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June 30, 2008

Monday Music List - EW's 100 best albums of the last 25 years

Entertainment Weekly has recently come out with its list of 1000 best of the last 25 years (1983-2008). Basically it’s a list of the top 100 music, movies, TV shows, books, etc over the last 25 years. Of course the top 100 albums is a just a mess. Now I understand the reason for these lists: they generate discussion. And by being controversial, the list is discussed, linked to, and argued over. If EW’s list made any sense, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it. Furthermore, I understand that EW has to have a much broader range of musical types than what interests me.

But given those caveats, come on EW, your list is just mind blowingly bad. For instance there is no Nirvana Nevermind on the list. Let me repeat, Nevermind wasn’t even considered the 100th best album of the last 25 years. The album that basically ended the popularity of hair metal bands, the album that practically generated a new genre of popular music, that created a whole new way of dressing. An album that doesn’t have a bad track on the and a few classics that will be played 50 years from now.

But it’s not just a lack of Nevermind that makes the list suspect. How about the fact that Radiohead’s OK Computer is listed at #62 while Sheryl Crow’s debut is listed at #39? Achtung Baby listed at #3 but Joshua Tree at #63? In Rainbows at #10? Mariah Carey at #21 while Replacements Let It Be at #89 (I guess we should be thankful EW even know it exits!)

According to EW, 2007 was a banner year for popular music as five albums from that year were the best of the last 25 years. The early 1990s (1990-1993) had some of the driest years (which again makes the case for Nevermind). For what it’s worth I have 29 of the albums on my I-Pod. Plus I think a couple more are bouncing around our house on other I-Pod’s. Below is the top 20 but check out the entire list here. What do you think of the list?

1. Purple Rain Prince and the Revolution (1984)
2. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill Lauryn Hill (1998)
3. Achtung Baby U2 (1991)
4. The College Dropout Kanye West (2004)
5. Madonna Madonna (1983)
6. American Idiot Green Day (2004)
7. The Blueprint Jay-Z (2001)
8. Graceland Paul Simon (1986)
9. Back to Black Amy Winehouse (2007)
10. In Rainbows Radiohead (2007)
11. MTV Unplugged in New York Nirvana (1994)
12. Stankonia OutKast (2000)
13. You Are Free Cat Power (2003)
14. Disintegration The Cure (1989)
15. The Marshall Mathers LP Eminem (2000)
16. Rain Dogs Tom Waits (1985)
17. Odelay Beck (1996)
18. People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm A Tribe Called Quest (1990)
19. Dangerously in Love Beyoncé (2003)
20. Tidal Fiona Apple (1996)

June 27, 2008

Friday Random Top 10

Torii and Johan who? Twins rocking the National League, bring on the Brewers!!!!! Back after a 1 week a Friday Random Top 10 hiatus. Hope you missed me. Here’s your top 10:

1. To be Someone – The Jam
2. Are You Lonesome Tonight – Elvis Presley
3. September Morn’ – Neil Diamond
4. Southern Rock Opera – The Drive By Truckers
5. Afraid of Being Wrong – Husker Du
6. Aginst Th’ Law – Billy Bragg and Wilco
7. Send a Picture of Mother – Johnny Cash
8. Carnival of Sorts – R.E.M.
9. Chasing Heather Crazy – Guided By Voices
10. Aphrodisiac Jacket – The Cult

Weird. Those song titles look like they could make up the chapter names of a James Frey novel. What's your top 10?

June 25, 2008

Worried About Gas Prices? Ride Your Bike!!


With gas prices firmly planting its flag above the $4.00 mark for the foreseeable future, everyone is looking at ways to save money on gas. Of course you could buy a Hybrid. Others are thinking the moped route.

Luckily in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area we are also blessed with a pretty extensive bike trail system. In fact Forbes Magazine recently listed Minneapolis as the 9th best City to ride your bike to work, school, places to shop and/or visit. Other reports have shown that Minneapolis ranks behind only Portland with the most bike commuters. Which is crazy considering that four months of the year (Nov-Feb) are downright brutal for bike riding and two additional months (Oct, March) can be pretty tough as well.

I am lucky enough to have a pretty good route to ride my bike to the University and have been riding around 2-3 times a week lately. Of my six mile trip, I would estimate that four are on dedicated (no car) bike routes. Relatively flat, 25 minutes, and only a couple of bike/car conflict points, I usually put something loud on the I-Pod (yesterday the Ramones in the morning, The Cult on the way home) and pedal away. Of course weather and schedule determine when I can ride, but it’s good to know that the opportunity is there.

