Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Archive for February, 2007

What the World Needs Now: An *NSYNC Reunion

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 19, 2007

Love, sweet love like I need a hole in my head

It seems increasingly obvious to me that *NSYNC were to the turn of the millenium what The Jackson 5 were to the 70s, what New Edition were to the 80s and what New Kids on the Block were (arguably) between the 80s and 90s–the pop supremacists of the time that owned charts and hearts everywhere, and more importantly, deserved it. Revisiting their catalogue, it clearly stands far above any of their Boy Band peers–even Backstreet Boys, the group that always seemed one step ahead of them at the time but whose big hits now sound exceedingly weak by comparison–and if anything, sounds better (and more refreshing) now than it did then. The statute of limitations on *NSYNC has definitely been lifted.

And interestingly, unlike all the other groups previously mentioned, *NSYNC have never actually failed or faded away. In fact, the group stopped at near the peak of their powers–though 2001’s Celebrity might not have been quite as popular as 00’s record-shattering No Strings Attatched, it still spun off three gigantic hit singles, saw the group expanding their sound beyond typical Boy Band fare, and saw the group beginning to emerge as songwriters and producers as well. While the hits had begun to dry up for 98 Degrees and LFO, and Backstreet Boys were clearly stagnating, *NSYNC seemed like they could’ve been the one group to survive the Boy Band era.

But then a certain someone decided to strike out on a solo career, and turns out he was pretty good at it–as forward-thinking as Celebrity might have been, Justified blew it out of the water, and suddenly Justin Timberlake wasn’t just the guy from *NSYNC, he was JT, a gigantic pop star in his own right. Then JC Chasez’s album flopped, Joey Fatone and Lance Bass made one of the worst romantic comedies of the millenium and Chris Kirkpatrick went underground. No longer anywhere close to being on the same footing as his ex-boybandmates, prospects of JT returning to *NSYNC seemed dim, and Timberlake more or less confirmed as much on an All Eyes on Me MTV special, in which he said he wasn’t sure what the group would do if they got back together, since “the music they were once famous for has since decreased in popularity.”

I always thought Bass’s performance was lacking a certain sincerity

Well, I say that now is the time to bring it back. The timing might never be as good again as it is now–Lance Bass’s recent sexuality revelation still has about 45 seconds left on his 15 minutes, Chris Fitzpatrick is gonna be on the new VH1 CelebReality show Man Band (along with members of Color Me Badd, LFO and 98 Degrees–yeowch), and JT is so worshipped by both critics and pop fans of all stripes that any project of his would be embraced by all with open arms. The pieces are in place.

But most importantly, I think its simply time for people to like *NSYNC again. The kids who fawned over Joey, Chris, Lance, JT and Justin when they were tweens are now mostly in their college years, that magical time period where everything from your youth that you were supposed to hate while you were in High School suddenly becomes cool again–are you gonna tell me that these people wouldn’t scream along to “It’s Gonna Be Me” if it was played at the right party? A little over a year ago, I did a Name That Tune contest with my High School friends, and across five decades of popular music that I asked questions about, the only song that every one of them correctly identified was “Tearin’ Up My Heart.” Meanwhile, on a recent episode of Scrubs, Turk claimed he was bringing back “Bye Bye Bye” with his new ringtone, and had the entire Sacred Heart staff (including Kelso!) grooving to it within seconds. Clearly, people’s *NSYNC memories are still as vivid as they ever were.

I’m not sure what it would sound like if they released a new album–though I bet some of the high-profile friends JT has picked up along the way to becoming the biggest pop star in the world would probably be along to lend a hand– and I can’t even really guarantee that it would be any more successful than the lukewarmly received BSB career reinvention, Never Gone. But dammit, it’s been over a half-decade since we’ve had a decent boy band superpower, and that’s just too long.


Posted in What the World Needs Now | 4 Comments »

Take Five: Reasons Why I’m Rapidly Losing Interest in LOST

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 18, 2007

A representative sample of the latest wonders rocking The Good Dr.ís world and plaguing his mind.

The third season of LOST has hit a lull in the ratings, and it’s easy to see why. I’m still watching it–I’ll probably at least see the season out before giving up entirely–but where the show used to be the high point of my TV week, the thrill is basically gone, and I’m watching the show more out of obligation than anything else. I have done much soulsearching and pinpointed five of the reasons why this might be the case.

1. The fragmentation of characters. Due to the show now having two locations for main settings, the survivor Island and the others Island, episodes tend to focus solely on one block of characters. Consequently, you get entire episodes, even multiple consecutive episodes, where main characters don’t show up at all–I can barely even remember the last time we saw from Jin and Sun, and who the hell knows what’s happening with Michael and Walt. The show’s ensemble nature was one of its main draws, by routinely forgetting about several characters at a time, the show is greatly weakened.

2. Getting harder and harder to suspend disbelief. For a while, it seemed like maybe the LOST creators wanted the show to be at least parlty grounded in reality, and that most of the show’s weird happenings were in some way explicable. But with the return of the Velvet Fog from the first season, who apparently wasn’t a big fan of Mr. Eko, and now Desmond’s apparent time-travel / pre-cognitive powers, it’s just getting to be too much. Being all about fate and such is one thing, but going the sci-fi route is not a good move for this show.

3. The ridiculously long break in the show’s airing. By trying to straddle both the Fall and Spring TV peaks, LOST leaves itself with a mid-season three-month gap in which no new episodes are broadcast. It’s extremely annoying, and it kills whatever inertia the show’s season had accrued for its first batch of episodes. By the time LOST finally came back this year, I had totally forgotten what had been going on when it left off, and more importantly, I had forgotten why I should even care.

4. More and more questions being asked without any getting answered. The polar bear. Those Portugese dudes in the season two finale. The fog. The button. The Others LOST has made it perfectly clear that they ain’t explaining shit. At best, they’ll answer one question, but in a way that gives rise to three more questions, leading to lots of “Oh, so that’s why X and X happened! Wait, huh?” quasi-revelatory moments. At first it made the show mysterious and intriguing, now it’s just fucking irritating.

5. Heroes. I’m extremely late to this show–busy on Monday nights and I couldn’t find a good download–but since a friend burned me a DVD of the first eleven episodes, I’m totally hooked, and it’s mostly for the same reasons that I was initially grabbed by LOST. It’s got a lot of the same appeal–diverse ensemble cast, can’t-wait-till-next-week mysteries and revelations, spellbinding set pieces and action sequences–but it feels much fresher than LOST does now, and it’s still in a stage where not explaining everything is still acceptable and even preferable. Supposedly the creators have a five-year plan for the show already mapped out, too, so here’s hoping I’m not making the same complaints about it two seasons from now.

