Off On A Rant

The 2012 “Listen Up!” Awards: The Triumphant Return of the Harleys

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.

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The Curious Case Of Chris Brown

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.

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#100: The Album That Started It All

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.

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The 2011 “Listen Up!” Awards: Handing Out The Harleys

So here we are, entering the home stretch of the year 2011. And if you actually believe that whole stupid Mayan apocalypse theory, we’re entering the home stretch of the human race. On that happy note, we’re going to be seeing some year-end lists popping up some time in the next couple of weeks. I figure I might as well submit my own, but just as I did last time I’ll be looking at unconventional categories (read: totally arbitrary distinctions that I made up myself). It’s time for the 2011 Harleys!

Who's a good little award statuette? YOU ARE! Come here and let me scratch you!

The fun begins, as always, after the jump. Bring on the first award!

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The 15 Most Disturbing Illustrations From “Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark”

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.

helquist

 

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Watch That First Step, Mac – It’s A Lulu

I’m not entirely sure how eager people were to hear the results of a collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica. To just about anyone outside the studio in which Lulu, the fruit of this collaboration, was conceived, this seemed like a mismatch of epic proportions. Reed is a long-tenured experimental art-rocker from the Velvet Underground and is also known for solo hits like “Walk On The Wild Side” and “Perfect Day.” And Metallica – well, who isn’t familiar with Metallica on some level? They’re titans of heavy metal who need no introduction. The artists themselves seem pretty excited though – they decided to work together after performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary concert and have been hyping this record as one of the highlights of each of their careers.

I’m not familiar with the work of Lou Reed. I know him as the guy who did “Walk On The Wild Side” and inexplicably thought it was a good idea to release a double album filled with nothing but guitar feedback; I wouldn’t know a Velvet Underground song if it pulled a Mike Tyson and bit my ear off. Meanwhile, I see myself as a casual fan of Metallica. I dig their first five records, I like a few of the Load/ReLoad era singles, I think St. Anger is irredeemably flawed and yet still an honest artistic expression, and Death Magnetic is a step in the right direction. I was only somewhat curious to hear what Reed and Metallica would sound like together. But that curiosity was especially piqued when early reviews proclaimed that Lulu was now officially the worst thing Metallica’s name had ever been attached to – yes, St. Anger had finally been bested (or is that worsted?). I simply had to experience this thing for myself.

Let’s get my verdict out of the way right now: Lulu is an absolutely terrible album. It’s still streaming online as I write this, but please take my word for it. Don’t listen to this.

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The Search for the Song of the Summer

Every summer is often defined by that one massive pop hit, that one song that so thoroughly dominates the airwaves that it will lurk in your memories of that summer for years to come whether you like it or not. And as much as I would love for the Radioheads and My Morning Jackets and Minus The Bears of the world to dominate the summer with a monster hit, I’ve accepted that it’ll probably never happen. Not unless I one day gain the power to reshape mainstream culture to fit my own taste. There’s probably an X-Men character who can do that.

Last year the title was pretty much handed to Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” the instant it was released. This left me to wonder if I was the only person on Earth who realized that “California Gurls” was a blatant rewrite of Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok,” a song that already irritated the crap out of me the first time around. Hell, I still have memories of being the only kid alive in 1996 who didn’t want to learn the stupid Macarena. And if I ever hear “Livin’ La Vida Loca” or “All Star” again, it will be too soon. I guess the lesson is that no matter what the song of the summer ends up being, by the end of that summer simply hearing the first new notes of that damn song will be enough to drive you utterly mad.

So with the summer of 2011 officially underway, let’s take a look at some randomly chosen contenders from this week’s Hot 100. The fun begins after the jump!

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When Bad Songs Happen To Good Bands #5

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.

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Hail To The King Of Limbs, Pt. 2: First Impressions

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!

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Hail To The King Of Limbs

(Note: As many of my other entries on this blog make abundantly clear, I’m a pretty big Radiohead fan. I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of LP8 for a pretty long time. So now, with The King Of Limbs just days away from being unleashed, I offer my thoughts on Radiohead’s new online distribution model after the jump.)

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