Wednesday, August 22, 2007

People like lists, right? Please tell me people like lists.

Robert Christgau, the Dean of American Windbags, has every Village Voice "Pazz & Jop" critics' poll going back to '71 archived on his website. For no discernable reason, I went through each list and picked my own personal winner for each year from their album and singles lists. In many (i.e. most) cases, my own personal favorite didn't make the list so I had to make due with their choices.

For my own sanity's sake I didn't try to document every snub and absurdity, but I did notice:
- At no point during their 31-year career do The Fall appear to have made either the albums or singles list, yet the Mekons pop up regularly.
- The Go-Betweens were shut out, amazingly, until The Friends of Rachel Worth in 2000.
- Critics reeeeaally hate metal.
- They hated Pink Floyd almost as much.
- I think I've pinpointed 1994 as the year when mainstream pop singles crap out entirely and never recover. There seem to have been surprising numbers of choices in years previous.


1971: The Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers
(Led Zeppelin IV finished last on their list @ #30, right below Delaney & Bonnie. Haterz.)
1972-73: No poll. Projected winners: Hot Tuna
1974: Big Star: Radio City
1975: Bob Dylan: Blood on the Tracks
1976: Ramones: Ramones
1977: Television: Marquee Moon
(Overrated, according to the spritely lad from Franz Ferdinand, who while explaining his reasons why here clearly illustrates why his band isn't built to last)
1978: Elvis Costello: This Year's Model
1979: Buzzcocks: Singles Going Steady
1980: The Clash: London Calling
(a controversial pick, I know. When are the tastemakers finally going to rediscover this obscure gem?!?)
1981: Mission of Burma: Signals, Calls & Marches EP
(winner should either be Black Flag - Damaged, or Minor Threat's first EP. Or Juice by Juice Newton)
1982: Flipper: Album/Generic Flipper
1983: REM: Murmur
1984: Minutemen: Double Nickels on the Dime
1985: Hüsker Dü: New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig
(oh yeah, ties are allowed, apparently)
1986: Beastie Boys: Licensed to Ill
(they manage to bounce a few Budweiser cans off the Smiths' heads)
1987: Prince: Sign "O" the Times
1988: Sonic Youth: Daydream Nation
(I know, God forbid someone shouldn’t pick “It Takes a Nation of Millions…” Also, the Pixies’ “Surfer Rosa” didn’t even make their list)
1989: Beastie Boys: Paul's Boutique
1990: Public Enemy: Fear of a Black Planet
(happy now?)
1991: U2: Achtung Baby
(Yes, I unreservedly love it. Bite me).
1992: Pavement: Slanted and Enchanted
(not even my favorite Pavement album - that would be CR, CR, while acknowledging Wowee Zowee might be the "best" - but my favorite of this list)
1993: PJ Harvey: Rid of Me
(winner should be Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang)
1994: Guided by Voices: Bee Thousand
1995: PJ Harvey: To Bring You My Love
1996: DJ Shadow: Endtroducing…
1997: Radiohead: OK Computer
(Yet another bold, divisive pick. Look, I'm not afraid of a little controversy! The point of this is to set tongues wagging).
1998: Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
1999: The Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs
A few of the following picks are not-so-emphatic:
2000: OutKast: Stankonia
2001: New Pornographers: Mass Romantic
2002: Neko Case: Blacklisted
2003: Cat Power: You Are Free
2004: Elliott Smith: From a Basement on the Hill
(winner should be Reigning Sound - Too Much Guitar)
2005: Sleater-Kinney: The Woods
2006: Scott Walker: The Drift


1979 - The Records: "Starry Eyes"
(I hate "My Sharona")
1980 - Joy Division: "Love Will Tear Us Apart"
1981 - Gang of Four: "To Hell With Poverty"
1982 - New Order: "Temptation"
1983 - Prince: "Little Red Corvette"
1984 - Prince: "Let's Go Crazy"/"Erotic City"
(mostly for the B-side)
1985 – Kate Bush: "Running Up That Hill"
(I'm sure Alan Partridge would agree w/ me)
1986 - Pet Shop Boys: "West End Girls"
(... and its 2007 descendant)
1987 - Public Enemy: "Bring the Noise"
1988 - Rob Base & D.J. E-Z Rock: "It Takes Two"
(provides the soundtrack to a summer of mayhem in David Simon's Homicide)
1989 - Public Enemy: "Fight the Power"
1990 - Deee-Lite: "Groove Is in the Heart"/"What Is Love"
1991 - Geto Boys: "Mind Playing Tricks on Me"
1992 - Cypress Hill: "How I Could Just Kill a Man"/"The Phuncky Feel One"
(the Suicidal Tendencies reference @ the end of HICJKM helps seal the deal)
1993 - Dr. Dre: "Nuthin' but a ‘G’ Thang"
aaand here's where the rot sets in:
1994 - Nine Inch Nails: "Closer"
(you can toss everything else they did in the garbage if you must, but this was like the goth/industrial/safely freaky/Skinemax "Nuthin' But a G Thang")
1995 - Elastica: "Three Girl Rhumba '95" (aka "Connection")
1996 - Blackstreet: "No Diggity"
("Common People" would've won if we were talking about William Shatner's version)
1997 – Yo La Tengo: "Autumn Sweater" (a really shitty list. Sleater-Kinney's "One More Hour" was my favorite song of this year)
1998 - Aaliyah: "Are You That Somebody"
1999 – N/A; an even worse list. I can't even pick a winner unless I go up my nose [sorry]! No hope; no hope....
2000 - OutKast: "B.O.B."
2001 - Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott: "Get Ur Freak On"
2002 – fucking Missy Elliott again: "Work It"
2003 - OutKast: "Hey Ya!"
(People were practically in shock that an awesome song could still become a ginormous hit by this point. I still maintain that they ripped me off though, as I was using the expression "Hey ya" years before this was released. Plus, I was sued by Rosa Parks before they were. No originality these days!)
2004 - Jay-Z: "99 Problems"
(might've been the 3rd best song on LL Cool J's Radio, but in 2004 it's single of the year)
2005 - Kelly Clarkson: "Since U Been Gone"
(on the level of an okay Pat Benatar song, but by 2005 standards it's practically runnin' s-hit)
2006 - Gnarls Barkley: "Crazy" (winner should be late-period Crazy Frog)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