Posted in Take Five | 3 Comments »

Hot One Alert: Avril Lavigne – “Girlfriend”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 17, 2007

Aw yeah

This is exactly the sort of song that Avril Lavigne needs right now. After unleashing a triptych of three of the best-crafted, most energetic youth-pop singles of the 00s (“Complicated,” “Sk8ter Boi” and “I’m With You,” in case you somehow managed to avoid 2001 and 2002), Avril’s follow-up efforts were lukewarm at best, and her latest single, “Keep Holding On” (from the Eragorn soundtrack) was about as cold as it gets.

Luckily, Avril has brought back the hotness. From the first few seconds of “Girlfriend,” it’s clearly that something has definitely changed–there’s none of the breezy piano and guitar intros that kicked off her Under My Skin singles, the songs that waited forever to kick in. Rather, Avril immediately goes straight for the kill–one clap and a guitar chord and we’re off, “HEY! (hey!) / YOU! (you!) / I DON’T LIKE YOUR GIRLFRIEND! / (NO WAY, NO WAY!) / I THINK YOU NEED A NEW ONE!”

The most obvious reference point here is, surprisingly, The Pipettes–the nu-girl group sensation from last year that rallied indie girls and set indie boys’ hearts aflame with their Spectorian cheerleader chants “Your Kisses are Wasted on Me” and “Pull Shapes.” The same cheerleading influence is undeniably apparent in “Girlfriend,” from the call & response chorus to the “Mickey” drumbeat that punctuates it, and detractors of this song will undoubtedly strike at it for being a pale imitation of the admitteldy fairly original sound The Pipettes cultivated.

And while it’s sort of hard to believe that either Avril or co-writer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald have been listening to a group that it seems like no one outside the internet has ever even heard of, it still is definitely something of an imitation. However, something about those Pipettes singles never really clicked for me–they’re great, sure, but they feel too distant, and not quite obvious enough for what truly great, explosive pop should be. And explosive is really the only way to describe “Girlfriend,” which bursts out of the gates and maintains that feeling for 3:36. Blender already called it “the perfect pop-punk single,” and though “Girlfriend” is at least generations away from anything really resembling punk, the necessary attitude is at least there–find me a line half as good as “She’s, like, so whatever / you could do so much better” in either of those Pipettes songs, and I’ll show up with a skirt and pompoms to your next homecoming game.

Posted in Hot One | 2 Comments »

Listeria: The Top Ten Action Movies of the Decade So Far

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 16, 2007

Life is more interesting in list form.

It’s probably an age thing–scratch that, it’s almost definitely an age thing–but to me, the 90s will always be the Golden Age of action movies. In the period between 1991, when Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the movie which set the standard for all other 90s action blockbusters to be measured against was released–and 1999, in whcih The Matrix signaled that the paradigm for action movies had irreversibly shifted–there was a spate of classic Hollywood action flicks the likes of which no decade had seen before. Speed, The Last Boy Scout, Assassins, Die Hard: With a Vengeance, Enemy of the State, Face/Off, Goldeneye, Heat, Leon/The Professional, Desperado, Broken Arrow, Mission: Impossible, The Rock, Con Air, Armageddon, Bad Boys, The Fifth Element, Under Siege, Air Force One, Cliffhanger–even Titanic and the Tarantino movies were pretty action-oriented.

These movies might not be classics in the traditional sense, and to people of a certain age they probably seem like utter garbage, but to people of a certain age (mine, namely), the mention of any of these titles will evoke a set of memories more vivid than those of any other movies, even if they haven’t seen the films since they were eight, and wouldn’t even like them if they saw them today. Sure, the 80s might have more action titles that have since been canonized–mostly those associated with the names Schwarzeneggar, Cameron and Stallone–but if the 80s created the formula, then I feel that the 90s perfected it.

So what happened between then and now? Well, Cameron stopped making movies, Schwarzeneggar went into politics, Segal and Stallone slid into total irrelevancy, Jerry Bruckheimer took it too far with Pearl Harbor, Bruce Willis decided to try his hand at romantic comedy, Will Smith attempted artistic credibility, the worst ever movie in the Bond franchise was released, Tom Cruise and John Travolta lost the plot and then their minds, and even Tony Scott’s winning streak ran dry. And as previously mentioned, The Matrix had upped the ante, ensuring that the basic gunfights, car chases and explosions recipe wasn’t going to be quite so mindblowing anymore. Not to mention that I grew up a little.

That’s not to say that no one picked up the slack, however. Thanks to some new faces on the scene, both behind and in front of the camera, as well as some strong veteran and comeback efforts from old favorites, the genre’s still alive and well, and even if it can never quite measure up to the glory days in my eyes, there’s still enough out there to keep action junkies like myself (or at least, my twelve-year-old self) satisfied. Here are the top ten examples.

(Oh, and FTR, I didn’t include the Tarantino movies because they’re too cross-pollenated to really count in any one genre, Batman Begins because the action scenes were the worst parts of the movie, Sin City because it’s too weird to be considered a straight action movie, or V for Vendetta and the Lord of the Rings trilogy because they fucking suck)

10. The Italian Job. Far from a flawless movie by any standards (where does one train to be a professional safecracker, anyway? Are there schools for that sort of thing? And are they all attended by chicks who look like Charlize Theron?), The Italian Job secures a spot on this list for the three main things it has going for it. One is its supporting cast–one of the best The Crews I’ve seen assembled for a recent action movie, with memorable turns from Mos Def, Seth Green and Jason Statham (who, um, might be appearing at least once more on this list). The second are the two lead actors, the always underrated Mark Wahlberg and the contractually-obligated Edward Norton, whose extremely obligated bitterness at starring in a movie he considered beneath him created a compellingly malicious villian. And the third is of course the job itself–unnecessarily elaborate and entirely implausible, just like all the best heist movies. Oh yeah, I think there might’ve been some nice cars in there somewhere too.

9. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The first two (or fourth and fifth, depending) Star Wars movies were somewhat undeniable clunkers–the dilaogue ridiculously stilted, the Touching Moments usually seeming downright creepy, and most importantly, the memorable action sequences few and far between. With the release of Revenge of the Sith, though, it was pretty apparent that they were just saving all the best fights for the end of movie three–a continuous, near-hour-long fight sequence breathtaking enough to justify just about everything that came before it. Not to mention one of the best “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!” cries in movie history for a capper.

