Tuesday, February 10, 2004

#76 will be up later today [scratch that, actually. I'm taking a day off, it's not like you don't have ENOUGH to read today], but I'm interrupting the count down to put up my comments for the Village Voice Pazz'n'Jop Poll, which just came out today. I got three good-sized excerpts in the mag itself (concerning the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liz Phair and Bush's scary-ass silent majority) and here's the whole rant that I sent them back in January:

2003: So what, I’m drunk

There really much in the way of obviously worthwhile social protest this year from where I sit in State College, PA (I’m pretty much waiting for the chance to vote against Bush) so while I was glad to hear from Ted Leo, the Drive-By Truckers, Liz Phair, Neil Young, Outkast and Northern State, it was the reckless hedonists: R. Kelly, Electric Six, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Junior Senior, and an endless stream of dance-floor filling crunkers who really defined the year for me – trying to have the best time of my life while waiting for the opportunity to vote against Bush.

While the Electric Six threw the best party (great music, everybody was happy and fuck if I didn’t walk away with a million anecdotes and in-jokes), the one given by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was the one where I fell in love. To be honest I was kind of drunk and the stuff we said to each other seems kind of incoherent and embarrassing when I tell friends. I remember jumping around the room with her to this GREAT music that was chaotic yet had snap, making funny faces at each other and pretty much knocking over everything, wrestling and laughing. I don’t think I ever felt so impulsive, so alive, so intoxicated by another person. Hell, I think we’ve been watching each other sleep, you know? I don’t think it’s always going to be like this (hell, first time I saw this girl I thought she was kind of obnoxious and uninteresting – maybe she’ll seem like that again once she stops wanting to be around me) but damn if that night isn’t going to be one of those amazing experiences that I look back on whenever I need to remember that I haven’t always felt alone.

If Fever To Tell was my new girlfriend, Liz Phair was an ex I hadn’t seen in awhile whose superficially SO DIFFERENT from when I last saw her (she’s totally tarted up and her new boyfriend looks like he’s actually upwardly mobile and probably has nothing interesting to say, oh fuck you Liz I bet you’re secret miserable now that you’ve entered the REAL WORLD) that it took me a long time to realize that she’s happier and more confident then I’ve ever seen her before. Sure her cynicism and bluntness was a lot more attractive when, like, she was in love with me, but if I actually stop thinking about myself for a second, I have to admit that she’s way too frikkin’ cool for me to be so possessive. I always feel awkward saying that having cool ex-girlfriends is, fuck, for the lack of a better word, educational. But in all reality I’m just lucky to know someone this honest, funny and observant.

Though I doubt I’ll support it, I’m incredibly curious when rap’s (or pop’s, same diff) current dancefloor obsession is going to inspire a “Disco Sucks”-type backlash. Maybe 50 Cent, Nelly, Snoop Dogg, et al will make a dialogue-free musical based around the Biggie/Tupac songbook. Maybe Victoria Beckham’s Roc-A-Fella debut will be the modern-day equivalent of the Ethel Merman Disco Album. Maybe Junior Senior and Electric Six will film “C-c-can’t Stop The Gay Bar.” Either way, this metrosexuality in da club seems like anathema to the Bush Adminstration and if GW gets re-elected I think we’ve got a serious case of Silent Majority coming. Hell, Toby Keith’s warning bells might sound a lot like N.W.A.’s did during the LA Riots. Don’t pretend they didn’t warn you.

The world needs heroes, but there’s no denying that Justin Timberlake makes a shitty Michael Jackson ’83 surrogate. “Cry Me A River” ain’t “Billie Jean.” CGI and awkward pop-lock ain’t the moonwalk. Pharrell Williams ain’t Quincy Jones (though I’d settle for Williams realizing he ain’t Curtis Mayfield). 3 million sold in a year ain’t 20 million in two. “Rock Your Body” ain’t “(Don’t Stop) Till You Get Enough.” “Never Again” ain’t “She’s Out Of My Life.” When JT was riding beats courtesy of Wade Robson and BT and standing next to folks like Lance Bass he had a commanding presence. Standing next to Timbaland he’s Jerry Lewis screaming “LAY-DEEZ!” - a fascinating clown. The only thing coltish about him is that he whinnies. Anybody whose most assured vocal performances are from the cuckold’s perspective ain’t much of a stud.

To be fair, it could be argued that Conor Oberst is a shitty Bob Dylan surrogate, tainted by indie rock hermeticism the same way Timberlake is tainted by the Mickey Mouse Club (both are tainted by CD-age indulgence). But watching Oberst (and his mainstream counterparts in Good Charlotte) reinvigorate American rock with genuine artistic ambition and an urge for testimony devoid of Bono-style messianicism is way more interesting than waiting for Star Search contestants’ vocals to merit their beats.

As the previous paragraph makes clear, I’m a rockist. While I definitely prefer Lil Jon’s “Get Low” to Ryan Adams’ “So Alive,” I’ve avoided purchasing much crunk in fear of singles-plus-filler baiting while I bought Rock’N’Roll DESPITE being unmoved by the multiple tracks I heard. The promise of Strokes/Interpol inspired guitar power and eccentric, earnest rock hero shtick was too great for me to not be sated until I knew for SURE that the album was uninspired hackery. Which it is. That Adams’ sentiments are based on stuff that’s “really happening” doesn’t make them any less limp and cliché. I know it really happened but Seabiscuit is still Rudy as a horse.

The irony of Kish Kash’s clutter would be the same as if Let It Be was credited to Phil Spector instead of the Beatles. These are shitty remixes of great guest collaborators by the “artist.” Me’Shell Ndgeocello, JC Chasez and Siouxsie Sioux remind us how far Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera have to go – they HOLD the screen - only to have their Oscar-worthy performances sabotaged by the overkinetic, shrill and jealous “auteurs.” Most of my peers don’t care because they’re not really into actors anyway. The prog-like fetish for technical achievement I find in “dance” music circles seems as ironic to me as John Ashcroft’s efforts to protect freedom.

Fuck Blur. Fuck The New Pornographers. Fuck the Kings Of Leon. Fuck Radiohead.

“Crazy In Love”: in which Beyonce confesses her love for Jay-Z, Jay-Z confesses his love for Jay-Z. It should be noted that Jay-Z doesn’t risk being upstaged by the trumpets.

“Ignition – Remix” took a while for me to appreciate. At first I was confused cuz everybody said it was a DANCE song, when really it’s an end of the night track, when you’re too drunk to do anything but smile and say “toot toot” while the credits roll. Plus I thought the song went too far into Kelly’s absurd hedonism until I noticed where he says he’s plowed (kind of explains how he’s kept from going insane with fear in 2002 – kind of explains how I did too!). But the Kelly number that knocked me out from the first listen was “Step In The Name Of Love – Remix,” the music is great, and you know somebody is falling in love (somewhere), someday it might be you so fuck it, step in the name of love. Hope springs eternal.

I’d like to make some wry comment about the absurdity of Snopp Dogg going from baddest gangsta ever to variety show host/AOL pitchman in ten years, but that’s way preferable to Kid Rock going from American Bad-Ass to most boring man on the planet in half the time.

I love how so many people don’t even notice that “Hey Ya” is the sound of someone trying to have fun right after dumping somebody they still care about. Everybody’s too busy shaking it like a Polaroid picture to tell him why we’re so denial when we know we’re not happy here. It’s totally bizarre to think of the Outkast album as being underrated, but damn if I feel like I’ve read a decent review of the thing.

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