Song of the Week: Backing Off, Champion

Click Here to listen to “Backing Off” by Champion


I don’t know if you’re the same way, but there are certain songs that I like chiefly for the memories associated with them—I can put myself right back where I was when I first heard it. “Backing Off,” off of Champion’s album Resistance (cool album cover, right?) is one of those songs:

Quebec City, Winter Carnival 2009. I have long since lost feeling in the tips of my fingers, and when I blink, my tears freeze in my eyelashes. I have never been this cold.

My friends and I are waiting for this evening’s big outdoor concert to start—some guy we’ve never heard of named DJ Champion (pronounced “shamp-ee-on,” of course). Finally, the lights come up, and the muffled clapping of hundreds of pairs of gloves is audible, even though I’ve got two hats on.

I’m so cold, I think. I don’t even wanna hear this guy. Then “Backing Off” starts. The guitar part is played by three guitarists dubbed “The G Strings.” When the bass comes in, I’m dancing so much that even my eyelashes begin to defrost a bit.

By the time the guitar solo hits, (1:40 on the recorded version), people around me are actually taking off layers in the subzero temperatures. My friends are pogo-ing and shouting along to the chorus, and whoop when the song gets stripped back to bass and vocals (2:00).

I’m not actually sure how long the version of the song that I heard that night was—maybe around seven minutes? The recorded version is a lot shorter, but no less sweet, although you’re not really able to fit a lot of dancing into 2:53. You should try anyway.

Song of the Week: Generator, The Holloways

Click to listen to Generator by The Holloways

There must have been something in the water in Great Britain in the mid-2000s—it’s the only explanation I have for the spate of cheeky, poppy, and very good alternative rock songs that came out between about 2004 and 2008.

“Generator” is one of my favorites from this period. Musically, it checks all the boxes: hyperactive guitar, shout-along lyrics, and insouciant delivery. The unexpected spice in the dish, though, is that main riff at 0:20. It doesn’t sound like it’s coming from any of the normal places; neither rock nor blues. In fact, it’s always sounded African to me—equal parts Paul Simon circa Graceland and Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” Maybe it’s because of this African influence that this song sounds best in the car with the sun out and the windows down.

For me, the lyrics are pretty inconsequential in this type of song, but these are nice anyway, I suppose. Perhaps inevitably, the lyrics are about the uplifting power of music: “When I was a young boy I got a stereo/taped all the songs straight off the radio/ the sounds that the bands made and the melodies/was all I needed to make me feel free.” Music saves your mortal soul, etc. We’ve heard it before.

But you know what? I can’t even pretend to be immune to it. Between the lyrics and the African-tinged guitar part, this song always puts me in a good mood. Give it a spin and see if you don’t agree.