“YOU WILL DIE SOON”

All right. This post is probably only going to make sense to a small number of people, but I think it needs to be written.

A while back, I wrote what, upon reflection, is probably a little too-scathing of a review of the new Strokes album, Angles. As my friend Jesus Christ correctly pointed out the other day, I was hard on Julian Casablancas. I don’t like the way he approached the recording of that album and, though many people (mostly polite-ish people) have supplied a bit of context for Casablancas’s methods (apparently, according to a friend of mine who knows some people who worked with Casablancas, Julian felt that he’d carried the band through their first three records and, when they hit the big-time, they kind of abandoned him for solo projects and/or drug addictions), I still feel like he could’ve done things a bit more directly. And that context doesn’t change how I feel about Angles, although I must admit that I get “Machu Picchu” stuck in my head a lot these days.

I got a lot of comments on my Angles post, many of which hilariously (and correctly) pointed out that Casablancas is, in fact, married and has a kid. I didn’t research that because I didn’t care and I’m not going to try to make a better excuse for that now. I spend way more time researching things that I think will make funny jokes than I do looking up the various biographical statistics of famous people. Many of the comments said silly, bitter things like suggesting that perhaps I was cuckolded by Julian Casablancas and that’s what fueled my anger toward him. That’s all fine. I get comments like that all the time and I’m sure I will forever until I stop doing Bollocks! altogether. I completely respect and encourage your right to disagree with me and to speculate about the stability of my marriage all you want. After all, my right to say whatever I want about your favorite bands implies your right to say whatever you want about me. I’d still have a beer with you and I’m guessing, by the end of a conversation in person, we’d probably understand – and maybe even like – each other just fine.

But just today, I got a comment that I think went a little overboard. The commenter, who chose the very creative user name “IHATEYOU,” didn’t just state that he or she thinks I am a “PIECE OF SHIT.” I’d be perfectly okay with if they had. I’ve been called a piece of shit many, many times in the last three years and it hasn’t hurt me at all. But IHATEYOU thought it would be fun to also warn me that I “BETTER NOT SLEEP TONIGHT, BECAUSE ME AND OTHER FANS ARE COMMING FOR YOU.” As usual, I did not edit IHATEYOU’s all-caps screed for grammar, so I must apologize to my more literate readers. What I think IHATEYOU is trying to say is that he/she and other Strokes fans are going to try to kill me. Tonight. Which is unsettling because I have to work tonight. With a young woman who has cerebral palsy. And it’s gonna make things very hard for me indeed if an angry, semi-literate Strokes fan is “COMMING” for me, whatever that means.

In all seriousness, I sent IHATEYOU’s comment to the people at WordPress and they’re going to tell me exactly how I can report IHATEYOU to the proper law enforcement agency. While I would like to believe that IHATEYOU is just some kid out there in cyberspace, blowing off steam, I take threats against my life – especially threats that end with “YOU WILL DIE SOON” – very seriously. I hope that the police find IHATEYOU and help him or her get the psychological help (and grammar instruction) that they so clearly need.

I’ve explained many times since Bollocks! began that nothing I write on this blog is meant to be taken as an indictment of anyone else’s taste in music. It is simply a way to record my feelings on an album when I happen to be feeling them. I am not going to apologize for not liking Angles, though I am sorry if I hurt Julian Casablancas’s feelings by cracking that I hope he never gets married. I hope he enjoys married life and fatherhood very much. Contrary to what some people believe, I don’t hate Casablancas and I don’t have a grudge against him. If he and I are ever in the same city, I’d be happy to buy the man a cup of coffee and hear his side of things in a very informal, off the record way.

But I’d also like to point out (not for the first time) that nobody, to my knowledge, has ever been forced to read Bollocks!. You choose to read it and you choose how you respond to it. Honestly, some of the comments make me laugh a lot, even the mean ones. But IHATEYOU not only threatened my life, he/she implied that “OTHER FANS” agree with his/her plan of violence against me. I do not believe this is true. I know a great many Strokes fans (I myself am a Strokes fan) and some of them have disagreed with me about Angles without ever threatening to kill me (by the way, I’m guessing IHATEYOU is probably the stabby user on this Tumblr page.)

