Saturday, February 25, 2006

I Always Feel Like Somebody's Watchin' Me

OK, fire up Rockwell on the iPod.

As if I am not paranoid enough, I come home from work the other day to find THIS on my caller ID. What the hell?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Vegetable Medley and Other Work Cafeteria Abominations

We have a cafeteria here at work and sometimes they serve some whacked out vittles. And I'm here to complain about it.

I know what you are thinking. "Dim, quit your bellyaching! At least you HAVE a cafeteria at work! You're not stuck chomping on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (with the crusts cut off) and two-day-old leftover Hamburger Helper!" (hey, it "helps 'er make a great meal"...that's not sexist. Then again, if they assumed the guy made dinner, they would have call it Hamburger Helpim and who the fuck's gonna buy that? It makes no sense.)

So, I will not quit my bellyaching. Because my bellyaching is actually what led me to write this post.

So, in no particular order, here are my cafeteria's top 5 whacky things. One's new (as of today!) and there will be more to follow as the Frankensteinian chefs are bound to come up with something else (and any co-worker residents of Dim City are certain to remind me of ones I forgot):

1. The Sirloin Steak Soup.

This travesty sounded like a good idea on the surface. I figured it would be something like a Chunky Beef Stew or even like a tamer beef and vegetable. You know, "sirloin steak" sort of comes with its own natural pedigree. I think "beef".

What we got was day-old meatloaf cut up and put in beef-flavored brine. Now, meatloaf on its own totally sucks ass. Now imagine meatloaf sitting in this broth soaking it up. Yum-o! (Apologies to Rachael). So, it looked like someone left a pumpernickel out in a downpour and it tasted like the bottom of my boot heel (which happened to be inexplicably and liberally salted). "Someone left the sirloin steak soup out in the rain. I could tell a copper. Because I spent so long on the hopper..."

2. Chicken a la King

Now, I'm not Bobby Flay, so I do have to admit that I didn't know EXACTLY what was in Chicken a la King when I got it, but I was reasonably sure it didn't contain anything that was going to send me into anaphylactic shock.

I get this dish back to my desk and it looks like some sort of chicken thing with some type of supreme sauce on it. But there is something on top of it and I can't quite make it out because Paco was a little heavy-handed with the accompanying sauce. Dim takes a bite. Hmmm. Chicken. Hmm...well, I wouldn't know, because I am allergic to shellfish, but if I didn't know better, I would SWEAR that was crabmeat. I guess I should have read the fine print on the menu that said it was Chicken a la King Crab.

Now, ladies and germs, this internet gadget is a wonderful thing. I implore you to find on this internet thingy a single, solitary recipe for Chicken a la King that includes crabmeat (that wasn't written by either a raving lunatic or someone who was out to kill me).

Luckily, this was only imitation crabmeat, so my eyes gave the illusion that they swelled up, but for only a fraction of the cost.

3. The Mosquito Coast Salad Bar

I found a winged insect in my salad one time. I haven't eaten the salad bar since and have packed on about 10 pounds. Thanks a lot. You assholes ever hear of DDT?

4. The Buffalo Chicken Calzone <===NEW ENTRY!

I just finished eating up this scrumptious delicacy. On the outside, it looked like a normal calzone. Now, what would you think would be on the inside of a buffalo chicken calzone? Well, buffalo chicken is a good place to start. Even these guys couldn't screw that up. Bleu cheese? Oh no no no. We draw the line of traditional buffalo chicken at...the buffalo chicken.

I do give them points for creativity by actually putting in small pieces of carrot and celery. Usually, the carrot and the celery is consumed separately from the buffalo chicken. I can't recall anyone ever making a buffalo chicken veggie sandwich with the wing in between a celery stalk and a carrot stick and eating the whole thing at once. But I do appeciate the effort for trying to interject SOME standards into the calzone, as perverted and completely idiotic as it may be.

But in cutting a little deeper into the calzone, I discovered two things I have NEVER seen as part of a buffalo chicken anything, nevermind a calzone:



What the hell is that? Was that crap just lying around? Who made this? Some bonged-out college kid? I expected the next bite to be laden with Fritos, mac and cheese, and some Ramen noodles.

5. The Dreaded and Cursed Vegetable Medley

I like vegetables. I really do. I just don't like the caf's bland, boiled cornucopia of virtually every vegetable under the sun. The usual medley consists of broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, summer squash, and carrots. I like 60% of the vegetables in that list. Invariably, 99% of my vegetable portion consists of the 20% of the vegetables from that list that I abhor. I swear that zucchini and summer squash must be cheaper to get around here than the clap, because they give that stuff out like it is going out of style. Zucchini and summer squash. Not the clap. At least, not to my knowledge. And what is it about those two vegetables? They go together like Ozzie and Harriet. Tom and Katie. Sigfried and Roy.

The other day, however, Chef Indecisive went absolutely apeshit and I counted no fewer than a baker's dozen of different vegetables in my medley. Now, you know those environmentally-hostile styrofoam containers with the constructive layout of a Hungry Man TV-dinner tray? The big section for the "entree" and the two smaller sections, one for the "starch" and one for the "fucking zucchini and summer squash"? That one? Well, you know how small one of those smaller sections are. This is a list of vegetables I found there. In no order, other than numeric, numbnuts:

  1. Zucchini
  2. Summer squash (did you really expect anything different?)
  3. Broccoli (both florets and thinly sliced pieces of stalk, which has all the smoothness of birch tree bark)
  4. Cauliflower (see broccoli)
  5. Onions
  6. Green beans
  7. Red peppers
  8. Green peppers (I'm not cheating...they are very different)
  9. Carrots
  10. Mushrooms (!)
  11. Lima beans
  12. Peas
  13. Corn - 1 (one) kernel

What the hell is this gip? No parsnips? No turnip? No swiss chard? What kind of racket are they running here?

Oh, and all of these things were bathing gently in a shallow pool of steaming water that had the vague taste of, you guessed it, zucchini and summer squash.

I should keep my yap shut. I know there are starving children in China. But not even they could possibly like zucchini and summer squash.

Can I just get some extra rice with that?,

- Dim.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Eyes Have It

I went to the eye doctor the other day.

I don't particularly like going to the eye doctor. I don't like going to any doctor really, but eye doctors and dentists really freak me out. In fact, I haven't been to a dentist in quite a long time. And I know I'm going to end up like George Washington and need wooden dentures by the time I'm 40, so save me the Cavity Creeps lecture.

My problem with dentists lies in the one I had for most of my life bore a distractingly close resemblance to Rocky actor Burt Young:

The only person in your life who should look like Burt Young is your dad (only if you happen to be the child of actor Burt Young) and your cab driver, if you are fortunate enough to have one to call your own.

Your dentist should not look like Burt Young, let alone Burt Young with poor dental hygiene. Yes, my dentist's teeth were a mess. That would be like me being a hairstylist. Just wouldn't make you feel too good to have me coif your dome while looking like Yahoo Serious, would it?

Anyone who might wonder why I hate going to the dentist, really needs to watch Bill Cosby's Himself. As much as I lost Cosby when he ventured into the Land of Jell-o Pudding Pops and Amazing Techicolor Sweaters, he really does nail the dentist experience.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. The eye doctor.

So, I show up at the eye doctor and since this is my first time there, I have to fill out all of these forms, HIPAA agreements (sure, I give you permission to tell my answering machine that I have a sty) know, crap like that.

So, I finally get called into the doctor's office and I notice that he has all sorts of diplomas and memberships to various Eye Doctor clubs. But then I also notice that he has a framed poster for a band called Hi8us. Now, in researching this a little more, it appears they are a band who specializes in music that is "upbeat and danceable, a blend that is twisted with deep improvisational segments combining funk, rock, pop, Latin, reggae, hip hop and electronica. Bass driven, soulful grooves served up with an unmistakable pop appeal."

What? No polka?!

Anyway, in researching this, I think my eye doctor's son is in this band. I didn't know this at the time, so imagine what is going through my head when I see, among all of these prestigious documents, this poster of 4 silhouetted young men under the heading Hi8us, which, sorry, sounds like a boy band to me.

