Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Friday, February 24, 2006

My Random Rules

The Onion AV Club, a.k.a. one of the best entertainment sections anywhere, just introduced a new feature called "Random Rules" where they ask celebrities to put their iPods on shuffle and write about the first 10 or so songs that come up. I loved this feature so much that I did one of my own. Hope you like, cuz here it is.

1. "Baby Blue," The Beach Boys
A heartbreakingly pretty Dennis Wilson song sung by Carl Wilson. I love the Beach Boys, but this is probably the toughest band ever to be a fan of. They have put out far more garbage than treasure over the years, and just embarrassed themselves over and over again. (How many people think of "Full House" before "Pet Sounds" when they hear the Beach Boys?) Still, the good stuff is so good that you forgive all that. And this song belongs with the good stuff.

2. "Love is Only a Feeling," The Darkness
This song reminds me of hanging out at the Sunset Park swimming pool during summers in the late 1980s, which is strange because the song came out in 2004. I didn't buy the latest Darkness album because the tracks sounded pretty bad on iTunes. That's OK, though. This band needs to make only one good album.

3. "Dirty Work," Steely Dan
Man, I love this band, and I would have kicked my own butt for saying that five years ago. Once upon a time, Steely Dan epitomized "dad rock" in my mind. It was one of those bands you hear on classic rock radio and wonder who the hell likes this stuff. (I'm still there with any Scorpions track that isn't "Rock You Like a Hurricane" or "Winds of Change.") But the Dan is just so damn sly and sexy in a nerdy way, and Donald Fagen has become one of my favorite singers. (I decided to date my last girlfriend because she thought Fagen was a stud.) Fagen doesn't sing on this song, so I usually skip it. But I like that Tony Soprano sang along to it in a "Sopranos" episode once.

4. "I'll Take You There," Staple Singers
Awesome track, and from the same year as "Dirty Work." I'm telling you, the iPod shuffle has a mind of its own. I'm loving soul music lately, mainly because I'm a clueless white boy who is playing catch up. I'm also kind of sick of rock right now, but not really.

5. "It's No Use," (Alternate version), The Byrds
The Byrds are probably my second favorite American band (after the Beach Boys) of the 1960s. I hate almost every Dylan cover (aside from covers of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," a song so incredible not even Scott Stapp could ruin it), but I like every Dylan cover the Byrds ever did. Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark and David Crosby wrote some great tunes, too. This one, from their first album, is decent, but definitely filler.

6. 'White Punks on Dope," The Tubes
When you have 12,113 songs on your iPod, you are bound to hear songs on shuffle you don't know very well. For example, this song. It's an OK song, but a little too long. I'm just surprised this is the Tubes song I have on my iPod. If you can only have one Tubes song, it should be "She's a Beauty."

7. "Everybody Got to Believe in Somebody," Sam & Dave
Yes, some more soul! You are my soulmate, iPod. I don't need to tell you about the genius of Sam & Dave. Just as nobody can ruin "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," not even the Blues Brothers could suck the coolness of "Soul Man." This song is a deep cut (a D.C., as the Schwi puts it) from a greatest hits CD, and it's got everything you could want from a choice Sam & Dave selection: call and response vocals, snappy horns and a killer groove.

8. "Candy Man," Roy Orbison
Just so you know, I do have music released post-1972 on my iPod. The shuffle must be feeling the oldies right now. I'm not complaining, especially since Roy is getting the tap. Simply one of the greatest rock ballad singers ever, and a cool-looking mutha to boot. This one is a rocker about candy, recorded about 40 years before 50 Cent went to the candy shop.

9. "Way Out West," Big Star
Here's the deal: If you don't already own it, you need to buy "#1 Record/Radio City" by Big Star RIGHT NOW. Pretty much every guitar band that plays sad, melodic pop songs was influenced by it. You will hear this song on the disc, and you will like it. Honest.

10. "Shoot Your Gun," 22-20s
A new band! Hooray! Unfortunately, the 22-20s released a self-titled disc last year and broke up soon afterward. Can't say I was surprised. I saw them at the Annex in Madison and they looked miserable. And the show sucked. But the album is good, and this is probably the best song. If you like the Animals/Yardbirds/early Stones, look no further.

