Thursday, August 1, 2013

Change of Address

After 112 weekly entries at this location, enoughalready has moved to its beautiful new home at I hope you will follow me over, it's a lot easier on the eyes and allows me to keep my blog, music, and videos all in one easy place. 

please adjust your bookmarks, RSS feeds, and love letters accordingly. 

thank you! 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Shameless: adj. see: Weiner, Anthony

It seems that former Congressman and current New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner has once again been caught engaging in the very behavior that led him to resign from Congress two years ago. Weiner has refused to drop out of the mayor's race, his wife is once again standing by him; it's now up to the voters of New York City, of whom I am one, to decide Weiner's fate.

This feels more appropriate than how it went down last time, when Weiner immediately resigned on the assumption (most likely on the part of his handlers) that he would not be re-elected; I'm not so sure that's true, and by re-entering politics so quickly after the his resignation, Weiner clearly feels what he did was not so awful that it couldn't (or wouldn't) be forgiven. This time, since Weiner enjoyed a comfortable lead in the polls just before this second scandal broke, there will literally be a referendum on the relevance of a politician's peccadilloes on his fitness for office.

I will not be voting for him.

I have no objection, on a moral level, to his habit of sending south-of-the-border selfies and extra-forward text messages to women not his wife. It's an old saw by now, ever since the Clinton-Lewinsky contratemps, that nobody knows the true parameters of a marriage except the people in it, but it's an old saw because it's true.

It's entirely possible that Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, has always known about his tendency to use a keyboard as a means of self-pleasure and given her blessing. For all we know, she could have a nasty puppy-on-kitten fetish porn problem, and they chose each other with the agreement that each would allow the other their idiosyncrasies without judgement. Far stranger marital arrangements than that have celebrated golden anniversaries. Dickpix and I'll-do-you-so-good texts wouldn't fly in my marriage -- not even if they were directed at my wife -- but that doesn't give me the right to assume the same of anyone else's.

The fact that he lied about these correspondences also doesn't really bother me. Of course he lied about them, they're enormously embarrassing -- the flexing pectoral shots even more than the sheathed sword shots. (You've got to admit, he's got a nice piece.)

The idea, as some have floated, that he's some kind of online predator taking advantage of starstruck (for lack of a better word) young women also doesn't move me; there's no evidence that he's directed any of these sonnets at anyone under 21, and there's no evidence that he's had any real-world contact of any kind with any of these women. They're old enough to consent (if not to know better), and in the absence of a blue dress or any kind of evidence that he did any more than solicit some long-distance ego-stroking (which he then converted into short-distance self-stroking), I don't have any real problem with it on this level either.

Maybe I'm crazy, but I draw a distinction between online activity and real-world activity. Just as shooting someone in a multiplayer game of Call of Duty is not real-life murder, neither is writing sexy messages to someone you have no intention of ever meeting real-life cheating.

In general, I don't believe that the sexual habits of consenting adults with other consenting adults, be they straight, gay, bi, poly, out, closeted, monogamous, or extracurricular should be any kind of factor in what they can or can't be hired (or elected) to do.

So if I don't have a problem with what he did, and agree enough with his politics that I would probably have voted for him if the election had been last week, what's the problem? Why not give him my vote for mayor? If nothing else, it would be fun to watch the Post and the Daily News use him as a scratching post every day.

I didn't necessarily feel that Weiner needed to resign from Congress two years ago. I thought what he did was super tacky, but it had no real relevance to his duties. I wasn't out in the street demonstrating on his behalf, and I wasn't the least bit upset when he did resign, but if he had stayed that wouldn't have bothered me either.

Whether you feel that he should have resigned or not, though, one thing is undeniable: when it came out, it created a giant shitstorm, a shiny new ball for the media to chase like a first grade soccer team, crowding out any discussion of any other issue and effectively making it impossible for Weiner to function in the job.

So, after having witnessed firsthand the worst-case scenario -- sexts and dickpix going public, wife humiliated, media shitstorm, resignation from Congress -- the fact that this guy would continue in the exact same behavior, after promising on live television to make sure it never happens again, is just baffling to me. It is the very definition of "shameless."

