12/14/2009

The '00s: The Decade in Review

Let’s cut to the chase: This was, in our humble opinion, the worst decade of popular music we have witnessed in our lifetime. (Btw, with 50 million album sales and 8 number one singles on the Billboard charts, Linkin Park were the biggest rock act of the decade. So, there you go...)  

Unlike the seemingly carefree makers of novelty records of decades past, its new breed of purveyors were embodied by charlatans who not only believed they were actually artists but were quite serious about obtaining fame and plastic stardom. And more often then not, reached their goals.

Many of those lucky (
?) enough to achieve blog-fueled, internet popularity—which in most cases faded as soon as it had arrived—were aided by impressive advances in modern technology, which not only made it possible for any clown with a laptop to fancy themselves musicians, but also, paradoxically, pushed the music business paradigm back into a pseudo 1950s reality, one in which certain artists were more beholden than ever before to their record company overlords. Or were so scared of the bleak new world they decided to give away their music practically for free after years of seeking fair remuneration for their recorded efforts.

On a personal level we saw NYC, and specifically
our beloved Brooklyn, become the toast of the music world early on in the decade. As musicians/music geeks with a sense of history we'd been longingly anticipating a time when the New York music scene would once again be the center of the industry universe. Like the '70s CBGB/punk/no wave era. Or the late '80s/early '90s hardcore scene. What we got instead was likes of The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Mooney Suzuki. (TV on the Radio was a blessing, tho.)

It wasn’t all bad, of course: many established artists t
ook the reigns of their careers and cut out the meddling, oppressive middle man with mostly positive results; some great albums of all stripes were made along the way; and music itself is more popular than ever, with live music once again returning to its past prominence.

So how will this decade be judged years or even decades removed from the present? Speaking in terms of popular music and pop culture, the defining characteristics of the last few decades aren’t perfectly aligned chronologically: the 1970s didn’t really get going until ‘72 or ‘73; it wasn’t until 1984, more or less, that what is perceived as “the ‘80s” began in earnest;
depending on who you ask, the ‘90s can mean the alt/grunge ‘92-‘96 span or the boy band/nü-metal two-headed monster of the decade’s final years.

Regardless of whether these last ten years might be looked back on as a brief continuation of the ‘90s, followed by a mish-mash of disorganized strands or unfocused post-modern nonsense, it stands to reason that, quite possibly, the means by which it was created and disseminated will overshadow judgment of the music itself. Of course we firmly believe
–or rather, fervently hope, for what it's worth–sooner, rather than later, many will look back and mutter to themselves "Animal Collective? Fiery Furnaces? Vampire Weekend? What were we thinking?!" That would be a good thing.

Too much stuff went down over the last ten years.
(Oh, and yes, lest we forget: whatever happened to the Coldplay wannabes like Aqualung, Athlete, Belarus, Embrace, Keane, Starsailor, etc. etc?)
But before we get deep into what captured our attention the most, here are our favorite albums from each of the last 10 years:

2000
AIMEE MANN Bachelor No.2 [Superego]
2001 – JON BRION Meaningless [Straight to Cut Out]
2002 – BECK Sea Change [DGC]
2003
NADA SURF Let Go [Barsuk]
2004 MATTHEW SWEET Kimi Ga Suki [RCAM]
2005 – FREELOADER Cantina Claqueur [JSS]
2006 – THE RACONTEURS Broken Boy Soldiers [Third Man/V2]
2007 – IRON & WINE The Shepherd's Dog [SubPop]
2008 – AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB The Golden Age [Merge]
2009 – PEARL JAM Backspacer [Monkeywrench/Island]

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Ryan Adams Love is Hell [Lost Highway-2004]
Andre 3000 The Love Below [LaFace-2003]
Audioslave (self-titled) [Interscope-2002]
Broken Social Scene Feel Good Lost [Arts & Crafts-2003]
Café Tacuba
SiNo [Universal Latino-2007]
Death Cab for Cutie
Transatlanticsm [Barsuk-2003]
Robert Downey Jr. The Futurist [Sony Classical-2004]
Flaming Lips
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots [Warner Bros-2002]
Sean Jones Gemini [Mack Avenue-2005]
Jumbo
D.D. y Ponle Play [BMG US Latin-2001]
The Lemonheads (self-titled) [Vagrant-2006]
Lightning Bolt Wonderful Rainbow [Load-2003]
The Mars Volta
The Bedlam in Goliath [Universal-2008]
Jason Moran
The Bandwagon: Live at the Village Vanguard [Blue Note-2003]
Dave Navarro Trust No One [Capitol-2001] 
The Noisettes What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf? [Universal-2007]
P.O.S.
Never Better [Rhymesayers-2009]
A Perfect Circle Mer de Noms [Virgin-2000]
Prefuse 73 Vocal Studies and Uprock Narratives [Warp-2001]
Queens of the Stone Age
Rated R [Interscope-2000]
Radiohead Hail to the Thief [Parlophone-2003]
Rollins Band Nice [Sanctuary-2001]
Elliott Smith Figure 8 [Dreamworks-2000]
Sonic Youth Murray Street [DGC-2002]
Sun Kil Moon Ghosts of the Great Highway [Caldo Verde-2003]
Super Furry Animals Rings Around the World [Epic-2001]
U2 All That You Can't Leave Behind [Island-2000]
The Webb Brothers Maroon [Warner Bros-2000]
Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot [Nonesuch-2002]

Zurdok Hombre Sintetizador [Universal Latino-2000]

If we were to pick one from this bunch, to be our FAVORITE ALBUM OF THE DECADE it would have to be among the records
released between 2001 and 2006 on the first list of favorites above.