8. S.W.A.T. A servicable, if cliche-ridden action script, given cred by a brilliantly-assembled cast of leading lights and new talent. Michelle Rodriguez, Colin Farrell and the always solid LL Cool J, in a team led by Samuel L. Jackson? Yeah, that’ll do it. Still, the most memorable part of the movie comes not from these guys, but from Olivier Martinez’s french Stanley Whiplash-style hamming. Say it with me now: “OOOONE HUUUUUUNDRED MEEEEEEEEEEEEELIOOONN DOLLARS!!!!!!!!!”

7. Die Another Day. Rebounding from the atrocity that was The World is Not Enough was tough, but between the gadgets (an invisible car–amazing the things they can do with mirrors these days!), the girls (Halle Berry, of course, but I prefer frosty belle Rosamund Pike), and the pointless, pointless extravagances (swordfights, LAZOR BEAM CHASES, even a dude with diamonds in his face), Die Another Day became the first worthy entry in the Bond canon from this Millenium, and for what it’s worth, I still prefer it to Casino Royale. Except for that Madonna theme, ugh.

6. The Fast and the Furious. He had done some other stuff before–aspiring business types will probably still point to Boiler Room as the definitive work in his ouevre–but for most people, it was The Fast and the Furious that introduced perhaps the first entirely 21st century action hero with Vin Diesel. A thrill-seeking brute with a heart of gold and a head shinier than a new penny, Vin turns this racing B-movie into an action A-lister with a single utterance of his need for speed. Even Paul Walker, possibly the biggest mimbo to ever be considered something resembling an action star, can’t hold this one down.

5. The Matrix Reloaded. The second and third Matrix movies don’t tend to get much love, but I didn’t think they were that much worse–or even that different–than the first one. The thrill of the new was gone, sure, and the plot just kept getting more and more ridiculous, but the thrill-a-minute action was still there, and this movie’s highway chase–in which pretty much all the trilogy’s main players show up for a piece–easily ranks in my top five action scenes of all-time. I still watch it whenever it’s on TV, the true test of an action classic.

4. The Transporter. The return of Luc Besson, and the emergence of Jason Statham as the coolest British dude since Noel Gallagher. You probably know the most legendary scenes even if you’ve never seen the movie, since the previews were jammed down TV viewers’ throats continuously for months–the running kick-down-the-door, the car jump off the bridge onto one of those carrier things, the deflecting-a-rocket-with-a-lunch-tray evasion (which isn’t actually in the movie, for some reason) and explosion after explosion after explosion. Add a fantastically creepy, possibly gay Rick Schroeder-lookalike villian who always looks ensure of whether he wants to kill or seduce The Transporter, as well as the foxiest teenage Asian kidnapping victim/love interest since that girl from The Big Hit, and you’ve got an 00s classic for certain. The sequel is essential viewing as well, if that wasn’t already obvious.

3. XXX. Why this movie didn’t establish Vin Diesel as the biggest action hero since Sean Connery got his double-0 status, I have no idea. An extreme sports-loving, non-drinking/smoking, exceedingly ugly but irresistible to women, motorcycle-jumping, fur coat-wearing dude trying to save the world from evil Russian anarchists? C’mon, how does this not become a twenty-movie franchise? The second movie is almost as good, but awesome though Cube is, it’s Diesel who should’ve been able to coast his entire career off of this one role. Dropping the role was like David Caruso leaving NYPD Blue for a movie career–let’s just hope Vinny gets a CSI: Miami-style opportunity for resurrection.

2. Collateral. Michael Mann has spent the better part of two decades proving that action movies can be be exceedingly suspenseful and smart at the same time, and even if he dropped the ball somewhat with the should’ve-been-a-slam-dunk Miami Vice, he created a worthy successor to Manhunter and Heat with Collateral. The two-hour mental face-off between Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx is never short of transfixing, and watching Foxx transfer from a legitimately nervous, dorky cab driver to an in control, worthy adversary for TC proves that Foxx won his Oscar in the right year for the wrong movie. And there’s just something so unassuming about the way Mann presents violence and destruction that you don’t really even have to suspend your disbelief for his movies–it feels completely natural, a claim that maybe .00001% of action movies can be able to make.

1. Crank. And yes, it should be no surprise the fourth appearance from Jason Statham (he has a bit role at the beginning of Collateral, which I had completely forgotten about) is the #1 movie on the list. Crank is most easily explained as “Speed with a person instead of a bus,” and that description really couldn’t be much more accurate–Crank is just as exciting, fresh and just downright kickass as Speed was back in ’94. Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor make up for their lack of a big budget with tons of nifty little action tricks, flashing words and pictures on the screen when appropriate (“do I look like I’ve got ‘cunt’ written on my forehead?”), aerial photography courtesy of Google Maps, and tons of WOAH DRUGZ camera filters and effects. At a platry 87 minutes, Crank is by definition a “non-stop thrill ride,” and the action is phenomenal, from Statham doing a nose dive off a moving motorcycle, to defibulating himself across the room, to breaking someone’s neck in midair, and so much more. Amy Smart probably didn’t win too much feminist cred for her role as Statham’s girl, whose performance basically amounts to performing sexual favors in public situations and generally acting like an idiot, but it’s still exactly the performance a movie like this requires, and she’s a pretty good sport about it. Add in Efrim “Vote for Pedro” Ramirez as Statham’s utterly useless gay assistant Kaylo, Dwight Yoakam as Statham’s morally inept physician, Jose Pablo Cantillo as Statham’s ethnically ambiguous, tough guy would-be assassin Ricky Verona and a soundtrack featuring Loverboy, Quiet Riot and Harry Nilsson (!!!), and you’ve got all you need for 90 of the most fist-pumping minutes in modern cinema. Bruckheimer could really be reminded of a thing or two from this one.