Of course the environmental and health related benefits go without saying and there’s nothing better than pedaling over I-94 on a Friday afternoon and looking down at hundreds of cars sitting in traffic not moving while I’m enjoying the sun in my face and the Replacements in my ears. So tune up your bike, buy a bike helmet, and check the best route to work. You’ll find getting out of the car even one day a week will not only help your wallet, but it will help your overall well being as well.

What’s your bike route to work?

June 23, 2008

Monday Music List - Great Unrecognized Rock Songs


Everyone has their favorite rock song and of course there is some consensus on the great ones: Rock and Roll by Led Zeppelin, Satisfaction by the Stones, Shook Me All Night Long by AC-DC, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. But there are a number of great rock songs by familiar artists that for some reason or other have been ignored. These songs definitely rock and should be mainstays on stations like KQ or 93X or on hard rock compilation albums. So in no particular order….

Rearview Mirror – Pearl Jam. From the album Versus, this song is a classic slow build to an over the top rev-up. The guitar solo at the end is killer and Eddie Vedders’ vocals are of course top notch.

Turn on the News – Husker Du. From Zen Arcade, this is song is a great album closer and includes a component of all good rock songs: The shout out. “turn on (turn on) turn on the news…? Again great guitar work and meaningful lyrics.

Hash Pipe – Weezer. This one is a little different with the falsetto verses but the bass line is so crunchy that you have to consider it as one of the best. This song actually gets played from time to time on 93X.

One – Metallica. Creepy story about a grossly maimed war vet. The guitar solo at the end is so mind blowing stupendous you can’t ignore it.

Common People – William Shatner and Joe Jackson. O.k. Don’t laugh but this song rocks! Shatner’s reciting the lyrics over Joe Jackson’s singing them destroys me everytime. One of the best songs released in the last five years, easily.

Gary’s Got a Boner – The Replacements.
From Let It Be, if it wasn’t for the goofy subject matter this song would probably be considered a classic. With enough guitar hooks to supply a local cover band for a year, it is a shame this song is so criminally overlooked.

Jesus Christ Pose – Soundgarden. From Badmotherfinger, Chris Cornell’s vocal work is amazing and the bass is massive. Add about three layers of guitars and you have a song that will jump start anyone who listens to it. I once threw like 5 strikes in 7 balls once bowling after this song came on the jukebox.

What overlooked rock songs have I missed?

June 18, 2008

KG...Big Ticket....Champ


K.G. gets his Ring and can finally put to rest the critics like Peter Vescey and Patrick Reusse who have questioned his ability to be a Champion. Even though his antics after the game verged on the obnoxious -- with K.G. performing a free a commercial for Adidas screaming Everything’s Possible!! over and over again -- I am man enough to admit I teared up at the end of Tuesday’s game. One because I think K.G. is one of the greatest players ever, respects the game and himself, and gave his all to crappy Timberwolves teams for 12 years – he earned his ring. But second, because it just showed how screwed up the T-Wolves had been for those 12 years. If the T-wolves brain(?) trust had just managed to surround K.G. with players, there would be championship banners hanging in Target Center, not San Antonio, Detroit, Miami, and Los Angeles these past few years.

June 16, 2008

Monday Music List - Maligned Follow-Up Albums

kid a.jpg

Everyone knows the drill… band comes out with an awesome album that critics and fans both love, sells mega-copies, and is a cultural touchstone. Now comes the follow-up album. Everyone’s expectations are sky-high. Can they do it again? What will they do next? Will it sell as many copies? The label’s marketing department goes into hyperdrive as the band is on magazine covers, TV, singles are released early, I-Pod commercials are cut. Then the album comes out. Disappointment. Maybe the band went into a different direction and the new fans are turned off. Or the band tried to recapture what they did on the last album and it's too similar, or they just missed the mark.

I’ve always maintained that it’s unfair to expect a band to come out with two mind-numbingly good albums in a row and the second album often suffers from expectations. But we shouldn’t dismiss the follow-up just because it’s not as good. In fact here is a list of much-maligned follow-ups that deserve a second (or third, fourth, fifth) listen.

Weezer – Pinkerton. The classic example of a follow-up album disappointing new found fans. After the engaging Weezer, Pinkerton didn’t have any quirky hit like The Buddy Holly Song. What it did have is cool rock songs that would establish the Weezer sound for years to come. The criticism this album generated practically broke Rivers Coumo. Today Pinkerton is considered (rightly so) a misunderstood classic.