But we simply cannot choose between the pop perfection on Brion’s lone solo disc; Beck’s late-night classic; Nada Surf’s comeback and finest record to date; Sweet at his most vibrant this decade; the farewell release from NYC’s Freeloader; or the debut from one of our favorite new artists of the last 10 years. (If we absolutely had to, we'd narrow it down to two: Sea Change and Let Go, but only with a gun to our heads.)



MOST REPRESENTATIVE ALBUM OF THE DECADE:
Katy Perry One of the Boys [Capitol-2008]

Why?

We’ll leave it to the All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine to explain:

Listening to Katy Perry's litany of belched alphabets, fruity boyfriends, Vegas hangovers, and lesbian lip-locks on her debut, One of the Boys, it's easy to assume she'll do anything for attention…[S]inging with the desperation of a fading burlesque star twice her age…Perry's shameless pandering on One of the Boys is startling, particularly as it comes in the form of some ungodly hybrid of Alanis Morissette's caterwauling and the cold calculation of Britney Spears in her prime.

[Perry] distills every reprehensible thing about the age of The Hills into one pop album. She disses her boyfriend with gay-baiting; she makes out with a girl and she's doesn't even like girls; she brags to a suitor that he can't afford her, parties till she's face-down in the porcelain, drops brands as if they were weapons, curses casually, and trades under-the-table favors. In short, she's styled herself as a Montag monster.

Perry is not untalented…but that only accentuates how her vile wild-child persona is an artifice designed to get her the stardom she craves.
Maybe if the music were as trashy as the style, she could get away with it, as it would have a junky thrill, but…her heart isn't in it; she's just using it to get her places, so she sinks to crass, craven depths that turn One of the Boys into a grotesque emblem of all the wretched excesses of this decade.
Runner up:
Kevin Federline Playing with Fire [Reincarnate-2006]
Brooke Hogan The Redemption [SoBe-2009]


FAVORITE NEWCOMERS:
a tie between
The Mars Volta, and The Raconteurs

Runner up:

Sean Jones
Prefuse 73
TV on the Radio

 


NON-FAVORITE NEWCOMER:
Vampire Weekend

Runner up: 
Lady Gaga

There's plenty of descriptions of our dislike for the Upper West Side preppy quartet elsewhere on this blog, so we'll spare you.

And we really don't care for Gaga one way or the other except to say she's a testament to 21st century hype and a more media savvy incarnation of Dale Bozzio, who has arrived to fill the weak, manufactured outrage vacuum left by Madonna's eventual irrelevance.


MOST WELCOME COMEBACK:
The
Lemonheads

An old ‘90s mainstay reclaiming its turf with a kick-ass, self-titled comeback album rivaled in their catalog only by the beloved It's A Shame About Ray [Atlantic-1992]. And some pretty cool shows to promote it, too.

Runner up:
American Music Club
My Bloody Valentine
Sunny Day Real Estate


MOST CONTROVERSIAL COMEBACK ALBUM:
Guns 'n' Roses Chinese Democracy [Geffen-2008]


The most talked about album of the decade—and quite likely, the last of the "event" records; the last grandiose album of the 20th centuryfinally saw the light of day. The over-the-top Chinese Democracy is a reminder of a time when—however self-indulgent—artists had true ambition and were willing to take risks and follow their muse, no matter what.

But…was it worth the wait? Nope. It's not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. And after that long of a delay nothing short of a magnum opus could make up for it. But it's a solid rock record and a lot better than anyone ever expected it to be.
More importantly, it's the result of an uncompromising artist who, love him or hate him, chose to make
Chinese Democracy his way or the highway, and followed through on his vision.


MOST DISAPPOINTING COMEBACK ALBUM:
The Stooges The Weirdness [Virgin-2007]

After 34 years, expectations for The Stooges' return to the studio were quite high. Unfortunately, the Steve Albini-produced The Weirdness turned out to be not only a nasty blemish on the influential Michigan band's recorded legacy, but with the death of guitarist Ron Asheton in January 2009, the truly final word on it, as well.


Runner up:
Big Star In Space [Ryko-2005]

Let’s clarify a bit: After a prolonged hiatus dating back to the mid ‘70s, Big Star has been semi-active since the mid ‘90s and we have absolutely no problem with that. (Hell, we even flew out to New Orleans to see them perform, New Year’s Eve 2000.) It’s this middling, Alex Chilton solo album under the Big Star name that is so frustrating. That the only redeeming moments on the album were written by the other guys in the band—guitarist Jon Auer and bassist Ken Stringfellow of The Posies; drummer Jody Stephens—says more about where Uncle Alex’s head was at the time than any of his songs on here.



MOST PLEASANT MUSICAL SURPRISE:
Robert Downey Jr The Futurist [Sony Classical-2004]

Actors routinely dabble in music attempting to live out rock star dreams; Downey Jr had already
—and notoriouslypartied like a rock star, so he finally took care of the music part of the equation with a satisfying, piano-based, singer/songwriter effort. Check it out sometime.


