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  1. #1
    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    Need something to read? 2003 music digest.

    this was printed in the KC Star today. I was looking for the top 10 lists from the various critics, local record store owners and so forth but only this article is online. While I don't agree with everything, he does have some intersting, if not valid points.

    Best and worst moments in music in 2003 have roots in the past
    By TIMOTHY FINN
    The Kansas City Star

    The biggest stories in music this year involved death, war and patriotism, but the year in music -- the songs and records themselves -- was mostly about resurrection and revivalism.

    The year opened with two tragedies: a lethal stampede at a Chicago nightclub, then a fire that killed 100 people who had crammed into a Rhode Island nightclub. And for what? To hear Great White, a one-trick hair-metal band most famous for covering an old Ian Hunter tune nearly 20 years ago.

    Great White itself lost a guitarist in the fire, but even that personal tragedy didn't prompt anyone in the band to hock his gear, go away and contemplate his infamy. Instead, Great White hired a new guitarist and went back on the road, in part to raise money for the injured and aggrieved. (The show goes on tonight at the Elixir Nightclub in Rockford, Ill.)

    A few weeks after the Great White tragedy, the Dixie Chicks got an expensive lesson in free speech: The gals got skewered on TV, censored on radio and bombarded with death threats for saying they were ashamed to be from the same state as our president. They were double-damned for saying it in London -- on "fer'n soil," in other words (as if, in these days of 24-hour cable TV news cycles, they'd have gotten away with it).

    Rock 'n' roll being the politically irrelevant culture it is these days, none of the Chicks' peers came immediately to their defense. Even the Immaterial Girl, Madonna, showed she's not above some self-serving cowardice by censoring her own anti-war video, afraid it would get her, as she put it, "Dixie Chicked."

    Madonna then fortified her irrelevance by engaging in some licky-face on MTV and launching a career as an author of children's books about rich children. Mrs. Ritchie: Just get back in the limo and go away.

    The Chicks survived their brush with infamy, conducting one of the most successful concert tours of the year and generally winning amnesty or forgiveness for their comment, even in country radio. Mission accomplished, I suppose.

    The rest of the year was a tale of loss and grief. The R.I.P. list for the past 12 months has been long and legendary: Joe Strummer, Nina Simone, June Carter Cash, Sam Phillips, Warren Zevon, Johnny Cash, Celia Cruz and then Elliott Smith, who was so up to his adenoids in misery that he stabbed himself to death.

    That one was a ghastly waste. The others were profound reminders of how few pioneers and visionaries there are in music. These days, instead of June and Johnny and the rest, we settle for Tim and Faith, Fred Durst, the Neptunes, Justin Timberlake (the new "King of Pop," says Rolling Stone), "American Idol" dolls and Norah Jones.

    Over the past decade, hip-hop has been the laboratory and the fashion runway for many trends in music. But rap is so baked and played these days that its reigning heavyweight champ, Jay-Z, told Time magazine he was leaving the game because he's bored with it. "Time to focus on other things," he said.

    This inertia has more to do with the age of rock and popular music than with Clear Channel consolidation, file-sharing or major-label hegemony. Rock is a primal music medium that is more than 50 years old. In those five-plus decades, pretty much everything has been built, road-tested, driven hard and modified at least once already. Anything "new" these days has been done before.

    Since the big techno-scare of the mid-'90s (re: Prodigy) and the more recent rap-metal rampage, popular music has evolved into more of a utility or a commodity than a forum for experiments, invention and cultural clashes.

    Trying to "discover" something new in pop music is like trying to reinvent laundry detergent or toilet paper. Everything we need is already out there. Thus, we're led to believe in fake discoveries, like Joss Stone, a 16-year-old Brit who has exhumed the sounds of old-school soul (the way 13-year-old LeAnn Rimes once channeled Patsy Cline); or in other unfortunate diversions, like Rod Stewart, Cyndi Lauper and others covering pop and jazz standards (and not very well).

    That's the bad news. The good news: Our sense of fashion has been irrevocably changed, for the better. Popular music appears to be on its way down the same route as jazz or even classical music. Nothing is especially in or out, and every flavor or era is fair game, whether it's garage rock, progressive rock, country-rock, alt-country, bluegrass, pop-punk, punk-metal, dance-pop, British/electro-pop, British Invasion pop, synth-pop, rap-rock, heavy metal, emo/screamo, thrashcore, gangsta rap, underground rap.