My ancestry's brush with fame... and infamy!

While he's all but unknown to even the most knowledgable historians today, my great-great-grandpa Venison Plowe (our family dropped the silent "P" shortly after his death, although the "l" remained lowercase) was at one time arguably the third or fourth most famous lip reader in western Maryland. I hardly need to remind my readers that entertainment options were scarce around the turn of the century, centered as they were mostly on bible reading, deer tickling and poisoning one's spouse. Therefore, an accomplished lip reader could dazzle crowds far and wide with his "feats of verbal verification," as the posters used to say. Yes sir, folks would travel from as far as Johnstown, PA to see ol' Venison practice his craft. One time he even performed in front of 1,500 people at the county fair, although it's possible that most of the crowd was there to see the follow-up act: a pig blowing into a jug.

Still, it was pretty impressive whenever great great grandpa Venison strapped beaver tails to his ears for soundproofing and attempted to repeat back whatever people said to him from a distance as great as 1.9 yards. I say "attempt" because despite the relatively close proximity and the faultiness of the beaver tail earphones, his guesses were almost always wildly off the mark. An audience member might remark "the fire engine is red" and Venison would interpret it as "The Duchess is swathed in jump rope and blubber." But ol' Venison's piss-poor lip reading skills didn't matter because he had a secret trick: he was also a trained hypnotist! No matter what someone would actually say, he'd hypnotize them and the entire audience into thinking the correct phrase was something like "Zeus has crashed through my skylight wearing a mu'umu'u." Whenever I heard stories as a kid about great great grandpa Venison I'd usually ask why he didn't just bill himself as a hypnotist, since they made a lot more money than lip readers anyway. This usually resulted in me getting a belt to the face from the nearest relative for "asking too many gay-ass questions." Later I discovered that Venison was kicked out of the Western Maryland Hypnotists Guild early in his career and blackballed for "theft of ceremonial robes, improper clucking instructions, and suspicion of buggering somnolent bystanders." All in all, I can't say I blame them.

After the demand for lip readers dried up - along with his hypnotizing ability - Venison "fharted around for a whyle," as he later wrote in his "jhournal." He eked out a living writing trashy stories under a pseudonym ("The Stupendous Gus") for hypnosis magazines like Mesmerised Lasses and Wacky Trance, wallowing in profanity by day and moonshine at night, until he accidentally swallowed a toenail clipper and died in 1917. Not a pretty story, I know, but hey I'd like to see some of the sleazeballs and slave traders in your family tree... jerk!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Teddy Rockstar: Powered by (a) Starbucks (van)

Coincidentally, this went down four years ago tomorrow (it's also on the Dirty Old Town dvd):

In other news, the (most likely series) finale of John From Cincinnati was packed w/ gibberish and malarkey, even by their obtuse standards. The parade at the end was like the goofiest movie Robert Altman never made, although Ed O'Neill had me cracking up. This after the episode kicked off with maybe the greatest non-Al Bundy moment of the series: an aerial shot and montage set to Bob Dylan's "Series of Dreams," culminating in Shaun and the titular Cincinnatite surfing back down to Earth. It would have been even better with a "Lawrence of Arabia"-style POV shot of Butchie and Kai watching them emerge as a speck on the horizon. The tragedy of all this is that future generations will never understand the unique grip that John From Cincinnati held on our collective psyche, and we'll have to settle with telling our grandkids exactly where we were when Palaka's tattoo got infected.

Oh, and you want some unexpected synergy between Ted Leo and JFC? Here ya go.

Friday, August 03, 2007

New Derrière Rising

Jon Swift picks apart the "Derrièrists," thankfully only a few of whom are publicly enjoying another touchdown dance following the deaths of Bergman and Antonioni. For my part, I love, love Bergman, obviously, and liked L'avventura when I saw it a few years ago, but I couldn't get into The Passenger at all (I'll give it another chance at some point) and really don't care for Blow-Up, aside from this wicked scene and maybe one or two others. Check out this great letter to Ebert from the actor who played the corpse in Blow-Up. He was originally supposed to have a bigger role, but the film was shut down and pieced together in editing due to Antonioni going over-budget. The producer was a tad peeved that Antonioni was spending money on painting grass a different shade of green and sprucing up houses and the like.

Also came across this quote on Bergman's passing: "I am proud to say he treated me exactly like his other children - with no interest whatsoever." - Lars Von Trier