In closing, let me say this: if you have serious beef with something I say on this site, you’re well within your rights to tell me so. Post a comment, but bear in mind that the less reasonable you are, the less likely I am to see your point of view. And I’m serious about meeting with some of you in well-lit, public places to talk about music. But I don’t want you to think that I think Bollocks! is all that important (it is neither of my two jobs and it generates absolutely no income for me. If you read it and think to yourself, “Hey, that’s just some asshole talking shit on the internet,” you are exactly correct) and I certainly don’t want reading it to ruin your day. If you read more than one or two posts on here, I bet you’ll find something you kind of enjoy. And if not, hey, no hard feelings. You can say literally anything you want when you comment on a Bollocks! post; but you cannot, even if you think you’re being funny, threaten me or any of the other users who are making comments. People die for incredibly stupid shit every single day and I’m not going to tolerate even an idle threat to kill someone because they don’t like one Strokes album. And if IHATEYOU’s threat is real, they need help and I intend to do everything in my power to see that they get it.

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Is There a Correlation Between Music’s Popularity and Its Shittiness?

So a couple of weeks ago, I was discussing my Grammys post-mortem with my pal Max and he asked me a question, inspired by my assertion that, statistically speaking, a Grammy-nominated band will be a shitty band. That question was, “Do you think music’s popularity and its shittiness are somehow correlated? And if so, why?”

I gave Max a short answer (“Not as much as people think”) but he and I agreed that an in-depth discussion of this topic might make a good Bollocks! post. So that’s what this is.

The first thing you have to get out of the way in any discussion like this is the (obvious to me) fact that this is all dependent upon taste. One man’s dookie is another man’s donut and all that. If you like a lot of really popular music, you would probably say that there’s a correlation between its popularity and its greatness. And that’s fine.

But Bollocks! is all about my opinion; for whatever reason, that’s what people come here to read. As I’ve said a billion times (and I’ll say it a billion more), we can love completely different music and still be friends. I promise. But the fact is, I don’t like very much popular music so it might be tempting for me to say that there is a correlation between how popular something is and how awful it is.

But I don’t think that’s the case. There’s plenty of insanely popular music that I like: Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, the Beatles, Cee Lo Green’s Ladykiller, and I could go on all day. I bring this up to provide you, humble Bollocks! readers, with evidence that I never dislike popular music (what the fuck is a Kesha, anyway? I won’t put the fucking dollar sign in her name, either. But what the fuck is she? Who is creating demand for a white trash pop diva?) simply because it is popular.

For purposes of our discussion, I’m gonna divide popular music into two categories: good popular music and bad popular music. Again, this is all based on my subjective experience of music (there is no objective experience of art, no matter what any pretentious asshole tries to tell you. It pleases you or it doesn’t and the reasons why you hate something might be the same reasons other people love it. My wife, for instance, does not like the Screaming Females because they are, true to their name, Screaming Females. On the other hand, this is precisely one of the reasons I love them). I think that good popular music becomes popular because it is just undeniably, universally appealing. This is why a lot of good popular music happens to be in the pop style – that particular genre is almost always on a mission to be catchy. Punk music, on the other hand, is typically designed to polarize and won’t appeal to a broad enough swath of the population to become truly popular if its any good. For “punk” music to be popular, it has to water down its message and attitude and stay vague about its politics. This is why Green Day’s American Idiot (not a punk album in my opinion) is more popular than Ted Leo and the Pharmacists’ Shake the Sheets and it’s also why I tend to despise the popular shit that some people consider “punk” today.

Last summer, I talked about The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and his suggestion that stuff has to be “translated” for mass consumption before it can become really popular. At the time, I said that the translation idea was a killer for good music – my exact words were “By the time the raw, beautiful music you love is fit for consumption by everyone, it fucking sucks. Always.” I stand by that assertion, but I have to admit that not everyone likes the purest, rawest forms of music. For instance, you might like John Mayer where I like Chris Whitley or Son House. You can sort of see a tenuous connection between the blues of Son House and the white frat-blues of John Mayer, and Mayer definitely moves more units annually than the late Mr. House. Likewise, the Clash is undoubtedly an influence on Green Day, but fans of Green Day are not automatically fans of the Clash (and vice versa; I love the Clash and I think my feelings on Green Day are pretty clear).

