Aug 19 2009

i'm guilty of fraud

I went to Chipotle for lunch.  I ordered a steak burrito, but by the time it got down to the end of the counter it had been marked as chicken.  I neglected to mention this oversight and pocketed the forty cent difference.  I don't feel guilty.  Even now, with this post, I laugh in the face of justice.  "HA HA!  Come and get me, coppers!" is what I might exclaim if I were a gangster from the 1930's.

I also took a whole mess of napkins.

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Mar 27 2008

not guilty: wheatus

Dec 27 2007

not guilty: zz top

I strongly suspect – though I have no concrete proof – that there is a significant subset of my neighborhood who would relish seeing me admit to being wrong about something.  This post is for you.

I love “Guitar Hero.”  It’s the game for which I’ve been waiting my whole life.  I had an opportunity to give it a second chance on Christmas Eve morning at my aunt and uncle’s house.  I knew that my cousin had it – that’s where my nieces had played it, and where they sort of learned Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” – and I realized I could isolate myself from the drudgery of family and merriment if I retired to the world of video games.  There was a little initial fumbling despite the “lefty flip,” but I fairly quickly got the hang of it.  It’s still bullshit that the game doesn’t come with the left-handed setting as the default, but I’ve made my peace with it.  It’s not the game’s fault.  It’s the software developer’s.

Later that day, Sister #2 confided that she had had “Guitar Hero” in her hand at the store for my brother-in-law a few weeks prior but that better judgment had come over her and she passed.  Ever the good brother, I offered to accompany her on what became something of a quest that afternoon as she set out to rectify her error.  You might say that a last minute shopping trip to buy more crap that nobody needs taught me the true meaning of Christmas.  God bless us, every one.

So what does ZZ Top have to do with any of this?  Well, much to my surprise “La Grange” was probably my favorite of all the songs to play.  And it rocks, too.  I can hardly believe I haven’t thought about it in about fifteen years.

Dec 7 2007

not guilty: michael jackson

Hey, remember those "Not Guilty" posts?  We didn't think so.  But we warned you they might turn up again sometime – you know, like a bad penny.

Anyway, we'd be remiss if we didn't make some mention this week of the twenty-fifth anniversary of "Thriller."  We were nine years old in December of 1982.  These were heady times.  We were navigating our way through our waning interest in cartoons and Scratch & Sniff stickers and our waxing interest in pop music and video games and Thursday night roller-skating – set against the inevitable backdrop of increased homework and the still relatively new insight into how babies were made and how this information affected the gender dynamic in the fourth grade in general and at the roller rink in particular – so we might be excused for failing to notice at the time that we were, in fact, witnessing history being made down at the Ches-A-Rena.

Well, maybe not the Ches-A-Rena specifically, but at roller rinks and similar youth hangouts nation- nay, worldwide.  At some point, yes, we realized that "Thriller" was huge.  More huge, even, than the other records of the day.  But it wasn't until we got it into our head yesterday that we might try to find a few words to say about this landmark album that we realized the enormity of this moment in music history.  A few months ago, we heard a segment on Tony Kornheiser's radio show in which he asked of Washington Post television critic Lisa de Moraes why successful recording artist Gwen Stefani would deign to appear on "American Idol."  Her answer seemed at once both simple and profound: the threshold for success in music is much, much lower than that for television.  Maybe it's because we are more attuned to the peculiarities of the recording industry than those of television, but that simple fact had never occurred to us before.  Numbers that would indicate an enormously successful record – a platinum record (one million copies sold) – would probably result in cancellation for a television show.  A good, gold record probably wouldn't make it past the pilot.  We shudder to think what might have happened if the guys in Beulah – who spent their entire career toiling for independent labels – had pursued instead a career in the television industry.