Posted in Listeria | 7 Comments »

Charts on Fire: 02-15-07

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 15, 2007

“Irreplaceable” finally has its run at the top cut short by Nelly Furtado, whose “Say it Right” gives the Canadian superpower her second #1 single in a year’s time. Doesn’t sound at all like a #1 single to me, but can’t say I’m complaining. Unfortunately, this means that FOB is officially out on time on its possible #1 claim, and “This Ain’t a Scene” slides back to #4 this week. “The Sweet Escape” climbs two to #3 and Luda & Mary squeak into the top five. Three new ons to the top ten this week, in the form of big gainer Fergie’s “Glamorous” (31-9), Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around…Comes Around” (11-8) and recently christened HOT ONE “Cupid’s Chokehold” (13-7, Happy Valentine’s Day)

Elsewhere on the top 50, big gainers include Akon’s shitty new single “Don’t Matter” (30-11), RHCP’s “Snow (Hey Oh)” (34-29, people actually watched the Grammys this year) and T.I.’s “Top Back” (46-34). Three new ons to the top half of the countdown this week, Baby Boy da Prince (nice one) and Lil’ Boosie’s “The Way I Live” (hey, I kinda dig this, 52-41), Mim’s appropriately titled “This is Why I’m Hot” (59-46) and Lily Allen’s “Smile” (54-49, four spots away from tying Lady Sov’s peak–here’s hoping). Other GDB-sponsored HOT ONES “Throw Some D’s” and “Icebox” have minor gains this week (19-18 and 49-45, respectively).

Disney sensation Jordan Pruitt has the highest debut on the Hot 100 this week with “Outside Lookin’ In” (‘coz I’m sure Disney royalty are the epitome of outsiderdom, #77). Handful of other new ons this week, including Sheryl Crow’s “Not Fade Away” cover (yet to hear but if that commercial’s any indication, #78), the first Timbaland single in ages for him to be on the other side of the f/ symbol, “Give it To Me” (f/ Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake) (sorta Timbo by numbers, but obviously still ridiculously hot, #87), Yung Joc’s “1st Time” (a luvv rap from the “It’s Goin’ Down” dude, wow, #93), UNK’s “2 Step” (better than “Walk It Out” but that ain’t saying much, #94) and Crime Mob’s “Rock Yo Hips” (“Knuck if You Buck” was kinda cool and so is this, #100)

On the album charts, FOB manage a #1 debut for Infinity on High, but with under 300k sold–I expected half a mil at least. Oh well. More notably, Bloc Party get their first glimpse of the big time with a #12 debut for the lukewarmly received (I listened to it once, sounds about right) A Weekend in the City, though it was only with about 48k sold, which a year or two ago would’ve barely gotten them in the top 50. Sigh.

Red Hot Chili Peppers and Three Days Grace continue their death grips on the rock charts. Robin Thicke becomes the first offspring of a Growing Pains star to top the R&B charts with “Lost Without You,” and George Strait gets his 42nd country #1 (I said goddamn) with the surprisingly good “It Just Comes Natural“. Also worth noting as a gainer on the R&B charts is the inevitably soon-to-be-huge Bow Wow & R. Kelly collab “I’m a Flirt,” halfway between “Feelin’ on Yo Booty” and “That’s That Shit,” so pretty much guaranteed to be a #14 hit.

Posted in Charts on Fire | 3 Comments »

Tradition, Tradition! : 69 Love Songs on Valentine’s Day

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 14, 2007

At three I went to Hebrew School, at ten I learned a trade

Though it’s rarely anything but depressing, part of me still definitely likes Valentine’s Day, if only because it’s one of the two days a year where I’m guaranteed to feel genuine emotion (the other being my birthday, June 23rd in case you want to buy me a six-pack or something). It’s not very nice emotion–usually a mix of loneliness, regret, nostalgia and self-pity–but it’s legitimate, and writers don’t get too many chances to feel legitimate emotion. It reminds me that I’m at least partly human, which is nice to be reminded of from time to time.

Since 2001, when I heard it for the first time, my soundtrack to Valentine’s Day has been The Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs. For the rare bunch of you left out there who haven’t been persuaded to listen to it yet from one corner or another, 69 Love Songs is the brainchild of Field mastermind Stephen Merritt, who released it as a three-disc box set in 1999. It’s exactly what it says it is–69 songs about love, in one form of another, spread out 23 songs for each disc. And it’s arguably the greatest artistic accomplishment of the 21st century.

The thing that always impressed me the most about 69 Love Songs is the scope. It tries to cover everything, and for the most part it succeeds. That includes:

  • Perspective. Boys sing about girls, boys sing about boys, girls sing about boys, girls sing about girls, boys sing about animals, girls sing about musical instruments, boys pretend to be girls singing about boys, girls pretend to be boys singing about girls, and so forth. No gender, orientation or identity crisis is left out.
  • Subject matter. Songs about first love, last love, passionate love, autumnal love, unrequited love, undesired love, impossible love, unnecessary love, lost love, how wonderful love is, how horrible love is, how novel love is, how difficult love is, how irritating love is, how cliched love is, how important love is and how stupid love is. Songs about being still crazy after these years, and songs about being actually crazy after all these years, songs about love making you want to die and songs about love making you want to live. There’s nothing about love that isn’t there.
  • Tone. Songs are gushing, nostalgic, bitter, annoyed, sarcastic, wistful, horny, tired, excited, caustic, romantic, frustrated, pleased as punch and mad as hell. However you’re feeling, so is 69 Love Songs.
  • Genre. Synth-Pop, Folk, Jazz, Soul, Country, Dreampop, Punk (sorta), Tin Pan Alley, Singer/Songwriter, Experimental, Baroque, Reggae (UB40-style anyway) and a capella. Just about everything apart from hip-hop and metal.

It’s ridiculously ambitious–possibly moreso than any other album in history–but it holds together beautifully. Even the album’s most ardent fans wouldn’t claim that every song is a winner, but like most masterpieces, the flaws are just as endearing as the gems, and even unqualified failures like “Punk Love,” “Very Funny,” “Love is Like Jazz,” “Fido Your Leash is Too Long” and “Experimental Music Love” add to the feel of the whole album, and I can’t imagine it without them. Together, these 69 songs do the impossible–they provide the definitive word on the love song. It’s the totality of the experience.

And I continue to listen to it on Valentine’s Day for that reason. Hopefully some V-Day not too long from now, I won’t need it anymore, but for now, it’s like the romantic equivalent of good porn–the closest to the real thing that you can get while still on your own. And for that, I’m thankful.

Posted in Tradition | 3 Comments »

Comic Relief: Jason Fox

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 13, 2007

Some things about comic strips aren’t not worth remembering

Back when I used to read them regularly, FoxTrot was a standby of my daily morning comic skimming. I even used to read through the books every now and then, and they were pretty good reads. Still, even as a kid, I knew there was something about FoxTrot that separated it from the likes of true comic strip classics like Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes. Revisiting them slightly later on, the deficiency became obvious–when it comes to comic strip predictability and repetitiveness, FoxTrot probably ranks somewhere below one-note comics like Cathy or The Lockhorns, but above such dead-horse-beaters as Dilbert and Garfield.