So why does so much shitty music become popular? Well, to be popular, you have to appeal to as wide an audience as possible (duh). That’s extremely difficult to do without compromising your sound quite a bit (“compromising” might be a bit strong of a word, but we use strong words here). If you want to rock like the Screaming Females rock, you have to accept a smaller (though certainly no less devoted) audience than if you want to rock like Nickelback rocks (which is, in my opinion, not at all). Nickelback fits a definition of “rock” that appeals to a whole lot of people, some of whom most assuredly think about music a whole lot less than I do. That’s not a criticism of those people (in an odd way, it’s a complement), it’s just a fact. A lot of Nickelback fans probably want some drums and electric guitar, but they also want a couple sensitive ballads thrown in there for good measure (I, on the other hand, want “Buried in the Nude”) . Some of those folks might even take the commercial success of Nickelback as an endorsement of that band’s talents; “if other people are buying it, it must be good.” And I don’t think the fact that Nickelback sells lots of albums makes them bad; I think the fact that they suck at playing music makes them bad.

Because pop tends to be built around catchier melodies and major chords, it’s easier for someone like Cee Lo Green to become massively popular behind something like “Fuck You” than it is for someone like the Future of the Left to earn an appearance on everyone’s I-Pod with “You Need Satan More than He Needs You.” Snobs like me enjoy Cee Lo because he represents the cream of the pop crop, while I think some people will eat up “Fuck You” because it’s the best song on the radio, which in my opinion is like being the cleanest corn kernel in a chicken turd. So I think how you find music influences how you feel about the most popular stuff. If you don’t wanna work that hard to find music (again, that’s your right), you will choose what’s good and bad from what you hear on the radio – so you’re already choosing from stuff that is kind of popular. I use every resource I can think of to find music and I dismiss a lot of the homogeneous stuff that shows up on the radio because it all sounds the same to me. I’m not saying this stuff because I think I’m better than other music listeners; if anything, I’m admitting to you what an obsessive fucking nerd I am.

There’s a lot more to discuss on this topic, so we’ll call this Part I and continue our discussion tomorrow. Let’s leave it here for now: music that is popular is not automatically shitty. Since it was a Grammy post that started this whole discussion, I want to talk tomorrow about why it is I think the Grammys specifically reward shitty music (it’s to do with how albums and artists get nominated) and hopefully wrap things up by dispelling the myth that only so-called “non-corporate” music is good.

An Apology to Portugal. The Man

Dear Portugal. The Man (PTM),

A while back, I reviewed your latest album, The Satanic Satanist. You probably saw it here because you linked to it on your Twitter page. I didn’t like your album and I’m not sorry I didn’t like it, just as you shouldn’t be sorry I didn’t like it. Music is a purely subjective art form and one man’s trash is another man’s gold and so on. While I didn’t care for the album you made, I do firmly believe you made the album you wanted to make for reasons all your own, and that’s as it should be.

But I do feel I owe you an apology, PTM, and here’s why: I posted a review of your album on my little music blog (which is not journalism, as has been pointed out in some of the more coherent comments on my post. However, those making the comments forget that 1) no music reviews are journalism and 2) I never claimed that Bollocks! was journalism) and stated, in blunt language, how I felt about it. Since you linked to the review on your Twitter page, some of your fans have stopped by Bollocks! to let me know how they feel about me, my writing style, my taste in music, and my favorite college football team. So it appears to me, PTM, that my little blog has, quite by accident, revealed that some of your fans are petty, vindictive, humorless, people who have a callous disregard for proper written English. I offer, by way of example, this comment, apparently written in free verse, made by a user named joe anthony:

“what audacity u have man.
if only u felt what felt
thought what they thought
and did what they did..

please you asshole music critic
please i beg u
come out with a cd
call it ur “AMBIENT” or “Indie”
see how that gets written up

hopefully by ignorant people like you who are just to plain stubborn”

I didn’t edit any of the spelling or grammar on any of the comments because I like to preserve things as people actually wrote them.

