>A Few Words On Radiohead

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“We all have problems. Doesn’t mean you have to be a little crybaby about it.” – Thom Yorke on South Park

Sitting in Bennigan’s with my family the other night, I heard a familiar song creeping out of the restaurant’s speaker system – or, more specifically, a sweet ringing 90’s-filtered guitar solo that I instantly recognized. Well, almost instantly; for a split-second I thought it was some U2 song I had long forgotten about. But then it hit me: “Radiohead!” I exclaimed, taking my mom by surprise. “‘High and Dry!’ Oh man, I haven’t heard this song in years!” Of course my mom had no idea what the hell I was talking about and went back to eating her fried banana caramel sundae (can’t blame her, that stuff’s good). But since that night, I’ve had Radiohead on the brain.

Hearing “High and Dry” on the radio, unfortunately, forced me to realize that I’ve barely listened to Radiohead for the past couple years; even when their commendable comeback In Rainbows was released last fall I only gave it a few listens. It’s a shame, because I can say without hesitation that at one point in my life Radiohead were a very important band to me. Back in my senior year of high school, during my obsessive Zeppelin/Doors/Floyd classic rock phase, Radiohead proved to me the true power of modern rock music. Hearing OK Computer was a revelation; here was a 90’s band making swirling, textural alternative rock that moved me just as much as any Pink Floyd album if not more so. And The Bends, while maybe not a revelation, was a great slice of alt-rock heaven, proving to me that Radiohead didn’t have to be murky and sinister to be great – they could write pop songs too. Considering that at this point I had (foolishly) shunned most music past 1977, Radiohead brought me crashing head-first back into the decade I had grown up in.

So why have I been avoiding them all these years? Well, I could say that I simply “grew out” of them, or I could go the easy way out and claim that their Kid A phase was just too weird for me (as many other OK Computer diehards have claimed). But in truth my rejection of Radiohead is the unfortunate result of a “been there, done that” attitude I tend to have toward bands I loved in my formative teenage years (Weezer and even U2 are other notable victims) – I have this notion in my head that, as I grow older, I need to “mature” my taste to accommodate hipper, more underappreciated bands. As such my former love of Radiohead has been soundly usurped by the likes of Pavement, the Flaming Lips, Ween, and countless others; the more I listen to other bands, the less I listen to Radiohead. The fact that the British and American music press tends to pin them with the “Greatest Band Ever” label every chance they get (second place: the “Voice of a Generation” label) doesn’t help; the fact that they’re the choice “progressive” band for Sublime-loving frat boys only makes matters worse. Beyond all that, my tastes have shifted considerably since high school – recently I’ve been placing a lot of value in simple, catchy rock ‘n roll, and Radiohead has no aspirations to deliver that sort of thing. They’re a low-key, moody, electronically-focused band now, and as such I haven’t found myself in a Radiohead mood much at all in a while.

But when it comes down to it, that’s all petty foolishness. Radiohead are a fine band. While I wouldn’t call them the “Greatest Band Ever,” I can’t blame them for that label because I don’t think they want that label – Kid A and Amnesiac are proof positive of that. To me, Radiohead is a band that’s doing things the way they want to, and despite a number of bizarre, gutsy experiments, they’ve been able to maintain commercial success and critical respect – something I greatly admire them for. For the past few days I’ve been listening through every Radiohead album I’ve got (I have them all except for Pablo Honey; I’m no completist) and for the most part they all still sound good to me. The two big standouts for me now, however, are Kid A and Hail To The Thief; while OK Computer will always remain my personal favorite, the more I dig into Radiohead’s post-Computer experiments the more they appeal to me. Kid A was always a tough one for me, and I wasn’t the only one (Nick Hornby even compared it to Metal Machine Music upon its release, which seems kind of silly to me now); with Kid A I felt like I was a kid dipping his feet into cold pool water over and over, getting further and further into the cold with each step until I was able to dive in and swim around comfortably. Now that I’ve been neck-deep in the cold electronics of Kid A for a while now, it sounds to me like Radiohead’s most fully realized statement; while I can never embrace it like their 90’s work, I can appreciate it as a classic of textural mood and frightening electronic murk. Hail To The Thief, which took their experimental flourishes and married them with rock ‘n roll explosions, served as a wonderful release after the calculation of Amnesiac – and it sounds even more creative to me now, making The Bends almost look conservative. Now that they’ve got In Rainbows out and the world is in their pocket once again, I’m hoping that Radiohead will continue to do what they’re best at: experiment, experiment, and experiment more until their audience gets the picture. And I don’t doubt they will.

Here are a handful of my favorite Radiohead tracks, a mixture of old favorites and other songs that have jumped out at me during the past few days:

“High And Dry,” off The Bends
Maybe the sweetest, purest pop song Radiohead would ever record. With a loving Thom Yorke vocal and that great little Jonny Greenwood guitar solo during the bridge, this is a song to be cherished – mostly ’cause they’ll probably never write one like this ever again.

“Sulk,” off The Bends
An old favorite of mine, one that used to be a hot contender for my favorite Radiohead song. It doesn’t sound quite as peerless to me now, but it still moves me in a way. A swirling, propulsive epic that deserves more recognition.

“Let Down,” off OK Computer
In an album full of technological paranoia anthems like “Karma Police” and nihilistic dramatizations like “Exit Music (For a Film),” “Let Down” was an unusually graceful ode to feeling “hysterical and useless.” While most of OK Computer explored the crushing effects of the digital age, “Let Down” makes that crushing feeling purely personal, with its inimitable chorus “Let down and hanging around / crushed like a bug in the ground.” Besides “No Surprises,” it’s a decent candidate for the prettiest song Radiohead ever recorded.

“The National Anthem,” off Kid A
The most bizarrely danceable song I’ve ever heard. Dig that bassline, that looping electronica, that frightening vocal, that two-note horn solo, and that fierce multi-instrumental explosion near the end. Along with “Idioteque,” you can either let it mush you into depression or dance to the hypnotic rhythm. Call it a “National Anthem” for alienation.

“How To Disappear Completely,” off Kid A
This one jumped out at me just recently. When Yorke sings “I’m not here / this isn’t happening,” it’s hard not to feel like shit.

“Life In A Glass House,” off Amnesiac
Awash with horns, piano, and a beat that’s hard to pin down, this song builds and explodes better than any other on Amnesiac. Anyone who considers Radiohead’s embrace of electronica to be some kind of amusical sludge should check this one out.

