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Tournament of Tunes:
The Pixies vs. Camper Van Beethoven

The second semifinal match of the Tournament of Tunes has finally been completed...

The Pixies - Debaser [RealAudio]
Camper Van Beethoven - Sweethearts [RealAudio]

Once again, two great songs. “Debaser” is a visceral thrill ride, with its brisk tempo, Frank Black’s near-hysterical singing, the shouts of “Chien!” in the chorus, the bouncing bass, the crisp drumming. “Sweethearts” is much more subtle (now there’s a rarity—CvB being called subtle!) with its moderate tempo, restrained vocals and vaguely allusive lyrics.

What separates the two is the degrees of emotional attachment each song, as well as the artist, has to me. While I can’t help but admire the Pixies’ greatness, I do so from a considerable distance. I’ve never felt compelled to buy any of their albums, being content to own just a cassette copy of Doolittle. Their public persona, particularly that of Frank Black, always felt somewhat staged to me; they seemed cartoonish, and never quite real. Not that being cartoonish is necessarily a bad thing—if the shtick is good enough, I can easily be won over. And I can’t deny being won over by “Debaser.” But still, the band never quite connected with me, for reasons I can’t really explain.

In contrast, I’ve loved Camper Van Beethoven from virtually the first time I ever heard them—which, if I recall correctly, was hearing “One Of These Days” on the radio. My attachment to the band is so strong that I can remember exactly where I was when I heard specific songs of theirs—“One Of These Days” playing over the loudspeaker in the men’s room of a bar during a wild office going-away party; “When I Win the Lottery” in a Radio Shack; “Take the Skinheads Bowling” covered by a solo acoustic dude in a club in Champaign, my recognizing of which amazed my non-indie buddies. The band and I have a long history—my ardor for CvB compelled me to hunt down the first two albums, on vinyl, at Reckless Records in Chicago and the third, eponymous album at Newbury Comics in Cambridge, Mass. And when I longed to upgrade the first album to CD but couldn’t justify the expenditure to myself, I managed to convince my now-wife (whom I had just started dating at the time) to buy the CD during our first visit to a record store, somehow knowing it would be ours to share for the long haul. (Blissfully, I was correct—and not just about the CD.) “Sweethearts”, with its gentle putdown of the Reagan worldview, came to me at a special moment in time, when I was just becoming aware that my initial youthful conservative leanings were not who I really was. During those early adult years, Reagan had me fooled, too—just, as the song implies, he had fooled himself.

“Debaser”, a great song that I admire from a distance. “Sweethearts”, a great song that says a lot about the person I’ve become. It’s Camper Van Beethoven—no contest.

Winner: Camper Van Beethoven - Sweethearts

(As always, brackets here, play-by-play here and previous recaps here.)

September 12, 2006 in Music, Music: ToT 06 | Permalink


Well Happy Birthday! GREAT DAY FOR A BIRTHDAY! Hope you enjoy your day!

Posted by: Michelle at Sep 12, 2006 4:02:37 PM

Happy happy Birthday a little belated ;)

Posted by: Greta at Sep 12, 2006 8:45:34 PM