I want to be clear, PTM, that I’m sure not all – or even most – of your fans behave the way many of those who have commented on my post chose to behave, but I do think that every band, regardless of whether or not I like them, deserves fans that represent the band in a favorable light. I would sure like to meet some of your better fans, PTM, because I’m sure you have very nice people who happen to disagree with me about your music.

I must say that I find it particularly humorous that the strategy employed by some of your most vitriolic fans (like patrick, who not only called me a “douche fucker” but also “probably one of the biggest pieces of crap in the world”) involves directing way more traffic to my paltry blog than it would otherwise get (on its best day. Incidentally, the last time I’ve enjoyed readership at this level was when I hated Guns ‘n’  Roses’ Chinese Democracy. I didn’t apologize to GNR because I think they actually do deserve their most obnoxious fans) in order to say things that 1) won’t change my opinion of your album and 2) won’t affect in the least the way I listen to, write about, or enjoy music. And, though I know the intent of the name-calling is to make me feel bad, I must say it has the direct opposite result.  Whenever I’m called names or told to take someone’s genitals out of my ear (thanks, Mike! I can hear so much better with that dick out of my ear! And I still don’t like The Satanic Satanist) in grammatically horrifying rants, it cracks me up. I don’t care what strangers think of me, especially if they’re going to hate me (or incorrectly assume that I’m “obviously” not a musician; I’ve been playing guitar for more than half my life now. I might not make music that your fans would enjoy, but I’m still most definitely a musician) for disliking something they like. I don’t get paid for writing Bollocks!, so I have no motivation to troll in order to drive up my numbers. I simply write what I think about in album in a way that is fun for me and hopefully entertaining for the readers. While many of your fans didn’t find the funny in my review of your album, I assure you that I personally know people who did enjoy the review and got a good chuckle out of it. Again, it’s all subjective. Some people think Larry the Cable Guy is funny and I think he’s symbolic of nearly everything that’s wrong with life on this planet (could be exaggerating just slightly there).

I would also like to address some general inaccuracies in the comments I received, because there were a couple that kept popping up. First off, I never implied that you guys agree with Sarah Palin. I merely stated that you come from the same small Alaska town that she does. I’ll admit, it was harsh to make the comparison by implying that you were unbearably stupid, but I was listening to your album at the time and, as I believe I’ve made abundantly clear, not enjoying it at all. But saying that someone agrees with Sarah Palin is not something I would do lightly, nor would I ever do it in jest. I have no evidence of your political leanings, PTM, but I’m sure that, whatever they are, they are probably not aligned with those of the former governor of your former state. I have already addressed the inaccurate assumption by some of your fans that Bollocks! is or aspires to be any kind of journalism at all. Also, while I did say that I appreciate MGMT more after listening to your album and the Amazing Baby record, I never claimed to love them. I love one of their songs and put up with the rest, although I do have to say (again) that some of the stuff on Satanic Satanist does sound a lot like some of the stuff on their album.

In closing, PTM, I’d like to wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. One or two of your good fans stopped by to suggest that I listen to some of your older records, and I might take them up on that. In the meantime, I wish to again convey to you my deep condolences on having a few of the most obnoxious music fans I’ve ever encountered. Perhaps now, we can let the healing begin.

Sincerely,

Chorpenning and the Bollocks! team.

P.S. I’ve done some research and now have it on good authority that there are bigger pieces of crap than me in the world. Most of them are made by elephants.

The Case Against Green Day

It’s actually pretty hard to describe how much I dislike Green Day. I’m serious – this is the fourth draft of this post that I’ve started because it’s also really hard to decide where to start discussing all the things I don’t like about them. Do I start with all the better bands they’re ripping off? Do I start with the black-dominated wardrobes and guyliner? Do I start with some of the laziest, most cringe-inducing songwriting I’ve ever heard? Do I start with the fact that they’re considered by some people who may or may not have cognitive disabilities (including themselves) to be a punk band?