LEAST PLEASANT MUSICAL SURPRISE:
Discovering that the cheesy, faux-sleaze rock theme song to HBO's Entourage was actually a Jane's Addiction song. Lame.


BEST COVER SONG:
Hard Fi “Seven Nation Army”

As Jack White himself would demonstrate a year later, Hard Fi's dub rock cover is a great example of what the head Stripe could do with his songs when provided proper backing. Very cool.

Runner up:
Jon Auer “Gold Star For Robot Boy” (originally by Guided by Voices)
Jon Brion "Voices" (originally by Cheap Trick)
Ted Leo + Pharmacists "Six Months in a Leaky Boat" (originally by Split Enz)

Very Special Mention:
Mark Kozelek's breathtaking, solo acoustic, album-length tribute to AC/DC, What's Next to the Moon [Badman-2001], is a master lesson in reinterpretation for both veteran and aspiring performers alike.

It's incredibly rare that a collaboration between two artists we do not care for
especially, in this particular case, with said artists not actively participating in their mutual alliancewould produce such intoxicating results. But Freelancer Hellraiser's mash-up of The Strokes' "Hard to Explain" and Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle" was, well, "A Stroke of Genius", indeed.


WORST COVER SONG:
There were plenty out there but Ted Nugent's live rendition of the Sam and Dave classic "Soul Man" is not only laughably incongruous but so horrible it has no competition.

Runner up:
Britney Spears "Satisfaction"

Velvet Revolver "Psycho Killer"


WORST ALBUM COVER:
Brooke Hogan The Redemption [SoBe-2009]


And the music is even worse...on the bright side, it sold a measly 10,000 copies. So there's that.

Runner up:
Dark Meat When the Shelter Came EP [Emergency Umbrella-2009]
Ted Nugent Love Grenade [Eagle-2007]
Weezer Raditude [DGC-2009]


 


                                                                       


FAVORITE SINGLES (in alphabetical order by artist):

Ryan Adams “Wonderwall”
Arctic Monkeys “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor”
Armor for Sleep "Williamsburg"
At The Drive-In "One-Armed Scissor"
Audioslave "Cochise"
Coldplay "Yellow"
Death Cab for Cutie “The Sound of Settling”
Deftones “Change (in the House of Flies)”
Freelance Hellraiser "A Stroke of Genius"
Earl Greyhound
"It's Over"
Green Day "Waiting"
Guided by Voices “Glad Girls”
Incubus “Megalomaniac”
Injected "Faithless"
Iron & Wine
"Woman King"
JLS "Maco Jones"
Norah Jones
"Don't Know Why"
Longwave
"Wake Me When It's Over"
The Mars Volta
“The Widow”
No Doubt "Simple Kind of Life"
The Noisettes “Don’t Give Up”
Outkast “Hey Ya!”
Pearl Jam “The Fixer”
A Perfect Circle “Judith”
Queens of the Stone Age "The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret"
The Raconteurs
“Steady as She Goes”
Radiohead “House of Cards”
The Roots featuring Cody Chestnutt "The Seed (2.0)"
Scarface
"My Block"
Duncan Sheik
"White Limousine"
Elliott Smith
"Pretty (Ugly Before)"
Spoon “Don’t You Evah”
System of a Down "Chop Suey!"
TV on the Radio "Province"
U2 "Beautiful Day"
Weezer “Keep Fishin”
The White Stripes “Fell in Love with a Girl”
Zwan "Honestly"



FAVORITE LIVE SHOW:
Matthew Sweet - Irving Plaza, NYC - 3/25/00

Touring in support of In Reverse, on this particular evening Sweet gave us what we've always considered the ideal performance. Why? The band was in top form; the sound was on-point; and Sweet performed 22 songs7 from his then-current album and 15 from his catalogso we got to hear almost everything a devoted fan would want to, within reason. (Maybe 5 tunes from In Reverse would've been enough, but hey…)

Runner up:
Ruben Blades - Prospect Park - BKNY - 7/14/01
Wilco / Sonic Youth - Central Park Summerstage, NYC - 6/27/03
Jumbo - Prospect Park - BKNY - 8/09/02
Yo La Tengo - Prospect Park - BKNY - 7/12/02

The Lemonheads - Southpaw - BKNY - 2/23/07
Chocolate Genius - Castle Clinton, NYC - 7/11/02
TV on the Radio - Prospect Park - BKNY - 6/30/06


FAVORITE CONCERT DVD:
Paul McCartney Back in the US [Capitol-2002]

60-year old legend performs one of the most impressive set lists in modern pop history, with the best backing band he's had since leaving his old mates in 1970.

Runner up:
The Concert for George [Rhino-2003]

There are way too many musical tributes filled with star-studded appearances cast, so to speak, with individuals that have little or nothing in common with the honoree, with an eye on the bottom line and not on paying proper homage.

Sure, this memorial concert for George Harrison includes performances of his songs by a classic rock who’s who: among them, Eric Clapton (who acts as musical director), Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Jeff Lynne, Billy Preston, and Ravi Shankar, as well as the comedy genius of the Monty Python crew. (Where was Bob Dylan?) But all of them had a personal and professional connection to Harrison, and it shows in this loving and moving tribute to the man and his music.


