Thoughts, notes, observations on the everyday nonsense of American Pop Culture from one of the most not-hip people on the face of the planet...

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Let the madness begin...

Remember the summer of 2003, when "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" came out?

Even people who knew nothing about the series were treated to endless media coverage, kid clamoring and idle gossip about the series. In fact, the day it came out, I honestly believe the world sort of stopped. HP fans were eagerly unwrapping their Amazon shipments or store purchases, only to sit and read for 200 hours straight. It was beauiful.

Well, if you're like me and you feel a little wistful, wist no more. "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" will be out July 16, 2005 (already? awesome!) and pre-order madness has begun. I summon the media onslaught!

Friday, December 17, 2004

A musing

You can go to any bar in America round 1 am and play Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and I'll bet at least one person sings along. Or a group of drunks, rather loudly. It's a beautiful thing.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Do you know the lyrics?

If you're between the ages of 19 and 26, chances are you know every word to the theme song of "Fresh Prince of Bel Air."

While this is in no way a scientific fact, I have tested this theory at a few "non-alcoholic social gatherings." One moment, the party people are sitting and tlaking, but the moment that songs on, it's all over. The whole house is on their feet screaming along from the very moment of the opening bass beats.

Sure, it wasn't "Cheers," but "Fresh Prince" was a show among shows for tweens in the 90s. Besides the very cool theme song, the show, though ridiculously fictional, was a positive one for kids like me. White, middle class kids who knew absolutely nothing about black people save the evening news got shows like "Fresh Prince," "The Cosby Show" and "A Different World" to show us African-American teens who us.

Of course, the families on both "Fresh Prince" (and "Cosby") had a lot more money than mine, but I never noticed. I just remember the characters. The goofy post-ghetto Will, stuck-up idiot Hilary, butler Geoffrey (they had a butler!) and, of course...Carlton Banks. Carlton was quite possibly the best character from that era of television (not Steve Urkel, dammit...what a tool) for being a foppish, horrible-dancing rich bitch of a dude who anyone loved imitating.

This show is a snapshot of my childhood and that of a select group of twentysomethings...and thankfully Nick at Nite, trusty, wonderful Nick at Nite...knows that.

(Check out the rest of Fresh Week from 1-5 am's worth it)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Eddie Vedder is Awesome, part 3

I don't care what anyone says...the Pearl Jam version of "Last Kiss" is the best. Mark that off as another 90s song (and cover) I wasn't aware I missed.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Let's take a moment to appreciate...Alt Rock Radio

One cannot overstate the awesomeness that embodies a good alt-rock radio station. Here in Milwaukee, that station is 102.1…because it embodies all of the best things about radio with few of the bad parts.

A good alt rock station can not only make Generation X all wistful by recanting the best of the early 90s…but it can bring a new group of listeners to a genre that up until this year looked as forgone as the eight-track. On the flip side, it presents the best of new alternative (yes! It does exist!) for those of us who may have thought alt died with Kurt Cobain and the rise of Britney Spears. 102.1, for instance, plays the best of the “classics” from Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Green Day, etc. along with new hits by The Killers, Breaking Benjamin and Jimmy Eat World.

The best, of course, is to hear a song you didn’t realize you missed. On a drive the other day, 102.1 played Eve 6’s “Inside Out.” At the time of its release, it was a mere flash in the pan top 40 hit…but now, five years later, I realize it actually kinda rocked. “Wow,” I said aloud, “I actually know the words to this song.” Renditions of Better than Ezra’s “Good” and just about any Collective Soul song also stir similar sentiments.

It’s because of the few real alt rock stations out there that formerly “indie” bands could break out beyond the girls pants crowd (like Modest Mouse, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and bands thought long past their prime could get airplay for bold new albums (Green Day’s “American Idiot,” Cake’s “No Phone”).

We have alt rock radio to thank for the diminishing presence of bubblegum pop and soundalike poppunk in our schools. These days, you’re more likely to hear Switchfoot over NSYNC, Franz Ferdinand over Simple Plan and whatnot. It’s a beautiful thing.

So thank you, alternative rock radio, for bringing us all together in our shared love of excessive drums and soaring guitar. It’s because of you that my holiday shopping season got a whole lot better.