It's not that he did it. It's not that he did it and got caught. It's that he did it, he got caught, and then he did it again, knowing exactly, from direct experience, the ruinous consequences of getting caught. It points to a fundamental lack of impulse control and a startling naivete: did he think he wouldn't get caught again? Did he think people were tired of making fun of him? Did he think that THIS starstruck 22-year-old would be the one that wouldn't, ahem, expose him?

Maybe he thought that he was out of politics for good, so why not go ahead and enjoy what he enjoys? That would be fine, but it also shows a very peculiar lack of self (selfie?)-knowledge. He's been chasing the mayor's office for his entire adult life, and always saw the Congress as a steppingstone to City Hall. His blustering speeches on the House floor, particularly those about health care, showed an almost supernatural self-assurance, which is a close cousin to ambition, which has coffee every morning with narcissism, and none of them let you stay out of the spotlight for very long. I knew the day he resigned that Anthony Weiner would be back in politics. I would have given it five years, but I knew he'd be back.

How could he not know he'd be back? Does he not know himself at all? Does he completely lack the ability to think ahead?

This guy doesn't belong in City Hall, he should be in a psych ward. He doesn't need a shrink, he needs a team of them, working around the clock, only on him. They should devote an entire wing to spelunking his bottomless well of self-delusion.

A couple of great speeches about health care just don't outweigh crisis-level vanity, poor decision-making, the impulse control of a child left alone with a can of frosting, repeated lying, and a total lack of self-knowledge. Maybe these yawning character deficits could be overlooked in the Congress, where he was one of 435 members that never do anything anyway, but I do not want someone like that in charge of my city. Shit happens here!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Win A Date With Dzokhar

My Twitter feed today has been chock full of outrage. Not outrage about the Zimmerman verdict -- Zimmerman verdict outrage is sooo three days ago. No, today everyone's outraged because Rolling Stone magazine, which is apparently still a thing, put (alleged) Boston Marathon bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev on its cover.

How can Rolling Stone treat a terrorist like a rock star? Doesn't this send an awful message to people, like all they have to do to get on the cover of Rolling Stone is plan and execute a bombing in a highly populated public place? Why did they have to use such a dreamy picture of the guy?

These are the kinds of questions people are asking about this cover. I have some pretty strong feelings about it myself, if total indifference can be described as a strong feeling.

First of all, this is not the first time anyone's seen Dzokhar Tsarnaev's face. It was plastered all over the place for weeks at the time of the bombing. Any of the many representatives of the Free Dzokhar community (which shares over 98% of its membership with the Daddy Issues community) that wants to moon over him does not need to go to a newsstand to do it.

Also, I think people may need to readjust their perception of Rolling Stone's cultural reach, circa 2013. I certainly used to be a devoted reader, from the late '80s to sometime in the mid-'90s, and I admit that I hung more that one Rolling Stone cover on my bedroom wall as a kid. But does anyone still read it? Moreover, does anyone still read it in print? I want to say that I haven't picked up a Rolling Stone in ten years, but I just remembered that's not quite true: I bought one at the airport right after Adam Yauch died. The tribute to Yauch was lovely, but I was struck by how wheezy and sweaty and desperate for relevance the rest of the magazine felt, like a 59-year-old man in skinny jeans talking about the new Kanye album.

Look at the rest of the cover. There's Dzokhar, looking dreamy with his tousled curly hair, but check out the other stories: On the bus with Willie Nelson; Jay-Z's 'Magna Carta' Stumble; Robin Thicke, Pretty Fly For a White Guy; Gary Clark Jr, Reluctant Guitar Hero.

So the supposed standard-bearer for youth culture and hip influence is trumpeting the inside scoop on an 80-year-old country singer, an aging billionaire's 15th rap album, and in the tagline for the story on the top-selling artist of the moment references a song that peaked at #53 fifteen years ago. Pretty cutting-edge stuff.

A little light Googling reveals that Rolling Stone ranks 53rd among American magazines in terms of circulation, just below Self and just above Golf, selling an average of 1.4 million copies per issue. The United States population is 313 million. Rolling Stone does not have a ton of cultural reach anymore, is what I'm saying.

