The Strokes, Good Charlotte, Greatest Hits Albums
I’m pleased to report that although I received hundreds of e-mails from readers this week, barely any of them were hate-mail from Coldplay fans. Why, you ask? I figure it’s either because Coldplay fans are meek as kittens or because even Coldplay fans know that Coldplay is terrible. And to all the people who requested that I share my opinion of Tool, you’ll have to keep waiting. It was a tough week at NASA and I didn’t have the mental energy to listen to such brow-furrowing bullshit. I did get a ton of requests for these bands though, so let’s go to the circus:
Chapter III: Good Charlotte and The Strokes Both Suck, As You Well Know
I received a staggering number of requests that I turn my boundless wit and wisdom toward Good Charlotte. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do that to everyone’s satisfaction, because after Barney got overexposed and annoying I pretty much stopped following children’s records. I can certainly comment upon the few songs by them I’ve heard on the radio though, since so many people practically begged me. One thing I’ve noticed is that they’re almost unfathomably terrible, but you already knew that. Another thing I’ve noticed is that basically every single of theirs blatantly steals at least one significant element from something else.
Good Charlotte: As stupid as their fans?
"The Anthem" not only steals its titular line from some old Notorious B.I.G. song, but the chorus contains eerie similarities to that Louis Prima song that the bear sings in The Jungle Book. "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" liberally lifts material directly from a Chris Rock routine. "Girls and Boys," predictably enough, has both the title and major elements of the chorus of a Blur song from 1994. This doesn’t surprise me, of course. I’d expect such shameless plagiarism from men who rail against the evils of college education. I also might add that as hosts of MTV’s “The Rock Show,” they were by far the least charismatic MTV VJs in history. This means that they managed to beat out Pauly Shore, Simon Rex, and Kennedy for the title, a feat which only a few years ago would have been unthinkable. That covers the singles, and if you think I’m actually going to buy and listen to a Good Charlotte album just so I can tell you what you already know (that they’re utter shit), you’re more delusional than someone who thinks they bear any resemblance to punk music.
The Strokes were also a very common suggestion. I was a little reluctant to talk about these guys, and I’ll tell you why. Remember that scene at the end of 8 Mile where Eminem totally kicks that guy’s ass in the battle rap by just pointing out all of his own flaws before the other guy had a chance to do so? Well, it’s like that. The flaws of The Strokes are so glaring and readily apparent that demeaning them on the internet would seem to be a waste of everyone’s time. Yes, they’re rich kids. Yes, they have no stage presence. Yes, their music is simplistic. Yes, they’re overexposed. Well, after a little soul-searching, I realized that I don’t care whatsoever about wasting your time, my time, or anyone else’s time, as long as it allows me to publicly deride a deserving band.
The Strokes: Is that MTV's Jesse Camp on the right?
Judging by all these e-mails, people seemed to really hate this band of lovable fluffy-topped scamps, and for no better reasons than their total lack of talent and their ridiculously hyperbole-soaked critical reputation. While the critics started soiling their pants even as soon as the first Strokes singles hit the stores, the critical fawning really came to a head when their debut album, "Is This It," was released. Now, this wasn’t any standard run-of-the-mill critical fawning. This was the kind of critical fawning generally reserved for amazing, groundbreaking things like James Joyce and Boston Public. NME gave the album a perfect 10 out of 10 score. Rolling Stone even broke out of their usual critical format of giving every single album that comes out three and a half stars and actually gave it four stars. That’s a whole half a star above every single other rating they’ve ever given out, except for reissues, which all get five stars. They appeared on the cover of every music magazine imaginable, and cheap suit sales skyrocketed.
Not content to simply praise them for their retro style and glassy-eyed delivery, the press held one of their secret music critic illuminati meetings to figure out some outrageous new form of flattery. I was invited, of course, but I chose not to attend due to a prior commitment involving angry brooding. The results of this meeting were exactly as I predicted: they failed to come up with any new ideas, so they pretty much decided to make stuff up about The Strokes. Primary among their lies were the comparisons to prototypical punk bands of yesteryear.