I'm getting antsy and hoping there are no anesthesia masks nearby.

Anyway, I sit in the chair and am told to look at the lines of letters with my glasses on. All's good. I can see.

Then, he starts making me think I am turning into Stevie Wonder.

I wish eye doctors would give you a warning like, "Hey, don't freak out. I'm going to do some stuff that's going to fuck your eyes up so bad, the smallest letter you will be able to see is this:"

But they don't, so I'm left with thinking I need to start picking up Braille.

The guy starts messing with my eyes and I can't see shit. You know the drill. Then comes the test I hate: "Which one is clearer? This? Or this?...."this? Or this?" Sometimes the dude would mix it up and really confuse me: "A? Or B?" "Two? Or Three?" "Jermaine? Or Tito?"

They all look the friggin' same to me.

Then, he gets up real close and shines a quasar in my eye. He's in such proximity that I swear he transformed into a Cyclops as all I can see is his one giant eyeball:

For some reason, this sends me into a Beavis and Butthead Sex Education Class giggle fit.

Then, he tells me to look at his ear (!) and then does some witchcraft which allows me to see the reflection of the backside of my eyeball, which looks like this:

I don't like seeing this. It makes me queasy.

But, in order to not sound like a wimp in the presence of a guy who has a Hi8us poster in his office, I decree that spying on the inside of my own head is "pretty cool."

Then, comes the fun part.

He tells me to put my face in this apparatus. Chin in this chin cup. Forehead against this padded thing. I'm expecting to hear "Bring out the gimp."

Instead, he gives me a kindly warning: "I'm going to thrust a hurricane-force puff of air into your eyeball. Try to relax."

Thanks man! How about, "Turn around. OK. I'm going to swing this machete at your head. Try not to move."

So, I'm sitting there, trying to anticipate this puff of air and closing my eyes. Apparently, this measures the pressure in my eyes. Mine is fine, despite withstanding 3 Gs of wind pressure from this torture device.

Then, the best part. Lie back...time for some "drops". He doesn't tell me exactly what these drops do, and he needs three office brutes to hold me down, because I hate having stuff put in my eye. He finally gets the drops in and then he tells me to go downstairs and look at new eyeglass frames while the drops "take effect".

Not knowing what "effect" the drops would have, I go downstairs and start looking at ridiculously over-priced frames. I knew I was in deep shit at this eyeglass place when I see a few frames I like and look up and I am in the "Anne Klein" section. Holy gender-confusion, Batman!

Anyway, after about 15 futile minutes of looking for new specs, I notice that everything is getting pretty blurry and I am getting dizzy as a result. I pick up some frames and can't even read the price on them. I'm starting to freak out, because I wasn't warned about this and all I can think of is that Hi8us poster and that this doctor slipped me a mickey and I'm going to end up passed out with my pants around my ankles and an eyechart taped to my butt.

Then, I look into a mirror and I look like this:

Only, my hair is brown, I'm not a girl, and also not a cartoon.

So, the doctor put some wacky ocular eclipse drops in my eye, because my eyes look like this:

That kinda freaked me out too, but the good doc then gave me the antidote after he looked around in my eyeball some more and all was eventually right with the world.

I got a new prescription and went on my way.

I landed myself at Lenscrafters and was immediately helped by this very patient woman who indulged my indecisiveness by showing me eyewear that made me look like everything from a welder to Dieter from Sprockets and everything else in between.

I end up settling on these bad-boys:

I know what you are thinking, but they look better in person. I think.

I also got some prescription sunglasses as well.

When the woman was filling out the form, she marked the eyeglasses down as "Trendy" and the sunglasses down as "Sporty". Apparently, I'm now an honorary Spice Girl.

And when I went back to pick them up, the 50-something woman who made sure they fit, told me countless times how "cool" they were. I don't feel all that great about that as she also said the same thing to the MIT grad who was trying on specs that looked like two movie screens connected at the nose. But I do swear that, if my wife wasn't with me, she would have asked me out to the Barry Manilow concert.

Oh, and a side note to any members of Hi8us that find their way here...your relative is actually a really good eye doctor. But that would have made for a boring blog entry, no? Keep rocking with all those genres!

Seeing clearly now, the rain has gone,

- Dim.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A Little Team Building

I'm a big sports fan in general. I like certain teams more than others. In basketball, I root for the Celtics and the Timberwolves. In hockey, the Red Wings and Bruins. In baseball, the Red Sox and Nationals. In football, the Patriots and Rams. In college basketball, the Tar Heels and whoever is playing Duke.

I also like minor league sports and Christine and I visit the farm team of the Bruins (called...the Bruins) and the farm team of the Red Sox (called..with much aplomb, the Red Sox). But I realize that there are a lot of teams out there and some organizations really strive to have their nicknames be unique. I'm not going into the countless teams that have really bizarre names as it's not their fault that they showed up late to the ball and there are already 500 teams each called the Wildcats, Tigers, and Isotopes.

However, I think a little more discretion needs to be given when coming up with these names. For example, on the radio today, I heard someone mention a local low-level minor league baseball team from the area called the Worcester Tornadoes.

Now, you are probably asking yourself: "Hey, Dim, I'm not all that down with Geography. In fact, I break out in hives when I land on the blue wedge in Trivial Pursuit. Does Worcester get a lot of tornadoes?"


In fact, this team was named pretty much after one tornado. This one. Here's an actual picture of this beast.

This team's mascot is modeled after an F4-F5 windstorm that killed 94, injured over 1,200, and left 10,000 people homeless. Go tornadoes!

Here's their t-shirt. I guess the image of a black funnel spewing debris all over creation wouldn't have sold a lot of souvenirs, so instead they settled on a basebat bat twirling spaghetti. Mangia!

Now, I don't harbor any ill-will toward the team, but come on. Someone gets a big fucking retarded F in Sensitivity 101.

Then there was a team in Birmingham, Alabama called the Birmingham Fire. They played over ten years ago in a league called the World League of American Football, which was also known as "What the fuck is the World League of American Football?"

Now, I don't blame these guys for not seeing into the future that some wacko would be going around setting churches ablaze in this area in 2006, but calling your team the "Fire" is just bad karma. It's like calling your team the Swarm of Locusts or the Death of the Firstborn. Bad things happen when you do shit like that.

So, what's next? A professional chess team from Boston called the Massacre? A minor league kickball squad dubbed the New Foundland Titanics? An amateur beer pong stable knighted the New Orleans Katrinas? A semi-pro badminton conglomerate monikered the Chicago Mrs. O'Leary's Cows? Oh already happened...


Go Flaming Cows,

- Dim.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

My 15 Minutes - Redux

Whoa. When I wrote this self-pity post a few days ago, I actually forgot to mention the one time that had the house mic held in front of my mouth for a full 4 seconds by a fairly well-known metal band to help them out with the chorus. That ruled.

The date: December 22, 1998. The venue: Mama Kin Music Hall in Boston. It's not there anymore with that name, but it was a music venue on lively Lansdowne Street that was owned by Aerosmith. Oh, Aerosmith sucks, by the way.

The band I "sang" with...these guys.

I ended up going to the show with my friend Borr and another friend's wife, L. Get your frigging minds out of Desperate Housewives land, people! It wasn't like that.

Anyway, before the show, we went to grab a beer and a bite to eat at a pretty cool joint down those parts. Their Dreaded Green Monster chicken sandwich is the bomb. Anyway, we were eating our food, when I looked up and noticed that three members of the band we were going to see was in a table across the aisle from us. I mentioned it to Borr and L., but of course, we two guys were too chickenshit to do anything about it. So, we pressured L. to go over to their table (after they were done eating, of course) to chat with them and to report to them that Borr and I were tremendously big fans of theirs and that they should welcome us to their table to share their company with as much exuberiance as if we were two beautiful buxom blondes with fantastic breasts, instead of being two weirdo guys with questionable hairstyles and man-boobs.