 
FAVORITE MOVIE:
Children of Men (2006) directed by Alfonso Cuarón

An innovative and profound sci-fi flick; pregnant (no pun intended) with symbolism—it’s a modern-day nativity story of faith and hope amidst the bleakness and despair of a world fraught with infertility, chaos, terrorism, and jingoistic nationalism run amok—Children of Men may not have been a big deal at the box office, but Cuarón’s gem was one of the best flicks we’ve seen in a long, long time.


Runner up:
Amores Perros (2000)
Best in Show (2000)
61*
(2001)

Auto Focus (2002)
Mystic River (2003)
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Sideways (2004)
 
Syriana (2005)
Thank You for Smoking (2006)
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Gran Torino (2008)

Honorable Mentions:
The Contender (2000)
Snatch (2000)
Ocean's Eleven (2001)
Ghost World
(2001)
 
Igby Goes Down (2002)
Bowling for Columbine (2002) 
The Boys of 2nd Street Park (2003)
Old School (2003)
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
Mean Girls (2004)
American Gangster (2007)
Sicko (2007)
 
The Dark Knight (2008) 

WORST MOVIE:
The Room
(2003)

Runner up:
Freddy Got Fingered (2001)
Catwoman (2004)

Disclaimer: Because we are not professional film critics, and thus, do not have the time
nor, God forbid, the inclinationto see the hundreds of movies a year these brave folks subject themselves to, we researched what the general consensus was regarding worst films of the aughts and list here the ones among them we actually saw.
It seems we happen to have been quite lucky since that total came to just three. And in this case, it was definitely not a magic number.

As for the films themselves, let's just say that Tommy
Wiseau, director of The Room, is the new Ed Wood. 'Nuff said.

Tom Green
, on the other hand, is quite talented. But his Freddy Got Fingered is exactly what you'd expect from a man who filmed and publicly aired graphic scenes from his surgery for testicular cancer.

And finally, we believe there is an untold number of films
worse than Catwoman; this one's just spectacularly mediocre and boring.

[Regarding the ones out there we haven't seen, so much has been said about the John Travolta vehicle and screen adaptation of the L. Ron Hubbard novel Battlefield Earth (2000)
unanimously negative, as far as we can tellthat we are almost looking forward to watching it. 'Almost' being the key word.]


MOST DISAPPOINTING MOVIE:
W (2008)

OK, we'll admit we're damning him with faint praise but, truthfully, in lesser hands than Oliver Stone's, W would've been a successful endeavor. Perhaps. But that we expect so much more from him is the double-edged sword of the burden he bears as a brilliant filmmaker.

There were mountains of worse films, of course, and this one isn't even bad, but it suffered from being rushed
in order to precede the 2008 US presidential electionand it shows.


Runner up:
Wedding Crashers (2005)
Idiocracy (2006)

The former is a 30 minute buddy comedy romp followed by 90 minutes of chick flick nonsense. Seemingly aware of this folly, the powers that be have Will Ferrell pointlessly appearing halfway through the movie, for no discernable reason other than to try and re-inject some humor into this lost cause. No dice.

Meanwhile, the latter flick is a Mike Judge vehicle (he of Beavis and Butthead, Office Space, and King of the Hill fame) with a great premise500 years from now, centuries of rampant advertising, consumerism, and anti-intellectualism have turned humanity terminally stupidthat just didn't pan out and is, in fact, painful to watch.


* FAVORITE TV SHOW:
Chappelle’s Show (Comedy Central)

Forget the wildly popular catchphrases, try these skits on for size:

"Blind Supremacy" (a faux news feature about a blind, white supremacist, black man); "
Charlie Murphy's True Hollywood Stories" (Murphy's recurring hilarious tales from the '80s featuring Rick James and Prince);
"The Niggar Family" (a white, Leave it to Beaver-type family with a surname that gets them into some interesting situations);
"PopCopy" (a scathing send-up of Kinko's);
"Samuel Jackson Beer" (a parody of Sam Adams beer commercials re-imagined with the famed actor as its spokesperson);
"Wayne Brady's Show" (the actor/comedian sheds his affable public image and turns into a disturbed, murderous character akin to Denzel Washington in Training Day); and of course, "The Racial Draft"
(a sports-type draft in which different ethnicities vie for celebrities of a different ethnicity, and which has to be seen to be believed).

Although only running for two seasonsand a truncated third—comedian Dave Chapelle humorously tackled issues of race like no one since Richard Pryor, and in the process created a hands down, comedy classic. Brilliant.

Runner up:
Two and a Half Men (CBS)
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC)
Weeds
(Showtime)
Californication (Showtime)
Entourage (HBO)
Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
The Life and Times of Tim (HBO)
The Office
(NBC)

* [Had they not debuted in 1999, The West Wing (NBC), The Sopranos (HBO), and Family Guy (Fox), respectively, would've taken our top spots.]



FAVORITE RECORD REVIEW QUOTE: 
From the All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine's intro to Kevin Federline's Playing with Fire:

"One day, either in this life or the next, Britney Spears will have to atone for unleashing Kevin Federline upon the world."