Radiohead – Kid A. After recording one of the best albums in the last 20 years with OK Computer, expectations were through the stratosphere for Kid A. Unfortunately for its fans, Radiohead decided to go for a Pink Floyd-influenced electronic freak fest. The reaction was so strongly negative that Radiohead quickly released Amnesiac which contained more accessible songs from the Kid A sessions. Even today Kid A divides fans. Some think is was a classic, others believe that it’s a bunch of mindless drivel. I fall into the first camp.

Nirvana – In Utero. After Nevermind, Nirvana could never meet expectations for In Utero so they didn’t even try. Sonically mushy, much harder rocking, a song called Rape Me. It almost seems like Nirvana was trying to turn off all but its most avid fans. And it did. Its reputation still is pretty sully, but the songs rock. If it had preceded rather than followed Nevermind, it would be considered a classic that presaged what was to come.

Albums that deserve their bad follow-up reputation:

R.E.M. – Monster.
After Automatic For The People, a switch to hard rockin’ songs that just didn’t work.

U2 – Vertigo.
A couple of good songs, but not even in the same league as All That You Can Leave Behind.

Any others that I missed? What are some of your favorite albums that have a bad reputation?

June 13, 2008

Friday Random Top 10


K.G. one game away from a Championship. Couldn't happen to a more deserving guy. Here's your random top 10:

1. Sons of Apollo - Guided by Voices
2. Humph - Thelonious Monk
3. Films - Gary Numan
4. You Belong to Me - Elvis Costello
5. West of the Fields - R.E.M.
6. Nebraska - Bruce Springsteen
7. I Love You Because - Elvis Presley
8. Marmora Pig - Washboard Hank
9. Mexico City Blues 149 - Jack Kerouac
10. My Shining Hour - John Coltrane

A little jazz, some Kerouac, both Elvi, Bruce, R.E.M. and GbV. Kinda weird, not sure if it works. What's your top 10?

June 12, 2008

Why I Support Obama


Last week I promised that I would explain why I support Barack Obama and will be voting for him this coming November. The intent is to hopefully convince those people who aren’t necessarily Democrat or Republican but vote for the best person out there, regardless of party. Let’s face it, that describes a whole lot of the electorate -- many of whom are not enamored with John McCain and are intrigued by Obama but are worried that Obama doesn’t have the experience to handle the job. Reasonable concerns I admit.

First my support for Obama does have partisan intentions. I typically vote Democratic (but not always) and I would like to see the Republican Party, as currently configured, assigned to the dust bin of history. Obama promises a 50-state strategy that, if pulled off, could literally make the Republicans a niche party of racist southerners, uneducated Appalachians, and assorted cranks, conspiracists, and Fox News blowhards. There is a left-of-center political re-alignment that is just ready to flower and Obama can help make that happen.

Admittedly that reasoning isn’t going to assure fence sitters, moderates, and just-kicking-the-tires former Republicans. So I offer this: I believe that Obama promises to be a transformative President in our Country’s history. One of the strongest images we send to the world is our moral standing. The crux of our Constitution and Declaration of Independence -- offering equality for everyone, freedom of speech and religion, the opportunity to do what you want -- is still the beacon for most of Earth’s population. That image has been sullied in the past, more so recently. By electing a half-black man with a funny sounding Muslim name, we are telling the world that we still live by those ideals and that if someone like that can be elected to the most powerful position in the world then the America truly is that shining city on the hill that Ronald Reagan spoke of so eloquently. Our standing on the world stage will increase precipitously.

Now I am sure some of you are thinking who cares about “transformative President? What I want to know is if Obama can stand up to some tin pot dictator in Iran or a Russian thug like Vladimir Putin. I argue yes. First Obama just went head-to-head and beat the most formidable candidate for president in a generation. I know it was the Democratic primary but the Clintons play presidential politics to win and Obama stood up to them and won. I have a feeling that facing someone like the Junta in Myanmar or some world leader wannabe in Venezuela will be peanuts compared to Hilary Rodham Clinton and her desire to be president.

Furthermore I like the response Obama is giving in light of some of the criticisms that Democrats typically face. When confronted with the charge that his policies and positions “don’t support the troops? instead trying to look tough and out “military? his critics, Obama correctly points out that supporting the troops means more than a yellow ribbon on the back of a SUV. It means having a war policy that is well thought out, with troops that are properly equipped and given a mission that they can accomplish. It means treating those troops who have been injured with respect and dignity. Obama has been his own man when facing criticisms of his policies. There is no reason to believe he won’t be his own man when representing the Country abroad or against internal special interests.