Next 10 songs: "Nighttrain," Guns 'n' Roses; "Bomb in the Bee-Hive," Guided by Voices; "Somebody Got Murdered," The Clash; "The Surfer Moon," Beach Boys; "Whiskey River," Comets on Fire; "Hey Mama," Kanye West; "Sweet Thing," The Shaggs; "Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe," The Byrds; "The Boso (The Kickdown)," Snowglobe; "Tall Dark Stranger," Buck Owens.

If you own an iPod, try this yourself. And post what you get on my blog. DO IT!

Does he suck? results

First of all, I want to thank everybody for voting. There were 21 votes cast and nearly 50 Kanye-related posts. I was afraid of weak turnout but you guys came through. Without you and your votes, democracy doesn't work.

Now, the results. And let me just say, my heart is pounding like a madman after the crazy events of the past several minutes. This has truly been a shocking and ultimately historic election. Like I said, there were 21 votes cast: 10 for Not Suck/Not Lame and 11 for Suck/Lame. With MY vote for (drum roll) NOT SUCK/NOT LAME, that made the original count TIED.

I know. I pooped myself, too.

This unprecedented result threw Under 30 into a temporary constitutional crisis. There is nothing in the election bylaws about what to do in this rare instance. So I established a new precedent: I flipped the coin of justice. With Cheddar and E4life (a Not Suck and Suck voter) as witnesses, I determined the final result: KANYE WEST SUCKS/IS LAME.

Wow. Our first tie, our first constitutional crisis and our first time pulling the Suck trigger. And this might not be the last of Kanye. Cheddar has promised a full-blown investigation into the results of this election and the Bono election. We'll report, you'll decide.

I am spent. Anybody have a cigarette?

Shameless self-promotion

Today's Under 30 is about whether God has a sense of humor. That's right, I'm speaking for God now.

Suck/lame extension

Since I am not going to be at my computer until 3 p.m. today, we are extending the Suck/Lame election until (you guessed it) 3 p.m. today. That's right, Kanye. There's hope for you not sucking/laming after all.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Does he suck, er, Is he lame? update

Well, here's a surprise. I figured Kanye West would sail to Not Suck/Not Lame status, but the current vote is nail-bitingly close, 8 to 6 in favor of Not Suck.

Debate-wise, we already have one ambiguous racism charge against the Suck voters, which is nice to see. But otherwise people are keeping the gloves on. We still have some time, though.

Remember, vote early and vote often. Polls are open until NOON FRIDAY.

News flash: Pitchfork hates Best Buy

The world headquarters for music snobs has a news item about a recent Best Buy promotion where CDs by "outside the mainstream" artists like Cat Power, Antony and the Johnsons and Arcade Fire were selling for $7.99.

Predictably, there is much gnashing of teeth at Pitchfork about this because of the supposed affect on indie record stores. Several points come to mind: (1) Where the $#%$# was I when this promotion was going on? That's a sweet deal! (2) Even without this promotion, Best Buy typically is cheaper than the indies because it is a massive corporate chain that can buy in bulk. So price already isn't a motivating factor for shopping at the "cool" stores. You go to the "cool" stores to find the obscure stuff the chains don't carry, and to (hopefully) find a non-a-hole record clerk that can hook up some sweet recommendations. (3) Most Americans live in places that don't have "cool" record stores (cough, cough) and must rely on the Best Buys of the world for their music purchases. (If they aren't hip or rich enough to shop online.) So what's wrong with selling cheap CDs that might get a matchbox twenty fan hooked on some great music that might not otherwise hear?


What is the dilly, you?

Because I know a lot of clueless white people read my blog, here is a story explaining the confusing (for Caucasians) success of cross-dressing Christian playwright/actor Tyler Perry. I've never seen one of Perry's plays or movies, because they look so awful that I don't dare. But this story did make me curious enough to put "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" at the top of my Netflix queue. I'm almost positive that it will be terrible, but I'm hoping for brilliantly terrible.

Is he lame? = Does he suck?

So, starting today, our little Does he suck? poll will be included in the Thursday Weekend sections of The Appleton Post-Crescent and Oshkosh Northwestern. However, in the case of The P-C at least, the print version is called Is he lame? Apparently, suck is a bad word in some quarters. We don't like to put bad words in the print edition. The Web, however, is an open sewer. Enjoy!

