Shot Of Rhythm

[ Friday, January 14, 2005 ]


The sorrow and the poopy

Okay, first of all, I apologize for that ridiculous entry title, which I realized was completely stupid (though appropriate) from the moment I typed it.

Anyway, two bits of bidness for y'all this evening. First, I just want all of us to sit for a minute with the latest political reality in the United States. The United States government, if you'll remember, based the invasion of Iraq on "rock-solid" intelligence, even "facts," as Colin Powell told the U.N., that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Bush hammered this point repeatedly and repeatedly, sending the people of this country into a low-level panic over the imminent threat of catastrophe possessed by Hussein and his terrorist cohorts. The anti-war movement, of which I was one of millions, questioned this conclusion, saying that the intelligence simply wasn't there. We were laughed at, called traitors, called stupid, and told to shut the fuck up.

Now, two years later, the United States government has ended the search for WMDs, concluding that - get ready - no WMDs exist, nor was their any compelling evidence to suggest that such weapons or programs existed. Now, one would think that such a revelation would send the Bush into a humunah-humunah backpedal the likes of which we haven't seen since Watergate. Instead, what we get is Dubya planning his inauguration and concocting some cockamamie story about oil-for-food as the rationale for war. Meanwhile, more die every day, more troops and money are needed, and blood runs in the streets all over the world. I think I speak for my fellow activists, plus clear-headed-and-hearted people all over the world, when I say: Fuckers!!!

But enough about that. Who'd have thought that the movie dialogue that would have me laughing the hardest of any I've heard in recent weeks would be: "I will not eat cat poop! No! I will not eat cat poop!" It's from the "unrated, uncensored" version of ANCHORMAN, the Will Ferrell comedy that ranks as one of the silliest films I've ever seen. I also find it really funny. It's further proof that Steve Carrell, who has a supporting role, is the fuckin' shit, as he steals this movie from Ferrell just like he stole BRUCE ALMIGHTY from Jim Carrey. Preach on.

On the box right now: Bob Dylan, CRAIG WERNER'S DYLAN COLLECTION, Disc 1. The best mix ever from the good doctor...


Dove With Claws [9:02 PM]


Another week, another moron

As Martin Price already discussed on his blog (, we can now add Prince Harry's party gear as the second nominee in the Stupidest Fucking Thing of 2005. (See 1/3 for the first nominee.)

If I could talk to ol' Harry, I'd probably ask him on what level does this sound like a good idea? Huh? I'm waiting...

On the box right now: Bush Babees, GRAVITY


Dove With Claws [10:26 AM]

[ Thursday, January 13, 2005 ]


Get a haircut and get a real job

Do we like or not like Michael Moore's new look? See it here:

On the box right now: Neil Young, ON THE BEACH. In retrospect, it might not have been such a good idea to play one of the all-time great doomsday albums at 10 o'clock in the morning. Oh well...


Dove With Claws [8:05 AM]

[ Wednesday, January 12, 2005 ]


Hey boys, I think I found the love you claim to have lost

While sifting through some forgotten records, discs I'd put in a crate several years ago due to my complete lack of interest in listening to them at the time, I discovered Hanson's first record, MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. I've always had a soft spot for their two big hits - "MMMBop" and "Where's The Love" - but had apparently decided the album wasn't worthy, either due to measured critical analysis, or - more likely - a combination of insufferable hipness and lack of time.

So I popped the record in today, fully expecting to grit my teeth through the other stuff on there to get to "MMMBop" and "Where's The Love." What happened was something entirely different. I found myself really enjoying MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, finding something to like in almost every song. The melodies and arrangements are memorable, the energy level is appropriately through the roof, and the production is clean without being wimpy, funky without being hackneyed. While this is not the kind of record that will replace anything on my top shelf any time soon, I can honestly say that I was sorry that I hadn't given it a fairer listen sooner.

I also realized that maybe my biggest mental block was in comparing it to other pop/rock records. For those who don't remember, "MMMBop" was considered alternative when it was first released, and even when the inevitable backlash started lashing back at the blonde brothers from Oklahoma, they were shelved next to sugar-pop one-shots like the Spice Girls. This is definitely not fair, since, as I realized today: this is a great R&B record. It's much closer to The Jackson 5 than it is to either Nirvana or the Backstreet Boys, both in terms of the vocal sound and the construction of at least the best tracks on the record. Granted, there are a couple "let's RAWWWKKK!" kind of songs that seem to be there to convince people that the boys have an edge, but much more successful are the songs (like the two hits) where Hanson gets a little souful. Not a lot soulful, mind you, just a little...

This dig through the record vaults has unveiled some other hidden treasures (and, of course, some shit that I clearly hid for a reason). I'll refrain from further discussion, but suffice to say that it's been a long time since I played Tom Cochrane, En Vogue and the Presidents of the United States of America in the same day...

On the box right now: Take 6, BROTHERS. Here's another from the vault...


