Liveblogging: Humanity’s last best hope for survival. The Grammys are tonight, and since I have a laptop and an exceedingly high amount of free time, I’m going to liveblog all over this place and worry about the mess later. If you’re up to the challenge, you can follow along and heckle me accordingly. Or don’t. Just do whatever you think feels right.
Despite the fact that I wasn’t actually writing on the SodBlog for the last year or so, this site did still technically exist, in that you could still find it on the Internet using your preferred choice of Internet machine, provided it was equipped with the Google. And in that time, the posts I had written previously sat on the Internet, just waiting for someone to errantly stumble upon them and become enraged by them. Such was the case with a post I wrote in the far distant past of 2009, called “Despite Rumors to the Contrary, Creed Still Sucks.” You may not remember this, but about a decade ago, there was this band called Creed who were absolutely terrible at making music. Just so, so very bad at doing that. Despite this fact, Creed still were very financially successful, because that tends to be how the world works with the gross unfairness and all. But Creed’s success in spite of themselves couldn’t last forever, and eventually their gigantic jackass of a lead singer Scott Stapp publicly imploded, leading to everyone in Creed who wasn’t Scott Stapp going off to start a new band, leaving Scott Stapp all by himself to get into fistfights with 311. So then instead of Creed, we had the Scott Stapp solo experience and Whatever the Name of Creed Was Without Scott Stapp, neither of which had any success whatsoever. So, of course, despite all of the members openly hating each other, they reformed Creed so that they could once again return to eating regularly. And thus, there was Creed again.
And then they put out an album nobody bought and now nobody remembers Creed any more. The end.
But no! Not the end! Because there is still one more person besides me who remembers Creed! And, because destiny foretold it, he found his way to this very humble blog, caught me talking shit ’bout his favoritest band, and engaged me in a sword fight to the death he’s done given me a piece of his mind. Here, for your viewing enjoyment, is that piece of his mind.
Creed will never go away They have too many fans They sell too many albums
deal with it.
the lame part is that you use any part of your time to get this into your hate. get a life man. go listen and promote who you do like imagine if you used all the time you use going out of your way to hate on creed, and used that time to promote band you like. they may actually sell some albums like creed does.
Wow. Where to even start? First off, when I first read this, my initial instinct was that it was a comment delivered to me through the time rift all the way back from the year 2002. Look at his insistence that Creed still “sells albums.” Too many albums, even. That is an occurrence that quite literally hasn’t happened anytime in the last 10 years, so obviously I am communicating with a time traveller of some kind here. Hello, citizen of the Earth in the year 2002 AD! How is the weather in your dimension? Is it nice? It is quite pleasant here. We do not have jetpacks yet.
Second, please also note that our lost in time friend here was rendered unable to use capitalization for the second half of his comment. But that is a frequent side effect of the time sickness, which afflicts many time travelers, so we’ll just let that one slide. It couldn’t possibly be because he’s an idiot, right?
Okay, so I made Creed’s last fan angry. Good for me. But what lesson shall we take away from this? Let it be this. Let it be his words of wisdom, that we should all use what precious little time we are given on this Earth in the pursuit of something positive, rather than the destruction of that which we find distasteful. We should be building things up, rather than tearing them down. In a spirit of community, we can all come together and make this world a better, more positive place, showing our love and appreciation for those small things in life which bring us joy.
Unless it’s Creed. Because seriously, they are terrible.
If you’ve been on the Internet at all in the last couple months (which I realize is an iffy proposition. Yuck. Internet usage. Am I right?), you might have heard the story of a children’s book being released called Go the F*ck to Sleep. No, I’m not joking. That is an actual children’s book that you are actually able to purchase with your actual monetary funds in the very actual present. The book is originally based off a joke made in a Facebook post by the author, because of course it is. And now, a book idea based off a one-off joke made on a social networking site is already a New York Times #1 Bestseller, and it wasn’t even supposed to be released until October.
Now, having read all that, I predict that at one point, you thought to yourself, “You know who they should get to do the audio book for that? Samuel L. Jackson.” First off, very funny joke, reader! Maybe you should be the one writing this blog and I should be the one reading it. Second, yes, of course Samuel L. Jackson did the audio book of Go the F*ck to Sleep. Better yet, it’s out now. Better better yet, it’s free. Better than all things ever yet, you can download it right here, right now by clicking here. Or here. Okay, here too.
Now, to review, as a nation we have a popular children’s book called Go the F*ck to Sleep, a popular Cee Lo Green song called F*ck You, and a popular CBS sitcom called Sh*t My Dad Says. Does this mean we’ve turned a corner in our nation’s history and finally gotten over our collective fear of horrible, terrible, nasty curse words? Haha, of course not! Didn’t you see all the asterisks in those titles? Those were in there because if they weren’t, there was no way on earth any of those pieces of popular art would have ever seen the light of day. So even though you know full well what the word is supposed to be, and you’ve most certainly heard other people and yourself use that same word many times in the past, we still need to remove some of the letters so you won’t be exposed to the awful filthiness of a few letters arranged in a certain matter to make a word that makes the olds uncomfortable. Change! Hope!