“A Wolf At The Door (It Girl. Rag Doll.),” off Hail To The Thief
It starts off as a twisted take on the Beatles’ “Because,” leading into a series of bizarre verses featuring Thom Yorke speak-singing lines like “Get the eggs / Get the flan in the face / The flan in the face / The flan in the face / Dance you fucker / dance you fucker / Don’t you dare / Don’t you dare / Don’t you flan in the face.” And the chorus, one of Radiohead’s best ever, features a set of wonderfully paranoid lyrics: “I keep the wolf from the door, but he calls me up / Calls me on the phone, tells me all the ways that he’s gonna mess me up / Steal all my children if I don’t pay the ransom / And I’ll never see them again if I squeal to the cops.” Maybe Radiohead’s best album closer ever.

“Weird Fishes/Arpeggi,” off In Rainbows
In Rainbows works best for me when it exploits quiet beauty and builds slowly, and “Weird Fishes” is the perfect example of this. A shimmering guitar line, a cool electronic drumbeat, and Thom Yorke’s newly graceful vocals make this one my personal favorite on the album, and it only grows more and more hypnotic as the song continues. The aural equivalent to swimming in the ocean at night – if this is the future of Radiohead, sign me up.

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>Good Time Rock ‘n Roll

>Rock ‘n roll! Pop rock! Power pop! Garage rock! All-out skuzz-rawk! The fleezie sheezies! Swamp-jazz! The Loosie Goosie! The Raspberries!

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Good ‘ol straight-forward pop-rock. We all love it. And we all miss it, ’cause it h’aint been popular for years. Yeah, we’ve got the Strokes and the Hives and all those garage-revival bumpkins, but what have they done in the past five years? Not that damned much. And I know you’re shouting “WHAT ABOUT THE WHITE STRIPES YOU DUMB SHIT!!” but they’re into all that blues stuff. Plus they don’t care about pop music. Let’s not worry about them. (And if you’re saying “Jet” instead of “The White Stripes” then… man, come on.)

No, let’s look to the past. We could talk about the usual suspects – Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Yardbirds, Kingsmen, any of those ’60s fuckers. But man, we’ve talked about them enough, haven’t we? Why don’t we talk about the 70’s and 80’s, a time when pop-rock was old-fashioned for a while until New Wave decided to make it fashionable all over again (with synths added, mind you). Here are a few of my favorite pop-rock albums from ’75-’85 that I feel everybody should check out.

The Flamin’ Groovies – Shake Some Action

The Flamin’ Groovies were unapologetic British Invasion revivalists. Not only did they dress like ’60s mods, and not only were their album jackets homages to the Who and the Stones, but their songs all sounded as if they were ripped straight from 1965. And considering that this album was recorded in 1976, in the midst of an era dominated by prog-rock space jammers and Peter Frampton, that’s no small feat.

But while some songs do sound a bit derivative of the greats (“Yes It’s True” will always echo the Beatles’ “All I’ve Gotta Do” for me), almost all of them are fantastic, bringing Swinging London to life without simply aping the era for novelty. Besides the classic title track, you’ve got the psych-baroque “I Saw Her” and “I’ll Cry Alone,” the rockin’ “Please Please Girl” and “Let The Boy Rock ‘n Roll,” the jangle-poppy “I Can’t Hide,” the downright Beatles-worthy “Sometimes,” and my personal favorite “You Tore Me Down.” There’s also a bunch of authentic covers perfectly reminiscent of their time, such as “St. Louis Blues,” Chuck Berry’s “Don’t You Lie To Me,” the Stones’ “She Said Yeah” and a spunky take on the Beatles’ “Misery.” Shake Some Action, despite being recorded over a decade later, stands strong when stacked against the 60’s best.

The Plimsouls – The Plimsouls

While the Plimsouls were popular during the New Wave era (late 70’s/early 80’s), they were much more of a straight-up rock ‘n roll band than the likes of Cheap Trick or the Cars. And while their studio albums were a little too slick and tame-sounding in comparison to their live show (and by extension their live album One Night In America), they still recorded some great rock ‘n roll singles back in the day. My personal favorite Plimsouls LP is their first self-titled album, a collection of kickin’ rock tunes that still sound fresh today.

The Plimsouls seem to give off kind of a Stonesy vibe, with lead singer/songwriter Peter Case’s voice sounding vaguely Jaggeresque, but their sound is decidedly less blues-influenced. My personal favorites of theirs are the opener “Lost Time,” the hits “Zero Hour” and “Hush Hush,” the silly dance-groove “Mini-Skirt Minnie,” and the transcendent “Nickels and Dimes” and “Everyday Things.” Unlike the Groovies, you’re not going to find any ballads or blues covers here – just perky, clean, straightforward rock fun. The Plimsouls is a little hard to find nowadays, but the CD Plimsouls Plus collects not only this album but their Zero Hour EP which is practically just as good.

The Rattlers – Rattled!

Fronted by Joey Ramone’s brother Mickey Leigh, The Rattlers were an unfortunately short-lived pop-rock band that once sported legendary rock critic Lester Bangs as their frontman before his untimely death in 1982. After that, Leigh took singing and songwriting duties and recorded Rattled!, released in 1985. While some may think that Leigh was simply living in the shadow of his brother, that couldn’t be further from the truth; for one, the Rattlers sound little to nothing like the Ramones, preferring a sweet pop-rock New Wave sound over the Ramones’ aggressive metal-punk. What they DO share with the Ramones is their love of 60’s pop (hell, the Ramones were just a distorted pop band when it comes down to it) and by extension a love for garage-punk and sweet melody.

While Leigh’s compositions are pretty much all great, with the charging opener “I Won’t Be Your Victim,” the fun “For Johnny’s Entertainment” and singles “What Keeps Your Heart Beatin’?” and the “My Generation”-esque “Pure and Simple,” my personal favorites here are the covers. “I’m In Love With My Walls,” while not technically a cover (the music was written by Leigh), features lyrics from the late Lester Bangs, whose manic nature seeps into the song. Then there’s a cover of the Amen Corner’s “(Paradise Is) Half As Nice,” a cute 60’s pop ballad sung with wholehearted conviction by Leigh. But my favorite would have to be “Little Black Egg,” an obscure gem by the Nightcrawlers. With its jangly guitar riff and cute lyrics, it’s easily the sweetest song here, and one of the Rattlers’ purest pop songs. What’s cool about these covers is that they aren’t obscure for obscurity’s sake – the Rattlers clearly love these songs and play them straight-up without an ounce of irony, and their sincerity is refreshing to hear.

