Thursday, March 31, 2005

This new template, new URL thing is hard.
My head hurts.

You know what? I'm just gonna pull up stakes and move now. Things might be a little shaky for the next couple of days until I get everything (re)settled (I've gotta pick a new template, etc.), but change your bookmarks, folks, to

Paul, who's been my ever-so-charming webhost and overall blogging guru (from a design end, at least) for some time now (a year and a half? How long, anyway, Paul?) has decided that it's time to hang up Which means, of course, that I've gotta find a new home. The obvious URL is already taken, so I'm moving soon to Thought you'd want to know.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Subjects for further review: "Gotta Lotta Nerve (Perfect Perfect)" by Daryl Hall & John Oates

From their '79 breakthrough Voices, this sounds like nothing so much as Daryl & John listening to a lot of new wave: tell me that, in its angular structures, you can't hear a note of Japan, and I call you either ignorant or a liar. A deliciously hard-lined song, icy as H&O nearly never were, and all the better for it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

I like lists, or had you noticed? No order, no relevance, these are just 100 songs I wouldn't mind getting caught tongue-kissing:

"Right Next Door (Because of Me)," Robert Cray Band
"Windowlicker," Aphex Twin
"Love Will Conquer All," Lionel Richie
"Ain't Nobody," Rufus with Chaka Khan
"Can't Wait," Redman
"Abandoned Luncheonette," Daryl Hall & John Oates
"She's Strange," Cameo
"Gettin' In the Way," Jill Scott
"Ice of Boston," the Dismemberment Plan
"Rich Girl," Gwen Stefani featuring Eve
"Christmastime Is Here," the Vince Guaraldi Trio
"She's So Cold," the Rolling Stones
"I Get Lonely (Janet Vs. Jason)," Janet Jackson
"Money Don't Matter 2 Nite," Prince & the N.P.G.
"Supermodel (You Better Work)," RuPaul
"Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad," Tammy Wynette
"Whiskey Lullaby," Brad Paisley featuring Alison Krauss
"Rain on the Scarecrow," John Cougar Mellencamp
"Space Church (Continuous Services)," Ornette Coleman
"Send In the Clowns," Barbra Streisand
"Avoid the Funk," Defunkt
"I Touch Myself," Divinyls
"Suicide Blonde," INXS
"Walking In My Shoes," Depeche Mode
"Young Fresh 'N New," Kelis
"What's Love Got to Do With It," Tina Turner
"Mr. Brownstone," Guns 'N Roses
"Meeting In the Ladies Room," Klymaxx
"Galang," M.I.A.
"She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy," Kenny Chesney
"Grooveline," Heatwave
"Legs," ZZ Top
"It's A Sin," Pet Shop Boys
"Love At First Sight (US Remix)," Kylie Minogue
"Ice Cold Ice," Husker Du
"Hounds of Love," Kate Bush
"On the Corner," Miles Davis
"Red Rain," Peter Gabriel
"That's the Way I Like It," KC and the Sunshine Band
"Where Do You Hide Your Heart," Amy Grant
"Girls, Girls, Girls," Motley Crue
"Marlene on the Wall," Suzanne Vega
"I Love You Suzanne," Lou Reed
"Circles," Adam F
"Armegeddon Days Are Here (Again)," The The
"Crush On You," Lil' Kim featuring Lil' Cease
"Private Number," Catalan FC and Sven Love featuring Nicole Graham
"Love T.K.O.," Teddy Pendergrass
"Get It On," T.Rex
"Communication," the Power Station
"Voyage to Atlantis," the Isley Brothers
"Too Funky," George Michael
"Expensive Shit," Fela Kuti
"Swingin'," John Anderson
"Deeper and Deeper," Madonna
"Space Age Love Song," A Flock of Seagulls
"Save A Prayer," Duran Duran
"Heartbreaker (Remix)," Mariah Carey featuring Missy Elliot and Da Brat
"Jacob's Ladder," Huey Lewis & the News
"Mandolin Rain," Bruce Hornsby & the Range
"Main Course," Freddie Jackson
"French Kiss," Lil Louis
"Don't Stand So Close to Me '86," the Police
"Suspicions," Eddie Rabbitt
"Deja Vu," Dionne Warwick
"The Look of Love," Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66
"Symphony of Destruction (Edited Gristle)," Megadeth
"Thoughtless," Korn
"S'washyawart," DJ Lance Lockarm
"Lose My Breath," Destiny's Child
"How Do You Like Me Now?!," Toby Keith
"Money$ Too Tight to Mention," Simply Red
"Suspicion," Gene Loves Jezebel
"Wholly Holy," Aretha Franklin
"Miracles Keep on Playin' (Red Alert Remix)," Basement Jaxx
"Rubicon," Alan Braxe & Fred Falke
"(You're Puttin') A Rush On Me," Stephanie Mills
"Killing in the Name Of," Rage Against the Machine
"Smack My Bitch Up," the Prodigy
"Marie's the Name (His Latest Flame)," Elvis Presley
"What's Missing," Alexander O'Neal
"Tight Connection to My Heart," Bob Dylan
"Moments In Love," the Art of Noise
"Two Tribes (12" Version)," Frankie Goes to Hollywood
"More Than A Woman (Masters At Work Alternate Mix)," Aaliyah
"Lay It Down," Ratt
"Time (Clock of the Heart)," Culture Club
"Roll To Me," Del Amitri
"Nothing Even Matters," Lauryn Hill & D'Angelo
"Mundian to Bach Ke," Panjabi MC
"Stop!," Jane's Addiction
"Giving You the Best That I Got," Anita Baker
"Fairweather Friend," Johnny Gill
"Teddy's Jam 2," Guy
"Fisherman," the Congos
"Private Life," Grace Jones
"Back on the Chain Gang," the Pretenders
"Remember the Time," Michael Jackson
"Unanswered Prayers," Garth Brooks
"Somebody," Reba McEntire
"Don't Blow A Good Thing," Vesta

