Comic Book Guy: Last night’s Itchy and Scratchy was without a doubt the worst episode ever. I was on my internet chatroom within minutes to discuss my opinion of this garbage. As a loyal fan, I feel they owe me.
Bart: They owe you? They provide you with thousands of hours of entertainment for free! If anything, you owe them.
Comic Book Guy: Worst episode ever.
On that note, the biggest disappointments of the year
Betty Lavette/The Drive By Truckers “The Scene of the Crime” (-anti)
Not a bad album. Maybe even a good album. But from two artists who are capable of greatness, this release sounds phoned in from both ends. The Truckers, normally some of the most professional sounding drunkards this side of the pogues are relegated to light rock. Lavette’s choice of cover material this time around is obvious and never pushes her voice the way her previous release “I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise” did. And the one original track, “The Battle of Betty Lavette,” finally shows some muscle musically but is marred down by lyrics that stick rigidly to Lavette’s autobiography, allowing none of her personal reflection through. Were this album released by anyone else, I would’ve ignored it, but from these two talents, I felt let down. (on a side note, if you’d like to see exactly how a rock band can back up a vocalist without losing all of their personality, check out Mary Weis from the Shangri-La’s’s new album, where she brought in the Reigning Sound)
Spoon- Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge)
Another one that I actually liked. Hell, there are some songs on here that are downright great. But for a band that has based their career on continual reinvention, this album finds them in a boring old holding pattern. Opener “Don’t Make Me A Target” is almost note for note a recreation of “The Beast and the Dragon, Adored” from their last album Gimme Fiction. The ghost of you lingers is a less developed rehash of “Paper Tigers.” And it goes on and on. If the biggest thing you can say about your new album is that you brought in a horns section and made a really cool music video, I think you need to take some time off and really try something new.
Ted Leo- Living With The Living (Touch and Go)
Do you have any idea how little I want to put this album on this list? From the man who not only taught me how to dance, love, and hope (all at once) again, from the best thing to ever emerge from the Suburbs of Newark (yep, I went there, Philip Roth fans), from the one person who could deal with the complexity of politics and still make you feel like there is something to be done. And then he releases an album that almost entirely lacks hooks, nuances, and, even worse, one that lacks any of the hope that held me together. Ted, I don’t know what to say; we needed you more than ever, and you went on vacation.
Bruce Springsteen- Magic (Columbia)
Here’s another one that I feel weird putting on here, because I like this album a whole lot. But I like it because it’s got the best songs by pearl jam (Radio Nowhere), Big Star (“your own worst enemy”), The National (the extraordinary title track), and even The Magnetic Fields (“Girls in their Summer Clothes” and no I’m not the first to point that out), all on one album. But in the end, all of those bands write great songs of their own. From bruce, I just want Bruce.
Deerhunter- Cryptograms (Kranky!)
I don’t really care about Deerhunter frontman/drama queen Brandon Cox, (although I’m a little bit pissed that his name is taking up space in my brain that could be used for crossword clues or other inane bullshit), and I don’t really care about any of the in-band-drama or onstage meltdowns or cancled gigs or limited edition EPs this group releases, either. I don’t like this album for one simple reason: it sounds unbelievably lazy. Bad Krautrock put through a slightly southern fried lens and then played too loud. I don’t care if you can’t write lyrics- we could always use more instrumental rock bands, but please, but then don’t try, don’t spit out random stream of conscious shit about ice and cities and expect anyone outside of anywhere to care. Oh. Wait. Well, even if it’s just me, I’m calling bullshit on these guys. At the moment, Deerhunter seem to be dead. I’m not looking forward to the inevitable resurrection.
Chuck Ragan- Feast or Famine (Side One Dummy)
A bold claim: punk can grow up. A bolder claim: punk can grow up without going acoustic. Hot Water Music were convincing proof of the validity of both of the above. Over the course of 5 full lengths, they almost reached a Jawbreaker level height of complex songwriting, overwhelmingly strong hooks, and sustained high energy. They grew old and grew fiercer and better. And then they broke up, and while all the members save for singer/guitarist Ragan have soldered on as The Draft, Ragan did what noone was waiting for him to do, release a mediocre country influenced solo album. Up there with the equally atrocious solo release from Dustin Kensrue, this album is one long homogenous swig of backwashed well whiskey.
Any new material Billy Bragg has written this year
From “the revolution is just a t-shirt away!” to a new song called “bush war blues” in less than 20 years. I think you might need a higher dosage of whatever they’ve got you on, Mister Bragg.
And, because it is absolutely no fun to be a negative nelvile all the time, some albums i’m looking forward to in the big ’08
Firewater- “The Golden Hour”, Magnetic Fields- “Distortion”, Centro-Matic/South San Gabriel- Split double CD, Vampire Weekend- Self Titled Full Length, Pas/Cal- Full Length debut (finally!), Billy Bragg- (i know, i know) Mr. Love and Justice, Colin Meloy, Man Man, Why?- Alopecia, The Gutter Twins.
I’ll post my favorites of the year in a few days. ’till then.