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It’s All About Me: Year-End Shilling

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on December 12, 2008

Can’t get enough of IITS listeria? Well while we wind down to the big finish of 100 Years, 50 Losers, take a long at the Top 50 People That Made Us Love Sports countdown over at the new benificiary of our sportswriting contingent, Sports for President. The list was compiled, edited, partially written and, uh, graphicized by yours truly, and it updates five entries a day for the next week or two. Join in the fun, why don’t you?

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It’s All About Me: A New Tenure for IITS

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 8, 2008

Just more of me to love, babe


So, I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking. “Boy I sure love the work you do here at IITS, Andrew,” you ponder. “But I wish you didn’t have to write so much about music, movies, TV, and other boring pop culture stuff like that. Rather, I just want you to write about nothing but sports, which you clearly know so much about, and have such fantastic insight into.” Well, young reader, today is your lucky day, for I have recently started scribing for upstart athletics blog Sports for President, where you won’t have to worry about distractions like Billboard charts, 90s action movies and The Wire to distract from my nonstop NBA, MLB and other such coverage. And if, for some inexplicable, diabolical reason, you actually prefer my non-sports writing, you’re in luck as well, since it’s likely I’ll be doing far less of it here at IITS.

That said, it is 4:55 on a Friday night, and I don’t quite have the energy to write about the season finale of Mad Men tonight. So instead, here’s a little taste of what you could be getting at S4P–my recent commemoration of the anniversary of Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy’s proud proclomation of middle-agedom:

As we approach the unofficial anniversary of last year’s Oklahoma St. – Texas Tech game–and more notably, State coach Mike Gundy’s now-infamous post-game press conference, in which he bitterly attacked Oklahoman writer Jenni Carlson’s journalistic integrity and apparent lack of child-rearing abilities– and we wait anxiously to see whether Gundy acknowledges the occasion, either before or after tomorrow’s game (perhaps taking a page from The Answer’s playbook?), let us look back on the ten qualities of this clip that elevated the Gundy blow-up to the highest, Denny Green and Jim Mora-level of football coach YouTubery.

10. The Halloween colors. It’s entirely possible that all Oklahoma State press conferences look this spooky and ominous, I suppose, but I doubt it comes off as appropriately as it does here.

9. The reporter who chews gum and rolls her eyes on the sidelines at 2:06. Ooooh, you’re lucky Coach Gundy didn’t catch that little piece of disrespect, young lady!

8. “THAT’S NOT TRUE! THAT’S NOT TRUE!” Anybody wanna make me an avatar-ready .gif of this?

7. Gundy becoming inaudible as he wanders too far from the mics. It’s the first thing they teach you in Dramatic Monologues 101, Mike! If you’re not going to properly amplify, then you better project..

6. “But you OBVIOUSLY don’t have a child! I DO!” Yeah, and you know what their names are? Gavin, Gunnar and Gage. Seriously…Gavin Gundy, Gunnar Gundy and Gage Gundy. Who are are we to be lecturing about properly raising one’s children, exactly, Mike?

5. “If somebody makes fun of [your child]…because he dropped a pass in a pickup game?! Or says he’s FAT?? AND HE COMES HOME CRYING TO HIS MOM?!?!?” Oh boy, you can bet Gundy’s three G’s were catching hell for this little reminiscence during their respective lunch periods the next Monday.

4. The polite applause at the end. Next week, Fortinbras’s closing solliloquoy from Hamlet.

3. “That’s why I don’t read the newspaper! Because it’s GARBAGE!! Hey, The Lockhorns is still pretty good.

2. When the middle sections of the paper falls out from Gundy’s grasp at :20. Points to Gundy for never breaking tone or stride, though, or bothering to pick it up after his initial attempt to catch it fails. The Show Must Go On.

1. “I’M A MAN! I’M 40! Thank God they don’t make those annoying Coors Light commercials for NCAA-level coach rants.

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It’s All About Me: Happy Halloween, All

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 1, 2008

Not bad for my first costume in a half-decade, I don’t think.

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It’s All About Me: The Playoff / Unployment Beard (Pt. 3: The Final Chapter)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 31, 2008

The end is the beginning is the end

Ah, it seems like only yesterday that the first few facial hairs of hope started to grace my heretofore unscuzzled visage. I look back at those initial glimmers of promise now and chuckle at how young I was, and how far I’ve come in the 42 days since. Not that I’m quite at Hermit Assassin in Amores Perros level fuzziness now or anything, but I think it’s actually dangerously close to a real beard–not graceful, by any means, and with more holes than an M. Night Shyamalan twist, but furry enough that I actually worry about shit getting caught in my face when I eat now. Examine the evidence:

And they said it couldn’t be done.

Unfortunately, it looks like it’s time for TPUB to go. For one thing, the Phillies (as anyone who has come within miles of this blog or myself should know by now) have won the World Series, and while I never specified what I would do with TPUB if the Phillies won in the playoffs, I feel like I should commemorate the occasion in some way beyond blasting Philly Soul and dancing in my 2008 Championships T-Shirt. Not to mention, I do have an interview coming up this Monday for a job I’m actually semi-excited for, and obviously, the beard has crossed the level from endearingly half-assed to where the hell is he going with this? status again. So I either need to shave it or trim it, and I’m not confident enough in my trimming abilities to be confident that I wouldn’t just make it look weirder. Plus, I’m going as a scruff-less figure for Halloween. Thus, Everything Must Go.