Here's the thing, though: I don't buy Rolling Stone anymore, but I do read it online from time to time. Not for stories about Robin Thicke or Mumford & Sons, because quite frankly I'm 40 years old and long since out of touch with the music of the moment.

On the rare occasions that I read Rolling Stone, I read it for its news and political reporting, principally (but not only) by Matt Taibbi. Some of the best long-form journalism I've seen in the last several years has been in on Rolling Stone (dot com). It's the tail that is increasingly wagging the entire dog at Rolling Stone.

If they have an indepth feature about how this smart, good-looking, popular kid somehow went off the rails and became an accomplice in a pointless act of domestic terrorism, that's an article I would be interested in reading, and it's clearly the most interesting thing Rolling Stone has this week, so why wouldn't they promote it? And is there a better way to promote a story about Dzokhar Tsarnaev than with a photo of Dzokhar Tsarnaev? I'm sorry he's got such a beautiful head of hair and such bewitching bedroom eyes, but that's not something any of us has any control over. Should they have drawn a scary-looking artists' rendering? Or maybe darkened his skin, like Time did to O.J.?  It's not like the photo is captioned "Win a date with Dzokhar," or "Dzokhar talks about the girl that broke his heart." It calls him a monster. Hardly an endorsement of his deeds.  

It seems like some people are worried that putting him on the cover glamorizes what he did, or glamorizes him personally, so that people may be more sympathetic to him because they find him so irresistably attractive. I would argue that anyone who can be persuaded by a pretty face to condone or excuse or deny the maiming and shrapnelling of innocent people -- of knowingly leaving a bomb right next to a small child -- is someone whose problems run deeper than anything a magazine cover could either cause or solve.

Anyway, this doesn't bother me at all. I don't find it in good taste or bad taste -- It achieves exactly the magazine's intent, which is to make me aware of the article and want to read it. Maybe I'm made of stone, but the fact that the kid is handsome does not make me any likelier to join the jihad.  (I might blow him, but only after making clear my loyalty to the U.S.)

I don't presume to tell you how to feel about this cover, but if you really are bothered by it I'd suggest voting with your dollars and not buying it, not going to, and most importantly not posting your outrage about it all over Twitter and Facebook. Because nobody pays attention to Rolling Stone anymore -- indeed, nobody pays attention to anything anymore -- unless everyone's hollering in outrage. I never would have known about it without the outrage, so I guess I should thank you, outraged Internet, because I just read the first few hundred words of the piece and look forward to finishing it.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Don't Hire A Movie Star For A Commercial Voiceover

Once upon a time, it was considered unseemly for TV and movie stars to appear in commercials. It seemed to cheapen a celebrity's mystique, to bring them down to Earth, to make them less than the inhumanly beautiful Gods and Angels walking among us that we (and they) so desperately need them to be.

(A notable exception to this unwritten rule has always been actresses and shampoo commercials, maybe because they only amplify and underline their beauty and mystique.)

But this arrangement came at a terrible price (for the celebrities): a literal price, in the form of all the millions of dollars the celebrities were not earning to appear in commercials. Can you imagine the pain a millionaire must feel having to leave more millions on the table to do almost nothing but smile, hold up a product they don't use, and say a line or two of forgettable ad copy?

For quite a while, there was an easy workaround to this problem: the stars would appear in commercials overseas, that would only air in Japan and never in the U.S., thus preserving the illusion that the stars were above such craven concerns as amassing wealth, while simultaneously allowing them to amass wealth.

