?At this point, you are probably familiar with the delightfully offbeat music of folks like They Might Be Giants, MC Chris, Devo, The Apples in Stereo, Jonathan Coulton and other like-minded performers. Although stylistically different, each of the aforementioned acts has a sizable fanbase that self-identifies as nerdy. These days, the word “nerd” has become so overused that it applies to any kind of obsessive: movie nerds, music nerds, comedy nerds, comic nerds, and on and on and on. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. What’s important to remember is that everyone has a geeky side and that’s awesome. .
Awhile back, Topless Robot took a look at The 10 Best Nerd Songs You’ve Probably Never Heard Of. Since then, there’s been a bunch of new nerdcentric jams that are worth checking out. Focusing on under-the-radar acts, as well as musical obscurities and curiosities that you may have overlooked, this sequel list features ten more songs with subject matter that is either science fiction-themed or inspired by genre shows, movies and characters. From a 21st century “Space Oddity” to the oddest rap song you’ve every heard, here’s some more nerdy earworms that you’ll be humming for the rest of the day. Anyone want to do the Pee-Wee with me?
10) Screen Vinyl Image, “Asteroid Exile”
If John Carpenter directed a film version of Antoine de Saint-Exup?ry’s The Little Prince, the soundtrack would be Screen Vinyl Image’s “Asteroid Exile.” Hailing from Washington, D.C., the group creates contemporary shoegaze music that is equal parts Jesus and Mary Chain and Escape from New York. (Booming synths, detached vocals and guitars that will take your head off are their specialty). Like its fellow songs on the Interceptors album, “Asteroid Exile” is a dystopian epic about alienation–particularly that experienced by a lonely traveler who has been abandoned in the reaches of deep space. The song’s chorus, a robotic uttering of the words “I’m leaving behind just a fragment of time” sound as if they could be Major Tom’s last words — if he was trapped in the cosmos with only Albert Camus‘ The Stranger and a copy of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless to keep him company.
9) Lindsey Buckingham, “Time Bomb Town”
After putting the private and professional tumult of Fleetwood Mac behind him, Lindsey Buckingham embarked on a solo career. Amongst his greatest songs were “Trouble,” the timeless “Holiday Road” from National Lampoon’s Vacation and this obscure ditty that appeared on the Back to the Future soundtrack (you can hear it in the film for roughly 20 seconds just before Marty heads over to meet Doc in the parking lot at the Twin Pines Mall). Singing of a “bad complication” and “strange information” in a stuttering, pained vocal style, Buckingham presents a classic that could be interpreted as a metaphor for the staleness of suburban life or the ennui-drenched musings of a time traveler. The latter is perfectly suited to the adventures of Marty McFly, wouldn’t you agree?
8) The Rebel Force Band, “Chewie the Rookie Wookiee”
This song originated on Living in These Star Wars, an insane cash-in album by some mad geniuses known as The Rebel Force Band that was released shortly after Lucas’ space opera initially hit theaters. Everybody’s favorite Wookiee was given his due with this soft rock ditty that is punctuated with handclaps and impromptu growls. The tune ends with the sounds of a laser battle; one which I’m guessing that was started by Lucasfilm’s legal department.
7) Frank Black, “Men in Black”
Throughout his lengthy career as an alt-rock god, Frank Black/Black Francis has been obsessed with fringe interests like UFOs. His Lynchian approach to music — which also led The Pixies to cover Eraserhead’s “In Heaven (Everything Is Fine)” — reached a frenzy with the release of this 1996 single. Perfectly tapping into The X-Files zeitgeist of the time, “Men in Black” is a lamentation on paranoia and conspiracy that remains one of his catchiest solo tunes. Put it on your iPod, blast the volume and see how quickly it takes you to start spotting little green men. Obvious trivia: Chris Carter named his Millennium lead character after the cherubic Black. And speaking of The X-Files…
6) Catatonia, “Mulder and Scully”
When rumors recently surfaced of a third X-Files film, the Internet collectively sighed. Many fans feel the franchise had long ago squandered any goodwill that remained after the mediocre series finale. Still, it’s understandable if you, um, want to believe that there’s some life left in Mulder and Scully. So while you wait for a reboot, listen to the above valentine to the pair from Welsh pop act Catatonia that stirs up warm memories of the Flukeman, Jose Chung and other characters who appeared before the series lapsed into irrelevancy.
