Music News

Bottoming Out

There's no need for the exchange of overpriced trinkets to distract me from the agony of having to play the same old tired roles -- rankled adult child, tormented kid, alcoholic uncle -- that I spend the rest of the year struggling bravely to escape. Hardly. This Christmas Eve I sat alone, content with a bottle and the rediscovery of the brilliance of Mott the Hoople. Yes, Mott, and oh how the night was grand. One of the lovely things about mixing such great music with booze and solitude is how it makes the rest of the world disappear. A kind of holy trinity on a holy night, and all else is a warm, happy blur. All this and then the cycle begins again. And we forget that listening to a simple song just ain't that easy.

1). (Tie) The Strokes
Is This It
White Stripes
White Blood Cells
(Sympathy for the Record Industry)

Forget the excessively rapturous worldwide press that has all of Western Europe on its knees. Average white punks on weak dope, I say. Clearly too privileged for normal folk. And not sufficiently fucked-up to be interesting. At least Lou Reed had the sense to get that bit right. Thing is, NYC's Strokes and Detroit's White Stripes do little more than Walk on the Mild Side.

What's so insulting is that well-paid journalistic halfwits often try to draw parallels between The Strokes and Jim Carroll, between White Stripes and Otis Redding; ya gotta realize that these are the sort of people who can't tell Jagger from Kravitz, Blink from Sum 41, their asses from their elbows. C'mon, the Strokes are pampered little New Yorkers; Jim Carroll an articulate bastard who has lived countless lives on borrowed time. White Stripes are fun! and colorful! "garage" retro-vaudevillians who seized a Detroit craze; Otis Redding is the greatest male soul singer of all time.

Can it be just be me who ain't buying the jive? Am I the only schmuck with a mighty enough sniffer to sense that the Stripes and Strokes just stink of shtick?

2). Father of the Year Award:

Tommy Lee wins a bitter Superior Court child custody battle

Give me a 40, a pickup and a gun, or give me death! Man, you gotta love a country where a convicted wife beater and infamous drug addict/alcoholic/layer-of-porn stars can get unmonitored visits with his kids. Yeah! White Trash procreation rules! Seems the ex-Motley skinner and current ghetto enthusiast claims his ex-wife, the one he personally whacked in front of said kids, has breached her mommy duties in favor of a midlife fling with new beau Kid Rock (Hey, at least Kid Rock gets drunk and takes the tots tubing on rivers near Detroit!). The female judge sided with Lee on the issue of visitation and denied a request by Anderson's lawyers to require monitoring of his visits with sons Brandon and Dylan. What's more, the past-her-shelf-life mother of two was witnessed at this year's Kentucky Derby with Kid Rock, reportedly crawling around drunk on her hands and knees, heaving saline sacks and all. Yee haw!

3). The Cranberries
Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

In the firm grip of an inventive guitar-driven pop band, songs that toy with themes of death, fading love, environmental disaster, and the value of gaining an eye for beauty in a faith-deficient culture could actually work. Maybe. In the hands of The Cranberries, however, stabs at gritty poignancy sound downright bombastic, particularly when perky singer Dolores O' Riordan Burton punctuates her middling gushy-sixth-grade-schoolgirl prose with "ee-yay, ee-yay, ee-yay-eee-yay-ehhhs" yodels.

Worse, on Wake up and Smell the Coffee -- the Irish quartet's fifth full-length -- Burton's love-and-faith-will-conquer-all banalities get lazily dismissed, sung as if even she no longer subscribes to her own mythology. It's almost as if she's feeling guilty for living in modern times of central heating and penicillin; the Cranberry front chick has always sounded like she would have been happier hustling turnips for starving children during the Great Potato Famine, stitching burlap wraps and singing sad poems about typhus. Her woeful pout and morose croon belie the fact that she's a millionaire rock star, and the band's milky, comfy-in-Hush-Puppies drone is duly incomprehensible -- nary a hook in sight -- which makes it perfect ambience fodder for Wal-Mart shoppers.

4). Beautiful Creatures
Beautiful Creatures

(Warner Bros.)

Be on extreme guard against any band made up of Cheesewhiz Roxy/Rainbow Sunset rockists who suddenly surface with a goofy, Respect the Rock look and a Warner Bros. debut that attempts to pass them off as the Real Deal. After years of sporting Nelson-like blonde manes and playing in various feline-wristed Warrant-like bands, the members of Beautiful Creatures turned up this year on the Ozz-fest tour sporting leather hip-huggers, Danzig grimaces and matching black-tinted Izzy quaffs.

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Bill Blake