All the big movie stars did it. But at some point along the line, maybe because of unfavorable exchange rates or something, all those millions of Yen and Rubles and Euros ceased to be enough for the movie stars. So they found another way to have their cake and eat it too.
I don't think I have sat through a commercial break in the last few years that didn't have at least one A-list celebrity doing a voiceover for a commercial. Julia Roberts for Nationwide Insurance. Jon Hamm for Mercedes. Ed Harris for Home Depot. John Krasinski for eSurance. That guy from Entourage for Best Buy. Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, John Goodman, Gene Hackman, and even George Clooney are but only a few of the voices I have noticed during commercial breaks, and these are just the ones off the top of my head.
Now, I don't care if celebrities do commercials, and I care even less if they do commercial voiceovers. I'd just like to point out to whoever's underwriting these ads that having a movie star read the voiceover copy is distracting to the point of undermining the ad completely.
Because it becomes a game: how quickly can I identify the voice in this commercial? My wife and I have turned it into a contest. (A contest she's never won and never will because she's not really interested, but I enjoy it.) You're still listening, but you're listening in a different way. You're listening to the character in the voice, not to what it's saying.
What I don't understand is what the perceived advantage is, from the point of view of the advertiser, in using a celebrity voice but not identifying it. Is the idea that the audience will unconsciously trust the familiar voice, even if they don't place it?  Because that's not how it goes. How it goes is, I hear a familiar voice talking about insurance. I realize that it's the voice of Julia Roberts, who not long ago was the biggest movie star in the world and routinely commanded $20 million plus per picture. I think to myself, "Julia Roberts is doing commercials? Has her star fallen that far? Even if it has, can she possibly be worth less than $150 million? How much money does she need? I guess she has kids, so it makes slightly more sense, but still... and insurance? Shouldn't she be shilling for a luxury car or a high-end vacation destination or something?" Etcetera etcetera. Whatever she wanted to tell me about insurance might as well be pops and clicks. I'm sure there are reams of marketing research on this topic but to a layman like myself, it looks like you're paying ten times as much as you would for some unknown voice whose generic everyvoice would be more effective in getting your message across because the audience wouldn't be a) straining to figure out who it is or b) wondering why they're doing it.
Face it, movie stars, the jig is up. You're whoring out your enormous, bottomless personal integrity and unknowable mystique to sell useless crap no one needs. And that's fine! I've got no problem with that. I'd probably (definitely) do the same thing. Just own it. Show your face. Most of us know it's you already, and the ones that don't are missing out on the fascinating details about how it's never been a better time to lease a a 2014 Mercedes because they're trying to figure it out.
Or wait! Here's an idea! You can still do the voiceovers, but use one of those voice-changers like they use for ex-Mobsters that want to participate in Mob documentaries but don't want to be identified. That way, everyone wins: You get the cash, the advertisers get the prestige of having you in their ads, and the audience gets to fully absorb how much better eSurance is than regular old snail insurance.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It Doesn't Matter If Tony Soprano Got Whacked In The Diner

With the very sad, untimely death of James Gandolfini last week, Tony Soprano is definitely, for sure, no fooling, unambiguously dead.

The actor's passing has kicked off a great many well-deserved tributes to his work, on The Sopranos in particular, which in turn has renewed the debate on that series' controversial cut-to-black ending -- specifically, whether Tony was killed in the final scene.

The people who feel that Tony died -- specifically, that he was shot in the head by the guy in the Members Only jacket coming out of the bathroom -- have a pretty strong case, best summed up by the "Master Of Sopranos" essay that picks it apart shot by shot. Cliff Notes version: it's clearly set up that the scene is alternating between closeups of Tony and Tony's point of view, so when he looks up and the scene then cuts to black, it's cutting to his point of view, which, in death, is nothing.

There is another, less vocal camp that feels that the ending is meant to show that after everything, Tony's punishment is to live life with one eye forever on the door, waiting for the murder that he knows will someday come, and yet, as Steve Perry would have it, "paying anything to roll the dice just one more time." As the song also says, "The movie never ends, it goes on and on and on," but as that was not the language in David Chase's contract, he had to end somewhere so he picked an arbitrary spot and ended it.

Those are both very interesting arguments and I don't particularly disagree with either of them, but my reading of that ending was a little different.

In the last scene, when Carmela arrives and joins Tony at the Holsten's diner, she asks how did Tony's meeting go with the lawyer. Tony tells her that Carlo (one of his captains) is in custody and has turned informant, and that the lawyer is expecting Tony to be indicted any minute.  

That, for all intents and purposes, is the end of the story. Tony Soprano's reign as the boss of North Jersey, which in many respects was the story of this show, is over, so the story is over.

As for whether he's then killed by the guy in the Members Only jacket in the john, or by the Unidentified Black Males at the jukebox, or by the Cub Scouts in the corner booth, or by Carmela sitting across from him, well, that doesn't really matter.

