite understand, opening the album even as the strange, frenetic, unpleasant, unforgettable throwaway fragment "Dad I'm in Jail" closes it. But the light-in-the-midnight-window sadness that suffuses the best songs on the album—"Anything Can Happen," "Love Can Be Bad Luck" (co-written with Marshall Crenshaw), and "Anytime Lisa"—is thoroughly sounded here, and if one doesn't necessarily notice its effectiveness at first, it sinks in eventually. Obviously there's some backstory to its scenario, which we never get, but can only surmise: something about suburbs and irony and best intentions, a family missing a father, a home life other than the ones seen on TV, and sad children lost in a giant land of indifference. It's slow and sparse, led by stark notes on a piano, carried along on the momentum of the light funky touches of guitar and bass and drumkit, underlined late by a muted trumpet. The chorus is sad and low, it really needs to be turned up a notch or several notches, but at the same time it's so tuneful that one is ready to sing with it in spite of oneself: "Somewhere in America / There's a street named after my dad / And the home we never had," it goes. Unadorned truth never spoken so plainly..

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