If Television were Bruce Lee, The Strokes are Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.
For example, Julian Casablancas’s mumbly, unintelligible, constantly overdriven vocals and vague, confused lyrics were somehow compared to the Velvet Underground. The band’s paint-by-numbers 70s punk pastiche sound was surreally compared to Television’s music. How could this be? Anyone with even an ounce of sense in their head would instantly see that these comparisons have absolutely no merit. The Velvet Underground was revered for Lou Reed’s unmistakable voice and, even a crotchety bastard like me will admit it, fairly memorably lyrics. These are two qualities distinctly lacking in the music of The Strokes, whose songs usually contain no more distinct message than “life is exciting” or perhaps “life is boring” or, in cases of extreme emotional outburst, “my relationship is either exciting or boring.” Television’s defining feature was their musicality. They’re known for their avant-garde guitar solos and innovative structures; in other words, they’re known for being exactly the opposite of The Strokes. As you can see, the music press pulled these comparisons directly out of its collective music-press ass. Fine, music press. Praise The Strokes all you want, but don’t drag innocent old bands into this mess. Lou Reed is too busy with his increasingly accurate Frankenstein’s Monster impression to be bothered defending himself against wild allegations of sounding like The Strokes.
The Strokes have just released a new album, "Room on Fire." Apparently, they decided that the best way to keep up their critical adoration was to make the exact same album over again. Perhaps they missed the fact that the overexposure of phony garage rock garbage is really starting to piss people off. The Strokes are now officially one step behind the zeitgeist; we can only hope that their unavoidable destiny of waning fame and decreasing media attention will at least provide us with some amusing public drug freak-outs or maybe a suicide or two.
Chapter III and a half: It’s Greatest Hits Season!
The holiday season invariably brings about an awe-inspiring blizzard of cash-in attempts from the world’s biggest bands. There’s no more effortlessly lucrative venture than repackaging and reselling old material. It’s a magical time when record companies can reap the rewards of releasing five albums by some band with maybe two or three good songs on each one. Most people wouldn’t believe how many housewives there are out there who only buy one or two albums a year; the easiest way to bust this piñata is to crap out a singles collection, promote it at Wal-Mart, and hit the soccer-mom market where they live. Record labels also count on selling huge numbers of these things to people who will give them out as Christmas gifts. The greatest hits album is the perfect gift to buy for someone you know barely anything about. Did you ever hear your sister-in-law mention casually that she liked R.E.M. when they came on the car radio? Buying her their greatest hits album will give her the impression that you actually know her! This still isn’t enough, of course: they also have to make sure the fans who already have all the songs buy the album. To do this, they add one or two crappy outtakes or some half-assed new song so even the devotees will be suckered into getting it for their collection. Brilliant!
So, in the interest of honest consumer reporting, I’ve put together a convenient “holiday buyer’s guide” to this year’s big greatest hits releases. Here it is: don’t buy any of them, you cultureless consumer slut. Well, I suppose I’d better go on a little longer than that in the interest of at least getting some cheap laughs out of money-whoring bands. Here’s a quick rundown of some of them:
R.E.M.:Looks like there's a Morrissey convention in town.
R.E.M.: In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003
This has probably been the most heavily promoted out of all of these records. This is a collection covering R.E.M.’s big money years, when they managed to have the record deal of a major act but the credibility of an indie band. Most of the big names from the era are here, with the notable exception of one of their biggest hits: "Shiny Happy People." What are you running from, R.E.M.? Why are you ashamed of "Shiny Happy People?" Do you really not trust the public to decide which of your songs are worth listening to on, of all things, a “best of” collection? If you’re already shamelessly cashing in, why not go all the way and put on the shitty song that everyone loves? Oh, and for those of you who are disappointed that "It’s The End Of The World As We Know It" was released before the cutoff, have no fear! This collection includes the previously unreleased “Bad Day,” which is the exact same song!
