December 25, 2009

December 22, 2009


The Grammy Award nominations were announced a few weeks ago and I completely forgot to talk about them. Since I'm still stalling in order to come up with 10 positive musical contributions for 2009, I think I'll take this opportunity to babble about music some more.

Just glancing over the list the first thing that I've noticed is the lack of Kelly Clarkson's name on the ballot. I'm a little shocked that this two-time Grammy winner is only nominated in one category. Sure, it makes sense that the one nomination is in the Best Pop Vocal Album, but what the hell happened here? She followed the record label's preferred safe path this time, and is still getting trumped by the Beyonces, Pinks, and Gagas.

Now before I get a little too upset by this, I know that Grammys and album sales and record deals are not the most important thing in the world--good songs are. And I know that Miss Clarkson has some good songs on that album, but the record label machine blew it for everyone by mishandling the album. The first problem was the first two singles were very similar. "My Life Would Suck Without You" and "I Do Not Hook Up" sounded too close to each other (and to "Since U Been Gone" while we're at it). I think "I Do Not Hook Up" was the stronger of the two.

They followed it up with the dull "Already Gone" which, as I mentioned in a July post, sounded way too much like Beyonce's hit "Halo." It turns out that Kelly agreed and had actually fought to have the song removed from the album before it was released.
“In the end, they’re releasing it without my consent,” she sighs. “It sucks, but it’s one of those things I have no control over. I already made my album. At this point, the record company can do whatever they want with it. It’s kind of a shitty situation, but.… You know, you learn.” - CBC News
The label overlooked what I thought would be decent singles, "Long Shot" (another Katy Perry composition) or the unique "I Want You." If they absolutely need a slow one for adult stations, "Save You" was definitely more interesting than "Already Gone." But the two "Since U Been Gone" retreads followed by a "Halo" wannabe stuck Clarkson in a place that made her look out of touch with everything else on the radio. Lady Gaga, Pink, and Beyonce may not have the most original stuff in the world but it at least doesn't sound dated (yet). That's why they're getting all the attention come awards time. It's a shame that marketing trends ultimately detract her songs, but that's how this shit works. I really hope she wins this award because as far as vocals go, she is unmatched by any other pop singer, male or female.

All right, like I said, Pink, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga are up for everything. Also, Black Eyed Peas, Taylor Swift, and some other people. In all honesty, looking over the entire list, I am now realizing that I don't really care much about any of them and am now regretting starting this post. Here's what I'll say. I do like one--no wait, let me do it in list form.
  • I do like a Pink song this year. A lot even. Not the one nominated though, so I'll tell you about it later.
  • I do not like "All the Single Ladies." Musically, it's boring. Lyrically, it's just a cheer. Didn't care for "Halo" or "If I Were a Boy" either. Years ago, I did like "Naughty Girl" a lot and to some extent "Crazy in Love." I think she just needs more complex songs because I think she can handle the challenge.
  • I feel like anything the Black Eyed Peas do is like a ProTools exercise. In terms of beats and sound production, they can occasionally be interesting (I especially like Autotune digital vomit effect when they say "8 bit" on "Boom Boom Pow"), but as far as songs go, they're complete boneheads. The Kids of Widney High have way deeper things to say than "I Gotta Feeling" so I tend to dismiss the whole thing as children's music.
  • Taylor Swift's songs pretty much sound the same, but I do like her voice. It's young and not entirely confident, but it's certainly pleasant. It's perfect for her audience and properly serves the themes of her teen love songs. The act works for now, but by the time the next album comes out she'll be drinking age and the little girl subjects won't fly anymore. Ok, they shouldn't even be flying right now but we let her get away 'cause she's so darn fragile. We'll toughen her up yet.
  • "Use Somebody" blew yesterday and it still blows today. In fact, I heard a dance version of that blew me while I was driving to work this morning.
  • Katy Perry's voice and lyrics annoy me a lot but I appreciate her melodies. She is playful but doesn't always play it safe. I don't think her voice is always strong enough for those risks though. I'm rooting for her to stop singing, but to keep writing for other people. And occasionally bounce up and down on camera.
  • Who the fuck is Adele?
  • Hall & Oates are nominated for a live version of a song 33 years old?
  • I never remember which band The Fray is. I don't think it matters.
  • Not much Britney "Darth Vader of Pop Music" Spears this year other than her battle with Madonna and Lady Gaga for Best Dance Recording (that the Black Eyed Peas will win).
Funny matchups:
  • Willie Nelson vs. Liza Minnelli (Best Traditional Pop Vocal)
  • Michael J. Fox vs. President Jimmy Carter (Best Spoken Word Album)
  • Spinal Tap vs. Weird Al vs. Kathy Griffin vs. Patton Oswalt vs Stephen Colbert. (Best Comedy Album) (I've disqualified George Lopez for not being a comedian.)
Ok, so who will win things? I think Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and Beyonce will split wins in all the categories where they're against each other. Black Eyed Peas will get the rest. Kelly Clarkson should get the one I mentioned before. Pink, Britney Spears, and Katy Perry will probably get nothing.

On the Rock side, who even cares?

Best Solo Rock Vocal:
Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Neil Young
I don't care who wins as long as someone mistakes Prince for the singer of "Poker Face" and kisses him on the balls.

