16 June 2006

Employee of the Month

I work with a guy I’ll call “Stan.” Stan is, generally speaking, a nice guy and, generally speaking, I get along well with him. Stan is also a musician. Like many musicians, Stan thinks that since he can play an instrument, this means that his knowledge and taste in all things music-related is incontestable. If Stan likes it, anybody with functioning ears should like it and if they don’t, they are clearly incapable of appreciating anything but the most unrefined crap, and if Stan dislikes it, then anybody who does like it is an idiot, or worse.

The punchline: Stan is a jazz aficionado, the absolute worst kind of pretentious, self-congratulatory music snob there is – this is coming from me, remember – and furthermore, Stan is a drummer. [Insert your own joke here.]

One weekend morning, Stan brought in a CD – jazz, of course – to play over the anchors’ IFB earbuds. The show is airing, they hit a commercial break, and Stan plays his disc. A minute or two goes by and the anchor says, “What is this shit? Turn it off.”

Stan was quite livid. For the next few days, he bitched that the anchor made him turn his CD off. “These are some of the finest players in the world, and she calls it shit,” he pouted and mumbled. “Finest players in the world … finest players … these are some of the finest players…”

Stan’s first mistake was trying to foist his tastes upon other people. His second mistake was bringing in whatever the fuck it was he brought in – some Ornette Coleman bootleg recorded in a graveyard in 1961, perhaps – and assuming that his grateful coworkers would lick it up: “Wow, Stan, this 27-minute free-form sax solo that’s going absolutely nowhere is the shit, dude! Burn me a copy!” That’s pretty damned conceited on Stan’s part, and I always admired that anchor for taking him down a peg that day.


I get a lot of advance CDs. This is a perk of being a freelance music critic. I have most of these materials sent to me at work. Today I received a promo of Young Widows upcoming debut album Settle Down City, which is due in August. Young Widows are a Louisville band that used to be called Breather Resist. They decided on a name change when their singer left the band. Regardless of nomenclature, the group plays a pretty heavy, powerful, hardcore-derived style of indie rock with a regular use of dissonance. It’s not entirely inaccessible, but it’s definitely rough sledding if you’re not into this kind of music.

Stan was loitering near my cubicle and he saw the CD. Better yet, he saw the press clippings that accompanied the CD, and right on top was a blurb that appeared in Spin proclaiming Breather Resist a “next big thing.” Spin used the unfortunate phrase “Louisville, Kentucky quartet that exorcise early-‘90s emocore” to describe the band. Stan picked up the clips pack, gave it a brief perusal and then announced to no one in particular, “Well, here’s another band that proves the less talent you have, the more popular you become.”

Where to begin? Well, for starters, I didn’t ask Stan, but I would be willing to bet my own liver that he’s never heard Young Widows or for that matter, Breather Resist, play a single note, so how does he know they have no talent?

Another thing: Spin is a shitty rag, but it is a national magazine and a lot of people read it. How many times have you been in Spin, Stan? Being in Spin is certainly no gauge of artistic merit, but just by being mentioned in it (two years ago), they’re quite a bit further up the musical food chain than any band you’ve ever been involved with, and Breather Resist doesn’t even exist anymore.

Here’s another Stanecdote: He engineers CDs for local bands. Once he brought in some tracks that he had been working on. He couldn’t stop boasting about how great they were, how the band’s songwriting was “solid” and how they “just have a really good sound.” Naturally, they were a thoroughly anodyne pseudo-alt-country knockoff with atrocious lyrics and utterly boring songs – complete and utter shit, in other words, and if Stan had one-tenth the impeccable taste that he says he does, he would’ve realized this. Instead, there he was boasting about this useless band that made Hootie & the Blowfish sound like the fucking Beatles. What a chump.

Dismissing Young Widows sight unseen (or sound unheard, in this case) was an incredibly arrogant and ignorant thing to do. Was he being glib? Oh, sure, but knowing what I do about Stan, it wasn’t too hard to read between the lines.

“Look at these guys, making a living playing the music they create, touring the country, not having to punch a clock or listen to some prima donna newsreader telling them to turn off their cherished jazz CDs. Oh, how I envy and hate them.”

06 June 2006

Let Him Who Hath Understanding Reckon the Number of the Beast

Here's an amusing little trifle I put together for LEO:

Check your calendar. This coming Tuesday is June 6, 2006, a.k.a. 6-6-06, Beelzebub’s Social Security number. In the spirit of this fortuitous instance, we have compiled a 666 playlist, the top 18 tunes for this day. Why 18? Because 18 is three sixes, as one memorable skit from The Ben Stiller Show said. The devil, as they say, has the best tunes.