What we learned yesterday literally floored us.  Like we said, we knew "Thriller" was huge.  We even knew it was the biggest selling record of all time.  But we didn't realize it had sold one hundred four million copies worldwide, forty million of which moved in the initial pressing.  It spent eighty weeks on the Billboard Top Ten, including thirty-seven weeks – January to about mid-October for those keeping score at home – at number one.  It was the best selling record of both 1983 and 1984, competing both critically and commercially against such acclaimed releases as Van Halen's "1984," Def Leppard's "Pyromania," Cyndi Lauper's "She's So Unusual," Madonna's "Like A Virgin," Duran Duran's "Rio," Bryan Adams' "Reckless," John Cougar Mellencamp's "Uh-Huh," Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA," and Prince's "Purple Rain."  "Thriller" was bigger than everything.  Put together.  And what's more, this record was – and still is – really fucking good.

Perhaps the most damning evidence of "Thriller's" pervasiveness was that even though we never had MTV until we went to college, the Michael Jackson videos were old hat by the time we got to junior high school.  And speaking of those videos, we're not actually going to show one here.  Instead we humbly present Michael Jackson performing on the Motown Twenty-Fifth Anniversary special.  This was the appearance that launched him to superstardom, and it's fitting that it is his finest song.  Which – considering some of the other tunes with which he has been involved – is among the highest praise imaginable.

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May 31 2007

not guilty: they might be giants

we'd be willing to bet that, if asked, you wouldn't have guessed that our very first musically related post here at was about they might be giants.  hell, even we wouldn't have guessed and we wrote the thing, but there you go.  it's kind of funny, now that we think back: we had seen the video to the song in question on TMBG's website, which had since been updated.  if only there was an online database for searching and viewing random videos….

so yeah, they might be giants probably don't belong here, but we – like most self-respecting indie rockers – take our music seriously, which typically doesn't leave a whole lot of room for jokes.  we do enjoy this song, however, and it seems somehow appropriate for our final regular installment of our "not guilty" feature to tie back to our first post tagged with the initials of the High Church of the Indie Rock Orthodoxy (DC Chapter).  it's like the circle of life.  or something.

as we mentioned, this will, in fact, mark the end of our regular "not guilty" posts.  we'd like to claim that now that cappy's following our lead the whole endeavor has jumped the shark, but truth be told, we've been planning on retiring this feature at this juncture for some time.  it's possible we may revisit the topic occasionally in the future to feature a few of the artists we never got around to discussing (dwight yoakam and kid rock and everclear and the clash, for example) but based on our track record with "new and improved," we wouldn't hold our breaths.  it's been fun, though.  we never realized gwen stefani was such a polarizing figure.

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May 24 2007

not guilty: no doubt

i don't have much to add here, given that i've mentioned my affinity for this particular song at least twice before.  i will say, though, that the video isn't quite as pleasingly midriff-y as memory serves.  no matter.  the song is still good.

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May 18 2007

not guilty: wilco

the second best thing that ever happened to john lennon's career was being shot only weeks after the release of his first new album in five years.  his untimely death then – and continuing to this day – overshadowed that there's very little "rock and roll" in songs about giving your infant son a bath.  it's understandable why jeff tweedy wants to be linked, musically, with lennon.  what's less clear is why he's also emulating his idol's mistakes.

wilco's latest – "sky blue sky" – dropped only a couple of days ago, but my vast network of spies and minions managed to procure me a copy well in advance of its official release.  so i've had some time to spend with the record already.  my initial reaction was that tweedy was taking the obsession which began on "a ghost is born" to new extremes.  more than a few songs wouldn't be the least bit out of place on "double fantasy."  but as i listened more closely, i heard other influences and none of them were particularly what one who is not robert christgau might call "good."

many of the reviews of "sky blue sky" mention those influences, but – curiously – in an overall positive context.  entertainment weekly says it's "… the best eagles album the eagles never made" seemingly unironically.  slant magazine says it sounds "…at least 30 years old" seemingly unironically.  rolling stone name-checks both steely dan and the allman brothers seemingly unironically.  and i am left wondering how this record can be the product of the same guy who gave us "gun."  (dabysan will attest, i am sure – and probably with no small amount of glee, to a dismayed instant message several weeks ago comparing the record to steely dan.  he even posted about it, sort of, not long afterward.)  the good folks at pitchfork however, ever the contrarians, thankfully recognize the emperor has no clothes, stating that the record, um, "…nakedly exposes the dad-rock gene wilco has always carried but courageously attempted to disguise."  heh.  "dad-rock."  that's rough, right?  right?

make no mistake: i'm going to buy "sky blue sky."  but only because i've had a bootleg copy since march and i'm anal about actually paying for records.  (music "sharing" IS stealing, and though jeff tweedy probably doesn't need the small stipend he'll get from my purchase, i listen to plenty of bands that could use whatever they get from my sixteen bucks.)  i'm not going to feel especially good about it, though.  one might even say i might feel "guilty."  my plan to assuage my guilt is to sit back and enjoy a double-shot of wilco's debut to remind myself of when they were, you know… cool.