Runner up:
Andy Kellman, also from the All Music Guide, from his review of Interpol's Turn on the Bright Lights [Matador-2002]:

"One might go into a review like this one wondering how many words will pass before Joy Division is brought up. In this case, the answer is 16."


MOST CLUELESS AUDIENCE:
The concertgoers who left Crosby Stills Nash & Young shows on the Deja Vu
tour in protest, claiming the band was "too political"                                                                                                             

One question: Who did these people think they were going to see? Seriously.
As David Crosby himself stated, "It's like going to an airshow and protesting planes." Jeez...


BIGGEST “WHY CRITICS ARE A JOKE” MOMENT
:
Cluelessness and/or Arrogance?

Franz Ferdinand, The Dead 60s, Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs, The Futureheads, etc. etc. etc. were labeled as fresh and innovative, with a sound seemingly conjured fully formed out of nowhere, when in fact, they owed a very big chunk of their musical identity to none other than Wire, The Jam, The Clash, and even early XTC and U2 circa War.

Or these writers didn’t know (which makes them ignorant) or they didn’t care (which makes them arrogant and useless). Either way, they are a disgrace. You know who you are.

Runner up:
The fawning over Meg White’s drumming “skills”



BIGGEST MUSIC NEWS STORY:
The fall of the music industry as we’ve known it

[for more see every other post on this blog in the last few years]

Runner up:
Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want model

An interesting and controversial move by a mega artist—baby bands: attempt this at your own peril—that could well-afford to take the risk of letting consumers set their own price for the quintet’s self-released 2007 album In Rainbows.

But most observers failed to notice how much of a boon this actually was for Radiohead and how they shrewdly covered their assess throughout: the press they got for the move was massive and overwhelmingly positive; whatever monies they would “lose” from penny-pinching downloaders they made back in spades, not only with their rabid fan base purchasing the initial available downloads, but also the various—and expensive—deluxe versions of the album, as well as the regular CD itself, which was released in January 2008.

In the end, In Rainbows garnered positive reviews across the board; won two of the four Grammy Awards it was nominated for ("Best Alternative Music Album" and "Best Special Limited Edition Package"; the song “House of Cards” earned three nominations); and combined total sales of the album, in all formats, exceeded 3 million copies. Not too shabby.


MOST BITTERSWEET INNOVATION:
The portable MP3 player and digital music stores

Awesome to have easy access to purchasing millions of songs online, as well as a portable device that lets you carry upwards of 20,000 tunes everywhere you go. Beautiful.

But despite upgrades, MP3 tracks still have comparatively lousy sound quality and are significantly inferior to CDs in that regard. Bummer.


 
SADDEST MUSICAL DEVELOPMENT:
Hip-hop enters its hair-band phase

Runner up:
- Something masquerading as “emo” takes the modern-day goth kids by storm

- Interpol become an acclaimed and popular band while Longwave languish in semi-obscurity

[In case you're wondering, we've given up decrying the usage of beloved songs in TV ads; the practice is so ubiquitous these days—and has become the only source of non-touring income for many performers and songwriters—that to even bring it up is practically irrelevant. Still doesn't mean we dig it, though.]


BIGGEST ENIGMA:
"Live vs. Memorex"

This is the thing that baffles us: more and more people each day refuse to pay, say, $10 for an album but spend up to 10 times—or even way more—on a live show. (Many will, in certain instances, pony up $20+ for a "deluxe" vinyl version, however.)

Yet, aside from the uncertainty that is an intrinsic part of the concert experience—performers having an off-night, bad sight-lines, mediocre sound, etc. can all rear their ugly heads, individually or collectively—the quality of live performance has been watered down across the board by a myriad of performers who, clearly, were made for the studio-bound artist era. (That’s how Auto-Tune went from being a pitch-correction tool known to producers, engineers and recording artists to a commonly used term.) What gives?

Runner up:
The likes of Judd Apatow, Bo Burnham, Dane Cook, Sarah Silverman, Flight of the Conchords, etc. are considered funny.




WORST POP CULTURE DEVOLPMENT:
The rise of “reality” television

Bar none, this has got to be the absolute worst; the punk rock ethos taken to its ugliest conclusion: “Hey, if that talentless clown can be on TV and become famous, why can’t I?

According to a 2007 article in The Economist, 1 of every 7 teenagers in the UK hoped to become famous via reality television. Need we say more?


FAVORITE QUOTE OF THE DECADE:

"I heard the title Vampire Weekend and I thought, 'Oh, man, that's gonna be great. I gotta see it.' And there are these guys with little Gap T-shirts on and I'm going, 'What happened to the balls in rock 'n' roll? Why are American bands so wimpy?'"

- Alice Cooper

Runner up:
"It’s Slippery When Wet with umlauts."

- Music scribe Todd Totale revisiting Dr. Feelgood, which Motley Crue played live in its entirety in the summer of '09.


GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN (by us, anyway):
Ryan Adams [but for how long?]
Armor For Sleep
At the Drive-In
Audioslave
The Dismemberment Plan
Ben Folds Five
Freeloader
Guided by Voices
The Mayfield Four
Ministry
Oasis [will it last?]
Red House Painters
The Rollins Band
Run-DMC
12 Rods
Violent Femmes
XTC
Zwan

12/12/2009

RIP: Eric Woolfson

Vocalist Eric Woolfson of The Alan Parsons Project passed away from lung cancer on December 2nd.