I’ve got plenty of other albums I could throw into the “good time rock ‘n roll” category that I haven’t put here. But hey! These albums are great. Great enough for you to put those Death Cab records away for a little while and rev up some kickin’ goodtime tunes. You won’t regret it.

>Album Review: "Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends" by Coldplay

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Viva la revolucion!!

I feel like once the dust settles and we all look back on this decade with the infinitely-useful advantage of hindsight, we will see Coldplay as the definitive band of the 2000s. Now, by “definitive” I don’t mean “best” or even “biggest” – to me, they just exemplify a generation of musicians that, despite every opportunity given to them, are incapable of progress. We’re living in a decade where it seems like almost every major innovation in rock ‘n roll happened light-years ago, where recognized revolutionaries like the Beatles, the Sex Pistols, and even Nirvana couldn’t feel any more distant. Coldplay, a band that has has somehow become the biggest rock band of the decade by delivering low-key rock determined to not step on a single person’s toes, exemplify this distance for me.

I used to think Coldplay were simply afraid of change, or at least apathetic towards it; X&Y, which was not only a shameless retread but a retread that took three damned years to record, proved that notion. But their newest album Viva La Vida makes me think that they just can’t do it; they will always be Coldplay, no matter what they do. They will always be a band designed for the 2000s, a calculated mixture of the hippest art bands (Kraftwerk, Joy Division, Roxy Music) and the hippest arena bands (Pink Floyd, U2, the Verve) mushed into a fine paste. Since the beginning of the decade they’ve served as a palatable alternative to more adventurous bands: if Radiohead’s Kid A was too cold, there was always Parachutes‘s inviting melancholy; if the Flaming Lips’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots was too spunky, there was always the quietly epic Rush of Blood to the Head; if the Arcade Fire’s Funeral was a bit too emotional for you, there was always the staid X&Y. And because they’re now the biggest rock band in the world, their dulling piano-driven mopefests have become the sound of the decade, one that’s been co-opted by bands both reputable (Keane, Snow Patrol) and flat-out obnoxious (James Blunt, Daniel Powter). Playing boring, vaguely-hooky rock music is now something that can fill stadiums, and it’s all thanks to Coldplay.

But maybe I’m being unfair. I don’t hate Coldplay – I’m indifferent towards them, to be sure, but they don’t inspire hatred (frustration, maybe, but not hatred). They aren’t terrible musicians by any stretch of the imagination; I don’t care for Parachutes or X&Y, but I’ll still swear by “Yellow” and almost all of Rush of Blood. Maybe it’s just nostalgia talking, but when it’s 2:30 in the morning and I need a good sad-sack piano ballad, I’ll put on “In My Place” or “Warning Sign” and dip effortlessly into sweet memory. Rush of Blood stands out to me because it seems like the one moment that Coldplay did it completely right – the songs are pleasant, melodic, and epic without overdoing things. X&Y twisted that formula and turned its pleasant qualities into obnoxious, silly misgivings; “Speed of Sound” and “Talk” were just derivative, and “Fix You” was just stupid. I know it’s fashionable nowadays to rip on X&Y, but in honesty it depressed me not just because it was a retread, but it sold so goddamn well and became such a huge hit that it was unavoidable. To me, it was an indication that rock ‘n roll had nowhere else to go.

Thankfully, Viva La Vida avoids that conceit. While in my eyes anything would be more interesting than X&Y, and while Coldplay will always sound like Coldplay no matter what they do, I will give them credit for at least trying to shake things up. Hiring Brian Eno to produce them, while a totally obvious move (not only has he produced their idols U2, but they’ve always been vaguely Eno-influenced in the past), is a good move because Eno is a good producer. He’s a guy that seems to understand sound and knows how to focus a band (hell, if he can do it for Paul Simon he can do it for Coldplay); not only that, but he has a knack at crafting soundscapes that are alluringly exotic yet melodic. Viva‘s opener “Life In Technicolor” exudes the Eno influences right from the get-go, featuring a mess of electronics that lead into a sweet instrumental piano echo. Even Eno’s flirtations with world music seep in here, such as on the swirling “Strawberry Swing” and the tribal “Lost!”. Coldplay’s also fudging around with structure – the album has a thematic unity missing from most of their previous works, opening and ending with an instrumental and featuring songs that complement each other with electronic allure (definitely an Eno touch). Where Rush of Blood and X&Y felt like a bunch of Coldplay songs thrown together, the songs on Viva La Vida seem to seep into one another comfortably.

Not only that, but the songs here are not just better than X&Y, they’re genuinely more interesting in structure, featuring multi-part suites and a cool minor-key atmosphere. One of my favorites here, “42,” starts off as a typical Coldplay piano dirge but gives way to a prog-electro-guitar swell and ends with a poppy, zippity melody featuring Chris Martin singing “You thought you might be a ghost / you didn’t get to heaven but you made it close.” “Cemeteries of London” starts off slow until an acoustic guitar kicks it into gear. “Lovers In Japan” shuffles along pleasantly until it turns into “Reign Of Love,” a reflective piano ballad. And “Yes” turns from a loopy, dark Chris Martin bellow into a fast-paced electric guitar workout. It’s a method that works; where X&Y‘s songs just kind of sat there, Viva La Vida‘s feel active and alive. I’m also fond of the singles here: while “Violet Hill” is suitably dark if not remarkably exciting, I very much like the title track, featuring a swath of strings and cute Chris Martin lyrics from the perspective of a king. “For some reason I can’t explain / I know St. Peter will call my name / never an honest world / but that was when I ruled the world,” Martin sings, maybe a knowing wink at his rock star status. It’s an overblown song to be sure, but its melody shines; despite their politely bland image, Coldplay know how to use melody.

My biggest gripe with Viva La Vida isn’t even with the music, but more with its packaging. Coldplay seemed to advertise this album as some kind of radical, out-of-left-field statement, slapping the thing with that insufferable title and using a revolutionary Delacroix painting for its cover artwork. Maybe they’re just giving in to their era, playing like the Killers and My Chemical Romance by making Viva look like a concept album when it isn’t at all (or at least doesn’t deserve to be). Chris Martin told Entertainment Weekly that he’s “slightly terrified” of Viva because “we’ve thrown away all our tricks. The truth is, we tried to find new ones.” But if Coldplay is really afraid about what they’ve unleashed with Viva, an album that does things slightly differently but is by no means a major leap forward, it just goes to show what a staid band they are. It doesn’t help that the album tends to tread ground other bands have utilized better – “Life In Technicolor” reminds me too much of the Flaming Lips’ “Sleeping on the Roof,” and “Lovers In Japan” is a blatant take on the Arcade Fire’s “Haiti” (a band that, by all means, deserve the “biggest band in the world” title much more than Coldplay). To enjoy Viva La Vida, you’ve got to look beyond the silly packaging and take it in for what it is – a melodically pleasing album that is much better than X&Y but isn’t going to change anybody’s life anytime soon.

