Monday, October 30, 2006

reunions and embarrassment (music-related)

Okay, so we have good news and bad news. First, the good news…

Apparently, after a reunion tour that lasted at least three years, the four Pixies are going to record a new album next year
. This is very welcome news, not only because I’m curious to see how it will turn out, but also because I feared them becoming a nostalgia act, which is very…just not a very Pixies thing to do.

Also, and this one’s a complete shocker for me, the Kirkwood brothers are reuniting for a new Meat Puppets record
. Somehow, this was announced in, like, April. How I’m hearing about it just now is beyond me. And a bit annoying, considering I’m on Curt Kirkwood’s mailing list. But it’s more surprising, given the state Cris Kirkwood’s been in for the last decade or so. I’ll never forget when I first learned about it in a story in the Austin Chronicle. The details of Cris’s heroin addiction were grisly to say the least, and terribly sad, needless to say. He seemed to get progressively worse as years passed, with an arrest for assault and a stint in jail. I kept waiting to read his obituary but, thankfully, that never happened. But the last I’d heard of him, which was a couple years ago, he was still holed up, shooting up, living alone and with the ghost of his ex-wife who’d OD’d herself a few years prior. But now…this. I’m tickled to pieces. There are few bands I love more than the Meat Puppets. And while Derrick Bostrom, their original drummer and webmaster to this day of the various official Meat Puppets and related websites, is declining to participate, Tim Alexander from Primus will fill the role. A genius choice, I think. And Curt Kirkwood needs the Meat Puppets. I loved his first and only solo album to date, “Snow.” But I discovered something unexpected through that album. Namely, that when Curt plays “solo” in an acoustic setting, he sounds a hell of a lot like Gram Parsons. Neither of them could sing worth a damn. I love Gram Parsons, but his voice always left much to be desired, in my opinion. Same thing with Curt. He’s good, but he needs electricity to be at his best. So I’m looking forward to the new album muchly.

And now for the bad news.

I think my theory that Ozzy has finally lost his ability to sing altogether may be proving true. (Anybody else find it odd that Black Sabbath didn’t perform at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction last year?) And since Tony Iommi has to be constantly cashing in on something, the inevitable third (!) reunion with…oh, god…Ronnie James Dio is on
. At least they have the decency to call themselves Heaven and Hell this time, though. (Or, more likely, Ozzy and Sharon pulled some legal shit on them to keep them from using the name again. Which is good, considering the more comical “Black Sabbath” lineups that have rolled out over the years. Example…at one point, there were more original Sabbath members in Ozzy’s band than in the version of Sabbath that was operating at that same time.) At any rate, while I will be curious to see what the second team comes up with, I will not have much in the way of expectation. Yes, Dio can sing like a sumbitch. And he invented the devil-horn salute. The latter of which should at least warrant him a plaque or a high-five from satan or something. But he’s also a completely pretentious, humorless little troll who’s responsible for some of the most embarrassing music and imagery in the history of hard rock / metal. In fact, the worst – and I mean absolute worst – concert I ever saw was a Dio show in California in high school when I was visiting my friend John, who’d just moved out there. I swear to god, at one point during Dio’s set, there were no musicians on stage while the audience watched a very fake, very Spinal Tap dragon shoot laser beams out of his eyes and smoke out of his mouth. And this went on for, like, ten minutes. It was the first time I’d ever experienced outright anger because of a concert. It would have been funny, had I been able to get up and leave. But, being fifteen and having to wait on John’s dad to pick us up after the show, I had to suffer through the whole ridiculous display. It was probably that show that cemented my absolute hatred for all things “heavy metal.”

Anyway, the last thing I want to bitch about (from the “bad news” file) is John Mellencamp. While I’ve never been a huge fan of his, I’ve always admired his talent and the almost punk rock “fuck it” attitude he’s always seemed to embrace. But he should be ashamed of himself. You don’t have to have your TV on for more than a few minutes before the new GM commercial comes on, so I’m guessing you’ve heard this song. This pandering, jingoistic bullshit called “This is Our Country.” I guess it’s the roots rock equivalent of Lee Greenwood’s insipid “God Bless the USA,” and intentionally so. Frankly, I don’t see how it’s any less offensive than that “boot in your ass” song. And, as if the song itself – with lyrics that would embarrass the most enthusiastic of flag wavers – isn’t bad enough, it also serves as the campaign for GM’s new line of pickup trucks. Yes, GM…that most benign of American multi-billion dollar corporations. But that’s still not the worst of it. As is their tendency when advertising “American made” cars, GM lays on the patriotic imagery so thick you need a periscope to see out above it. Again, no real surprise. The truly tasteless moments come, though, when the images that evoke 9/11 are presented…the image of Ground Zero with the twin spotlights pointing skyward…followed immediately by scenes of firefighters leaning wearily against their truck, suggesting none too subtly that the two pictures are related. (And, to add insult to injury, those fuckers actually have the balls to show scenes from post-Katrina New Orleans…surely one of our nation’s finest moments, not to mention a testament to the “can-do” spirit of our government for the last six years.)

I want to scream: “What are they thinking?!?” But it’s advertising. The goal of advertising is to prevent us from thinking. But what is John Mellencamp thinking? Is he proud? Does singing these utterly inane, meaningless lyrics (“Well, I can stand beside…ideas I think are right…From the east coast, to the west coast, down the Dixie highway, back home…this is our country…”) make him feel patriotic? Like he’s performing a service to the people of this country? That, while we’re mired in the slow genocide we designed in order to further pillage the Middle East, maybe it was just this kind of blind, willfully ignorant patriotism we needed to perk ourselves up? Or was he just writing a song for a commercial, or perhaps some rallies for the same Democratic candidates who voted to invade Iraq but actively campaign against it now that the polls relay its unpopularity with voters?

Wave your fucking flag, “Small Town” John. Somebody famous once said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Apparently, little Johnny Cougar’s all tapped out.

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