That said, I’m really going to miss the damn thing–so much so that I expect my hand will be quivering as I run the cheap disposable razor down my face for the first time in a month and a half. It gave me an air of confidence, a feeling of maturity, and something to rub when I was in moments of deep contemplation. My mother and one or two of my friends even tried to convince me that it looked good on me in some stages, and at points I was even inclined to believe them. I might want to grow it back at some point–hopefully when I’m already employed and don’t have to worry about people’s judgement while I’m in the tweener stages, and with the knowledge and experience this time to be able to tame it, and craft it so that I don’t just look like I glued a bunch of pubes to my face or something.

Goodbye, old friend. Maybe we’ll meet again someday.

R.I.P. The Playoff / Unemployment Beard, Sept. 12th – October 31st

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It’s All About Me: The Unemployment / Playoff Beard (Pt. 2)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 29, 2008

And when you smile for the camera, I know I love you better

We’re getting on about two and a half weeks now on the Unemployment / Playoff beard–sorry I didn’t update at the two week marker exactly, but my roommate decided to be an asshole and actually asked me to stop holding onto his digital camera for no reason while he went back to DC for the week. It’s still pretty far from anything resembling a full beard, but it’s definitely hairier than I’ve seen myself in a while, and it’s up to the point where it clearly looks like I’m at least trying to grow a beard, instead of just having forgotten to shave for 36 hours. I’m sure some you legitimately hairy people out there are still scoffing, but what can I say? Baby steps.

At the very least, a couple of my relatives asked me who I was at Rosh Hashannah dinner tonight. Don’t know whether to consider that an insult or a compliment.

Anyone know of a good data entry position opening?

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It’s All About Me: The Unemployment / Playoff Beard (Pt. 1)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 19, 2008

Intensities in Ten Suburbs, Now Hiring for Weddings and Bar Mitzvahs

My relationship with facial hair has always been tempestuous, at best. I don’t even think I really hit puberty full-on until I was in High School, and since then, my few attempts at anything resembling respectable scruff have been humiliating, humbling experiences–I always seem to end up in the uncomfortable space in between between a rugged, Kurt Warner-ish 5 O’Clock Shadow and an earthy, Casey Blake-style full-on affair. Still, every now and then, I get the urge to just see what happens when I let it go for a little while, holding out hope that maybe this time, if I just show a little more patience with it, it’ll finally grow into something socially tolerable. Unfortunately, even if it eventually did, I’d still have to suffer through days and days of looking like I was pathetically trying to grow a beard, despite my obvious inability to do so.

Luckily, in my current state of unemployed post-graddom, my obligatory social interactions are at an all-time low. Meanwhile, I’ve got a pennant race to monitor, and my disposable razor is on its last legs. So, with all this in mind, I present to you the Unemployment / Playoff beard. I haven’t shaved in a week, which by ordinary male standards is about two, maybe two-and-a-half days of facial slovenliness. This near-beard will continue until either:

  1. The Phillies are eliminated from the playoffs (or, God forbid, from playoff contention), or they win the World Series.
  2. I manage to actually get a job (or a job interview, depending).

Until then, I am hoping that either my beard finally comes to fruition, or that the social stigma of having these fuzzy patches of nothingness attached to my face will spur me on to step up my searching efforts for employment prospects (or, uh, my supportive efforts for the Phillies). Meanwhile, here’s the unpretty progress thusfar:

(Front View)

(Left Side)

(Right Side)

Note the bald spots in the middle of the side-beards. I bet you didn’t even know beards could have bald spots.

We’ll check back in on this in a week. Go Phils. And salaried compensation for an honest day’s work.

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It’s All About Me / Eugoogly, Pt. 3: The Great Stylus Meet-Up ‘07

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 4, 2007

And we would all go down together

So the last hurrah has come and gone, and this will be the last part of my half-week-long tribute to Stylus Magazine (and no, you haven’t missed anything I’ve written on GHIII in the last eight days, and yes, I’m well aware of how shameful that is). But I feel like this grand aggregation of Stylus folks–nearly 20 writers at one point or another over the course of the weekend–still deserves some coverage on this blog, especially since who knows how long it’ll be before I have an excuse to write about these fine people again.

It was pretty much the kind of weekend that I had expected–fraught with cancelled or poorly thought-out planning, huge monetary hits and my own unique blend of insecurities and social anxieties, all of which were nonetheless more than made up for with a handful of moments of true emotional transcendence, the kind that are generally few and far between in this world. The sensation of genuine belonging can be so elusive, and I’d be lying if I said I felt it even close to the entire weekend, but those few moments this weekend–unanimously mocking the innumerous flaws of Ian Curtis biopic Control after a misguided viewing, agreeing to order a totally unnecessary third bottle of Pinot Noir at Saturday dinner, and closing the climactic karaoke outing with a staff-wide embrace to the strains of “Bohemian Rhapsody”–will likely stick with me for years to come.

