Sunday, May 30, 2004

Joining Nellie McKay and Trouble Everyday on my Truly Worthwhile Albums of 2004 list is A Grand Don't Come For Free by The Streets.

Yeah, that's right. I'm actually handing that title to an album from England (first since Clinic's Internal Wrangler and Radiohead's Kid A). Where Original Pirate Material struck me as stilted and monotonous (if not without wit), Grand's storyline (guy loses money, girl, friends, consciousness, cool, innocence) gives Mike Skinner's lyrical gifts a stronger sense of focus, inspiring him to new heights of descriptive detail. The chorus hooks are inspired, the verses move with purpose and there's little to none meta-boasting at all. At a time when everybody is announcing ON the record that the record is great, Skinner shows remarkable confidence by staying in character throughout.

While its best enjoyed as a whole, the album's standouts thankfully don't require you to know that Mr. Roboto is Kilroy or anything like that. I'm dying to play "You're Fit And You Know It" next time I DJ, as it delivers all the "Parklife" shtick that anglophiles go apeshit over (dude needs to sample "Step In Time" from Mary Poppins someday), but ups the energy and replaces Damon Albarn's wackass Davies-drollery with an acute description of internal hook-up prospect analysis. "Could Well Be In" and "Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way?" describe romantic curiousity and contentment so perfectly that the eventual heartbreak of "Dry Your Eyes" is made all the more arresting.

Jess Harvell complained on ILX about how nobody warned him about "Dry Your Eyes," and while I knew better than to experience to the track in public, there's no amount of warning that could prepare you for how gutwrenching and affecting the song is (if you've ever been dumped by someone you still loved, at least). Where most writers are content to merely emote, Skinner deftly leaps from confessions of emotional vulnerability to an objective description of body language, capturing the futility of his pleas without a trace of self-pity. Some will claim (especially if this gets released as a single) the song engages in maudlin emotional exploitation, but that probably says more about the critic's lack of empathy than Skinner's effort.

A lot of critics have been warning off folks who dislike Original Pirate Material from checking out Grand, claiming that the music is even more taxing and static. I really don't know what the hell they're talking about. Skinner's improved sense of dramatic timing takes one's focus away from any lack of musical drive, the choruses are less rote and you don't really get many chances to get bored with the song (not much extended instrumental fade-out hell). While people who ignore lyrics entirely should avoid Skinner, Grand is the superior listen for people who were being distracted by the musical mundanity rather than obsessing on it. I haven't the foggiest whether or not this still qualifies as garage, grime, eski or whatever, since A Grand Don't Come For Free sounds like the kind of album that transcends all that subcultural shit and winds up being pop. Chris Martin's on it, for chrissakes.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

I spent a good part of yesterday making compilations of stuff from albums I'm taping over. Why keep five dubbed tapes that you'll never want to play in their entirety when you can make a 90min tape that thrills you out of the best songs?

1) Everybody who is bummed by the new Cure single (and you should be), should do themselves a favor and find the song "Contact" by Pop Unknown (found on their 2002 album The August Division). Beautiful Disintegration-style dreaminess with an emo-pop undertow that's bracingly effective.

2) Listening to Fugazi is pretty exciting anyhow, but listening to Fugazi being dubbed at high speed while chugging from a two liter of soda is one pleasantly rattling experience. My kind of "trance" music.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Songs I cannot do without from albums I can do without (note: I taped other songs from these albums before tossing them in my "sell back" pile, these are simply the crucial numbers):

"Cat Scratch Fever" & "Wango Tango" from Ted Nugent's Greatest Gonzos!

"The Kid Is Hot Tonite" & "Turn Me Loose" from Loverboy's Loverboy (I almost want to include "It Don't Matter" for its hysterical Police parody coda, but it's nowhere as important as the lyrics to "The Kid" or Mike Reno's desire to spread his wings and FLYYYYYYYY. Chuck Eddy called this album the 10th best "alternative" album of all time in 1995, which means he seriously underrated Get Lucky, the band's true keeper)

"Wop A Din-Din" from Red House Painters' Old Ramon (best not-metaphorical-though-possibly-symbolic song about a cat ever)

"Travel By Telephone" & "High Acetate" from Rival Schools' United By Fate (all the joy of Bush with none of the Gaviny aftertaste!)

