Friday, December 12, 2014

Can't Review Them All-Flavors Of The Passing Of Time

It's so easy to rip apart certain bands and artists over the years.  What used to be played a lot back then has fallen by the wayside or now being ridiculed.  The big story of the month has been the mental breakdown of Scott Stapp of Creed fame and once the story broke I felt sorry for him.  However more stories came out, his son wanted his dad to clean up his act and now we are hearing that Stapp threatened the POTUS' life.  Taking things a bit too far, but then again Creed was a part of the late 90s run of post grunge Pearl Jam type of music that I never gave a second thought or first listen to.  I remember Jerry at Relics touting Creed to be the next big thing as he was selling their first album.My Own Prison back in 1997 before closing the doors of that record store, leaving your's truly without a second home.  From 97 to 2001 Creed was one of the top selling and one of the most hated bands of that time.  Since then the band splintered into Alter Bridge with Miles Kennedy replacing Stapp as vocalist and carving out a decade of sustained success, while Stapp went solo, took too many drugs and went Koo Koo for Coco Puffs and now in the present becoming a basket case.  Tough  to feel sorry for him while he's slitting his own throat but when you can't help yourself and don't want to, you shake your head and move on.  Just like Alter Bridge did. Creed Greatest Hits basically covers all the bases and hits since Alternative Modern Rock won't play them anymore.  Otherwise stick to Pearl Jam.

Another band that gets raked over the coals, Nickleback continues to defy critics and music fans by making albums.  And even shows a sense of humor while dealing with naysayers via Twitter.  In some ways they remind me of Grand Funk Railroad, whose Capitol albums during the Terry Knight years can try a lot of people's patience but they did have their fans and had their hits as well.  For Google fun and giggles, the search word of Nickleback is, that usually is the worst band ever comes up at number 2 or 3. I don't hate them all that much, their music I don't listen to at all either.  Sliver Side Up, broke them big with How You Remind Me, which started the hate, perhaps it sounding close to Load era Metallica might have something to do with that.  I think the early Nickleback (Curb, The State) remains listenable, the Canadian grunge rock shows a hungry band ready to make it into the big time.  To which they did soon after.  Certainly not the worst band ever but they did get negative points for the upstart of Nickleback wannabes like Hoobastank, whose albums are even more uneven and sounding dated even for the 2000s.

The years of wasting time and money on stuff like Dave Matthews Band makes me wish I could have that time back.  Although he's a nice guy and does great causes, Matthews long running career with RCA sometimes proves that certain folks can hang on a major label for a while, 20 years for Matthews.  Revisiting his breakthrough Under The Table And Dreaming still turns out to be a big snoozefest of an album.  Through it all the only album that I liked enough to recommend was Big Whiskey And The GooGrux King but perhaps the best quote came from Futurerama when it was mention that the Dave Matthews Band does not rock.  And they were right on about that.

The classic rock era of the 70s and 80s are long gone, but Cumulus doesn't want you to know that while they're rehashing the same 200 songs day in and day out.  Long time ago radio in the 80s they would play songs twice in a night but at least they could pepper things up with new singles and artists but Classic Rock Radio nowadays is the same songs over and over again.  J Geils Band made about 10 albums many many songs but all we get to hear is Centerfold three times a night.  Which annoys the fuck out of me.  So much music out there but with Cumulus or Clear Channel buying all the airwaves all you get is the same old same old.  A lot of bands got shown the door out here from my collection.  Foreigner comes to mind, with Corporate GOP approved garbage of Cold As Ice, or Hot Blooded and Mick Jones so bankrupt for ideas and money that he rehashes the hits with his hired hands and this year a revisit of 4, their best album to which Robert John Lange took them into record sales land and forever a place on overplayed radio.  Basically, their last albums were remakes of their hits, acoustic remakes of their hits and now, a remake of 4, but with the lesser songs omitted for, you guessed it, Hot Blooded and Cold As Ice.  Forget them.

