Wednesday, April 20, 2011

98 The Hard Way: Rock Week Part 4 - 'Beautiful garbage, beautiful dresses'

So, thanks to a persistent sinus infection that made concentrating on writing and posting difficult plus a full work schedule, ROCK WEEK lasted a few days longer than I had initially anticipated. So here be the final sections of that so as to get it done with and move on to bigger, brighter things in the re-listening of all my borderline 4 star albums. Enjoy.

Eve 6 “Inside Out”
The Nostalgia Factor: Pretty high. The fact that the band was barely older than I was at this point in time and were all over the place weighed pretty heavily in the song's favor. [8]
If I'd Only Just Heard It Today: The whole 'band being not much older than I was' thing would turn into a detriment pretty quickly. [4]

Yeah, it's obvious now that these lyrics are nothing more than a high school kid trying to write something deep. It's almost laughable how badly this has aged on that front, but otherwise it's still a decent if fairly faceless slab of pop-punk of that distinctly late 90s/early 00s variety. It's definitely easy to see why it caught on though, because even if the lyrics are utter shit the melody is incredibly catchy, so catchy that occasionally I find it distracting me from the lyrics. That's as good a quality as you can expect this to have, honestly.

Fuel “Shimmer”
The Nostalgia Factor: Moderate. Another one that I remember fairly well but can't say for sure whether or not I had any strong reaction to. [5]
If I'd Only Just Heard It Today: I'd know in my heart that this was extreme middle of the road post-grunge...but I'd still like it more than most things on this list. [7]

Look, I can't not give this an inflated grade. Three reasons: 1. Cellos. I'm not immune to well-deployed cello even in the most faceless of circumstances. 2. Knowing where the band went hereafter I appreciate the restraint on display. 3. The fucking cello. I'M ONLY HUMAN GODDAMMIT! LET ME HAVE MY FAULTS!

Barenaked Ladies “One Week”
The Nostalgia Factor: High. I loved this song when it first came out, probably for all the reasons I'll go into below for hating it because... [9]
If I'd Only Just Heard It Today: HATE. HATE. HATE. HATE. HATE. HATE. [2]

Oh dear...well let's just get it done with; I hate this song. Hate hate hate this song. I hate it not because it's a novelty but because it holds that novelty up like it's something to be congratulated for. I hate it because it thinks it's clever when all it's really doing is making pop culture references. I hate it because the verses have no logical connection to the rest of the song on a lyrical level. I hate it because it's still inescapable 13 years later when you'd have thought that the 'lol white nerds trying to rap!' thing would have aged as well as a piece of gouda that you left out on the counter for 13 years. I hate it because 90% of the time when people say they hate BNL it's because of this song and this song only. I hate that this was the song that broke the band in a big way when Stunt has, by my count, twelve infinitely better songs. But most of all, I hate the fact that I can still sing along to every. God. Damned. Word of it like some sort of involuntary reflex.

Watchmen “Any Day Now”
The Nostalgia Factor: Mild. I had much stronger feelings for “Stereo,” their previous single, because it actually rocked the fuck out. [5]
If I'd Only Just Heard It Today: It might be a revelation on a small scale. [8]

The key difference between the two Watchmen singles form this era is as simple as this: one actively strives for some sort of anthemic quality while one effortlessly achieves it. The key to why “Any Day Now” works much more easily than its counterpart comes down to the fact that Daniel Greaves' vocals are much, much better suited to the band's less rocking songs. On their rockers Greaves has to stretch his voice to fit in with the surroundings, but on songs like this he glides in effortlessly and gives the song an added depth that can't really be summed up in words.

Smashing Pumpkins “Perfect”
The Nostalgia Factor: Moderate. I wasn't as vehemently against it as I was with “Ava Adore” but I still just thought it was an inferior retread of “1979.” [5]
If I'd Only Just Heard It Today: Actually, 'inferior retread of “1979”' still sounds about right. [5]

It's weird that despite my new found appreciation for Adore as a whole the singles that were chosen for it still ring a bit hollow to me. I understand why they were chosen, but that doesn't stop them from being among the lesser lights of the album. This especially feels very much like a barely disguised sttempt to repeat the success of “1979” only replacing the manufactured nostalgia with swooning romanticism and maybe adding a bit more of an electronic vibe if only to remind people that the band isn't the same as they were a few years prior. It's perfectly serviceable but also inherently forgettable.

Beastie Boys “Intergalactic”
The Nostalgia Factor: This would have been my first exposure to the B-Boys – I missed the whole “Sabotage” thing by a year or so and was still 2 years from discovering Licensed to Ill – so I'm pretty sure I loved the shit out of it. [8]
If I'd Only Just Heard It Today: Beastie Boys are one of those bands that I can't appreciate that much now that I'm not a teenager. Sorry. [4]

Even in their more mature albums there's still a great deal of inherent immaturity to the Beastie Boys' songs. Maybe it's that on some level I will ever not see them as the same guys who made stuff like “Fight for Your Right to Party” or “Girls,” but I find it hard to really relate to any of their stuffas anything but some soret of tossed off juvenile lark. Maybe there are a few exceptions to this along the way, but “Intergalactic” certainly isn't one of them. Despite some interesting things on the production side of things – that pitch-shifted 'another dimension' loop single-handedly justifies the song's existence – it's still just another in a long line of Beastie Boys songs that don't connect on any level.