Other arguments against Obama has been his lack of experience. Unfortunately the results of those who have had experience in government does not make one rally around the experience card. All would admit that Governor Pawlenty has had years of experience prior to becoming Governor. Why then could he not understand that you need money to maintain bridges and roads or they will fall apart? Many of the people who planned the Iraq War had years and years of governmental and military experience. Washington D.C. is littered with failed policies developed by politicians who have had years of experience. It think what is more important is what kind of experience you’ve had and how you use it, and how willing you are to change your assumptions based on new information -- not that you’ve put in a certain amount of years. All indications point to Obama having this kind of experience. Finally, the economy is probably the single greatest issue facing our next President. John McCain has admitted that he hasn’t spent much time thinking about economic issues during his 20 plus years in Washington. I am not sure Americans can afford someone who has demonstrated disinterest in such an important issue.

There are many other aspects of Obama’s background and governing style that make him a much better candidate than John McCain. His understanding of technology and how it is used in modern life is in a different galaxy than that of McCain’s -- who admits he doesn’t use e-mail, the internet, etc. Obama also has an opportunity to be a positive roll model for black males, which would be a huge improvement over self-absorbed professional athletes and misogynist rap stars that are typically looked up to as heroes. Obama’s policies and inclinations toward health care, global warming, fair taxes, the economy, and rights for women and homosexuals are more in line with what mainstream Americans think than those of John McCain and the Republicans. Finally, although an inspirational speaking style does not necessarily make for good policies, it will be nice to have a leader who is articulate, can speak in cogent sentences, who can make an argument that uses logic and rationality rather than fear and spin to persuade and inspire.

There it is, that’s my argument for Barack Hussein Obama. What do you think? Who are you supporting and why?

June 10, 2008

The McCain Girls - Back and Better than ever!!

It's been a while since we heard from the McCain Girls. But don't worry, they are back. And the production values just. keep. on. getting. better.

If you want to see a footless flag waving cyborg John McCain, click below:

Summer Moview Review


This summer has finally gotten me to think that Hollywood doesn’t make movies for someone my age anymore. I just haven’t been that excited about this year’s slate of Summer Movies. In fact I didn’t see a single movie at a theater from about February to Memorial Day. What’s worse is that few movies coming out are getting me excited. I’ll probably see the new Batman movie out of habit but not because I need to see it. The Love Guru looks absolutely execrable and no way are you going to get me in the theater to see The Incredible Hulk or Hellboy II. Thank God my wife wasn’t a big Sex and the City fan so I wasn’t dragged to that either.

I have seen two movies in the last 2 weeks that were enjoyable but won’t make any top 10 lists. I make no recommendation to get out and see these but if you want to blow a couple of hours on a rainy day, go ahead. With that ringing endorsement, here are my summer movie reviews so far.

Iron Man. This was fun. What I think a lot of comic book movies have missed out on lately is that they should be fun, they don’t have to be so serious (I’m looking at you Dark Night). Iron Man gets it and that’s why it’s selling so many tickets. Tony Stark is a smart ass who is as impressed with his new found powers as we are. The final battle with a larger Iron Man is kind of dumb, but doesn’t detract from a good time at the movies.

Indiana Jones. Not spectacular but in the spirit of the other Indy movies. Couple of nice homage’s to previous movies and a couple of nice set pieces. As typical in these movies an overly long fist fight scene and way to many machine guns that miss their target at point blank range. I didn’t lose any sleep over the fact that we had to wait 19 years for an Indiana Jones movie and I won’t be heartbroken if they don’t make another one. How’s that for a tepid response?

What about it. Any good summer movies out there? Anything you are looking forward to seeing?

June 9, 2008

Monday Music List - Baseball Intro Songs

You’re either a batter or pitcher at the Major League level and you’ve just been called to bat/pitch. What’s the next important thing to happen? Go over the scouting report in your mind? Check the dugout for the sign? Touch yourself? While all three are important, first you gotta make sure that your intro song is really cool.

If you’ve been to the ballpark you know that practically every player has an intro song. Some are chosen by the player, some by the stadium P.A. There’s certain criteria of course. They have to be “high energy? and they have to be well known, perhaps somewhat related to your skills. An Elliot Smith or Nick Drake song just wouldn’t do. The song for Mariano Riveria - Enter Sandman - is probably the perfect intro song. Also classic songs are Cannonball by the Breeders, Blitzkrieg Bop by the Ramones, Helter Skelter by the Beatles, Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC and Welcome to the Jungle by GnR. Also they have to start off fast and recognizable as only a few seconds of the song is even played.