    Ten years ago, the White Stripes or the Strokes would have died of malnourishment, indifference or embarrassment. Now they're on Mainstream Rock radio alongside fellow revivalists like Jet and Good Charlotte.

    And, as in jazz, rock's standards and standard-bearers will always be covered and respected, whether it's the Beatles, the Velvet Underground, the Byrds, AC/DC, the Clash, Prince, Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy...

    Some anecdotal proof: The year's best music DVD (and one of its best-selling), hands down, was "Led Zeppelin," which documents live shows from 1969-75. Here's a little more. The year's top-grossing tours: Rolling Stones ($299 million), Bruce Springsteen ($181 million), Cher ($76 million) and Fleetwood Mac ($70 million). Also in the top 10: Aerosmith/Kiss and Elton John/Billy Joel.

    Musically, the year 2003 was a lot like its recent predecessors: lots of very good albums, not too many great ones. But even the best ones sounded like refashioned old music. On the year's most ambitious and acclaimed album, OutKast name-checks several generations of black-music stars and pioneers: Prince; Prince Paul; George Clinton; Earth, Wind & Fire; Barry White (oh, yeah; he died, too).

    "Speakerboxx/The Love Below" stands out less for its musical ingenuity than for its extravagant cartoonish virtues: its humor, its sexuality, its wry but generally positive messages on love, romance, sex, God (she's a woman), sociology and politics.

    My other "best" pick in the rap/hip-hop category is "Talkin' Honky Blues" by a loner/misfit from Halifax, Nova Scotia, called Buck 65, who sets his narrative Southern-gothic rhymes to a combination of live country riffs and stripped-down, old-school beats (think of very early Beck).

    Even better, he writes like he has devoured the early works of Dylan, Springsteen and Lucinda Williams and raps like Tom Waits without the Lucky Strike habit. Maybe Jay-Z is leaving the game too soon. Buck 65 and OutKast's Andre and Big Boi have shown that a few new twists remain in "urban" music.

    It's a different world in rock.

    Modern rock -- the most commercially successful genre -- is a downpour of calloused cliches and recycled riffs. Staind, Trapt, 3 Doors Down, Nickelback, Godsmack: They differ from one other like cans of succotash on a grocer's shelf.

    The latest fad, the garage-rock thing, is a Puddle of Amok. Too many bands are doing it, and most sound like they don't mean it or get it. A few sound like they were bred for it. I liked the Kings of Leon's "Youth and Young Manhood," not because some critics labeled them the "Lynyrd Skynyrd version of the Strokes" (huh?) or because they're sons of a nomadic Southern evangelist who listened to Molly Hatchet.

    I liked it because the Kings write tight melodic songs with heavy riffs, and four months after it came out I can still put "Manhood" on and not forget it's playing.

    But, like a lot of this year's contenders, "Manhood" bears a sound that feels like last week. Or last year. Or two decades ago. "Everybody sounds like somebody," says my favorite record store owner. And it's slightly more complicated than that. "What's Travis sound like?" I was asked. "Like Coldplay, who sounds like Radiohead, who used to sound like U2..." The recycling cycle is getting tighter.

    The most fantastic example of grave-digging and archival theft is British Sea Power's "The Decline of British Sea Power," in which the band sledgehammers shards of Bowie and Queen onto chunks and planks of '80s Brit-rock (Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs). The effect: a loud, melodic and bombastic neo-classic wall of sound that is reportedly only slightly less audacious than the band's stage show.

    The best news about music in 2003 is the music around here, in Lawrence and Kansas City. In many places, the local scene is flourishing, especially in underground hip-hop, which is being moved and shaken by skilled artists like Approach, Josh Powers, Deep Thinkers and the brilliant Joc Maxx; and among the avant-instrumental bands, like the T.J. Dovebelly Ensemble, Sky Burial, Mr. Marcos V-7 and the Malachy Papers. Therein lies the engine, the furnace, the hard-drive of the local music scene.

    The other scenes offer something more traditional for everyone. Indie pop: the Belles and the New Amsterdams; indie rock: the People, Conner and Doris Benson; heavy rock; the Life and Times, Dirtnap; country: Mike Ireland and Holler, Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys; singer/songwriters: Howard Iceberg and Bob Walkenhorst; country blues: the Kemps and the Wilders.

    Then there's the unrepentant Curtis Anderson and his band of long-haired, bald-faced rockers, the Baloney Ponyz, who are as devout about their music as they are devoid of fad and fashion.

