Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Blog Hiatus: 2010 (Ugh)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 1, 2010

Hey so.

On the off chance that anyone is actually still checking this space in the vain hopes of some sort of new material, feel like I should let you know that I’m not going to be posting again anytime soon–in fact, I’m starting a trip/project in November where I’m traveling across the country and going to home games at all 30 NBA stadiums. (Yes, I am currently mostly unemployed.) You can read about my adventures at The Basketball Jones if so inclined, or follow my exploits in real time at @AUgetoffmygold (eventually, anyway–not really set up yet, clearly).

I’ll be back at the beginning of 2011 to do my annual One Year, 50 / 100 Pop Cultures list, and after that, I’m not really sure what the future holds with this blog. The only thing worse than bloggers who never update are those who are incessantly apologizing for doing so, but I am genuinely sorry to those of you who sent me Request Lines that I never ended up writing. I bit off more than I could chew with that, obviously, and while I was and am extremely touched that I got so many responses, I burned out on the four-song format surprisingly quickly. God willing I’ll get ‘em all done someday in the future, but I suppose I shouldn’t be making any promises with that at this point.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I hope that when I do finally get my shit together, you’ll still give a damn about what I have to say on the subject of Trey Songz singles and State Farm commercials. If not, no hard feelings–you’ve certainly given me my fair share of chances.

See y’all in 2011 and/or on the road.

-Andrew Unterberger, Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Listeria: The Ten Dumbest Scenes in “The Town”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 3, 2010

Heat meets The Departed!!” screamed the rave reviews of the trailer. Having seen those two movies probably a combined 20 times in my life, I was a pretty easy sell for The Town, newfound double-threat Ben Affleck’s heist flick follow-up to the similarly New England-set Gone Baby Gone. Also starring longtime IITS favorite Jeremy Renner and TV stars Jon Hamm and Blake Lively in gloriously quintessential “Hey remember those TV characters that you’ll always associate us with well we can do other things too look at us!!” roles, I knew this was that all-too-rare flick I actually wanted to make the effort to get out to the theaters to see.

And to be fair, the quote was not wrong–except I was kind of hoping it was more of a qualitative statement than a quantitative one. The Town is indeed Heat meets The Departed–it’s pretty much the exact plot of Heat, with even thicker accents and crazier locals than in The Departed. I’m not sure what I was expecting, precisely, but I was hoping for something a little less eye-rolling, something a little more substantial. Instead, it was mostly a bunch of scenes of Ben Affleck trying to imply soulfulness by not smiling and Jon Hamm testing the limits of how disheveled he could get his hair and still look devastatingly handsome (Unsurprising answer: Very.)

Naturally, credibility-straining interactions and cliche-ridden set pieces abound. Here are the ten worst offenders, in roughly chronological order, though it also basically doubles as a countdown since things tend to get dumber as it goes:

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Request Line: “No More No More,” “Change,” “People Who Died,” “Possum Kingdom”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 21, 2010

Reader __ wrote:

are you still doing these, they’re fun

aerosmith – no more no more
fleetwood mac – what makes you think you’re the one
deftones – change
steely dan – the boston rag

Then later amended to:

i take back the song requests i posted on your blog. feeling good about these:

people who died
tainted love
any associates song
possum kingdom

I told him I’d do two of each of these….so I’m gonna do that.

Not having listened to an Aerosmith album since high school, I gotta admit to having completely lost recollection of this song. In fact, all I remember off Toys in the Attic were the two monster singles (“Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion,” obviously two of the best rock singles of that decade) and the one piece of obvious filler (“Big Ten Inch Record,” which I hated at the time but would probably think was brilliant for some reason if I listened to it now)–don’t think I could have even named another song off the album if pressed. Listening to “No More No More,” though, I’m surprised that it didn’t make more of an impression–it’s probably the only Aerosmith song I’ve ever heard that doesn’t sound definitively and uncompromisingly like an Aerosmith song.

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Request Line: “Oliver’s Army,” “The Way I Feel Inside,” “Heart of Mine,” “I’m Always in Love”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 31, 2010

Reader Andrew (Not me! I don’t think!) writes:

Anyway, try these ones on for size?

Elvis Costello – Oliver’s Army
The Zombies – The Way I Feel Inside
Peter Salett – Heart Of Mine
Wilco – I’m Always In Love

I hate trying things on–it’s a socially and physically uncomfortable experience that I like to avoid whenever possible. I’ll just buy ‘em straight up and get back to you about the receipts later.