Maybe I’ll start there, because that bugs the living shit out of me (and because I have a lot of love for good punk music. A lot of love). When I think of punk bands, I think of (who doesn’t?) the Clash, the Stooges, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, the Dead Kennedys, the Jim Carroll Band, early Bad Religion, and – for some current reference – the Thermals, the Old Haunts, Titus Andronicus, and the Future of the Left. Green Day is, at best – at best – a dull, lifeless distillation of the style of music those awesome (and vastly superior) bands play(ed). The Clash gave us, “Let fury have the hour/ anger can be power”; Green Day’s “Know Your Enemy” (one of the most repetitive, godawful songs I’ve heard all year. Billy Joe Armstrong knows one word that rhymes with enemy: “enemy.” Oh wait. That’s the same word. I hate this band) literally waters that down to “Violence is an energy” and “Bringing on the fury” and maybe I’m paranoid, but that seems a little close to be coincidence. Am I accusing Green Day of callously ripping of their betters? You bet your ass I am. And even their peers – one of 21st Century Breakdown‘s many awful tracks is “East Jesus Nowhere” which features a guitar riff eerily similar to (and by “eerily similar to”, I mean “shamelessly ripped off from”) Marilyn Manson’s “Disposable Teens.” Have you left no sense of decency, Green Day? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

When American Idiot came along back in 2004, lots of people loved it because they hated the President and all the bullshit he was up to. But what did that album really say about…well, anything? The answer is (drum roll please) fuckall. Sure, they got their best line ever on the title track (“I’m not a part of a redneck agenda”) but the rest of that album was generic suburban alienation bullshit. They spent 13 tracks saying nothing the Clash didn’t say better in “Lost in the Supermarket”.  The best moment of that album is “American Idiot” and it’s eclipsed in every way by (take your pick) “White Riot” by the Clash, “California Uber Alles” by the Dead Kennedys, “Anarchy in the U.K.” by the Sex Pistols, and even “Time for Heroes” by the Libertines*.  And Green Day’s utter lack of ability to handle anything approaching substance led them to squander a great song title in “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” Any punk band worth a damn (hell, any kind of band with any kind of sense) doing a song with that title in 2004 could’ve made an awesome song about how frustrating it is, only a few years after 9/11, to be constantly reminded to “never forget.” But what does Green Day give us? “The innocent can never last.” Really? That’s all you got? And this was their Big Meaningful album, folks. Not only does that fail to scratch the surface, it fails to come anywhere near the surface. It floats around in space, consulting maps and charts in a futile attempt to determine the location of the surface. And it’s fucking banal, musically and lyrically. Especially lyrically. In the span of one song, we get that prize-winner about the innocent and “here comes the rain again/ falling from the stars/ drenched in my pain again/ becoming who we are.” That might be fine for any given 8th grader’s Live Journal entry, but it doesn’t cut it for discerning listeners of rock music (much less bands that claim to make rock music). It’s like Armstrong just pulled words from his copy of Poetic Imagery for Dummies Pretentious Assholes. And don’t even get me started on “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” By itself, that song puts Green Day at the top of the list of bands that need a serious cock-punching.

But people are buying their shit at an ungodly rate. Rolling Stone, a magazine whose irrelevance actually increases exponentially with every review, raved about 21st Century Breakdown‘s “rage filled punk anthems.” The Los Angeles Times called the album a “dazzling musical journey.” If “Know Your Enemy” and “21 Guns” are rage-filled punk anthems and/or dazzling musical journeys, we’re in trouble. You can like whatever you want, but I’m warning you: if you let bands like Green Day (or My Chemical Romance or any other band that is just dying to write the anthems of your prepubescent/adolescent/adult angst) climb to the top of the punk and/or rock heap, you’re running the risk of creating a nation of black-clad, whiny dullards who are capable of expressing their feelings/desires/politics only in the most vague and offensively bromidic terms. That’s a nation where Green Day dominates the radio, every television show and movie is about emo vampires, and people think Dane Cook is funny. Believe me, America: we can do better than that. We must do better.

