Greatest Un-Hits: MC 900 Ft. Jesus’ “If I Only Had a Brain” (1994)
Certain musical acts come along that are so original, so different, so forward leaning that their arrival brings irrevocable change to the fabric of pop music…even if chart placements and sales figures don’t back it up. The Ramones or Velvet Underground, are two such examples. Or Beck, who came along with a nineties defining postmodern, genre-combining pastiche slacker sound to fill the void when Kurt Cobain died, Nirvana broke up, and we all wondered what was next. “Loser” was a top 10 hit, but afer that, only music critics and generally cool people religiously bought anything Beck released, who has never enjoy blockbuster sales on par with his daunting influence or personality. But Mr. Hansen’s rap/rock combo, slackerism, and lo-fi DIY aesthetic would certainly be felt throughout music from then until now and beyond.
It’s ironic then that an act that sounded too much like Beck would fail to notch a hit song. And that act was Dallas’s MC 900 Ft. Jesus, part-rapper, part experimenter, part cynical badass, equal parts Beck and another, similar contemporary, Soul Coughing.
In songs like the single “If I Only Had a Brain,” MC 900 Ft. Jesus employed the same danceable postmodern mish-mash and self-effacing, lost generation humor of Beck. He even got the era’s pre-eminent director of innovative, funny, and memorable videos, Spike Jonze, to direct the video for “If I Only Had a Brain,” back when a good video was vital to a song’s profile and commercial prospects.
It’s now a dated bit of pure ’90s ninetiesness, but it’s surprising that this song only got as high as #25 on the modern rock chart, and didn’t make it anywhere else.