I’ll always be ambivalent about Coldplay. Yeah, they’ve turned a dull form of rock music into a commercial juggernaut, but songs like “Yellow” and “Clocks” will forever live in my subconscious. I can’t deny that. This new album does put them on the right track; where X&Y did nothing but bring me down, Viva La Vida breathes some life into the Coldplay formula. They will never be a band I can unashamedly embrace – not when there are so many better, more compelling bands out there – but I appreciate that they aren’t resting on their laurels and delivering the same ‘ol same ‘ol. Coldplay haters won’t be converted though, and never will be; even if they turned into a punk-circus band with Chris Martin gurgling his vocals through a meat grinder, they would still sound like Coldplay. Take that for what you will.

>6/18/08: R.E.M. For The People

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He didn’t have the facepaint on.

On Wednesday I drove down to Philadelphia with some friends of mine (I didn’t actually drive but y’know what I mean) to catch an R.E.M. show at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, backed up by upstarts The National and indie stalwarts Modest Mouse. For a little background, before the show I didn’t know a thing about the National (and I still don’t), I had barely ever listened to Modest Mouse since I’d only heard Lonesome Crowded West (that’s still all I’ve got), and loved the hell out of R.E.M. (still do). I had never seen any of these bands live.

To be honest, the only band I really cared about seeing was R.E.M. Since I don’t keep up with (and don’t care much about) modern indie rock, I viewed The National and Modest Mouse like sprinkles on a birthday cake – appealing, but inessential. I probably sound like a complete dick saying that, especially about a band like Modest Mouse who’ve got the indie-rock world in their proverbial pockets (with their hip cred increasing exponentially ever since Johnny Marr jumped into the fray). But it’s the truth – Modest Mouse seem like a pretty cool and creative band but when it comes down to it I’m so grumpily rotten about modern indie rock that I can’t embrace it the way most people my age can. At 21 I already feel like a cynical hipster dickhead.

But I shouldn’t jump the gun here – I like catching modern indie rock when I can. Seeing Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, and a smogasboard of other indie bands at Randall’s Island was a nifty experience (despite Arcade Fire being the only band there I cared about, but whatevee – the lead singer of Les Savy Fav was a funny bearded pudgy man who gyrated around with a cake in his mouth, so I had fun). Furthermore, despite feeling totally ambivalent towards much of the music, I like feeling hip now and then. So I thought, “Hey, I’m gonna see the National and Modest Mouse! Two hip bands! I can blather to all my indie-loving friends about how I saw them, and I’ll be like totally getting some sloppy BJs over my excessive music cred.” (Yes, sloppy BJs. I crave only the sloppiest.) So I viewed the concert as killing two birds with one stone – seeing hip new bands I don’t know AND hearing music I’ve loved and practically memorized over the past few years or so. Yes, yes. This would be a landmark show.

Well, sort of. First off, The National were OK. Nothing that moved me. The lead singer sings in this low croon that isn’t particularly exciting, and the band plays your sort of generic, moody, introspective indie rock. One thing I’ll say about them – they know how to sound big. I don’t know how they layered their instruments, but man, they filled the room with sound, and their instrumentation was crystal clear. So yeah, it was an appealing sound, but not a passionate one; it’s indicative of my attitude that despite sounding big and powerful and all that, they didn’t move me in any way (a friend of mine told me that their low-key music didn’t fit the atmosphere of the theater, but I still think they were just boring). Modest Mouse were more exciting – I didn’t know their songs, but they ripped right into them either way, with Issac Brock howling and yelling and Johnny Marr pulling off the same cool, melodic guitar soundscapes that made him such an asset to the Smiths. Plus, they had a dynamite percussion section, with two drummers bangin’ at once, sitting right next to each other. To be blunt, they delivered the goods; Modest Mouse are a big deal, and their live show proves their prowess. But again, I wasn’t moved. Issac Brock, while clearly in control onstage, wasn’t much of a showman and neither were the rest of the band – they walked onstage, banged out their songs (well, might I add), and left after 50 minutes. And that’s fine – that’s all the fans want to hear I’m sure – but it wasn’t an engrossing experience for me.

So after Modest Mouse I feared R.E.M. would fall in line with the openers: walk out to thunderous (if not obligatory) applause, play some decent songs, and leave with a quick thank you. It wasn’t just this show that established that precedent for me – seeing the White Stripes bang out 45 minutes worth of music before playing a two-song encore and leaving the stage without a word last year supported that notion. I was under the impression that most bands – even major, major modern bands like the aforementioned White Stripes and Modest Mouse – were just playing live shows to do their job and play their music without bothering to put on… y’know, a show.

But this is not what R.E.M. did. Here’s what happened: by the time R.E.M. hit the stage at around 9:30, the sun had set and the sky had grown dark (since we had lawn seats, this was especially noticeable). When Modest Mouse and the National played, everybody politely sat down and grooved on the music without a peep; once R.E.M. hit the stage, everybody – and I mean everybody – was on their feet. Now the excitement was building; it was real, almost tangible, and although I had been looking forward to seeing this band all night I didn’t quite expect this rush of tense, palpable anticipation. Once the band kicked things off with Life Rich’s Pageant‘s “These Days,” with Michael Stipe gyrating all over the stage and the band playing loudly and ferociously, I was in over my head. These guys were fuckin’ great.

To be honest, I did not expect this. Seeing R.E.M. on the Colbert Report a couple months back gave me the impression that they were a polite, restrained band – and I guess by most standards they were restrained, playing their songs like they are on the albums. But not only did they play with power and intensity, they were seriously wonderful to watch, especially Michael Stipe – I’d always thought he was a pretty dour guy, but here he was likeable, talkative, and above all totally into what he was doing. He would shout lyrics, run across the stage, dance around like a fool, with the rest of the band right with him. These guys weren’t aging alternative rockers – they were rock stars, period.

