The Two-Minute Man, Episode 5: Still With the Coldplay? Edition

There have been some terrible songs featured on previous editions of the TMM. I didn't think it could get much worse than Live's "I Alone" a few weeks ago but I wasn't counting on Weasel actually playing Sting solo material from the mid-'80s. Yikes. More bad than good this week, although there's a rare treat at the very top.


1. "Cars" - Gary Numan
Yes, please! The perfect electro-rock song. The keyboards sound raw and full, not over-processed to oblivion. Numan's robotic vocals which mimic the melody are perfect, even though I realized I had no idea what he's saying as I tried to sing along. And the hard double crash at the end of each measure is the coup de grace.

2. "Mary Jane's Last Dance" - Tom Petty
We all know the Chili Peppers lifted this song's chord progression for "Dani California." But every time I hear the opening chords I think it's going to be one of about 17 different Neil Young songs from the '70s. Then I'm slightly disappointed when it's not, but then happy again because it's still another in a long line of mighty fine Tom Petty singles. Most of which are played ad nauseam on the Globe, of course.

3. "1979" - The Smashing Pumpkins
Billy Corgan gets credit for not having a single truly embarrassing lyric in this mid-'90s mega-hit. It lacks the guitar crunch that defines most of the Pumpkins' best songs but remains perfectly agreeable to this day. Except if you have to hear him sing it in person.

4. "Hard to Handle" - Black Crowes
It's no Aretha doing "Respect," but the Robinsons certainly don't shame themselves in taking on this Otis Redding tune. You probably can't name an original Black Crowes tune, though, can you? (Well, except for that one that Bo Bice sang all the time.)

5. "Clocks" - Coldplay
6. "The Scientist" - Coldplay
I was Diversions editor at The Diamondback when Coldplay's debut album came out. "Yellow" was the only song I heard, and it was pleasant enough, but I still dismissed them as just another disposable British band, albeit one with a singer who sounds like Dave Matthews with an air bubble in his throat. My assistant editor told me I was wrong to dismiss them. "Trust me, these guys are going to be around for a long time," he told me. OK, Barry Schwartz. You were right. That one time.

7. "The Stand" - The Alarm
I recognized this one because I'm a semi-regular viewer of "120 Minutes Classic" on VH1 Classic. The Alarm usually takes home the coveted Most Ridiculous Hair award, depending on which era of the Cure is represented that episode. (Check out the linked video for proof.) This shows that bands were shamelessly ripping off U2 even before "The Joshua Tree."

8. "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" - Spin Doctors
Who would have thought that Screaming Trees would end up being the most enduring band - by far - on that Spin Doctors/Soul Asylum/Screaming Trees tour I saw when it stopped at Merriweather back in 1993? Even though this is basically the same exact song as "Two Princes," it's nowhere near as good.

9. "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" - Yusuf Islam
Now what could he possibly be misunderstood about?

10. "Fortress Around Your Heart" - Sting
Here, Sting does a fantastic job of neatly cramming everything awful about music into a single five-minute track. (Assist by Branford Marsalis, who should really be ashamed of himself.)

By David Malitz |  December 14, 2007; 11:23 AM ET Two-Minute Man
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Comments

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"Cars" is the best of those 10 but the Spin Doctors deserves a lower spot. #17 seems about right. They're worse than Live. Yes, they are that bad.

I'd bump up The Alarm too, but that's just me.

Posted by: Jumbo Slice | December 14, 2007 12:10 PM

120 Minutes Redux on VH1 Classic is okay, but whoever runs that show really really really loves Dramarama.

Posted by: Gene | December 14, 2007 12:22 PM

Actually, "She Talks to Angels" -- a Robinson/Robinson original -- was another big (thought not Otis-sized) hit off of that first Black Crowes album. As was the Robinson-Robinson "Jealous Again." Crowes originals I can name in ten seconds: "Remedy," "Sting Me," "Hotel Illness,"My Morning Song," "P. 25 London," "Cosmic Friend." Gary Numan songs I can name in ten seconds: "Cars." "Cars." "Cars."

Why hate on 80s Sting? It's better than 90s Sting, and a whole lot better than 00s Sting. I'd even argue that a lot of 80s Sting was livelier than v. 2007 Police, based on the evidence of their bloodless V-Fest performance. At least Sting looked like he was awake back then.