I’d already met a good deal of these people before–New Yorkers and almost-New Yorkers Mike Powell, Tal Rosenberg, Barry Schwartz, Jayson Greene, Liz Colville and Nate De Young, as well as out-of-towners Ian Mathers and Alfred Soto, who were around for the first great Stylus gathering in September of 2005. But naturally, the real draw of the weekend for me was getting to meet a good deal of our out of town writers for the first time. And I gotta say, the stereotype of music writers being boring, disshevelled snobs has been pretty much disproven for me, at least when they’re interacting with each other (or myself). Those that made the biggest impressions on me were to include (in alphabetical order):

  • Cosmo Lee. Cosmo was a surprise on many levels, not the least of which was that one of our site’s resident metal experts actually turned out to be a short, bald, fashionable Asian fellow who worked as a lawyer (though not the real kind, he swears) in San Fransisco. He was also among the friendliest people I met this weekend, who seemed the most interested in actually getting to know me, though, admittedly, there wasn’t too much for him to get to know. “You should get out more,” he told me at one point, in a way that would seem patronizing from almost anyone else, but just sounded genuinely thoughtful and concerned from him. “There’s a whole world out there.” “You could apply that statement to so many levels in my life,” I responded. “It’s kind of scary.”
  • Mike Orme. Before this weekend, I’m not sure I could’ve believed that it would be possible for me to meet someone as well-dressed, well-spoken and well-travelled as Mike Orme without wanting to punch them in the throat. Yet I felt my fist curl up not a single time talking to Mike, who consistently proved himself the most intelligent and interesting person at the table without ever seeming pretentious or superior for doing so. Plus, choosing Dishwalla for karaoke will always be a sure way to my heart.
  • Theon Weber. Theon was almost certainly the coolest person I met this weekend. Despite being the youngest ‘un at the meet-up–which proved tricky at a couple bars Friday night–Theon’s demeanor bespoke a maturity and confidence of which I can barely even conceive, not to mention the fact that he was one funny motherfucker. On a personal level, Theon and I clicked almost instantly, sharing a mild fear of Todd, an adolescense spent on computers (his on gaming, mine on the internet) and an appreciation for ridiculous John Mahoney quotes (“I MAKE THEIR LIIIIIIVES BETTER!!!“). And with stunning rendition of the Talking Heads version of “Take Me to the River,” Theon rivalled Todd’s wailing on “All the Things She Said” and the Gaerig and McGarvey freestyling over “Make it Rain” for the biggest staff karaoke show-stopper. (And note to certain karaoke-goer readers of this blog: I’m not the only with a fondness for doing LFO’s “Summer Girls”)
  • Dan Weiss. A last second volunteering of my apartment for the use of out-of-towners led to Dan staying at my place for the weekend–consequently, I spent far more time with Dan than any of the other staffers. It quickly became clear that as fellow semi-Philadelphians and products of the post-grunge era, Dan and I were cut from the same cloth, and we spent the weekend sharing memories of Y100, Wawa and failed experiments by 90s rock bands (Bush’s Decostruncted, the computer game that came with the Alice in Chains box set, the KoRn unplugged album). A nice guy and a very undemanding guest.
  • Jeff Weiss. Possibly the most charismatic Stylus writers I’ve met thusfar, Jeff also proved himself as the most inspirational current staffer, with three paying freelance gigs to his name, as well as an agent, a manager, a blog that gets paid for its ad space, and even an ex-girlfriend who dwarfs my WSOPC accomplishments with her half-million win on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? He’s also got a screenplay for what sounds like the most promising comedy of the next decade, as long as no one beats him to the punch and Ashton Kutcher keeps his schedule open. Let’s just hope his unceasing reccing of Heavy Metal Parking Lot–which I ended up buying, despite having never seen it–holds up.

And though I didn’t really spend too much time with them, I also gotta make mention of Evan McGarvey and the Gaerig Brothers, Chris and Andrew, who in the great lunchroom cafeteria setting of Stylus almost certainly collectively make up the cool kids table (which I mean in the most complimentary and semi-jealous way possible). Chris’s response to my protesting that I wasn’t drinking Friday night because I wasn’t feeling well of wordlessly and unblinkingly pointing towards the bar was certainly a weekend highlight (and of course, I had no choice but to comply). Also gotta shout out Learned “L. Michael” Foote, who I talked to for maybe ten seconds, but who was nonetheless courteous enough to friend me on Facebook the next day.

But as usual, the greatest performance of the weekend was from editor Todd Burns. Though the occasionally strained nature of my internet relationship with the man has (by this point) been well documented on this blog, and though a couple times over the weekend our communication was less than stellar (he neglected to call me back for info about Thursday night plans, I gave him the wrong directions to the karaoke place on Saturday), I continue to be in awe of the man. His ability and willingness to coordinate with all these people, not just in terms of plans but in terms of making sure he talks to everyone, making sure everyone’s doing all right, was truly astounding, and his final move of paying for the night’s karaoke–no small fee for three hours at 15 people–was the perfect finishing touch.

