I tried to talk my editors into allowing this year-end issue to be one big installment of Where’s The Street Team?: no advertisements, just 128 pages of my razor-sharp wit, slicing and dicing 2007’s crimes against good taste. Lord knows I would have no dearth of material. Did the entire world wake up on New Year’s Day 2007 with its collective head up its ass? Forget global warming; I’d like to battle a little problem called creative bankruptcy.
How about th at group of actors depicting Joy Division in Anton Corbijn’s Control? They really played all of the songs and ended up beating the source material by a long shot. The scuttlebutt is that Sam Riley was the 42nd actor to play Ian Curtis, as the previous ones kept fouling up that last scene. Jokes. Control is tolerable compared to Todd Haynes’ Bob Dylan trainwreck, I’m Not There. Not only does the plot descend from pretension into stupidity (Dylan played by different actors for disparate themes and time periods), it also breaks a fundamental rule of writing: Never, ever place a wizened, aged creative soul into the body of a small black child. Mr. Haynes, at the door we have Bill Cosby, Gene Wilder, Steve Martin, Mel Brooks and the ghost of Richard Pryor. They’d like to take turns slapping the shit out of you.
I was kind in my career retrospective of this group. Dinosaur Jr is, after all, one of my all-time favorite bands. But the rumors are true: There exists no worse group of interview subjects; journalists get to choose between: a) painfully aloof (J Mascis), b) difficult asshole (Lou Barlow) or c) the drummer (Murph). Reunion album Beyond was little more than a check-cashing exercise. It sounded like a passable Mascis solo album from the late ’90s that just so happened to include Barlow as a guest on two tracks.
Hey, got a joke for you: “How many members of Against Me! does it take to change a light bulb?” “Against Me! isn’t going to change shit.” Because I never hung out beneath an overpass with a dog and a 40-ounce, my back covered with Discharge and Capitalist Casualties patches and my body smelling like an 11-day-old Happy Meal, I’ve never really been qualified to comment on the “importance” of a punk-rock lifestyle in a mid-sized American city (in Against Me!’s case, Gainesville, Fla.) or how it influences a group to take its (Young) Pioneers karaoke show to the world. Everyone, including the band, loves to name-drop Billy Bragg. Try Rage Against The Machine for the hoodie-wearing, Jetta-driving activist set. You know, the ones who matter. Against Me! and other bands that have found themselves in a position of exposure—like Chumbawamba, when that group wasn’t changing the world from the cut-out bin—always play the well-at-least-we’re-able-to-get-our-message-to-a-lot-of-people or we’re-going-to-sabotage-the-industry-from-the-inside-out cards. At the end of the day, Against Me!’s self-righteous proletariat claptrap is delivered from the Warped Tour main stage, the band is on Sire, and its members sleep on a really nice bus.
It’s amazing the lengths to which music consumers, makers and critics will go to avoid appearing—gasp—racist. If the Sri Lankan-born M.I.A. had instead hailed from Tulsa, Okla., with the exact same music in tow, well, she would still be there right now. I call it TV On The Radio Syndrome: If they were white, one-eighth of the press and attention would’ve come their way. Music critics are terrified of facing this fact. M.I.A. provides lazy listeners with an easy multicultural accessory, the equivalent of traveling through India by way of seeing The Darjeeling Limited.
Drug problem. Jacked-up teeth. Depraved back story. Troubled genius … Where have I heard all of this before? Oh yeah, I’ve had eyes and ears most of my life. “Welcome, Target customers. An inoffensively attractive mother of two, mid-30s, in housewares needs some James Frey in her Feist. Hurry, she’s late for Pilates.”
Boy, I bet this is a fun bunch! I do respect that Battles have made a bold attempt at creating a brand-new type of pop music, but I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a van with them, trying to espouse the merits of Smokey And The Bandit Part 3. Battles might be responsible for the first-ever instance of vaginas being in the same room as a free-jazz musician.
I’ve poked at this band before, but not too hard, as it’s a very slow-moving target. I never had much trouble ignoring Arcade Fire until the group released sophomore album Neon Bible, at which point it became a very slow-moving target that’s also very irritating. Let’s start with the presentation. No, let’s start with the album title. It’s named after John Kennedy Toole’s first novel, the one he wrote at age 16—and the one that only saw the light of day because Toole would go on to commit suicide and leave behind a little manuscript called A Confederacy Of Dunces. The album’s namesake isn’t a particularly good book; in fact, it’s pretty overrated, much like Arcade Fire. On Neon Bible, you’ll hear a marriage of John Cafferty And The Beaver Brown Band, the Hooters and some contemporary touches (pinch of Radiohead, pinch of Modest Mouse, pinch of Godspeed You! Black Emperor). The plan is obvious. Listeners should sell Neon Bible back to the store, take the $5 to a thrift shop and purchase the entire discographies of both the Beaver Brown Band and the Hooters. More for less!