Best Rock Performance by Duo or Group:
Coldplay, Kings of Leon, Green Day, Eric Clapton & Stevie Winwood, U2
So much hot air. The least pompous band in this category has "Kings" in their name.

Best Hard Rock Performance:
AC/DC, Alice in Chains, Metallica, Linkin Park, Nickelback
Three of these groups have pressed on despite the deaths of integral band members. The other two are ripe for a bus accident.

Best Metal Performance:
Judas Priest, Slayer, Megadeth, Lamb of God, Ministry
I don't think any of these bands care if they win, and neither do I.

The only band I'm really rooting for is Pearl Jam "The Fixer" for Best Rock Song because they give grumpy, miserable victory speeches at these things. I don't blame them.

December 21, 2009

The Worst Music of 2009

This was an odd year. WXRK folded (again) and went Top 40. I quickly went running to WRXP for comfort but Matt Pinfield abandoned me for rehab. Jilted, I abandoned rock music and started listening to goofy shit. Stuff I should probably be ashamed of: The Morning Zoo on Z100, Commercial Free Mondays on 92.3 NOW, The Quiet Storm on WBLS, The Pulse on 87.7 (Now Party 87). Sometimes I even put on foreign language AM stations just so I don't have to hear wimpy indie guitars on 101.9 or generic "hard" rock on 105.5. I can always turn to WSOU if I need a blast of headbanging or Q104 if my ears are in need of a reliable classic rock tune, but for the most part, I am just constantly switching between whichever pop station isn't breaking for a commercial.

Because I abandoned eMusic, the only new things I ever notice are pop songs on pop stations because the pop dj's are forced to play them by pop labels over and over again. Repetition is the name of the game, and it's beating me. These stations are often playing the same disposable songs (sometimes at the exact same time), but then strangely a month later, it will have morphed into another batch of similar sounding songs by different people (or the same people guesting on their proteges' songs). I'll become so familiar with a song that I don't even know if I hate it or like it--I just know it inside and out.

The other name of the game in the pop genre is Risk, and don't mean placing plastic Roman numerals on different colored countries (though major labels probably do do [doo-doo] that). By Risk, I mean every song has to come up with its little hook so it stands out. There's no nurturing of artists and letting them develop their craft anymore--you often have one shot to be unique. Then, if that was successful, you again get one shot to do it again. It sucks, yes, but we share blame. We don't buy albums, we download ringtones. We don't read liner notes, we watch youtube videos. Fuck them, and fuck us too. Fuck everything. I'm tired of writing. Here's what I hated this year:

"Don't Trust Me"

I heard this premiered on the Elvis Duran Show on Z100. It didn't seem like the DJs really cared for it and I remember several of the callers having a negative reaction. Somehow, it ended up in heavy rotation. I thought it was just a stupid, unfunny song by two douches with a keyboard and ProTools. I'm not even bothered that they're picking on deafblind hero Helen Keller (I actually did that myself in a blog entry last year), I just think their lyrics are awkward, forced, and lame. Helen Keller didn't talk with her hips, she talked with her hands. Who knows if she ever even had sex? I guess they've got poetic license, but it sure ain't poetry. It's an unshocking throwaway SNL digital short. 3OH!3 remind me of the Bloodhound Gang, but without instruments or cleverness. It's American Pie 9: Stifler Starts an Andy Samberg Tribute Band. (Look for it Direct-to-Video). M.A.S.K. and Mork & Mindy should kick their asses out of Boulder, Colorado.

"TiK ToK"

Grandmaster Flash and Doug E. Fresh popularized the whole "tick tock, don't stop" trend then Color Me Badd murdered its credibility. Later on, Snoop Doggy Dogg resurrected it with his "nuts and a cock" but we are here again at the Lyrical Apocalypse. When I first heard this on Z100's morning show I thought it was a joke. I thought it was just some piece of crap song they found on Youtube and played it to make fun of it. Right now it's the number 2 song in the country. Is this what the troops are fighting for?

This song has even worse lyrics than "Don't Trust Me" coupled with the most annoying delivery of a vocal by a female artist in history. Is the Autotuning supposed to be ironic? Is the namedropping supposed to be impressive (Puff Daddy? Mick Jagger???)? Are the suburban princess rhymes meant to be humorous? Just when I thought Weezer had the lame lyrics market cornered, this chick comes around and casts an even wider net of wet shit on songwriting.

Not only do I cringe with every utterance of outdated slang, I can't stand listening to her sing everyday English words. "Got" becomes "Gawt." "Down" becomes "Dayown." KILL ME. I can't focus on the music either because I'm so distracted by her annoying vocal affectations. I hate when sitcom actors are called on to act drunk because they end up looking like they've never actually been drunk before. Ke$ha's stumbling drunk put-ons are even worse. You brushed your teeth with a bottle of Jack SHIT. I just don't buy any of it. The only thing worse than songs that sound like they're written by high school cheerleaders are songs that sound like they're written by sorority girls that were once high school cheerleaders. I'm done hearing about girls getting ready to go and have a super night out. DJ, please blow her speakers up.

Regina Spektor
"Laughing With"

Regina Spektor apparently stumbled upon the same songwriting exercise that Joan Osbourne, Trent Reznor, and Tori Amos found years ago: "Write a song about God that has 'God' in it as many times as possible. Bonus points if it's in every god damned line."

