Time really flies, doesn’t it? It feels like only yesterday that I was writing my year-end Harley Awards post, when in fact it was around 367 days ago. As I write this we have exactly a month left before the end of the Mayan calendar, which everyone has apparently equated with the end of the world. Why doesn’t the human race ever learn that we are incapable of predicting the apocalypse? Every time people have thought doomsday was upon us, absolutely nothing happened and we all carried on with business as usual. So you might not want to quit your job and spend all the money in your savings account on a bomb shelter under the assumption that your life is about to become a Roland Emmerich movie.
Anyway, as 2012 is approaching its conclusion, it’s time once again for me to celebrate achievements in totally arbitrary categories that I made up myself. In other words, it’s just another typical awards show. It’s time to bring on the 2012 Harleys!
As always, the fun begins after the jump.
As anyone who follows the music industry knows, the Grammy Awards were handed out earlier this month. The big winner, as expected, was Adele, who took home half a dozen pieces of old-timey-record-player-shaped hardware and received a standing ovation for her performance of “Rolling In The Deep.” The Foo Fighters were pretty big winners too, getting two performance spots and basically sweeping the entire rock category – they even took home the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance award for “White Limo” over the likes of Megadeth, Mastodon, and Dream Theater. Other highlights of the show included performances from Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, and the reunited surviving Beach Boys, along with tributes to Glen Campbell and Whitney Houston.
You know who else was a big winner this year? Chris Brown. He may have only received one Grammy – Best R&B Album for F.A.M.E. – but he also got to perform twice and received a standing ovation at an award show that unofficially blacklisted him a mere three years ago in the wake of that incident. The fact that he was even allowed to appear there at all counts as a pretty huge victory for “Breezy,” since that incident briefly rendered him a pop pariah and possibly this generation’s answer to Ike Turner for all the wrong reasons. You think it’s any coincidence that Rihanna showed up to the Grammys looking like Tina Turner? Maybe it is, but she couldn’t have looked any more like Tina if she was auditioning for a remake of What’s Love Got To Do With It.
It’s fitting that I write my 100th post on this blog on New Year’s Eve 2011, the third anniversary of its creation. But there’s another reason why the date seems appropriate. Next year marks the 25th anniversary of the release of an album that I credit with kick-starting my lifelong love affair with music. And that love for music was what led to me getting a radio show on WMUC2, starting this blog to promote that show, taking up multiple instruments, and even writing and recording my own music as a personal hobby.
That album was released at a time when soft rock was all over the charts (Kenny G has a song on the ’87 year-end Hot 100 – seriously). Hair metal had transitioned from its hard-rocking virtuoso beginnings (think Van Halen) to cheesy party rock stuffed with aimless shredding and mandatory power ballads (think Poison). Bruce Willis scored a hit single back when he was probably better known as a singer than an actor (he hadn’t even made Look Who’s Talking yet, let alone Die Hard). A teenage singer from Hawaii won a local talent contest and got a nationwide hit single basically via word of mouth (Glenn Medeiros, “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You”). An Australian new wave band became a one-hit wonder by covering a one-hit wonder (Pseudo Echo, “Funkytown”). And yes, I got all of that from Wikipedia and Todd In The Shadows. Still, it was an odd time for music and the alternative rock boom of the early ‘90s was a few years away.
But none of that stuff really mattered to me. I was about six months old when the album in question was released. And by the time I was around five years old, I was listening to this record so much I practically had it memorized. So what was that album? The Joshua Tree by U2.
Oh man. I am going to hate myself so much for doing this. But not right away. I’m going to hate myself while I’m lying in bed tonight trying and failing to fall asleep.
You see, Halloween is just around the corner so I figured I would do some kind of Halloween special, or at least the Internet blog equivalent of one. The question was what I was actually going to do. I’ve already done a post about the scariest songs in my collection, and since I’m doing my Top 5 lists in the same order in which they appeared on my show, the Top 5 Songs To Scare Trick-Or-Treaters Away From Your House is still a long way off.
And then it hit me: Do a post about the Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark series.
The Beach Boys are one of those rare musical acts where they’ve been around long enough, prolific enough, and most importantly good enough to say that everyone probably likes something they’ve done. Even if you’re not a diehard fan, you have to at least tip your cap to the sheer songwriting genius of Brian Wilson. His intricate song structures, diverse instrumentation, and carefully arranged vocal harmonies were so far ahead of their time that people are still having trouble keeping up with him – and Pet Sounds came out 45 years ago. If any pop or rock musician had earned the right to call his music “teenage symphonies to God,” Brian Wilson was that man.
But we’re not here to talk about Brian Wilson’s Beach Boys. That band was one of the greatest of all time. No, we’re here to talk about what that band eventually became after Brian’s drug problems and mental illness sadly phased him out of the picture. By the late 1980s and early ‘90s they’d completely abandoned nearly all traces of their classic sound, creating some depressingly lousy music in the process.
Seriously, I was shocked to discover just how far this band had fallen. But I guess that’s what happens sometimes… When Bad Songs Happen To Good Bands.
Well, well, well. How’s this for a pleasant surprise? After the Valentine’s Day announcement that their new album The King Of Limbs would be released on Saturday, Radiohead apparently decided that five more days was too long after making us wait for nearly three and a half years and let us download it a day early.
So now the mysteries surrounding LP8 have been resolved – well, mostly. The King Of Limbs is an 8-track affair; half the album consists of songs nobody outside the band’s inner circle even knew existed. The songs the fans already know that appear here (in completely revamped form) are “Lotus Flower,” “Give Up The Ghost,” “Separator” (formerly “Mouse Dog Bird” – thank God they changed that title), and perhaps most surprisingly “Morning Mr. Magpie,” which has been kicking around since the Hail To The Thief sessions and was only played once in a live webcast. (It’s also featured in The Most Gigantic Lying Mouth Of All Time, a collection of short films set to Radiohead songs and clips of the band performing.)
And how does the new record sound? Completely different from anything else they’ve ever done, as usual. It’s very, very far from the folksy record you might expect considering that it’s named after a tree. But where its predecessor In Rainbows is one of the most immediately accessible albums of the band’s career (and a good place to start for newcomers), The King Of Limbs challenges you from the very first note. It’s even stranger than Kid A and Amnesiac in places, and sometimes feels like a follow-up to Thom Yorke’s solo album The Eraser only with more guitars. Turns out “These Are My Twisted Words” was only a partial preview of what was to come. We’ll take a track-by-track look at this baby after the jump!