No comic writer has ever milked the “fourth-panel twist” gag as much as Bill Amend. This twist usually consists of the strip looking like one of the characters is doing something nice or responsible, but in the fourth panel it turning out that they’re being selfish or mean. Some of the more frequent variations on this gag include Peter looking like he’s going to do something responsible, but actually he just wants to be lazy and rock out, Roger looking like he’s going to do something nice for his wife, but actually he just wants to be lazy and eat a lot, and Jason looking like he’s going to do something nice for his sister, but really he’s gonna stick his pet iguana Quincy in her hair or something. I suppose it pre-dates truly dysfunctional family sitcomming by about ten years, but really, that’s nothing to be proud of.

There are only two elements of FoxTrot that I still hold in any significant esteem. One is their Thanksgiving specials, which always brought out the best of the strip. Roger and Peter’s annual goal to match their age in Thanksgiving food helpings is something I flash back to with a smile every time I go back at Thanksgiving for my third or fourth go-round. The second one, as the title of this post would suggest, is the character of Jason Fox.

Jason wasn’t necessarily a great character, per se–every character in FoxTrot generally stuck to two or three plotlines, and Jason was no exception. When Jason was involved in a strip, it was generally on one of three tips–trying to piss off and humiliate his sister, trying to torture his fifth grade teacher, or doing something excessively nerdy. The Paige ones were the most formulaic and boring, the ones where he put his teacher through the wringer or proved his mettle at geekdom were generally the most creative in the strip, which admittedly isn’t saying much.

Still, to people of a certain age and social status, Jason will always be something of a hero–because he was like you, except much, much worse. I can’t imagine that too much of FoxTrot’s target audience identified with Jason or Paige so much, probably because I figure 16 year-old jocks and 14 year-old shopaholics have better things to do with their time to read the comics every morning (and they were probably bigger Funky Winkerbean or Zits fans anyway). But imagine there were plenty of nerdy elementary and middle school readers that saw something of themselves in Jason–nerdy, precocious, attention-demanding and unpopular.

But the beauty thing about Jason Fox is that you knew you would never quite be on his level. Like other Golden Yardstick nerd characters in pop culture like Dwight Schrute, Milhouse Van Hauten or that Toby guy from American Splendor, you could always have Jason as a point of comparison to make yourself feel better. Because as nerdy, precocious or socially inept as you could get, you could never be as bad as Jason was. And for people like us, the importance of characters like that can not be underestimated.

Also, his iguana was kind of cool.

Posted in Comic Relief | 5 Comments »

HOT ONE Alert: Gym Class Heroes – “Cupid’s Chokehold”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 12, 2007

Aw yeah

A bit late on this one, I’m aware, but it took me a long time to com to a decision on this one. Really, I’ve known about “Cupid’s Chokehold” for over a year now, since the video started getting played on MTVU last spring. Nothing about it really grabbed me the few times I saw it, though–that is, of course, except for the interpolation of the hook from Supertramp’s unwieldy classic rock staple “Breakfast in America.” A few months later, the song disappeared, and it was replaced in MTVU’s heavy rotation by the singificantly more awful “The Queen and I“.

If anyone ever needed proof of how effective a good video can be in the selling of a good song, the second video for “Cupid’s Chokehold” would be a pretty good Exhibit A. The original video was pretty cute–lead GCHer Travis McCoy gets a doll girlfriend who eventually turns homicidal on him, forcing him to try to get rid of her–but it wasn’t really the right tone for the song. The second video, however, featuring McCoy getting struck by a baby Cupid’s arrow when he meets a new girl at the start of each of the three verses (all of which go sour except the last, when the Cupid is distracted by an arrow he is shot with by a female Cupid), strikes exactly the right chord, one of the sweetest music videos I’ve seen in ages.

And it’s a song that really deserves it. One of the most sincere, touching and direct mainstream love songs of the decade thusfar, it’s no coincidence that the song is starting to peak on the charts just as Valentine’s Day is coming up. “Cupid’s Chokehold” is a fascinating blend of emo and hip-hop, not only in terms of the sound, but in terms of culture and methodology–it has the wit and obviousness of the best hip-hop love songs, with the unguarded feeling and sensitivity of the best emo love songs. Listen to how soft and dreamy McCoy’s voice suddenly gets when the chorus hits–“I mean she even cooks me pancakes / and alka-seltzer when my tummy aches / if that ain’t love, then I don’t know what love is“–he sounds legitimately touched, and the simple details conveyed, if not particularly mindblowing, are real enough to drive it home. There are some clunkers, sure–“If I had to choose between her and the sun / I’d be one nocturnal son of a gun” being perhaps the worst offender–but even those clumsy compliments are heartfelt enough to be entirely forgivable.

And then of course, there’s the Supertramp sample. It doesn’t quite work perfectly–by nature, it’s sort of antithetical to the song’s otherwise gushingly amorous nature (“Not much of a girlfriend / I never seem to get a lot”)–but even still, it gives the song the anchor it needs, isn’t used more than necessary (especially in the remix in the second vid, which drops out the pointless background “girlfriend!” exhortations from the verses). And fuck, it’s a great hook–the most memorable part of the original song, and a ridiuclously off-beat and inspired choice to provide the unforgettable chorus to this soon-to-be classic.

Possibly the best hit love song since “We Belong Together.”

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Livebloggin’: The 2007 Grammy Awards

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 11, 2007

Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide

8:00: The newly-reformed Police open the ceremonies with a version of “Roxanne”. Starts out a fairly faithful cover, but the song goes dub for the second verse. Cool, though not as cool as playing “Synchronicity II” would’ve been. The group links hands and takes a bow, evidently once again able to stand each other’s company. Inspiring.

8:05: First presesnter Jamie Foxx opens his routine with a joke about Snoop “doing the cirpwalk down the 4-5” after he heard that “The Police were opening.” The joke falls flat, evidently tripping Foxx up considerably. “That joke would’ve killed on BET,” he laments.

8:06: As if to prove how current and cutting edge the Grammys have become, Nelly Furtado and Timbaland lose the Best Pop Vocal Collaboration Grammy to Stevie Wonder and Tony Bennett covering Stevie’s “For Once in My Life.” What, did Barry Manilow’s 50s covers album not have any duets on it?

8:09: Joan Baez introduces fellow female musical rebels the Dixie Chicks, who do a fairly solid performance of Record of the Year nominee “Not Ready to Make Nice.” Baez says that she has also been told to “Shut up and Sing,” half the sentiment of which I definitely concur with.