Anyway, L. goes over and ends up sitting at the table with Scott, Frank, and a guy named Paul Crook who I didn't know at the time, but was a fill-in guitar player (and quite good, I might add). She chats and chats and me and Borr are sitting there, like the two guys at the strip club who are getting a freebie eye-show because the guy at the table next to them just dropped a hunny for a dance. Not that I'd know anything about that.

Anyway, me and Borr are sitting there, giving their table the raised-eyebrows waiting for the ol' "come on over" look. Guess what? It doesn't happen. Judas, I mean, L., comes back to the table with an autographed coaster and a (read: one) backstage pass for the show. Me and Borr are stuck there with our quesadillas in our hands and ask, "What about us?" to which this woman has the nerve to say, "You didn't come up."

Well, we left there and headed to the show and I resigned myself to the fact that my chance to be lifelong friends with two of the guys from Anthrax and one guy who I didn't know where out the window. And while this was true, what happened at the show was pretty cool.

We're at Mama Kin digging the 'thrax and they are putting on a kick-ass show as usual. When, toward the end of the show, the band launches into the song "Anti-Social", at which point, then-lead singer John Bush jumps down into the crowd and goes around to various people that he obviously wanted to be best friends with if he had the chance, and put the microphone in front of them while the chorus, which goes a little something like this: "You're're anti-social!", is screamed at ridiculously high volumes.

So, I'm acting like a total idiot at this show, banging my head (I was unable to turn my neck for 6 days after the show....remember the Brady Bunch episode where Mrs. Brady gets in the fender bender and the guy she hit sued her and took her to court and he wore a neck collar and was obviously faking when Mr. Brady decided to test him and threw his briefcase on the floor of the court, causing the litigant to whirl his neck around painlessly, thus proving he was a fraud..well, that little "Murder She Wrote" thing wouldn't have worked with me), giving the "horns up" sign...all that stuff. Well, this must have made quite an impression on Mr. Bush as he seeked me out of a crowd of dozens and held the microphone in front of my face. Here's the best part...a bunch of metal lunkheads around me tried to grab the microphone for themselves. No, no, no, no, no. Mr. Bush wanted to hear Dim sing the song. He wrestled the mic from their studded leather glove wearing little hands and shoved it in my face. And there I was, singing over the Mama Kin PA "You're anti-...You're anti-social!!!" at the top of my lungs.

And I left a happy boy.

And no, we didn't let L. go to the backstage party.

Yes, you can have my autograph if you want.

One-time member of Anthrax,

- Dim.

Friday, February 10, 2006

A Music Rant from the Past

I used to write for this e-zine awhile ago and someone there posed the question to me, "Does pop music suck?" So, I composed this piece for the magazine. I stumbled upon it today and thought that I might post it because it might still have some relevant points, I have nothing new to say today, and I wouldn't mind bumping my apparently confusing bobblehead doll posting off of the main page.

None of the names from the original article have been changed since this was written, so some of the content is a bit dated. The article is probably about six years old right now and it is interesting to see some of the references are still popular, some aren't, and some new ones have taken their place. you go. A warning: It is very long, dense, and very musical reference-heavy. But I think it has some stuff for people to gnaw on and might create a nice debate in the comments section.

"Oft expectation fails, and most oft there where most it promises."
William Shakespeare, "All's Well That Ends Well"

Looks like the Bard was a fortune teller in the ways of music. Pop Music. The phrase itself used to be something that was strived for. Everyone from Elvis to the Beatles to the Crazy World of Arthur Brown wanted to be a pop star. Look at the phrase again: pop star. You don't have to be a linguistics expert to be able to decipher that the "pop" is actually short for "popular." Who doesn't want to be popular? Or a star, for that matter? What's the point of actually making music if the only people who will listen to it are your upstairs neighbor Maxine and your ultra-bored, eye-rolling drunk friends around a beach bonfire? Well, now, it seems that not very many artists out there want to be considered pop. What was once a lauded and elusive bourgeois title is now the musical equivalent of having the mange. So, what the hell has happened in the last 50 years?
Easy. Music fans.
Music fans, particularly uneducated ones, are the scourge of the earth and what will ultimately lead to the only viable music being Yanni, John Tesh, and that little girl from Scotland or Ireland that yodels or sings opera or something. Why, you ask? Because they create the labels that pigeonhole artists and they BUY the crap that's out there now. So, basically, there are two types of fans. We'll lump them (like they like to lump everything else) into two categories:

The High Brow and The Low Brow

The Low Brow music fan is almost worthy of pity. They don't know any better and follow the rest of the faceless masses to places like Sam Goody, Strawberries, and Tower Records and pay insane prices for CDs by artists like the Backstreet Boys, Third Eye Blind, Lou Bega, and Santana. They are easily pleased and entertained and make up the section of the music buying population that purchases "pop." They can often be seen bopping their heads in the car, saying "ohmigod" a lot and trying to get the chain from their locket which holds a picture of Justin Timberlake from N'Sync out of their braces.
The High Brow music fan is worthy of much more derision. As much as I liked the movie High Fidelity, John Cusack's character and his fellow record store cronies (penned by Nick Hornby) are the epitome of the High Brow music fan. They like bands and artists that no one has ever heard of before. They are very unwilling to "share" their music and they spend time frequenting corner record shops and places that sell still-in-the-package Charlie's Angels cards right next to the first Bauhaus LP. They wear mostly black, drink a lot of coffee, and smell like Tums.
The Low Brow fan is, of course, looked down upon by the High Brow fan for liking pop music. The High Brow fan is looked at confusingly by the Low Brow fan for liking music that doesn't really sound like music at all. Ironically, in all the post-Nirvana hub-bub, what was "alternative" (which I always assumed was a label that meant "alternative to the norm") is now quite ordinary and popular and what was once considered "pop" is now "alternative." How do you think those mid-to-high brow music assholes would like it if you called Marilyn Manson or Nine Inch Nails "pop?" The only "alternative" now is stuff like Gene Pitney and Mel Torme. Who would have thunk it? Check out the charts today. Those who pooh-pooh the charts should note that it is the person with $17 in their hand that dictates the labels we put on music, so listen up. The charts are riddled with harder-edged funk/rock/rap crapola like KoRn (though they aren't actually all that bad) and Limp Bizkit (they are), harder-edged rap and R&B acts, corporate-fabricated bands and artists like the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, adult contemporary stuff that makes me want to put my own eyes out with red hot pokers, and those contemporary country artists that are only contemporary country artists because they look smoking in those country outfits. Guess what? That stuff IS pop. You can't sell seven million copies of your album and not be considered "popular," hence "pop." Sorry Marilyn. Sorry Fred Durst. Sorry DMX. Sorry Billy Corgan. Sorry Jessica Simpson. Sorry Faith Hill. You are all POP. It's not a terrible thing, but don't shun what you are, even if you aren't entirely to blame.
But let's look at Shakespeare. The expectation that failed was first paved by all the first main rock and roll artists. Granted, Elvis is a thief (but still the MF'ing King), but he marketed music that was before considered unmarketable because of America's racist attitudes. Elvis started off alternative. He could only be filmed from the waist up. Ed Sullivan wanted nothing to do with him until he realized he was losing the ratings war to that toad Steve Allen who blasphemously dressed Elvis up in a tuxedo and had him sing "Hound Dog" to a real canine. Side note: Allen is a bastard and directly responsible for what has come to be known as Fat Elvis, Las Vegas Elvis and Fat, Bloated, Lying Dead on the Bathroom Floor With My Pants Around My Ankles Elvis. May your hairpiece give you fiberglass splinters.
Expectations were high slightly before, during and after Elvis. Everyone with morals and taste were still listening to their outdated Andrews Sisters records when Elvis, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard came to town. These guys were the epitome of alternative. Now, they are looked upon as pop. And their offspring are just a notch below...a trend that would continue to today and the completely abysmal state of pop music. Some were decent. Elvis bore Tom Jones. I like Tom Jones. Chuck Berry bore the Artist Formerly Known as the Guy Boinking Vanity Before She Found the Lord. Say what you want about the Purple One, but he is pretty talented and got some from might fine aphrodites. Little Richard bore RuPaul. And hence we have expectation failing where most it promises.
The Beatles may be considered the most influential and groundbreaking bands in history. Personally, I don't think they can hold a candle to Peter Noone's Herman's Hermits, but then again, not everyone can be blessed with the talent to pen that Henry VIII song. The Beatles were alternative. Straight out. The country had no idea what to do with them when they burst on the scene. We hadn't heard anything like that at all. Alternative. And just when they were in danger of teetering on the edge of pop, they veered off the road to alternative again. The Beatles kicked mega-ass because I swear that Brian Epstein was a poofy clairvoyant who knew what was going to happen in music before it happened and initiated it by giving John and Paul mind altering substances, George a ticket to India and Ringo a couple months off. The Fab Four were never pop. They were alternative. Offspring? The Monkees and Oasis. Now, there's a push.
But even at this point, there was no music fan schism. There were no high brows and low brows. Music was music and the most constricting term you could give to it was "rock 'n' roll." There were no subsets of rock 'n' roll in this time, but you can be sure that the Beatles didn't sound like the Byrds who didn't sound like the Spencer Davis Group who didn't sound like Cream who didn't sound like Strawberry Alarm Clock. It was all just music.
The downfall of music came in the 70s and I'm not technically talking about disco necessarily although I will concede that style of music rivals Boxcar Willie for the most homocidal-enducing ambiance. What happened in the 70s were LABELS. Music fans split off like some weird cult. You had acid rock (which was actually born in the 60s, but people were generally too smacked out on the stuff to remember what they called it back then), heavy metal was gaining momentum with Sabbath and Zeppelin. You had disco, God forbid. You had music that shrunk your level of testosterone exponentially as you listened to it, like Bread and Dan Fogelberg. But the multi-headed beast was not the acts themselves. It was the labels put on them by the public.
Fast forward to VH-1's Behind the Music. Thank the Lord Almighty for this fine piece of entertainment programming because, if not for it, I would have no idea that 95% of the recording artists out there were persecuted for "selling out" at some point in their careers.
Lionel Richie. Damn, did the Commodores make some nasty-ass funk back in the day. And Richie was a part of that band. Huffin' and puffin' on his horns and singing "Brick House" and blasting out "Machine Gun" and just being a dirty, nasty funky bird. Then he started listening to Dan Fogelberg and Bread. "Easy." "Three Times a Lady." Jesus H. What the hell happened? This once great funkmaster went what was now POP and ruined all expectations. "Hello? Is it me you're looking for?" No, Lionel, actually it's a .45 I'm looking for. If I had thought of this a few years sooner, I could have saved the world from "Dancing on the Ceiling." Where's Marvin Gaye's dad when you need him?
Anyway, because of the labels, Lionel went from cool to cruel. If this happened in the 60s, he may have gained some fans and lost some fans, but he wouldn't be saddled with a stigma, as much as he deserves it for "Truly." Don't hate him because he's pop. Hate him because his music sucks. And if you took geometry in school, you will know that the transitive theory of suckiness states that, because of the truths defined above, pop music sucks.
But you can't totally blame the music, really. You can't even in good conscience blame the artists themselves. You blame the fans for making it popular. If a thousand billion idiots never bought that damn Santana album, it would have spared me from the horribleness that is "Smooth" and my utter disdain for Santana would have been relegated to a mildly annoying "Oye Como Va," which is only annoying because I can't figure out what the hell he is saying. Oh sure, I took Spanish in high school, but my greatest exposure was watching that hoot Julio yap it up on Sanford and Son. Damn, that was one funny chicano, though come to think of it, I couldn't figure out what he was saying either. Where was I? Oh yeah, Santana. All of a sudden, I hate Santana with a passion. And why? Let's look at this a little more. Santana has been around since the dawn of time. He jammed with Cro-Magnon man, was the house band on Noah's Ark, opened for Nero during the whole Rome-is-burning gig and has basically put out marginally mediocre music since I can remember. He went around quietly, not really bothering anyone and releasing an album here or there. Fine with me. I don't particularly like Santana all that much, but he didn't step on my toes at all. So I let him live. Fast forward to last summer and "Give me your heart, make it real, or else forget about it." Good Christ, can that song suck any more? And that became POPULAR! As did our buddy Carlos. And the reason why I am now the victim of an eternal Santana enema is because shithead fans across the country actually bought a Santana album for the first time in recorded history! And what didn't help matters at all was that another POPULAR artist, Rob Thomas, from the band formerly known as matchbox 20 (now known as matchbox twenty...big frigging they'll get street cred, right?) sang on the bastard. Now if everything went according to plan, Santana would have sold about 38 copies of SUPERNATURAL, like all his other albums and I wouldn't have had to write this stupid rambling piece. But nooooo........
Then, you have the problem that exists with the jealousy among artists caused by one artist becoming "popular." These other artists are not "popular" but instead of trying to be, they attack the pop artist in an "ah, I didn't want a hundred million dollars anyway" attitude and chastise them for "selling out." Case in point. Vanilla Ice. That boy was a different kind of Milli Vanilli. Just because he rapped on his discs doesn't mean he was from the mean ghetto in Miami like they claimed. He made some records, bugged the shit out of me for having the nerve to say that the sample in "Ice Ice Baby" was different than Queen's "Under Pressure," but no one would have cared if the public had taste and let him suck by himself. Instead twelve million amoebas had to drag us down into their colossal mire of Suck by buying it. Ice is pop. And the other rappers didn't like that very much. Not because Ice was all out there perpetrating, or because he shaved lines in his eyebrows or whatever. The boys were green with envy and envious of the green they were without. Take 3rd Bass. They had a song out called "Pop Goes the Weasel (Cuz the Weasel Goes Pop.)" The single was a nicely veiled metaphor until they made a video in which they beat the living bejeezus out of a Robbie Van Winkle lookalike. Ice is the Weasel. The Walrus is Paul, and I am Iron Man. No matter. What it boils down to isn't that Bass thought that Ice was making a mockery out of their musical stylings. Not at all. Bass was JEALOUS (and there’s nothing wrong with that). The single should have been "Pop Goes the Weasel (Cuz We Can't Sell Any Records Because the Black Crowd Hates Us Because We Pretend To Be Like Them When We're Not and the White Folk Don't Get Us Because We Don't Talk Like Them.)" It's not Ice's fault that the a good chunk of the public is, regrettably, racist and stupid. But because they are, they bought his dumb record, not 3rd Bass' infinitely better one, and made him popular. He sold out?
Quiet Riot sold metal out too back in 1983, but no one really cared. The brain damaged metalheads that actually liked them were too stoned to realize or just thought that hearing this terrible band cover another terrible band's songs for their biggest hits and having it be on the radio of all god-forsaken things was pretty cool. That's the thing about metal. No one had a big protective hold over it. No fans of metal (and they do exist) were that bent out of shape about hearing their bands on the radio or knowing that BACK IN BLACK sold a bajillion copies. Know why? Because they kept their hair long and all was right with the world.
Enter Metallica.You can sell a quadrillion copies of your discs and even have the videos shown on eMpTyV, but cut your hair and prepare to be disemboweled. The fans were generous in letting you get away with that ballad "Nothing Else Matters" on the Black Album without collectively killing you, but chopping your locks for the LOAD release...that crosses a line, dude. And that is why Metallica is one of the most loved and most hated bands today. Warring high brow and low brow factions collided on the turf known as "Enter Sandman" and things have never been the same. I marked out for Metallica and defended them to the edge of the earth. But maybe all those ogres in my high school who got mad at them for having a slow part in "Fade To Black" were right. This whole Metallica vs. Napster thing is shedding a whole new light on the artists formerly known as Alcoholica. Screw them. And double-screw Lars while I'm at it.
So, someone asked me to write something about the state of pop music. And, as usual, I get on one of my Dennis Miller meets Barney Miller rants and nothing really comes out. Well, to answer the question, does pop music suck? Well, yes it does. For the most part. But WHY does it suck is the more important question. And that is because the moronic public dictates what is "pop." And the public sucks. Once people realize that Counting Crows and Third Eye Bland and Hootie and Britney and Enrique and Bizkit all suck...then they won't be popular anymore. And maybe something cool will come along and people will rediscover A LOVE SUPREME or make THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO a number one album, or name Nick Cave as their favorite male vocalist on the People's Choice Awards and have Big Star win Best Group. But until then...we are left with "oops...I did it again."There was so much promise there in the beginning, wasn't there? But expectations failed us all. Thanks to you, High Brow music fan. Thanks to you, Low Brow music fan. Thanks to you, Soundscan. And thanks to you, Maurice Starr.
Sigh. I'm off to listen to My Bloody Valentine. Wake me when it's all over. So... does that make me high brow???
- Dim.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Way To A Man's Heart...

