Midnight on the Irony Express

Here's our hero, looking for the light at the end of a forgettable decade.

  1. 'Round Midnight/Thelonious Monk (Monk)

    This song (in this version) happened to appear on the first jazz record I ever bought, The Thelonious Monk Memorial Album. And yes, it was a record--shiny black vinyl. I was in eighth grade at the time, on a shopping trip to the mall with my mom. She gave me money to buy a record on the condition that I get something other than rock. It was 1983 and Monk had just passed away within the year; I remember reading his obituary in Rolling Stone.

    The Memorial Album was a double LP compiled by Orrin Keepnews, co-founder of Riverside Records, Monk's label for much of the 1950s. This solo performance of 'Round Midnight first appeared on the 1957 album Thelonious Himself.

  2. Walking After You/Foo Fighters (Foo Fighters)

    Tonight I'm tangled in my blanket of clouds,
    dreaming aloud

    Being a Nirvana fan, I bought the first Foo Fighters album when it came out in 1995, but completely lost track of them after that. Consequently, this song (from the second album) is one I didn't hear until many years after the fact. But it's been in my head for quite a while now and it suits the late-night mood rather well.

  3. I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass/Nick Lowe (Goulding/Bodnar/Lowe)

    Here's a fine example of the sort of irony we've had to do without for far too long.

  4. I Don't Want to Get Over You/Magnetic Fields (Merritt)

    Or I could make a career of being blue,
    I could dress in black and read Camus,
    smoke clove cigarettes and drink vermouth
    like I was seventeen--
    that would be a scream--
    but I don't want to get over you

    Stephin Merritt is my generation's Cole Porter. Question is, do we need one?

  5. "Just a bit of harmless brain alteration, that's all."

    Dialogue from the motion picture Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

  6. Give It Up or Turnit a Loose/James Brown (Bobbit)

    The soundtrack of the Mind-Manipulation-O-Matic?

  7. I Feel Better Than James Brown/Was (Not Was) (David Was/Don Was)

    I was transferred to the moon--
    worse pay, better fellow workers

    Back in the days of Bush I, irony was sometimes enough to get you through....

  8. When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around/The Police (Sting)

    File under "Everything old is new again," along with the rest of Zenyatta Mondatta.

  9. Age of Consent/New Order

    I've lost you, I've lost you, I've lost you, I've lost you, I've lost you

    I wasn't actually listening to this stuff when it was the latest thing, back in the early 80s. In those days, there was still a lot of anti-disco sentiment in the air, especially among the suburban junior high school set. But time has a way of melding all pleasures into one--guilty, innocent, or otherwise.

    In retrospect, I wonder if Ian Curtis could have made the great leap forward from gloom and doom to mere melancholy, had he lived.

  10. What Have I Done to Deserve This?/The Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield (Lowe/Tennant/Willis)

    Now I can do what I want to...forever
    How am I gonna get through?

    Back in the days of Ronald Reagan, irony was sometimes enough to get you through....

  11. I'm Not the Man I Used to Be/Fine Young Cannibals (Steele/Gift)

    But then, who is?

  12. Slip Slidin' Away/Paul Simon (Simon)

    I was a young grade school kid when this first came out. It just seemed like a catchy pop song at the time. Little did I know....

  13. Thirty-Three/Smashing Pumpkins (Corgan)

    Corgan's Messiah.

  14. "Get in a good mood!"

    Dialogue from the motion picture Say Anything. After nearly two decades, it's still one of my favorite movies, despite the fact that I've become more pessimistic about Lloyd and Diane's long-term prospects.

  15. Come On Get Happy/The Partridge Family (Farrell/Janssen)

    To be honest, I was more of a Brady Bunch fan, but some songs just get stuck in your head, never to be dislodged.

  16. Ask/The Smiths (Morrissey/Marr)

    Spending warm summer days indoors
    writing frightening verse
    to a buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg

    A career peak for Morrissey in the generosity-of-spirit department, this led me to rethink my longstanding aversion to the Smiths.

  17. Thank You For Talkin' to Me, Africa/Sly & the Family Stone (Stewart)

    Lookin' at the devil
    Grinnin' at his gun
    Fingers start shakin'
    I begin to run

    Bullets start chasin'
    I begin to stop
    We begin to wrestle
    I was on the top

    The druggy, slow-motion remake of "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" that closes the epochal There's a Riot Goin' On.

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