This could have been a decent song, but I feel that it's marred by the God nauseum. If she removed or changed "No one's laughing at God" from every line, we'd be left with pretty vivid, original poetry. The "laughing at God" device is a waste of space. Personally, I'm not super crazy about her voice, particularly the high parts in the chorus, but I think it could grow on me if I get past that weird tongue-clicking thing she does with every word. I think she's got talent, but she's on my list because the song as a whole comes across as hokey. I don't mind that it's a dirge-like downer, or that she crams a lot of words into the lines as they wind down. The song reminds me of that Live song "Freaks," but with an even less humorous delivery. I don't care for the big twist at the end either. It just makes me think, What if God/Money was one of us, laughing with us, and sometimes did not come through for us? Would you call him a freak?

Owl City

I heard that in order to write this song, the dude stole a charm bracelet from a 9-year old girl and just started singing about whatever he saw on it- fireflies, lightning bugs, planet Earth, a disco ball. He managed to tear out a few pages from her dream diary before her dad found him and called the cops. In jail, all he was allowed to listen to was Postal Service and Jimmy Eat World. The rest is history (and public record in sex offender registries).

I'd like to point out that this entire song only has three words in it with more than two syllables--"fireflies," "everything," and "insomniac." The song could be the national anthem in the magical world of Disney, but it sure isn't deep beyond the 3rd grade. If you like this song, I'm going to keep my kids away from you, Peter Pan.


"Oh Yeah"

This was the first single from the supergroup, or as Beavis and Butt-head would say, the super-suck-group. They have the worst name, the worst logo, the worst riffs, and the worst lyrics. For a band made up of four dudes with so many awards and album sales, they must think they don't have to try so hard anymore. Music and lyrics that shitty just write themselves I guess. Before the chorus starts, they've already stolen words from three other songs--"I Put a Spell on You" "Magic Man," and "Hootchie-Cootchie Man." But I don't mean they stole obscure lyrics from those songs--I mean Sammy Hagar literally just says the titles. They should've called the band LA-Z BOYZ.

The song is all downhill from there. The big chorus is "Oh Yeah." Oh yeah? Like "Oh yeah, we're supposed to finish writing this song. Hey dudes, stop huggin'. Come over here and help me think of somethin'?" (BTW, those were better lyrics than the real ones.) If they would've invited "Macho Man" Randy Savage into the megapower-supergroup, he certainly could at least livened up the chorus with an "OOH YEAH!" every once in a while.

I don't know how they convinced Joe Satriani to play guitar in this band. I'm no Satch-man, but I'm positive he could play these amateur riffs with his ass hair (I assume he hasn't lost his ass hair yet). He sounds bored to death on this track. They probably promised him critical success, free Cabo Wabo, and the opportunity to see middle-aged tits flashed while playing his reverb-drenched solos. Two out of three ain't bad. (Sammy, feel free to steal that line.)


"According to You"

Speaking of soulless guitar solos, this song hit me out of nowhere a few weeks ago. I was in the Holland Tunnel, as I often am, and I heard what I thought was a very awkward attempt at a song hook:

According to you, I'm A, B, C
According to you, I'm D, E, F
Blah, blah, blah
According to you, According to you

But according to him, I'm G, H, I
According to him, I'm J, K, L
Blah, blah, blah
According to you

The constant repetition of "according to" effects me similarly to Regina Spektor's song, but with even further frustration. Not only is it repeated a mind-numbing amount of times (which I'm sure the record company loves), but "according to" is sort of an ugly, clunky phrase. Maybe she'll make a ton of money thanks to this song, but once she plays it a thousand more times, she's going to wish she never has to say those words again.

My other problem is that I think lyrics about opposites are lame. My band was performing a couple months ago and I forgot some of the words to a new song I was singing. The first thing that came to mind was "Oh great I fucked everything up now. Let me just yell 'Whoa-whoa' and 'yeah-yeah' for a bit while I think of something better." Then I just started rattling off generic lyrics with opposites that happen to rhyme (right/wrong, weak/strong). It was not a proud moment of mine, but it's solid proof that these things that appear in popular songs are so not genius at all. Whoas, Yeahs, and Opposites are just lazy remedies for writer's block. From The Beatles' "Hello, Goodbye" to Genesis' "That's All" to Katy "Hilter" Perry's "Hot 'n' Cold" and now "According to Garp" or whatever this song is called. Opposites are cheap and bring down the stock of a song.

This song delays the pay off of the opposite device at least, so it's a little different then the songs I listed before, but I'd prefer it if she would dig deeper instead. I want to know why she's stuck in a relationship with someone so opposite from her. I want to know specific disagreements they've had, and learn something from it. "I suck at telling jokes 'cause I always give it away" is a good start. I wish she would go back and delete everything before that and give me some fucking real talk. There aren't a ton of guitar-playing singer-songwriter chicks in Top 40 these days (now that I think of it, are there any?) so she needs to step out from the pop pack. The virtuoso soloing is her shortcut, but it comes across as just a novelty in this song. There's little feeling in the playing other than the brief Slash tribute. I suspect the him in the story is just telling her what she wants to hear in order to see her fret/clit-tapping technique anyway, so the skill won't be lost on everyone.

Maybe she should start a band with Flea, Alex Van Halen, and Gary Cherone. They could call themselves Pigeon Toe. Then Marnie Stern, Zach Hill, and the bass player from Lightning Bolt could start a band called Ostrich Ankle and show everyone how it's done. I don't want Marnie singing though. How about David Lee Roth? Or at least Damon Che?

