Thursday, March 29, 2007

Verily ...

The MM album has grown on my enough that I would say it's more good than bad. I maintain that song 2 is an empty, vapid piece of shit and that song 3 is the single worst song the band has ever produced. Just thinking about it gives me a headache.

There are around three other songs on the album I'll probably never listen to unless I'm working out and I don't feel like skipping songs (four, actually: "Florida," "Missed the Boat," "Little Motel," and "We've Got Everything"), because they suck and sound like what I'd imagine "adult" alternative listened to if I ever listened to it. There are probably four songs on the album that rank among the band's best, however, and it's what makes the album something I'll reach for once the first-month binge is over. While I'm not quite as floored by "Parting of the Sensory" as the perspectiveless retard with whom I share this blog, "March into the Sea," "Fly Trapped in a Jar," "Education," and Diesel favourite "Steam Engenius" (what a name!) are all excellent and certainly are good enough to justify the 21 loonies this album costs.

Also, just to get the album reviews out of the way: The new Bloc Party album is probably the worst of the year. I haven't seen a sophomore effort this bad since Mutter at UA. The new Arcade Fire album is fantastic -- definitely the best of the three albums mentioned in this post -- but I can't figure out a way to write nice things about it without sounding like one of those pretentious Pitchfork pricks, so I'll just say that it's one of the few albums in my life that actually exceeded expectations. It's so much better than Funeral, actually, that it's kind of unsettling, not unlike Ray Durham's career year at the tender age of 38.

Here's what a really want to talk about (besides baseball, of course, which is so close to starting again that it's taking me 15 minutes longer than normal these days to lose the morning wood): What possible fucking justification could Justin possibly have for comparing a good, maybe great, but not timeless MM album to Kid A?

I have some interesting theories about St, none of which conclude with him knowing shit about shit. He thinks he knows sports but believes that a pitcher's W-L record is more indicative of talent than it is luck (a position he shares with Steve Trachsel). He thinks he has better taste than me in women, which is kind of like Liberace telling you you're too flamboyant. I could go on like this, but I just watched Jim Thome hit a triple off the batter's eye at TEP and it made me realize, oddly, that life is short, too short for simile parades. So I'll conclude by saying that, in general, my "friend" has spend much of his life being horribly misinformed about close to everything, and I've spent much of my last six years trying to correct what I can assume is the only reasonable expectation of a public education in sunny Tombstone.

One of the best places one can trace large-scale, innards-rotting ignorance is when that person is talking about music. Not so much when it comes to whether or not someone likes something -- the correlation between good taste and sophistication is a lot weaker than fans of The Decemberists would have you believe -- but when that person is grasping for apt comparisons.

See, there's a wide world of music out there. Most of it is garbage, a lot of it is good-to-great, and about 10 percent of it is just incredible. The average human being will probably only listen to five percent of the music available, but there are certain albums or bands that have crazy ass market saturation. You need to be a Armenian goat herder to have not heard The White Album, and even then you need to be one who really can't think of anything better to do than hang with your goats. You need to be above the age of 50 to at least never heard of Radiohead, and over the age of 40 to have at least not sampled some of the band's stuff. And, tragically, there's not a sane American who wouldn't be able to identify Brittney Spears if her most popular song came on the radio.

Anyway, these albums that everyone's heard of, and most (readers?) have listened to make for excellent cultural touchstones. Who hasn't dropped Velvet Underground as a comparable when talking about some band they're currently infatuated with? What makes bands like the VU especially prone to such abuse is how impossible it is to make a false statement about the music; they're a musical ink blot. Want to see post-rock in "European Son?" Sure! Punk, classic rock, post-punk, emo ... Lou Reed's little art band has become the biggest fucking cliche ever. Which I'm sure absolutely thrills him.

Bringing it back to the original point of contention, comparing the new MM album to Kid A, which is Radiohead's second-best album in most people's eyes, requires a couple of boxes be checked by the subject album before one can approve the logic behind the comparison:

1) It should be the band's second-best album, since references to Kid A are often accompanied by that caveat;
2) It should be the logical "next step" for a band that's been broadening its scope;
3) It should be a peak album from one of the best bands of its particular genre (or multiple, fused genres) ever;
4) It should be so fucking awesome that almost anyone who listens to it immediately exclaims, "This is so fucking awesome!"

While it may seem like I'm being glib, I think those are all fair premises for an album to be compared to Kid A. So, let's see how the new MM stacks up:

1) No (That honor goes to Lonesome Crowded West or Moon and Antarctica, depending on taste;
2) No (the only logical next step would have been an even more commercial sounding album that further distances the band from its earlier, excellent stuff; this album is far less mainstream than its predecessor);
3) Yes, unequivocally;
4) No, absolutely not, I don't care how much you like it. It's a good album, with some excellent songs, but it's not a shit-your-pants-and-dance-the-jig album. Not even close. And that's the point.

No, this album is nothing like Kid A, save for the fact that both albums were created by excellent bands. If you really want a good comparison, choose something like Fugazi's The Argument, a good-to-great album that came late in the career of one of a seminal, genre-busting and -creating band that was coolly accepted by critics and fans because it kinda sounds like the band's lost its fastball and is playing out the string, but occasionally can still crank it up and hit 96 on the radar gun or toss a change-up that makes you gasp and reminds you he's still the same old Pedro when he needs to be and can be, but those moments are getting fewer and further between with every passing season because goddammit the shoulder just isn't what it used to be anymore and it's tough to do 8 hours of rehab work a day when you've got to watch the kids.

At least we brought the post to the point we all knew it would arrive at: A pseudo-intellectual reference to Diesel warhorse Fugazi morphing into a baseball analogy and, even more fittingly, a run-on sentence.


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