Friday, June 26, 2009

MJ at the Crossroads

"It was totally unfair that it didn't get Record of the Year and it can never happen again." -Michael Jackson, disappointed that Off The Wall only received one Grammy.

On the night of February 27th, 1980, a disheartened Michael Jackson returned to his home, his Best Male R&B Vocal Performance Grammy in his hand. It was a consolation prize, he thought. Any award with that many qualifiers in its name is barely an award at all.

He walked in the door and the beast was waiting for him.

"Hello, Michael. I know you're upset. I would be too if I were you. It was unfair. 'What A Fool Believes' as record of the year? It's a joke. You were much more deserving, especially after all you've been through.

But I can help you, Michael. What if I told you that your next album could not only sweep the Grammys but be the biggest selling album of all-time? And you, Michael, would be the biggest pop star in the world, adored by not just millions, but hundreds of millions, perhaps even billions. And the children, Michael. They would love you more than anyone.

You wouldn't have to answer to anyone, Michael. No one could tell you what to do. Not the press. Not the record label. Not your family, Michael. All of those who tried to keep down in the past would come to you begging for your help, begging for just the lightest caress from your Midas touch. They would be yours to appease or deny. You'd be an entity of your own, untouchable.

I could show you things, Michael. Things you wouldn't believe. Things you would think defy the laws of physics, like how to move backwards and forwards at the same time.

It could all be yours, Michael. Let's make deal."

Michael made the deal and everything the beast promised came true. Thriller and its many hits, including the title track with its occult overtones, were a pop music phenomenon like the world had never seen.

But soon, the beast came for Michael's soul.

Michael's music slowly became less soulful, no longer working in the black R&B idiom but instead playing professional pop for greatest mass appeal.

His appearance also began to betray his African-American heritage. His nose became skinnier and his skin progressive paler. Eventually, he just didn't cease to resemble a soul brother, but barely looked human at all.

His essence corrupted, Michael developed a fascination with young children. Proximity to their innocence helped him regain a small bit of what he had lost. He attempted to express his affection for these children in a manner his eroding moral compass thought perfectly appropriate.

Soon, people began saying the most awful things about him. He was still known throughout the world but no longer as a superstar. At best, he was a punchline from which the most hackneyed comedian could elicit a laugh. At worst, he was a monster.

Michael did his best to persevere. Thirty years after his deal with the beast, Michael had hoped to tour again, performing his music in front of a smaller but still sizable following of fans who continued to be devoted to him. It was all he had left. As the only possible source of pleasure remaining in Michael's life, the beast took him to hell before the tour could begin.

The timing was perfect for the beast. He had a busy weekend ahead of him fulfilling the terms of his deal with Michael Bay.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sky Saxon RIP

Sky Saxon, leader of 60s "flower punks" the Seeds and author of one of my favorite songs of all time (see below), passed away this morning. Literally a few moments after I heard the news, CNN reported that Farrah Fawcett also met her demise today, so it's looking unlikely that Sky's passing will get any coverage from any mainstream media outlets. This is unfortunate as surely the composer of the below made a considerable contribution to culture:

Obviously, just a few a hours later, even bigger news broke.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

This Shitty Decade: A Dry Run

(Justin or Kelly?)

We're just about 6 months away from the end of the 00s and we're hearing surprisingly little fanfare. Perhaps it's all coming in few months. Or it could be that the past ten years are something we're collectively trying to forget rather than recapitulate. In any case, I've been pondering a list of the best records of the decade that was and I've decided to share a preliminary list with you.

Albums are grouped according to cultural significance and will be ranked and dissected at a later date. I've not included any releases from this year or last as I'd like those to have a bit more time to sink in before determining long-term musical correctness. Certainly, some are likely to make the cut.

You are more than welcome to share your thoughts on any albums you think I've missed. This will likely result in me thanking you for reminding me or making fun of your terrible taste. Comment at your own risk.

Post-9/11 NYC Trust Fund Rock
The Strokes Is This It?
Interpol Turn on the Bright Lights

Better Refutations of W's America than John Kerry Offered
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists Hearts of Oak
The Thermals The Body, the Blood, the Machine

Stuck In The Garage Without the Motor Running
Dirtbombs Ultraglide in Black
White Stripes White Blood Cells
Reigning Sound Time Bomb High School

Punx Snot Dead
Jay Reatard Blood Visions
Marked Men Fix My Brain
Times New Viking Dig Yourself

Music on the iPod of Teenage Girls Who Have a Crush on Michael Cera
Belle & Sebastian The Life Pursuit
The Shins Oh, Inverted World
New Pornographers The Electric Version

Smart Pop UK
Sally Crewe and the Sudden Moves Drive It Like You Stole It
Futureheads s/t

Smart Rock North America
Destroyer Streethawk: A Seduction
The Oxford Collapse A Good Ground
Ponys Celebration Castle

Post-post-hardcore Shenanigans
Hot Snakes Automatic Midnight
Pissed Jeans Shallow

Radiohead Was Cribbing Notes But You Didn't Notice
Clinic Internal Wrangler
The Notwist Neon Golden

I can't help but notice I didn't include any of Spoon's four albums from the past decade here. They certainly deserve to be but I cannot at this time decide which of these albums is best. Once I'm told by a respected media outlet in their summary of the aughts, then I'll know for certain. I don't want to go out on a limb and look like a fool. Collective agreement is what having a blog is all about, right?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Unblinking Ear Podcast: Requiem for a Black Hooded Sweatshirt

Farewell, dear friend. It was probably my fault for leaving you on the back of my chair at the bar. I'm pretty sure the drunk old hippie dude who was blathering on to me about the legalization of marijuana took you, probably accidentally. I hope you're just as good to him as you were to me. Try to act as surprised as he is when he discovers the Angry Samoans and Cherry Blossom Clinic buttons attached to you.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

If This Is the Punishment...

...I'll skip the reward.

I was just about ready to post the CD twofer of In The Same Room and 5 By Four from This Kind of Punishment as an Out-of-Print Digital Relic when I found someone had already beaten me to the punch. This goal of mine to never be redundant is probably a quixotic gesture. So I'll post the video already posted on the Doledrums blog and tell you head over there to download the full collection rather than pay $50 to get in on Amazon, though as you can tell from the evidence below, 50 bucks is probably a bargain for shit of this quality.