Lynyrd Skynyrd
"Still Unbroken"

This could be Bon Jovi, Kid Rock, Nickelback, Theory of a Deadman, Black Stone Cherry, Three Doors Down or any other generic rock band with generic riffs, generic lyrics, and generic song structure. I had no idea who it was when I heard the song. I just assumed it was any band with youngish members playing Old Guy Rock. Turned out it was old guys trying to sound like young guys playing Old Guy Rock. It is so boring and by the numbers that two of the band members decided it would be better to die than wait for the album to be released. This is music for people that have no interest in having their ears challenged. They just want to go to a show, drink a lot of beer, and yell "Whooo" or "Yeah" when they're told to. If all Lynyrd Skynyrd aspires to do these days is write songs readymade for truck commercials, WWE montages, and Sarah Palin tribute videos on YouTube, then they should spare the rest of us and trim their tracks to just 60 seconds long. Same goes for other disposable meathead rock bands--Don't pretend you're kicking ass with your guitar when all you're really doing is supplying the soundtrack for guys that pretend to kick each others' asses. You have a place in the world, but it's not on the radio.

Kings of Leon
"Use Somebody"

This band came in on the RoBeast Radar about a year ago when I heard "Sex on Fire" for the first time and liked it. This proves two things--one, I'm really slow hearing about things, and two, I'm not above giving credit to catchy songs even if they're kinda dumb. Sure the drumming is boring and the lyrics are corny, but the upbeat riffs, hooky chorus, and Corey Glover-esque vocal delivery won me over. It took me a bit to admit to anyone that I approved of the song, especially since I was beginning to hear it all the time.

Fortunately I didn't put much stock in the band and discovered that their next single "Use Somebody" sucked. The first 30 seconds are all right, but I can't commit any further. The Corey Glover voice overstayed its welcome, and because the vocals in the verses here are more up front and serious, they are easier targets. The short trail of melisma on "Fire" was nice. "Use somebuhdayuh" is just grating.

And then really nothing else happens in the song. There's no discernible chorus or hook. I like what seems to be a bridge and then a solo (that gets repeated too much) over the original intro chords, but then the song hits a wall, goes to the deep, quiet part again and ends. To me, the song sounds hastily put together, like a filler track or jam session that didn't get enough attention. Believe me, I like weird structures and I respect the risk they took (if it was indeed intentional and not just laziness), but the song doesn't work for me.

Adam Lambert

"Whataya Want From Me"

Heard this song and I immediately thought "Wow, this sounds like Pink's last fifteen songs." Surprise, it was written by Pink & Co.! I guess my main problem here is really my frustration with pop songs beginning a guitar lick to add rock cred. It's a real double edged sword because I like guitars, but I don't want them to just be a trend with benefits.

A few years back, "Since U Been Gone" (the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" of synth pop?) had some guitar, a big chorus with big singing, real drums and a synth beat. It wasn't a full-blown rock song, but it definitely a rockin' pop song, and it worked for me. I feel like everything else with that formula since then is just an imitation. Songs with guitars are usually better as guitar-driven songs, but these songs are just using them as the quick, cheap hook. I admit I get tricked every time too. Whether it's Pink or Lambert or even Kelly Clarkson still redoing "Since U Been Gone" with new titles, I always stop and say "Oh boy, a guitar riff! Things are changing here in the pop music world! Goodbyzer synthesizer!" And then I realize that the guitar is there like a heavy metal T-Shirt at a fashion shoot--just an accessory. I don't really have a problem with Lambert himself, I'm just getting tired of this production trick (moreso than Autotune because guitars toy with my emotions... *sob*).

Let's go back even further to Janet Jackson's "Black Cat." Despite the cheesy pinch harmonics, the song rocks. I feel like she really embraced the riffs and power chords and let them rule the song. She's actually banging her head instead of running around going "Guess what? I'm a rock star" and making sure everyone is aware that someone in the band has a mohawk. Maybe Adam Lambert is content being a slick singer where acting out his melodrama is more important than the whatever the instruments behind him are trying to express. Maybe rocking out is not the thing that people want from him.


Anything by Pitbull

Pitbull loves the sound of his own voice. Every second of every one of his songs is filled with him talking, rapping, barking, laughing at his own jokes, or going "WEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-OH!" Sometimes, it's all three at once. The lyrics repeat 32 times per chorus. The choruses repeat 86 times per song. It's all very suffocating. I actually like the "Room Service" clip because as part of the video storyline, the song gets briefly interrupted and he has to stop yelling and mugging at the camera for a few seconds. Soon enough though, he goes back to NEVER SHUTTING THE FUCK UP. Unlike what I'm about to do.

See you when I come up with 10 things I liked this year.

December 18, 2009

2009: Year of the Year

Album of the Year - Nobody

2009 was the Year of the Reunion, not of the Release. Faith No More, The Jesus Lizard, Far, and Sunny Day Real Estate dusted themselves off and kicked some ass (Hum, where are you?). Even Lee Ving of Fear got back on the road this year. I believe Far was the only one inspired to return to the recording studio so far. The other bands, I don't know. Maybe they needed to make sure they could still play together without killing each other first.