Thursday, March 24, 2005

This is a piece I never did with what I intended to, but I still think it's pretty good. Wrote it late last year.


The reason George Strait is such a star, a legend in country music, is simple: damned near no one sells a song better than he does. He's got believability in spades; fans trust him the way they trust their State Farm agents from Waco to Akron. The same can be said for John Mellencamp - you know you're not going to hear him make a deep house record. As Strait himself once sang, both he and John are "sing[in'] song[s] about the heartland," too. Both do what they're good at, and are consistent without being boring. If you've not been convinced before now, both men, both proudly from the country's midsection (Strait from Texas, Mellencamp a ringer for Tom Petty's "Indiana boy on an Indiana night"), both circa 25 years in the biz, have just released career-spanning two-disc comps out to do the job.

Strait's 50 Number Ones, first of all, isn't technically truth-in-advertising, at least not if you adhere to the gold (i.e. Billboard) standard of charts; according to them, before the release of this collection, Strait had notched up 38. [The same week that 50 Number Ones entered the country and pop charts at #1, its obligatory tacked-on-new-single "I Hate Everything" ascended to the top of the country singles chart, making his total now 39.] So he and his team must be judging by Cashbox or something. But beyond that quibble, there's not much more to criticize about this review of Strait's career of (can't resist) straight-talking songs sung as true as could be. When you hear someone sing a line like "Our conversation won't change nothin'/But it's sure nice to talk" (from 2000's "Go On"), how can you deny that? But there's something more to Strait's appeal: just when you feel (or fear) that he's starting to get a bit samey, he throws in the slightest change-up that makes all the difference, such as the fact that he sings "Go On" in a register a tad higher than his usual. Or records a record as left-field (for him) as 2001's triumphant "Run."