So what now? Well, it seemed like just about everyone at Stylus had some sort of post-site exit strategy–other freelance gigs, other things to be concentrating on, all sorts of other possibilities (including a handful of writers who even made the jump to the ‘Fork, which is pretty cool). As for me, it’s kind of hard to say–this is entirely likely the end of me as an internet music writer, but I’d definitely like to get something real world for the time being, and I’m applying for a bunch of internships to that end. And don’t worry, the blog ain’t going nowhere–or rather, it’s going somewhere, but me and the archives are coming with it, and hopefully at some point I’ll even be bringing some new writers along for the ride. The best of IITS, I’m sure, is still yet to come.

And I do hope we meet up again as a site at some point–make it a yearly thing or some such, celebrating the life and times of the site that meant to much to us over the course of its half-decade of existence. If nothing else, I’d hate to have spent all this time socializing (outside the internet, no less!) for nothing.

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It’s All About Me / Eugoogly, Pt. 2 (Part II): More of IITS’s Greatest Hits at Stylus

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 3, 2007


Taking a timeout from the Great Stylus Meet-Up of ’07, which for me at least started yesterday morning and hopefully will go until Saturday afternoon, to continue getting all retrospective about my four and a half at Stylus. Here’s five more that I think sum me up pretty nicely.

Top Ten Worst Lines on Interpol’s First Album: My biggest memory about writing this one was that I remember having to leave a Sufjan Stevens concert before the main act actually got on so that I could write it and get it in on time. I was sure I’d regret the decision–not because I was such a huge Sufjan Stevens fan, but because the opening acts were such a waste of time to begin with, and because I was pretty sure this was going to be one of my more forgettable and phoned-in articles for the site.

As fortune would have it, however, the article would go down as one of my primary legacies at Stylus, the article co-writers most often quote as my best or most memorable, and the one I still get hate-mail for today practically once a month, despite having written it nearly three years ago. Here’s some of the most recent feedback I’ve gotten:

  • “You suck buddy, I mean we understand you in a way , you listen to the Wire, so that explains a lot. But try to understand a thing, we dont care what kind of music you like, its not you at the first shoot, and this is maybe the thing that hurts you, being not on the first spot, so you put bullshit on your writtings. Intepol, is a masterpiece for you, and you really should attend them 20 or 30 more years to notice and to make a preview for them. As a colleagues, I think you should see the journalism with an other eye, not the jealousy, that you cant reach something…Fuck you too buddy
  • If every interpol song was as easily interpreted as you intended it to be on you rashly opinionated page, then what’s the point in listening to music in general?
    Your opinions, while entirely valid and appreciated, seemed to be birthed from a lack of actual musical background. I mean really, should every lyric be as literally translated as your interpretation of Interpol‘s? Where’s the room for personal association if your interpretation succumbs to such an immediate conclusion? I am personally thankful for such an originally unoriginal band that rides the envelope like interpol.”
  • “bad lyrics?????dumb methaphors??FORCED RHYMES?? LAUGHABLY??? are you 12?
    grow up! because of his music, billions of people in the world LOVE the way
    he describes himself with music. fuck the lyrics, its his way to express his
    passion with music differently. do you have a life? anything else to blame
    about? really disrespectful!
    i just read your STUFF about interpol and when it comes to BLAME any lyrics
    from any bands, you are losing respect for music. first off, they are from
    new york(where great musicians come from), they HAVE great sense of music,
    they HAVE a such passion for music, they KNOW how to play instruments which
    you may not have any experiences or even make lyrics yourself. you dont have
    any manners to express yourself about this band or what so whatever. hes got
    his own unique way to make lyrics about anything he wants, its not a regular
    band you listen to and hear understandable words… ITS DIFFERENT and not
    alot of bands make such beautiful songs like them. the sounds are
    umcomparable and even his VOICE is unique.
    welcome to their world, its interpol and suck it up cause they are making a
    new album with even more words and sentences you wont understand.
    fuck ur top ten worst lines of interpol, PLEASE thats REALLY

    dont intend to reply me cause im done with this.”

Not bad, right? And all pretty much just because it happens to be one of the first Google search results for “Interpol lyrics.” Still, glad to know I could write something to really bring all the crazy fanboys and girls out of the woodwork.

New Order – Waiting for the Sirens Call: I don’t even know why I volunteered to review this one–New Order are my favorite band of all-time, and I couldn’t have been more positive that I was gonna fucking detest this album. I was right, of course, and I wrote the review to reflect the heartbreak and inconceivable disappointment at the fall from grace these guys were undergoing so unapologetically. Still, if you were to ask me what the best thing I think I had ever written for Stylus was, I’d probably go with this–I don’t think I’ve ever conveyed my feelings about an album quite so honestly and vividly before, and who knows if I ever have since. Give it a shot, seriously.

Couldn’t Say No: The Stagnation at the Top of the Billboard Charts: My first front page article in a long-ass time, maybe since the Primal Scream one I wrote about the other day. This article sort of cemented my transition to Official Stylus US Pop guy, though I would forever be overshadowed by two far flashier and arguably more creative (and definitely more memorable) UK writers, William Swygart and Dom Passantino. I even used to run the Stylus US singles column, in which I would collect reviews and ratings of the five or six latest new hit singles of the week, until Todd decided it wasn’t up to snuff with the stuff the UK writers were doing on the same grounds, and it got folded into their column.