Lots of albums I was anticipating this year didn't get to meet 2009. Deftones' bassist Chi Cheng fell into a coma in late 2008, and Eros, the album that they had been working on appears to have been shelved indefinitely. The Dillinger Escape Plan toured a lot, then finished Option Paralysis which will be released in March 2010. Tub Ring had a ton of studio updates and showed off artwork so fans could guess song titles, but as far as I'm aware, didn't finish the album yet. I'm pretty sure they've recorded a thousand songs by now, so I think we're just waiting for the final touches. Michelle Branch, fresh off the Wreckers' breakup, recorded her solo album Everything Comes and Goes earlier in the year and even released a single over the summer, but then saw Warner Bros. constantly push back the full-length release date. Right now, they're saying January 2010, but I'm not holding my breath.

Mastodon put out Crack the Skye which I saw them perform live in its entirety. I enjoyed it, but it didn't grab me by the balls like their earlier stuff did. Also at that show was Converge who played some of their new brutal stuff. I enjoyed that as well, but never picked up Axe to Fall. Lightning Bolt, another band I saw live, put out a new album (Earthly Delights) that I never bought either. My friend Ryan wouldn't stop talking about Baroness' Blue Record, but I didn't give it much of a chance. I was curious about Them Crooked Vultures, but apparently wasn't curious enough. Every Time I Die put out New Junk Aesthetic which took me a while to fully get into. Some of the songs are really good, and some are just eh. I still love the band (most of all, their sense of humor), but I want them to push their limits a little more. While I really liked their drummer, his leaving the group may be that opportunity to approach their songs differently. You already know what I've had to say about Kelly Clarkson's All I Ever Wanted.

By the time December came along I realized that I still didn't have an album of the year and now that it's the end of the year, I'm still not giving out the honor. Pretty much all I got out of 2009 was 50 million new pop songs on the radio and whatever crazy instrumental shit was coming up on Pandora for me. That's really where most of my ear attention went. That and a few classic rock records. The only confident album recommendations I can give this year are releases by friends of mine. Torrential Downpour put out their self-titled debut LP over the summer and it's sick. Very heavy and very intense. Another great one is Dogs of Winter's From Soil to Shale. Solid rock with odd time signatures and duel vocals. Snap into it!

Song of the Year - "Elle Panique" - Olivia Ruiz

I fucking love this song. I first saw the video for it on one of the French-speaking music channels when I was visiting Montreal, and I could not get it out of my head for days. The vocals are playful and the hook is super catchy, despite the fact that I don't speak French. The video is quirky, colorful, and makes me smile. The instrumentation is grand and focused all at the same time. The beat is simple but doesn't pound your head like most of the stuff on the American charts. The song is about panic and anxiety, but it doesn't take itself too seriously. It is perfect pop with a touch of dissonance. I only wish it were longer like the live version.

When I got back to the US, I realized that I had made a terrible mistake by not seeking out the album while in Quebec. I needed to hear it every day, but playing it on YouTube on my mobile phone while driving was not cutting it. The single and LP was not for sale in the US unless I wanted to pay a lot to have it imported from France. It was not available on iTunes or Amazon, nor could I access it on the French versions of the sites (believe me, I tried). I exhausted the reasonable legal methods of purchasing music, so ultimately, I had to acquire a copy of the track through a friend in France. It's a real shame that this song is not accessible in the United States, and I may be doing it a disservice by stealing it (technically), but I hope this illustrious Beauty and the RoBeast Song of the Year Award makes it OK.

Honorable Mentions (for the most part, ignore the videos):
Kid Cudi - "Day 'n' Nite (Crookers' Remix)"
Michelle Branch - "This Way"
Pink - "Please Don't Leave Me"
Every Time I Die - "The Marvelous Slut"
Lady Gaga - "Paparazzi (Acoustic Live)"
Psychostick - "Caffeine"
Kelly Clarkson - "Long Shot"

Video of the Year - "Passing Stones' **** Me Up" - StSanders

StSanders has really stepped up his game since the Shreds series. Not only is he still dedicated to taking the piss out of the guitar rock establishment, he's now putting absurd lyrics and a beat into the mix to create a total mock-rock package. It's amazing how well the song works with the silly Rolling Stones video while at the same time sounding nothing like it. It's the multidimensional parody model OF THE FUTURE and I certainly welcome the trend. He's been quiet since putting out this video, but I really hope he continues working with full songs. I can't embed it [whining], so here it is, if you haven't yet experienced it.

Honorable Mention:
Rammstein -"Pussy"

That's all for now!

'Tis the Season for Forwards

I receive a fair amount of forwards from coworkers. Occasionally they are funny, but because the majority of the messages are comprised of misinformation, hoaxes, vigilante politics, assorted intolerance, and/or expired news, I often start my jaded engines as soon as I see the letters F and W. Usually, I end up spending more time researching the validity of the claims than I do reading or enjoying the messages. It is extremely rare that I ever pass one on to someone in my own address book.

(I'll now take this time to praise Google Reader, where friends are able to publicly make note of interesting, funny, informative, entertaining items and I have the ability to peruse them at my leisure. It's also good for subscribing to blog feeds, hint hint. )

This morning, my inbox was greeted with "FW: Say 'Thank You' to Our Troops" and it, in turn, was greeted with my eyes rolling. This is partially because I'm an asshole, but mostly because it came from somehow who has cried "wolFW:" many times before. Let me ruin the ending of this tale and tell you that this forward is actually a legitimate, good-natured call-to-action request, but because of its amateur composition and the poor reputation of the medium, it's an uphill battle to get the real message into the heads and hearts of someone (paranoid) like me. There's a lot of room for improvement with the forward genre, so I'm going to dissect this one in hopes that similar messages don't fall through the inbox cracks. (I don't know why I'd even think of assisting the International Association of Email Cloggers, but here we are.) Skip to the end if you don't want to deal with my windbaggery.