Look, I get it. You don’t want the swear words being used because you don’t want your kids exposed to the swearing. I’m a father, so I understand. But even as we speak, my daughter is sitting right next to me and just told me, “Daddy, why the fuck did you put bananas in my fucking corn flakes? You know I hate that shit.” Okay, she didn’t really just say that. But she was thinking it. Point being, you want your kids protected from the awful vulgarities up until they turn twelve, maybe thirteen, at which point they can go nuts for all you care, just as long as they don’t do it in front of you. So we keep the kids away from swearing up until they’re old enough that we can’t stop them anymore, at which point they start swearing like the rest of us regular human beings. Makes sense, right? Kids can’t swear until they can, and in the meantime, no interrupting my episode of NCIS with the corpses being cut in half with your awful cuss words.
I’m just saying nothing makes any fucking sense to me. That’s all I’m saying.
MTV is a thing that the children enjoy, along with their Justin Beibers and the sugar. I’ve decided to liveblog the MTV Video Music Awards, on account of the fact that I didn’t do the Emmys a couple weeks ago and I feel like I owe you something, despite the fact that I don’t. Anyway, if you enjoy watching an old person attempting to understand the young people and their awful music, this here’s the blog for you. Because man, does my back hurt.
Once again, as another year draws to a close, I’ve been scrambling, trying to work out which albums this year were my favorites. Remember, this list is totally subjective and not meant to imply that these are the ten best albums of the year, period. They are simply my favorite albums of 2009, the ones that I personally thought were the best. Go ahead and strap yourself in, it’s going to be a long ride:
10. Silversun Pickups – Swoon
Everyone’s favorite Smashing Pumpkins cover band is back with a new album. Just kidding. Just kidding. Sure, the Silversun Pickups have some of the same ascetics that the Pumpkins did; the overwhelming guitar, the heavy bass played by a hot female bassist, etc, but they are most definitely a different band. I had their firstPikul EP and the growth since then is pretty stunning. Sure, there are a few throw-away tracks here, notably “Catch and Release” and “Sort Of,” but the standouts more than make up for it. “Panic Switch” and “There’s No Secrets This Year” are a couple of the better tracks to come out this year. All in all, this record makes me look forward to their next effort, because if they can get rid of the 2-3 filler songs that seem to pop up on each of their records, there isn’t much to keep them from putting out a truly memorable record.
9. Mariachi El Bronx – Mariachi El Bronx
The last thing I expected when Kelly told me that The Bronx had a new disc out and that I had to listen to it was to hear a tumbling bassline and lots of brass horns. For a hardcore punk band, these guys can really belt out some mariachi tunes. Sure, it’s not like they re-make the whole genre, but they get a huge up for actually having the skill as musicians to pull off a pretty damn good mariachi record. The songs pop with excitement, heartache and loss. What starts out as a stunner ends up as a solid record that would be a good addition to anyone’s music collection.
8. Eels – El Hombre Lobo
It seems like every year that the Eels put out a record, I end up exhorting my friends and acquaintances (unsuccessfully) to check them out. This has been happening for almost ten years now and no one seems to listen. You’d think after awhile I’d give up the ghost and just enjoy them by myself in the privacy of my own home. Each release gets less and less publicity and less and less fanfare, but is no less impressive than the one that preceded it. I like to think of them as a alternate reality Tom Petty. They both write consistently good songs, only one doesn’t have Rolling Stone magazine salivating over their every move. Guess which.
This record is different from the last few that the Eels have put out. While Blinking Lights and Other Revelations was a opus that spanned two discs and spawned two distinctly different tours. El Hombre Lobo sounds like a record made in a basement for a select audience. If Mark Oliver Everett’s music didn’t come out of the studio sounding so polished. If he gave in and made a sloppy record that reveled in it’s flaws, he’d probably be lauded, much like Paul Westerberg was for his Stereo/Mono collection of basement recordings. But because each Eels record has a certain polish to it, we sweep them under the rug and discount them. Meanwhile, one of the better songwriters of our generation has been languishing under our very noses for over 15 years and the only thing that we remember him for is one radio hit back in 1996. It’s sad, really. So, hey, do me a favor and go buy this fucking album.
7. Justin Townes Earle – Midnight at the Movies
I’d include this album for the title track alone. The songwriting is stellar, the arrangements are top-notch and Earle’s voice will haunt you in your dreams. Add in that he includes a cover of The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait” that just breaks your heart and this is a record that, much like the Avett Brothers, I could sit and enjoy with just about anyone. “Mama’s Eyes” makes you want to cry and “Black Eyed Suzy” makes you want to get up and shake something. In addition to the songwriting, Earle should be commended for choosing the right traditional songs and covers to round out this memorable album.