Creed “What's This Life For”
The Nostalgia Factor: I hated it. I couldn't tell you why I hated it but I distinctly remember finding it utterly insufferable. [3]
If I'd Only Just Heard It Today: Urge to kill...rising....rising...[2]

It's far too easy to hate Creed. They're just a trainwreck of all the worst traits of post-grunge – the Vedder wannabe baritone, the predisposition to maudlin ballads, the lack of interesting instrumental choices – but a trainwreck that isn't even compelling to analyze beyond the fact that it's a fucking trainwreck. It's impossible to analyze where things went wrong because it was all wrong from the start. And that's before you get to Jesus-pose purveyor Scott Stapp and his incredible lack of subtlety on either a lyrical or a vocal's a misbegotten venture that only yielded pain for all involved.

Everything “Hooch”
The Nostalgia Factor: High. It very much sounds like the summer of 1998 as though that sort of thing could be bottled into a 4 minute song. [8]
If I'd Only Just Heard It Today: It would still sound distinctly like summer, and that sort of vibe really works for me. [8]

Any song that can be summed up as 'summery' will get an automatic pass from me. I'm not even a huge fan of the season itself – autumn's more my thing all told – but if a song can put me in that sort of mind state it usually winds up being a favorite. “Hooch” could be a failure, an amalgam of all the things that I hated about Dave Matthews Band and their HORDE counterparts, but the fact that those opening chords automatically make it seem like its 21 degrees Celsius and I'm lounging around a hastily assembled campfire with a few empty bottles around me, one more on the go and my friends nearby in similar states of contentment. That's saying a lot of the song because those aren't exactly specific memories I associate with it, but ones that come to mind when I think of summer. It's all in the weird connections my mind makes, but that doesn't diminish the song's quality at all.

Big Sugar “The Scene”
The Nostalgia Factor: Moderate/High. I think Big Sugar were one of the few classic-rock-indebted bands I dug even a bit in my younger days, mostly because the swagger was at the forefront. [7]
If I'd Only Just Heard It Today: I'm still not immune to the swagger, though I find it a bit stilted nowadays in this context. [7]

In some ways you could argue that Big Sugar were pretty much the mainstream version of something like Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, taking most of their cues from old school blues rock but updating key parts of that ethos to reach their intended audience. In Big Sugar's case those updates are at once less invasive and more distracting, since on a sonic level this doesn't sound like it could be from any time except the late 90s but in terms of style it's decidedly trowback-y in its Stones at their most blues-indebted tone. It works far better here than in a lot of other Big Sugar singles though, and like I said earlier, the swagger is irresistible even when the lyrics hedge decidedly towards the nonsensical. Plus it's got those bad ass guitar solos to elevate it, and I'm nothing if not a sucker for a badass guitar solo.

Korn “Got the Life”
The Nostalgia Factor: The fights I got into with my mom trying to convince her that there wasn't a problem with me owning Follow the Leader...yeah, says it all right there. [8]
If I'd Only Just Heard It Today: I'd be surprised at how well it holds up to be honest. It's easy to see how this would break the band in a way that their previous singles didn't, and I'm perfectly OK with that despite my lukewarm stance on the band as a whole. [8]

This would probably be ground zero for the shift in alternative rock radio that occurred at this point in time, the shift from post-grunge to nu-metal that marked a notable downturn in overall quality for the format as a whole. If only the subsequent deluge had even a fraction of the quality present here...I really wish I could just dismiss this as not only the cause of the most problematic of nu metal's crossover material but as part of it but I just can't. This is a massive, massive track, wedding elements that should not work together – a disco beat, a Mr. Bungle bass line, chaotic yet precise guitars, Davis' usual raging vocal – into a fully functional whole that I could understand causing the shift I'd probably spend the better part of next year's overview raging against. Yeah, it's good enough that I can forgive it for letting Fred Durst become a superstar, that's the type of thing we're dealing with here.

Hole “Celebrity Skin”
The Nostalgia Factor: Moderate. I seem to recall thinking it felt a bit incomplete, almost like it was missing a verse at the end or something...other than that I can't remember finding it too good or bad overall. [5]
If I'd Only Just Heard It Today: I'd be shocked at how much better Hole worked as a pop-rock band than they ever did as a grunge one. [7]

Minority opinion here, but I honestly think that Hole were a much better band when they finally decided to stop trying to be even remotely punk influenced. Both of their previous outings were third tier efforts in their respective sub-subgenres, but Celebrity Skin, while not exactly earth-shatteringly great or anything, was a damned good slice of straightforward pop-rock. The title track is pretty much emblematic of all the things that this version of Hole got right, trading in their rough edges for a more glammed up sound, concealing the bitterness with an excess of melodicism and masking world-weary resentment of the star lifestyle with angelic harmonies – a department where new recruit Melissa Auf der Maur proves her mettle admirably. The layers that the band's sonic makeover adds to the process really gives the material here the sort of staying power that even their previous best material could only dream of achieving.

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