In the Gutter

Blur, "Bugman" (Virgin; originally released 1999). iTunes

Men at Work, "Down Under" (Sony; originally released 1982).

Olivia Newton-John, "I'll Bet You a Kangaroo" (MCA; originally released 1976).

Accept, "Love Child" (Portrait; originally released 1984). iTunes

Scorpions, "He's a Woman, She's a Man" (RCA; originally released 1978).

Krokus, "Stayed Awake All Night" (Arista; originally released 1983). iTunes

Venom, "Angel Dust" (Combat; originally released 1981). iTunes

Juan Carlos Calderon, "Power to All Our Friends" (Polydor).

Ian Brown, "Lions" (Polydor; originally released 1998). eMusic

The Tragically Hip, "It Can't Be Nashville Every Night" (Zoe; originally released 2004). iTunes

Dangerous Toys, "Bones in the Gutter" (Columbia; originally released 1989). iTunes

Alanis Morrisette, "The Star-Spangled Banner" (MP3).

The Strathcona section of Vancouver is awash with the unfortunate human debris caught in the undertow of prostitution, some of whom are as young as 75. You can get good bargains down there, so always carry small units of currency—cigarettes, coins, gum even. If they're picking at invisible bugs, then spray some Raid on them and they'll at least beat you off. "Down Under" subverts the commodification of identity; unfortunately, the song takes for granted the listener's knowledge of some of the world's most ridiculous zoo animals.

Commodification of identity can be thrillingly transgressive when the identity itself is constructed exclusively from floating signifiers, and a total fucking burn when the only decent crack whore on the strip turns out to be a guy. Both the Scorpions and Accept are German, but the songs listed here are about the confrontational dynamic at work when encountering the transgendered Other. The Scorpions disingenuously play the victim card, while Accept cruise the mine shaft of ambiguity (switching to the relative-minor tonality for the guitar solo) in the traditional rock role of victim-as-antihero.

Then again, Accept could be singing about buying drugs, like the Scorpions did in "The Zoo," unless that one was about Australia. Who doesn't have an erection of the neurotransmitters when their dealer's "passing by"? Not cheap lust, more an arousal of the soul. "Stayed Awake All Night" is a tribute to the heavy machinery that delivers all of our consumer goods, and the vitamins that make that metal roll. "Angel Dust" is the drug where you learn how fun it is to apply the video-game approach to driving a real car. "Need a shot to get me through the day," they cheerfully admit, before sensibly planning ahead: "I want a lot; I got to get away." Carrying large amounts on vacation, to avoid the hassle of looking for a new source, is a great idea, especially if you cross borders a lot. Generally, the more you're carrying, the smaller the bribe— handing over a Polaroid of the customs guy's kid coming out of school is usually sufficient.

Understanding of the exile/servitude nexus would help unravel the spectacle of Alanis Morrisette singing the U.S. national anthem for game one of the NBA playoffs. "Corpses in Their Mouths" is the appropriate Ian Brown pick, but I like "Lions" because it goes on forever and sounds made-up on the spot, and because the volume level goes way up in the middle for no discernible reason.

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