6. The Thermals – Now We Can See
Sometimes there’s a band that comes along and, through sheer force of will, can do no wrong. It’s not that every song they record is a hit or that every album they put out is an instant classic, but they just keep chugging along and never seem to disappoint. For me, that’s Portland’s own Thermals. They have always put out listenable, energetic records. Fucking A is a classic of the early 2000s and 2007′s The Body, The Blood, The Machine was epic, especially for a punk record. On Now We Can See, The Thermals seem to be settling into early middle age without losing much of the verve that made them so enjoyable in the first place. You see bands hit a certain age all the time and just drop off a cliff artistically. Thankfully, that does not happen here. With sing-along songs like “Now We Can See” mixed with the blunt force of “When We Were Alive,” The Thermals have managed to begin to grow old gracefully. Some bands view every new record as more and more pressure, but it seems like Hutch, Kathy and Co. are content to keep on letting us in on their good time.
5. White Rabbits – It’s Frightening
The percussion. The staccato guitars. The rolling bass. The howling vocals. The percussion. This album has it all. So many of the songs use a calypso beat and it makes even someone like me want to dance. The songs are more proclamations than diatribes, filled with poignant lines like “when you’re out taking names/take a number.” It’s Frightening was produced by Spoon’s Britt Daniel, and when you listen to the White Rabbits’ first full length, Fort Nightly, it really shows. There is much more space and experimentalism going on on this record. They take chances and seem to have been challenged to grow musically and that’s exactly what they did. While there are ravers peppering the whole album, some of the standouts are the slower, more contemplative tracks, like “Midnight and I” and “Company I Keep.” This record is a big step forward for the White Rabbits and it’s certainly one of the more listenable albums, front to back, of the year.
4. Mos Def – The Ecstatic
I’ve always liked the idea of Mos Def. He’s popped up on my radar as an actor and occasionally as a musician here and there, but I’d never really sat down and listened to one of his albums all the way through. I figured enough was enough and grabbed The Ecstatic. Now I know what I was missing. The flow, the creativity, the personality, they make his music unmistakable in so many ways. Top to bottom, this record is excellent. Kicking off with “Supermagic” and culminating with “Casa Bey,” two extremely strong tracks, there is barely a throwaway on this album. The stellar “Auditorium” really stands out, as do “Quiet Dog” and “Life in Marvelous Times.” Mos Def is at the top of his game here and has delivered a true gem.
3. Blakroc – Blakroc
When I first heard about a collaboration between The Black Keys and a group of hip-hop artists, I was slightly skeptical. But after thinking about it for a moment, I realized that their brand of gut-bucket blues might just fit with the esthetics of rap. I couldn’t have imagined how well, though. About halfway through Blakroc, you forget about that this concept sounded unique at first blush and just accept that it was inevitable and relish that it was done by such talented artists. From top to bottom, this record breathes new life into a musical genre that has been languishing in obscurity for too long. Overshadowed by flash and bling and half-assed artists, rap and hip-hop has found refuge in the underground and alternative music circles, where Mos Def, Raekwon and RZA have found new, if limited, fame.
The integration of blues and hip-hop has always been on the periphery, but now it’s been shoved to the forefront and rightfully so. As it stands, it’s a testament to the talent of the artists involved, because they make it all sound so effortless.
2. Japandroids – Post-Nothing
This record languished in my library for a few months after I first got it, popping up every now and then. I never really took the time to sit and listen to what it had to say until one day, it hit me like a punch in the gut. The raw emotion and fuzzed-out simplicity are hard to resist. It’s like listening to pure nostalgia. The Japandroids have managed to put out a record that makes me wish that I was at once young enough to share the enthusiasm for life that oozes from Post-Nothing and makes me glad that I’m old enough to share sentiments like “we used to dream/now we worry about dying” from “Young Hearts Spark Fire”.
The Japandroids aren’t re-inventing the wheel with their sound and their songwriting is slightly above par, but the combination of the current social climate and my own flip into my 30s make this the perfect record to bemoan getting old to.
1. Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
The Avett Brothers have been making down-home music to soothe the soul for most of the last decade, garnering a small but dedicated fanbase everywhere they play. Whether it’s frantic rave-ups or plaintive ballads, they’ve blazed a new path for true country music in an era marked by experimentalism and a departure from simple songs. That’s something that, in and of itself, I admire. But add to that the fact that they make beautiful music and I’m hooked. I bought most of their albums within a one month period after picking up their 2007 effort, Emotionalism, and I haven’t looked back. So when they released a their newest this fall, I was falling over myself to listen to it.