Originally a manager for Alan Parsons (whose engineering credits include The Beatles' Abbey Road and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon), Woolfson teamed up with his former client from 1976 to 1987 for ten Alan Parsons Project albums--the band made a point of not touring or performing live during that time--including 1982's Eye in the Sky [Arista], their most successful release.

Woolfson retired from the band in the '80s to work on musical theatre and had several of his works performed in Austria, Germany, Korea, and Japan.

He was 64 years old.

Marilyn Manson Dropped by Interscope

Oh, how the mighty have fallen: after paltry sales of 120,000 copies of his most recent album, The High End of Low, Interscope Records dropped Marilyn Manson from its roster last week.

This is a good thing, according to the singer.

"I was so restrained from the music that I wanted to make - what they would allow, [what] they would put out, what ideas they would allow to be conveyed in these videos. At least half of my creative output has been squashed, so now I think people can expect a whole lot more," Manson told Metal Hammer.

Well, he no longer has to deal with the corporate middle man and can now release his records and videos however he chooses. And, having been thru the record label machine and established himself already, if he can sell three-quarters or even half the copies he did last time--The High End of Low was released this past May--he stands to make a lot more money than thru Interscope.

But the sad thing is, at this point in his career, getting released by Interscope made less headlines than his reuniting with 22 year-old starlet Evan Rachel Wood. Don't care what he says, that's gotta hurt.

12/08/2009

Luis Dias (1952-2009)


[Photo by Rafael de los Santos]

Singer/songwriter/guitarist, musical anthropologist, and one of rock and roll's pioneering forces in the Dominican Republic, Luis Dias passed away from a heart attack and other health-related complications on the morning of Dec. 8th, in Santo Domingo.

Nicknamed "El Terror" due to his fiery spirit and decidedly mainstream-shunning, anti-establishment stance, Dias was, nonetheless, a towering influence on Dominican popular music, and one of his country's most often-covered contemporary songwriters. Active since 1968, Dias started making music in his teens, leading him in the early '70s to join Convite, a celebrated group dedicated to rediscovering long lost native musical idioms, of which he was a tireless researcher and supporter all his life.

This was coupled with an expansive knowledge of rock and jazz, to boot: in an early '90s interview with us, he named Carlos Santana and Jimi Hendrix as formative influences on his playing and praised Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, while speaking glowingly of The Clash, and commending then-current acts Soundgarden and Nirvana on their contributions. As for his avowed love of jazz, suffice to say, we once witnessed Dias and fellow guitarist Juan Francisco Ordoñez duet on a Charlie Parker tune and rip thru it like nobody's business.

But it is the seminal Transporte Urbano—a band whose mission statement was, as Dias himself described it, "to subvert traditional Dominican music until it becomes rock", throwing in palo, gá-gá, merengue, and bachata, among others, with elements of rock music ranging from rockabilly to metal—that influenced a generation of Dominican musicians, including Juan Luis Guerra, once one of Dias' numerous sidemen. Popularly referred to as "El Transporte" by its fans, the band was formed in the mid '80s, but despite periods of inactivity, had maintained a loyal and rabid following for a quarter of a century.

In 2004 Dias was honored by the Dominican government as a “cultural asset”; most recently, Dias was featured on the soundtrack of the Ed Norton-Colin Farrell police drama Pride and Glory, and won a settlement stemming from alleged copyright infringement between Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" and his own "Carnaval (Baila en la Calle)", which, in a popular cover version by Fernando Villalona, has been the unofficial theme song to Dominican carnival celebrations since 1984.

Dias was 57 years old.

12/07/2009

The Kiko Jones Experience: Episode 17 - The '00s

Back by popular demand: Here's the playlist for this special edition of the podcast: 90 minutes dedicated to featuring some of our faves from the last ten years. Enjoy!

1. SPOON “Don't You Evah” from the album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga [Merge]
2. GUSTAVO CERATI “Uno Entre 1000” from the album Ahí Vamos [BMG US Latin]
3. THE CURE “Before Three” self-titled album [Geffen]
4. AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB “The Sleeping Beauty” from the album The Golden Age [Merge]
5. MIKE VIOLA & THE CANDY BUTCHERS “Kiss Alive II” from the album Hang On Mike [RPM/Sony]
6. THE LEMONHEADS “Poughkeepsie” self-titled album [Vagrant]
7. WILCO “I'm The Man Who Loves You” from the album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot [Nonesuch]
8. FREELOADER “Minutes Past” from the album Cantina Claqueur [JSS]
9. NELSON POKET “Las Bombas Del Armagedón” from the EP Bonanza [La Viuda Negra]
10. THE MARS VOLTA “Wax Simulacra” from the album The Bedlam In Goliath [Universal]
11. ROGER MANNING JR. "Pray For The Many" from the album The Land Of Pure Imagination [RJM/Pony Canyon]
12. TEARS FOR FEARS “Call Me Mellow” from the album Everybody Loves A Happy Ending [Universal]
13. MATTHEW SWEET “The Ocean In-Between” from the album Kimi Ga Suki * Raifu [RCAM]
14. FINN’S MOTEL “Recent Linear Landscapes” from the album Escape Velocity [Scat]
15. STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS “Trojan Curfew” self-titled album [Matador]
16. ALEX FERREIRA “A Ciencia Cierta” from the EP Serenata De Plástico [WEA Spain]
17. 12 RODS “Marionette” from the album Separation Anxieties [V2]
18. ROBERT POLLARD “The Killers” from the album Standard Gargoyle Decisions [Merge]
19. BRAD MEHLDAU “When It Rains” from the album Largo [Warner Bros]
20. BRENDAN BENSON “Metarie” from the album Lapalco [Star Time]
21. TED LEO & THE PHARMACISTS “Old Souls Know” from the EP Mo' Living [Merge]
22. TV ON THE RADIO "Providence" from the album Return To Cookie Mountain [Interscope]
23. IRON & WINE “Carousel” from the album The Shepherd's Dog [SubPop]
24. NADA SURF “Blizzard Of '77” from the album Let Go [Barsuk]
25. SUPER FURRY ANIMALS “Sidewalk Serfer Girl” from the album Rings Around The World [Epic]
26. THE RACONTEURS “Five On The Five” from the album Consolers Of The Lonely [Third Man/Warner Bros]
27. BECK “The Golden Age” from the album Sea Change [DGC]