It also doesn’t hurt that their newest album, Accelerate, was practically made for a live setting (hell, almost all the songs were premiered live anyway). It also doesn’t hurt that the songs on Accelerate are the finest they’ve written in over a decade. Hearing them power through “These Days,” “Living Well Is The Best Revenge,” and “What’s The Frequency Kenneth?” one after the other makes it sound like nothing’s changed between now and their 80’s heyday – it’s like three whole decades baked into one cake. I haven’t heard R.E.M. Live, but knowing that it consisted of a glut of dour Around the Sun tracks, I’m under the impression that R.E.M. have been fighting hard to rock out a little more during their shows. The song selection doesn’t betray this – they played only one Around the Sun song (“Walk Unafraid,” which I honestly don’t even remember) and only a scant few songs recorded before Pageant (there were no Murmur or Reckoning songs to be found), so it seems they were going for a bigger, fuller, less folk-rock oriented sound. Thankfully, it worked like a charm.

As for the overall song selection, I can’t complain. They played three Life’s Rich Pageant tracks (the first three to be precise), six from Accelerate (including hits “Supernatural Superserious” and “Hollow Man”), a couple more intense songs from Green (“Turn You Inside-Out” and “Orange Crush”), a couple recent non-album hits (“Bad Day” and “The Great Beyond”), some choice early songs (“Wolves, Lower” off Chronic Town and “Life And How To Live It” off Fables of the Reconstruction), and even some of the biggest hits of their career (“The One I Love” and “Losing My Religion,” both wonderful just because everybody in the audience could sing along). A few personal favorites: they brought out “Imitation of Life,” a lovely recent song which sounds much better in a live setting than it did on Reveal; “Electrolite,” a cool New Adventures in Hi-Fi song that Stipe claimed was about L.A. looking like an ocean from afar; “Staring Down The Barrel Of The Middle Distance,” which Stipe claimed was a song “[they] haven’t performed in an actual setting, with an actual audience” (I guess it’s new?? either way it was a cool song); and of course, three of the best songs from Automatic for the People, my all-time favorite R.E.M. record. “Man On The Moon” was an obvious choice, but hearing them kick out political rocker “Ignoreland” and the absolutely beautiful “Find The River” was really something special.

Oh, and there were guests! Did I mention the guests? Johnny Marr played on “Man On The Moon” and “Fall On Me,” which was nice if not somewhat expected. But the first guest was a total surprise. Earlier on in the show, after “Hollow Man,” Stipe snidely claimed that the song was their take on Pearl Jam’s “Better Man” before saying “Oh by the way – Pearl Jam’s here tonight!” Now I thought that was pretty neat, but I didn’t think anything of it until Stipe suddenly called Eddie Vedder (yes, Eddie Vedder) onstage during the encore to run through “Begin the Begin.” It was a great moment – not only did Vedder look totally like he’d just been pulled out of the audience (wearing glasses, a cap, and a jumpsuit, he looked more like a gas station attendant than a rock star) but his voice fit the song perfectly, delivering each line with his trademark grunge howl. Watching two aging alternative icons dancing around and singing with such gusto was a real special moment for me.

Oh, I could complain. I would have preferred “It’s The End Of The World” and “Finest Worksong” over the inferior “Bad Day” and “Turn You Inside-Out,” and that Around the Sun song didn’t need to be there, but who gives a shit? Not once during the concert did I feel even a pinch of disappointment; the band played for almost 2 hours straight without a single bum moment. Michael Stipe’s infectious, forceful optimism was enough to wipe away every single self-absorbed gripe I had during The National and Modest Mouse’s sets to the point where I almost felt silly, and his claim that 2008 was “one of the greatest times to be an American” really got to me (even if I can’t wholly believe it now, I believed it then). Beyond Stipe, Mike Mills had a wonderful backup voice, singing as forcefully as ever (it’s a shame they didn’t do “Texarkana” or “Rockville,” but oh well) and Peter Buck played with the same intensity. And there I was, up in the lawn seats, singing along with almost every song. Not bad.

If you can catch R.E.M. this year, do it. If you think that they’re washed up or out of the loop or whatever, I guarantee you that seeing them live will change your mind. Hell, in 2008, how often are you going to catch a band that is both an underground icon AND a pop icon? I can bitch and moan about modern indie rock all I want, but seeing R.E.M. plucked all of those misgivings out of my mind. A couple years or so ago, when Around the Sun was still their latest album and their reputation was on the skids, I hoped – deep down – that they’d buck the claims that they weren’t viable anymore and just go for it one more time. Accelerate and this concert made that wish come true. Say what you like, but right now consider me the happiest R.E.M. fan in the world.

P.S. – Here’s a crappy video of Eddie Vedder singing “Begin The Begin” from the show. NEAT!

>Album Review: "Dangerous" by Michael Jackson

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I’ve been in a Michael Jackson mood recently. It’s kind of a sudden thing; while I’ve had Off the Wall and Thriller for a while now and thoroughly enjoy both of them, I’ve never been compelled to venture into MJ’s post-Bad releases, not to mention that his status as my 80’s pop icon of choice has been usurped soundly by Prince (I mean, come on, you can’t blame me). But upon a chance listening of “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Black or White” off my sister’s iPod (which I steal from her from time to time during car rides, mostly to hear the sweet sounds of my youth that are direly missing from my own music collection), I thought to myself, “Hey, these songs are still really good! And neither are from Off the Wall or even Thriller! What have I been missing out on??”

That’s what led me to Dangerous. As a kid, it was the first Michael Jackson album that had hits I was old enough to remember, most notably the aforementioned “Black or White” and the classic “Will You Be There” which pretty much any kid my age would recognize as the theme to “Free Willy” (a song that, honestly, I had no idea was on this album until right before hearing it – what a pleasant surprise!). It was also MJ’s first album of the 90’s (coming out in late ’91), and it seems that Mike wanted to make a more modern-sounding album by replacing Quincy Jones – the producer who had helped hone the sound of Jackson’s 80’s megahits – with Terry Riley, who’d practically single-handedly invented the New Jack Swing genre by this point. As such, Dangerous sounds like an endearing – if not somewhat dated – encapsulation of pre-grunge 90’s pop, full of layered beats, beatboxing, guest rappers, and synth horns, not to mention Jackson’s fervent vocal delivery that was (and still is) one of pop music’s most iconic voices. Yeah, it might sound a little silly nowadays – especially to a generation of kids who weren’t even alive when Nevermind came out – but as someone who grew up with the music, I can’t help but be charmed by it.