I'm glad for the possible infusion of voters, because the turnout thus far is pretty disappointing. Come on, people! We are debating suckitude here! Get your heads in the game.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Does he suck? Kanye West

We continue our mission of clearly defining those people, things, ideas, thoughts, actions and other nouns and verbs of questionable suckitude with the world's most arrogant rap star, Kanye West.

We all know Kanye is great. His first two albums are among the most commercially and critically successful releases of the decade. As a producer, he has made hits for Jay-Z and Common. Best of all, he introduced the phrase, "We want prenup!" into the national lexicon. But Kanye also posed on the cover of Rolling Stone as Jesus Christ, a not-so subtle sign that our man might be slightly self-delusional. (If Kanye really is Jesus, does that mean Jay-Z, Eminem and Nas can flow better than the savior?) Also, Kanye's production "genius" often consists of taking old soul records and speeding them up like Alvin and the Chipmunks. Not exactly Stevie Wonder-quality chops there, son.

So, is Kanye West a musical mastermind, or an overrated hack? In other words, does he suck or not suck? It's up to you, the voters. POLLS ARE OPEN UNTIL NOON FRIDAY.

A cool new feature from our pals at The Onion's A.V. Club

I really like this thing, even if the only person I really care about is David Cross. I'm gonna write one of these things when I'm, like, not working. Even though I do have a killer shuffle going on right now.

Dance to the sound of people doin' it

It's a shock somebody didn't come up with this horrible idea sooner.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

New blog feature: Talkin' with celebs ... starring C.C. DeVille of Poison

When you write about arts and entertainment for a Midwestern newspaper, you end up interviewing a lot of classic rockers.

Sometimes you go into the interview with a set of preconceived notions, and often they are disproved. The most obvious example in my experience was C.C. DeVille, the guitarist for 1980s hair metal band Poison. I was never a fan of Poison back in the day, and I assumed DeVille would be a pathetic has-been clinging to past glory. I couldn't have been more wrong. DeVille was nice, funny and completely comfortable in his own skin. As this story, which originally ran in The Post-Crescent on June 21, 2001, makes plain, DeVille isn't deluded about what Poison was back in the 80s or what they are now. Talking to him made me respect his band a lot more than I did going in. And, yes, "Talk Dirty to Me" is now on my iPod.

Way back when, a certain Green Bay Packers quarterback took to the local radio airwaves to croon his version of the Poison hit "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."

"Do you remember that guy Matusek? That quarterback you guys had for a little while? I think they called him Majik," said Poison guitarist C.C. DeVille in a phone interview.

DeVille is referring to Don Majkowski, the fair-haired field general who led the Packers to a 10- 6 record in 1989. The Majik Man joined his heroes on stage when they played Brown County Arena in 1990.

"We kept him up and we partied all night," DeVille recalled. "And the next day you guys played the Bears and he was so hung over. I think he was in maybe two or three plays and they yanked him. We had great seats and we were watching him totally (mess) up. I kind of felt guilty."

Clean and sober for seven years, DeVille no longer indulges in the typical rock star excesses that Poison was known for in the '80s. But he isn't totally free of addictions.

"I am a gardener," he said, without a trace of sarcasm. "I was such a bad drug addict and I was so into that instant gratification - have a drink, feel good, do a line of blow, feel good; if something wasn't right, chemically change it - that I had a problem with learning how to delay that gratification. I know it sounds goofy, but the gardening taught me to work on the thing and you don't see the results overnight. I'll work and I'll plant and I'll be watering stuff and it will be two weeks before you start to see a difference."

DeVille's new hobby isn't without its dangers, as he discovered before heading out on Poison's current summer tour. "Before I left I planted 10 big palm trees, huge ones," he said. "I had this big, big winch thing that lowers the trees down and I almost caught my foot on it. I sprained two of my toes and I almost had to postpone two shows.

"Can you imagine that? C.C. DeVille has to cancel the tour because of a gardening accident? I mean, an OD is one thing. A car accident is another thing. But a gardening accident? I would have never lived it down."

While Poison will perform by itself Friday at Oneida Casino in Green Bay, the band will be joined by Warrant, Quiet Riot and Enuff Z'Nuff for its July 1 show at Summerfest in Milwaukee, part of the 2001 Glam Slam Metal Jam tour.

"I'll be honest with you. A lot of the bands are still bananas," DeVille said. "And there's members of my band that are still bananas."

