Thursday, June 4, 2009

"there's a green one & a pink one & a blue one & a yellow one..."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"...and they're all made out of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same."

Recognize those lyrics? That's the last four lines of the first stanza of Melvina Reynolds' ironically cheerful ditty, "Little Boxes," which was made famous as the theme of my new favorite TV show, Weeds. However, that odd, quirky, dark soccer-mom-drug-dealer dramedy deserves a whole 'nother post -- a whole score of other posts, in fact. As you may have already guessed by now, we're just concerned with the Weeds theme song today. You see, one of the many brilliant little details of the show is that during its 2nd and 3rd seasons, each episode began with a different cover of Melvina's "Little Boxes." It is truly an addictive song, a fun and simple melody with catchy lyrics, the kind that get stick in your head forever...but in a good way. Anywhoo, below are a dozen or so of the afore-mentioned covers from some spectacular artists, including Elvis Costello, Regina Spektor, The Shins, Jenny Lewis, Johnathan Rice, and the Decemberists. My only regret is that Zooey hasn't done one as She & Him, seeing as she was the special guest star of 3 or 4 episodes.

Melvina Reynolds - Little Boxes

The original - a happy-go-lucky little tune about cookie-cutter suburban houses (i.e. ticky-tacky little boxes) and the frighteningly happy & squeaky-clean WASP clones that inhabit them. It makes you want to whistle while you work.

Pete Seeger - Little Boxes (covering Melvina Reynolds)

Pete was a good friend of Melvina Reynolds, who at one point said that he played "Little Boxes" so well that most people thought he was the original composer. Listen to all the goofy laughter of his audience in the background.

Roger Scime - Little Boxes (soooooorta loosely covering Melvina Reynolds)

It's obvious that Robert's uh...expanding upon Melvina's song (more like putting a little of his spin to it). I do love the bit about "The Wal-Mart & the Wal-Mart & the Sam's Club & the Wal-mart" and the rent-a-cops. Tarnation, is this not the most whistlable tune ever?

Elvis Costello - Little Boxes (covering Melvina Reynolds)

It's Elvis Costello. Need I say more?

Regina Spektor - Little Boxes (covering Melvina Reynolds)

I love this here piano gal and her rendition of "Little Boxes." It doesn't get much more melodic than this.

Christopher O'Riley - Little Boxes (covering Melvina Reynolds)

Speakin'a pianos, here's the only instrumental version of "Little Boxes" on the list. I was unable to get the string orchestra version, which is of course lovely as well.

The Shins - Little Boxes (covering Melvina Reynolds)

I like the Shins a lot. [sarcasm]I know, I'm original. No one else likes them. That's why I like them so much. No one has ever heard of, much less liked, the Shins. This is a good cover by this young upstart band, a relative unknown.[/sarcasm]

Jenny Lewis & Johnathan Rice - Little Boxes (covering Melvina Reynolds)

I keep tellin' my friends we should play "Six Degrees of Conor Oberst" as he is the indie music equivalent of Kevin Bacon. I first listened to Bright Eyes 4 years ago, and through a love of him, all his collaborators, and their gorgeously unique work, I began seeking out the music of Jenny Lewis, Rilo Kiley, The Postal Service, Death Cab For Cutie, M. Ward, Neva Dinova, Maria Taylor, Johnathan Rice, She & Him, etc., etc, etc. So, Conor Oberst is connected to Melvina Reynolds, Elvis Costello, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah. Okay, I'm done.

Linkin Park - Little Boxes (covering Melvina Reynolds)

One tiny shiny bit of poppy goodness. Not a big fan of Linkin Park, but they do a great cover here.

As The Crow Flies - Little Boxes (covering Melvina Reynolds)

Right now, I am in heaven. That is all.

Nara Leão - Little Boxes (covering Melvina Reynolds)

A cover from the only Brazilian singer on the list, and coincidentally, it happens to be in Brazilianese. A beautiful, beautiful version, to be sure. I love hearing "ticky tacky" surrounded by a bunch of exotic-sounding foreign words.

The Decemberists - Little Boxes (covering Melvina Reynolds)

Well, my friends, I have saved the best for last. I mean, my absolute favorite band here in Fort Worth is The Theater Fire, and TTF is basically The Decemberists with a heaping dose of old-school country and a dash of mariachi added to their big group dark folk. This, my friends, is the best cover on the list, the best version of "Little Boxes" aside from the original. Hands down. And here's why, in Chris Funk's own words:

we thought it would be appropriate to have the chord progression shift to a minor key, suggesting a bit of tension and more directly, a darker tone. The song really isn’t that cheery when you dig a little deeper and get past that sweet voice and melody, in reality quite depressing…ah life.

True dat, true dat.

(Hit the jump for the full set of lyrics and one scandalous promo photo of Mary Louise-Parker [the show's star]).

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there's doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.


Lizzie said...

well any band that references Thomas More in one of their songs can't be bad (the shins). Ok, now I'm going to have to watch this show. I'll start watching it when you are gainfully employed. Gotta go baby crying. ;)

I adore anything Jenny Lewis does...

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