8:18: Prince emerges. “One word: Beyonce” (anything more and the Purple One charges overtime). Beyonce does an impressive “Listen,” bringing the Dreamgirls tally for the night to two so far. Overcompensation for the Oscar snub, I suppose.

8:21: The Black Eyed Peas introduce special Grammy honorees Booker T. & the MG’s; Fergie sounds almost unable to speak in complete sentences. The award for Best R&B Album is announced, going to Mary J. Blige for The Breakthrough. Apparently her first Grammy speech (though I’m almost positive she’s won at least once before), Mary is predictably close to tears. “For so many years people have talked about me negatively, but now I am being talked about positively by so many people.” Mary races to get through her laundry list of Thank Yous as the “Get Off the Stage” music gets louder and louder.

8:28: OK Go has apparently won the Best Shortform Video Grammy for their viral sensation “Here it Goes Again“. This time last year, the phrase “Grammy Winners OK Go” is one I would’ve bet million of dollars against ever being spoken.

8:33: Justin Timberlake is shown talking about what an important song “What Goes Around” is to him, calling it “the best song I’ve written thusfar.” He is then shown performing the song with a live band/orchestra, playing the piano part himself (take that, Rockists!) Eventually he leaves the piano behind, and starts singing right into a mini-camera he holds up to his face while singing. Really necessary?

8:39: Pink and T.I. are brought out to introduce honorees The Doors. Pink looks and soudns drugged out as ever, T.I. is mad classy in an all-black suit and black shirt. Introducing the Best Female R&B Performance, Mary J. Blige is now 2-2 (Indie.Arie, you already had your day). “Let me just be brief about this,” Mary says at the mic, chuckling.

8:41: Jacques Lu Cont wins some Best Remix-related Grammy for his reworking of Coldplay’s “Talk.” Not his best work by any means, and a couple years too late, but awesome to see the dude acknowledged nonetheless.

8:44: Lil’ Jon in a Heineken spot getting off a private plane and handing a twelve-pack to J.D. “Two twelve packs I sweep the awards next year!” he exclaims. “I’m with that,” J.D. responds. Now where were commercials like this during the Super Bowl?
8:48: Stevie Wonder introduces the singer-songwriter block of Corrine Bailey Rae, John Legend and John Mayer. Disappointed to see Corrine Bailey Rae play something besides “Put Your Records On” (which VH1 has bullied me into liking, somehow), but she sounds good anyway. Next up is ’06 Grammy darling John Legend, who remains about as bland as he was last year, but it’s a nice flow from the Rae performance. Then it’s John Mayer, who thankfully does a song besides “Waiting for the World to Change.” Some people say this guy is the next Eric Clapton, which is probably true for all the wrong reasons. All in all, a nice low-key moment, definitely a rarity for the Grammys.

8:58: Nelly Furtado, Natasha Bedingfield and Nicole Scherzinger put aside their petty squabbles to introduce the Best Pop Vocal Album. John Mayer, conveniently still waiting backstage, picks up an easy win for Continuum. “I wanna thank Michael McDonald, my manager,” Mayer says. Can we get a “What a Fool Believes” cover on the next one, John?

9:05: Dear God, please spare me from ever having to hear “Hips Don’t Lie” again.

9:10: Dixie Chicks take home Song of the Year for “Not Ready to Make Nice.” Rick Rubin gets thanked multiple times–is there any genre this dude can’t conquer?

9:19: Lots of bad basketball puns abound the introduction of Gnarls Barkley, performing a slow, orchestrated version of “Crazy” while dressed like pilots (a tribute to Airplane!, maybe?)

9:23: Common and Kanye West present the award for Best Rap Album. Ludacris wins, beating T.I. and Lupe Fiasco. “So all I had to do was cut my hair to win one of these, is that what y’all tellin’ me?” Luda asks. I didn’t even notice it was gone, actually. Luda thanks Oprah and Bill O’Riley one more time at the end of his speech–man, this guy really knows how to hold a grudge.

9:34: Terrence Howard gives a gushing introduction to performer Mary J. Blige, now clearly the woman of the evening. “I’m in love, and for Mary J. Blige, that’s for real,” Mary says, leading into a performance of hit “Be Without You.” I still think the song’s kind of boring, but the crowd obviously disagrees, giving Blige a standing ovation.

9:39: Mandy Moore, LeAnn Rimes and Luke Wilson (???) introduce the award for Best Country Album. They humor the other nominees by reading the nominees, but none of them can have any allusions about beating the Dixie Chicks for this, and sure enough, The Dixie Chicks pick up #2. “Well, to quote the great Simpsons, hah-hah!,” Natalie Maines remarks, admirably attempting a Nelson Muntz taunt. “A whole lot of people just turned their TV sets off,” Maines reflects afterwards.

9:42: The Flaming Lips win their second Grammy for Best Instrumental Rock Performance with “The Wizard Takes On…” The one guy voting in this category must be an Oklahoman or something.

9:48: Carri Underwood and some old dudes do a cover of Bob Wills’ “San Antonio Rose.” I never heard of the guy, sounds like an all right song though. This transitions into a Rascal Flatts cover of fellow country greats The Eagles’ “Hotel California” (uhh, I guess…). Carrie returns for a surprisingly soulful “Desperado” rendition, and then joins up for a final performance of “Life in the Fast Lane,” doing an impressively ripping countrified “Life in the Fast Lane.”

10:00: Natalie Cole and Ornette Coleman appear to pay tribute to Lifetime Achievement honoree Ornette and to present the award for Best New Artist. “Hey, we both have ‘Cole’ in our name!” they unfortunately do not remark. Carrie Underwood of course takes home the honors, even though I could swear she’s been around for at least two years already (people have difficulty remembering a world pre-“Jesus Take the Wheel,” I suppose–understandable). 2

10:08: Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci (who looks disturbingly…adult) introduce Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie and Chris Brown–“three generations of R&B.” Not that I”m the biggest Lionel Richie fan, but I think there’s a little bit of a difference in form and methodology between “Tracks of My Tears” and “Hello,” and “Run It!”–especially since for the chorus, Brown stops singing altogether and just does his highly-choreographed dance thing. This is followed by Grammy regular Christina Aguilera proving how soulful she is for the millionth time by covering James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World,” attempting some of the Godfather’s mic pumps and other signature moves. Bizarre.

10:30: Hey, I didn’t know Freddy Fender and Buck Owens died this year.

10:38: Rihanna and David Spade (“David Bowie and Iman were unavailable”) introduce Ludacris, Mary J. Blige and Earth, Wind & Fire (who seem to need decidedly little persuasion to show up at the Grammys for whatever random position has to be filled). Still my all-time least favorite Ludacris single–I believe Ludacris’ll be able to tackle serious fare one day, but this isn’t the most auspicious start.