Anyway, this is probably the tightest article I ever wrote for the site–in terms of it being the most academic analysis I ever did where I actually was pretty confident that I knew what I was talking about, and didn’t constantly check the comments box in fear of someone calling me out on my bullshit.

Playing God with Whatever: The 90s Pop & Culture Box: Speaking of getting called out on my bullshit. The last Stylus article that I really gave my heart to was this Playing God on the recently-released Rhino seven-disc 1990s compilation, meant to sum up the pop music of the decade a la their Omigod! 80s box and Have a Nice Day 70s box. The Rhino box itself was a humongous failure, missing tons of the definitive hits of the decade in favor of indie shit like Sleater-Kinney and Velocity Girl, leaving a half-mainstream-as-mainstream-gets, half-indie-nothing-hits box guaranteed to please absolutely no one. So I set to work creating the ideal 90s box, listening to hours upon hours of 90s pop, some to refresh my memory and some to learn about the stuff that was before my time, and I wrote an article to rival that recent New Yorker piece on The Wire in terms of length and sheer exhaustion of the material at hand.

At first, it was one of the most popular things I had ever written for the site, attracting some 30-40 comments in the first day, almost all of them positive. My co-writers had pretty much nothing but nice things to say, and even Pitchfork (and ex-Stylus) writer Scott Plagenhoef, who had been something of a mentor to me in my embryonic writing years (the first man to ever convince me that there was nothing wrong with Travis Morrison of the Dismemberment Plan namechecking trashy pop songs left and right) wrote me to basically say “damn, you beat me to the punch.” I couldn’t have been happier with the way it went.

Then, I signed on to Hipinion. For those of you lucky enough to have avoided the misanthropic black hole of internet music discussion, was a spin-off site from a Pitchfork message board that the site wisely ditched sometime back in 2003. It’s one of the most diverse music discussion boards out there, but almost everyone there has at least one thing in common: they all fucking love to hate. And I knew this, and it had been the reason why I stopped going there so much in the first place–got picked on one time too many by the senior boarders, got in to one too many arguments that just wasn’t worth getting into, whatever. I knew what I was getting into when I went on that board.

So I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to check to see what they had to say about my 90s article the day it was published. What, were they gonna be all “y’know, we were wrong about that guy, he’s a good writer and he REALLY KNOWS HIS STUFF!“? No, they were gonna blanketly lambast me for it, they were gonna say it was a complete waste of time and one of the worst things the site had ever bothered to publish, they were pick apart the article for inaccuracies and stupid comments I might have made that they could use to prove that I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.

And boy, did they find a big one. I wrote this in my blurb for Jesus Jones’ “Right Here, Right Now”:
When it comes to bands that ruled the world for exactly one year, it doesn’t get much more exemplary than Jesus Jones in ’91—perhaps the biggest band in the world at the time, but post-Nirvana, people didn’t want anything to do with ‘em.

A harmless enough aside, I thought at the time. But Hipinioners started to note that hey, maybe there were one or two bands that were more popular than Jesus Jones at the time, and asked what evidence I used that Jesus Jones were the biggest band in the world at the time. I explained that they had two top five hits in 1991, something which no other rock band had accomplished that year. And from that, the flood gates were open–a near-50 page debacle in which I desperately tried to defend this position, and the article on the whole, despite the fact that it was clearly a losing battle, as more and more boarders from the site came in to wail on me for it.

I’d like to think that if this happened today, I’d be able to react more maturely about it. I would just say “fine, fuck you” and have peaced out to go read the AMG bio on The KLF for the millionth time. But at the time, the mixture of anger, frustration and hurt at the way I was getting plastered for an article I had worked so hard on was almost unbearable. Not helping was the fact that this was all happening at my day job, in which I pretty much spent the whole time tied to a computer, and the only alternative to getting even more invested in this internet imbroglio was to actually do more work, so yeah. In any event, the experience taught me at least one thing for sure–Depeche Mode, The Cure, Guns n Roses, even Def Leppard and INXS were probably all bigger rock bands at the time than Jesus Jones.

At the Stylus meet-up last night, fellow writer Cosmo Lee told me that the 90s article was not only one of the best things I had ever written, but one of the best things he had ever read anywhere about anything, and that it was the perfect summation of the pop music of his youth. I have no idea how I had the strength to resist the urge to start making out with him.

The Top 100 Music Videos of All-Time: The last position of any sort of authority I had on Stylus was as executor of our all-time lists, a position begrudginly bestowed upon me by Todd, who I think recognized the usefulness in doing such lists–helping mold a site identity, as well as creating discussion and a whole lot of page hits–but not-so-secretly detested actually doing them. Nonetheless, he conceded to doing about three big, staff-wide compilation lists a year, as long as they were more-or-less contained to subjects that weren’t ones that had already been listed to death (Albums, Songs, Artists, etc.) The first one we ever did was a Music Video list.

I was fairly proud of this one, though once again, I had to deal with the heartbreak of being pre-empted, since a week or so before our list went up, Pitchfork did an extremely similar article–not the Top 100 Music Videos of All-Time, but just 100 decent videos that they’d found on YouTube. There was only something like a 20-video overlap between the two articles, but I still felt that are thunder had effectively been stolen. Regardless, I’m still pretty proud of the end result–our choice for #1 is appropriately idiosyncratic, and the blurbs I wrote on the vids for “Fake Plastic Trees” and “1979” are some of the best I’ve ever written.