Wilco - Box Full Of Letters

Wilco - I Must Be High

incidentally, "AM" was the first record i bought after my move to virginia.  june 6, 1995: i had just finished my first shift back at kofi hous and decided i needed new music to celebrate.  i've no idea how or why i remember that.

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May 10 2007

not guilty: U2

on this, the forty-seventh anniversary of paul hewson's birth, we here at would like to take a moment to recognize the one U2 record that isn't a total piece of crap.  in fact, not only is "zooropa" a good record by the unbelievably low standard set by all of U2's other records, but it's a decent record even when compared with those by, you know… good bands.  the skeptics out there will point to the presence on this record of the late, great john r. cash as a factor in our lofty opinion of "zooropa," and there may be some truth to that; the closing track 'the wanderer' does feature the best vocal in U2's extensive catalog.  but more significantly, this is the one time in their career in which the band does not come off as magnanimous pricks about saving the world.  that they come off as magnanimous pricks about being enormous rock stars is infinitely more palatable.  and that tired guitar sound – you know which we mean – is nowhere to be heard.  maybe that's why they let the guitarist sing on the first single.  he needed something to do.

kudos go out, incidentally, to dave evans here, for suffering through our own personal vision of hell at just after the three minute mark with the feet all over his face.  of all the many reasons summer is our least favorite season, the prevalence – nay, acceptance – of inappropriate footwear (i.e., that which does not complete encase the offending foot) ranks very near the top of the list.

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May 4 2007

not guilty: spiderman

anybody who knows anything about anything knows that batman is the coolest;  these things have been empirically proven.  but spidey is okay too.  he's definitely second best.  he does, you know, have a nickname…..

spiderman is solid number two.  after him you've got wolverine and then a drop-off that resembles the grand fucking canyon.  no other hero even approaches these three.  spiderman does have the best song though; he has a hell of a publicist.  without the song to keep his memory in our consciousness, spidey could fall out of the top ten entirely.  i hear captain america just signed with drew rosenhaus.

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Apr 27 2007

not guilty: the black crowes

whilst in the 'burgh for my conference earlier this week, i met up with vanna for dinner.  we went to a delicious italian place that was new to me on the north side and then repaired to a neighborhood watering hole for a few drinks.  it wasn't long before i heard "she talks to angels" playing.  it's a particularly wretched song, but it caught my ear because it's always reminded me of the summers working at the service station with he who is now brother-in-law #1.  and knowing vanna is a fan, i called it also to her attention.

it occurred to me not long into our tangential aside that it's been so long since i've seen my copy of "shake your moneymaker" that it's safe to assume i've lost it.  i probably still have "the southern harmony and musical companion" on tape somewhere – if only because it's been four and a half years since i got rid of my truck that i've listened to anything on tape.  what is odd is that unlike other bands of my 'classic rock' background (see: led zeppelin), it was never a conscious decision to reject the black crowes.  i just stopped listening somewhere along the way.  what's even more odd is that their milieu – sloppy bar band à la the faces and "exile" era stones – is one of my very favorite sub-genres in all of rock and roll.

so anyway, here we are.  the black crowes aren't entirely blameless; my preconceived notion that their live show is unnecessarily jammy may be false, but it does persist.  though let's face it – i'm not likely to check them out in concert at this point anyway, regardless of how un-guilty they may be.  but i digress….  having already decided not to subject you to the horrifying "angels" which forms that small part of the soundtrack of my life, i may as well feature "remedy" for vanna.  i expect to see this performed next february at the rock-it for KttD VIII.

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