12/05/2009

Remaking Any Old Thing: Hancock 2

We understand when crappy-ass movies that do phenomenally well at the box office are made into sequels; a no-brainer, right? So, the Will Smith-Charlize Theron vehicle Hancock (2008) made more than half a billion worldwide on a $150m budget. Cool.

But does it really need to be made into a sequel? Seriously, while a promising concept, the film barely held up; the textbook definition of mediocre. And taking into account how sequels are traditionally inferior to the original, how exactly can this bode well for Hancock 2?

But hey, big money rules the world and Hollywood is no exception.

12/04/2009

What We're Listening To

What else?



What are YOU listening to?

The Susan Boyle Sales Phenomenon

Many of us are genuinely surprised that in an era of pop music where style has triumphantly body slammed substance, with music sales at an all time low and dropping, a matronly 47 year old has scored the highest first week sales figures for a debut album since Snoop Dogg did so in 1993.

Well, one thing we failed to take into account is that, contrary to Christopher Cross--actually, a sort of Susan Boyle look-a-like, who scored big with his 1979 self-titled debut [Warner Bros] only to have the hits dry up once MTV came to town--people already knew what Susan Boyle looked like before they bought her records, whereas the not-terribly photogenic Texan seemingly kept his mug away from the spotlight as much as possible. It stands to reason, however, that support for Ms. Boyle might be a one-off thing; those moved by her singing may have chosen this album to genuinely make a statement about the increasing plasticity of mainstream pop music.

But regardless, the music industry's 800 lb gorilla in the room is that "the kids" are no longer their financial lifeline: It's older music fans--35 yrs old and up--and those of genres such as jazz, classical, and world music, who don't steal music, um, "file share". Proportionately speaking, that's who generally buys music these days.

The key would be to try to educate this new generation--we're talking about those born in the '90s, who have been searching for "real" music and have shunned a lot of the fly by night nonsense from this decade--since it's clear the so-called Generation-Y aka Millennial Generation (born roughly between '76 and '89), for the most part, have proven to be quite useless when it comes to tastes and attitudes towards music, especially in terms of respecting intellectual property and the value of an artist's work.

12/03/2009

Jaco - "Portrait of Tracy"

Fellow blogger and long-time "5" reader Carolina Gonzalez once stated that if one were to watch The Matrix much later and not when it was released, its numerous innovations would not seem as impressive, due to the film's subsequent and widespread influence.

The same could be said of legendary jazz musician Jaco Pastorius' solo bass tour de force, "Portrait of Tracy", from his 1976 self-titled debut [Columbia]. Luckily for us, we came across this gem, not then, but before many of Jaco's fellow electric bassists took to heart his example of expanding the vocabulary of the instrument. Needless to say, we were floored; its grace and beauty undiminished to this day.

Pastorius died in 1987 at the young age of 35, but left behind a significant body of work, as well as a legion of followers and admirers. Released when Jaco was just 24 years old, "Portrait of Tracy" is, arguably, his signature composition. And still breathtaking.


Repent, End is Near, Last Days, blah blah blah: Susan Boyle Tops Charts and Breaks Record

AP:

Move over Beyonce. Step aside Taylor Swift. There's a new queen of pop, and her name is Susan Boyle.

The British talent contestant-turned-singing sensation sold just over 700,000 copies of her debut album, "I Dreamed a Dream," debuting at No. 1. Her record label, Columbia Records, says that not only gives her the best first week sales of 2009, but also the best-selling album debut by a woman in the Billboard SoundScan era.

It's been a whirlwind year for the 47-year-old Boyle, who became an instant star when she appeared on "Britain's Got Talent."

Happy Birthday

The Prince of Darkness himself, John "Ozzy" Osbourne (61); on December 3rd.

12/01/2009

2009: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Let's get to it, shall we?


ALBUM OF THE YEAR:
Sonic Youth The Eternal [Matador]

With their sixteenth album a muscular return to the classic Daydream Nation era, the veteran quartet shows no signs of slowing down—or diminishing returns—as they embark on their fourth decade together.

