Greg Hunter

Collectibles: The Ultimate 50’s Rockin’ Sci-Fi Disc

In Generic Culture, Music on November 11, 2009 at 9:14 PM

The+Ultimate+50's+Rockin'+Sci-Fi+Disc+-+front-1Though an occasional “Stacey’s Mom” or “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” makes its way into the mainstream, today’s novelty song market is decidedly small. That’s arguably (well, probably) a good thing, but listening to the Ultimate 50’s Rockin’ Sci-Fi Disc makes me wonder, nonetheless, when and why rock and roll stopped being fun.

It’s a shortsighted question based on mostly personal observations, but think about it: how many contemporary pop-rock bands can you think of that sound like they’re having any fun on record? Cutting loose, goofing off, writing songs about aliens? I’m not about to knock anyone for taking rock music seriously–hell, we here at THE GUTTER take video games and comics pretty seriously–but where’s all the youthful exuberance gone? The joy of creation, even unremittingly goofy creation?


Why so serious?

This might sound like displaced 50’s nostalgia talking, but it’s not: the perennially goofy Foo Fighters’ most recent release is a completely stone-faced (and mostly terrible) double album, and Weezer’s Raditude is far too aware of its own tween pandering to remind anyone of The Blue Album. AC/DC acolytes like Jet and Wolfmother came close to rocking for rock’s sake in the early ’00’s, but missed the point by sounding genuinely stupid and self-serious, rather than joking about it. In the last bastion of radio rock, the pop-punk scene, Green Day has regained some of its Dookie-era popularity with a political concept album, and Blink-182 and MXPX have been replaced by Yellowcard and The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.  Seriously, what’s with the attitude?

But I digress…

Thankfully, The Ultimate 50’s Rockin’ Sci-Fi Disc does not take itself at all seriously. Most of the songs on this collection have better counterparts that don’t have stupid lyrics, but then, that’s kind of the point. These songs are the lightest of the light, respites even from the youthful rebellion of early rock n’ roll–they’re just good, clean fun. The one truly memorable track of the bunch, Jimmy Lloyd’s “Rocket in My Pocket”, rises above the rest precicely because it’s not really a novelty song at all–the “rocket” in question suggests a sexual deviance that the rest of the tracks don’t even touch.

If that didn’t sound like a recommendation, it should have. The Sci-Fi Disc is fun to listen to, to have, and to share with other people. You might not have it on heavy rotation, or pour your soul into it, but you aren’t supposed to. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s all Science Fiction! Pick it up from the awesome roots rock mp3 blog Rockin’ Daddy.

I know there have to be more awesome Sci-Fi songs out there. What are your favorites? Post them in the comments! I feel a first-ever GUTTER playlist coming on… For my part, The Dream’s “Walking on the Moon” seems to fit the bill perfectly. It’s not sex-free, but it’s loose, goofy, and all about space. Listen for one of Kanye’s silliest verses ever near the halfway point:

[For bonus points, was my music rant completely off base? Too general to disagree with? THE GUTTER isn’t exactly a music blog, but let’s make an exception.]

  1. With the line between mainstream and non-mainstream as fuzzy as it is, it’s only right Arcade Fire/Dirty Projectors/Broken Social Scene/Bon Iver/et al be implicated as well. LCD Soundsystem do goofy well sometimes, right? As in-jokey as “Losing My Edge” is, it seems to come out of an earnest desire to fuck around on record.

    The Cramps were maybe too lewd to be called light, but they certainly have a lot of great songs about monsters.

    Maybe the problems that when rock evolved, songs about spaceships evolved with it, and were relegated to prog double-concept albums for a while

    • Definitely true, on pretty much all counts. “Goo Goo Muck” is officially on the mix.

      Adding to your indie rock observations, there aren’t too many Pavement- or Guided By Voices-like bands getting attention right now. I’m with you on LCDS–at least Murphy contrasts serious and silly.

  2. i don’t know, i get where you’re trying to connect the dots here, but 1) i don’t think any of that stuff on the compilation ever really broached the popular conscious & 2) i don’t think that you actually think music is less fun than it used to be. whether it’s hip hop, disco, rock, whatever, there are lots of bands that are having fun, and some are still taking the piss and writing straight-up space/robot/etc. jams.

  3. You’re not wrong, Dan. I’m talking about *rock* music, though, not all music. I know there’ll always be fun music. Most contemporary rock, I would contend, is not.

    • Also agreeing that Dan is not wrong, it might be useful to note that a lot of people conflate seriousness and artistry. It’s easy to think of the Beatles’ white album–to use something known to a pretty big group of music listeners–as capital-A art, even though there’s plenty of goofiness on it. I can’t think of many widely-popular recent albums that you can say the same thing about.

      A more meaningful divide in current rock music (as opposed to the vague indie/mainstream dich) might be bands that have learned the right and wrong lessons from great bands from the past. Wolfmother might be AC/DC students, but they aren’t good students–stuff sounds stupid and samey. I think the Hold Steady do a more interesting job borrowing from earlier hard rock acts, and it’s not a coincidence you find more humor in their songs.

  4. i think we’re all coming at this from different frames of reference. in my head – thinking about both actual stabs at humor and also playful takes on past styles – rock is just as fun as ever, and the only way i’d back away from that claim is if you limited the discussion to legacy groups from the ’90s like some of the bands you mention in the post.

    if anything the act of making a rock record in 2009 is a loving affirmation of a genre that already has its share of history and heroes. nobody’s going to be the next led zeppelin, or even the next weezer for that matter. bands are doing it because they still dig the music and want to have fun.

  5. Sci-Fi is the best, i love sci-fi movies, books and stuffs like that. I am a man of science that is why i love it *`*

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