Tuesday, May 22, 2007 

The Best Music Of 2006 (Yes, 2006.)

We're within spitting distance of Memorial Day and summertime, so hey -- why not a post recapping my favorite music of 2006? (Shut up -- I've been busy with Sports Gone South.) Anyway, we did this in 2004 and 2005, so here's the latest version:

Song of the Year: "Dani California," Red Hot Chili Peppers -- Yes, it sounds exactly like Tom Petty's "Mary Jane." So what -- the roaring chorus and the Hendrixian outro solo make this the best "Snow Peppers" (as my boy calls them) song since "Suck My Kiss."

CD of the Year: "Stadium Arcadium," Red Hot Chili Peppers -- Hey, a twofer! The Peppers' CD was overlong, yes, but man -- every single one of these songs sounded at once new and completely familiar, and I mean that in a good way. They tuned into something primal on this one...this is the Platonic ideal of a Chili Peppers record.

Late to the Party Award (for the song I discovered after the rest of the world): "Sugar, We're Going Down," Fall Out Boy -- Yes, I seriously jammed on Fall Out Boy this year. No, I'm not a fifteen-year-old girl. Yes, I'm very, very sorry. But the beats and the rhymes were so dope...

"Gravity's Gone," Drive-By Truckers: Subpar (for them) CD, but this all-timer of a song, which includes the best lyric of the year: "She woke up sunny-side down and I was still thinking I was too proud to flip her over."

"World Wide Suicide," Pearl Jam: You want an award for mid-career revival, you've got to look to Pearl Jam. After nearly a decade of meandering albums, they turned out a self-titled blast of rock that was a worthy companion to their early-90s high-water mark.

"Old Dan Tucker," Bruce Springsteen: The Boss got no end of grief for his decision to turn to a 15-piece folk band for his most recent CD, but man, if this song doesn't get you moving, you're an idiot. Sorry.

"When You Were Young," The Killers: Springsteen's self-styled heirs had a bit of trouble matching his verbal dexterity--what the hell does it mean to be "burning down the highway skyline on the back of a hurricane," anyway? But it was fun rock, even if it wasn't as great as the band seemed to think it was.

"White Unicorn," Wolfmother: ROOOOOOCK! These guys brought back Deep Purple/Zeppelin arena rock without irony, and damn, did it sound good. A bit like eating warmed-over pizza, but that's usually still pretty good.

"This Is How I Disappear," My Chemical Romance: Wow. For an emo band, these guys damn near tore heads off with this song.

"Idlewild Blue," Outkast: I don't know what the hell they were doing with that whole "Idlewild" project, but this funk/flapper mashup was one of the smoothest tunes of the year.

"The Man," Pete Yorn & the Dixie Chicks: Great slice of beautiful/creepy alt-country.

"I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor," Arctic Monkeys: These Brits sound so damn snotty you want to beat them on general principles, but they can write a hell of a tune.

"High School Never Ends," Bowling For Soup: See Fall Out Boy above. Again, I'm sorry. I can't help myself. It's my hair-metal roots. Big guitars get me every time.

"Rise," Eddie Van Halen: Like here. This was a soundtrack to a porn movie, for chrissakes, and I still dug it.

"Cosmopolitan," Nine Black Alps: Where the hell did this song come from? More snotty punk with chainsaw guitars, but damn good.

"Fragments," The Who: Kind of a legacy vote here for one of my favorite bands from high school. This is okay, I guess, but outside of the slick production, the cascading keyboard notes are straight outta 1973.

"James River Blues," Old Crow Medicine Show: Neo-Appalachian folk that name-checks some of my old haunts. Like Springsteen above, a little goes a long way...but that little works damn fine.

Okay, that's probably enough for now...there were some other notables, like U2's "Window To The Skies," Beck's "Nausea," Kasey Chambers' "The Rain," Vaux's "Are You With Me?", and Jimmy Buffett's "Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On," but this ought to serve. Please don't hate me.


Sunday, March 25, 2007 

Entertainer-Fan Relations: Two Case Studies

There's probably nothing more annoying at a concert than seeing some douche jump onstage and throw his arms in the air like he'd just won the New York Marathon. The only saving grace comes from seeing security dogpile on the guy. Except when they don't. Here are two examples of very different ways to handle fans onstage. First, the ever-recalcitrant Bob Dylan:

Personally, I prefer the more hands-on approach of Keith Richards:

That'll leave a mark...hopefully.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007 

Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back

When I was a kid, my family used to vacation up in Virginia on this tiny little spit of land called "Deltaville" that jutted out into the Chesapeake. One summer, I remember I rode from Deltaville back to Richmond in my future aunt's convertible Camaro. Just her and me. She had long black hair that blew in every direction in the Lower Eastern Shore wind, and as we cruised the beachfront town, she put in Born to Run. And even though I was ten years old, man, I got it. And for two hours, I was living inside a Springsteen song.