...isn't through his stomach. Though a kick-ass eggplant parm does wonders.

The way to a man's heart...get him a bobblehead doll of himself.

The privileged few smell what Dim is cookin'.

Oh, and they will run you about 2 bills.

Entering my credit card number (to get to my own heart...not someone else's...nevermind),

- Dim.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


All right, all right, you jackals clamoring for the scan of my Rolling Stone appearance (previous post is here in case you are too lazy to use the scrolly thing on your mouse). Here it is. And apologies, my scanner sucks.

I assure you, they spelled my name incorrectly. Mind you, I am now almost six years older and almost six times hotter. And to answer the riddle of the universe that you all must have after seeing this: I think the person next to me on the page is a girl.

Looking back at what they posted as my quote, it is more robotic than Jar Jar Binks. It's not like they put me down as saying "Meesa think Elliott putsa on a gooood showza!" They just made me sound like Twiki from Buck Rogers. I don't sound like that in real-life. I assure you I do not sound like that in real-life. It would not compute to sound like that in real-life. Danger, Will Robinson.

Anyway, I really said a bunch of stuff, but they pulled out three random sentences and arranged them to appear like a cohesive quote so I ended up sounding like an idiot. It could have been worse, I suppose. I'm sure they could have used these three random sentences instead:

"I thought Elliott's best song tonight was 'Junk Bond Trader'. I have to get up pretty early tomorrow morning. I really don't understand how some people can dig on rhubarb pie."

Thank goodness they didn't use that, or people would have REALLY thought I was a lunatic.

As harrowing as this foray into my missed 15-minute past was, it did have a positive bi-product. No, I didn't get a sense of self-empowerment because I was able to come face-to-face with a traumatic event in my life. I ended up stumbling across an old issue of Maxim with Elisha Cuthbert on the cover while looking for Rolling Stone! Sweet.

There's just something about my honesty that speaks to people,

- Dim.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

My 15 Minutes

I don't know why exactly, but in the last few days, I have really started to think about opportunities I had to achieve some level of fame and how, due to circumstances beyond my control, they have totally shat the bed. Maybe it is the fact that I feel like I should be making more money than I am making. Or maybe I feel that I have a different calling than my current professional field. Maybe I just want to be on one of those VH1's "100 Greatest Facial Hair Sculptures" specials. God, I love VH1.

I'm sure there were brushes with fame when I was younger...I'm sure some ad exec wanted me to be the next Ivory soap baby or something like that. I'm sure some effeminate magazine got ahold of my high school poetry and wanted me to be their sackless torch-bearer. But I really don't remember all that stuff and I'm not about to start regression hypnosis to find out, either.

But two instances in my not-so-terribly-distant-past stand out in my mind and, to be quite frank, they are still pissing me off in an alarming and festering manner. The first occured on October 7, 1997. I was with some buddies and we were seeing the Foo Fighters play at a place called the Strand in Providence, RI. But my near-miss didn't come in the presence of Dave Grohl. Oh no no no. It almost came in the presence of former members of Stone Temple Pilots.

You see, a band called Talk Show opened for the Foos and they basically consisted of STP without Weiland (who was undoubtedly in jail at the time). They has some other doofus singing and they spent the majority of their set playing god-awful songs from their, thankfully, only album. But then, the singer announced to the crowd that they wanted a member of the audience to come on stage and sing a STP song for the last song of the night. The song: "Vaseline". Which just so happened to be a song I sang, brilliantly, I might add, in my old band, Spork. Despite my hollering and pogoing and outward pleading to the band (I think I went so far as to say I would even (shudder) buy their disc if they brought me up on stage), the band didn't hear me and took some friggin' meathead instead. The band launches into the song and said meathead proceeds to sing a mangled version of the first verse of the song three times in a row, including as part of the chorus, before he let out an ear-piercing "wooooooo!!!!!" and then stage dove into the arms of his equally meatheaded buddies.

I sat there, my jaw dropped, knowing, just knowing that I had blown it. That was it. That was my 15 minutes, or more accurately, 3 and a half. And it was gone. Poof. Just like Keyser Soze.

It helps to change up your dreams fairly regularly because there will always be another chance to become famous if you have like a thousand things you would like to do. So, with singing on the back burner, I decided that I liked to write and wouldn't mind being some sort of irreverent music critic.

Fast forward to May 16, 2000. I am at another Rhode Island venue (Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel) seeing Elliott Smith. I'm totally in the vibe of the show, but am getting rapidly annoyed at some dipshit with a notebook sitting next to me who feels the need to ask everyone in the area what the name of every song that Elliott was playing. I seemed to be the only one in the area that knew the tunes and I told this kid what he needed to know so he would shut the hell up.

As the lights come up at the end of the show, this kid asks if he could interview me as he is from Rolling Stone and wants to get some people's opinion of the show. Now, there was no way in hell I believed this idiot's story, but I agreed to be interviewed (and photographed) mainly because I was hammered and didn't know any better.

It was only on the ride home that I sobered up enough to convince myself that the headshot they took of me was going to end up Photoshopped on the body of some hunky naked sailor in the magazine "Stud Puppy" who is doing something unsanitary to his "first mate". I guess beggars for fame can't be choosers.

I pretty much forgot all about the incident until I was at work one day and I got a phone call from March, who was home from work for some reason. I answer the phone, "Hi, this is Dim." and was greeted by "Holy shit, man, I was sitting here eating cereal and I opened up my Rolling Stone and you're in it!!!" "Get the fuck out of here!" was the natural response. He assured me that I was indeed a media celebrity, so I signed out to lunch and ran to the nearest CVS to buy up all of their issues of Rolling Stone.

I should have known it wasn't going according to plan when I saw the cover:

That's right. I'm not in the issue with Janet Jackson, getting her yabs cupped by some guy behind her on the cover. Uh-uh. I don't get a scantily clad Britney Spears. I don't even get Springsteen, who is seemingly on the cover tri-annually.

I get Kid friggin' Rock. But not just regular old Kid Rock. But Kid Rock, who is wearing a goddamn tank top made out of the pulltabs from beer cans. What, they couldn't have had him codding a pit bull swaddled in the Confederate flag while kissing his sister outside his trailer while he was at it? And I'm not even going to comment on the Don Henley story.

But then, my disappointment turns to horror. I get to the page I am on and the headshot they took is OK-looking, but the quotes they decided to use from me were strung together in such a manner that it made me sound less literate than Jar Jar Binks. And then, the coup de grace: they spelled my friggin' name wrong. I have six letters in my last name. Consonant-vowel-consonant-consonant-vowel-consonant. Not that tough. They took the second consonant (an "n" in real-life) and changed it to a vowel (an "i" in Rolling Stone land), which not only ruined the whole thing for me, but also gave my last name a decidedly thick German sound to it, by which some of my elephant-memoried friends still call me from time to time.

Not sure why I felt the need to post this. Maybe, lately, I wish I was famous. Or just a smidgen more than I am. And I thought about the Foo Fighters show and, especially, my Rolling Stone debut. And it pissed me off.