"Another One Bites The Dust" & "Don't Try Suicide" from Queen's The Game (the latter is to suicide what "White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)" is to drug abuse - startlingly playful and incoherent. It turns out Freddie Mercury has tits and those who threaten to kill themselves are prick teases. Blow your brains out! DON'T!)

"Valleri" from Quarterflash's Quarterflash (Chuck Eddy once wrote a big long post on ILX about how this tale of sapphic confusion in an art school must have freaked out the guys in the band. Turns out Marv Ross wrote it, not Rindy. How about that.)

"Champagne Jam" & "Invisible Lover" from Atlanta Rhythm Section's Champagne Jam (my old radio show was called Fat Tony's Working For The Weekend Champagne Jam and passionate songs about masturbation crack me up)

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

My 5CD changer can program up to 32 tracks (and an entire album qualifies as a "track" if you play the whole thing). It turns out that if you put all of Mission Of Burma's original work in relative chronological order (which means slicing up Forget, Peking Spring and the Signals, Calls And Marches CD but allowing the Vs. CD and The Horrible Truth About Burma to play in the entirety as one track each) it adds up to...32 tracks!

Listening to a band's entire discography is a lovely way to waste a morning.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

My friend Rob lent me his copy of the Wilco documentary I Am Trying To Break Your Heart. It does a good job of avoiding the pomposity of Rattle & Hum (though the explanation of why Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is so stellar is pretty vague) or the insufferable bitching of Meeting People Is Easy and photographer Sam Jones gets some enjoyable images. However, the film did nothing to alter my belief that Wilco is above all else a studio band. I could see enjoying them in a bar while sitting down, but I found them stodgy and interminable (boring us doesn't equal "challenging" us, Mr. Tweedy) when they headlined an outdoor festival in town over a year ago (though my inebriated, heartbroken state may have affected my judgement). My current flip description of the group is "John Mellencamp meets Can" and without the freedom to overdub and finesse their songs only lift off through standard, Kenny Aaronoff ways (and when it comes to stage presence, Tweedy is no Coog).

The other thing I realized while watching the film is that I am, without a doubt, a Wilco fan. Tweedy's songs are strong enough to resonate on voice and guitar alone; when coupled with off-kilter, playful arrangements they become astounding. I can understand why intelligent urbanites from Robert Christgau to Michael Daddino are put off by Tweedy's midwesterberg mewl (I myself am unable to cotton to restrained will'o'wisps from Nick Drake to the Snow Patrol), but to ignore the band's beauty and evolution entirely seems unconscionably willful (unless you're a Jay Farrar die-hard, in which case we will never see eye to eye). Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was touched by the self-aware crippling of the "innovative genius" tag and I have no reason to believe that the upcoming A Ghost Is Born will remedy that dilemma, but you're not going to hear me ripping on these guys any time soon.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Top Ten Songs On This Week's Billboard Charts That Make Wish I Was Deaf

1) Chingy feat. J Weav "One Call Away"
2) Sean Paul feat. Sasha "I'm Still In Love With You"
3) Jessica Simpson "With You"
4) Nickelback "Figured You Out"
5) Josh Groban "You Raise Me Up"
6) Nickelback "Someday"
7) Counting Crows feat. Vanessa Carlton "Big Yellow Taxi"
8) 3 Doors Down "Here Without You"
9) Jay-Z "Dirt Off Your Shoulder"
10) New Found Glory "All Downhill From Here"

Sunday, May 23, 2004

I just taped two radio station promos in their entirety, an unusually large amount seeing as how I only plan to keep 20 albums from any particular year in my music collection. The quality of Mission Of Burma's ONoffON is really no surprise (they can't blitz like they used to, but the sound and hooks remain), but I was blindsided by how enjoyable I found Sonic Youth's latest, Sonic Nurse, which may be my favorite of theirs since A Thousand Leaves, if not Dirty.

Leaves had more thrilling highs, but Sonic Nurse does a fine job of embellishing the more traditional, pastoral sound of Murray Street and offering much more in the way of consistent listenability (I turn that album off after "Karen Revisited"). One shock for me is that while none of Thurston's tracks top "Rain On Tin" (his new penchant for melodicism, while definitely preferable to NYC Ghosts & Flowers-style "poetry," lacks the hummability of Leaves' "Wildflower Soul" and "Snare, Girl"), Kim Gordon offers some her most enjoyable lead vocals in a decade (She hasn't been the star of an SY album for me since Daydream Nation or EVOL!). "Pattern Recognition" and "Dude Ranch Nurse" are not without their moments of awkwardness, but "Kim Gordon/Mariah Carey and the Arthur Doyle Handcream" rocks without fail and the ballad "I Love You Golden Blue," probably my favorite track on the album (if not my favorite Gordon track since "Panty Lies" or "The Sprawl"), is devoid of the rewardless affectation that has sunk nearly every Geffen-era star vehicle of hers, starting with the excruciating "Tunic."

