Southern California might possibly the most sung-about region in the United States. These songs always bring up memories of sunny skies, shopping, dive bars, hipster diners and inexplicable angst--my L.A. concepts.
The Go-Gos - "This Town" OMG--I love this song so much. Throughout the 80s, I really didn't give The Go-Gos enough credit. I liked them and all but with hindsight I've come to see how fantastic they truly were. Partially because no other all-girl band has come close to their chart-topping success, and partially because having been in an all-girl band (plus a guy, eventually), I have large doses of appreciation for their song-craft and composition skills. Plus they had chops. And they were adorable, and as Belinda Carlisle points out in her autobiography, Lips Unsealed, there was chemistry, which is extremely evident on stage and on record. In looks, attitude and soundz, they were Fun.
This is a haunting and dynamic composition. It's not their usual straight-forward pop due to the bit of pathos running through it. It gives you a taste of life in Los Angeles, where the club scene was their playground.
X - "Los Angeles" What band is cooler than X? Uh...possibly The Velvet Underground. Maybe James Brown and his orchestra. Drawing a blank now. X is such a coagulation of contradictions that my ears can barely keep up with all their musical ideas. There's the pounding stop-start rhythmic breaks, Exene's continuously "wrong" harmonies, sounding absolutely right alongside John Doe, their tight rhythms backing the loose, almost sloppy, dark poetic melodies that run all over the beat. And that's just on this one song. One of the finest bands to come out of Southern California, or anywhere.
The Fall - "L.A." This song will automatically make you cooler just by listening to it. Try it. Do you feel cool by the second verse? It's drone, spoken word, and rock all of a piece. Mark E. Smith is the grand master of word salad. There's sense to his nonsense and this incarnation of his ever-changing band line-up was perfect for him and 1985. I miss putting the needle on the record and being astounded, like I was the first time I heard this.
Big Boys - "Hollywood Swingin'" Austin-based Big Boys didn't just riff on Kool & the Gang--they made sure they had a decent horn section to do this great song justice. A very early punk-rock cover that still sounds fresh almost 30 years later.