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It’s All About Me / Eugoogly Pt. 2: Some of IITS’s Greatest Hits at Stylus

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 2, 2007

This is me, yo, right here

andrew Unterberger was born in 1986. He attends Harriton High School somewhere near Philadelphia and is a fellow Goon with Stylus writer Kareem Estefan, pioneering the dance style known simply as “dancing like a goon,” which will one day surely sweep the nation. He has no real dreams or aspirations for the future, but hopes to be either a game show junkie or a barber from the 1940’s. He contents himself with coming up with endless amounts of lists (having several piles of notebooks full of them that could reach the ceiling of your average living room when combined), ranking everything and anything, and coming up with as many bogus musical, cinematic and evolutionary theories as Steve Coogan playing Tony Wilson in 24 Hour Party People (the closest thing he has to a hero).

  • Still True:
    • Born in 1986
    • No real dreams or aspirations for the future
    • Still got them lists, though doing more spreadsheet-style at the moment
    • Still come out with a whole bunch of bogus theories
  • No Longer True (And Time Period for Which It Has Been False):
    • Attends Harriton High School (’04-)
    • Goon with fellow Stylus writer Kareem Estefan (’05-, The Goon Squad has, to my deep, deep dismay, largely disbanded, around the same time that Kareem quit Stylus for more ambitious and creative writing ventures)
    • Hopes to either be a game show junkie or barber from the ’40s (’06-, the lack of GSN in my life since has been truly shameful)
    • Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson no longer the closest thing to a hero (’05-, Michael Cera has since become the wind beneath my wings)
  • Might Still Be True (Or Could Be True Again Some Day):
    • Dancing Like a Goon inevitably sweeping the nation

I do slightly regret never updating my Stylus profile in the four and a half years since I was first added to their staff, but hey, as far as embarrassing High School relics go, I figure I could’ve done worse. There could be official record of my first ever review, a horrific sum-up of Radiohead’s Kid A for the Harriton newspaper, which I’m pretty sure never got published and which was the one casualty I was actually relieved about when my hard drive crashed my Freshman year of college. Plus, look at the ten albums I chose to represent my all-time top ten favorites:

All Time Top 10

The Clash- London Calling
The Smiths- Singles
Blur- \”Girls and Boys\”
The Velvet Underground- White Light/White Heat
New Order- Substance
Radiohead- OK Computer
The Beatles- The Beatles (The White Album)
Primal Scream- Screamadelica
Wire- Pink Flag/Chairs Missing/154
Joy Division- Heart and Soul

Not too bad, right? Doing it today, I’d certainly excise the JD box (redundant choice with New Order already in the mix there anyway), the VU album, and certainly the Blur song, which I don’t even really enjoy listening to anymore. But the rest is pretty hard to argue with. Helps that I cheated on nearly half the entries, I guess. Clearly album reviews was never going to be my specialty.

It’s been a long strange journey for me at Stylus. I began writing about experimental rock albums I only sort of understood, and I ended writing about the video for U2’s “Discotheque” (which I really couldn’t be happier to leave as my accidental final Stylus testament). What happened in between, you may ask? Well, sit back and enjoy a roughly chronological ride through the best, the most important, and the most definitive articles from the first 55 months of Andrew Unterberger, Accredited Internet Scribe and Insightful Personne.

Angels of Light – Everything is Good Here / Please Come Home: The first review I ever wrote for Stylus. In retrospect, I have no idea why I chose to write about this album, or even to listen to it for that matter, since Pitchfork had yet to cover it, and back then I don’t think I listened to more than two non-Pitchfork-approved albums a year. I tried harder on this review than I did on barely any since–I actually had my mother proofread it, a move which would feel about as natural to me today as getting her to sign a failed midterm without my professor even asking for me to do so. Like most of my old reviews, it’s little more than a decent hook in search of a worthwhile body, but reading through it again–

“One of the greatest strengths of Everything is Good Here/Please Come Home is its ability to sound majestic without sounding epic–without all the cheesiness and pomposity that epic implies.

That’s a pretty good line, I think.

An Inner Flight to Kill Light: Primal Scream’s Screamedelica and XTRMNTR: The first front-page article I ever wrote for Stylus, a joint effort with fellow Styluser Sam Bloch. Sam was my first friend on Stylus, and my first real internet friend in general–a full year younger than even I was, he was the enfant terrible of Stylus at the time, and we clicked instantly. We co-wrote this humongous treatise on our respective favorite Primal Scream albums, and I probably worked harder on it than I have at any paper, creative or academic, since, reading countless Primal Scream interviews from the early 90s, downloading everything from the period that I could possibly find, spending hours and hours poring over Sam and my articles, editing and re-editing them for hours at a time. I was extremely proud of the end product at the time, though who knows what I think of it today, and I’m certainly far too terrified to see for myself, so if you’re in the mood for reading 300,000 words on Primal Scream, do let me know how it turns out.