Her vocal on "Golden Blue" doesn't sound like she's donning a persona (as if that in itself provides enlightenment), but actually expressing emotional fatigue. It's like the sequel of "Starpower," with Gordon acknowledging a lack of energy - this fascination has been going on for 20 years - while still revelling in incomprehensible power of her subject's pull. The rest of the album seems relatively tame and workmanlike, but subtle godsend Jim O'Rourke and enlivened beneficiary Steve Shelley actually give the band a groove; one that, while arguably too "classic rock" for true believers, makes it easier for me to ride over awkward vocal passages. I'm guessing I'll be paying more attention than usual to the album in its entirety, rather than quickly cherrypicking a few songs for a best-of CD-R.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Top 5 Favorite Moments in the video for John Waite's "Missing You."

1) Not only does she storm out of the apartment, she bonks John's nose with the door as she leaves! Ow...

2) John's openly squeamish when the barfly tries to pick him up.

3) John's giant earing reflecting the glare of truth in our eyes as he sneers from his chair.

4) Many videos feature phones left dangling or slammed in anger. Only John can SHATTER a phone.

5) Missing him, she's crying and knocking on his door...only John can't hear her because he's listening to his walkman! This scene should have made headphone sales plummet throughout the world. I know I'm afraid to wear mine at night now.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Morrissey's You Are The Quarry features his most pandering, unendearing lyrics to date as well as lukewarm production and exasperatingly leaden tempos. The only track I ever want to hear again is "America Is Not The World," which is both anthemic and enjoyably eccentric. "First Of The Gang To Die" is almost spirited - Mozz even offers some tentative scatting at the end, but the lyrics are such an obvious sop to his newfound Hispanic audience that I'm surprised he didn't say "when you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way." I've never been less sympathetic to this guy's internal drama (and he shows up three times in my top 100 albums list, you know).

If you need a different perspective, enjoy Brent DiCrescennzo's sycophantic review of You Are The Snoring in Pitchfork. Turns out I'm a fool for wanting to hear strong, memorable music behind Morrissey's voice, for "any instrumental bed under such incandescent personality and booming voice would pale." After all, who ELSE in the history of recorded music would have the acidic wit and the bravery to use phrases like "evil legal eagles" and "uniformed whores"? Maybe he should just move on to spoken word! I mean, who didn't enjoy "Sorrow Will Come In The End" from Maladjusted? Ugh.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Well I got to hear one of the albums on that Top 10 list I made a couple days ago. While I remain glad that Jet's genuinely danceable singles are taking off in the mainstream while the leaden Kings Of Leon comb their moustaches in the land of pure bullshit (if they wore rebel uniforms they'd at least be fun to look at), Get Born doesn't provide evidence of any secret quality not found in their two hits. Their facelessness doesn't bother when you can strut to the beat ("Cold Hard Bitch" is worthy of Brian Johnston-era AC/DC), but these guys are hopeless when it comes to ballads or anything else that would require a modicum of personality or respectable earnestness (one slow number actually tries to come off like G'N'R's "Patience" and inspires little more than incredulous laughter). The lead singer's too wispy to pull off the alpha male act for more than three minutes at a time and he sounds like he learned sensitivity from Liam Gallagher. If he gets over his ill-fitting rawk tropes and shows a little soul and perspective on later albums, these guys might wind up being as good as .38 Special.
I'm pretty disappointed with the new Magnetic Fields album (the four songs I'd consider truly worthwhile are "I Don't Believe You," "I Don't Really Love You Anymore," "I Thought You Were My Boyfriend" and "It's Only Time" - and only the last one sounds like something more than a strong 69 Love Songs outtake), but I still have a lot of respect for Stephin Merritt after reading this Salon interview. It's a classic example of a highly intelligent and idiosyncratic person giving smart, challenging and honest responses to weak, uninsightful sentiments expressed by a bowled-over reporter. Merritt seems to me like he would be a glorious guy to interview; someone who avoids cliche and rehearsed expressions, someone who's actually going to make you see things in a different way. It's a shame people who try to have genuine, enriching conversations and have little time for anything else are dismissed as "difficult" or "testy."

