The Mother Hips
Background: I had never heard of the Mother Hips until Harmonix released Time We Had as a bonus song with the original Rock Band... and I was instantly lukewarm. Honestly, the song didn't really do it for me. I understood why it was a bonus song and nothing to advertise or brag about. But it started something... because a year later I recognized the name "Mother Hips" when browsing the DLC store, hunting for new tunes to play and enjoy (because unlike the original game, Rock Band 2 allowed Wii users to purchase additional songs). Curious, I previewed Third Floor Story and White Falcon Fuzz from their 2009 album and that's when I instantly fell in love. Since then, I've heard nearly everything they've ever released, from their fantastic live double album recorded last Christmas to the b-side and EP singles (like the radical jam Red Tandy which was bizarrely released as DLC, clocking in at six minutes instead of the usual two...). I fully realize Harmonix has, by all accounts, done these guys a great service by introducing people like me to their music and I am very, very grateful. I am so pleased to have their music in my Rock Band library. But I feel like these fellas don't get the attention they deserve; the band still has so much more to offer your ears, and I feel a debt must be repaid by preaching the gospel of California soul music.
The Obvious Choice:
Album: Back to the Grotto (1991)
And of all the girls in all the topless bars in New Orleans
All they've got are ass and tits and that don't mean a thing
The first song from their first album. It's an absolute jam. These guys have been around for a long time, and I would say they've only gotten better with age, but they haven't, because they were just as awesome 26 years ago.
Vocals: Melody and harmony start off gently enough, but man, that'll change halfway through... great lyrics, too. Any song that mentions bacon is okay in my book.
Guitar: A little bit of everything. Great solos.
Bass: It gets pretty interesting as the song goes on. Patience pays off.
Drums: Awesome. And I rarely say something like that.
Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Album: Later Days (1998)
All my problems are gold plated
All my bottoms exaggerated
My connections incarcerated
And I don't know when but my genius faded
To contrast with the raucous Obvious Choice, the first alternate selection is a twangy country-ish song which I've always thought to be about having problems but being the cause of them or feeling guilty that those problems really aren't so awful. This opening track makes mention of that California soul and references to an Eagles song to boot.
Vocals: Lovely melody and some nice oohs during the chorus.
Guitar: Relaxing acoustic chords and some pretty pickin'.
Bass: Nothing special.
Drums: Can drums be relaxing?
Miscellaneous: Crisp ending.
Rich Little Girl
Album: Green Hills of Earth (2001)
I don't know about no rich little girl
Walkin' around like her papa got some money
This ain't the most complex song, and that's fine. It's just a jam for the boys about the ladies.
Vocals: Fun, simple lyrics, with interesting backing vocals. Definitely a challenge.
Guitar: Bad-ass guitar all-around, especially the solo.
Drums: Lots going on here. Could be fun.
Miscellaneous: Explosive. Because there's literally an explosion.
The Personal Favorite:
Album: Kiss the Crystal Flake (2007)
Ooh, she's making me move, I'm a man who never did
Now I got to learn how to dance pretty soon or get left behind by the kid
I hate sexy songs. They make my repressed self uncomfortable. But this is a sexy song I absolutely worship. Harmonix already gave this album a bit of love with Time We Had and the downloadable jam Time-Sick Son of a Grizzly Bear, but three tracks would make the album title appear in my library...
Vocals: The desire in his voice just... damn, Tim. I need a cold shower.
Guitar: Simple acoustic chords and tortured electric whining.
Bass: Seductive. Make her move those hips.
Drums: Keepin' the beat.
Keys: A simple, necessary piano part. Adds a lot.
Miscellaneous: Fizzles out after all that excitement. Let's cuddle.