As for himself, "I had to (quit) because I went too far too early," he said. "I was like that shooting star that was really, really bright but only for a little while. If I wouldn't have stopped I would have died. There was no such thing as moderation in my life. Would I still love to have the occasional drink? Yeah, I would. But I know that I can't so I don't even go there."

After leaving Poison in 1993, DeVille wandered in the wilderness of drug addiction before cleaning up and rejoining the band in 1999. Since then, the glam rockers have enjoyed three consecutive successful summer tours.

"I actually look forward to the gig," said DeVille of his new outlook. "I feel in control. I feel confident. I feel if something does go wrong live I have the whereabouts to fix it, where before if I was high I would just say to hell with it and keep playing.

"Had I not had the last three years, I would have looked differently on touring than I do now," he confessed. "It was never a happy thing for me. Going on the road was always miserable because I was always high, or I was always drunk. I couldn't find the drugs I wanted because I was on the road. And I would spend a lot of time trying to find what I wanted and I would be in these neighborhoods that were so bad and I would risk being arrested."

DeVille might have regrets about his personal life, but professionally, he makes no apologies about being in a hair metal band "I think it's fine," he said. "I don't think people mean hair metal as a degrading thing. I think there was a time there in the late '80s where the one thing that would stick out is the band's hair.

"It was the defining thing. To me it's like punk. You look at people with safety pins in their mouth and you go, 'Oh that's a new punk band.' The problem is when you say hair metal, they think it's all show and no go. But I don't think that's really what the thing was."

Maybe not at first. But even DeVille admits that hair metal had run its course by the early '90s. "I thought the hair bands, the way we were going, we got very lethargic and very bloated," he said. "It was just more of the same. Every year became more of the same. I became disillusioned. That's why I quit the band for a while."

Now Poison is getting ready to head into the studio to record its first album with the original lineup since 1990's "Flesh and Blood." If the new music fails to free Poison from the shackles of its lightweight image, so be it.

"Of course it's frustrating from my point of view, but I'm sure Donny Osmond felt he was a serious musician, too. And in my brain he's Donny Osmond," DeVille said. "Everyone goes through stuff like that. You can't blame people for the image they have of you. All you can do is either embrace it or ignore it. You can't go barking at the moon because of what you created. We were very responsible for what we created."

Attention geeks

It looks like Indiana Jones IV finally is on the verge of being made. Given my on-the-record feelings about Harrison Ford, I feel pretty ambivilant about it.

Of course I'll be there on opening night.

Check out the latest from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

I wasn't crazy about the first album from New York City's Yeah Yeah Yeahs (though that song "Maps" is awfully sweet). But I heard the band's latest single, "Gold Lion," on Sirius last night and it was pretty kick-A. Check it out here. (Click on News and scroll down until you see the song.)

The album, called "Show Your Bones," drops March 28.

A good antidote to ESPN

While I can't ever see weaning myself off completely from ESPN (if only because of "Pardon the Interruption," one of my favorite shows) America's top sports network keeps getting more and more unwatchable. I could only stomach 15 minutes of ESPN's NFL pregame coverage last season. That's 15 minutes total. Chris Berman officially moved beyond self-parody into a new, previously unexplored nether region of sweaty self-inflicted embarrassment, and I couldn't even enjoy it ironically any more.

That's why I'm pleased to see that ESPN has hired an ombudsman. Actually, they hired him months ago, but the publicity department was too busy hyping Screamin' A to drop a mention. It's easy to see why: George Solomon is an experienced journalist who measures his words carefully and doesn't make tired "Scarface" references. How boring, right? Well, at least somebody is taking ESPN to task for its wall-to-wall Terrell propaga-, I mean, coverage and the previously mentioned Screamin' A hype.

The "Hey, Me Too!" Theory of Soulfulness

After sleeping on the couch again last night (I had a fight with myself and wouldn't share the bed), I turned on the TV and caught the last half of a music video by a great-looking blonde named Natasha Bedingfield. I have no idea if her music was any good. However, I did notice her cavorting with a black gospel choir much of the time. It was very soulful.

White singers often utilize black gospel choirs to fool people into thinking they are soulful. It's the "Hey, Me Too!" Theory of Soulfulness: Surround yourself with soulful people, and people will (hopefully) assume that you are soulful, too. (Unless they are practionners of the "Which One Of These Does Not Belong" Theory of Soulfulness.)