"Run" is unlike any song Strait's released, all wide-scale panorama, and quite possibly the least distinctly country-sounding record in his repertoire, like an unearthed treasure from the best band you've never heard in Kansas. It's an aural delight, because it throws you off and recontextualizes his much more trad country material as well, such as the song which follows it on 50 Number Ones, "Living and Living Well," a classic Strait single. Mind you, George isn't one to generally get pinned down. He's a pro at Western swing, steel guitar-soaked tear-in-my-beer weepers, and prime Nashville assembly-line tracks (that's not an insult; Sara Evans would otherwise be without a career). And he's a man of, and respecter of, his roots just as much as John Mellencamp.

Chances are, you're more familiar with the ouevre of Mr. Mellencamp than that of Strait; after all, who doesn't know "Jack and Diane"? Indiana's second-most-famous export (Larry Bird, people, Larry Bird - even John'd tell you that, I think) takes a potentially risky strategy on Words & Music: John Mellencamp's Greatest Hits, throwing chronological order to the wind, which means (for example) that songs from 2003 and 1996 bracket his first-ever hit, 1980's "Ain't Even Done With the Night" (which appears as the 11th track on the second disc of this set). But it works brilliantly, having the effect of holding up Mellencamp as a paragon of quality, churning out classics for a quarter-century. Songs such as 2003's "Teardrops Will Fall" benefit the most from this approach, as the rising tide of John's ouput lifts even the weaker ships - impressive, considering that almost anything coming after the title track from 1994's Dance Naked might be thought to suffer. 2001's "Peaceful World," a good-maybe-not-great track featuring India.Arie, succeeds more loudly as well, surrounded as it is by a pair of tracks from the unqualified triumph of The Lonesome Jubilee.

As for the new songs (Strait goes with 50-plus-1, Mellencamp 35-plus-2), both of John's were coproduced by Babyface - yeah, that Babyface, the epitome of '90s quiet storm R&B, writer and producer of smashes for the likes of Boyz II Men, Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton,, ad infinitum - and both of 'em work a charm. Remember, 'Face is an Indiana boy, too, and lest you worry, he doesn't take John down the same road Eric Clapton so gladly tripped down on 1996's Grammy bait "Change the World." Keeping in line with his recent work, these two new additions to the Mellencamp canon, "Walk Tall" and "Thank You," sound like John not quite so pissed off, but still a man of convinction (his recent duet with Travis Tritt, "What Say You," makes that clear as well).

Being a native Hoosier myself, I've never much cottoned to the whole notion of "John speaks for the common man" (which Jann Wenner keep spinning in the liner notes here), 'cause you know what? Just like George Strait, John Mellencamp truthfully speaks for every man. They celebrate traditional truths and values (which are not the exclusive province of red staters), like hard work and just reward, like love and lust and (sometimes) knowing the difference. And ain't that America?

Hoops, anyone? Here's an email I sent to some friends earlier today; it's halftime right now in the first pair of games, lest you think I'm cheating in my predix.


Here are my picks based on who's in the Sweet 16; if I originally picked a team and they're still in it, I'm stickin' with 'em. Fortunately, my championship teams (IL and UNC) are still in it. And while I may eat these words, watch out for Knight's boys - the way the Albuquerque bracket's opened up, they could actually make the Final Four (though I don't expect it).

Oh, and how great is it that we're guaranteed at least two teams seeded 6th or lower in the Elite Eight?! I love this game.