Before I even get any further, the first problem is that there was no personal message from the person who forwarded it. I know the point of forwards is that you just read and click "Forward to Everyone and their Amazin' Email-Readin' Dog" in one fell swoop, but if you aren't going to take a second to give me a quick gist of what you're getting me into, I won't take it seriously. I assume you're either passing it on because of a superstitious, obsessive compulsion with forwarding or because it says something vaguely xenophobic and you want to cowardly let the message speak for itself. This is the point where I immediately start scanning it for "Love it or leave it", "Boycott Gas Station X" or "make sure you say 'Merry Christmas,' not 'Happy Holidays.'"
The Holidays are especially hard for our troops. Maybe this small gesture will help in some way. Thank you, Xerox!!
Based on the subject title alone, I figure this is be a slow-clap at the airport thing, or generic say "Thanks" or think of the troops thing, but mentioning Xerox there really threw me a curve. With my corporate spidey senses tingling me, I start scanning for dollar signs. Instead I just see lots of exclamation points. (Just as a quick aside, IAEC copywriters... two exclamation points are rarely acceptable. Use only one or three. Or fifteen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
"Cool," huh? I know some folks that work for Xerox, and I don't recall them ever doing anything particularly "cool" in the name of their company. (To Xerox's credit, I think they brought a cookie basket in once or twice.) And I think I've said this in a blog before--when a corporation says something is cool, it's not cool.
If you go to this web site, you can pick out a thank you card and Xerox will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq/Afghanistan. You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to a member of the armed services.
Another red flag--a random URL in a forward. Looks harmless enough, but you can't trust anything these days. Maybe if it were, I'd feel a little more comfortable, but I still wouldn't click it. Try, "Go to and click on blahblahblah for details."
How AMAZING it would be if we could get everyone we know to send one!!! It is FREE and it only takes a second. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the soldiers received a bunch of these?
EASY there CAPITÁN. If you're looking to drive my attention to all the capitalized words, all I'm going to see is XEROX COOL AMAZING FREE. I don't think that's the puzzle you want me to put together, is it? I know you're feeling very passionate, but you're also getting a little repetitive and pushy.
Whether you are for or against the war, our soldiers over there need to know we are behind them.
I respect the relatively neutral statement. Ok, not everyone supports the troops, but I appreciate that the author kept things broad here and didn't take an easy cheap shot against any country's or administration's policy.
This takes just 10 seconds and it's a wonderful way to say thank you. Please take the time and please take the time to pass it on for others to do. We can never say enough thank you's. Thanks for taking to time to support our military!
Whoa, now we're up to 10 seconds? Let's not give mixed messages here. Now all I'm focusing on in how many different writers felt they needed to add their own touch to this forward. One person gave 1 second, another offered 9 additional. One wanted you to "please take the time" and another wanted you to "please take the time" while you were pleasingly taking the aforementioned time. What I'm getting at is the more people who get their paws on this letter and add their 2 cents and 10 seconds, the less clear, trustworthy, professional it seems. Forwards and chains are the ultimate games of Telephone and none of it feels believable, so if you're a person that pushes things along, at least do your best to make them more palatable for the people you're trying to influence.

All right, so I ruined the ending earlier in the post--this site is actually legitimate and fairly easy to navigate. Xerox's website has a link in the middle of their page. The caption reads "Send a free printed postcard to U.S. military personnel stationed overseas. Personalize the postcard to show your support and appreciation for their service to our country." Follow the link, select your artwork, then a standard or custom message. I chose one of the rare non-US-centric drawings (coincidentally drawn by a kid from NJ), borrowed a couple lines from a standard message, eliminated the religious slant, and added a few lines of my own and then my card was added to the queue. Simple as that. Apparently, they've been doing this for a few years now, and I'm surprised that this is the first I'd heard of it. If you're like me and spend most of the time complaining instead of saying thanks, this is probably the service for you.

Thank you for your service. Your bravery and strength of character represent what America stands for. I greatly appreciate the sacrifices you've made and continue to make on behalf of a country of millions that you represent. Though we may never meet, you're in my thoughts. Thank you again and again.

(By the way, it took 4 minutes and 46 seconds.)

December 15, 2009

BaTR: Where Are They Now?

8/19/09 - Someone is FUCKING with me
My web browser was permanently stuck on Strict or Moderate SafeSearch at work. I couldn't even search the content of my own blog. It was ponderous, man. Fucking ponderous.

A little birdie gave me a workaround... all I had to do was VPN in as if I were accessing the company's network remotely. No sites or searches were blocked!

10/4/09 - Xlerate Ur Death
A high-speed hand dryer was precariously perched above an exposed electrical socket in the restroom of a local eatery.

The electrical socket has been covered with a plastic protective cap, no thanks to me. (No really, no thanks to me--I just took the picture without mentioning anything to the managers.

Xlerate Ur Life!