10:43: The legacy of Ahmet Ertegun is given tribute by James Blunt’s performance of “You’re Beautiful,” a song which stands for absolutely 0 of the progressions made by Atlantic Records. Bummer.

10:52: Dreamgirls alum #3 Jennifer Hudson announces the My Grammy Moment winner, one of three soul singer chicks with soundalike voices who gets to sing along with Justin Timberlake. Winner Robin Truth looks really confused and sort of upset at her victory. She and Justin do a duet on Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” (I’ll never understand how singers manage to not lose track of all the “I Know” repetitions in that song) before launching into “My Love.” The added punctuations she provides to T.I.’s rap verse are kinda dumb, but aside from that, the girl does all right.

10:58: Tony Bennett and Quentin Tarantino present the Record of the Year grammy. Tarantino seems WAY too jazzed to be presenting the award with Tony Bennett, and about all the extremely unexciting nominees (“YOU’RE BEAAUUUUUUTIFUL!!! JAMES BLUUUUNT!!!”) And of course, it’s a hat trick for the Dixie Chicks. “I’m all out of clever things to say!” Maines exclaims. Pity.

11:09: Chris Rock enthusiastically introduces “The Best Band in the World,” Red Hot Chili Peppers, who support his claim by playing Stadium Arcadium‘s half-baked third single “Snow (Hey Oh)”. Nickelback probably feels pretty left out as the only current million-selling rock band not to get fellated at the Grammys–give ’em another ten years, I guess.

11:13: Al Gore, somehow now the hippest politican on the planet, appears with Queen Latifah (who not so subtly hits on the ex-VP) to present the Best Rock Album. Against all odds, Tom Petty’s latest album fails to trump RHCP, who take the award home for Stadium Arcadium. “Kids, get out there and start more rock bands. WE NEED MORE ROCK BANDS!” proclaims Chad Smith (well, we certainly need more new rock bands), who looks a whole lot more like Will Ferrell than I remembered.

11:24: Don Henley and Scarlet Johanssen present the Album of the Year grammy. Scarlett looks practically unrecognizable, closer to a Simpson sister than the hott indie chick that so many guys fell in love with five years ago. Sad. “So, you’re recording your first album, Scarlett?” “Yes, that’s right Don, do you have any advice for me?” “No.” “(Awkward Pause)”. Nice one. “YES!!!” exclaims Don Henley as he reads the Dixie Chicks as the winners, in a clean sweep. Good for Rick, I guess.

Posted in Livebloggin' | 2 Comments »

Listeria: The Top Ten Bands I Would Most Like to Be a Member Of

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 11, 2007

Life is more interesting in list form.

Unlike many young music fans, I don’t think there was ever really a time when I fantasized about being in any of my favorite bands. This is partly because I never played a rock instrument with much dedication–two or three years of fun, but probably misguided, acoustic guitar lessons is about as far as I got–and because I have basically zero interest in songwriting or musical collaboration. Some say that rock critics are all just failed and/or untalented musicians, and that’s probablytrue to an extent, but being in a band myself was never a thought I entertained with any seriousness.

However, the main reason I never dreamed about being in one of my favorite bands is because I’m too much of a pragmatist–I can’t picture being in any of these groups without picturing all the potential problems and conflicts that would arise from being a member. Sure, I’d probably have loved to have been part of the Beach Boys in ’66 when they were crafting Pet Sounds and “Good Vibrations,” or a member of Motley Crue in ’87 when they were selling out arenas and having sex with more chicks in a week than most males will in their entire lifetime, or a member of Nirvana in ’91 when they were starting to sell like crazy and getting hailed from all corners as the second coming. But actually being a permanent member in those bands would eventually become disastrous–I would never want to deal with the trauma of the inner-group and innner-family conflict of The Beach Boys, the rampant-even-by-Hair-Metal- standards substance abuse and eventual dissentigration of Motley Crue, or the ultimate tragedy of Nirvana.

So I came up with a list of the top ten bands that I could actually see myself being a part of. I wouldn’t do anything in the band that disrupted the group’s pre-existing flow–I wouldn’t take over at lead singer or guitarist, or even drummer, but rather, I’d play some sort of Bob Nastanovich-type Utility Man role. I would play no specific instrument on a permanent basis, but switch around a lot, filling in the gaps where needed and adding extra hooks and punctuation to already-formed songs, while still being viewed as an integral, highly non-disposable member of the band. Every band could use one of those, I figure. As part of these bands, I’m saying that I would assume the nationality, political bent and look of the band as well.

It’s a tricky sort of qualification to break down, though. I wouldn’t want to pick a band whose members are so insanely popular that I couldn’t go out to get my newspaper without reading about it in the tabloids (The Beatles, boy bands, probably KISS), but I also wouldn’t want to choose a band whose members are so obscure and anonymous that I couldn’t get bought a drink in a bar anywhere based on name or visual recognition (Tortoise, Daft Punk, even The Killers). I wouldn’t want to be part of a band so debaucherous and hedonistic that I’d constantly be fearing for my and the band’s life and sanity (The Sex Pistols, Oasis, 98% of metal bands) but I also wouldn’t want to be in a band that seemed like it didn’t really enjoy being famous (Radiohead, Modest Mouse, Pulp). I probably wouldn’t want to be part of a band that continued on far longer than they should have (New Order, Pink Floyd, millions of bands that no one cares about anymore), but I definitely wouldn’t want to be in a band that broke up way before they should have (The Pixies, The Smiths, Velvet Underground). And probably most importantly, I wouldn’t want to be in any band where my or the band’s future was extremely unstable–either because of tumultuous in-band romances (Fleetwood Mac, The Mamas and the Papas, No Doubt), constantly shifting band line-ups (The Fall, The Cure, most Motown groups) or most importantly, a self-indulgent prima donna lead singer that could at any point decide that the band is taking a seven-year break, or that the group’s next album is gonna be a concept album about breakfast cereal (Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, Blur).

So what is it that I am looking for here? A band that has maintained an admirable level of success, critical or commercial (or optimally, both) for a fairly extended period of time, one whose members don’t seem like total jackasses and that doesn’t seem like it could implode at any second, and one whose members seem like they’re having a good time without necessarily being too self-destructive about it. And yeah, it probably wouldn’t hurt if they made music that was pretty good too.

Let’s rock.

