I’ve been meaning to get back to my Mixed Tapes series for a couple of weeks, but it got shuffled to the back of my brain, and my memory got jogged this morning as I heard New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give” on Radio 1.
Besides being a reminder that Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too has been on my to-do list for a while, hearing “Get” on the radio made me feel old, because I thought to myself “really solid songs don’t make it on to pop radio anymore”. Of course that’s not true, but the timelessness of that single and the rest of the record just doesn’t happen quite as much in the here and now, where people are constantly chasing the hottest featured artist, producer, or writer. I know I am painting with a broad stroke here, but it sure feels like it at times.
Brainwashed opens with “Mother We Just Can’t Get Enough”, and really sets the anti-establishment tone of the album. The song itself talks about a love (to my ears, I’m not sure if it’s a person or a drug, but these songs are open to interpretation), and “mother” is referenced in a way to say that she doesn’t approve, but she better get used to it. The ending, though, gets to the social commentary, talking about how everything in society is tied to numbers and money, as an automated recording says
Social Security Number please
Credit card number please
That flows right into the hit single “You Get What You Give”. Lead man (and only consistent member) Gregg Alexander yells out the count, and the song takes flight off of it, soaring throughout as Alexander sings about living life to the fullest. The infamous rap at the end name-checks Courtney Love, Hanson, Beck, and Marilyn Manson, and got more attention at the time, but in the full context, it’s an indictment of not only celebrity, but also government and big business. Alexander also rages against the machine and pop culture on other tracks, including highlight “I Hope I Didn’t Just Give Away the Ending”:
We caught a fey taxi driver
I smiled the ride was free
I felt like Amsterdam
She wanted more drugs and maybe me
I told her dealer I was broke
He hired a camera man
We did a porno film for coke
I hear I’m big in Japan
The highlight for me on this disc, though, is the ballad “Someday We’ll Know”, which describes the aftermath of a relationship, and uses a series of analogies to question why the relationship didn’t work out. As a twenty-something questioning why relationships never seemed to last for me, this song connected personally as well as musically.
Other strong tracks on the disc include “Jehovah Made This Whole Joint For You”, “Crying Like A Church On Monday”, and “Technicolor Lover”. In listening to the tape from start to finish, I’m struck first by how good it consistently is, but also by the cohesion between tracks. This is an album, not just a bunch of singles strung together. It’s good to know that in the midst of all the mediocre tapes that I still own, there are at least a couple that have stood the test of time.
– Alexander is the producer behind “The Game of Love”, which nabbed Santana a Grammy.
– “Someday We’ll Know” was covered by Hall and Oates.
– Danielle Brisebois, who co-wrote “Someday” and worked on other tracks, played Stephanie, Edith Bunker’s niece’s daughter who Archie took in on Archie Bunker’s Place.