hits where they ain’t

One advantage to having your whole music collection in iTunes (I’m about one-third done) is the way shuffle-mode can bring up songs you’d forgotten, even if at one time they’d rather charmed you. So it was I stumbled again upon Cake Like’s “My Guy” (not the old Mary Wells hit), a song I remember liking in 1999 or so when the band’s album Goodbye, So What came out (such a ’90s title!). In my review of the album for the late, lamented Milk magazine, I noted that the song’s lyrics were able to “convey both the kitsch and pathos of [its] subject” – an assessment I’ll stand by. I’m less certain about that review’s lede: “Too often, bands try to get by on wit, attitude, and simplicity – but sometimes, it works.” The rest of the tracks on the album are rather more lacklustre…never actively bad, but not very memorable either. But “My Guy” should’ve been a hit. I’m particular fond of the lines “I’ve been to New York City twice / I’ve been to Oklahoma, too.”(Those interested in tracking celebrity’s trails should note that the band’s vocalist and guitarist was Kerri Kinney, better known for her acting and writing for The State, and that the band was an early signee to Neil Young’s Vapor Records.)

While scarcer in hitmaking elements (yet curiously also listing a prominent Great Plains geographic location), another track from the same era which I’d also forgotten, even though I kind of liked it at the time, is “Kansas City” by Hal Lovejoy Circus. (This band’s oh-so-’90s thing was that, of course, no one in the band was named “Hal Lovejoy.”) It’s nothing special, really – a bit offhand – but something about the bass in particular, and the half-spoken, half-sung vocals, along with the song’s lyrical hook (“gotta get a job, gotta get a job…”), place the song not a million miles from Girls Against Boys or Harvey Danger…which in turn means a sort of Americanized take on certain moments of The Fall as filtered through Pavement and Guided by Voices. But, admittedly, nowhere near as good as any of those bands.

Cake Like “My Guy” (Goodbye, So What, 1999)
Hal Lovejoy Circus “Kansas City” (American Made, 1997)

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