With that here are some of the songs that I would like as my intro song:

Rock and Roll – Led Zeppelin. It’s cliché I know, but it’s a classic, everyone would be shaking.
Territorial Pissing – Nirvana. One of the greatest opening ever.
Pump It Up – Elvis Costello. Classic.
Sabatoge – Beasty Boys. Great opening.
Suffarage City – Bowie

All those are pretty standard and recognizable. If I wanted to go a little more obscure, I’d make sure these were also included:

Memphis, Egypt – Mekons
Hey Day – Replacements
Tool Master of Brainerd – Trip Shakespeare
The Wait – Pretenders
Seven Nation Army – White Stripes
Rise Above – Black Flag

What would be your MLB intro song?

June 6, 2008

Friday Random Top 10

Last night we hosted 45 just-graduated 7th grade boys and girls at our house. The house is still standing, the mud is mostly in the porch and to the best of my knowledge, all had a good time. We started a fire in the pit and the kids torched their homework and they burned a sacrificial uniform shirt. With that, this week’s top ten:

1. Armalite Rifle – Gang of Four
2. Oliver’s Army – Elvis Costello
3. Cheap Reward – Elvis Costello
4. Handshake Drugs – Wilco
5. Tesla’s Hotel Room – The Handsome Family
6. Old Dan Tucker – Bruce Springsteen
7. 500 Miles – Peter Paul & Mary
8. C’est Si Triste Sans Lui – Cleoma Breaux
9. To Be A Killer – Wes Houston
10. Two Hears Beat As One – U2

Well, after a martial beginning, that list went hard folk. What’s your top 10?

June 4, 2008

Obama Wins!


Finally, it's over with Barack Obama the nominee. I thought the three speeches last night were a fantastic study in contrast and could actually be taught in classes of political persuasion.

First McCain was just awful. In front of some lime green screen in a high school gymnasium with about 200 obviously bused in supporters. It was old, it was tired, it was zzzzzzzzzz. Sorry, fell asleep just thinking about it. The speech was bad enough on its own but then compared to BHO, it was dreadful. Whoever thought it was a good idea to have McCain give a speech right before Obama should be fired.

Hilary, oh Hilary. Why does it always have to be about you? Her speech was petulant, it was small. It was all me, me, me. It was even condescending. She's directing people to her web site so that they will send her more money. She doesn't congratulate Obama, she still claims she is the popular vote winner (which is false btw). Fine don't concede just yet but at least have a little bit of grace and humility, class even. If you didn't think this race was about Hilary only and not what is best for the Democratic Party or the country, I don't see how you could hold that same view after watching that classless speech.

Having the bar lowered practically to the ground, it didn't take much for OHB to shine, and he didn't disappoint. Right from the beginning with Michelle, who gave him a little fist bump and thumbs-up, Barry had the crowd. What was nice was that it wasn't about Obama. It was about us. He took it to McCain also, not just pointing out McCain's flaws and closeness to Bush but also contrasted against 2000 McCain. Reminding us that not only will McCain be tied to W, but also to a former, more pure version of himself. The speech ended on a rousing note with the crowd:

...if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment–this was the time–when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.

UPDATE: Here's a pretty good recap by someone who was there.

Wow. Now that is a speech. Any way the prelims are over. Let's get to the main event!

June 2, 2008

Monday Music List - Favorite Elvis Songs


Elvis Presley gets a bum rap these days. Mocked as an overweight has-been at the time of his death and propagator of bad 60's movies, Elvis has probably fallen pretty far in pop culture radar these days. As an unapologetic Elvis fan, I wanted wear my allegiance on my sleeve and provide a list of my favorite Elvis Songs. Here you go.

1. That's All Right (Mama) - The first, the greatest. Pop culture changed forever when this song was recorded.
2. Blue Moon Of Kentucky - A shot across the bow of old-timey music. If Elvis could rev up this bluegrass standard, then there was nothing he couldn't do.
3. Trying To Get To You - Talk about obsession.
4. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You - This song reminds me of a couple in a 55 Chev, up on lovers lane.
5. Jailhouse Rock - Elvis' best vocal work, a true rocker
6. One Night - Truly a reach for deliverance, for salvation even.
7. It's Now Or Never - Elvis' first single after returning from the Army. A sign that he was all grown up.
8. Are You Lonesome Tonight - Here's a fantastic write-up of this song.
9. Little Sister - Nice little rockabilly number with cool, cool lyrics.
10. Can't Help Falling In Love - Sentimental value as this was the second song played at our wedding dance.
11. She's Not You - Classic love lost song.
12. In The Ghetto - A little cheesy yes, but pretty good description of late 60's urban travails.
13. Suspicious Minds - A classic, who doesn't love this song
14. Burning Love - Exemplified mid-70's Elvis.
15. Amazing Grace - Great version of this song, with backing gospel choir. This will be played at my funeral.

What's your favorite Elvis song(s)?