I’m in on this song for its first two lines: “Don’t start me talking / I could talk all night.” After that, I’m totally lost. Wouldn’t be the first time in history that a punk song has confused me as to its real-life application–I did spend a healthy chunk of my youth rapping along to Rage Against the Machine, after all–but there’s just no entry point for me here at all. Oliver’s Army? The Murder Mile? Checkpoint Charlie? Costello doesn’t give a damn about stringing it together comprehensively, and just puts his faith in his overbearing sneer to get his point across. Maybe all this stuff made sense in 1979 (I’d hope so, since a Wikipedia cheat sheet wouldn’t be available for another 35 years), but even if not, a good punk protest song should at least make you feel like you kinda get the gist of what it’s going for as you’re singing along to it at the top of your lungs. I just feel kinda dumb singing along to “Oliver’s Army”–like I’m being patronizing and indignant about nothing in particular.  I dunno, replace it with some sly and cutting lyrics about love and maybe you’ve got “Cruel to Be Kind,” but as is I just can’t get into it at all. Shame, too, ‘coz that piano part had some obvious potential. The “oh-oh-oh-ohhhh“s, too.

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Request Line: “Photograph”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 30, 2010

Reader MBI Writes:

And just because I want you to have material to work on well into the 2020s:

“Photograph” – Ringo Starr
“Photograph” – Def Leppard
“Photograph” – Weezer
“Photograph” – Nickelback

Four different decades of “Photograph”! Or at least it should be. Stupid Weezer dragging their feet on releasing the Green Album. I say we count it as a ’90s song, dammit.

Works for me. Let’s do this thing.

The first time I saw the trailer for Funny People I had fairly mixed feelings–I was excited to see Adam Sandler playing a darker, slightly-fictionalized version of his real-life persona (and really all movie stars who spend their entire careers trying to be likeable should do this at least once), though it being in the context of yet another Apatow/Rogen/MANN trifecta wasn’t exactly setting fire to my loins. The one part that I was unreservedly excited about, though, was that it appeared to feature a prominent scene involving Sandler covering Ringo Starr’s “Photograph.” I figured the song, long forgotten by classic rock radio, could get that sort of Apatow-endorsed “Heat of the Moment”/”Panama”-style re-appropriation to introduce it to a new generation–which, in my opinion, it rather richly deserved. Yet for reasons I’m not entirely clear on, when the movie actually came out, it was The Beatles’ posthumous 90s hit “Real Love” that Sandler covered, not “Photograph.” Good song, but not the same thing, and clearly a rather sizable missed opportunity.

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Request Line: “Send Me on My Way,” “Changes,” “Tightrope,” “The Spirit of Radio”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 25, 2010

Reader Ken Kralie writes:

I’ve been a long time reader of your blog, and I really like the new request line thing you’ve been doing so I figured I would throw my suggestions out there.

You normally do four songs. But I came up with five. So you can pick and choose the four you want to talk about.

Rusted Root – Send Me On My Way http://bit.ly/5J0OTI
Yes – Changes http://bit.ly/9rECSJ
Janelle Monáe – Tightrope http://bit.ly/9q3V6Q
Toy Matinee – The Ballad of Jenny Ledge http://bit.ly/bTCX4a (there is a music video for this song but this clip has better audio)
Rush – The Spirit of Radio http://bit.ly/7ucIs

Liking the four for five thing. Hate to balk on the most obscure of the bunch, but I’ve listened to “Jenny Ledge” a handful of times and still can’t pin down a conclusive opinion on it, so I’m afraid I’m using my free pass on that one. Onwards and upwards…

My younger cousin recently showed my family a film he made of his immediate family’s vacation to Africa–a relatively professional-looking montage of sweeping vistas and funny-looking giraffes and whatnot. It was set to two songs–the theme to the Lion King and “Send Me on My Way.” For someone in their mid-20s (shudder) like myself, these would be head-smackingly obvious choices–the former is anyone of our generation’s immediate pop culture reference point for African music, and the latter is the only hit song of the 90s with both a flute solo and that scrape-y instrument from the beginning of “Gimme Shelter” whose name I can never remember. Still, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had trickled down to my younger cousins, especially the latter–they’re a fairly pop-literate bunch, but endurance was not Rusted Root’s strong suit, and I was starting to worry that memories of the H.O.R.D.E. generation would die off with me and my friends. (Wikipedia tells me it was used in the movie Ice Age–this seems like the most logical explanation for it being on their radar.)

