RIFF REWIND 2009: Cage the Elephant, The Heavy and Lady Gaga

Bad Romance, Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga, probably singing about our editor.

I’ll be honest with you, I kinda cheated on this one. Two of the songs are from one of my favorite video game series, two were generously provided by a friend, and one is Lady Gaga, which is basically the 21st century music free space.

Don’t get me wrong, I stand by all five songs. The developers of the Borderlands series have fantastic taste in theme songs, and I chose the friend with the best taste. It’s just that it’s the week before an election and, in my day job as a data journalist, elections mean campaign finance analysis. Which means I’ve been doing a lot of math.

I’m tired, is what I’m saying.

Cage the Elephant — “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”

Like I said in the intro, 2009 includes the theme songs to the first two Borderland games. This one, from the first game in the series, makes sense since it also came out in 2009. The other is … tradition, I guess?

Anyway, the first time I saw Cage the Elephant, it was opening for Metallica at AT&T Park in 2016. And the band was, to put it mildly, terrible. The sound was bad, the energy wasn’t there and the songs were mostly unrecognizable. Disappointing would be an understatement. It was so bad it actually made me like the studio versions of the songs less.

Because of that, when Cage the Elephant came to Outside Lands in 2017, my expectations were low. But, thankfully, it was great. The band put on an amazing show, it sounded great and singer Matt Shultz’s Mick Jagger strut was on point.

The moral of the story is that not only is it impossible to follow Metallica, it’s apparently also hard to precede them.

The Temper Trap — “Sweet Disposition”

Early on in the series I had an advisory council composed of my good friend Robin St. Clare and Ash McGonigal, a guy who I mostly tolerate. That didn’t last long because, as it turns out, I’m profoundly lazy, so rather than working ahead on weekends when both were available to consult, I’d write immediately before deadline when they’re asleep.

This week, however, I pestered Dr. St. Clare for suggestions. Then I was one short so I pestered her for her favorite of the suggestions to make the list.

This is that suggestion. She declined to write this entry, though, because I waited until it was close to deadline to finish so she had to go to bed. So instead you got this explanation.

[Gokhman note: “Sweet Disposition” was the highlight of an otherwise overwrought film that, yes, was good the first time you watched it but broke down upon a second watch. I mean, how could two good-natured people like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel not make it work? Really! I would not have let her get away. Obviously you’re not cut out for this romantic comedy stuff. Go back to Looper and Brick. Oh, have I digressed? The Temper Trap borrowed U2’s The Edge’s guitar delay pedal and made a really good song. Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to eclipse the success of that song. Check out some of their later stuff, though. It’s pretty good].

Florence and the Machine — “Howl”

I kinda leaned on Dr. St. Clare a bit this week.

I like Florence and the Machine well enough, even though I’ve been told by a reliable source that the Machine is something to be raged against, but I wouldn’t call myself a big fan. Fortunately, I know a big fan, and I was already bothering her about the previous entry. And she made an excellent choice, if I do say so myself.

[Gokhman note: In 2008, Florence Welch was widely unknown in the U.S. I interviewed her when I wrote for the Oakland Tribune. Less than a year later, everyone knew who she was. Coincidence? I argue it’s not! She’s sadly become too popular to ever want to speak to me again].

The Heavy — “Short Change Hero”

As foretold in prophecy (by which I mean the first entry), it’s the theme song to Borderlands 2. I seriously love these games. You should really play them both; they’re darkly hilarious and a lot of fun.

Back to music: I also seriously love this song. It lends itself really well to a strange neo-Western like Borderlands because it has a distinct strange neo-Western vibe. It’s not appropriate for a Sergio Leone movie but definitely fits any current or near-future lone gunman who wanders from town to town.

Lady Gaga — “Bad Romance”

Evolution refines and perfects. Apes become humans, Bulbasaur becomes Ivysaur, wolves become dachshunds. Subsequent generations build on past successes to improve.

Likewise, Madonna evolved into Lady Gaga.

They clearly come from the same philosophical place. Catchy pop music, overt sexuality, boundary-pushing style. They even both moved from music to acting. But Lady Gaga is a superlative form of Madonna; the music is catchier, the sexuality is more overt, the style is more profoundly weird, and based on reviews, she’s a much better actress.

What I’m saying is, fight it all you want, but you enjoy Lady Gaga and her music. We all do. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, even if you’re the dourest emo or the biggest, shirtlessest guy in heavy metal mosh pits. When something is good it’s good.

[Gokhman note: I’m pretty sure she sings my name in this one. I’m not opposed to that].

Honorable Mentions

Lily Allen — “Fuck You”
The Lonely Island — “I’m On A Boat”
Metric — “Gold Guns Girls”
LMFAO — “Shots”
Dethklok — “The Gears”
Molly Lewis — “Our American Cousin”

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData

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