I and Love and You is a monumental leap forward for The Avett Brothers. The arrangements are grander without being over-grand, the songs are more focused without sounding too polished and the passion that informs so much of their performance is still comes across on the recording. And while this album is decidedly different from most of their catalog, they still manage to stay true to form. The album is paced perfectly, kicking off with the title track and never looking back for a moment. There are poignant moments peppered throughout and strong tracks all the way through. From the heartbreakingly lovely “January Wedding” to deliciously quirky “Slight Figure of Speech,” this album hums all the way through. I could sit down and enjoy I and Love and You with a teenager and with my grandmother, knowing that they’d love something about it. There’s something here for everyone, and that’s more than I can say for almost every other record that came out this year.
Picking the best songs of the year is an entirely different process than picking albums. Albums have to be cohesive and diverse, they have to pull you in and take you along for the ride. Songs, well, songs can be any number of things; a quick diversion, a jolt of inspiration or a righteous jam that makes you want to make an ass out of yourself in any number of ways, from dancing to singing at the top of your lungs while driving down the highway.
For me, I like to put together my favorite songs of the year into a single CD. Kind of an Album for the Year kind of thing. That way, I can go back and listen to those songs and they will remind me of the year in question. Because of this, the songs are going to be numbered like an album, not in order of their greatness. So, without any further ado, here are my 17 (yes, 17) songs for the year that was 2009:
1. Cannibal Resource – Dirty Projectors
2. Swim Until You Can’t See Land(single) – Frightened Rabbit
3. Don’t Slow Down – Matt & Kim
4. Now We Can See – The Thermals
5. Quiet Little Voices – We Were Promised Jetpacks
Preparations have begun. Chris, Kelly and I are hard at work scribbling away in notebooks about how much we love this album or that album, using superlatives normally reserved for junior high love letters.
It’s Top Ten Album of the Year time, people!
Of course, I’m sure we’ll all be very unbiased in our reviews and have a healthy respect for each other’s opinions. Music nerds like us have a well-known tendency for level-headedness.
This is a tradition that stretches back to the start of the decade, when we first decided to get together at the end of the year and trash each other’s favorite albums on the the mighty airwaves of KMSC, to the delight of easily a handful of people.
Since then, our forum has changed and we have mellowed. We are all now in our 30s, respectable adults in the eyes of our peers. Or, at least in the eyes of our mothers. The lists this year will be for Best Albums and Best Songs. Stay tuned…
For those interested, our lists for last year are available for your perusal here, here and here.
You may have noticed that I stopped blogging here. It’s because I don’t love you any more. But extenuating circumstances occasionally get in the way of me being too damn lazy to ever write blog posts anymore. And today is one of them. For you see, this cannot be allowed to stand.
Creed Is Good
Scott Stapp’s nu-grunge foursome was seriously underrated.
By Jonah Weiner
Posted Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009, at 9:30 AM ET
We can interrupt right here because everything of importance in this article has already been stated. First, the title. While composed entirely of words that are both actual words and in English, it still legally counts as gibberish because there is no way those three words belong together in that order. Creed is good. It’s like saying the sky is red or dogs can fly or Windows 7 is the greatest operating system every created. These are all statements that make no logical sense. But the author is determined to make an argument that is roughly along the same lines as “Ass cancer has a bad rap, but I contend that ass cancer is something that is actually desirable.”
But if you managed to make it past the title without grabbing the nearest paperweight and caving in your own skull, first of all, congratulations. It probably helps that paperweights aren’t in general usage these days, but still, your restraint is admirable. But the subhead provides yet another challenge. “Scott Stapp’s nu-grunge foursome was seriously underrated.” Nu-grunge? Seriously? Was that ever a word before this exact minute? But forgetting that, please remember the word “underrated,” as its subject will be brought up again shortly.
Lastly, Jonah Weiner. Hehe. I really need say no more.
In 1997, an unknown Florida hard-rock group called Creed spent $6,000 to make its debut album, My Own Prison. Talk about a good investment: An independent label, Wind-Up, signed the group, got Sony to provide distribution, and Creed became, for four years or so, one of America’s hugest bands.
That was only for four years? Wow. It seemed like an eternity back when the biggest rock acts on the face of the planet were Creed, Nickleback and Puddle of Mudd. How any of us survived those days is beyond my pay grade.
Its 1999 single, “Higher,” topped the modern-rock chart for 17 straight weeks. “With Arms Wide Open,” released the following year, reached the top of the pop charts, and won the Grammy for best rock song. Between 1997 and 2002, the band grossed more than $70 million touring. To date, it has sold 26 million records in the United States.
Now, we will return to that word from earlier. “Underrated.” Please notice that the author of this article (Hehe. Weiner.) is asserting that a band that made $70 million from touring and sold 26 million records in four years’ time was somehow “underrated.” Why am I taking the time to ridicule an article that is already ridiculing itself?
