#78 – “Vancouver” (2004)

Venue Songs

A.S.: Well, we’re back! I guess it’s not technically Monday anymore, but our schedules aren’t terribly consistent anyway

L.K.: We might’ve had it done earlier had my computer not decided to act up again… it’s been dying a slow, painful death for a very long time.
A.S.: Well, or if I hadn’t gone and seen ANDREW W.K. tonight, which was tremendous fun, as is to be expected.
L.K.: Yeah, my blog co-author goes to concerts and has friends and does things, which can complicate scheduling updates sometimes.
A.S.: But thank you for your patience, and we hope we won’t end up having to take breaks very often. We didn’t want our worn out brains boofing up the discussion of a song as great as this one either.
L.K.: Yeah, we’ve been having a lot of Venue Songs come up recently but this one right here is possibly my favorite.
A.S.: Your favorite?  Of all 31? (or I guess… 33, really, but who’s counting)
L.K.: I said possibly; as far as I can remember it’s my favorite, but I might be forgetting some other really good ones right now, and besides, this isn’t a blog about my personal preferences about anything.
A.S.: Nah, but personal preferences do play into everything anyway. I’m trying to think if I have a favorite venue song but I’m blanking.  This one is great.  A very direct homage to The Cars.
L.K.: Yeah this is another one of the Venue Songs that is a really obvious knockoff/tribute to another band or style. The Cars are the stylistic influence in general, but “My Best Friend’s Girl” is probably the closest individual song, sound-wise. Or at least parts of it are, rather.
A.S.: The palm muted guitar intro coupled with the staccato hits.  It’s like a fusion of “My Best Friend’s Girl” with “Just What I Needed”.
L.K.: Yep. I always wonder what made them decide which band to ape for each song though. Is there some sort of connection between The Cars and Vancouver that I’m missing? I thought they were from Boston…
A.S.: No, you’re right; they are from Boston. I mean, many venue songs have a very distinct discord between song location and the location of the artist they’re paying homage to. “London” in particular is this Gram Parsons-type country thing. “Philadelphia” pays homage to Manchester, UK’s Joy Division…
L.K.: I actually remember Flans saying something kind of rude about The Cars in an old interview once, which is weird because he said neutral-to-positive things about them everywhere else.
A.S.: Do you remember what he said?
L.K.: Well, you know how he loves to talk about his fake ID days as a young punk in Boston going to rock shows.
A.S.: Right, Mission of Burma, The Neighborhoods, whatever.
L.K.: He wrote a little mini essay about it at one point, and he mentions how everybody was excited when The Cars got a record deal, but then were disappointed when it came out because it sounded like Queen and the clarity of the recording studio revealed how bad their lyrics were. I’m not sure I understand the Queen comment at all, really. I’ve never seen him say anything negative-ish about either band anywhere since, so I don’t know what was up with that.
A.S.: I think it might be the multi-tracked vocals on a lot of the songs (See: “My Best Friend’s Girl”… I guess also “Good Times Roll”, “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”).  Now that he mentions it, I can definitely hear how it’s a bit Queen-ish, but I’ve never thought that detracted from the songs.
L.K.: Aha, here’s the direct quote: “It seemed a hollow victory for Boston when a pretty exciting live band  called the Cars actually did get signed, only to make a record that  sounded like Freddy Mercury was doing the backing vocals-and the lyric  sheet revealed a grim reality that up until then had been thankfully  obscured by bad PA’s.”
A.S.: Geez.  Tough criticism on a power-pop/new wave classic.  Guess it was tough to tell at the time, especially if this coincided with Flansburgh’s James Chance-impersonation phase. You know, I’m really surprised Ocasek hasn’t done any production work with the Johns.  I feel like they’d compliment each other very well.
L.K.: Interesting thought in theory, though I’m not sure how well that would work out in practice. Back to the venue song a second though, this is another one where the “in situ” recording was live during a show instead of during a soundcheck, but the audience cheering in this one is kind of bittersweet as Richard’s On Richards is another since-closed venue.
A.S.: Yeah.  Dan Miller has fond memories of it, and it seems like it was a pretty important venue for Vancouver; The Zombies and Nick Lowe are two other acts that have played there. As Hodgman narrates in the video though, the song has absolutely nothing to do with the venue, unlike some venues songs.
L.K.: The video has nothing to do with the venue, and I’m not sure what it has to do with the song either… except it has a girl in it.
A.S.: I really dig the video to this one.
L.K.: I think she was on a modelling reality show later, or something to that effect.
A.S.: Yep, Project Runway. I think this video is probably as close as TMBG have ever come to being “hip” in recent years.  Although I think it predates the retro-pop-indie-explosion of the last few years by a couple of years.
L.K.: I don’t know if TMBG have been “hip” since the late 80s…or at all, really. That’s kind of a loaded/meaningless phrase.
A.S.: Oh totally, but the video definitely plays into some of today’s retro fads.  The dress style, the shot with the records (she’s holding a friggin’ Huggy Bear record, for crying out loud) …Which, now that I think of it, that shot with the records is pretty reminiscent of that one Mundanes cover, minus the books, but the portable record player is a major similarity.
L.K.: Sort of a far cry from the Johns being concerned about there being women in their music videos out of fear of being accused of objectifying them though. The entire video is just a woman putting on makeup, getting her hair done, and dressing up and pretending to do things.
A.S.: It’s certainly strange for them, but I really like it.
L.K.: Oh yeah. It’s not like their usual videos, but then again, this song isn’t like their “usual” style either.
A.S.: Going back to the song, I’m also really fond of the Flansbridge.
L.K.: Flansbridge?
A.S.: The bridge in the song, which Flansburgh sings.
L.K.: I thought that was Linnell? The “look over there, check out her hair, etc.” part?
A.S.: Yeah, that’s Linnell?
L.K.: I always thought that was Linnell just affecting an accent. I think Flans just sings backup during the chorus, along with Dan Miller too, presumably.
A.S.: Oh wow.  Weird, until now I’ve always thought that was Flansburgh on that part of the song. It does sound like him though, doesn’t it?
L.K.: Not really, outside of the pronunciation of “there” and “hair”, which sound similar to when Flans affects the same sort of fake accent…but voice-wise it still sounds like Linnell though. Just higher than he usually sings.
A.S.: Damn.  Ya learn something new every day, then… It’s a great bridge though!  Really completes the song.
L.K.: I’ve seen a lot of people arguing over what John sings things, but I’ve never seen anyone arguing about that bridge. It is a good bridge though, with some nice Dan-tastic guitar background noodling.
A.S.: I do hope we get to use the word “Flansbridge” again at some point.

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