Over the course of the show, one immutable fact was drummed into the audience's head over and over and over again: if your friends in the Mob even suspect that you might inform on them to the Feds, they are going to get you. We saw it with Big Pussy, with Adriana, with Eugene Pontecorvo, to name only a few. They're not maybe going to get you. They're not going to try to get you. They're going to get you.

So whether they get him in the diner in front of his family, or run his car off the road on the way home, or shoot him in his driveway, or blow up his house, or stab him in the gut on the courthouse steps, it really doesn't matter. He's under indictment, and in a position to inform on the bosses of the New York Mob. They're going to get him.

For the audience to feel cheated or angry because they didn't get to actually see the bloodshed kind of validates David Chase's discomfort with what he created, and retroactively validates his decision not to show it to them. The details are beside the point. All the relevant information has been given. The story's over. Cut to black.

Great, now I have that goddamn song in my head again!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mad Men and Breaking Bad Are Basically The Same Show

Master of the universe in season 1
Vince Gilligan's Breaking Bad, heading into its final stretch of episodes later this summer (52 days from now, but who's counting?), is an amazing show, arguably the very best on television, largely because of its groundbreaking organizing principle: in numerous interviews, Gilligan has stated that his idea for the series was to turn his main character from a hero into a villain, or as he put it, "turn Mr. Chips into Scarface." Television, he's explained (and I'm paraphrasing), is geared toward stasis, keeping its characters and relationships and situations the same so that, assuming a show is a ratings hit, it can go on forever.

So by taking an ineffectual, milquetoast science teacher and gradually turning him into a lying, murdering drug kingpin, Gilligan is upending the traditional model for a TV series, and it has been fascinating to watch and highly deserving of the many awards it's won. But it's not the first show to do what it's doing.

In the first episode of the first season of Mad Men, which premiered six months before Breaking Bad on the same network, advertising executive Don Draper welcomes his colleague Roger Sterling into his 16th-floor Madison Avenue office, pours them both a stiff drink, and trading pleasantries about another disgruntled executive, incredulously wonders aloud, "Who couldn't be happy with all this?"

That moment has proved, in the six seasons since, to be Don Draper's high-water mark, as he has tumbled ever further into an abyss of self-loathing almost entirely of his own making. When the show began, Don Draper was on the cover of every magazine, a style icon, the latest embodiment of the old saw "women want to be with him, men want to be him." Everything came easily to Don: women, money, success, it was all his for the taking and he took all he could carry. His coworkers marveled at his ease with women, with his work, with his liquor. As presented in the first few seasons, this was the kind of man Hugh Hefner was telling us to emulate -- the modern American man who has it all.

Around the end of the third season, all of that began to erode: He lost his wife when she discovered the extent of his lies and cheating. He lost his best copywriter and protege because he treated her badly. He lost his daughter because she caught him cheating on his second wife with his neighbor. He's lost his creative skills because he took them for granted. He's losing his ease with women to alcohol, tobacco, and Father Time -- he's looking pretty pasty and bloated lately, and nobody shtups the neighbor lady if they've still got it out on the street. More losses seem to be waiting on the horizon: his second marriage is on life support, he's so checked out at work that he has little idea what's going on, missing meetings, coming up with so few ideas he's removed it from his job description, and didn't make a peep when they removed "Draper" from the company's name -- how long till they fire him altogether?

Looking rough in season 6
The most recent episode of the show ended with Don on his office couch in the fetal position, having just finally, irreparably destroyed his two most important professional relationships: to his protege and star copywriter Peggy, and his new partner Ted. Quite a contrast from the weekly opening image of the back of Don's head, arm draped over his office couch, surveying his kingdom. ("Who couldn't be happy with all this?") Lots of Mad Men fans have made a parlor game of guessing who those opening credits depict falling from the building: everyone seemed to think petulant accounts executive Pete Campbell was going to jump out the window last season, and as Don has sunk lower and lower speculation has turned to him as the jumper.