It was the perfect setup for a Behind the Music-style implosion, and Creed delivered. By late 2002, singer Scott Stapp was on a near-daily regimen of alcohol and Percocet—prescribed after a car crash—and he would soon add OxyContin and the steroid Prednisone to the list. In December of that year, Stapp stepped onto a Chicago stage visibly intoxicated, slurring his lyrics and performing one song while lying on his back. (Fans sued, unsuccessfully, for refunds.)
Yeah, that was hilarious.
It was the last show of a nationwide tour, and Stapp’s band mates didn’t speak to him for months. The next year, at home in Orlando, Stapp put two guns to his head, intent on blowing out his brains. Recounting this near-suicide, he has explained that he decided to put down the weapons after spotting a photograph of his infant son, about whom he’d written “With Arms Wide Open.”
Dammit! SO CLOSE! By the way, who in the hell has ever, when contemplating suicide, decided that the best way to go about it was with not one, but TWO guns? I’ll tell you who. Fucking Scott Stapp did.
In 2004, Creed broke up, and as this recent New York Times piece shows, there is no disagreement within the band that it died for Stapp’s sins.
Today, Stapp has shaved his head, cleaned up his act, and Creed has reunited for a tour and a new album, out at the end of this month—the first single, “Overcome,” is a wailing survivor’s anthem. (This Details story is a fine chronicle of the band’s dissolution and return.) Stapp’s lyrics have always been full of sweaty redemption narratives and howled prayers for second chances, so we could have seen this comeback bid coming a mile away. That is, if we’d had any reason to think about Creed at all. From the start, critical gatekeepers dismissed the band as derivative blowhards with a self-righteous Christian agenda, a consensus that did nothing to slow sales but that cemented in the popular imagination and took its own toll.
Oh, the poor babies. They unfairly got paintbrushed with the image of being a shitty band just because they happened to be a shitty band. No wonder they wanted to blow their brains out. Twice. At the same fucking time.
In the Times article, guitarist Mark Tremonti said that he greeted the breakup with a degree of relief: “No matter how many records you sell, when you’re up there with a target on your head every day it’s not fun.” Along with Limp Bizkit (who made fun of Creed, too), Stapp and Co. are remembered today as poster boys for a turn-of-the-century musical nightmare we’re happily past.
You may have just missed the only fundamentally true statement in this article, so I encourage you to go back and read it again. It does, in fact, suck to be made fun of by Limp Bizkit. Because, you know, they were Limp Bizkit. Also, Fred Durst probably tried to kill himself one time with eight guns and a rocket launcher. So suck on that, Stapp.
There’s no telling whether Creed will make good on its second chance, but the band deserves a second listen. If your impulse on hearing that it has reunited is to groan, stifle it long enough to locate a copy of Creed’s 2004 Greatest Hits collection. It’s a fantastic baker’s dozen of first-rate schlock-rock, courtesy of one of the most underrated and unfairly maligned groups in pop history.
Yes, if your first instinct upon hearing that Creed is back to being a band after being an ex-band is to groan or dry-heave or see if you happen to have two shotguns laying around somewhere handy, the obvious solution is for you to go pick up a copy of all their shittiest music compiled onto one CD and listen to it over and over and over again until you come to an incorrect epiphany: that Creed does, in actuality, rock. That’s a much better idea than continuing to believe that Creed sucks, just because they do.
Listening to Creed today, it’s hard to reconcile the animus against the band with the music.
It is? How?
(The animus against the group’s satiny tunics and slithery facial hair was always perfectly understandable.) In his lyrics, Stapp is a well-meaning, Bible-fluent doofus, easy to chuckle at but difficult to imagine hating.
You have no idea who Scott Stapp is, do you?
“The world is heading for mutiny, when all we want is unity,” he sings on “One.”
So that tiny little lyric there is the one argument you’re going to use to display just how much of a pompous, untalented shitstain Scott Stapp is as a songwriter, huh? Lame. Here, I’ll do your job for you.
“I look at you, you look away, I see your soul, It’s kind of gray…”
“Above all the others we’ll fly. This brings tears to my eyes. My sacrifice”
“Only in America. We’re slaves to be free. Only in America we kill the unborn. To make ends meet. Only in America. Sexuality is democracy. Only in America we stamp our dollar ‘In God We Trust.’”
The trouble wasn’t that he was a blustery, would-be messiah (that didn’t stop Bono’s canonization)
I think what actually was to blame for Bono’s canonization not being avoided was the fact that U2 made Joshua Tree, whereas the reason why Scott Stapp is universally heralded as a buffoon is because he is a buffoon, and has no positive contributions to music history to atone for it. But please, do continue on with your stupid point.
so much as the unrepentant hamminess he brought to the role: ample baritone quaking and churning, arms outstretched atop mountains and hovering, Christlike, above crowds in music videos. On stage, Stapp was Charlton Heston in leather pants, humping the stone tablets.
Which is, of course, what everybody wants from a rock band. Chalton Heston dry humping rocks.
