Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pomplamoose -- "Mister Sandman" (2009)

Give him a lonely heart like Pagliacci
And lots of wavy hair like Liberace

The Chordettes, a female vocal quartet that was formed in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in 1954, had their biggest hit with "Mr. Sandman" in 1954.  Obviously, there was a lot that they didn't know about Liberace.

The Chordettes
"Mr. Sandman" was subsequently recorded by Chet Atkins, Marvin Gaye, The Chipmunks, the Supremes, the Andrews Sisters, and Linda McCartney.  Perhaps the most famous cover version of the song was the one recorded by Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstadt in 1980.

Pomplamoose recorded "Mister Sandman" (not "Mr. Sandman") in 2009, and their version was a perfect choice for the soundtrack of this 2010 Toyota Avalon TV commercial:

I don't know quite what to make of Pomplamoose.  Their music is foamy and frothy and lighter than air.  It's twee squared.  Twee with a capital "T"!  Twee on steroids!  But the 337,000 subscribers to the duo's YouTube channel don't seem to mind.

Even their name is twee.  Pomplamoose is a play on the French word for grapefruit, pamplemousse, which sounds even more ridiculous than the typical French word.

The band's two members -- they're a couple in real life -- are Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn (née Natalie Dawn Knutsen).  If you don't believe they're as twee as twee can be, check out Pomplamoose performing "Jingle Bells" on this Hyundai TV commercial from a couple of Christmases ago:

Nataly, who does most of the singing, is probably a perfectly nice young woman.  But Nataly's style of singing -- affected and cutesy and almost childlike -- has become all too prevalent among young female indie singers.  This kind of singing needs to stop!  (As does Jack's insufferably goofy on-camera behavior.  No juggling -- please!)

I think the main problem with Pomplamoose is that Jack and Nataly both went to Stanford University.  (Jack majored in music, while Nataly studied art and French literature.)

Jack and Nataly: twee and tweer
Jack and Nataly are typical of pop musicians who went to Ivy League schools or quasi-Ivy League schools like Stanford.  Bands like Pomplamoose and Vampire Weekend (whose members went to Columbia) and others of that ilk are generally (1) too smart, (2) too affluent, (3) too self-aware, and (4) too well-adjusted to be rock stars.

Rock stars are generally angry -- perhaps because they grew up poor, had rotten parents, or were social misfits in high school.  From all outward appearances, Pomplamoose's members have absolutely nothing to be angry about -- so you end up with songs like "Mister Sandman."  

Ex-Harvard student Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine -- whose music is an angry as its name indicates -- may appear to be an exception to my rule, but RATM's anger is mostly just political correctness.  It's intellectual anger, not the kind of deep personalized anger that drives you to do great things just to show all the assh*les who dissed you when you were in high school how stupid they were.

These two graduated from Stanford?
It's not surprising that Pomplamoose picked "Mister Sandman" to cover, given that its lyrics feature a reference to the famous opera, Pagliacci.  That's about as intellectual as pop music gets.  (I don't recall any operatic references in "Hound Dog" or "Summertime Blues.")

Speaking of Stanford, I visited the Stanford campus recently.  As I've explained elsewhere, I stayed in San Francisco when my family flew back from our recent vacation there -- I was flying to San Diego on business the next night.  Before heading to the airport, I drove to Palo Alto and rented a very nice KHS hybrid bike from the Campus Bike Shop, a large, well-stocked, and privately owned bike store that's located smack dab in the middle of the Stanford campus.

Here is a picture of some of the bikes in the Stanford rental fleet:

Stanford has a very attractive campus.  I didn't think it had a lot of personality -- it was too tidy and uniform-looking to be all that interesting -- but it seemed like a very pleasant environment for its students.  And it is a very bike-friendly place -- a lot of students ride bikes to class:

Here's a view of one of the classroom buildings at Stanford.  You can see the Hoover Tower (named after Stanford grad Herbert Hoover) in the background:

Unfortunately, there were no good bike trails nearby.  I rode through Palo Alto's residential neighborhoods for several miles, crossing over into Mountain View before finally coming to the paved Stevens Creek Trail.  I took it until it ended in Shoreline Park, where I had a view of the marshy southern parts of San Francisco Bay.

Here's a shot of Stevens Creek and the trail:

 The trail runs along the western edge of Moffett Federal Airfield, a former naval air station that is now part of NASA's Ames Research Center.  

Hangar One at Moffett was built to house the USS Macon, which was launched in 1933 and was one of two largest helium-filled airships ever built.  (It was just a few feet shorter than the hydrogen-filled Hindenburg.)  Hangar One's floor covered eight acres and could have accommodated six football fields.    It's almost 200 feet high.  Hangar One is not only a big-ass hangar, it's one of the biggest-ass structures in the world.

Here's the Macon moored outside of Hangar One:

The Discovery Channel show, MythBusters, used another big-ass hangar at Moffett to disprove the old myth that it is impossible to fold a sheet of paper in half more than seven times.  (They started with a piece of paper that was as big as a football field.)

Moffitt Airfield is also home to a Boeing 767 owned by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.  (Google is headquartered in Mountain View.)

Here's Pomplamoose's "Sandman" video.  It's a good example of Pomplamoose's "VideoSongs," which are completely transparent.  Pomplamoose doesn't do any lip-synching -- for voice or for instruments.  If you hear a sound, you will see it -- and vice versa.  So when Nataly's voice is overdubbed to make it sound like she is singing three-part harmony, you will see three Natalys singing.  (There's a short interview with Jack and Nataly after the song, which I found unbelievably annoying.  How did these two get into Stanford?  They act like twelve-year-olds with room-temperature IQs.)

Click here to buy "Sandman" from Amazon:

1 comment:

  1. How about Homer & Jethro's "demented" version of Mr. Sandman? I haven't heard it in years, but I think it had a line that went something like: "Mr. Sandman, get out of here/She's got a shape like an old keg of beer...."
    Regarding Mr. Liberace, the story goes that some comics were making fun of him, and someone asked for his feelings about all the barbed comments. "Oh, it hurt me deeply! Why I heard one of those fellows, and was so upset, I cried all the way to the bank."