*This song features the line, “Did you see the stylish kids in the riot,” which I mention only because it occurs to me that Green Day are the stylish kids in the riot (the kids who show up to say they were there, but don’t expect them to hurl any bricks, thank you very much). For the sake of contrast, Joe Strummer, who wrote “White Riot” actually participated in a riot. He and Paul Simonon attempted to set a police car on fire while the British cops beat up some black kids. I’m not advocating destroying cop cars in hilarious ways, but it’s certainly nice to know that Strummer and the Clash weren’t afraid to put their money where their mouths were.

How to Please Sniveling Indie Kids, Featuring The Rural Alberta Advantage

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A few years ago, over roaring guitars and pounding drums, Craig Finn (he of the Hold Steady, whom you might know as the best rock band in America), shouted from the rooftops, “All the sniveling indie kids: Hold Steady!” I don’t know if he was proposing his band as an antidote to sniveling indie music or not, but I’d like the people at Pitchfork and Radio Exile to listen to the Hold Steady’s “Positive Jam” and start holding steady soon because the boner those two sites have for the Rural Alberta Advantage is gonna put someone’s eye out (it has also, by my count, lasted longer than four hours. Get these people a doctor!).

Both Pitchfork and Radio Exile (who are usually better than P-fork, in that they at least have a sense of humor) have been creaming their jeans over Hometowns, the Arcade-Fire-meets-Neutral-Milk-Hotel debut from the Rural Alberta Advantage. Now, there are bands that compare to, say, the Arcade Fire, but to my ears, the RAA is Arcade Fire instruments mashed up with Neutral Milk Hotel vocals (and less awesome lyrics). It’s a formula designed to lube up the loins of kids who are pining away for the next Sufjan release or smoking weed to Wavves. For me, it goes beyond “if you like the Arcade Fire, you’ll like this band” and ends up somewhere along the lines of, “Wow. Win Butler and Jeff Mangum should sue these guys.” The formula can be broken down thusly: How to Ensure that Indie Sites Will Love Your Band in Five Easy Steps.

Step 1: Be from Canada. Obviously, we can’t all be from Canada. The Fat Albert Advantage are from Canada, so that’s a point in their favor (in terms of the indie sites, remember). If you’re not from Canada, try being from Williamsburg in NYC or Portland or Austin. No disrespect to any of these locations (I love bands from all of these places and more – in fact, Portland is producing some of the best bands around right now), I’m merely pointing out that with some indie kids (as with real estate), it’s location, location, location!

Step 2: Get Signed to Saddle Creek. I know some people think that Matador and Kill Rock Stars and Sub-Pop are the sniveling indie labels, but that’s not correct. Those labels actually feature good bands (and Sub-Pop has a fucking sneaker now!). Saddle Creek, on the other hand, features some of the snivelin’-est indie you’ll ever come across, from Bright Eyes to the Rural Albert Collins Advantage to the infuriatingly named UUVVWWZ (I don’t actually know if this last band is “sniveling” indie or not, but that name pisses me off almost as much as Wavves). So if you want an instant 8.0 on Pitchfork, sign yer ass to Saddle Creek and start whining.

Step 3: Emotive (but Not Necessarily Good) Vocals. Again, there are good indie bands with not-great singers. Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips (a band that, though signed to a major label, certainly embodies more indie spirit than almost any other band I can think of) will never be mistaken for one of the Four Tenors, but the guy makes soul-crushingly beautiful music. Win Butler from the Arcade Fire can sing pretty well, but to guarantee success with the indie kids, it’s best to go for the clenched-jaw, I-really-mean-this-shit style of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst. To be fair, the Rural Alberta Advantage’s Nils Edenloff (sounds like a fancy German food, doesn’t it? “Waiter, what’s the special today?” “Well, sir, we have some poached salmon and steamed rice or why not try our Nils Eden-Loaf – it’s a blend of meats from the Alsace region on the French-German border, served with a cold Weiss-bier.”) doesn’t really do this, but his Jeff Mangum-aping is irritating as hell, especially on “Luciana” which is so blatant a Neutral Milk Hotel ripoff that I almost removed the disc from my car player and chucked it out the window. You see, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is a personal treasure to me and to hear someone do a cut-and-paste job on that music is downright offensive.