How does one find a good alt rock station? Just listen carefully. Just because they occasionally play a little Weezer or Pearl Jam doesn’t mean they’re for real. If the only Nirvana you hear is “Smells Like Teen Spirit” it isn’t all that. If they have a Metallica hour or, god forbid, a Metallica night, change it. If the Djs try sounding like they “know how to party,” talk very sarcastically all of the time or in any way use “NOT!” after a statement, they are not on a good station. Lastly, if the request line callers sound like drunks who paused from smacking their wives around long enough to request “Enter Sandman” for the 500th time, this is not the station for you.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Grammy time already?

If you are a sentimental fool or 14 years old, the Grammy nomination committee wants you.

That's not to say that I don't agree with many/most of this year's nominees...but I'm getting really tired of the "magical multiple nomination for whoever died this year" trend. If someone deserves an award, give it to them when they're alive, dammit. Giving make-up awards post-mortem is degrading and stupid.

And I hate to say it cause I'm guilty as hell of bobbing my head to it...but how is Usher and Lil' Jon's "Yeah!" not the pop culture joke of the year as opposed to nominee for Record of the Year? Yes, because of popularity and a staggering takeover by pop and hip-hop, rock and roll once again ceased to be released this year. Sure Modest Mouse, Green Day and Franz Ferdinand made appearances.....but hip-hop dominates again (and it wasn't exactly a stellar year for hip-hop). Usher, Alicia Keys and Kanye West are not the only good artists out there and the Grammys know it...but top 40 radio gives them an excuse to not go beyond the charts.

As per usual, I'll give my precitions and thoughts (whether you want them or not) closer to the occasion.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

In this week’s “Why Didn’t I Think of That?” moment….

Finally, the outraged pop culture fanatics are taking back America. Ladies and gentlemen, there is hope. Or H.O.P.E. (Horrified Observers of Pedestrian Entertainment). This admirable effort, put together by entertainers and entertainment lovers of all stripes, seeks to rid America of the homogenized pop princess, processed reality TV “stars”, fan-created-bands and lip-synching neo-rockers.

According to their mission statement, H.O.P.E. will try to bring good entertainment back to the masses, via grassroots efforts and, I expect, extensive complaints. But this isn’t just a bunch of indie rock listening, girls-pants-wearing, shaggy-haired emo kids whining at the trendy coffee shop. These guys are taking action.

One of the group’s efforts (which, surprisingly, caught the attention of pap-pushing master publications Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone) actually gives the victims of pop trash a way out via a CD exchange. Those who were tricked into buying Ashlee Simpson’s CD can send it to H.O.P.E. and get good music in return.

While some of the music is fringe like Abe Lincoln Story or Neil Hamburger…some of thr trade-ins are must-have classics like Elvis Costello, The Ramones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Brian Wilson.

It’s a crazy scheme you say, but it just might work. Might? It has! The program has had enormous response and now H.O.P.E. is taking trade-ins for Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Lachey, Jessica Simpson, Creed, Paris Hilton, Limp Bizkit, and any boy band music.

It’s so beautiful a cause, it makes me want to cry. I want to help. You should too. Unless you’re a trash-inbibing pop radio listener, that is. They’re coming for you….

Friday, December 03, 2004

Another RS list, another outrage

This radio station I listen to just started a big stink about how Metallica only had one song (“Enter Sandman”) in Rolling Stone’s 500 Best Songs. I think RS was generous with one song well into the three hundreds.

Why must every rock station feels the need to push Metallica as if they are some legendarily awesome group? They are merely a marketing force that managed to both ruin radio and take down Napster. If you’re going to push a band from the 80s, push STP, Nirvana or Pearl Jam.

Metallica is the most overrated band in my lifetime. Their sound is derivative and sounds not unlike most other “metal” bands from the same time period. In fact, they also manage to sound strikingly…like themselves. Over and over and over again. And as many of their most popular songs are covers, I say they should personally suck Bob Seger’s dick for what they did to “Turn the Page.”

So there. I said it. Someone had to say it. So go on, flame me. make the outrage even worse? Don McLean's "American Pie" didn't even make the list. Booooo.