Nobody's going to literally jump out the window, any more than anyone's going to be murdered -- it's just not that kind of show. (The shock of British partner Lane Pryce's suicide last season was the exception that proved the rule.) That opening graphic is the show's mission statement: this guy is headed for a (metaphorical) fall. Now that we're 6/7 of the way through the story, it's suddenly become clear: just as Vince Gilligan is turning Mr. Chips into Scarface, Matt Weiner is turning Cary Grant into Willy Loman. The transformation is a little more subtle -- a raised eyebrow or a remark at a business meeting can mean as much to the plot on Mad Men as ordering a murder does on Breaking Bad -- but what Weiner's doing is no less audacious, slowly changing his main character from someone to be envied and emulated to someone to be pitied.

It's pretty clear that Walter White's transformation is going to end in jail or in the morgue, and though I don't expect Don Draper to go out in a hail of gunfire, Weiner has been saying for years that he knows how he wants the series to end, which only underlines the notion that there's always been a plan in play here, and it's all there in those opening credits. This guy is going down. Whether he comes back up again, we'll see in a year, but I tend to doubt it -- this guy has had eight years to learn from his mistakes, and it would be way out of character, for Don and for Weiner, for him to start now.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I'm 75% Excited For The 50% Replacements Reunion

My first reaction was unambiguous: Yes! Finally! Only three dates? Denver, Chicago, and Toronto? That's only 1,500 to 2,200 miles away, maybe I can make it!

Yes, the Replacements, my favorite band ever, are reuniting to headline three dates of the traveling RIOT Festival, 22 years after their last show.

Now look, my favorite band ever is always subject to change depending on the weather and what I had for breakfast. But the Replacements are definitely the most important. They were funny and silly and deeply touching all at the same time, and got to the 15-year old me like no other band has before or since. They showed me that I didn't have to be able to sing like Robert Plant or play like Jimi Hendrix to make music, which inspired and emboldened me to write songs of my own and play them out. To this day, fronting my 9-piece funk band, I still catch myself sounding more like Paul Westerberg than James Brown.

And oh my god, those lyrics:

"Income tax deduction, one hell of a function, it beats picking cotton and waiting to be forgotten"
"The ones who love us best are the ones we'll lay to rest, we visit their graves on holidays at best... The ones who love us least are the ones we'll die to please"
"A person can work up a mean, mean thirst after a hard day of nothing much at all"
"Pretty girls keep growing up playing makeup and wearing guitar, growing old in a bar..."
"I can live without your touch, I'll die within your reach"
"A dream too tired to come true left the rebel without a clue, now I'm searching for something to do"
"All you ever wanted was someone to take care of ya, all you're losing is a little mascara."
"If it's a temporary lull, why'm I bored right out of my skull, dressing sharp and feeling dull?"

I did not look any of those up. They are burned into my brain like a cattle brand.

So am I glad to see that the Replacements are reuniting? Of course. But I am not going to be checking airfares to Chicago or Toronto, and I'm definitely not going to any more outdoor music festivals.

This reunion is only two of the four Replacements: singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson. Original lead guitarist Bob Stinson died in 1995, so he has a good excuse, but drummer Chris Mars is not participating because... well, I don't know why he's not participating. He left the band a year before they broke up under acrimonious circumstances, and it seems 22 years has not been long enough to heal those wounds.

I'm sure Paul and Tommy will play the old favorites more than capably, and I'm sure whoever they get to fill in for Chris and Bob -- the Replacements' replacements, har-har -- will be more than up to the job. And it's possible that Chris is cool with Paul and Tommy, but for whatever reason just doesn't want to hit the road: he did participate in the recent "Songs For Slim" EP, recorded by Paul and Tommy with proceeds to the medical bills of Bob's replacement, Slim Dunlap, by contributing the cover art and a song he'd recorded by himself and singing some backup vocals on the tunes they recorded -- but he did not play drums with the Replacements.

But still, part of me doesn't feel like it's a real reunion without him. I had similar feelings when one of my other favorite bands reunited without their bass player, and it got me to thinking about what we want from reunions. We want to hear the songs, obviously, but we can hear the songs anytime, on the old albums, sounding just as great as they always did.

This performance got them banned for
life from "Saturday Night Live"
What made the Replacements a great live band was the fact that you, and in fact they, never knew what they were going to do. They hit the stage hammered more often than not and tended to play as many covers -- most of which they had never rehearsed before -- as their own material, and the fun was in watching them grope their way through standards like "20th Century Boy" or "Hey Good Lookin" or "I'm Eighteen" before ripping into one of their own great songs.

