Saturday, January 23, 2010

Give it up

I mentioned a couple posts back that I was vetting songs for the latest DMB CD (that stands for Dan, Matt & Bess for the uninitiated.) Most of the time, we each contribute 4 random songs that we're into, one of us burns them all to a CD and we distribute and opine and generally marvel at each others awesomeness. But every now and again, we mix it up and do a themed CD. We've done covers, live performances and a CD full of Christmas songs. This time around, the theme is guilty pleasures and man, it was hard paring it down to 4 songs. Every time I turned my iPod on, I found another song I had forgotten. This morning, I emailed them to Matt lest I be tempted to change my mind again.

I'm pretty pleased with what I picked, but then I heard something today that made me think of the beginning of Twilight Zone: The Movie.

"You wanna see something REALLY embarrassing?"

It's Wilson Phillips and yeah, fuck off but I really like this album. Well, most of it anyway. Wilson Phillips is, of course, best known for their eponymous first album which sold a zillion copies and spun off something like 5 hit singles. "Hold On" was popular during the spring of my senior year of high school and I can't listen to that song and its trite lyrics without thinking of good old CHS and the class of 1990. I'll be honest and admit that I really did like a lot of the songs, with the notable exception of "You're In Love" in which Chynna Phillips is totally okay with her boyfriend being in love with someone else because she wants him to be happy. One of my college roommates always took issue with how that was never the sentiment the girl he was breaking up with had, EVER. And oddly, I do kind of like the song "Impulsive" even though my friend Jeff always referred to it as "Repulsive." It's so easy to hate on Wilson Phillips, the insults practically write themselves.

I bought their second album Shadows & Light solely on the strength of the single "Give It Up" which I saw on VH1 shortly after my arrival in Iowa City that August. I had resisted the album after the first single kind of fell flat on the pop chart and it was clear that Wilson Phillips were in the business of redefining "sophomore slump." But it was cheap at K-Mart and my parents were down buying other crap for my dorm room so I figured why not try and get them to buy me a CD as well? I got it back to the dorm and instantly hated it, which should have been a sign that I would be blogging about it 18 years later. Admittedly, there's no "Hold On" on this album. There was no song that stood out from the crowd demanding to be a single. Mostly, it's an album full of album tracks which can sometimes make for good albums but doesn't really do much to actually sell the album. Turns out both were true for Shadows & Light.

Much was made of Carnie Wilson's weight, and how Wendy and Chynna were always in these skimpy outfits and they put her in a tent. It reminds me a lot of what was said about Ann Wilson of Heart, but Wilson Phillips never made enough videos for them to resort to stretching Carnie out like Heart did. It pisses me off that people make fun of women that are anything other than stick insects - Christ, there are men that look like the bottom of a boot (to steal a line from Heidi) and no one says anything. The truth of the matter is though that it's Carnie Wilson who can really sing. Wendy Wilson is very nasal and Chynna was always so damn dramatic! It's on the song "This Doesn't Have To Be Love" (stream the full song here) that, to me, showcases the quality of Carnie's voice and why she really wasted her time with that mid-90s talk show.

Shadows & Light is very much a college album for me, but it has made random appearances in my life since then. "This Doesn't Have To Be Love" will always be Gulliver's song - Gulliver being the cat of ours that died when Heidi was 6 months pregnant with Anna. Every time we would play it, he would tuck all his feet in and close his eyes. Either he really liked it or was just waiting for it to be over - who can tell with a cat? - but it was his song nonetheless. And in 2008 on the way to Sticky & Sweet, Jeff and I were playing the infamous "pick a letter of the alphabet and I'll pick a song starting with that letter" game (which is SO much more fun with 8000 songs on an iPod than it ever was with CDs). I chose "F" and before I knew it, Jeff was saying "Ladies and gentlemen, Wilson. Phillips." as the song "Fueled For Houston" came on. It was a song I probably hadn't heard in a decade and today could not listen to without remembering that event.

Wilson Phillips never really recovered from the Shadows & Light debacle. They did regroup for one album of covers which I never even heard and I don't think many others did. They are, to me, a bit unfairly maligned because they really aren't offensive at all. Saccharine, yes, but offensive? Hardly.

Just don't ask me to listen to "You're In Love" because I will not be responsible for my actions.


Heidi Cullinan said...

You are totally leaving out how Gulliver used to groove out to "This Doesn't Have to Be Love"!

Dan said...

It's in there!

Heidi Cullinan said...

God! It is--I thought maybe somehow it wasn't on the feed, but it's there, too. Clearly I have been editing too much. I'm skipping whole paragraphs. Sorry, hon!