[mix tape] Proof Positive Tom Scharpling Steamrolls Chumps
What makes Tuesday night the best night of the week? Another confusing and unsatisfying episode of Lost? (So, last week!) The fact that it’s not Monday? No, friends, it’s the guaranteed three hours of mirth, music, and mayhem that Tom Scharpling brings to the table every Tuesday from 8-11pm on his radio show The Best Show on WFMU*.
The Best Show is, simply put, a talk show in which Scharpling will discuss various topics and take calls from a variety people – some regulars, some clearly unfamiliar with the show (all ably screened by Associate Producer Mike). There’s also regular calls from Jon Wurster, Sharpling’s partner in crime — a comic genius who also happens to be the drummer for Superchunk and, recently, The Mountain Goats (who Martin Starr included in his nonpretentious mix tape). Wurster calls in as a variety of characters, usually from the fictional Newbridge, NJ. The best of these calls have been issued on CD on Scharpling & Wurster’s record label Stereo Laffs, which are highly recommended.
Tom Scharpling is the glue that holds the whole show together and the engine that keeps it going in its times of need. His humour is usually only surpassed by his wisdom and good-hearted nature. On top of all this he regularly features a variety of interesting and hilarious guests in-studio or via phone such as Paul F. Tompkins, Ted Leo, and Patton Oswalt.
One good way for the uninitiated to get a taste of the show is to check of the Best Show Gems podcast. Chances are, if you like these it’s only a matter of time until you start delving into the podcast and the archives. Of course, the best way to hear the show is to listen live on WFMU (91.1 in the New York area) or on WFMU.org (the station also has excellent, and free, iphone and android apps that allow you to stream the station live as well as listen to archives on demand).
Scharpling is not idle during the days he is not bringing it over the airwaves. He’s started writing an excellent novel via twitter (Starring Kid Rock, Dennis Wilson, and Joe Lieberman among others) and also tweets regularly under his own name. He was also a writer and executive producer on the excellent USA Network series Monk until it’s unfortunate demise. No one is sure what his project will be, but I’m sure it will be awesome.
And, now, the man himself**, Mr. Tom Scharpling (and his mix!)….
I have always enjoyed driving around New Jersey on nice summer days. Unlike the toilet-esque streets of New York City, you can generally hit a good clip and establish some speed. When that happens, it’s fun to open all the windows and let the cross currents blow through the car and turn up the car stereo.
I know it sounds like a Bruce Springsteen song, but I don’t know what to say other than I am driving the same highways he did way back when, although I doubt he was as much of a coward as I am when I pull up to a red light. Whether it’s that I have no spine or that my cars have always lacked a competitive amount of amplitude, I don’t have the right stuff when it comes to a musical showdown with another car at a traffic stop. Seriously, how am I supposed to expect the music I like to overcome that dull and deafening thud coming from the other guy’s – and it’s always a guy – souped up system?
So there’s a whole other thing to do – drive around with all the windows up and the air conditioning on full blast. You create your own cocoon, and that way nobody knows what you’re up to in there – for all they know you’re drumming on the steering wheel along to Sean Hannity. And if you don’t have a car, maybe you can replicate the experience on an elevator with glass windows. Give it a shot; who knows?
As I write this I’m sweating like nobody’s business – but what else is new? – and making plans to get away to The Shore this summer. Which shore? I will take any shore. I used to love when my family scraped together enough money to swing a New Jersey beach house in early August and maybe it’s time I got back to doing something I used to enjoy for once in my dumb life. If this music can convey to you what it’s like when I have fun driving around the Garden State, whether it be to the glorious Silverball Museum in Asbury Park or just to the post office to send out some ‘Newbridge Is For Lovers’ t-shirts, then I am happy.
FUCKED UP – I Hate the Summer – Couple Tracks
A blast of lightning from a band that is working harder than anybody in the game these days. It’s too easy to write them off as being ‘hardcore’. They’re doing something so dense and liberated right now that it’s easy to slap a label on them because of the vocal stylings of Pink Eyes. They are an iceberg of a band – right now we’re only seeing the tip, and only when they’re gone – which I hope is never – will we see the true depths of what they were laying down.
DIRTBOMBS – Candyass – If You Don’t Already Have A Look
The Dirtbombs have been responsible for more transcendent live shows than just about anyone else in the last decade. Mick Collins is a hero.
ARCTIC MONKEYS – Teddy Picker – Favourite Worst Nightmare
As far as U.S. music fans are concerned, these guys embody the overhyped band that never delivered. But they’ve been doing nothing but deliver. Their second album clobbered the debut and they’ve kinda been on fire ever since. Alex Turner has too many ideas in the best possible way – they are brimming with enthusiasm for the act of tweaking the form while trying to create the best version of the form.