This is a band that hated music videos so much that when their label forced them to make one, this is what they gave them:

More than any band I can think of, the Replacements were in it to please themselves first, and if playing "Summer of '69" pleased them more than playing "Bastards of Young" on a given night, that's exactly what they did, success be damned.
So are the 50-year-old Replacements going to do that? I'm guessing not, and I'm not sure I'd want them to. Those tendencies evaporated toward the end of their original run anyway -- I saw them in 1990 -- hey, at least I saw them -- and it was a polished, professional set that I certainly enjoyed but bore little resemblance to the legend. I'm sure these shows will be at least as polished. (I still have the t-shirt, threadbare and full of holes and fragile as tissue paper.)
The drummer's absence hurts because I think what we want from a reunion, more than to hear the tunes or see the musicians' faces, is to know that the spirit that animated those great songs is still alive, and when able-bodied band members are left out, either because they're not invited or because they say no, it suggests that that spirit is not still there, that a big cash offer persuaded Westerberg to field a band -- any band -- and get that cash while the getting was good.
But, I don't think that's the case here, because the Replacements have been turning down reunion offers for years, and only reformed in order to help their friend Slim, found that the spirit was indeed still there ("We still rock like murder," Westerberg was quoted as saying at the time of the EP release), and went ahead without their drummer because he's doing something else. Maybe a statement from him, declaring goodwill and godspeed, would bring us all up from 75% to 100% good feelings about this. (Who the fuck am I kidding -- I would/will gladly pay $150 and a handjob if/when they come to New York.)
In any case, I never meant to go on this long (which should be the motto of this space) -- I just wanted to link to some great Replacements stuff:
Can't hardly wait....

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kanye West Is The Michael Jordan of Blowhard Interviews

Remember those Magic Eye posters that were all the rage in the '90s? They looked like an especially busy wallpaper pattern but when you unfocused your eyes, a picture of a spaceship or a puppy or whatever would supposedly emerge. I say supposedly because I was never able to make those images work for me -- while everybody else was oohing and aahing about how cool they were, all I ever got out of them was the wallpaper pattern and a headache.

I have felt much the same way the last several years as everyone has spoken in increasingly reverent tones of the musical genius of Kanye West.

Admittedly, I am a little underinformed. I never sat down and listened to any of his albums. I think the first time I ever heard of him was when he said "George Bush doesn't care about black people," a sentiment I found little fault with. After that I think the next I heard of him was when he stole Taylor Swift's MTV award.

As for his music, I am familiar with the big club hits, because I work in a bar that plays club hits: "Flashing Lights," "Stronger," "Gold Digger," and "All Of the Lights." Long before I knew who its author was, I found "Flashing Lights" totally annoying, because of the lazy, singsongy delivery of the verses. I also didn't know who recorded "Stronger" but I knew it was basically someone else's song (who I have since learned to be Daft Punk) with more stupid, lazily delivered verses grafted onto it; "Gold Digger" made me hate both "Gold Digger" and Ray Charles' "I Got A Woman," which I had liked enough to make my ringtone for when my wife called; and while I can admit that "All Of The Lights" has some redeeming qualities as an effective club tune, at least until the voice comes in to crap rap all over it.

Eventually I figured out all these tunes were by Kanye West, and that's when I started scratching my head. This is the guy everyone's calling a genius? This is the guy who's revolutionizing rap music? This is the best producer in the game?

People are saying all those things quite a bit at the moment, because the world is waiting on pins and needles for the release of Kanye's sixth album, Yeezus, titled after Kanye's self-applied nickname (Yeezy) and the name of our Lord and Savior.

By law, you can't write about Kanye without
including this photo
I guess Kanye doesn't do a lot of interviews, because the one he did with the New York Times this week lit up the entire Internet the moment it was posted. And, as it turns out, the 99% of music fans out there who are swinging from Kanye's nuts and calling him the greatest musician of this or any other generation? It seems that Kanye feels they are underrating him.