His brand of fist-pumping, hair-tossing, pelvis-swiveling rocksmanship was hardly without precedent; it just seemed obnoxiously anachronistic. An audacious throwback to the preening hair-metal era (and, even further, to Robert Plant’s roosterish sashay), Stapp audaciously reinflated rock’s hot-air balloon less than a decade after Kurt Cobain was thought to have punctured it for good.
First, punctured? Way to stick it to the dead junkie there, Weiner. You showed him. Second, was there really that big a demand for rock music to have its hot air balloon reinflated? Were we really, as a nation, that desperate to have another Winger? If this were the case, wouldn’t it have saved time to have just given old Kip a call, and let him know that all was forgiven? God knows he isn’t doing anything else of any interest at the moment.
And it’s not that the band didn’t deliver. To the contrary, Creed seemed to irritate people precisely because its music was so unabashedly calibrated towards pleasure:
Well, that and the whole sucking ass thing.
Every surging riff, skyscraping chorus, and cathartic chord progression telegraphed the band’s intention to rock us, wow us, move us. Tremonti was a brutally effective guitarist, and by 2001′s “Weathered,” he’d even added subtlety—or the hard-rock version of it, anyway—to his arsenal. Creed was formulaic, but that’s only an insult if the formula doesn’t work. One of the surprises involved in returning to Creed with a fresh pair of ears is how rocking, exciting, and, yes, moving, the songs can be. “Higher” might turn out to be the nu-grunge “Don’t Stop Believing”: dismissed by cognoscenti on arrival as bludgeoning and gauche but destined for rehabilitation down the road as a triumphant slab of ersatz inspirationalism.
So there you have it. Creed was underrated because a man named Weiner bought Weathered eight years ago and still listens to it on his car stereo every morning on his way to work and still thinks it fucking rocks, so obviously it’s everyone else who’s mistaken.
There’s never any such thing as listening in a vacuum—see this recent New York Times Magazine story on the fascinating, ultimately paradoxical attempts of the music Web site Pandora to wean musical taste away from the sullying effects of “cultural information”—and it’s a lot easier to give Creed a sympathetic spin now that they aren’t so ubiquitous or so ubiquitously loathed. In fact, when you listen to the band’s third album, Weathered, with Stapp’s period of self-ruin in mind, its emotional heft is amplified.
Weathered was awesome! I love Weathered so goddamn much!
“Bullets” is a furious blast of metal and one of the most galvanizing persecution anthems ever penned: “At least look at me when you shoot a bullet through my head! Through my head! Through my head!” he howls, presumably at the band’s haters.
Or, perhaps, at himself. Remember? The whole two shotguns thing?
At the other end of the spectrum is “One Last Breath,” a wounded ballad featuring one of Stapp’s most affecting vocals and a lovely refrain that foreshadows his suicide attempt: “Hold me now, I’m six feet from the edge and I’m thinking, maybe six feet ain’t so far down.”
I believe when he says “lovely,” the word he really meant was “retarded.” Six feet isn’t so far down. It’s fucking six feet.
He vaults up an octave on the first “six,” cracking his voice a little in a heartstrings-tugging flourish.
Scott Stapp is awesome because he can’t hold a note! I LOVE WEATHERED!
The album’s biggest hit was “My Sacrifice,” a cornball barnstormer on par with “Higher.” It ends with a repeated plea: “I just want to say hello again.” Creed’s previous album, Human Clay, had gone platinum 11 times over, and Weathered was destined to ship 6 million copies, but Stapp already sounded like an underdog. Seven years later, it finally feels OK to start rooting for him.
And yes, we reached the end of the article, and please do make note of the fact that all of the reasons presented for why it’s now cool to like Creed is because of all the things that happened before we decided as a society that they were lame. In fact, about the only things I gleaned from this writing that has changed for Creed is that Scott Stapp shaved his head and his bandmates came to the conclusion that starving to death in the streets is a less desirable thing than having to spend several weeks in the same studio as Scott Stapp. A decision that only took them five whole years to make.
So there you go, world. It’s cool to like Creed again. No, seriously. Go put your Creed shirt back on. Nobody will make fun of you anymore. We promise. Scout’s honor and stuff.
This is one from the archives. I had scribbled this down immediately after the show in a notebook, three years ago. I just ran across it today and with the recent release of The Hold Steady’s A Positive Rage, a CD/DVD which documents the tour that this show was from, I thought it might be fun to throw this up here. Enjoy.
If he plays his cards right, Craig Finn just might save us all.
I’m standing near the stage in Lola’s Room, a cramped, claustrophobic bar stuck in the crawlspace between Ringler’s Pub downstairs and the Crystal Ballroom upstairs. The place is buzzing with anticipation and alcohol. Sean Na-Na has just finished up a spunky set and I’ve just returned from the bar with another whiskey sour.