There are classic rockers such as Bruce Springsteen who every time farts up a new album, Rolling Stone gives it five stars and record of the year but in reality, his last few albums have been by the numbers forgettable.  I still enjoy The River and Tunnel Of Love but have to fast forward the overplayed Hungry Heart which is always playing at some bar or some Cost Cutters or some radio station.  Nothing like paying 183 dollars to Sirius Radio just to hear Hungry Heart at one of the 100 plus radio stations.  His new songs, like Hungry Heart make me change the station.  John Mellencamp is another artist that i used to listen to but not anymore.  John opened up for KISS back in 1979 to which he would lead the fans to say FUCK at the top of their lungs just to be a rebel.  His early Main Man albums tried to label him glam but it was more bubble gum and that didn't fit his image.  But he was learning the game as he recorded for Riva, with a big hit with I Need A Lover (Pat Benetar covered that for a minor hit) and I'm sure he had images of James Dean when he wrote the first three albums but he came across more like Joe Dirt Trailer Trash than Cool James.  The big difference was that Mellencamp had one of the finest backing bands ever in his presence and the best albums had Kenny Aronoff, an balding drummer on drums and he added spark and Larry Crane on guitar.  I have great respect for his 80s album when he turned into Little Bastard and had Don Gehman as co producer. American Fool was the start although the overplayed Jack And Diane and Hurts So Good has been killed by radio.  But he hit his stride with Uh Huh, to which he started using Mellencamp and then expanded his vision and songwriting to classic status with Scarecrow and The Lonesome Jubilee, to which Mellencamp actually equaled Springsteen in story telling songs about the demise of the farmers and farmland. I still recommend his 1989 Big Daddy albums as well (I still have a vinyl copy of it) but I think Mellencamp was beginning to question about being a rock singer and while he still incorporated a variety of styles once he begin to take himself too seriously he became to lose me.  Whatever We Wanted was his last very good album and once he lost Kenny Aronoff, his albums became less interesting.  While he touts his latest album Plain Spoken as his best (and he has returned to the Universal label fold via Republic on a lifetime record contract) to me it was just a plain album.  Not groundshaking by any means but at least he still following his own muse. And still fights for the common man and the causes.  He's not all bad.

While grunge music is basically dead, (it's all rock and roll if you think about it) a lot of the grunge bands have not aged well.  Both KRNA and THE FOX continues to rape us with the same Nirvana songs, the same Alice In Chains and the same Pearl Jam songs, we don't hear much of Soundgarden which is fine by me.  Perhaps one of the best named bands ever but hearing their new song off the radio is probably one of the most half assed things I have heard this year.   Chris Cornell's banshee vocals go a long way and even the best of their albums (Louder Than Love, Badmotorfinger) get donated back into the pile after hearing them.  But out of the big bands that came out of Seattle, (the big four that is) I pretty much put Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden in that order (Mudhoney doesn't count since they never broke big, but if I did that would knock both PJ and SG down a notch) in bands that I would play again.  Badmotorfinger is their best, anything else is up to the listener to check out.  Or Temple Of The Dog, the tribute album to the late Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone who missed out on being rich and famous but ended up being more of a curio or cult artist with MLB.

The 2000s onward, and most of the lavish praises and lovin on the rock bands of the day falls upon deaf ears and an indifferent buying public.  Critical darlings The Arcade Fire, Mumford And Sons, The Arvett Brothers, The Gaslight Anthem continue to make albums they like but once I hear them I can't see what the fuss is all about.  The garage rock movement of the 2000s has been forgotten, The Strokes being one of the overrated, The Hives a little less and made funnier albums.  The Killers from Las Vegas managed to build a decade long career of dance music, Duran Duran and goth pop, a better choice than Maroon 5, the former Kara's Flowers which a name change and a new singer and radio friendly hooks gave them music success but hardly any critical kudos.  Franz Ferdinand, I still have all four of their albums but hardly play any of them.  But for the most part, with processed beats and autotuner and manufactured pop crap from the folks at American Idol or The Voice or X Factor, today's winners are tomorrow's trivia question.  Only Miranda Lambert (from the now forgotten Nashville Star who lost out to trivial question what ever happened to Buddy Jewell)  and Carrie Underwood (American Idol) has made any lasting impressions on the charts (Kelly Clarkson to a lesser extent).  And if this is the way to go in music anymore, there'll be loads more folks that would be in the Can't Review Them All series.