    Like everything else, the "Baloney Ponyz" album sounds like something familiar (the bridge between Poison and Black Crowes). But if you know Anderson, one of the true enthusiasts on the local scene, you know this is the music he has loved more than any other, no matter (and in spite of) what everyone else thinks of it.

    There's something honest and appealing about long-term loyalty like that -- fidelity that ignores elitist fashions and hipster-doofus critiques. It speaks to music's bone-deep emotional bond and its connections to our lives -- to time and place and events, to memory and meaning.

    It also explains a few small mysteries: why the Stones can make almost $1 million a day on tour; why so many people bought "Let It Be -- Naked"; why Cher still hasn't said "Farewell" officially; why Rancid still idolizes the Clash; and why so many people piled into that small nightclub on a wintry night in Rhode Island.


    jc
    "Ahh, cartoons! America's only native art form. I don't count jazz 'cuz it sucks"- Bartholomew J. Simpson

  2. #2
    Close 'n PlayŽ user Troy's Avatar
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    Great article! It's all so true . . .

    I think what I like the most is that comment that "there are a lot of good albums from the last few years, but very few great ones". It HAS all been done before.

  3. #3
    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Troy
    I think what I like the most is that comment that "there are a lot of good albums from the last few years, but very few great ones". It HAS all been done before.
    What appealed to me in that comment was the notion that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Now all genres are wide open and anything is fair game. Open to revival and/or reinterpretation is hardly a death sentence for rock. My knowledge of music is extremely limited but one of the things that has always fascinated me is that I don't believe that it has all been done nor do I think it can be. That it hasn't happened yet means nothing to me except that it hasn't happened yet. Maybe not the right people with the right ideas or perhaps it's more of a timing issue. I continue to hold out hope that it's never going to be 'done'. I think in the end human creativity and inventivness will win out. Now whether or not I like either the process or end product remains to be seen.

    I don't know whether or not anyone followed the thread in the general forum where Smokey pronounces that rap is vibrant at the expense of rock and others claim that no talent exists today in the world of rock music. I find this article helps dispute the notion that rap is necessarily leading the way in creativity, which most of us knew anyway. Not a slam on rap since commercially it still seems to be going strong as my children's birthday and Christmas gifts can attest to but that it seems to be recycling ALREADY doesn't surprise me at all.

    Regards,
    jc
    "Ahh, cartoons! America's only native art form. I don't count jazz 'cuz it sucks"- Bartholomew J. Simpson

  4. #4
    Toon Robber tentoze's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Clark
    What appealed to me in that comment was the notion that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Now all genres are wide open and anything is fair game. Open to revival and/or reinterpretation is hardly a death sentence for rock...
    Regards,
    jc
    I tend to agree- except for mass-market limitations imposed by the 3 (?, or so) major labels, foisting off mostly CRAP on the general public.

    For those who are willing to look for it, the variety of good, and often GREAT music, across a wide range of genres, is actually increased, IMO, (despite the mega-corporate spewage) thanks to all this new-fangled digital technology. A lot more creative folks have the ability to get their stuff out to the (sometimes small) world, and potentially find an audience.
    ----Never Off Topic, Never Rude-----

  5. #5
    Toon Robber tentoze's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tentoze
    I tend to agree- except for mass-market limitations imposed by the 3 (?, or so) major labels, foisting off mostly CRAP on the general public.

    For those who are willing to look for it, the variety of good, and often GREAT music, across a wide range of genres, is actually increased, IMO, (despite the mega-corporate spewage) thanks to all this new-fangled digital technology. A lot more creative folks have the ability to get their stuff out to the (sometimes small) world, and potentially find an audience.
    One other quick comment- I did take exception to the jab at Decline of British Seapower.......

    ----Never Off Topic, Never Rude-----

  6. #6
    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tentoze
    One other quick comment- I did take exception to the jab at Decline of British Seapower.......

    On the plus side that album did make a bunch of the lists that followed the article.

    jc
    "Ahh, cartoons! America's only native art form. I don't count jazz 'cuz it sucks"- Bartholomew J. Simpson

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    Quote Originally Posted by tentoze
    One other quick comment- I did take exception to the jab at Decline of British Seapower.......

    I'm not sure it was really intended to be a hard jab, more like a demo of what he was trying to get across. Fantastic, neo-classic and audacious can all be good things, right?