So, remember. If some dumb-ass wants to interview you for a magazine article, do yourself a favor. Grab the pen out of his grubby little hands and spell your name out yourself in large, clear block letters. Lest your name ends up looking like that of an SS officer. Because that will totally ruin your 15 minute buzz.

Bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy diggy said the boogie said up jump the boogie,

- Dim.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

My Favorite Discs of 2005 - #13-1

13. GOLDEN OCEAN-50 Foot Wave (Reincarnate)
Whoa...Kristin Hersh rocks. The former Throwing Muses leader has actually gotten more ferocious as time goes on, as evident by 50 Foot Wave's first full length disc, which is oddly abrasive, but in a good way. Backed ever-so-ably by the dexterous Bernard Georges on bass and the absolutely herculean Rob Ahlers on drums, Hersh fires through this batch of tunes expertly mixing fuzzed out, punkish guitar riffs with absurd time changes. Granted, your throat hurts just listening to Hersh scream out her head-scratching lyrics, but the complexity of "Bone China" and the frenzy exemplified in "Clara Bow" (complete with the lyric "Bones were made to be broken") just completely overshadow any strained vocals. GOLDEN OCEAN is fierce and not for the faint of heart. And to paraphrase "Clara Bow" as March might say regarding this disc: Faces were made to be melted.

Previous list appearances: 50 FOOT WAVE (#1 E.P. in 2004)

12. SHINE-Trey Anastasio (Sony)
I know I'm going to get all sorts of flak for liking this album, especially from the hippies who hate on Trey for breaking up Phish, but I'm an unapologetic sucker for Anastasio's ballads and guitar playing. The former jam band giant's frontman foregoes the indulgent guitar solos and instead focuses more on the song and his ever-present gift of melody. Make no mistake, it is light, fluffy, and doesn't have a ton of substance, but this disc sounds like summer and I like that. From the bouncy title track to the duality of "Come As Melody" to the textured "Black", Anastasio really excels at crafting airy pop that allows you to just press play and not think about. His guitar solos still show his talent while remaining tasteful and he hasn't lost his knack for writing a moving ballad. Check out the delicate closer, "Love That Breaks All Lines" for proof positive. It certainly ain't Phish. But in the case of SHINE, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Previous list appearances: TREY ANASTASIO (#13 in 2002)

11. JACKSONVILLE CITY NIGHTS-Ryan Adams and the Cardinals (Lost Highway)
On the second of releases on the list, Ryan again teams with the Cardinals to produce an offering that seems to be quite the melding between the upcoming COLD ROSES and his true solo effort for the year, 29. The best part about this disc is the dynamic Adams has with his band. The Cardinals seem to bring out the best in Adams as far as singing, playing, and songwriting. All too brief, JACKSONVILLE CITY NIGHTS embraces Adams' alt-country roots in Whiskeytown without being slave to them. These is a vague veil of sadness here, particularly on "Silver Bullets" and "September", but in the case of the latter, Adams recognizes the mood and follows it up with the fun "Peaceful Valley". His empassioned ode to Jacksonville, "The End" and the album's opener "A Kiss Before I Go" may sound overtly countrified with all of the lap steel and strings, but this is a more mature Adams. One who amazes with his inability to swing and miss.

10. SUNRISE OVER SEA-John Butler Trio (Lava)
From Australia via California, master guitarist John Butler sure is as earthy crunchy as they get. And his disc balances tales of love ("Peaches and Cream") and some scathing political commentary (the energetic "Old Man" and the scolding, banjo-driven "Damned to Hell") and gives the listener no mistake where his allegiances lie. The only criticism of this disc is that it doesn't nearly capture Butler's live intensity, but that's no reason to pass this offering up until he comes to your town. If he lays down some impressive grooves ("Zebra") some funky rhythms ("Treat Yo Mama"), or builds on a simple banjo riff to create a grandiose tune ("Born To Ramble"), Butler's musical chops far outshine his Eddie Vedder-ish mumbles. He never falls too far into jammyness but still manages to showcase his guitar playing with tours-de-force like "Betterman" and "Sometimes". While his live show puts this disc to shame (which is more of a compliment to his live show than a knock on the disc), SUNRISE OVER SEA is a great introduction to this great up-and-coming talent.

9. Z-My Morning Jacket (Ato)
Sometimes slow and methodical ("Gideon", "Dondante") and sometimes insanely catchy (try not tapping your foot to "Off The Record" or "Anytime"), Z may go down in My Morning Jacket's annals as being a kind of OK COMPUTER for them: a follow-up to a strong record and a bridge to a new sound. Jim James' vocals still sound like they were recorded in the bottom of an empty swimming pool, but the alt-country quirkiness of earlier releases have given way to a diverse, well-produced sound. Still trippy and mostly mellow, Z really proves this is a great musical band; the songwriting has improved, making Z My Morning Jacket's most consistent effort yet.

Previous list appearances: IT STILL MOVES (#16 IN 2003)

A 7-song disc, while not technically an E.P., proves the old adage of good things coming in small packages. Eric Matthews may have been on a 7-year musical hiatus, but he picks up right where he left off, crafting lavish instrumental pop behind his recognizable breathy vocals. Unable to be categorized, Matthews takes these 7 songs and transfers them into something that sounds like little else out there. Expertly accenting his songs with horns (the bouncy "Black To Light Brown") and strings ("So Overblown", "Worthy"), Matthews creates an environment of sitting in a ritzy apartment at night in the summertime with the windows open, sipping on an expensive red wine. The ultra-cool "Do You Really Want It?" is just one of the homeruns he hits here. The time off has served Matthews well. In 7 years, the face of music has changed drastically. Matthews has stayed the same. And like 7 years ago, he still doesn't sound like anyone else.

7. BODY OF SONG-Bob Mould (Yep Roc)
Bob Mould has had quite a varied career so far. Starting off with the hardcore punk of Husker Du in the 80s, the power pop of Sugar in the 90s, a few solo adventures, including techno offerings. The long-awaited BODY OF SONG is a nice mixture of Bob's loud guitars and the electronic music he has adopted as part of his repertoire. The emotionally draining layers of the opening dirge-like "Circles" is one of the most powerful and chill-inducing tunes of Mould's career. The remaining first half of the disc is also great. The techno tinge of "(Shine Your) Light Love Hope" is a guilty pleasure while the cool mixture of guitar and electonica of "Paralyzed" and "I Am Vision, I Am Sound" bridge the gap between the two most recent Mould genres. The unabashed rock of "Underneath Days" and "Missing You" show that Bob can still wail on the guitar, but surprisingly, the best ballads ("Lowdown Ground", "My Old Friend") are found on the limited edition bonus disc. With BODY OF SONG, Mould appeals to his longtime fans without having to give up the electronic music he loves (which was tepidly received by most fans with MODULATE.) Let's hope he keeps it up.
Previous list appearances: THE LAST DOG AND PONY SHOW (#1 in 1998), MODULATE. (#14 in 2002)

6. COLD ROSES-Ryan Adams and the Cardinals (Lost Highway)
The first of three (!) efforts released from Ryan Adams this year also happens to be his strongest. COLD ROSES finds Adams resorting back to his Whiskeytown-era country-flavored twangs, but with even more stunning results, thanks to his immensely talented backup band, The Cardinals. Starting things off disc 1 is the glorious "Magnolia Mountain", one of the best songs of Adams' already prolific career and one of any year's collective best. A little introspective and vulnerable, COLD ROSES rarely lets completely loose, but when it does (the raucous fun of "Beautiful Sorta" and "Life Is Beautiful"), it is a welcome diversion from some of the more somber tunes. But Adams knows when to pull what strings...his vocal range wonderfully augments "Sweet Illusions" and the fragile prettiness of "Mockingbird" and "Blossom" elevate them to soaring heights. Adams' strength also lies with composing melodies that stay with the listener long after the disc is over ("Easy Plateau", "Let It Ride"). While Adams released two other discs this year, both great as well, COLD ROSES stands out as the best of the crop, thanks to Adams' usual passion and The Cardinals' rock steady backup.