The stage is nothing more than a foot-high riser in the back corner of the room, flanked by a flimsy cloth divider that’s shielding the band members from the rest of this mob. The spot that I’ve staked out happens to be right next to one of the main amplifiers, which makes me glad that I brought a pair of earplugs.
I’ve been to my fair share of small shows in bars featuring bands that swing into town towing a sizeable amount of buzz behind their van, but this is the first time I’ve seen a crowd this excited to see a bar band. This kind of buzz is normally relegated to stadium shows, with their big lights, smoke machines and bright stars.
To my right, behind the curtain, a door opens and figures emerge from the stark shaft of light. The crowd comes to a murmur on cue and within seconds, the first cheers start in. By the time Craig, Tad, Galen, Franz and Bobby too the stage, the crowd is full-on frothing at the mouth. They’re immediately laughing and joking with fans as they plug in and get settled. They all crack open tall-boys and I get the feeling that we’re in for a hell of a show.
Choppy, muted chords cut through the anticipation and when the rest of the band kicks in to “Stuck Between Stations,” we all bathe in the rhythm of the 4/4 time. When Craig opens his mouth to speak, we speak with him, in hoarse voices and clinking glasses. His guitar becomes an ornament, hanging festively from his shoulders as he punctuates each phrase with jittery handclaps and nervous fingers. Occasionally, he plucks it out of the air to throw a coda onto wide-open verses and back-street choruses.
In-between songs, he’s a half-drunk carnival barker. The band smiles and jokes with each other and the crowd. You can tell that they live for this, playing their songs to sweaty throngs in barrooms across the country. And we’re hanging on every word, every backstory, every riff and every sing-along chorus.
In life, you are occasionally granted with certain subtle signs that reveal to you the levels of desperation that lurk within you. For me, I had one just the other week. Want to see it?
Here it is. Proof positive of just how desperately, pathetically far I’ve sunk.
In case I’ve never mentioned, I’ve been a borderline obsessive fan of Pearl Jam for about fifteen years now, a full half of my lifetime. Which is depressing both for how long it’s been and for how fucking old I’ve become (Seriously, what the hell?). So when Pearl Jam decided recently to remix their first album, Ten, and re-release it, I guess they thought it’d be funny to test the level of devotion each fan had by releasing three different versions: The Legacy Edition, the Deluxe Edition, and the Super Deluxe Edition. The Legacy Edition had two CDs, the original Ten and the new version remixed by Brendan O’Brien. The Deluxe Edition had the two CDs plus a DVD of MTV Pearl Jam Unplugged. And then, of course, the Super Deluxe Edition, which had the two CDs and the DVD, plus:
A cassette replica of the original recordings of Once, Alive and Footsteps
Ten on vinyl
Ten remix on vinyl
The Drop in the Park concert on double vinyl
A replica of Eddie Vedder’s notebook filled with vintage photos of the band
A two-sided print commemorating the Drop in the Park concert
Mookie Blaylock rookie basketball card
Replica of ticket to Drop in the Park concert
Replica of backstage pass to Drop in the Park concert
Prints of vintage photography
Photo sheet of vintage photography
Mookie Blaylock rookie basketball card
So take a wild guess which one I got. Wait, actually don’t. I already told you the answer earlier.
So what exactly is it that not only compels me to not only buy an album that I’ve already owned for the last fifteen years, but to buy it along with an entire box full of useless trinkets that, in all honesty, I will probably not ever even remove from the box, let alone use for anything? The answer to that is simple. I have more money than sense.
Also, this thing is fucking awesome. And I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve hugged it at least fifteen times in the last two weeks. Possibly more than I’ve hugged my daughter.
Anyway, just thought you might like to know what things I’d rather have besides money. Turns out, this.
I was sitting around listening to some Elliott Smith with the wife last night and, apropos of nothing, she turned around and asked me, “Elliott Smith, if he was still alive, would he suck?”
Good question. Would he? So many of our most revered musicians lived fast and died hard. Let’s do the list: Robert Johnson, Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Mama Cass, Stevie Ray Vaughn, both Buckleys, Curt Cobain and the aforementioned Elliot Smith. We love their music, but we also love the music made by artists who emulated them. You could make the argument that a vast swath of our modern rock and roll and popular music is based, in some way or another, directly on the music of these dead artists.
So, when a question like, “Would __________ suck if he/she was still alive today” is a very tempting question. You start to think about the career that artist might have had, had he/she lived. What kind of influence would they have affected in the intervening years? Would that influence have been positive or negative?
Of course, the inverse of this is an equally interesting, if a bit grisly question, as well. What if _______________ had died earlier in his/her career? This would apply when discussing such former musical geniuses like Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana or Stevie Wonder. Imagine if Stevie Wonder died tragically right after Songs in the Key of Life. Or if Clapton had O.Ded right after recording Layla.
But, we’re focusing on those that actually did die. Time to enter the “pure speculation” zone and postulate what might have been. How about a nice, rounded-down list of five?