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I'm really not looking forward to the experience of telling someone that Liz Phair's "Extraordinary" is one of my favorite singles of the year and having them react in disgust, screaming "Oh GAWWWD!! I saw that video!!! How can you like that?" Honestly, I don't know if I would have if I saw the video before hearing the song. I'm all for Phair diving headlong into mainstream pop sonics, but offering the same enthusiasm for hawking a Kate Hudson vehicle? Sniffles.

Speaking of videos that taint ones take on a radio hit, Mario Winans' overwraught emnoting in "I Don't Wanna Know" subvert the composure in his voice that makes the lyric's vulnerability so haunting. It always sounded to me like he was holding back some of his anguish, but the scrunched up face and pro forma hand gestures seem artless in comparison.

Thankfully, John Mayer's video for "Clarity" only increases my appreciation of the number by further reaffirming that he's my well-intentioned-pretty-bright-but-self-obsessed musical stand-in. At first I thought the scene of him driving around with the two girls was kind of cocky, but since I was basically in the same situation while in Philly (feeling equally good about it, too, albeit sans lollipop), I shouldn't judge. Now if there was some way I could get him to never play or discuss "blues guitar."

I keep catching Velvet Revolver's "Slither" on the radio in the middle of Slash's old-school orgy of weedly-wee. I get such a thrill from his unabashed wankery that I almost forget how crushing it is when Weiland's voice shows up to blandly grungify it all. Chris Cornell has a similar effect on Audioslave (the only time I put up with that endlessly put-upon windbag is "Like A Stone," because if Tom Morello's whoop-whoop-whoooooping solo is on the radio, I want to be hearing it). Rod Stewart is my pick for Cornell's replacement in Audioslave. Who would you rather see in Velvet Revolver than Weiland. Ronnie James Dio? Glenn Danzig? Ian Astbury?

I didn't have enough space in my Vines review to note that Craig Nicholls looks like James Spader in The Conor Oberst Story so I'm telling you now. Weiland now looks like Adam Ant in The Iggy Pop Story. My other observation while watching him shimmy was that I wished he'd stop.

Monday, May 17, 2004

I'll probably write more about these guys once I've determined that I can't do it for someone who might pay me, but Trouble Everyday is easily the best group I've seen in town that I hadn't heard a peep about beforehand. Evidently they're making a video for MTV2 Europe so it's really only a matter of time before all the people who ignored them at the Dark Horse start talking about how they saw them back when. Their debut album Days Vs. Nights will very likely make my top 10 for the year. There's mp3s on their site.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Top Ten Songs I Wish Mission Of Burma Had Played At Their Concert Last Night (In Order):

1)"Dead Pool"
4)"Learn How"
7)"OK/No Way"
8)"Heart Of Darkness"
9)"Seven Deadly Finns"

When Roger Miller broke into the Wipers' "Youth Of America" (I can play that guitar part too!) that I realized how little this list means. At least this should give MoB fans an idea of what they DID play. See them if you get the chance.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Tonight I see Mission Of Burma. Hot diggity damn!

I'm going to be posting daily again starting Sunday (peoples like consistency). About what, who knows.

The most exciting "laptop" performer I saw last night was the one who made a very quick Bill & Ted-style air guitar expression. It seems ILXors ar either equally unimpressed by this subculture or offended by the very idea of incorporating showmanship.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

My Ushermania has subsided somewhat thanks to his new single, "Confessions pt. 2." I reveled the sweet surrender of "Yeah!" and felt his pain on "Burn" (which is currently fighting with John Mayer's "Clarity" for my no. 2 single of the year behind "Toxic" - I think the deciding factor will be whether or not I have a girlfriend when Pazz'n'Jop 2004 comes around), but this new song leaves me cold. Sorry, but when you describe knocking up someone up behind your girlfriend's back, you are the LEAST sympathetic person in this particular triangle and I don't need to hear about your anxiety.