5. THE WOODS-Sleater-Kinney (Sub Pop)
Those looking for some familiar minimalistic punkish rock from this Olympia, Washington trio might be a little surprised by this louder, heavier, and brasher offering. Sounding more like Sabbath than the Sex Pistols, Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein lay down some impressive riffs while drummer Janet Weiss channels John Bonham ("Modern Girl"). Tucker's patented wail (she's one of rock's great singers) is still here as is the complimentary vocals of Brownstein (along with her mesmerizing guitar leads, see the accessible "Jumpers"), but the band more fierce and full of more fury than ever. The cacophony of the album's opener, "The Fox", opens the door for further discord in "What's Mine Is Yours", "Steep Air", and the outrageous crunch of 11-minute "Let's Call It Love". A different, but powerful disc from S-K.

Previous list appearances: DIG ME OUT (#5 in 1997), THE HOT ROCK (#7 in 1999), ALL HANDS ON THE BAD ONE (#7 in 2000), ONE BEAT (#5 in 2002)

4. TWIN CINEMA-The New Pornographers (Matador)
New Pornographers frontman A.C. (Carl) Newman is a tragically underrated songwriting prodigy. It is borderline unfathomable how this guy consistently writes insanely catchy, yet edgy and deeply melodic songs CD after CD. TWIN CINEMA is no different. It is a dense and textured disc, yet is surprisingly breezy and carefree. Not a single note is misplaced and nothing is overdone or under-utilized. With the usual help provided by Neko Case ("The Bones of an Idol"), Newman and the rest of the band power through such catchy alt-pop as the title track, the singalong "Use It" and "The Bleeding Heart Show", all of which epitomize Newman's genius and penchant for writing perfect songs.

Previous list appearances: ELECTRIC VERSION (#3 in 2003)

3. FRANCES THE MUTE-The Mars Volta (Universal)
Wow, typically schizophrenic and harrowing, the warped brains of guitarist extraordinaire Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and operatic vocalist Cedric Bixler Zavala deliver another prog-rock opus that is as challenging as it is rewarding. Mixing ambient noises with horns and strings and the usual Mars Volta dissonance, the band fires on all cylinders with FRANCES THE MUTE. Bi-lingual and multi-faceted, this organized cacophony's intensity is matched only by the complexity of the songs and their meanings. There are five tracks here, three with multiple movements ("Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus", "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore", and "Cassandra Gemini") and once you get over the fact that you may never know just what in the hell they are singing about, you just bask in the glow of being musically throttled.

Previous list appearances: DE-LOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM (#1 in 2003)

2. GET BEHIND ME SATAN-the White Stripes (V2)
This Detroit duo grew by leaps and bounds in the last two years. Their previous efforts have all been outstanding, but this latest from the ex-husband and wife twosome showcases guitarist/singer Jack White's amazing guitar playing and composition skills. Sure, the fuzzed out bluesy rockers are still here ("Blue Orchard", "Red Rain") and they absolutely slay, thanks in part to Meg White's rhythmic and rudimentary poundings. But the songs that are a little left of what the Stripes are known for make GET BEHIND ME SATAN one of the best of the year, particularly the infectious, piano-driven "My Doorbell" and "The Denial Twist". Diverse yet true to itself, heavy yet airy. If these two keep this up, their next release is going to be a doozy.

Previous list appearances: ELEPHANT (#4 in 2003)

1. LULLABIES TO PARALYZE-Queens of the Stone Age (Interscope)
I'm starting to wonder if Josh Homme can do anything wrong. This wasn't always the case, mind you, as his band's latest didn't exactly enthrall me with my first few listens. But the more I listened, the more I listened and what I heard was the best disc of 2005. Starting off with a relaxing, picked acoustic guitar beneath Mark Lanegan's cigarette and whiskey ravaged vocal husk, "This Lullaby" lulls the listener into a false state before it segues into the hard rocking "Medication". And so begins the ride of LULLABIES TO PARALYZE. After shedding long-time collaborator and bassist/vocalist Nick Oliveri, there was some skepticism about the band, but Homme has assembled the band's strongest incarnation, thanks to multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes. But Homme is the real star here, master of everything: guitar riffs, songwriting, and, impressively, vocals. This disc is heavy, catchy, and pummeling, yet incredibly melodic. From the Jeckyll and Hyde duality of "Everybody Knows That You're Insane" to the groovy "Tangled Up In Plaid" to the disorienting "Burn The Witch", Homme has constructed his most challenging and rewarding disc yet. It's almost bothersome how hummable "Little Sister" and it's cowbell lead are and the sinister opus, "Someone's In The Wolf" finds a way to be repetitive without being boring. But in the face of all this, Homme throws everyone a few curveballs, particularly with the slower numbers. The dreamy "'You Got A Killer Scene There, Man'" is just the tip of the iceberg as the disc's closer, "Long Slow Goodbye" resonates long after its completion and the falsetto of "I Never Came" might be the most impressive work Homme has done ever done. QOTSA has an impressive body of work thus far. And this might be their best.

Previous list appearances: RATED R (#1 in 2000), SONGS FOR THE DEAF (#1 in 2002), STONE AGE COMPLICATIONS (#2 E.P. in 2004)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

My Favorite Discs of 2005 - #25-14

This thing is getting more and more cumbersome each year. Anyway, why only give #25-14 now? Because I'm crazy like that. The Top 13 will be out tomorrow. Enjoy. Or skip, because it's not funny. Either way.

25. EMOTIONAL ANIMAL-Dug Pinnick (Magna Carta)
In a year where his full-time band, King's X, puts out their best effort in 5 years, bass player and vocalist Doug (Dug) Pinnick throws together EMOTIONAL ANIMAL, a heavy and soulful offering which draw on Pinnick's vocal strengths and fat, bassy low end upon which he builds the rest of the music. While some of the songwriting is a little on the weak side, Pinnick does redeem with some crunching numbers like "Crashing" and "Change" (complete with a nice slide guitar solo). While King's X might be greater than the sum of its parts, Pinnick shows that its members can still go out on their own and produce something quite viable.

24. ORIGIN VOL. 1-The Soundtrack of Our Lives (Republic)
Sweden's greatest export since ABBA (did I really just type that?) follows up 2002's absolutely brilliant BEHIND THE MUSIC with another collection of songs that channel 60s and 70s psychedelia. And while the overt influences by Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones are harder to distinguish, one listen will really show you how retro-sounding this band is. The 60s-tinged sounds on "Lone Summer Dream" and the dual guitar attack of "Royal Explosion (Part III)" exhibit this as obviously as the spacey "Age of No Reply" and "To Somewhere Else". The straight ahead crunch of "MotherOneTrackMind" makes you wish that TSOOL focused more on dumbing down their rock, especially since their lyrics and vocals won't win any superlative awards, but even though ORIGIN VOL. 1 can't touch BEHIND THE MUSIC, it is still list-worthy.

Previous list appearances: BEHIND THE MUSIC (#2 in 2002)

23. THE BEEKEEPER-Tori Amos (Sony)
Not quite as strong as her recent offerings, THE BEEKEEPER continues Tori's fascination with semi-concept discs, heavily garnished with quirky music and enigmatic lyrics. Less minimalistic and more layered, this disc succeeds mostly when the tunes are more accessible ("Sleeps With Butterflies", "General Joy"), but also hits the mark with some of the more epic-sounding tracks like "Witness", "Marys of the Sea", and the title track. The 70s swagger of "Sweet the Sting" also showcases Amos' trend away from the solo piano pieces and into a realm that emphasizes more of a band. Slightly overlong at 19 tracks, THE BEEKEEPER is far from being a kick-ass Tori Amos record, but given her growth and her complete fearlessness in putting out music on her terms, as well as being buoyed by some occasionally strong writing, it does find itself part of the esteemed 25.