Meanwhile, my internet friendship with Sam got to the point where I did something that I’ve never really done with an internet friend since: I actually met him in real life. He flew in from Chicago over the summer of 2003, and spent a weekend with me and my friends. It was a good time, certainly, but our internet relationship was never quite the same afterwards, especially since shortly thereafter, he discovered sex, drugs and narcisissm, and the two of us were no longer on the same sort of level. Ultimately, we stopped talking together, either because he decided he was too cool for me or because I decided he was too cool for me, I can’t really remember.
Either way, my good memories with Sam far outnumber my bad ones, and I couldn’t really go through my Stylus experience without giving him his propers.

New Order – Movement (Playing God): The first column I actually invented for Stylus was Playing God, a column which took albums with promise, but a whole lot of issues, and edited their tracklisting, switching the ordering, removing deadweight and adding superior non-album tracks from the time period until the album no longer sucked at all. My first choice was what I still believe to be the ideal choice for such a column: New Order’s deathly debut album Movement, which shunned pretty much all of the insanely catchy and creative songs New Order wrote around this time in exchange for a bunch of funeral marches. Boooooo.

The Playing God column remains one of my better achievements at Stylus, and the column ran fairly regularly for a number of years, until a lack of interest from other writers and my inability (read: laziness) to fill in the missing entries myself got it pulled from the site’s regular rotation. Nonetheless, contributions to it were still welcome, and the two last PG columns I wrote–mixes combining The Police’s Synchronicity and Ghost in the Machine and U2’s Zooropa and Pop–ended up being the last things I ever wrote for the site.

Exploding Hearts – Guitar Romantic: “Wow. Maybe the worst, most cynical record review I’ve ever read.”-Yancy Blaylock

“Wow, reading that review nearly made me want to vomit, I know I rip into Dr. Bill a lot but it’s all just talk, playfulness, etc, but that was just seriously the most awful bile I’ve ever seen” -Dan Butler

And this is what my friends (well, internet friends) had to say about my review of Guitar Romantic. Needless to say this was one of the more controversial reviews of my early years at Stylus, and it’s sort of hard to blame the haters on this one–my review does come from the perspective of a hateful, heartless asshole, and hardly the Guitar Romantic of the title. But what can I say? Sometimes, I’m a hateful, heartless asshole. I’d venture to say that most rock critics are hateful, heartless assholes as much, if not more of the time than I am. I don’t see why I shouldn’t be allowed some moments of callous superiority every now and then.

Besides, I kind of like this review. I like that I had the balls to actually go with my gut and really rip into the album–something I’m not quite sure I’d be up for doing if I was to review it today. And I maintain that a good deal of that record is total bullshit, even if it does contain a couple semi-classic power-pop youth anthems or some such. It’s just lucky that I got the review in when I did (which was still a good four months or so after the ‘Fork and everyone else), since a few months later, most of the band perished in a tragic car accident, after which my article might’ve been in um, even poorer taste.

I Love 1996: Sometime around the end of 2003 or the beginning of 2004, I got the idea for what would eventually become the most ambitious project I probably would ever undertake in my entire life. At this point, VH1 had done three of their trademark I Love the ___s clip shows–80s, 70s, and then a second 80s. I loved each of them desperately–still do, for the most part–but I felt it was about time that the decade to house most of my formative years, the 90s, was about due for the treatment. Consequently, I pitched the idea to my editor to do Stylus’s very own I Love the 90s column series–once a month from March to December, I organized a series of writers (I think the average tally per month was somewhere between 15 and 25) to write me snappy comments about a list of pop culture items (and a couple indier ones–this was still Stylus, after all) they were assigned to wax nostalgic about, from which I edited their copy into what I thought best resembled the pacing, editing and talking heads quotiness of VH1’s show.

Needless to say, the project wasn’t always successful. A good deal of the writers I commissioned for the project either didn’t know or didn’t care to write in anything other than essay format, creating gorgeous, flowing prose that was nonetheless entirely incompatible with the format I was going for. Others apparently had no pop culture memories whatsoever to drawn on, and just wrote “I have no idea what this is, but it probably sucked, next” type entries for most of the stuff. Others just came to the conclusion that the project probably wasn’t worth there time altogether. (By the way, to ‘Fork writer Amanda Petrusich, should she by any miracle be reading this:
I’m sorry I spelt your name wrong each time it appeared in I Love 1990, and if that’s why you stopped responding to the e-mails, I guess I can’t blame you. You wrote some great shit, though.)

However, there were at least a handful of writers attached to the project–Zach Smola, Ken Munson, Brad Shoup, Joe “Undo” Niemczyk, Gabe Gloden, Adrien Begrand, Christina Adkinson–for whom this shit couldn’t possibly have come more naturally. With their writing at the core of I Love the 90s, I paddded it with some of the more tolerable stuff written by the other writers, and I personally filled in whatever other necessary stuff was missing (note to future VH1-apers: No one actually enjoys recounting the plots of movies and TV shows for which everyone already knows the plots) until the final product, if hardly seamless, was often inspired, and its best, an entirely worthy tribute to the real thing.