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New Sensation: Update on the Pop Chart Fantasy League

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 25, 2010

It was brought to my attention recently that although at the beginning of the year, I promised sporadic updates on the Pop Chart Fantasy League on this blog, I’ve actually failed to do so. (In my defense, I haven’t been updating much of anything, and I don’t want all the other projects I’ve neglected to feel bad.) Yet the league is indeed alive and well, about to entire the 36th week of its 52-week season. So lest it fade from the public consciousness entirely, I suppose this is as good a time as any to delve back into all the gory details.

For those of you who have forgotten and/or never knew in the first place, the Pop Chart Fantasy League is basically what it sounds like–a sports-style fantasy league for pop music, where teams draft popular artists and score points based on how high their singles reach on the charts. (A more in-depth explanation can be found here.) This being a fairly unprecedented venture (and no I still don’t want to know if someone else has done this before shut up shut up shut up), there was much about the PCFL that was up in the air at the beginning, but I’m proud to say that so far it’s gone pretty smoothly and enjoyably for all involved, and even prouder to say my team is fucking steamrolling through our inaugural season.

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TV OD: Another Entry in the “Unexpectedly Hit By a Bus” Canon

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 24, 2010

Remember this .gif?

Yeah, I know you do. No one has ever successfully forgotten it. Well, time to throw another log on that fire, courtesy of the penultimate episode of season one of MTV’s The Hard Times of RJ Berger:

Never gets old, does it?

This show sucks, by the way. Significantly.

Posted in TV O.D. | 3 Comments »

Request Line: “Annie’s Song,” “I’m Your Man,” “Water’s Edge,” “The Mighty KC”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 23, 2010

Friend of the Blog Leslie writes:

Hello, Andrew. It’s your #1 fan here. I’ve been thinking long and hard about my request line choices. I’ve tried to make them diverse and interesting while leaving plenty for you to mock, and I think I’ve done a good job, if I do say so myself, and I do. Here they are in semi-random order:

John Denver, “Annie’s Song”
Wham!, “I’m Your Man”
Seven Mary Three, “Water’s Edge”
For Squirrels, “The Mighty K.C.”

Thank you! I have a birthday coming up….

Had to come out of my recent semi-retirement for a birthday request. Here goes.

I’m tempted to make some sort of call for (or at least make the suggestion of) some sort of critical re-evaluation of John Denver. Admittedly I only know the most famous of his songs, but it’s hard to think of too many other popular artists who so thoroughly succeed at what they set out to do. When you listen to a John Denver song, you feel the Rockies–the chilly breeze, the crisp, thin air, the general awe-inspiring beauty of nature. In fact, it’s entirely possible that that’s not even what the Rockies feel like at all–I’ve never been, and neither have many of his acolytes I imagine–but Denver’s music is so evocative of all that that it’s basically supplanted whatever the actual reality is in the public consciousness. If you read that any other artist’s biggest hit was written during a ten-minute wait on a ski lift, it’d seem ridiculous, with Denver, it just adds a weird sort of authenticity to the song.

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Request Line: “No Ordinary Love,” “One Last Breath,” “The Wanton Song,” “America We Stand as One”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 29, 2010

Reader Garret Writes:

Because there’s no sense in waiting to give you my four songs, I’m just gonna plop them in this post’s responses section and see what happens:

Sade – “No Ordinary Love”
Creed – “One Last Breath”
Led Zeppelin – “The Wanton Song”
Dennis Madalone – “America We Stand As One” (song + video combo)

Well Garret, now this is happening.

Growing up, I never gave Sade a second thought. As far as I was concerned, she (and I know it’s technically a “they” but who the fuck cares and I’m not spending the next however-many words fretting about pronouns) was more of a musical punchline than an artist of any particular merit. At best she was the singer that the girls in my high school listened to feel deep or soulful, at worst she was the musical equivalent of Skinemax, or at the very least some very very sleazy late-night infomercial. “Sexual Healing” is my least or second-least-favorite song of all-time, and from the clips of it I heard in cheesy compilation commercials, “Smooth Operator” seemed not all that dissimilar. Eventually I heard “Operator” in full and realized it wasn’t so bad, but I don’t think it was until I discovered “No Ordinary Love” that I realized what short shift I had been giving Ms. Adu all these years.

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