Posted by: Chris Klimek | December 14, 2007 12:23 PM

You don't know classic Numan (well, technically Tubeway Army) jams "Are 'Friends' Electric" or "Down in the Park"? Need to fix that ASAP. And really, '80s Sting, '90s Sting, '00s Sting, it's all garbage. Time to face the facts!

Posted by: David | December 14, 2007 1:40 PM

agree with list but i'd bump The Alarm up a couple notches to #4 and put #1 at #5. I don't dislike the Cars song but its definitely not my favorite song on that list.

Petty deserves to be #1 here. He's got such great singles but i wish they would space them out more.

As for the Black Crowes - i like them well-enough but i am so disgustingly sick of hearing that freakin song all the time. let it die!

And on my Christmas wishlist for the Globe - Please remove #5, 6, 8-10. Those songs suck. As in they should be burned and never played again. There's much more interesting music out there!!!

Posted by: around | December 14, 2007 1:48 PM

and on a side note, am i the only female commenting on this blog??? all i see are guy names!

Posted by: around | December 14, 2007 1:49 PM

you are not the only female, my friend.

I think "we feel the pull in the land of a thousand guilts and poured cement" is a fairly embarrassing lyric. It's all the more embarrassing because it's trying to be subtle. Whereas "I'm still just a rat in a cage" is just melodramatic and great.

Posted by: shf | December 14, 2007 2:04 PM

Around, there aren't that many people commenting period. I'm fairly certain that the same bass progression can also be heard on Lynard Skynard's "Sweet Home Alabama".

btw, GO TERPS!

Posted by: EricS | December 14, 2007 2:12 PM

My first name Chris and I'm out here defending Sting. (Kind of.) Either of these facts could allow you reasonably to mistake me for a chick.

Posted by: Chris Klimek | December 14, 2007 2:45 PM

I was at that Merriweather show, too. Nothing has ever come close to topping that amazing triple bill. Wait...perhaps Soup Dragons, Black Sheep, and James? I can't remember where that show was.

Posted by: Chip Chanko | December 14, 2007 2:52 PM

Eh. I like Sting, period. I've had fun following the musical journey with him. It seems like a lot of Sting haters are upset that he ever went past Synchronicity II, which I just don't get. You should try listening to Brand New Day cranked up on a good stereo with a strong subwoofer, and feel the walls shake at the end of the disc.

Posted by: 23112 | December 14, 2007 3:51 PM

The only Black Crowes album I own is the live collaboration with Jimmy Page. Even though the Zep songs don't compare to the originals, I still prefer to hear Mr. Robinson try to sing like Robert Plant than sing most of his own songs.

1979 is an excellent song, and a reminder of how great the Pumpkins could've been post-1993 if Corgan could just deal with his teenage angst and move on to adulthood. Not gonna happen, I guess.

As for Sting: give The Soul Cages a try. A pretty good album that even Sting-haters may like.

Posted by: SSMD | December 14, 2007 4:23 PM

Not bad overall, but dear God, they need to stop with the Tom Petty. He did record some stuff prior to 1989, but they very seldom play any of that other than the occasional nod toward Refugee.

Posted by: hannnah | December 14, 2007 4:53 PM

Here's a little known fact about Sting: Reagan and Gorbachev were in Brussels negotiating over each country's nuclear arms stockpiles. They had reached an impasse, when German Chancellor Helmut Kohl played Sting's "Russians" on his Blaupunkt sound system.

Reagan, with tears in his eyes, immediately signed the INF Treaty.

Two years later, Klaus Meine and Scorpions recorded "Winds of Change", and the USSR collapsed.

So, basically, Sting should be at the five spot, or better, for his contributions to the human race.

Posted by: Jimbromski | December 16, 2007 9:08 PM

I'm a chick. I also love the Black Crowes and I'm not ashamed. Hard to Handle is a fun song, but they have better ones that are Robinson originals (see: "Thorn in My Pride", "Sister Luck", "Black Moon Creeping" among others). True, the brothers Robinson haven't written an inspired lyric since 1997, but they are still one of my favorite southern rock bands. Sosumi.

Posted by: SeaTac | December 17, 2007 10:26 AM

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