SEEDS – Chocolate River – Travel With Your Mind
They could lay down a strange garage groove like no other.
CHRISTMAS – Jupiter, Florida - Vortex (not on iTunes)
Speaking of one of the best, Christmas were maybe THE best. Their third and final album VORTEX is a straight up masterpiece and the world – via IRS Records – let it expire without a fight. Picture the Magic Band being able to sing like the Beach Boys and write songs with endless moving parts that somehow click together. And the scary part is that this trio was able to pull this off LIVE. They still might be the greatest band I’ve ever seen live, and Michael Cudahy is/was without a doubt the most underrated guitarist.
THE KINKS – Sweet Lady Genevieve – Preservation Act 1
While the Who and Rolling Stones were breaking the bank in the 70s, Ray Davies was fighting to make a Big Statement every year. Some came close, others fell short, but the guy was TRYING. And buried in those noble struggles are great songs like this one.
ABBA – Hey Hey Helen – ABBA
My love of ABBA is well documented and knows no bounds. Every time I think I’ve got a line on how great they were, one of their deceptively perfect songs catches me from a different angle and all bets are off once again. A deep cut that is just begging to be sampled by someone.
SLOAN – Money City Maniacs – A Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005
Four lifers who have managed to catch a second wind. Think of them as an alternate universe Beatles. And who can deny the power of a siren kicking off a song?
TED LEO AND THE PHARMACISTS – Colleen – Living With The Living
One of the most deliriously fun songs from a band whose talents are seemingly endless. They also work as the exception to the infamous GG/BB (Good Guys/Bad Band) formula, since they are absolutely fearless and total sweethearts.
MAMAS AND PAPAS – I Saw Her Again – Gold
The stock of John Phillips probably couldn’t be much lower these days, but let us not forget that the man was the only one effectively straddling the LA and SF scenes. This song is pure post-Spector magic and should not be tainted by his future alleged awfulness. Besides, there are two Mamas and one more Papa we can hang our hats on if it turns out that Papa John was the Hall Of Fame scumbag that I’m scared he is.
SLEIGH BELLS – Rill Rill – Treats
Because it’s fun in 2010! (Editor’s note: Kinda funny article.)
MADLIB – The Rumble – Beat Konducta Vol 3 & 4: In India
This is the age of Dilla. But for my money, Madlib is the champ and will always be. He’s the Robert Pollard of hip hop.
THE NAZZ – Hang On Paul – Open Our Eyes Anthology
A band who hit it out of the park more than any collection of Philly cheesesteaks could be expected to. Todd is still doing it, but I would love it if he would do it a little bit more like this sometimes.
PAUL McCARTNEY AND WINGS – Mumbo – Wild Life (not on iTunes)
WILD LIFE is a rambling and messy masterpiece; part of McCartney’s stellar post-Beatles cooldown and his rare attempt to replicate moving fast and dirty in the studio. I can see why people didn’t like it then, but if you can’t wrap your head around how amazing this is on five different levels I don’t know what to say.
REDD KROSS – Peach Kellie Pop – Neurotica
A should’ve been hit single from a should’ve been monster band. The notion that the Red Hot Chili Peppers trumped these guys by clawing out of the LA scene remains one of the great mysteries. Bad record label? Bad timing? The world was not ready for Robert Hecker (are they ready yet)? Who knows. But NEUROTICA is a front-to-back classic and thankfully lives on as a reissue.
COCOCOMA – (Tryin’ To) Read My Mind – Cococoma
Goner Records is maybe the best label operating in the world right now, and Cococoma are one of their premiere acts. You can’t go wrong with either of their albums – this song is just a herald of what the band – and label – have up their sleeves.
THE MODERN LOVERS – Government Center – The Modern Lovers (on Amazon)
Jonathan Richman as Tommy James. Stunning in its simplicity, and anybody who is anybody should already have this tattooed on their brain by now.
ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA – Do Ya – A New World Record
A late period Move song reworked to superior fashion by the mighty Electric Light Orchestra. Jeff Lynne doesn’t get the props he deserves for making the planet flip for ELO’s faux-classical/RnR hybrid for a ten year stretch. And those sunglasses! Between him and Ian Hunter, the rock world was well shaded in the 70s.
Complete song list:
CHRISTMAS – Jupiter Florida - Vortex (not on iTunes) (N/A for download but album)
PAUL McCARTNEY AND WINGS – Mumbo – Wild Life (not on iTunes) (N/A for download but album on Amazon)
THE MODERN LOVERS – Government Center – The Modern Lovers (available on Amazon)
** Except for the links. We put those in as well as the text when you hover over the links.