Step 4. Synthesizers, computers, blips and bleeps, oh my! Again, to be fair, there are bands that can use technology to awesome effect (LCD Soundsystem, Franz Ferdinand, Postal Service, et cetera), but you don’t have to use technology well to get the sniveling indie vote. You simply have to use it. In fact, if your whole album can be recorded on a laptop in your bedroom while you buttfuck an amplifier (where is an amplifier’s butt? Ask that dude from Wavves), you can expect an invite to the main stage at the Pitchfork Festival.

Step 5. Profit! Well, maybe. You’ll certainly enjoy some hype from people who vigorously over-intellectualize music and philistines like me will probably still hate you. So enjoy that.

I realize I’m being pretty hard on the Rural Alberta Advantage, so to be fair (’cause life is nothing if it ain’t fair, right?) I’ll point out that, like a lot of stuff I’ve been listening to lately, there are good elements on Hometowns but most of those elements can be found on the two Arcade Fire albums (which I love with all my heart) and on Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. If those three records didn’t exist, I could probably embrace the Rural Alberta Advantage more fully, but I suspect that the RAA wouldn’t exist without those three records.

I seem to have fallen into a musical rut lately; I’ve listened to a lot of stuff that runs the gamut from “bad” to “mediocre” and I fear I’m starting to sound like a broken record of the snarkiest, snobbiest motherfucker ever, but I’ve just had a hard time finding stuff the last couple of months that genuinely puts a smile on my face (the new Modest Mouse EP notwithstanding; sweet Zombie Jesus, I love that record). Later this week, I’ll get to We Were Promised Jetpacks and Green Day, but I’ll try to slip something in there that I genuinely enjoy. I’m often accused of hating more music than I love, and that’s not true, so we’ll strive for a little more balance in the future (I have a trip to Amoeba slated for this weekend, and that should help).  In the meantime, apply the 5 steps and someday, if you’re really good at it, you could find your band being ripped to shreds on this blog. You lucky bastard!

Sacred Cows to the Slaughter

An email exchange with my pal Zac recently led me to an Onion AV Club article where the AV Club writers pussyfooted about cultural masterworks that they don’t really understand or don’t really like. I was led to this article by declaring that The Smiths are overrated and Morrissey is a pretentious, boring twat. See, that kind of statement is exactly the sort of thing those equivocators at the AV Club managed to avoid.  Zac thought I could do better and suggested as much, which was like throwing 100 menstruating fat chicks into a tank full of starving sharks. So, without further ado, I present to you The Bollocks! List of Overrated Musical Bullshit, my list of sacred musical cows who should be put out to pasture, shot in the back of the head, and then ground into tasty burgers.

For starters, let’s talk about Borrissey. Er, I mean, Morrissey. Dear Mr. “Meat is Murder”: Food is murder. You think it’s all right to eat plants because they’re not cute, but they’re alive, you asshole. But that’s not enough reason to dislike Morrissey, who is regarded by many as one of the great grandaddies of indie rock. His music is boring beyond compare. The guy is basically a lounge singer and he’s a pretentious one at that. Add slightly better guitars to Borissey and you get The Smiths, who are also vastly overrated. Fuck Morrissey.

Oh, and fuck Led Zeppelin while we’re at it. That’s right, fuck them. Especially that banshee-wailing douchebag Robert Plant. John Bonham was a great drummer, but that doesn’t excuse Led Zep’s shameless skullfucking of some of the best blues music ever recorded. You can claim they invented heavy metal all you want, too. Know what genre I could give less than half a fuck about? If you guessed heavy metal, you get a gold star for the day. You’d be better off listening to the original Willie Dixon and Robert Johnson recordings than canonizing the self-indulgent, cock-grabbing Led Zeppelin versions.