10/27/09 - Why You Got Zero Stars
The RoBeast gets dicked around for months by a generic cell phone accessory store, threatens to leave negative feedback on eBay, but ultimately gets defeated by eBay's 60 day feedback cut-off.

After writing the blog and getting myself all fired up again, I sent a final email to thecellshop stating "Never received" in giant black letters. A couple weeks later, a working LG Dare data cable (and a 3rd or 4th wall/car charger) arrived at my doorstep.

I have since purchased more items from eBay (including Hot to Trot on VHS!), though I will never use that cell phone accessory company again. My LG Dare is still a decent piece of electronic equipment for internet usage and messaging, but it is now as a phone, it has shit the bed. The microphone is no longer functioning correctly making it useless for phone calls and videos. I'll be taking to the Verizon Technical Service department tonight which will probably produce another exciting/bitchy blog entry.

That's all for now. More filler.... IN THE FUTURE!

December 10, 2009


On a crazy drunken winter's eve, I signed up for two competing music services--eMusic and Rhapsody. They were both advertising heavily on the television during the Christmas season back in 05' and I was looking for some instant music gratification that had nothing to do with Apple. I was easily impressed by their one month trial offers.

Rhapsody had all major label music streaming at the touch of a button. They offered a few downloads per month, but the streaming music would require a subscription to maintain. eMusic stuck to strictly independent labels, and anything you downloaded, you got to keep. It was DRM-free, and I could re-download any song in the future if I needed to. At the end of one month, I felt very comfortable using both sites. So comfortable that I completely forgot about the free one-month trials ending and got charged for both.

After another month I decided that eMusic was the way to go for me. They had plenty of new, weird music for me to discover. The prices were excellent and I felt comfortable downloading experimental tracks that I probably wouldn't have ever discovered or purchased on CD. I stayed with them for several years and trillions of downloads, but five months ago, eMusic and I finally broke up.

Those last few months were difficult for both of us. I felt a bit inundated by the amount of downloads I had amassed and and found increasing difficulty in using my full download credit each month. eMusic often added new music, but the math metal genre never seemed to be a priority. They added albums by Thom Yorke and Paul McCartney and bragged incessantly about it, but I had no interest in that direction. I decided to self-suspend my account for three months and see if I could live without the service.

As my return date drew near, I went to the website and Michael Jackson was on the front page. Ok, he had just died, so that made sense, but he was as far from being an indie artist as possible. Somehow his downloads were made available. I researched it on some music news sites and it turned out that eMusic had just signed a gigantic deal with the major labels and gained access to their catalogs. This was insane. On one hand it could be considered a much needed rejuvenation of their selection, but at the same time, it completely pissed upon their sacred indie ground.

I didn't know how I felt about all this until I heard they would be restructuring their download credit system and price plans. It was at this point that I decided to sign in, refresh my normal monthly plan, use my 65 downloads, and ride away clean. I logged in, confirmed my plan, entered my new credit card info, then was promptly and painfully given a corporate reality check. Immediately upon credit card approval, the page showing my 65 download plan disappeared from the existence and I was suddenly being called a "convert" with only 37 downloads. I wasn't just pissed because of the bait-and-switch, but also because I wasn't informed by eMusic at any time that prices and plans were changing, let alone when and how, and I certainly wasn't happy about being automatically "converted" just by signing in. After trying multiple times to speak to someone on their customer service hotline, I fired off my missive:
Subject: Billing Inquiries

I just went to the site today (July 6) to reactivate my account which had been on hold since April 25. The reactivation screen showed my plan of 65 downloads per month for $14.99. I needed to enter my new credit card information in order to log-in as I've updated my card in the past few months.

As soon as the system approved my credit card, I discovered that my account suddenly only showed 37 available downloads. I haven't logged-on in a few months so I know my download allotment should be fully refreshed at 65. My billing statement is also showing me as a "convert" which I definitely did not authorize.

"July 6, 2009 3:50:18 PM Convert: eMusic Plus $14.99 000PI6VZ-070609"

I called the customer service billing department 4 times and each time I was hung up on without even getting a word in edgewise. I tried the technical department and got the same treatment. As a customer for over three years, I would have appreciated a little better service than that. I want my $14.99 refunded to my credit card and then I want my subscription canceled.
24 hours later, a response:

Thank you for contacting eMusic Customer Support.

We’re sorry but the plan you are requesting has been retired and replaced by the Plus that gives you 37 downloads for $14.99 every thirty days. In addition, you received [or will receive] a free 15- download Booster Pack 30 days after your new plan starts [or started] as a special thank you for being an eMusic member.

The change in your plan is related to a major expansion to eMusic’s catalog that began on July, 2009. Nearly 200,000 tracks are being added, including many of the most loved names in music like The Clash. As part of this change, we’ve had to revise our subscription plans but are pleased to still offer you an un-matched deal on music downloads – less than half the average price per download from iTunes and Amazon.

We’re sorry that we’ve had to retire your old plan but we’re confident that you’ll find even more music to love among the many new additions to the catalog. And of course, you can always select a different plan from the Plan Options page within Your Account.

Not only were they lowering everyone's downloads per month (under the guise of "we're still cheaper than Amazon and iTunes"), but it was going to take more credits to download these "most loved names" anyway. And you would no longer be able to cherry pick tracks from albums. Fuck the fucking Clash and fuck your fuzzy math eSCREWsic.
To: "Billing"
Subject: RE: Billing Inquiries

Wait... so you're taking away 28 of my 65 downloads immediately with no warning, and then offering me 15 "free" downloads that won't take affect until I get charged (and short changed) a second time 30 days later? Why would I bother sticking around long enough to pay again for "free" downloads?

