Saturday, October 13, 2012

36 Songs, 36 Days (2012 Edition), Day Thirty: Peaches by The Presidents of The United States

Portrait of a band about to become a footnote...
Hey, look--it's a Seattle alternative band from the 90's that wasn't grunge!

The Presidents was part of that 'college rock' movement--you know what I'm talking about, power pop with odd, comedic lyrics full of double entendre, wacky videos and eccentric vocals, like Weezer only...not. I always suspected they were done in primarily thanks to the massive success of their first album, which spawned this song as well as 'Lump' and 'Kitty.' Based on that one album, they ended up playing for President Clinton at a 1994 fundraiser (man, those were weird years). And I'll even admit that I actually was one of a number of New Yorkers who pre-ordered their second album, II, so I could gain floor admittance to a free concert they played at the long-gone Virgin Records in Times Square; if you have their rarities and demos collection Pure Frosting, you might be able to pick me out in amongst the screams of the crowd (man, those were weird years). Somewhere around here is a guitar pick guitarist Dave Dederer signed for me at the autograph session that followed.

I don't doubt that Chris Ballew, Dederer, and the others in the Presidents were good musicians; just listen to the guitar playing on this single, and that wonderful bridge that signifies a time change toward the end. But I do wonder if the band suffered due to the path it chose to walk down musically. The problem with college rock is that it invites consignment to novelty...and novelty invites consignment to the ephemeral. And unlike other college rockers like Weezer, who seemed to have some deeper meanings in their goofiness, The Presidents seemed to think the lyrics were the thing in and of themselves. They kept embracing that strange little niche--we are talking about a band whose lead off single from it's second album was a paeon to smashing up toy cars in your backyard--and by the time they realized the Top Forty Bus had passed them by, they were unable to reconfigure enough to recapture the public's attention. To be fair, it also didn't help that the band broke up and reformed about three times in the last fifteen years--if you're not putting out music constantly, you're forgotten in modern pop.

I personally always liked this song, partially because of the time changes, and partially because of the sheer bizarreness that this became a Top 40 Hit at one time. This song's vague smuttiness does take a rather...frank turn about the minute and a half mark, with the whole thing about Chris mangling a rotten peach while fantasizing about a woman, but it doesn't really alter the not-quite-innocent fun of the song. And the greatest thing is that it is under three minutes (as are a number of the songs The Presidents released as a single), making them an acolyte of the true pop single. It's not as annoying as some of their other singles were--wanna try to listen to 'Lump' again ?--and it's a shame it's sort of forgotten.

Apparently, The Presidents are still together, albeit with the addition of guitbassist Andrew McKeeg to the line-up, playing Husky half-time shows and producing new music sparingly.

Here's the video for the single...and yeah, it's got ninjas...


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