What Is Fun?

Ramones, "Chain Saw" (Sire; 1977).

The Clean, "Thumbs Off" (Flying Nun; 1981).

Franz Ferdinand, "Sexy Boy" (MP3; 2005).

The Clouds, "Get Out of My Dream" (Mute, U.K.; 1987).

Cowboy Troy, "I Play Chicken (With the Train)" (Warner Bros.; 2005).

Madonna, "Hung Up" (Warner Bros.; 2005).

ABBA, "Waterloo" (Polygram; 1974).

LCD Soundsystem, "Tribulations" (Capitol; 2005).

Haddaway, "What Is Love?" (Arista; 1993).

The Thing, "Art Star" (Smalltown Superjazz; 2005).

Deerhoof, "O'Malley, Former Underdog" (5RC; 2005).

Orange Juice, "Moscow" (Domino; 1978).

The Jesus and Mary Chain, "Far Gone and Out" (Blanco y Negro; 1992).

Wayne Newton, "Danke Schoen" (Capitol; 1963).

I recently came across a journal entry dated Jan. 1, 2003: "I've made fairly serious promises to myself, but what about fun resolutions? Like, I resolve to buy more Ramones records." That sentiment rings true as I lock the door on 2005. Fun, frivolity—such dismissible concepts in a year of political and social turmoil. I don't know about you, but I managed a good laugh over Harriet Miers. Sometimes you have to make your own fun. Feeling uninspired by most new releases, the death knell for a music critic, I had to scratch the surface, and the far corners of my collection. Fortunately, 2005 was a good year for reissues, Orange Juice's The Glasgow School and late '04's Rough Trade Shops: Indiepop 1 among them. The latter, highlighted by the Clouds' sugary, shambling guitars, got me through the postelection blues and never left rotation.

So, what was fun? Franz Ferdinand's naughty live take on Air's ethereal "Sexy Boy" proves that French accents are for picking up chicks. Cowboy Troy's howl-along hootenanny was as ear-bending as Swedish jazzbos the Thing's deconstruction of "Art Star," from the first, self-titled Yeah Yeah Yeahs release. Sometimes only absurdity will do. Case in point: Deerhoof's Saturday morning cartoon romp, "O'Malley, Former Underdog," and Orange Juice's throwaway instrumental B-side, "Moscow."

Unlike many of my peers (see last week's Year in Music issue), my 2005 wasn't ruled by Kanye or Kelly. "Gold Digger" and "Since U Been Gone" just weren't my commuter jams. Nope, the year belonged to Haddaway. After the vocalist was robbed (by Vanilla Ice, of all people!) on the summer series Hit Me, Baby, One More Time, "What Is Love?" could be heard damn near everywhere—within my apartment, that is. Ditto the Jesus and Mary Chain's shout-along hey-hey-heys and New Zealand noise-poppers the Clean, with their hi-hat amped to 11. There was Madonna's slide guitar filched from ABBA's "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" for the decadent disco revival "Hung Up," and also plenty of the real thing: "Waterloo," with its water-fountain piano runs, made the perfect karaoke song at BYOC (Bring Your Own Choreography) events. Similarly, the tightly wound beat of "Tribulations" could turn a 7-Eleven's parking lot into an ad hoc dance floor. Sometimes you just have to grab the nearest lamppost and make like Gene Kelly in the rain, which is what I want to do every time I have Wayne Newton in my ear. Sometimes you have to make your own fun.


Kate Silver is a freelance writer in Seattle.

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