It's one more random than 10!
Over at Three Bulls, Pinko and the Uncanny Canadian are doing their annual epic rundown of Pitchfork’s top 100 songs of the year. It is one of my favorite blog posts of the year, and their ability to say something funny for 100 songs is re-mehrk-able. For those of you unfamiliar with Pitchfork, it’s an indie music review site that has grown into the Second Life version of Rolling Stone during its late 70s/early 80s pretentious zenith. In their reviews, sentences get slaughtered, metaphors murdered, careers castrated, and sincerity sliced up—all done with the detached coolness of a Brett Easton Ellis protagonist who is a record reviewer stalking and eating bands he likes, humming old Ramones songs as he adds bits of the bass player to his goulash.
It’s like Pitchfork reviewers fall into the Dick or Barry category from Hi Fidelity. They are either obsessive-compulsive music nerds or arrogant windbags (who often lack Barry’s sense of humor). I am a Rob Gordon. I recognize that I have elements of Dick and Barry in my musical personality, and I can obsesses/pontificate quite well. However, I have a sense of self-awareness when I am doing this, as well as a nagging sense that these obsessions are a colossal waste of time, that I’d be better off obsessing about things that might be productive or Mean Something. This doesn’t make me better than the P-Fork cobags—in fact, you could argue that it’s stupid for me to obsess over obsessing about music when music brings me so much pleasure. It just explains why they annoy me so much...and why I keep returning to them for that annoyance. Which makes me part of the problem.
One other thing from last week: I wrote about how we went to dinner with some old friends, and one of their comments reminded me that I left out the funniest part of the evening. Now, the thing to understand is the restaurant we were at was pretty Del Boca Vista in terms of its clientele. We were definitely the most energetic and vocal group in the place. At one point, the six of us happened to zip it long enough to hear someone other than our selves. The first thing we do hear is an older woman at the next table finishing a sentence with the words “stool softener.” Which launched us into a flurry of laughter and conversation until we were the last people in the place and the management booted us so they could close. Reality really does provide the best punch lines.
1) “Don’t Stop,” Fleetwood Mac. Wow, everything is coming up Clinton again. It’s like someone took a snapshot of the White House in 1996 and Photoshopped Barack in place of Bill. I am not a gianormous Fleetwood Mac fan, but I have always really liked their biggest hits. I suppose that applies to the Clintons as well: not into the albums but have Clinton Gold in my collection. Unrelated: How much higher could Mick Fleetwood look in this clip? The answer is, "None." None more higher.
2) “Reptile,” The Church. An overlooked 80s gem and my favorite song of theirs. Song production in the 80s was always a mixed bag, because it tended to spoon so much sugar on songs, they lost whatever bite they had. Here, however, the trend of reverbing the shit out of everything really helps, because it makes the plunky main guitar riff sound a lot bigger and meaner.
3) “Romeo and Juliet,” Dire Straits. Precisely the kind of song Pitchfork would hate, because it’s so very sincere and admittedly kind of cheesy. But, to dip into another John Cusack movie, so is holding a boom box over your head outside of Ione Skye’s house—and that cheesy sincerity kills me every time I see Say Anything. Whereas some P-Fork reviewer trying to win a girl over would play some electro-noise track from the B-side of a self-released single that he loves because no one outside of the band has ever heard it. The girl wouldn’t be paying attention because she’d be inside sleeping with the guy who put “Romeo and Juliet” on an iPod playlist for her.
4) “Working Man,” Rush. It’s a dumb, dumb, dumb song, with a bare minimum of lyrics that serve merely to break up the jamming. But damn if that opening riff doesn’t snag me in its air guitar web every single time, and then rope me back in after all the wanky soloing. I have this song in Rock Band, but could NEVER play it with other people, because I get so into it, I would embarrass myself even more than I already do when I have a plastic guitar slung around my neck. Hi, I’m almost 40.
5) “On the Way,” Dinosaur Jr. They find their way back for the second week, with a much better song this time. A blistering track, with the drums and guitar freaking out during every fill, to the point where the song seems like it’s going to fly apart like a cartoon car that just exploded around Bugs Bunny—with Bugs flying through the air while still seated—until J Mascis brings it back together.