The Boomtown Rats: The Best of the Boomtown Rats
Who the fuck are the Boomtown Rats?
No Doubt: The Singles 1992-2003
Time to relive 11 years of whiny histrionics from everyone’s favorite sellout ska band! We have all the big hits here, from the clumsy metaphor that was "Spiderwebs" to the laughable money-grab of "Hella Good." Not only that, we get their new single, "It’s My Life," a cover of Talk Talk’s new wave hit. Luckily for fans of No Doubt, Mark Hollis’s cool and measured vocals have been replaced with Gwen Stefani’s irritating Betty Boop impression. I’m sure the members of Talk Talk are turning in their graves right now, assuming they’re as dead as their careers.
Robert Plant: Sixty Six to Timbuktu
Last year we got The Best of Wings. This year, Robert Plant is here to fill the void in the “solo careers that nobody gives a rat’s ass about” market.
Peter Gabriel: Hit
If you're not willing to turn on the classic rock station and wait a maximum 15 minutes to hear "Solsbury Hill," you might want to pick this one up. I must warn you though, it includes "Games Without Frontiers," which is one of the top ten worst songs ever written.
My one joy in this world, Bon Jovi, is that one day you will be dead.
Primal Scream: Dirty Hits
I don’t know if any band has managed to fool so many people for so long. These guys, who have never had an original thought in their entire lives, have managed to remain darlings of the British music press for more than 10 years now. They’ve done so by transparently riding the coattails of whatever scene was new and different. They started with abysmal C-86 hippy crap, graduated to soulless ecstasy-fueled dance pop, worked their way up to Oasis-style dad-rock garbage, and finally added some vintage-sounding electronics and garage-rock posing to bring themselves up to date. If you’re willing to hear the whole nauseating ordeal, God help you. I don’t suspect this one’s going to crack the top 900.
Bon Jovi: This Left Feels Right
What could be more insipid than Bon Jovi’s greatest hits? Nothing, right? Wrong! These are acoustic re-workings of their greatest hits. The fact that such a thing exists is all the proof we need that Satan is firmly in control here on Earth. So, maybe you wanted to like Bon Jovi but "Livin’ On A Prayer" was a little too rowdy for you. This is surely the collection you need!
Tori Amos: Tales of a Librarian
Ever wanted to listen to a woman whine about being raped for an hour? Let me save you some money by letting you in on a little secret: lots of support groups are free! Actually, that was pretty cold, not all of Tori Amos’s songs are about being raped. Some of them are about having a miscarriage. Either way, this best-of collection is sure to be grabbed up by thousands of brooding teenage girls and their pussywhipped boyfriends.
Stabbing Westward: The Essential Stabbing Westward
What? Coming next month: Nada Surf's greatest hits. Although I suppose that's not really fair to Nada Surf, who actually had a hit.
Suede: I promise you that their songs are twice as effeminite as this picture.
Thank heavens the songs on this collection aren’t in chronological order, or else you’d have to hear one of the steepest declines any band has ever undergone in history! Two albums into Suede’s career, their guitarist left. Okay, imagine if everyone in The Beatles except Ringo left. That’s basically the situation here. All their effete poncings are included, from the ponderous ballad "Stay Together" to the laughably flaccid new single, "Attitude." To Suede’s credit, they just broke up, so they can’t embarrass themselves or their 20 remaining fans any further.
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Greatest Hits
Well, I guess this one is justified, because I’m sure there are a lot of people who want to own "Soul To Squeeze" but can’t find the Coneheads soundtrack.
Counting Crows: Films about Ghosts – The Best of Counting Crows
I’d love to buy this, but I already spent all my money on cable-knit sweaters and gourmet coffee.
Tune in next week for more snappy answers to stupid musicians. If you'd like to try to defend a band that I've made fun of, don't bother, because you'll only end up making yourself look stupid. If you're extremely annoyed at one band in particular that I haven't mentioned, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me about it. You might very well see them on next week's Your Band Sucks.