  8. #8
    Dubgazer -Jar-'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davey.
    I'm not sure it was really intended to be a hard jab, more like a demo of what he was trying to get across. Fantastic, neo-classic and audacious can all be good things, right?

    I didn't think it was a jab either.

    If being afraid is a crime we'll hang side-by-side,
    at the swingin' party down the line..


    The Replacements

  9. #9
    Toon Robber tentoze's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by -Jar-
    I didn't think it was a jab either.

    The most fantastic example of grave-digging and archival theft is British Sea Power's "The Decline of British Sea Power," in which the band sledgehammers shards of Bowie and Queen onto chunks and planks of '80s Brit-rock (Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs). The effect: a loud, melodic and bombastic neo-classic wall of sound that is reportedly only slightly less audacious than the band's stage show.



    I didn't read it as a total slam, but "grave-digging and archival theft" have never reflected positive connotations in my neck of the woods.................

    ----Never Off Topic, Never Rude-----

  10. #10
    Toon Robber tentoze's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Clark
    On the plus side that album did make a bunch of the lists that followed the article.

    jc
    The best thing about lists is that, in the final analysis, mine is the only one that matters when I turn my stereo on.................

    ----Never Off Topic, Never Rude-----

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    Quote Originally Posted by tentoze
    I didn't read it as a total slam, but "grave-digging and archival theft" have never reflected positive connotations in my neck of the woods.................
    Picky, picky, picky. Hey, they didn't even get a mention in the Pitchfork top 50 of the year, along with my new fave Okkervil River and some of the others I really like. Guess my gray hair is getting worse than I thought

    Heehee, did I ever mention that when I went in to get a Arizona driver's license I filled out the form with all the usuals, brown eyes, brown hair, 6'0", 170, etc and the lady behind the counter asked me, rather undiplomatically I might add, if I wanted the license to say brown hair or gray hair, and I said, well, I still kind of think of myself as being brown-haired, but what do you think, and she said that it might be better to go with gray. Bitch. So we went with gray. But it is still brown. I think maybe she was confused by the lighting.......

  12. #12
    Crackhead Extraordinaire Dusty Chalk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tentoze
    I didn't read it as a total slam, but "grave-digging and archival theft" have never reflected positive connotations in my neck of the woods.................
    All music is "grave-digging and archival theft", there is nothing new under the sun. It's just a matter of putting things together in new and interesting ways.

    For example, who would not want to hear industrial shoegazer? Or prog disco? Or rap country? Aye keed, aye keed.

    The fact that he quotes Bowie and Queen actually makes the band sound appealing to me.
    Eschew fascism.
    Truth Will Out.
    Quote Originally Posted by stevef22
    you guys are crackheads.
    I remain,
    Peter aka Dusty Chalk

  13. #13
    Toon Robber tentoze's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dusty Chalk
    All music is "grave-digging and archival theft", there is nothing new under the sun. It's just a matter of putting things together in new and interesting ways.

    For example, who would not want to hear industrial shoegazer? Or prog disco? Or rap country? Aye keed, aye keed.

    The fact that he quotes Bowie and Queen actually makes the band sound appealing to me.
    Good- then go it it and listen to it. The reference, in context, was disparaging, IMO. The external impulses that drive us to listen or not listen to this or that are normally fairly personal, in my limited experience. Was the only point I was trying to make, if any.
    ----Never Off Topic, Never Rude-----

  14. #14
    Close 'n PlayŽ user Troy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tentoze
    The reference, in context, was disparaging, IMO.
    Yes, it was disparaging, but I saw it as disparaging to the state of rock music in general and not any specific band.

  15. #15
    Crackhead Extraordinaire Dusty Chalk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Davey.
    Heehee, did I ever mention that when I went in to get a Arizona driver's license I filled out the form with all the usuals, brown eyes, brown hair, 6'0", 170, etc and the lady behind the counter asked me, rather undiplomatically I might add, if I wanted the license to say brown hair or gray hair, and I said, well, I still kind of think of myself as being brown-haired, but what do you think, and she said that it might be better to go with gray. Bitch. So we went with gray. But it is still brown. I think maybe she was confused by the lighting.......
    I feel for you -- for the first time in my life starting this year, I have the "glasses" restriction on mine.
    Eschew fascism.
    Truth Will Out.
    Quote Originally Posted by stevef22
    you guys are crackheads.
    I remain,
    Peter aka Dusty Chalk

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