It’s one more random than 11!
There is very little subtlety in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It seems like it’s always the best of something or the worst of something. The best summer weather ever. The worst winter ever. The most beautiful place I’ve ever lived. The most cold I have ever been. The best view I’ve ever had from my window, the worst Chinese food I’ve ever eaten. You get the idea.
We went through the coldest summer I’ve ever experienced this summer, and that was after a winter that didn’t end until late April, a winter that dumped 200 inches of snow on us. It’s bad when you think being in the belly of a whale wouldn’t be so bad, because at least it can’t snow inside of a whale.
The Summer of no Summer started with a June 1 where the high didn’t cross 50, and it climaxed in late August when my friend Tom visited. The morning when I had to take him back to the airport, it was 45 at my house and 40, four-fucking-oh, by the airport. In late August. I wondered if perhaps I had woken up in the middle of Ice Road Truckers.
Then, boom, it suddenly turned into the Greatest September Weather of All Time. This place was a Weather Channel paradise for about four weeks. Mid-70s, sunny, beautiful, perfect for taking Libby down for walks by Lake Superior. I knew it wouldn’t last, but it kept going and going, and we tried getting outside every chance we could.
In standard UP fashion, that gorgeous weather couldn’t slowly change, like bathwater gradually getting colder. No, instead we went from a 70-degree sunny day to a 45-degree rainy day with winds that gusted to 50 mph, the kind of winds that make you think twice about driving because you can feel them pushing the side of the car, like a crowd that wants to celebrate a sports championship by flipping your car over and lighting it on fire. It got a little better after a couple days of pure crap weather, but still, I can see the yellow writing in the snow.
The moral of the story: Always be careful when you move to a place that reminded Scandinavian settlers of home.
1) “Disconnect the Dots,” Smash Mouth. Which 90s musical sub-fad seems more out of date: ska punk or neo-swing? I don’t have any Big Bad Voodoo Daddy or else I could stage a lame-off.
2) “Givin’ Up,” The Darkness. A group that makes Jet seem like Rhodes scholars. The fact that I bought and enjoyed this slab of refried cock-rock is a testament to just how easy I am musically. Turn your guitars up to 11 and rip off AC/DC and I’ll probably let you slip your CD into my player for a night or two. Almost as bad as me buying Lita Ford’s greatest hits. Almost.
3) “Victoria,” The Kinks. That’s better, I thought maybe I was caught in a Sucklone. They sound like they’re playing in a pub, cranking it up to be heard over the yelping drunks.
4) “Let It Ride,” Dinosaur Jr. I have been spoiled by their new albums. Not only are they two of the most solid comeback albums I’ve ever heard from a band that reformed after their heyday, but the loudness of the recordings really captures the in-your-face sound these guys have always had. The older stuff like this still kicks butt and has that charming lo-fi garage sound. I just wish it felt like I was in that garage, waiting for the cops to come shut down the show, instead of feeling like I’m listening to a copy of a copy of a copy of the original tape.
5) “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight,” U2. The title has the unfortunate pleasure of reminding me of Homer Simpson channeling The Shinning. The album No Line on the Horizon has the unfortunate distinction of marking the first time I’ve been disappointed in consecutive U2 albums.
I am a big U2 fan. They put on two of the best concerts I’ve ever seen, I have every album except Pop, and I’m one of those annoying people who will try to convince you that Zooropa was really underrated. After the poop of Pop, I thought that All That You Can’t Leave Behind was one of the greatest returns to form since the phrase “return to form” became a rock critic cliché. But when How to Dismantle a Career Resurgence came out, I realized my excitement had been artificially pumped up by the “Vertigo” iPod commercial, and that while that song was just perfect for that commercial, it tended to wear out its welcome with repeat playing and without the flashy dancing iPod people.
I held out hope for the new album, but aside from a couple good songs, it just didn’t do it for me. It's not bad, just boring. That makes me sad, because I still think the world needs good bands that are huge. I’m happy that, thanks to the many Intertubes, it’s so easy to find good music from bands I never would have heard of. However, there’s something to be said for that good music that everyone’s heard of, that shared moment you have with someone when a classic song comes on and you both take it in. I’d like for those to keep coming out, not being relegated to classic rock radio, and U2 was one of those bands that still seemed like they could carry that torch. Now I’m not so sure.
6) “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.,” Sufjan Stevens. This is about as chilling as a song has ever gotten for me. There’s a point in the song where the bodies are discovered, and Stevens lets out a falsetto Oh my God that freezes me every time. For all the terrible serial killers that have been apprehended in my lifetime—and there have been a lot—I find Gacy the most frightening, because he was able to blend into society for so long and practically kill in plain sight. And he was a real-life evil clown.
7) “Trampled Under Foot,” Led Zeppelin. I have never liked this song and never understood how it became a classic rock staple. I find the beat monotonous in a bad way—not in the good way of “When the Levee Breaks.” Plant’s voice grates on my ears, and guitar and keyboard interplay has always sounded muddy and too cacophonic. When Plant says over and over, I can’t stop talking about love, I really, really wish he could.
8) “Gatekeeper,” Feist. Ah, this is getting the led out of my ears. She has one of those voices where it doesn’t matter what she’s singing about.
9) “Black Star,” Radiohead. I appreciate Radiohead. I know they can seem pretentious and humorless, but I appreciate that they take chances and try to mix it up. Having said that, I don’t always enjoy Radiohead. I often listen to a new album for a while, think, “That was good,” and move on. Except The Bends. I never travel far without a little “Black Star” and the other 11 stellar songs.
10) “Combat Rock,” Sleater-Kinney. The best combat rock since the days of Combat Rock. As much as we try to manage anger, it can be such a catalyst to creativity. This blog is a testament to that. I started it mostly to keep my head from exploding with the constant cognitive dissonance of destroying freedom in order to save it. Admittedly, when Obama won in November, I lost some of my mojo, because I was actually happy and hopeful, which does not lend itself to satire. That honeymoon is over, and between the increasing fucktardedness of the right, the frustrating spinelessness of the Democratic leadership, and Obama’s reluctance to seize the moment the way FDR did in 1933, I’m back to a nice, simmering burn.
11) “S.O.S.,” ABBA. I’m not going to fight it. The cold hand of winter is getting ready to give me a five-month reacharound (which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the frostbite). So why not warm up my winter wonderland a little by dancing with some Swedes?
Have a good weekend.