"This is the hardest thing I'll ever have to tell the woman I love..."

oh, do shut up. The song has nowhere as many as hooks as "Burn" does either.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

While I wish there were more candid photographs of the band in it (come on, give a '90s indie rock fetishist something to stare at!), I'm glad to have a copy of Perfect Sound Forever, the new Pavement bio. While the culture-oriented opinions in the book are bit too indie-good/mainstream-bad for my pop-diluted tastes, the chapters dealing with Pavement's origins were full of interesting anecdotes and astonishing revelations. Seeing the way hype built up around the band as they rapidly evolved from a piss-take noise-pop duo to The Greatest Rock Band You've Never Heard is fascinating, especially since most of the articles I've read about the band were written circa Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. It's also interesting to read a detailed description of the band's dissolution, since the press releases offered at the time were conflicting and vague. Author Rob Jovanovic offers enough quotes from the band to offset his across-the-sea take on U.S. pop culture (yeah, ok, that's a real bugaboo of mine), plus there's lots of photocopies of old reviews to ponder. Now where's that Guided By Voices bio? Or how about The Oral History Of Steve Albini?

Thursday, May 06, 2004

There's a BBC documentary on the new Pixies DVD, and it's fascinating to hear what all these Brit-rock fuddyduddies think about the band (the ONLY Americans were Kristin Hersh, who got about two seconds of air time, and Steve Albini). "Fooking amazin' bahnd" many of them talked about the intensity and violence of the music while only BONO (jesus wtf hell goddamn) acknowledged the humor behind it all. Nobody seemed to want to acknowledge the bubblegum side of the Pixies, only the pigfuck aspects. Oh wait, Gavin Rossdale talked about how the "Uriah hit the crapper" line made him crack up. His hair kept me from appreciating that. I'm giggling more than anything when I hear the Pixies. "he bought me a soda and tried molest me in the parking lot HEP HEP HEP!" Ol' Chucky Thompson was trying to keep himself amused.

I mean Bono claimed that the whole quiet verse - loud chorus thing starts with the Pixies. Dork, pop music been doing that since forever! Hell, Bread did it on "Everything I Own," Bob Dylan did it on "Like A Rolling Stone," even! Maybe the Pixies did more dramatically and frequently (it almost sounds LESS impressive when you realize how often they utilized it), but it wasn't a new concept.

Kim Deal is one of the sexiest people on the planet. If I ever bloat up I'm going to have Black Francis pics all over my apartment (just like George Costanza and his Dennis Franz poster).

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

I've been feeling rather inspired lately (one of the reason's last name is Mayer and his first ain't Oscar though he may well be a weiner) and once I get over this cold this page will feature some of my most proof-read and edited work to date (sweet diggity damn!). Until then, please enjoy the majesty that is AMERICAN ALIENS, Fred Durst's blog!!!!!!!!!!!

This post is dedicated to Fred Durst. You are my favorite muthafucka. I told you, didn't I?

Monday, May 03, 2004

It seems only right to celebrate Scott Woods creating a list of his favorite albums. One of the main men behind (a site that chain-of-events-wise has altered the course of my life) is now presenting his favorite song, album and movie from each of the 40 years he's been on this planet on his new blog. Dig in!

Saturday, May 01, 2004

A great way to create potential shopping lists is to use Robert Christgau's random A-list creator. Every time you refresh the page you get ten different A- or greater Consumer Guide reviews. Here's ten albums I'd likely buy (if I found cheap copies) from ten different A-lists:

First: Janet Jackson, The Velvet Rope

Second: this list is disqualified since I already own four of the albums (in order of favorites: On The Beach, Spend The Night, Another Green World, Lodger - which I actually just sold back)

Third: EPMD, Strictly Business

Fourth: Jonathan Richman, Jonathan Sings!

Fifth: Eminem, Fucking Yzarc (like I'm going to find Eminem bootlegs anywhere)

Sixth: Beastie Boys, Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds Of Science (I've been listening to my sister's copy of
this a lot. Great rarities, and I'd rather hear their mediocre funk jams in this context than on the full-lengths. Have I mentioned how excited I am to hear the new single?)

Seventh: Latin Playboys, Latin Playboys (what I've heard of this Los Lobos side-project I like a hell of a lot more than Los Lobos)

Eighth: Pretenders, Learning To Crawl (though I've ignored this album enough times in used vinyl racks that I probably should give Kimya Dawson's My Cute Fiend Sweet Princess a shout-out as well)

Ninth: X, More Fun In The New World (since I enjoy Under The Big Black Sun just as much as its more hailed predecessors - which is a bit but not a lot, I really should have the follow-up as well)

Tenth: Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Collector's Item (that Mario Winans song is making me hungry for some strong-voiced R&B)