But despite Dangerous being something of a 90’s artifact, Jackson’s songs remain compelling – while the complex New Jack beats give MJ more room to breathe creatively, they’re more of a superficial innovation than anything. What really drives most of the songs on Dangerous is Jackson’s ever-increasing paranoia, littering the album with some of the darkest songs he’d ever released. While songs like “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” and “Billie Jean” off Thriller and “Leave Me Alone” from the Bad sessions proved that MJ was adept at transforming his own lingering fears into excessively popular dance hits, Dangerous really goes off the deep end, with songs like “Jam,” “Why You Wanna Trip On Me” and “Who Is It” featuring pained, frustrated vocals and lyrics rallying against not just the public’s opinion of Jackson, but his family, friends, and even himself. “Jam,” for instance, contains lyrics like “I told my brothers / don’t you ask me for no favors / I’m conditioned by the system / don’t you talk to me / don’t scream and shout” (the mention of “brothers” could refer to the other Jackson brothers, but who the hell knows) and “I have to find my peace / ’cause no one seems to let me be / false prophets cry of doom,” all sung in a fast, anxious vocal delivery that sounds about as tough as Jackson can muster. “Jam”‘s paranoia seeps into other key tracks: “Why You Wanna Trip On Me,” in which Jackson questions why the press would target his personal life instead of global problems like world hunger and disease, and especially “Who Is It,” maybe the most paranoid song on the album. In the latter Jackson rants about a woman who left him for someone else, wondering “Who is it? / Is it a friend of mine? / Who is it? / is it my brother?” And he sings it so desperately, it sounds personal.

So yeah, I dig the darker songs on Dangerous. Hell, I’d even wager that MJ does sound genuinely “dangerous” on this record, but maybe not in the way he intended; where the title seems to imply (like Bad) that Jackson is some kind of hip-hoppin’ street tough, to me it seems that he’s more of a danger to himself and to the people he cares about, frightened and angry and hard to control. When that personality comes through in his music, it often comes across in a compelling – and thoroughly disturbing – way, as in the bizarre sex anthem “Give In To Me” or the desperate “Can’t Let Her Get Away.” But it’s because those bizzaro-dance anthems are so interesting that the nicer, slower ballads on the album come across as staid and almost nonsensical. “Heal The World,” for example, is basically “The Girl is Mine” with that track’s cutesy charm replaced with a cliched social message that is way too damned vague; in between “Can’t Let Her Get Away” and the great “Black Or White,” it sounds downright anomalous. “Gone Too Soon” is soft rock at its absolute softest, and despite being a pleasant enough ballad it’s just way too much. And as much as I enjoy “Will You Be There,” it’s a bit over-the-top even for Jackson, with an extended intro and a slightly embarrassing spoken-word prayer thing from MJ at the end. After the first six tracks or so, Dangerous becomes surprisingly inconsistent.

But hell, screw consistency. Yeah, the first six tracks mesh pretty well, but I don’t care for “In The Closet” and some of the other Riley-heavy tracks can sound too samey. My favorites here are the two peppiest songs on the album: “Black or White” is a fantastic pop hit that completely deserved its #1 spot, with a wonderfully fun melody and a social message that isn’t too heavy handed (with the exception of that super-lame rap in the middle of the bridge). Then there’s “Keep The Faith,” a soulful little gem that for some reason was never released as a single (and there were NINE fuckin’ singles from this album – come on, isn’t this song better than “In The Closet”??). These two songs, plus most of the first half of the album, make Dangerous worthwhile for me.

Y’know, there’s no point in me denying Michael Jackson. Yes, he doesn’t have the consistency nor the artistic cred that Prince has, but man, when he was big, he was bigger than anybody. I feel a comparison to Elvis is apt (I’m not saying MJ is better or equal to Elvis, it’s just for comparison): like Elvis, Michael Jackson wasn’t necessarily an absolutely stellar recording artist and was ultimately brought down by his bizarre personal life, but he honestly had the ability to touch the world at his peak (make all the jokes about that statement as you like), something Prince could never ever do. And most of the time, he had the music to back it up. I don’t think I’m going to listen to Dangerous as much as Thriller or Off The Wall – barring its inconsistencies, it’s a behemoth in terms of length, with overlong songs that push the album’s running time at over 70 minutes – but it’s a pretty solid pop album either way. I’ll put it on when it need a good jam to clear out my head. Or for a 90’s nostalgia party.

P.S.: For an even more perfect encapsulation of early 90’s pop culture, check out the video for “Black or White.” Macaulay Culkin, George Wendt, and tigers, oh my.

>Album Review: "Pinkerton" by Weezer

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A common scenario: you’re at a bar with a friend you’ve know for maybe a couple years or so. Friend’s a little shy, but a decent person, good to talk to. Of course, this friend ends up getting drunk – very drunk – and starts telling you things that you just never wanted to hear. “Cheryl broke up with me because I couldn’t… please her.” “I can’t sleep at night unless someone’s there next to me.” “You know what? You’re probably one of the best friends I’ve got, man.” And inevitably, said friend apologizes after everything, which somehow only makes things worse: “Oh man, I’m sorry, that came out wrong.” “Augh, jeez, I need to shut up.” “Dude, I’m so sorry. I didn’t wanna tell you that.”

That’s the scenario I envision every time I hear “Tired of Sex,” the first song on Weezer’s second album. Hearing Rivers Cuomo muttering “I’m tired / so tired / I’m tired of having sex” sounds like such a brazen, frank confession that I immediately feel guilty just hearing it. And things only get worse from there – after Cuomo lists off various women he’s had meaningless affairs with (by name, might I add) he ends the verse with an almost embarrassing half-muttered line: “Oh, why can’t I be making love come true?” Then the guitar kicks in, the music swells, and Cuomo lets out a sudden, uncomfortable scream that only confirms for the audience that he’s let us in on something he really, really shouldn’t have.

While that sudden scream is probably a good summation of Cuomo’s anguish on this record, that anguish might come from a recognition of his own pathetic nature as much as the lady troubles that plague the rest of the songs here. “I’m beat / beet red / ashamed of what I said” he spouts out immediately after said outburst, already laying the self-pity on good and heavy. He continues with “I’m sorry! / Here I go! / I know I’m a sinner, but I can’t say no!!,” one of Cuomo’s many failed attempts throughout Pinkerton to cancel out one of his train-wreck girl rantings with an even more desperate, revealing apology. Just from hearing this one song, the listener is torn between feeling bad for the guy or just outright loathing him.