It took a few years of wandering through the musical hinterlands of Rush, Zeppelin, Van Halen, et. al. before I made my way back to Springsteen. I've been hooked ever since, even though I'm living a life about as far as one can imagine from the Jersey Shore. I'll write some other time about the Springsteen live show I saw in Memphis, a singularly transcendent experience that was the finest concert I've ever seen.

Today's topic is the neo-Springsteens -- should I call them "Newce Springsteens"? No, no, I should not -- who are yelling and pining their way to the tops of the rock charts with a combination of soaring ambition and earthly subjects, ferris wheels and beaches and boardwalks and open highways and One Last Chances and all that flat-out awesome Americana. Kids too young to understand the mythology they're goofing around with are turning out some damn fine work, even if they're doing a lot of color-by-numbers.

The Killers have made the biggest popular smash, even if they seemed to construct their lyrics from a Springsteen magnetic-poetry kit, as with their hit "When You Were Young": "We're burnin' down the highway skyline on the back of a hurricane that started turning when you were young..." I don't know what the hell it means, but with all those majestic guitars, it sure sounds cool. Lucero's "I Can Get Us Out Of Here Tonight" carries "Thunder Road"'s DNA like a child; it's one of the best songs of last year. The Hold Steady nails the epic guitar-piano-sax-glockenspiel sound of the best Bruce, rendering even the idea of puking at a concert in bold strokes. And Jesse Malin, whose Glitter in the Gutter was just released today, goes straight to the source, drafting The Boss himself for a duet entitled "Broken Radio." (Links take you to the iTunes store.)

The amazing thing about Springsteen is how relevant he remains; even putting aside last year's foray into folk music, he's still putting out incisive rock. I'm not sure how long any of these off-brand versions will be around, but it's damn good music while it lasts.
(Check out that shot of the Atlantic City boardwalk. Looks like it could have come from the '70's...but there's a Starbucks there! That's what you call blog-post synchronicity, homes.)


Tuesday, March 13, 2007 

On The Other Side Of "Have You Seen Junior's Grades..."

Last night was a night I had been looking forward to, in some small way, for about twenty years. Last night, one of my all-time favorite bands, Van Halen, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Put aside the fact that America's one-time preeminent goofball rock band actually made a Hall of Fame...what's creepy is, I remember back during the days when I was really into the group, and I remember thinking, "They'll be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2007 -- Christ, that's forever from now." And yet, here we are.

Now, I've written before about the influence Van Halen had on me as a kid, so there's no need to go back down that road now. What was sad about last night is how anticlimactic it all was. As you may or may not know, Van Halen has been a joke of a personnel mess for something like ten years now. Eddie Van Halen has gone through something like seven lead singers -- with David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar coming and going several times -- and the group most recently brought in Eddie's kid Wolfgang to play bass, ditching founding bassist (and luckiest man alive) Michael Anthony. Not to slag on Wolfie's bass skills -- I'm sure the kid's fifty times better than me while fast asleep -- but the kid was years away from being born when "Jump" ruled the world.

Eddie's in rehab, sadly, unable to kick the bottle. Alex, apparently, has no thought that runs counter to Eddie's. Ever. And Roth is a flat-out nutjob, the classic Old Guy In The Club, zap-a-doodle-ing long after everyone else has left the party, gone home, gotten jobs, and raised a kid or two. It's a little pathetic, the way he hangs onto the golden days of a quarter-century ago, but the poor bastard doesn't have much else going on in his life, apparently -- he's done tours as a radio DJ and an ambulance paramedic ("Wow! Hey hey! That leg's gonna get amputated today!")

Which leaves other lead singer Sammy Hagar and Anthony, the two most normal members of this absurd crew, and the only ones able to get their shit together to accept the induction. It was more than a little sad, seeing just the two of them onstage, beefier, a little frazzled and off-key, happily warbling their way through "Why Can't This Be Love?" And then poor Sammy got dissed beyond belief during the final jam number; Patti Smith and Michael Stipe are all about peace, love, and understanding, except when it comes to letting overgrown frat guys take the mike.

Okay, so there's not much left in the tank with Van Halen. And everyone outside the band now refers to them in the past tense. Still, raise a beer for these guys. For a few years, they were as good as rock music got...and a few years from now, when the neo-Eddies take over music once again, let's just hope the master's still around to lead 'em.

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Jay Busbee runs Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR Blog From The Marbles, Atlanta Magazine's Atlanta sports blog Right Down Peachtree, and the Southern sports/humor blog Sports Gone South. He also writes for damn near anybody who'll throw him a buck and a byline, and he's at work on the books The Quiet Dynasty: The History Of The Atlanta Braves' Championship Run (2009, Sports Publishing LLC) and God Is A Bulldog: Georgia, Florida, And The Greatest Play In College Football History (2010, Sports Publishing LLC). Click below for more info on his novels, articles, and comics.
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