5) Disaster Area, “Only the End of the World Again”
As stated in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Disaster Area are a “plutonium rock band from the Gagrakacka Mind Zones” who are known for shattering eardrums, intense stage shows and complicated tax returns. In reality, the group existed as session musicians — including an electric guitar-playing Douglas Adams –that were hired to record this one-off song that originally appeared as a B-side to the”Journey of the Sorcerer” single that was released to promote the Hitchhiker’s TV series. Sadly, there’s no YouTube video to be found, but a quick Googling will allow you to hear it for yourself. (It sounds like a mash-up of T-Rex and Squeeze. In other words, as terrific as a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster hangover cure).
4) Neon Neon, “I Told Her on Alderaan”
The pop-tinged electronica of Neon Neon debuted in 2008 with Stainless Style, a loose concept album inspired by the life of John DeLorean (of time-traveling car fame). “I Told Her on Alderaan” ties to the Star Wars universe are tenuous at best, but who cares once that impossibly catchy chorus kicks in. It’s not hard to imagine Leia dancing around her space bedroom to this. Then again, you were probably imagining her there already. Perverts.
3) Pop Will Eat Itself, “Can U Dig It?”
Pop Will Eat Itself made a name for themselves amongst the 120 Minutes crowd with industrial-flavored music that was packed with wit and political statements. Oh yeah, they were also huge comic and sci-fi nerds. Released in 1988 “Def.Con.One” was directly inspired by the group’s love for Watchmen. They further paid tribute to the comic in their follow-up single, “Can U Dig It?” Taking its name from The Warriors, the song — a celebration of the band’s influences — mentions The Twilight Zone and Transformers: The Movie and declares that “Alan Moore Knows the Score.” Indeed! The accompanying video (watch it here) features panels from Watchmen and other British comics of the era. Moore must be okay with this because the members of Pop Will Eat Itself have yet to be turned into snakes.
2) B.O.S.E., “Robocop (Who R U)”
What happened to D.B. Cooper? Will the lost city of Atlantis ever be found? Why would a mysterious electro group named B.O.S.E. record a dance song consisting entirely of Robocop samples? Some mysteries are too compelling to be solved. The Internet yields surprisingly little info about B.O.S.E. other than that their name is an acronym for “Bass Overdrive System Experts” and they’ve also recorded similar songs paying tribute to Batman and Spider-Man. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how or why this song exists, just that it does and we should all be thankful for it. As for Robocop himself, well, apparently another one of his prime directives is to pack the dance floor.
1) Joe Ski Love, “Pee-Wee’s Dance”
Your eyes do not deceive you. The above fever dream is in fact an officially sanctioned Pee-Wee Herman rap song that comes complete with a cameo from Francis himself, Mark Holton. This was from the same era of hip-hop that gave us Nucleus’ “Jam on It” and Bad Boys’ “Inspector Gadget” rap, both of which are incredibly nerdy as well. So how did “Pee-Wee’s Dance” come to life? Here’s a Behind the Music-style documentary with the answer to that burning question and many others:
Goofy as it is, “Pee-Wee’s Dance” is also a cultural relic from a more innocent time when rap artists weren’t as image conscious. In its own way, the song helped set the course for Tone Loc, Young MC, Digital Underground, hell, even Parappa the Rapper by integrating hip-hop with humor. Or maybe it’s nothing more than a novelty song looking to cash-in on Pee-Wee’s success. Either way it’s fantastic.