Regional - who I picked still in (and who's out)
Elite Eight matchup

Chicago - I picked IL, UW-Milwaukee, and OK State (and Utah State)
(1) Illinois over (2) OK State

Albuquerque - I picked Washington and Louisville (and Gonzaga and Wake Forest)
(1) Washington over (6) Texas Tech

Syracuse - I picked UNC (and, um, New Mexico, Boston College, and UConn - oops)
(1) UNC over (6) Wisconsin

Austin - I picked Duke, Utah, and Kentucky (and Syracuse)
(also known as the Please God please God oh please let Duke lose Regional)
(6) Utah over (1) Duke

3 #1 seeds and a #6 in the Final Four.
Semifinals: Illinois over Washington, UNC over Utah
Championship: Illinois 77, UNC 65

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Saturday, March 19, 2005

I've been doing a lot of writing, just not here. I've been watching a lot of hoops, of course (my Final Four picks were IL-Gonzaga-NC-Syracuse, and I've already lost half of 'em). And I've been dieting, using the no-nonsense/all-sense Abs Diet and a regiment of lots of walking as exercise. Apart from that, I'm just living my life. I seriously doubt this'll ever again be a post-every-day kinda blog, and I'm good with that. Hopefully you are, too. Thanks for continuing to read.

I've finally posted here again.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Subjects for further review: "Promised You A Miracle" by Simple Minds

Wherein Jim Kerr and company make like they're Gary Kemp and company, for pete's sake: delightfully odd and unsettling, particularly to American ears.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Morrissey: on his own

1988: Viva Hate
Not twelve months after the Smiths' final studio album (Strangeways, Here We Come) came the Mozzer's solo debut, which made it clear from its first note that he was still a mighty musical force. Durutti Column's Vini Reilly wasn't understudying the role of Johnny Marr; he was assisting M in forging a new way, and in grand fashion. This album is strong throughout - save perhaps the misguided "Bengali In Platforms" - and blinding at its best ("Everyday Is Like Sunday," "Late Night, Maudlin Street"). A

1991: Kill Uncle
Shockingly, this is by and large the sound of Moz - so soon? - running out of ideas. This is worse than uneven - it's mediocre. "Driving Your Girlfriend Home" is quiet and lovely, and the piano-driven "Mute Witness" is positively, delightfully jaunty. But too much here (exemplified by "Found Found Found") is unfocused and, generally, just a drag. His poorest studio set. C+

1992: Your Arsenal
Wherein our hero finds the ideas he lost circa Kill Uncle, thanks in no small part to produced Mick Ronson. The proceedings commence with the great lost '60s spy theme, "You're Gonna Need Someone On Your Side," and for the most part, things don't let up from there. Arsenal proves that Mozzer would've made a genius glam frontman, and that's no happy accident. B+

1994: Vauxhall and I
Possibly his definitive solo work, this is Morrissey's best collections of songs supported by a sterling band. Every one of his positives, and precious few of his negatives, can be found here. Bonus points for including his finest single ever (and sole U.S. top 40 hit), "The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get." A

1995: Southpaw Grammar
He followed up the unapologetically fey Vauxhall with an amped-up effort, as close to hard rock as the Moz is ever likely to get. Unfortunately, the focus and clarity of the previous album's songs are somewhat lacking here, starting with the 11-minute-plus opener - but not ending there. It's a kick, however, hearing his ever-sturdier voice atop howling guitar licks; amazingly, it works. "The Boy Racer" and particularly "Dagenham Dave" (nearly Morrissey fronting T.Rex!) are clear highlights. On the flipside, opening "The Operation" with what's essentially a two-minute drum solo is not such a good idea. This is a tricky elpee to sum up; it's probably better than you think/recall, but still not wholly up to snuff. In a word, uneven. B

1997: Maladjusted
"Roy's Keen" bristles with life, and "Alma Matters" is a typically Moz-like play-on-words (with a great tune attached), but that's about it from this flat effort. B-

2004: You Are The Quarry
It's all about focus, and what you've heard is true: Morrissey's regained his. Opening with the 1-2 punch of "America Is Not the World" and "Irish Blood, English Heart" would make a tough act for most artists to follow, but most artists arent' the Mozzer. The songs here are consistently good, and his band (together now longer than the Smiths were) is tough and battle-tested, and attuned to the vagaries of their leader. Who, by the way, really does sound (ahem) older and wiser here than he ever has. 2004's comeback of the year? Indubitably. A-

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