6) “Big Me,” Foo Fighters. One of my favorite videos. Dave Grohl is the best rock star in rock music. Not the best performer, or the most talented, or even the most deserving. But he gets what it means to be a rock star. He’s got just enough ego to keep an arena rocking while being down to earth enough to not seem like one of the Cock Brothers from Oasis. He seems like a guy who would be fun to get hammered with, but won’t strip naked, dive face first into a pile of coke, and drive a motorcycle out of the fifteenth story of a hotel into the swimming pool. So even though I’m not a huge Foo Fighters fan, I hope they keep being big and successful, because Grohl plays that role so well.
7) “Chicago at Night,” Spoon. The Lovely Becky and I have an odd relationship with The Windy City, our home town. When we are away from it, we miss it. We were back there for a week over Christmas, and it felt so nice to be back. Every Christmas Eve, we drive back from my grandma’s in Indiana to TLB’s parents’ house. Driving through Chicago at night, especially if the weather is clear and you’re not screaming at the asshole in front of you, is invigorating. I think it’s the prettiest city in America at night.
Yet, every time we’ve lived there, we’ve gotten restless and wanted to move away after a bit. I suppose there’s a grass-is-always greener effect at work, but I’ve lived in the area four separate times in my life already. It’s like getting married and divorced over and over again to the same person. You either love them for the wrong reasons or leave them for the wrong reasons. I’m not sure what the case is here.
8) “In a Simple Rhyme,” Van Halen. Their music has aged really poorly in my opinion. For starters, the production on all their records except 1984 really sucks. They always did had Eddie’s guitar coming out of one speaker when he was playing the main riff (and in this case, during his solo). Why they did this, when the best thing about Van Halen was those riffs, makes as much sense as thinking they could make it with Gary Cherone as a singer. The bigger problem, though, is their albums were paper thin in terms of quality. After that first album—which is pretty solid throughout—they phoned it in, giving a shit for a couple of songs so people would buy the album, only to deliver a bunch of half-assed tracks like this one. And David Lee Roth seems exponentially less entertaining the further away I get from 16. Although, to be fair, at least he was entertaining. Unlike, say, Sammy Hagar.
9) “Little Bombs,” Aimee Mann. Top-shelf Aimee Mann here. I don’t think she’s gotten back to the heights of Bachelor No. 2 (which, admittedly, would be hard to top), but this is one of her great ones.
10) “Fake Empire,” The National. Fake empire is a pretty apt label for the US right now, especially economically. I hope that Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi ass get put away for life, and in real prison where he’ll be food for freaks (to borrow from Out of Sight). At the same time, our whole fucking economy is a Ponzi scheme. Bernie was just more blatant about it. We use credit to buy shit we don’t really need, which provides money to the people who make and sell that shit, giving them the capital to buy shit from other people, and so on and so on. Speaking as a man who has owned five of the last six videogame consoles released to the public, I am certainly one of those feeding ExLax to the American economy.
The troubling thing is how obvious it all was, yet how much it got ignored. We were walking on a tightrope between two skyscrapers, but had no idea how high we were until somebody said, “Man, aren’t you afraid of falling?” We looked down, screamed, and are now plunging toward the pavement. Our only hope is to inflate one of those big stuntman mattresses so we might only break all of our limbs instead of splattering all over the pavement. This kind of stuff is supposed to happen to Albania, not us.
Am I buggin’ ya? I don’t mean to bug ya. Okay, The National play terrific, intimate pop with some rock flourishes and are well worth checking out. This song is from Boxer, which I don’t like quite as much as the outstanding Alligator, but it’s still a damn fine album.
11) “Keep ‘Em Coming,” Alkaline Trio. A little emo to make me feel better. Why does emo make me feel better? Because it’s nice to hear someone singing obsessively over problems like girls (or guys) or how they're so depressed because no one gets them or how they have to work at Cinnabon in the morning. It makes me miss little things to worry about.
So, after all that, I hope you have a good weekend. Despite thinking these things, I'll probably listen to some tunes, play with Libby, watch some football, and relax. Because what else can you do?