Nurse the Hate: Hate Your Record Collection
I recently got a copy of the new Wilco CD, and despite all the glowing press, felt a little underwhelmed. A friend of mine lives for Wilco, and when I asked him what he thought of the new CD he went into great detail on how disappointed he was that he didn't get a version of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot 2. (He should have known better. Those guys do whatever they want to, and aren't too concerned about "their public". Great to be that confident, but kind of a crap shoot from the consumer side...) We've all been there. Just like a Xmas morning gone wrong, you excitedly rip open the near impossible to open childproof packaging to get at that new CD you've waited a year (or maybe two or three years) for. Then it sinks in…Your favorite band let you down. The $12 you spent will not reward you with multiple listenings at deafening volume as you lamely sing along in your car during rush hour. No…Like fool's gold, it's a dream gone bad. We've all had the experience. Off the top of my head, here's my top 4...
1) The Replacements "Don't Tell A Soul": My college room mates and I blasted "Pleased To Meet Me", "Let It Be" and "Tim" so many fucking times, our neighbors could have sung those songs if awakened by Nazi Storm Troopers at 330 in the morning and told to sing them at gunpoint. Even now, I can almost smell the autumn leaves when the first chords of "Here Comes a Regular" comes out of my speakers. All of us were wired up about the new Replacements "Don't Tell A Soul" CD, and I think I drove to the Quonset Hut in Akron to get it fresh in the long cardboard box they used to package them in. What a drag to discover that instead of the rag tag slacker genius Mats, we got some kind of shiny Bon Jovi-esque letdown. "I'll Be You" is OK, and I kinda like "Talent Show", but man…What a drop off after those last three records.
2) Son Volt "Straightaways": I discovered Uncle Tupelo too late to have seen them play live. I picked up a copy of Anodyne right before the band was finishing their last tour, and immediately picked up the entire catalogue and devoured it. It seemed so simple in retrospect…Combine two musical forms that revel in their (supposed) honesty…country/american roots and punk rock. "Hold on there Greg…Jason and the Scorchers, and the Beat Farmers, and Blood on the Saddle, and X came before them"…Yes, I know, but no one else had written songs that seemed so genuine and instantly classic. Most of that is directly attributable to Jay Farrar's voice. He must have been 21 or so when he sang "Whiskey Bottle", and seemed totally believable as a world weary working class guy caught in the gerbil wheel of lower middle class living. The first Son Volt record was an extension of the best things he did in Tupelo. World weary ballads, and straight ahead roots rock that was smart, poetic, and simple. By the time the "Straightaways" record came out, maybe he couldn't think of anything to write about, or maybe someone gave him a thesaurus for Xmas, but that goddamn record is almost completely indecipherable.
One dirge after another of college term paper prose…It's brutal. I went to see them at the Odeon on that tour, thinking that maybe if I saw them live I'd get into it. Instead I saw the most lifeless rock show I ever saw. Without a doubt, one of the all time worst rock shows I have ever witnessed. After that debacle, I swore off the band.
By the way, I think I'm going to dip my toe in the water again this Tuesday night when they roll into the Beachland. Those Jay Farrar solo records were pretty good, but still…Once burned, twice shy.
3) Reverend Horton Heat "Liquor in the Front": Reverend Horton
Heat's first two albums were everything I was into at the time. The aggression of punk, the chops of a great rockabilly guitar player, smart ass songs, and perfect presentation all in one package. The expectation level was high when his first major label record on Interscope came out. If he made all those great songs on a little Sub Pop budget, who knew what would happen once he got in the studio with a big budget? Plus, Al Jorgenson from Ministry was going to produce, and that guy could only ratchet up the madness. This was going to be great…I open the CD, put it in, and think "What the fuck is this?".
The songs are almost all throwaways, the production is dreadful, and there is almost no low end whatsoever. The drums sound like shit too. It's been up and down with his records ever since. ("Space Heater" is without a doubt his worst though. Phew!)
4) Social Distortion "White Light, White Heat": I have had a love/hate relationship with Social Distortion. I love "Social Distortion" and "Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell" CDs, and played the crap out of them. Punk rock and roll with a country two step, and Mike Ness's autobiographical songs are a pretty good combination. Those two CDs focus on "the myth of Mike Ness as told by Mike Ness", and it's great song material. If you aren't familiar with the story, here goes…Heavily tattooed boy loves rock music, and gets into trouble. He lands in jail, but that's OK because he has a heart of gold. He tries to put his past behind him, but still isn't recognized for the great guy he is by the head cheerleader type. This only fuels him in his losing battle against uncool society. He's born to lose, destined to fail…but has a goddamn good looking haircut while doing it.
The problem starts on the "White Light, White Heat, White Trash" CD.
It's hard to tell that same story a third time. Let's face it. I just told the story to you in five sentences. Take that fact into account, and drop in the worst mix and/or recording in recent memory and you've got a dud. I remember all the press at the time about how Chuck Biscuits was playing drums, and Chuck Biscuits is the baddest motherfucker on the planet, etc, etc, etc. When you listen to that record, the only thing you hear is a constant wash of high end cymbals over everything. Pish! Pish! Pish! smashing away over second rate songs about how the guy didn't get the girl because he was in prison.
I feel it's only fair to point out that the most recent Social D CD "Rock and Roll" something or other is pretty great. It's that love/hate thing again. Just when I think I'm out, that Mike Ness drags me back in.
Random Notes: With the Cavs in the Finals, everybody in the city is suddenly a basketball expert. I had a woman at a convenient store telling me that the Cavs needed to run the pick and roll with a certain personnel package. Three weeks ago, she couldn't have told me LeBron's last name…I've been in contact with some loudmouth Yankee fans that think the glory days are coming now that Clemons is in the rotation. I've got news for you Boys. Clemons is a 46 year old that will be able to pitch 5 innings and change. The real problem is that after he comes out in the 6th, there's no one to go in and pitch. That bullpen is brutal…There's not much that goes better with grilling than Spanish grenache. You almost can't go wrong in the $12 range. Do yourself a favor, and stop drinking that Miller Lite swill...I've been making some nice jack betting against the Brewers when they're listed as moderate favorites. That team is a mirage…Thanks to Cotto for knocking out should-be-finished Zab Judah last night as a -270 favorite in MSG. Gotta love the Sweet Science!