Speaking of the real thing–VH1 made an announcement sometime in April or May that over the summer, they would be premiering their own version of I Love the 90s. My mom telling me when I was about six that my Uncle Michael had died, and Anna Tsykolova confessing to me in my Freshman year of High School that she had secretly been seeing my best friend for the last month, probably rank as the two most devestating moments in my life. This, however, was a semi-close #3–you really can not imagine the amount of time, energy and emotion I put into these articles, and VH1 essentially making the last (and next) few months of my life entirely irrelevant with a single sentence took its toll me fer goddamn sure. I mean, part of me knew it was inevitable–no one knows how to exhaust a good thing like VH1–but I thought at least maybe they’d get a 70s part two out of the way first, and I could at least get the series finished up before VH1 premiered their version. Alas, no such luck.

I can’t remember who talked me down from my panic and depression at this announcement, but much thanks to them, because I eventually was able to pull myself together enough to stay enthusiastic and finish the last half of the series. And really, the second half of the series probably ended up much better than the first–thinning submissions from my guest-writer recruits and waning interest from inside the Stylus camp led me to hold open calls for new talking heads, which brought out many of the names I listed above. The one I have posted here, I Love 1996, is probably one of the better entries in the series–though, once again, I need a few more years before I can relive some of these memories, so you’ll have to judge for yourself.

Ultimately, the legacy of I Love the 90s for Stylus and for me is a strange one. I started out thinking it would be a smash hit, and indeed, it posted high numbers hit-wise, but it never quite took off beyond the site the way I hoped it would–a fact which I suppose is counter-balanced by the fact that it ended as well, or at least as gracefully, as it did. Regardless, three years later and no one really talks about it anymore, including myself. In the end, it probably ranks somewhere in between being my Deer Hunter and being my Heaven’s Gate, and I guess that’s OK with me. I just wish I had forced Todd to give me some sort of editor’s credit on it at the time so I could syndicate that shit or something.

Stay tuned tomorrow for even more nostalgic critcism goodness!

Posted in Eugoogly, It's All About Me, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

It’s All About Me: The Good Dr. in Clubland

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 6, 2007

The boring kind, not the good kind

Well, tomorrow’s the first Thursday of the new school year, which can only mean one thing: Time for the NYU Club Fair. This means that hundreds of NYU students–mostly incoming freshman loking for some sense of commonality midst the extremely heterogeneous mixture that is NYU campus life–will parade, possibly single-file, down rows upon rows of club booths looking for their attendance and/or sponsorship. In previous years these fairs were relatively relaxed affairs for me, but as president of the school’s College Bowl team, it now falls on me to run the thing, to pull in the hot prospects to replace the previous year’s fallen ranks.

It’s mostly meet-and-greet stuff. People see your booth, decide they have enough interest in what you’re pitching to take a second glance, and approach you for further information/salesmanship. The ultimate goal is to get as many people to sign up for your club as possible, boosting odds of one of them ending up being that diamond-in-the-rough that knows their Heidegger from their Kierkegaard, their JAG from their NCIS. For the most part, that means dealing with five different types of prospective members:

  1. People with a legitimate passion for trivia, who sign up with barely any prodding and come to a significant number of meetings throughout the rest of the year. (~5%)
  2. People with a passing interest in trivia, who’ll come to the first practice or two before concluding they prefer to pass their time with actual human beings, not people who spend their time debating the merits of Sophie B. Hawkins singles. (~15%)
  3. People with an even more passing interest in trivia, who sign up because they feel bad turning you away, and who will ultimately ignore the mailers for the rest of the year and put the club completely out of mind. (~20%)
  4. People who are attracted to your shiny booth but not your rough-around-the-edges sales pitch, and who slowly back away from signing up, despite your promises to be their best friend if they do. (~25%)
  5. People operating under the mistaken impression that College Bowl is NYU’s official bowling team. (~35%)

So what exactly does this mean for me in terms of preperation? You guessed it: Arts & Crafts time. If this blog hasn’t already made it abundantly clear, I have absolutely no hidden talents, and creating shit is definitely not an exception–A&C was my least favorite course at day camp, my worst subject in middle school, and #2 behind math-beyond-times-tables on my must-avoid list once I got to college. But nothing attracts the froshes quite like a nifty visual aid, so I stock up on glue sticks, Sharpies and posterboard, and start stylizing.

All things considered, could’ve turned out worse (and if my memory serves, last year, it definitely did). No cameraphone, so you’ll have to use your imagination, but I put together two pieces, one advertising the club strictly on its trivia virtues and one milking Victor, Weber and my appearance on the World Series of Pop Culture one last time for just about all it’s worth. I even briefly considered bringing our trophy with me to further entrance our prospectives, but a) that thing is fucking heavy and b) heavy as it is, I probably still couldn’t outrun anyone who tried to make off with it in all its hypnotic beauty.

With the great majority of our team regulars graduating last spring (though, following in the proud College Bowl tradition, I think only one of them has managed to get out of the state since), and my Presidential term coming to a rapid and amiguous close, the pressure is greater than ever to get some smokin’ rookies to fill out our line-up. Will our WSOPC fame help us score some of the hottest new trivia brains? If not, how about some of the hottest new trivia ass? Stay tuned…

Posted in It's All About Me | 4 Comments »