On the box right

Dove With Claws [3:16 PM]

[ Sunday, January 09, 2005 ]


Frustrated incorporated

For the past week or so, I've been spending some quality time with the Nirvana boxed set. It's a quality piece of work; maybe not the "eureka!" that fans were hoping for, and certainly not an appropriate first Nirvana purchase, but for anybody who (like me) marks their introduction to Nirvana as a pivotal moment in their musical journey, the box - titled WITH THE LIGHTS OUT - is damn near essential. B-sides, demos, live cuts, the whole boxed-set shebang. It even has a DVD, with great footage ranging from a 1987 basement rehearsal to a sad-as-hell version of "Seasons In The Sun," with Kurt on drums. (My favorite moments on the box, interestingly enough, are without question the four Leadbelly covers, but I digress. Ask me about them if you're interested.)

Listening to WITH THE LIGHTS OUT, and analyzing the memories triggered by it, has brought me to one question over and over again. When exactly did rock and roll get so...well, frankly, so miserable? Now, obviously, there were always misanthropes with guitars, some of whom made careers out of being interestingly morose. (And some of whom - like Skip Spence or Syd Barrett - actually went crazy in the process.) But, nowadays, so much of the popular rock in the world is so goddamn depressing, one downer song after another. I guess this is what is referred to as "emo," but I can't figure out where it came from. Was the alterna-rock explosion of the early-1990s the moment where it became acceptable for our rock gods to be sensitive poets with flannel shirts and (pseudo-)feminist lyrics? Was it earlier than this, with New Wave's separation from punk? Earlier still?

My first thought was a somewhat instinctive denial that such a thing is even happening. "Surely," said the reactive skeptic in me, "there are songs about frustration and bitterness going all the way back to rock's very beginnings. Look at 'Donna,' 'Well All Right,' or just about any doo-wop song for proof of this." Of course, my internal dialogue being what it is, I responded to myself with the following retort: "Aye, you're correct, but what about the exuberance/anger that went along with such plaintive whimpering? Richie Valens, Buddy Holly, doo-wop, and all the rest mixed their mostly teenage frustration with heavy doses of nervy excitement and fuck-you posturing."

"Perhaps, then, " Reactive Skeptic Me responded, "it was the British Invasion, with its rise of cute-boy singer-songwriters like Lennon, McCartney and Townshend, that brought it on. Combine the 'I'm so lonely' moon-spoon-june of the 60s bands with Dylan's challenging, introspective wordplay, and you've got a new synergy between heart and mind." This was an explanation I was satisfied with, for a minute. "Aye, you're correct again, but a few things jump to mind. First, Lennon and McCartney wrote far more songs about the goodness and power of love than its inevitable pitfalls. Second, Townshend - for one - was far more angry than he was pitiful. Thirdly, what about the Rolling Stones? They don't fit this paradigm at all. Plus, what about garage rock? What about the radical cultural politics of so much 1960s music? As for Dylan, his themes are far too complicated, and at times too funny, to blame him for the shoe-gazing of Dashboard Confessional, Jack Johnson and the rest. Do they really seem to be following in Dylan's footsteps, or in the footsteps of any of the people listed above?"

Reactive Skeptic Me was fazed, but not done yet. "Alright, but what about what happened when the late-1960s hippie rockers decided that saving the world was for the birds, and they disappeared to Laurel Canyon and started writing endless paeans to their own heartbreak and cynicism? What about James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, The Eagles and the rest of that crowd? Even Randy Newman and Warren Zevon did plenty of that stuff." After throwing a few punches (symbollically) at Reactive Skeptic Me for impugning the good name of Neil Young (and then reminding him that Browne, Mitchell, Newman and Zevon were better in their sleep than most of today's emo-heads), I asked him - if that's the case - why do modern rockers sound much more like punks gone soft than the piano-friendly balladeers in that list? Why do the country, jazz and soul sounds in the work of those mentioned not appear in any real quantity?

Unable to satisfactorily answer this, Reactive Skeptic Me concluded the discussion with this postulate: "Well, then it must have been the underground rock of the 1980s, which then exploded through the alternative rock of the 1990s, combined with a proper cultural context - the relative economic and political stability of much of (white) America during the same period - that helped give rise to a music of internal pain and lovelorn musing. It didn't help that Kurt Cobain killed himself, helping everyone forget his punk and pop tendencies and creating another tortured-poet myth. (Same goes for Jeff Buckley.) Weezer, Dave Matthews, Smashing Pumpkins and Ben Folds had big hits, and even Radiohead got some airplay. Left with a saturated pop market and a lack of righteous anger in most rock music, we got left with a bunch of sensitive guys with sandals, square-rim glasses and open-tuned acoustic guitars. Lonely had a new soundtrack, music that is now called 'emo.' Too bad most of it sounds like shit, with lyrics that are better suited for junior high literary magazines." For once, we agreed. To celebrate our Socratic endeavor, we joined together, put on WHO'S NEXT, and raised our fists.

So what is it, folks? Any theories as to why this stuff has gained a certain hegemony, infecting rock from the underground to the post-emo pop/rock of Hoobastank or even Ashlee Simpson? Ashlee aside, is this a mostly white male world? If so, what does that say? Is any artist - even one as unassailably great as Nirvana - to blame for this? Moreover, why the hell do we want to listen to this stuff? Has this perennial bummer been chosen for any specific reason? Here we are now...entertain us?

On the box right now: Stevie Wonder, SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE

(PS-Check out Jessica Hopper's great essay about emo - and why she feels it's a male-centered, somewhat sexist world - in DA CAPO BEST MUSIC WRITING 2004. That essay was a key element on informing my views on this subject.)


Dove With Claws [6:46 PM]