The rules are simple.  Make enjoyable and memorable music and  I'll do my best to point it out.  Bore me with bad new music or overkill me with the same classic rot shit of years ago and they all go in the donating pile or next week's new additions in the used bins at Half Priced Books.   The guessing is that half wits like Florida Georgia Line will be a dated passing fancy a year or two from now.  Some bands still stand the test of time, while others date themselves to a certain period, stinking like bad baloney.   My money is on the latter for FGL.

Foreigner-Best Of 4 And More (Sony Music)

Or rather less.  Yet another live at a Casino recording with most of  4 their 1981 classic album and the usual greatest drivel.  Corporate radio loves them enough to entitle them to do a budget priced live album.  The glaring omission of their fourth single from 4 Luanne (which doesn't get any airplay on classic crock radio) lowers the grade by two notches   Stick with the original studio album, or the radio.  It's that simple.

Grade C-

Expiration Date:  Montgomery Gentry + Big and Rich

If anything is to be blamed on Bro Country, you can blame two entities on this: One Big And Rich, to which for a short time redefined country by adding elements of rap to their music.  Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy) can be blamed for Luke Byran the Florida Georgia Line.  Prior to that, John Rich was part of Lonestar but left before the hits started coming in.  I give Rich points for giving the world Gretchen Wilson, who's still doing her thing before a diminishing fan base, Wilson was born too late to be a rock star so she managed to become a country pinup model for most of the 2000s.    I was never sold on Big And Rich, although I did buy Rich's solo album for cheap and it wasn't bad.  Rich's extreme right wing views made me trade it in  Montgomery Gentry on the other hand, I did follow more and bought most of their albums, Eddie the brother of John Michael Montgomery and Troy Gentry was part of a forgotten band Young Country, but the early albums showed a love of Southern Rock and Charlie Daniels, the latter helping them out on Tattoos And Scars their 1999 debut.  That and Carrying On I think still stand up to this day but each ensuring album Montgomery Gentry sowed the seeds of Bro Country, especially on album number 3 My Town and song Hell Yeah.  After that the albums got preachy and too campy, or FOX news on CD.  The strange thing that stands out is that the songs that I thought that made an impact didn't chart as high as originally thought.  Hillbilly Shoes only made it to number 13 in 1999, whereas the number one hits ( If You Ever Stopped Loving Me, Lucky Man, Back When I Knew It All) I swore I never heard that much or at all on K Hack. A bigger question mark was some of the songs charted on the pop charts and I know none of the top 40 stations played any Montgomery Gentry.  The changing trends toward younger Bro country left Eddie and Troy being dumped by Sony Music and a move to Bro Country label Average Joe's have shown signs of desperation and the songs got dumber and dumber, the nadir was Titty's Beer a single that bombed on the charts last year.  They might have outdumbed themselves on new single Headlights which has the usual Bro country bullshit of trucks, scantly clad girls in shorts and plenty of beer.  It's certainly no Hillbilly Shoes but who knows, if Headlights sell well enough to hit the country top twenty, perhaps Montgomery Gentry will open up for Florida Georgia Line at some casino country bar a year from now.  And studies have shown that over 40 guys singing about trucks, barely legal girls in jeans and beer in this day and age, the youngster's tend to stay away in droves.  Or just call them creepy old men.

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