Mariah Carey revolutionized this in the 1990s on seemingly every ballad she sang. (I'm counting Boyz II Men as an honorary gospel choir.) But it goes back to at least the 1980s. Madonna did it for "Like a Prayer." Hammer did it for "Pray." Foreigner did it for one of my top five most hated songs ever, "I Want to Know What Love Is." David Cross and Bob Odenkirk did it in an episode of "Mr. Show," but I'm pretty sure that was a joke.

Apparently, there is a church in Hollywood where singers and record producers can go and rent gospel choirs. Can't God do something about this?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Will you please lend Ricky Williams your urine?

It looks like High Times' RB of the year (as in Rasta Back) has failed another drug test. The news likely will trigger an avalanche of "Ricky is a bad teammate" columns from sports writers, but where was the team for Ricky on this one? Not one guy out of 53 stepped forward with a cup of clean drug-test juice? That's coooold, mon.

Bad news is Ricky probably won't be playing in the NFL this year. Good news is he can have one of those college-style all-day Madden and Mountain Dew gorges whenever he wants.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Who's that again? Al Leong

Thank god for IMDB, or else Al Leong would forever be known as The Asian Guy With The Fu Manchu Who Was In All Those '80s Action Flicks.

Leong never was a star or even a supporting player. To my knowledge, he has never had a line of dialogue. He tends to show up for a scene or two, usually in the background, before getting shot by Bruce Willis or Mel Gibson. And yet, according to his IMDB bio, Leong has a cult following. Why? "His lean muscled physique, incredible agility, amazing martial arts skill's wispy black hair and (here's the big one) Fu-Manchu style mustache." Leong's most prominent role was Endo in "Lethal Weapon." Endo, also known as The Asian Guy With The Fu Manchu Who Tortures Mel Gibson For A Few Minutes, fits the profile of the typical Leong role: he's Asian, he has a Fu Manchu mustache, he's a tough mamajama, he dies soon after appearing on screen. Other big Leong roles include Uli, a chocolate bar-eating terrorist in "Die Hard," an unnamed Wing Kong member in "Big Trouble in Little China," and, in a non-action movie stretch, Ghengis Khan in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure."

Evil henchmen have a way of blending together in action movies from the Reagan era, but Leong stood out from the Russian and East European hordes because of his ethnicity and stylish facial hair. You knew he was bad, and yet, you wanted him to live longer than the rest because he always seemed on the verge of doing something incredibly badass. Leong still is in the biz as an action extra, appearing in "24"and "The Scorpion King" (as "Asian Training Master") and doing stunt work in films like "Hostage" and "Daredevil." Leong also made his directorial debut in 2000 with the low-budget film, "Daddy Tell Me a Story."

Well done, Al. Take a bow!

HWJD, or, How would Jesus drum?

I was talking with my friend Tim the other night when an interesting theological/musicological question came up: If Jesus was a rock drummer, which rock drummer would he be? My friend Rebecca theorized that Christ would be Keith Moon from The Who, the flashiest and most spectacular timekeeper in rock history. Tim, on the other hand, said Jesus would be Ringo Starr, because Jesus was a humble man, a carpenter, and wouldn't feel the need to play with lots of hot-dogging. Also, if you were Jesus, wouldn't you want to be a member of the greatest rock band ever?

This scenario brings to mind the climax of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" when Indy has to pick the holy grail out of a collection of cups. The Nazi scumbag picks the most spectacular cup out of the bunch and turns into a skeleton when he drinks the holy water. Indy picks the simple wooden cup and ends up choosing wisely. Ringo, it seems, is the wooden cup.

I'm tempted to go in a slightly different direction, however. I think Jesus would be Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones. Watts is straight-forward and in the pocket like Ringo when he plays with the Stones, but he shows off his brilliant jazz chops for side projects. Charlie has the ability to destroy you with flash, but he holds back, just like J-Man. Charlie truly is part man, part god.

Of course, the Stones recorded "Sympathy for the Devil," which seems to throw my Jesus theory out the window. But you know what they say about the lord, he works in mysterious ways.

Shameless self-promotion

In today's Check it Out, I gush about the Dusty Springfieldesque sexiness of Cat Power and sad bastard music. Enjoy!