Knowing this, it’s not hard to see why Pinkerton didn’t do so hot back in ’96, neither critically nor commercially. To be frank, Rivers Cuomo can come across as a self-important, self-pitying asshole in almost every song here. Throughout this album’s 10 songs he slobbers and obsesses over girls he can’t have, freaks out and scares away girls that he can have, and worse yet demeans and betrays women he already has. A lot of it comes from Cuomo’s delivery; while a decent portion of the lyrics on Pinkerton are your usual “I love you but I can’t have you” romantic tropes, Cuomo sings them with such bitter desperation that they turn from love-song cliches to bizarre accusations. When Rivers sings “I’m a lot like you” in the chorus of “El Scorcho,” it sounds less like he’s trying to connect to the object of his affection and more like he’s trying to pin his own fucked-up nature on her; “You’re just as much of a shitfuck as I am, so don’t look down on me!” he might as well say. When he sings “I think I’d be good for you / and you’d be good for me,” he might as well be spitting the lyrics into the girl’s face. Worse yet, he even throws his confused emotions at an 18-year-old Japanese girl who wrote him a nice fan letter: “Why are you so far away from me?? / I need help, and you’re way across the sea!” And the bridge is even more bizarre, with the exclamation “It’s all your fault, momma / It’s all your fault!!”, a line that comes out of nowhere in the context of the song. Listening to Rivers throw these accusing, bizarre lines at his subjects – and his audience – makes for a consistently uncomfortable listening experience.

But what makes it work? How can such a cretinous little white-boy snit like Rivers Cuomo spill his wrongheaded emotions all over this record and make it great? Well, simply put, Weezer’s Pinkerton – and Cuomo himself – sound just as fucked-up and stupid as every human being on the planet that just happens to fall in love with the wrong person. God, I hate to admit that, but it’s true; when I hear Cuomo squeal and moan lyrics like “I’m shakin’ at your touch / I like you way too much” in “Falling For You,” or “I wish I could get my head out of the sand / ‘cuz I think we make a good team / and you can keep my fingernails clean” in “El Scorcho,” I’m taken back to all those awkward, stupid crushes I couldn’t shake back in high school no matter how hard I tried. We’ve all been there, and Rivers is unrelentingly honest about every awkward, seemingly disposable detail.

Honesty, perhaps, is the key to Pinkerton‘s lyrical success, and perhaps why I (and many other people) find Cuomo’s wrecked prose so much more effective here than with, say, any pop-emo band that’s tried to ape Pinkerton since its release (and by extension pretty much everything Weezer’s released since). It’s that drunken confession analogy all over again – Rivers reveals awkward little details in his lyrics that just make you say, “Oh, Rivers. I’m sorry.” “Across the Sea,” the centerpiece of the record, contains what might be the most revealing lyrics of Cuomo’s career; singing directly to an 18-year-old Japanese fan, he reads her letter almost verbatim in cutely broken English: “You are eighteen-year-old-girl / who live in small city in Japan.” He becomes so obsessed with this letter that he becomes enamored with everything about it, even the paper itself: “They don’t make stationery like this were I’m from / so fragile, so refined.” He even describes some disturbing – but utterly human – actions: “So I sniff / and I lick / your envelope, and fall to little pieces every time.” It’s such an awful, specific, and dangerously private line that it sounds ripped from a diary Cuomo never intended anybody to read – and yet it cuts to the heart of things so effectively that the listener can’t help but sympathize (if they aren’t creeped out first). “Pink Triangle,” easily the sweetest song here and maybe the best (and least commercially successful) single Weezer ever released, reveals these same uncomfortable truths with a more humorous spin: “She would never be with me / were I the last girl on earth” and “Everyone’s a little queer / why can’t she be a little straight?” might be the funniest, cutest pleas ever written about a lesbian crush. And the chorus might be the most direct and honest on the album: “I’m dumb, she’s a lesbian / I thought I had found the one / We were good as married in my mind / but married in my mind’s no good.” If those lines might make one feel uncomfortable, it’s because they are a scarily accurate assessment of hopeless, fantasy-tale love.

So yes, we’ve got some of Rivers Cuomo’s most uncompromising, awkward lyrics ever recorded. But what makes Pinkerton a true messed-up classic is its music. While it isn’t a far cry from the slick power pop Weezer deployed just two years earlier on The Blue Album, the guitars sound much more squealy, jumpy, and unnerving, oftentimes pulling off the remarkable feat of sounding as awkward as Cuomo’s fractured singing. The main riff in “El Scorcho” twists around Cuomo like a cruel joke; “Getchoo” revvs up and down like a car that won’t start; “Tired of Sex” dispenses with awkward keyboard flourishes and a heavily distorted guitar solo that just doesn’t sound right. “No Other One,” my favorite song on Pinkerton, might be the best musical interpretation of failed love I’ve heard; it picks up with layers of guitars screeching and pulling themselves apart, and once Rivers comes in with an impassioned yelp the song transforms into a dramatic, balls-on-fire ballad that acts like the sequel to Weezer’s own “No One Else” off The Blue Album. Rivers, like usual, is stuck in love with the wrong person, to the point that he can’t even try to be with someone better: “No, there is no other one / no, there is no other one / I can’t have any other one / well, I would, now I never could with one.” It’s an anthem, in its own perverse way – one that states, definitively, that he will throw himself headlong into a pointless relationship purely out of fear of being alone. Once we hear Cuomo yelp along with that giant guitar riff at the end of the song, we know that he’s never going to change his mind.

“No Other One” shows Rivers as a weak, stupid human being who can’t muster up the strength to abandon his obsession. He doesn’t apologize for it, doesn’t try to rationalize it, doesn’t try to tell the listener that he’ll be ok in the future; in all his self-obsessed glory, Rivers offers the perfect picture of the stupid kid inside of all of us. If we feel uncomfortable listening to Pinkerton, it’s because we’re all drudging up those silly high school concepts of love that, no matter how hard we try, never truly go away. I’d say that, more than anything else, Pinkerton is one of the best tragic love albums I’ve heard because it spills itself out into the listener’s lap without compromise and somehow manages to filter all that desperation through accessible, powerful pop tunes. Nobody’s done it better since – not emo, not confessional indie, not even Weezer themselves. I first bought this album when I was eighteen, and it made a lot of sense to me – and I’m forced to admit that, at twenty-one, it still makes too much sense.

>Album Review: "Awesome Record, Great Songs!" by Tim and Eric

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The faces of genius.

NOTE: THE FOLLOWING IS DIRECTED AT TIM AND ERIC FANS ONLY

We all knew this day would come. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I realized it, but I’d wager that once I heard Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!‘s “Sports” theme – a nutty little techno ball-buster featuring a video of Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, and a bunch of hairy dudes miming their instruments in ridiculous New Wave garb – I knew that Tim and Eric were two of the most talented songwriters of their generation.

Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement. But not much of one. Come on, you know what I mean. I’d wager that the songs on Awesome Show are some of the funniest – and catchiest – to come from a sketch comedy show in a long long time. Hell, Awesome Show is almost more of a musical show than a sketch show anyway. Tim and Eric have produced a shit-ton of various musical bits over the course of two seasons, and I’d wager that about 90% of them are great. And now they’re all on CD and claimed for musical history! Huzzah!!

Now, I’m sure I don’t need to explain the appeal of these songs to you, fellow fans. If you, like me, consider Awesome Show to be the best sketch comedy show since Mr. Show and UCB, I’m going to guess that you’ve been passing around CDs of music ripped directly from the show since season one wrapped. So you might be saying, “shit, Sean, why would I need another Tim and Eric CD? I’ve got all these songs ripped already!!”

Well for one thing, you’re a putz. Tim and Eric deserve your money and you fucking know it. Secondly, it’s an official CD approved by Mr. Heidecker and Mr. Wareheim themselves! NEAT! And thirdly, there’s a lot here that you’re not going to hear from the show. Extended lyrics, remixes, covers, guest vocalists – and not only that, but each song is edited down to its very essence, narrowing the tracks down to about a minute-and-a-half each without any unnecessary sketch banter (honestly, if you’re a Tim and Eric fan, you’re going to know where “Pizza Boy” and “All Of My Life” are from – you don’t need context). Also, the sequencing on this CD is very appealing, bucking chronological order in favor of an appeasing mish-mash of various songs from the first and second seasons of the show; it allows for an appealing kaleidescope of Awesome Show‘s music, showcased in all its glory.

“But what songs are on this thing, Sean?” (“How does it taste, Steve?” – a little in-joke for all you guys, hehe.) That’s a fair question. To put it bluntly, this baby’s got all your favorites: you’ve got every Kidz Break, every David Liebe Hart song, and almost every Casey and his Brother; you’ve got the popular weirdo singalongs of “Do Dah Doo Doo,” “Sit On You,” “Beach Blast” (yes, that’s James Quall’s acapella surf ditty), and “Long Legs”; you’ve got the crazy dance-techno freakouts of “Beaver Boys,” “Pumpers and Tumblers,” and “Sports”; you’ve got guest appearances in David Cross’s “Pizza Boy,” Maria Bramford’s “The New You,” Aimee Mann’s “Hearts,” and Bob Odenkirk’s “Here She Comes”; and, of course, you’ve got some wonderful one-off songs, including the inimitable disco-breakdown “Petite Feet,” the best-friend vacation theme song “Raz,” the weird “Everybody’s Talkin'”-takeoff “Lost at the Wheel,” and the absolutely disgusting “Love Slaves.” If you’re in any way a fan of Tim and Eric, the song choices here will not disappoint.

Oh yeah, and they’re extended too! I mentioned that earlier! For instance, every David Liebe Hart song is extended, making songs like “Marcama” even creepier (hearing Hart say “You and I can make a nice milkshake together… we can make little whipped-cream babies” to a female puppet is nothing short of life-changing), and other random songs like “Do Dah Doo Doo” and “Dirty Socks” feature extra lyrics that only make them more entertaining. There are some wonderful remixes here as well that you might not expect – “Rolo Tony,” for instance, features Tim and Eric’s legendary jingle dialogue laid out over a techno beat, finally segueing into the awesome “Rolo Tony Brown Town” credits music (also featured here in its full form as a bonus track). One of my favorites here would be DJ Douggpound’s take on the Awesome Show opening theme, which magically shifts from a basic dance remix of the theme into a dense sound collage featuring layers upon layers of various song snippets not featured anywhere else on the disc. These include, but are not limited to:

– The “My New Pep-Pep!” theme
– The “B’owl” theme
– Glen Tennis’s “OH BOY!” exclamation
– The “Lazy Horse Mattress” theme
– Eric’s “Goodbye!” ringtone from Tim’s funeral
– That creepy “OOH MAMA!” music
– Zan’s “What Do You Call That?” instructional video
– The “Gravy Robbers” background music

…and many many more. It’s like one long Tim and Eric fangasm. Other great bonus tracks here include the Shins’ cover of “Wipe My Butt” (I’m not a big Shins fan, but hearing them sing “My brown crusty stains are an environmental issue” with a sweet acoustic backing gives them some major cool points in my book), Built to Spill’s crazed rock cover of “Come Over,” an 8-bit version of “The Snuggler,” two great re-mixes of “Sports,” the rock version of “Salame,” and much much more that I’ll let you discover for yourself. If you’re like me, you might be upset with the exclusion of some great songs – including but not limited to the “Tony and Tim” theme, which doesn’t show up here in any form (maaaaaaaan) and Tim and Eric’s inexplicable beat-boxing from the “Abstinence” episode which only appears briefly in the “Awesome Show” remix. But y’know, that’s nitpicking. I will reiterate – if you are a Tim and Eric fan, buy the fuck out of this album and wear the motherfucker out. Throw it on your iPod or Zen or whatever and sneak “Sports” and “Come Over” into your party mixes. Make your friends bow to glory of Tim and Eric. (If they stop being your friends, well, maybe they never were real friends.)

NOTE: THE FOLLOWING IS DIRECTED AT PEOPLE WHO KNOW LITTLE TO NOTHING ABOUT TIM AND ERIC ONLY

OK, I don’t know how your tastes run. But lemme ask you this – do you like comically bizarre music? Do you have any interest in the likes of Ween, Frank Zappa, or the Zip Code Rapists? Do you chortle at ridiculous karaoke public-access videos from the late ’80s or so? To you have an appreciation for a catchy techno beat?

Well, then you might like Tim and Eric. They’re great songwriters. But then again, maybe you won’t like them. Their sense of humor is incredibly divisive. I can’t really explain why I find a middle-aged woman singing “I’ve done my chores, I’ve swept the floor / you make me wet when you come in the door” incredibly funny. Or hearing a a awkward little man-child scream in the middle of a song about hamburgers. Or hearing a chorus of singers chanting “I bet they’ll french kiss all night long” and “I wish we knew which hole he’s gonna poke her through.” Maybe you don’t find this funny at all. I can understand that. Kind of.

But you’ve got to admit, these songs are catchy. They’re zippy, fun, and they don’t linger too long. Give ’em a try! You might like them, if you like weird shit! Or you might not like them at all, and resent me for the recommendation. That’s fair. But honestly, you won’t find better music coming from a TV show nowadays. I swear it.

NOTE: THE FOLLOWING IS DIRECTED AT PEOPLE WHO PREFER TO WATCH “FAMILY GUY” OVER “TIM AND ERIC” ONLY

We have nothing to discuss.