10. My Chemical Romance. Emo superheroes that got ridiculously popular on their own terms. Despite being rather depressive-seeming types in general, these guys always look like they’re enjoying themselves, mostly because of their ridiculously fun videos (even their WWII-set vid for “The Ghost of You” looks like it was a blast to make). Now they’ve turned into a goth-pop Queen and look like they’re on their way to being one of the definitive bands of the early 21st century, with a sound and look that is entirely theirs and relatively uncomprised.

Possible Disadvantages: Yet to definitively prove longevity, possible (though unlikley) that they will be seen as an 00s relic ten years down the line, being that dramatic all the time is probably exhausting

9. Rush. Worshipped in their home country and well-loved by most elsewhere, consistently popular for several decades without ever really being famous in the conventional sense, probably wealthy as hell and in comfortable family lives, never any significant drama to speak of–I can’t really picture Rush doing much of anything besides spending hours in the studio trying to get just the right guitar/bass/drum tone, driving their producers and engineers insane. They probably read a bunch too.

Possible Disadvantages: Little respect from critics, probably not too much in the way of groupie love, hard to keep up with bandmates’ instrumental heroics, would have to learn to like hockey

8. Sonic Youth. Being in Sonic Youth would be like getting to sit at the cool kids’ lunch table for your entire life. Accessible and important enough to sign with Geffen, get minor radio and MTV play and even appeaer on The Simpsons, but underground enough to sustain a lifetime supply of indie cred, Sonic Youth have gotten to play the part of alternative rock’s cool older brother for over two decades now. Even Steve Shelley, possibly the dorkiest looking dude in the history of rock, seems kind of badass by association.

Possible Disadvantages: Have to be friends with a lot of arty people, chronic migraines from 25 years of prolongued feedback exposure

7. The Strokes. Underground rock gods in the US, mainstream ones just about everywhere else, well-loved enough for even the drummer to be able to date Drew Barrymore. Always photographed smiling, drinking and kissing, became a part of rock history with seemingly no effort whatsoever, look scruffy and poorly shaven all the time. Sounds pretty good to me.

Possible Disadvantages: Have to deal with lots of annoying fashionista types, diminishing returns with every new album thusfar threaten upkeep of long-term media darling status

6. Ash. Blink-182 would’ve been fairly great for this, but the band’s last few years, in which Tom DeLonge turned out to be a humongous prick, some asshole at MTV thought it was a good idea to give Travis Barker his own TV show and the band broke up extremely unamicably, disqualify them from this. Ash is here because they’re essentially the UK Blink–a pop-punk band whose sound explodes with the excitement and energy of being young and whose members always seem like they’re thrilled to be in a band that a whole lot of people seem to like–but without the horrible final chapter. Plus, Charlotte Hatherley.

Possible Disadvantages: Occasional career slumps, anonymity in US, have to attempt “mature sound” eventually

5. Duran Duran. This breaks at least a couple of rules–copious drug use, extreme popularity swings and media swamping among them–but goddamn, being in Duran Duran in the early-mid 80s just must’ve been so fucking wonderful. Responsible for at least a half-dozen of the best and most popular pop songs of the decade, adored by nearly all teenage girls and probably at least a couple teenage guys worldwide, dating models and flying around the world to sell out arenas and film exotic and elaborately plotted music videos–it’s appropriate that these guys did the best ever James Bond theme, since if Bond had been in a band, it probably would’ve been Duran Duran. Plus, their excesses didn’t seem that self-destructive–sure, they probably had porn-worthy sex lives and did a blizzard of coke, but no one died or accidentally killed someone or anything.

Possible Disadvantages: Previously mentioned pratfalls, plus lack of crit cred (at least until two decades into career) and seething resentment and jealousy from less commercially and sexually successful rock dudes everywhere

4. Foo Fighters. Despite being formed under less than ideal circumstances–haunted, at least at first, by the death of Kurt Cobain, ex-bandmate of Fighters Dave Grohl and Pat Smear–the Foo Fighters have proven to be one of the most consistently reliable alt-rock bands of the last 20 years, pumping out solid hit singles and albums and remaining well-liked by almost everyone, despite the fact that they’ve only really written one GREAT song in their career (“Everlong”). And it seems like they have a blast doing it, too.

Possible Disadvantages: Control freak frontman, possible recent artistic stagnation

3. Bon Jovi. Having conquered the hearts of fans of 80s rock, TRL, and now even country, Bon Jovi’s fanbase spans entire generations, and along with Def Leppard, they’ve emerged as the only megapopular band to escape the Hair Metal era without having to resort to playing cruises and Vegas. Probably because they were never really hair metal to begin with–Bon Jovi always seemed too nice to be metal, which is why you never saw them on Behind the Music, or never heard about them breaking up or going to rehab or trying to kill each other or anything. As long as there is karaoke, bar bands and the state of New Jersey, Bon Jovi will remain an institution.

Possible Disadvantages: No one knows anyone in Bon Jovi besides the singer and guitarist, decade-long rough patch in between New Jersey and “It’s My Life,” probably have to deal with idiot metalheads saying that you “FUCKING RUINED EVERYTHING!!

2. Yo La Tengo. One of the most modest, unassuming bands in history. Yo La Tengo just seem like they sorta do what they feel like, eschewing rock trends for playing obscure 60s and 70s covers, jamming for however long they want to and singing about the positive qualities of domesticity. Like Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo have been around and acclaimed for long enough that they can pretty much coast the rest of their careers and still gig and record fairly successfully. Plus, they seem like they’d be fun guys to hang out, the kind of music nerds who spend hours arguing over which VU album is better, White Light/White Heat or self-titled while plugging dollar bill after dollar bill into the bar jukebox to ensure an evening of nothing but their selections. My kind of people.

Possible Disadvantages: No mainstream recognition whatsoever, in-band married couple means possible future drama, doubt James McNew gets laid much on the hook of being the bassist for Yo La tengo

1. Green Day. Three weirdo high-school friends that somehow became the defining band of a generation–twice. Green Day became one of the biggest bands in the world in 1994 with great songs about masturbation, boredom and being a loser, fucked around for a decade, and then did it again in 2004 with great songs about world anxiety, loneliness and how fucked up everything is. They get to dress and act like idiots despite being well into their 30s, go multi-multi-platinum in an age when most rock bands can barely manage gold, and still manage to maintain punk cred and gushing critical acclaim doing it. They get to be both The Who and The Buzzcocks, and after fifteen years, they seem like they still like each other pretty OK. I think I could get down with that.

Possible Disadvantages: Mike Dirnt could get kind of irritating after a while, I guess.

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