5. Buddy Holly
What Was- Holly was a huge star when that plane crashed over an Iowa cornfield over 50 years ago, (just one in a series of many examples backing up my “never go to Iowa” motto) and you have to believe that he’d only get bigger. He had already eschewed the heavy-handed control of the record producers of the day by arranging his own music and writing all of his own songs. He was the original DIYer.
What Could Have Been- I think Holly continues to capitalize on his success. His continued popularity leads to a tweaking of his sound and brings on the power pop era much, much earlier, which in turn leads to emo being popular in the 1970′s, instead of the late-90′s, saving us from the horrors of disco and new wave. He also could have joined Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, etc, in The Traveling Wilburys, making them even more excellent than they were.
Final Verdict- Buddy Holly not dying would have been awesome.
4. Jimi Hendrix
What Was- Hendrix was a guitar god among guitar gods. Clapton, Jeff Beck and Townshend played second fiddle to him. He wasn’t afraid of branching out into other mediums, playing blues standards and even jamming with jazz musician Miles Davis. Both Axis: Bold As Love and Are You Experienced? are utter classics. He was an innovator who also used and respected earlier influences.
What Could Have Been- I think that, since Hendrix was such a chameleon musically, he fully falls into the trap of over-production and, yes, disco in the 70s. Some demo recordings with Bootsy Collins are the only redeeming thing that he did during that entire decade. The 80s were a similarly lost time for Jimi, as he dabbles in the keytar and cuts an album with Flock of Seagulls. But, in the 90s, he has a late-career resurgence, altering the course of grunge and making bands actually learn how to play their guitars before starting bands and increasing the quality of their heavy-handed screeds. He was born in Seattle, after all.
Final Verdict- Jimi Hendrix not dying is mixed. Two lost decades followed up by a major resurgence.
3. Jim Morrison
What Was- A certified genius, Morrison was also a certifiable psychotic. But, for a time, he made some damn good music with The Doors. Based in psychedelia, jazz and the blues, they plowed through the late-60s, racking up hit after hit, arrest after arrest, sloppy-drunk performance after sloppy-drunk performance. Morrison alone probably raised the stock of Jim Beam and Jack Daniels with his prodigious consumption. His music has continued to be appreciated by teenage stoners and middle-aged alcoholics everywhere.
What Could Have Been- If Morrison lived past that bathtub in France, he likely would have been committed to a mental institution at some point during the 70s. After being released, I think he falls into the Leonard Cohen/Tom Waits crowd and spends the later part of his career writing dense songs, becoming recognized as one of the greatest songwriters around. Later on, he winds down his musical career to do more spoken word engagements, subsequently ruining Henry Rollins’ post Black Flag career.
Final Verdict- Jim Morrison not dying is a critically-acclaimed success, even if it doesn’t sell a lot of records.
2. Kurt Cobain
What Was- Forming one of the seminal grunge bands in the late 80s, Cobain helped kill off hair bands with a messier, angrier version of the exact same thing The Pixies were doing years before. Nirvana was THE band in the early 90s, releasing two platinum albums and one epic live album (Unplugged in New York) and basically overshadowing every other grunge band during that period.
What Could Have Been- Cobain breaks up Nirvana in 1995, leading to many of the same kids who mourned his death to have something to do with their time. Meanwhile, Kurt uses the Unplugged in NY performance to springboard a drastic career switch to plaintive, acoustic-based songs, pre-empting Conor Oberst’s (Bright Eyes) claim to fame and causing even more kids in dorms across the country to play acoustic guitar in common areas. He never reaches the success that he had with Nirvana, but due to his better outlook on life and 1996 divorce from Courtney Love (who subsequently killed herself, much to the relief of everyone) he becomes a much more balanced person, raising Frances Bean by himself.
Final Verdict- Kurt Cobain not dying is a good thing, since it hastened the end of the grunge era and saved us all from the horrors of 7Mary3 and their ilk.
1. Elliott Smith
What Was- After an early career with hardcore band Heatmiser, Elliott strikes out on his own with haunting acoustic ballads. Despite critical acclaim and love from fans everywhere, Smith falls further into his drug abuse and commits suicide during the recording of his last album, From a Basement on a Hill. His death is mourned by artists and fans everywhere, leading to tribute albums (To: Elliott, From: Portland) and various demo releases.
What Could Have Been- If Elliott didn’t commit suicide by stabbing himself in the heart, he probably would have continued his musical progression towards a fuller, more Beatles-esque sound, much to the pleasure of music fans everywhere. Eventually, he decides to get clean and writes an album during his withdrawl that makes Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot sound like a Wiggles record.
Final Verdict- Elliott Smith not dying would have bettered the musical landscape, allowing the indie aesthetic to fully crossover into the mainstream, kicking Britney Spears and The Fray to the curb and halting American Idol in it’s tracks. Yay, Elliott!