Monday, April 19, 2010

What have I done to deserve this? Alterna-duets to depress and delight

I was going through my music collection recently and noticed the sheer number of albums I own that feature all manner of strange duets, depressing, ill-advised, and just plain curious.

Of course, it's all in the ear of the beholder: one man's "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart" is another man's "I Got You, Babe" is another man's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" is another man's "You're the One That I Want."

I will admit to owning none of these songs. OK, I do own "Paradise," but only for Phil Rizzuto's play-by-play, which he famously did without understanding so much as one double entendre. Then again, sometimes a guy swinging a bat is just a guy swinging a bat.

No, I've noticed that the duets in my collection that are most on the line between "great" and "sucks" are of the alternative persuasion, probably because "the duet" is such a showbiz cliche, the hipsters either end up going over-the-top happy, ironic, or depressed in hopes of having a hit while maybe retaining some of that hard-earned indie cred.

1. I have to admit to liking (indeed, loving) most of these songs - but definitely not the horrendous Bono/Sinatra duet, which they famously recorded without ever setting foot in the same room.

2. I must curse the Internet for somehow missing out on Hefner's "Don't Flake Out On Me," the proper version of the Velvet Underground (Lou Reed and Moe Tucker)'s "I'm Sticking With You," and Moe Tucker and Daniel Johnston's awesomely off-key "Do it Right."

Great or awful? You decide!

1. Nick Cave and Shane MacGowan - What a Wonderful World

Key moment: 1:46 "(heroin addled) friends shaking hands!"

I think to myself: what a terrible world.

2. Jesus and Mary Chain and Hope Sandoval - Sometimes Always

Key moment: :49 while Hope sings of despair, our good brothers attempt to order drinks.

I always knew you'd take me back. Cheque please.

3. NOFX and Kim Shattuck - Lori Meyers

Key moment: 1:30 "You think I sell my body, I merely sell my time."

I wish I was a Lori, forget it.

4. R.E.M. and Kate Pierson - Shiny Happy People

Key moment: 2:44 a bizarrely happy Stipe: "Here we go!"

Everybody sucks. Sometimes.

5. Sparks and Jimmy Somerville - Number One Song in Heaven

Key moment: 2:11 the falsetto competition gets out of hand.

Maybe you're closer to here than you'd like to be.

6. Shane MacGowan and Sinead O'Connor - Haunted

Key moment: :50 Shane's voice shatters our illusion of integrity. Yeah.

All the girls ask, "What's he like," I say, "He's kind of drunk."

7. Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry - Well, Did You Evah?

Key moment: 1:28 the witty banter commences.

Uh, no, I haven't. Evah.

8. Bono and Frank Sinatra - I've Got You Under My Skin

Key moment: 1:47 the boys can't end on "skin" at the same time.

Sinatra literally phoning it in to Bono.

9. Loretta Lynn & Jack White - Portland, Oregon

Key moment: 1:39 when we realize that the country music veteran is the one who looks like the youngest raptor in Jurassic Park.

Maybe we'll keep driving to Seattle.

10. Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield - What Have I Done to Deserve This?

Key moment: 1:37 hey, this song might actually be good!

Dusty, yes, but I like her too.

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