Runner up:
P.O.S. Never Better [Rhymesayers]

When we first heard rock and hip-hop merge we were excited about the possibilities. Of course, once it went down the road of Limp Bizkit/Linkin Park nonsense we had to throw our hands up in disgust and frustration. Stefon Alexander aka P.O.S. kept the faith, tho. And we are much better off for it.


FAVORITE ALBUM OF THE YEAR:
Pearl Jam
Backspacer [Monkeywrench/Island]

A modern day classic rock record, made by full-on true believers for folks not worried about hipness, market perceptions or other non-music related nonsense.

Runner up:
Them Crooked Vultures (self-titled) [DGC/Interscope]

Vocalist/guitarist Josh Homme, bassist John Paul Jones, and drummer Dave Grohl, mine the hard-nosed, blues-influenced late '60s/early '70s rock and roll that these guys have seemingly always worshipped or, in the case of Jones, helped popularize in the first place.


WORST ALBUM:
Chris Cornell
Scream [Interscope]

Scream
is assembly-line, Pussycat Dolls/Britney Spears-type tripe of the most uninspired kind, making it a tough blow to witness someone of this stature pointlessly fritter away a career of note for some ill-conceived stab at who knows what.


WORST ALBUM COVER ART:
Weezer Raditude [DGC]

Runner Up:
Wilco Wilco The Album [Nonsuch]
Dinosaur Jr Farm [Jagjaguwar]


FAVORITE MOVIE:

None


Truthfully, not one movie even inspired us. (We came close to seeing Star Trek but after watching way too many Michael Bay-space-opera-type previews we chose to pass.)


WORST MOVIE:
Brüno

How is it possible, after the Borat movie, that people would fall yet again for the same nonsense and be comedic fodder for another of Sacha Baron Cohen's lame-ass concoctions?


FAVORITE TV SHOW:
Hung (HBO)

Middle-aged Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane), a divorced, high school basketball coach decides to expand his finances and become a high-priced escort, pimped by Tanya (Jane Adams), a mousy, neurotic, socially awkward, former fling, who refers to their business venture as "happiness consultants" for lonely, horny women. Pretty cool, actually.

Runner up:
Bored to Death (HBO)
Southland (ABC/TNT)


BEST REISSUE:
a tie: The Beatles Capitol catalog; and
Miles Davis
’ complete Columbia Records years

Runner up:
AC/DC Backtracks [Sony]
Pearl Jam Ten [Epic]


BEST COVER:
Pearl Jam's "Why Go?" by underground rapper P.O.S.
Definitely a ten.



MOST UNWELCOME COMEBACK:
Creed


BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT:
Chris Cornell

Runner up:
Weezer

Man, have these guys lost the plot.


MOST UNDESERVED HYPE:
Lady Gaga

Yes, she is talented but, more importantly, she is also a hack.
A former resident songwriter for a major label who connected the musical lowest common denominator bullshit dots and added sexual ambiguity for effect, she’s Madonna for a generation that has never witnessed the real thing—who was always insanely overrated to begin with—and yet worships the long-irrelevant clay-footed goddess of pop music, despite not having an actual connection. (What a generation of music fans, huh?)

Runner up:
Wavves

C’mon, really? The lo-fi recording gimmick taken to the hilt is now a revered artistic conceit? Are you people bored? High? Un-fucking-believable.


BEST COMMENT POSTED ON “5”:
Next time I see 'The Cougar' listed in 5, it better be about Mellencamp!
- Josh Norek, Los Angeles, CA.


BEST THING TO LOOK FORWARD TO NEXT YEAR:
The beginning of a better musical decade

Would hoping for a significant amount of non-pretentious, non-hype driven, authentic, good music be too much to ask? That would be the best thing to look forward to, right?

Runner up:
The rumored Run-DMC biopic

* * * * *

GOODBYE
Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton; former Wilco singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer Jay Bennett; Pylon guitarist Randy Bewley; Bob Bogle, co-founder and guitarist for surf rock icons The Ventures; Jake Brockman, keyboardist for Echo and the Bunnymen; veteran actor David Carradine; poet/author/musician Jim Carroll; producer/musician Jim Dickinson, one of the architects of "the Memphis sound";'70s sex symbol and TV icon Farrah Fawcett; drummer Jerry Fuchs (!!!, LCD Soundsystem); Hall of Fame songwriter Ellie Greenwich; former Electric Light Orchestra bassist Kelly Groucutt; writer/director of classic 1980s coming-of-age comedies, Mr. John Hughes; the legendary "King of Pop", Michael Jackson; Del-Fi Records founder Bob Keane, who discovered Ritchie Valens; crooner Al Martino; Johnny Carson's long-time Tonight Show sidekick, and host of Star Search, Ed McMahon; latin music manager/promoter/producer/record executive Ralph Mercado; Ken Ober, radio/TV personality and producer, host of MTV's Remote Control; salsa artist Manny Oquendo; guitarist/inventor/visionary: the inimitable Les Paul; comedian Soupy Sales; producer/bassist Mark Smith (The Waterboys); legendary Argentine folk singer Mercedes Sosa; actor Patrick Swayze; Mary Travers, one third of '60s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary; Gordon Waller of '60s pop duo Peter and Gordon; British actor Edward Woodward, best known in the US for starring in the TV show The Equalizer.