Here's a selection of choice quotes from the piece, which he begins by calling himself "the Michael Jordan of music":

I am so credible and so influential and so relevant that I will change things.  
I’m going to be cliché for a minute and say that great art comes from pain. But also I’d say a bigger statement than that is: Great art comes from great artists. There’s a bunch of people that are hurt that still couldn’t have made the album that was super-polarizing and redefined the sound of radio.
I knew when I wrote the line “light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson” I was going to be a big star.  
The longer your ‘gevity is, the more confidence you build. The idea of Kanye and vanity are like, synonymous. But I’ve put myself in a lot of places where a vain person wouldn’t put themselves in. Like what’s vanity about wearing a kilt? 
I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it’s like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z.
I think that’s a responsibility that I have, to push possibilities, to show people: “This is the level that things could be at.” So when you get something that has the name Kanye West on it, it’s supposed to be pushing the furthest possibilities. I will be the leader of a company that ends up being worth billions of dollars, because I got the answers. I understand culture. I am the nucleus.

I'm sure their child will be
very well-adjusted
All of these quotes are laughably arrogant and unself-aware and show that there is a very real possibility that Kanye West might very well one day snap and murder someone if anything should ever pop the kevlar bubble that he is clearly living in. I was going to make fun of them one at a time, but it's like fish in a barrel, and I don't want to deny you the fun of picking them apart for yourself. (Although I have to point out that Steve Jobs is the Steve Jobs of the Internet, Mr. Relevant Nucleus.)

What I found most interesting was the comments section below the article; anyone who pointed out the obvious fact that this dude's head wouldn't fit in Yankee Stadium was shouted down by other commenters proclaiming him the greatest musician ever. Even people who found his comments distasteful said so with the disclaimer "I still love his music" or "he's so amazing, why does he have to be such a jerk?"

I wrote not long ago about the way we all bend over backwards to excuse Prince his generally awful behavior because his music is so good, and this would seem to be another case of that, but I was really and truly baffled. What are all these people hearing that I'm not hearing?

So I went on Spotify and cued up Kanye's 2008 record, 808s and Heartbreak, to give it a fair listen, and record my thoughts in real time on each track.

Here goes:

Say You Will -- It sounds like a game of Pong. What's with all the AutoTune? At 6:18, it's at least 4 minutes too long -- it's slow and boring and we are not off to a good start.
Welcome to Heartbreak -- I thought this guy was a rapper. This track is a lot of feeling sorry for himself for being busy with a massive career. And it has no beat to speak of.
Heartless -- Only three tracks in, I am already so sick of the AutoTune drenching everything and there is still no beat. What is hip-hop if you can't bounce to it?
Amazing -- Is there going to be AutoTune on every song here? Why is this album so boring? I thought it was supposed to blow my mind.
Love Lockdown -- I hate this album. It should be called "AutoTune and Whining"
Paranoid -- Still not my cup of tea, but at least it has a semi-bounceable beat.
RoboCop -- I can't listen to this anymore.

Nobody who wears those sunglasses
is not a douchebag. Check the rulebook
Sorry guys, I tried. I also sampled each of the tracks on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and several of the earlier ones with the teddy bears on the covers, but didn't bother to do a track-by-track. Suffice to say, I still don't get what all the fuss is about with this guy. As a rapper he sounds uncommitted to his own material, like a high-school kid who doesn't want to be caught trying. And these amazing beats that everyone is so gaga over... hasn't anyone ever heard Paul's Boutique or The Low End Theory or 3 Feet High And Rising or The Chronic or Doggystyle or Illadelph Halflife or It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back or Paid In Full or Ready To Die? Those are amazing beats. They make you want to dance, even before anyone starts rhyming on them. Kanye's beats make me want to leave the room.

If anything, all it sounds to me like Kanye's done is take the music I hated 20 years ago -- techno and house music -- and graft rap verses onto it. At the risk of sounding like a bitter old man (too late, I know), that is not that awesome.

If people like Kanye, I don't have any problem with that, and I'm not trying to talk you out of it, I'm just saying, maybe we can take it easy on the "Kanye is a genius" and "Kanye IS rap music" (actual quote from the Times' comment section) and "if you don't understand that Kanye is the most important cultural force of the 21st century you're just a hater" talk, because a) it's a bit of an exaggeration and b) Kanye himself is saying all those things loud enough for all of us.