18) Deicide, Legion: Bass player Glen Benton has an inverted crucifix branded into his forehead — this dude isn’t half-assing. Best cut? “Satan Spawn, the Caco-Daemon,” of course, although “Behead the Prophet (No Lord Shall Live)” comes close.
17) AC/DC, “Highway to Hell”: Makes the road to eternal damnation sound like a non-stop party.
16) Electric Hellfire Club, “Unholy Roller”: Because chanting “S-A-T-A-N, he’s our man” to the tune of the Bay City Rollers’ “Saturday Night” is G-E-N-I-U-S.
15) Venom, Black Metal: If you hate thrash, death and, yes, black metal, blame these guys. A classic.
14) Today is the Day, In the Eyes of God: Who is the Black Angel? On this disc, it’s noise terrorists TITD. Sample cuts: “Going to Hell,” “The Russian Child Porn Ballet.” Delightful.
13) Mayhem, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas: These freaks took things too far, what with burning down historic churches in Norway, the suicide of former singer Dead and the murder of guitarist Euronymous by bass player Count Grishnackh. So they HAD to be included.
12) Meat Puppets, “Lake of Fire”: As evocative a description of hell as anything out of Dante’s Inferno — but catchier.
11) Marilyn Manson, Antichrist Superstar: The ultimate statement from America’s sweetheart.
10) Goatwhore, The Eclipse of Ages Into Black: New Orleans supergroup (of sorts) unites to craft dark, swampy black metal under a dark god, into a darker sun.
9) Tool, “Die Eier von Satan”: The devil (and Tool) has a sense of humor. This recipe for hash cookies sounds diabolical because it’s in German. Und keine Eier!
8) Led Zeppelin, “Stairway to Heaven”: But only if you play it backwards.
7) Morbid Angel, “Chapel of Ghouls”: “Your god is dead,” bellows David Vincent, and it’s all downhill from there. Not for the faint-hearted.
6) Iron Maiden, “The Number of the Beast”: This song is actually about a guy trying to break up a Satanic coven. He fails, naturally, but his heart was in the right place.
5) Rolling Stones, “Sympathy for the Devil”: Featuring a snazzy bassline (played by Keef), lyrics inspired by the novel The Master and Margarita and, of course, the woo-woos. Pleased to meet you.
4) Robert Johnson, “Me and the Devil Blues”: Legend has it that Johnson sold his soul to Satan so he could play guitar better. Now THAT’S devotion to the instrument.
3) Black Sabbath: Though the Sabs have recorded much better albums than their debut, Black Sabbath is probably the most Satanic. Fun fact: It was released on a Friday the 13th.
2) Aphrodite’s Child, 666: An epic prog-rock concept album about nothing less than the Apocalypse itself, written by future “Chariots of Fire” soundtrack composer Vangelis.
1) Slayer, Reign in Blood. Well, duh.

05 June 2006

GWB = Pandering Shithead

WHITE HOUSE (AP) -- President Bush says he is "proud to stand with" those who support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
What a shocker. These right-wing tough guys sure are a-scared of the gays, aren't they?

What I find so amusing and pathetic is that these dumbfucks apparently think that if same-sex marriage is recognized, it will somehow also be made manditory or something. It's also amusing how some of these staunch advocactes for protecting "the sanctity of marriage" have innumerable divorces and affairs to their "credit."

04 June 2006

I Waited Two Years for This?

I still enjoy The Sopranos, but this season was a little meh for my tastes. I kept waiting for something to happen, and with a few notable exceptions, nothing much did.

The AP's Frazier Moore summed it up thusly:

Having started strong last March with the near-fatal shooting of mob boss Tony Soprano by his senile Uncle Junior, the sixth season of this HBO drama seemed to wilt, week to week, in synch with Tony’s recovery.

The inevitable murder of Soprano captain Vito Spatafore -- offed by fellow mobsters for being gay -- had taken place in the next-to-last episode. But proving somewhat anticlimactic, it only whetted the audience’s appetite for a decisive dramatic finish to the 12-episode season.

That didn’t happen.

01 June 2006

Stating Form and Design with Utmost Economy

Alex Toth died on May 28. He was a comic book artist, but he was ...more.

He designed Space Ghost for starters, as well as the aesthetic given to the DC characters used in Hanna-Barbera's execrable SuperFriends show.

But his comics work was pretty spectacular. He was a master of minimalism, making every brush stroke count. His deceptively simple style was easy on the eye but difficult to emulate. To really appreciate Toth, you have to read a whole story -- one or two panels don't do his work justice.

There's a great article on the Comics Journal's web page that gives detailed biographical info and doesn't pull any punches (i.e., Toth was notoriously prickly and cantankerous and could be a total asshole).

But his personality defects shouldn't distract from his work. Toth was one of the greats from that era, and precious few of the old masters are left.

Now that they don't have to pay royalties, I'm sure a few tribute volumes will hit the shelves in the coming months.

I Suppose It's Possible Other Kids Are Masturbating and Spreading Their Semen Around the School As Well

Watched The Squid and the Whale on PPV. It's one of those movies I see at Wild & Woolly all the time and think about renting but something flashier catches my eye.

All I can say is I'm sorry I waited this long. The Squid is one of the most deadpan, hilarious movies I've seen in ages. I liked it so much I bought a used copy on DVD at W&W the day after.

First, it features kids, and yet I wasn't consumed with the urge to climb inside the TV and strangle the horrible little fuckers as I usually am when children are required to emote.

Second, Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are both really good, and William "Don't Call Me Billy" Baldwin is perfectly cast as an amiable doofus (or philistine, if you prefer).

Turns out it was written and directed by Noah Baumbach, who cowrote the screenplay for The Life Aquatic with Wes Anderson -- who executive produced The Squid and the Whale. Birds of a feather.