Previous list appearances: FROM THE CHOIRGIRL HOTEL (#11 in 1998), TO VENUS AND BACK (Honorable mention in 1999), STRANGE LITTLE GIRLS (#8 in 2001), SCARLET'S WALK (#4 in 2002)

The former X-man delivers another nice solo offering with the help of some very talented friends. Among the guest musicians on FOREVER are Grant-Lee Phillips, Kristin Hersh, and the divine Neko Case. All lend guitar and/or vocal help to solid, though not spectacular collection of folky ("Twin Brother"), bluesy ("Heartless") rock tunes. The shuffle of the opening "The Losing Kind" is Doe at his best, but his ability to mesh seamlessly with his guest stars further cements him as one of the more adaptable artists today.

Previous list appearances: DIM STARS, BRIGHT SKY (#16 in 2002)

21. AMBER HEADLIGHTS-Greg Dulli (Infernal)
A brief, nine song, foray into the limbo between old band the Afghan Whigs and current players The Twilight Singers, AMBER HEADLIGHTS seems, at first, like a hastily thrown together collection of Greg Dulli tunes. But a closer listen will reveal a nice meld of the crunchier Whigs tunes ("Cigarettes") with the more soulful, composition-oriented Twilight Singers offerings ("Wicked", "Domani"). Dulli's slightly off-key, gravelly yells and breathy sighs are as charming as ever, and while he sometimes gets overtly poppy ("Golden Boy"), he never lets the disc turn into a mainstream-sounding effort. A nice bridge between his two bands, AMBER HEADLIGHTS is surely setting the table for a productive 2006 for Dulli.

20. WHY SHOULD THE FIRE DIE?-Nickel Creek (Sugarhill)
As the opening notes of the haunting "When In Rome", possibly Nickel Creek's most powerful tune of their young career, greet your ears, there is almost an associated loss of innocence. This brilliant trio of once wunderkinds seems to have gotten away from their bluegrass roots and have delved into more darker pop. This isn't a bad thing, as the superior musicianship and vocal harmonies of guitarist Sean Watkins, violinist Sara Watkins, and mandolin aficionado (and one of the best stringed-instrument players on the planet), Chris Thile are still ever-present. All of the instrumentals ("Scotch and Chocolate", the Union Station-like "Stumptown") here are great, but the other songs, particularly the majestic "Eveline" and the Glen Phillips-influenced "Best of Luck" do not disappoint. Still young, but more mature, Nickel Creek's 3rd disc shows great growth and even more potential.

19. OGRE TONES-King's X (Inside Out)
The last few offerings from this Texas power trio have been a little underwhelming and while this release doesn't quite surpass the band's superior discs, it is a welcome return to heavy rock sprinkled with the usual absurdly good musicianship, soulful vocals of bassist Doug Pinnick and Beatle-esque harmonies courtesy of guitarist Ty Tabor and drummer Jerry Gaskill. And while the rockers are certainly appreciated by fans ("Alone", "Freedom"), the more pensive songs tend to stay with the listener as well ("Hurricane", "Mudd"). As usual, Tabor's guitar heroics are front and center, but this is a very solid album from top to bottom. All of the band's various side projects seem to have finally paid off in a stronger King's X effort.

Previous list appearances: TAPE HEAD (#12 in 1998), PLEASE COME HOME...MR. BULBOUS (#10 IN 2000), LIVE ALL OVER THE PLACE (#2 live album in 2004)

18. SUSPENDED ANIMATION-Fantomas (Ipecac)
Per the norm, it is impossible to categorize or even describe Fantomas, the weird uncle of a band fronted by ex-Faith No More vocalist extraordinaire Mike Patton with members of the Melvins, Mr. Bungle, and Slayer. Their newest release is a strange amalgam of Fantomas' quizzical first release (which, instead of "songs" contained "pages" made up of short musical bursts) and their brilliant, more focused THE DIRECTOR'S CUT. The songs here are brief and broken up into 30 "days", all of which occur in the month of April of 2005. For example, playing right now is "04/03/05 Sunday". The music is frantic and all over the map...speed/death metal and rock peppered with every sound effect imaginable, all played behind Patton's cartoonish yelps and screams. SUSPENDED ANIMATION is not for everyone, but listeners who liked to be challenged by their music every once in awhile ought to give it a try.

Previous list appearances: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT (#3 in 2001)

17. IN YOUR HONOUR-Foo Fighters (RCA)
Dave Grohl has really done a lot in his somewhat brief career. He played drums for Nirvana, fronted a death metal band ("Probot"), has been a musical whore the likes of which haven't been seen since Michael Stipe. But the one thing he keeps going to back to is his band, Foo Fighters. For almost ten years now, Grohl consistently proves to the world that he is a damn good frontman, singer, guitarist, and writer. IN YOUR HONOUR is a bit of a mind-boggling double disc. The primary disc consists of the rockers. Here, Grohl plays it safe and doesn't stray for from the formula that makes the band successful: straight ahead, heavy guitar pop rock, with unyielding melodies and strong vocals. The songs that exemplify this are "No Way Back" and "Free Me" and while it doesn't sound new, the disc ends with a flourish courtesy of "The Deepest Blues Are Black" and the jangly "End Over End". Then, you put in disc two and all formula is tossed out the window. It is a softer, acoustic disc that surprises the listener with its power and ability to both soothe and move. Grohl shows off his songwriting here with such tales as "Still", "Friend Of A Friend", and "Over And Out". He even does a duet with Norah Jones ("Virginia Moon"). The complete daring and ambition of disc two outshines the rocking disc and makes IN YOUR HONOUR a rewarding, if not confounding, listen.

Previous list appearances: THE COLOUR AND THE SHAPE (#2 in 1997), THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE (#5 in 1999), ONE BY ONE (#7 in 2002)

16. FRONT PARLOUR BALLADS-Richard Thompson (Cooking Vinyl)
OK, so it's a bummer of a disc, but it does have the word "ballad" in the title, so what do you expect? Truth be told, folk master Richard Thompson's latest is laden with down-tempo tunes, but his songwriting and virtuoso guitar playing is so top-notch that whatever downer havoc the tunes play on your emotions, it is forgivable. Thompson is melodic as ever here, especially on the sprawling and gorgeous "For Whose Sake" and "Old Thames Side" and the shanty-like "Miss Patsy." His fingerpicked guitar always in the forefront, Thompson wails these ballads with his ever-recognizable British brogue. While RT fanatics and newcomers alike would probably wish for something lighter, any opportunity to hear new Thompson music, even the depressing stuff, is OK by me.

Previous list appearances: THE OLD KIT BAG (#5 in 2003)

15. THE MOUSE AND THE MASK-Danger Doom (Epitaph/Ada)
It's very easy to take the lazy way out and label this collaborative effort by MF Doom and Dangermouse a novelty rap disc, because it is pretty goofy and contains cameos throughout by the casts of various Cartoon Network Adult Swim shows like "Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast" and "Aqua Team Hunger Force". But to do so would really be denying a great, fun rap disc that brilliantly showcases Doom's rapid-fire rhymes ("El Chupa Nibre", "A.T.H.F.") and Dangermouse's amazing beats, combining jazz with groove and horns with strings. This tag team works wonderfully and seamlessly, especially when you factor in Doom's gift of rhyme and meter. Surely one of the better rappers and writers today, Doom excels and punctuation while Danger lays the perfect sonic backdrop. It doesn't have to be gangsta to be good, and THE MOUSE AND THE MASK more than proves it.

14. 29-Ryan Adams (Lost Highway)
To say this is the weakest of the Ryan Adams troika to come out this year certainly isn't to say this is a weak release. It's just...different. Just as melancholy and piano-driven as the aforementioned JACKSONVILLE CITY NIGHTS, yet still dissimilar, 29 channels Nick Drake while still being unmistakably Ryan Adams. The honkytonk twang of the opening title track is a cruel tease as nothing else other than the truly odd "The Sadness" approaches non-balladville. But Adams is still a master songwriter in every degree: from musicianship to lyrics, to vocals, a note is never wasted and too much or too little is ever played. The piano ballad "Night Birds" sprawls gloriously and elicits chills while the folky irony of "Strawberry Wine" goes to show that after 4 discs (if you count the double COLD ROSES as two), Ryan is still so prolific to have plenty left in the tank to round out the year.
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