Speaking of Robert Johnson, no white guy has dealt him a greater blow than Eric Clapton, another highly overrated musician. I know, I know, Cream was pretty cool, but Clapton steadily nose-dived after that, meaning his career has consisted of cheesy lyrics and decent guitar solos, a fact often excused by “But he’s a great guitar player.” So is John Mayer and yet, John Mayer still sucks a big fat donkey cock. I don’t care how well you play the guitar, if you write “Waiting on the World to Change,” you should be buried up to your neck in your own shit. Besides, why listen to a band just for the guitar? You don’t read books just for the word “the”, do you? Where was I? Oh yeah, Clapton. Listen to his atrocious Me and Mr. Johnson and you’ll realize that there is only one white guy who should be allowed to touch Robert Johnson’s music and it aint’ Clapton. It’s John Hammond, Jr., whose At the Crossroads album is the only album of Robert Johnson covers that comes close to the original spirit of that great music.

This one is especially for Los Angeles, a city that seems to think otherwise, but all 1980s hair-metal was shitty. All of it. And I don’t care how many reality shows that asshole from Poison has, he is, was, and always will be a hack musician. That goes double for Def Leppard, who are still, for some ungodly reason, putting out albums. Hit the state fair circuit and have done with it.

Also, for the record, I don’t give a shit about Van Morrison. I don’t think “Brown-Eyed Girl” is a particularly good song. I’ll give him Astral Weeks as a good album, but the rest of his stuff can go fuck itself to death in subway station.

To everyone who adored/adores Rage Against the Machine: you’re wrong. There is nothing Rage did that Public Enemy didn’t do better. Tom Morrello may be the most overrated guitar player in the world at the moment.

Speaking of overrated guitar players: Van Halen is included in my statement about ’80s hair metal but they get special mention because everyone thinks Eddie Van Halen invented playing the electric guitar or something. He is very good at playing fast and finger-tapping. But you know what? Finger-tapping is so easy that I could teach you how to do it even if you don’t know how to play the guitar. It’s a gimmick. I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t lavish special attention on how shitty David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar are. I have heard people argue about whether Van Halen was better with Roth or Hagar and it’s like arguing about whether you should have the shit sandwich with mustard or horseradish.

This will surprise no one, but if I’m talking about shit sandwiches, I can’t leave out Metallica. I’m not a fan of metal, but I know enough to know that Slayer’s “Reign in Blood” kicks the ass of every Metallica song ever written. Lars Ulrich is a shitty drummer and James Hetfield is a terrible singer and a worse lyricist. I could go on about Metallica, but it’s almost too easy to talk about how awful they are.

A lot of people like Peter Gabriel, but I am not one of them. His music is incomprehensible to me, to the point of irritation. What exactly does he do that the Talking Heads didn’t do better? And riding a fucking Seg-Way (is that how you spell it? I don’t care) around on stage? Give me a break.

Black Sabbath had one good song. It was “Paranoid.” Everything else they did was crap and Ozzy Osbourne should be put in a home.

I spent a lot of time trying to like Bad Religion, but I just can’t do it. The Empire Strikes First was mostly all right, but I just don’t care about their other stuff. A lot of people love them, but I’m sorry – just can’t get into it. They don’t suck as bad as The Smiths, but I’d still rather listen to London Calling than any of their stuff.

I once met a dude who told me Peter Frampton was the reason he started playing guitar. I was stunned. Peter Frampton is one of the worst musicians I’ve ever heard and I’m actually quite upset that part of my brain is used up knowing who he is. That talk-box effect is stupid and gimmicky and people who use it should be jailed.

U2 is one of the world’s biggest pop acts and, but for a handful of tunes, I couldn’t care less. Most of their stuff sounds exactly the same to me and I think the Edge has been stuck in a musical rut for most of my lifetime. Seriously, dude, time for a couple different guitar effects. Also, Bono is a douchebag.

A lot of folks here in L.A. love their home-town heroes, The Red Hot Chili Peppers. These guys really piss me off. Anthony Kiedis mostly writes and sings in baby talk and anyone who’s heard a Funkadelic album knows that there’s nothing that funky about RHCP. I’ve heard this band is on hiatus and I can only hope that’s a permanent thing.

Those are all the overrated people I can think of at the moment. If I think of more later, I’ll be sure to let you know.