If you were really sorry, you would have at least acknowledged the issues I raised in my original email (bait-and-switch on my account status, lack of appropriate customer service over the phone, lack of communication) and offered to honor my refund.

I'm sorry, but I don't believe you're going to continue to receive my business in August.


Thank you for contacting eMusic Customer Support.

Your eMusic account associated with the email address is now canceled.

I also escalated your issue to see what I could do for you. My manager has authorized an exception to our no-refund policy on your behalf. We have issued you a refund in the amount of $14.99.

Please note that your bank can take up 5-7 business days to process your refund once we issue it. If you do not see an adjustment to your account after this time, please contact us so we can research your issue for you.

To reactivate your account, simply log in, select the plan you would like, and follow the prompts to reactivate your account. Please also note that your download history will be removed from our database if you do not rejoin within 60 days.


Something tells me that I probably wasn't the only one being escalated. I decided to take them up on their refund and never looked back. I mean, unless you count this entry as looking back. I can't tell you how eMusic is doing right now, but I personally saw a lot of public complaints in blogs and forums. Sure, it's anecdotal evidence and I don't know how many of those people actually followed through on their threats. I did, and I can't be the only one. The CEO of eMusic said this in August: "We haven’t yet seen a rise in subscription cancellations due to the new price plans. This is something we’re monitoring very closely." I'm curious if that answer is the same today. I wonder if it was worth pissing loyal customers off in order to get into bed with the majors.

As a result of all this, I've been listening to lots of garbage on the radio, but at least I'm saving money by not paying for it. I really haven't bought many CDs this year at all. I've discovered even fewer new artists than ever before. I don't know what's good in the music world these days. Maybe I'm better off.

The Unbreakable Comb?

In a unstunning display of overobviousity on a bad hair day, I test out an Unbreakable comb:

TWO THOUSAND ATE 2009 terms of blog posts at least. Despite my efforts during Post-a-Day June, this year still lags behind the last considerably on content. Why? I'm busy, dammit! I've been especially focused on the band lately, as evidenced by all the video posts at the PMF site (and all the footage for more posts that I haven't even been able to edit yet.)

I also have technological constraints. It would be a lot easier if Blogger was plugged directly into my brain. I'd be much more prolific (and NSFWer). The lack of high post numbers may look like I'm not doing anything, but I start a lot of ideas and never finish them. Just glancing over the year's drafts, I see a bunch of posts never posted, updates never updated, reviews never reviewed, and photos never uploaded. Even this post that I'm typing right now is about to interrupted because I have a meeting in a few minutes.

Is it possible for me to post 60+ more times in the next 20 days? Yeah, I suppose it's possible, but highly unlikely. I'll tell you what. I'm going to do as much as I can for the rest of 2009. OK, so you'll probably end up seeing a lot of cheap Low-Content BatR posts in the next few weeks (which will be referred to as Lo-Co; Lo-Con may make more sense, but it doesn't rhyme or mean "crazy" in Spanish). Then again, it's what you've been seeing all year here anyway.

Here's a shitty photo of a Lukoil gas station I took with my camera phone back in October but never posted:

Why, you ask? I was intrigued and baffled by their white sign with minimal text. Let me clean it up for you with my CSI computers (you'll have to make your own unnecessary WHOOSH sound effects):

It says "we [heart] cars." With the sideways heart and lowercase lettering, the ad obviously emulates the text message speak of today's yutes in yet another corporate attempt to be hip. Very Gasol337, I must say. But they completely lose their credibility by tilting the heart in the wrong direction. A true teenybopper would actually type "we <3 cars" (and then accompany it with a photo of a girl at school that took a naked picture of herself in a car that was only intended for her boyfriend to see, but he forwarded to all his buddies and... well, that's another story). If they're going to go and tilt the heart at all, it should be tilted to the right.

I wrote to the Russia-based Lukoil and they responded: "IN COMMUNIST ЯUSSIA, CAR HEART YOU!" I think that means they either disagree or are trying to sell me really cheap mp3s. Do svidaniya!

December 4, 2009

Passive-Aggressive Signs, RoBeast Style

Here at Kindergarten, I mean work, we have a lot of folks that don't know how to keep their greasy paws off of things they shouldn't be touching. When they book a conference room too small for their meetings, they steal chairs from people's desks. When they don't how to put their laptop in presentation mode, they press every button and change all the settings on the projector. When they don't know how to power down a video conference unit, they just rip out all the plugs.

Yes, some of those solutions are successful shortcuts to immediate gratification if you have the brain of a puppy or an infant--it's just not as cute when the offender is an adult with a college degree and a high-paying salary. And so, as the increasingly disgruntled discoverer of these mindless acts in my building, I have to resort to language and pictures that animals and children understand in the vain attempt of preventing more damage from occurring in the future. It's a shame that it comes to passive-aggressive signage, but at least it keeps me from smashing my chair in the window.

(In case you can't see the last one, it reads "You don't win friends by disconnecting cables. Please leave them the way you found them." The graphic of the sad, lonely girl makes it particularly touching. I'll try to update the photo another day.)