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April 21st, 2004

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03:20 pm - Screw Blender (the magazine, not the appliance)
This morning emjay42 posted a link to a USA Today story about Blender Magazine's feature listing the 50 worst songs ever. Blender.com doesn't have that story on their website yet, but they do have last May's feature on the 50 worst bands ever. They list quite a few bands I'd purposely forgotten about, but I feel the need to defend my poor taste:
  • Blind Melon: Blind Melon was one of the better bands of its type to enjoy success in the early 1990s, but a short time later alternative/grunge more or less died and Soup, their second (and arguably best) album failed commercially. Lead vocalist Shannon Hoon died of a drug overdose in 1995, and the band lasted a few more years, releasing a third album, Nico before parting ways. Anyway, Blender lists Soup as Blind Melon's worst album, but they have no idea what they're talking about. It's fantastic, and a great buy its present bargain-bin price. If you like that kind of music (admit it -- you used to).

  • Oingo Boingo: These guys never had any enduring chart-smashing hits, but their music was both extremely experimental and extremely listenable at the same time. The article gives a brief nod to the fact that before they were Oingo Boingo, the rock group, they were The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, a performance art troupe. I get the feeling that the folks at Blender couldn't get around the pretensions associated with the phrase "performance art," or maybe they just didn't get the movie Forbidden Zone. At least they concede that Danny Elfman has come into his own with his soundtrack work.

  • Crash Test Dummies: Their first two albums (The Ghosts That Haunt Me and God Shuffled His Feet) had some of the most accessible art-rock this side of David Byrne. God Shuffled His Feet was a surprising commercial success, due to the single Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, one of their weaker songs representative of neither the album or the Dummies' sound (and it's still a pretty good). Admittedly the band's later endeavours were absolutely abysmal, but the first two albums still ride the fence between smart and straightforward without being haughty.

  • Emerson, Lake and Palmer: ELP is probably the best-known of the second wave of progressive rock bands, and they milked their popularity for all it was worth, churning out several pompous, self-important albums. I attribute their early-70s success to the fact that it coincided with a time when everybody was swimming up to their eyeballs in chemical refreshment. Still, despite all the chaff, there's a lot of good stuff in ELP's catalog, and when they're brilliant, they're really brilliant. Brilliant enough to warrant putting up with Keith Emerson's ego. Blender has chosen Love Beach as ELP's worst album, and I can't speak to this. Nobody I know who likes ELP has worked up the courage to buy a copy of Love Beach because we can't get past the Hairy-70s-band-tribute-to-The-Beach-Boys cover photo.

  • Rick Wakeman: Rick Wakeman was just as much a part of the pretentious prog-rock scene of the 70s as ELP, and became most famous for adapting classic novels as concept albums. He employed the same "damn, I'm good" attitude as ELP, but I like a greater proportion of his work. Blender calls the soundtrack from Ken Russell's Lisztomania his worst album, and I'm not sure what to say about that. The music and the movie are far too over-the-top to be taken seriously, and that was definitely a deliberate choice. I used to try to convince evil_jim and Tick that they should watch that movie. I wonder if I still have my copy... Um, back to Rick Wakeman, a few years ago he released Return to the Center of the Earth, a followup to his adaptation of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth. The music is fantastic, and it's narrated by Patrick Stewart. How cool is that?

  • Yngwie Malmsteen: I quite like Mr. Malmsteen, but I can see why he's on the list. His name's too damned difficult to pronounce. No wonder he didn't get any serious radio play -- "This is KQAL FM, I'm Johnny Dangerously, and that was... uh, Yuh-- Yaw.. Yih... Ih... Ing...Yin... gwee... Malmstein. Steen. Yin-gwee Malmsteen. Nnngwai? Yingwee. I think."

  • Mick Jagger: I'm indifferent to Mick Jagger (both his solo work, and The Rolling Stones), but he simply doesn't belong on this list. 'Nuff said.

Ah, well. Now I'm all pissed off about Blender magazine. Anyway, on a totally different topic, the mob has spoken, and The Tale of Rhubarb Bunnywing will have a traditional 2D adventure-style interface. I'm a little worried about how the visuals are going to look. This type of game is going to require more animation than I've done in the past, and I'm not a particularly good artist. I'd like to do it all myself, though. I promise -- absolutely -- that the graphics will be high-resolution and will not look like this:

That's a scene from Mole, a game I've been "working on" (read: guiltily ignoring) for Russian Underware since late 1998. One of these days I'll finish Mole. Seriously. One of these days, man. I'm just waiting for the right one.
Current Mood: aggravatedaggravated
Current Music: DJs Mike Carlson and Whiterabbit -- Live at the Inferno

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:April 21st, 2004 10:36 pm (UTC)
I agree that most of those bands shouldn't have been on the list.

Blind Melon: I bought their first album (probably used) because of the song No Rain and listened to it a lot... until I realized I only liked that one song, so I sold it again. It makes me wonder where that bee girl is now... That was a fun video.

Oingo Boingo: is one of the bands I keep thinking I should check out but never bother to. Someone will have to stick it in my face first and then I'll prolly like it and wonder why I waited so long.

ELP: I don't understand where you get "pompous" and "self-important" from. And what "chaff" do you speak of? Yes, their first five albums are their best with the underlying presence of fantasy, but by Works vol. 1 they were naturally starting to branch out on their own. Oh. And you hit the nail right on the head with the cover to Love Beach. I may risk it if I see it used and I have a lot of money on me, but I'm not very optimistic as the track or two I've heard already didn't impress me.

Rick Wakeman: I'm not a Yes fan and I can't listen to as much of his stuff as ELP, but some of his concept albums are great. (Coincidentally, I was ripiping King Arthur just before reading your journal.)

Mick Jagger: Wha?? How did he get on the list?

goes to check...

Ok, now I'm pissed! The DOORS are on there. I'm gonna report this to Sheri so she can send Sal and Scarface to have a word with Blender.
[User Picture]
Date:April 21st, 2004 10:54 pm (UTC)

As long as this comment is longer than my own journal post...

I forgot to mention the experiment a few years ago that produced the Most Wanted and Unwanted songs. I still haven't worked up the courage to pay $12.95 for a CD that contains a 25 minute song "fewer than 200 individuals of the world's total population will enjoy," but the idea is entertaining enough that I just may do it one of these days. Plus, it also contains "a musical work that will be unavoidably and uncontrollably 'liked' by 72 ± 12% of listeners."
[User Picture]
Date:April 22nd, 2004 08:12 am (UTC)

Re: As long as this comment is longer than my own journal post...

I haven't heard of this before, but it sounds interesting. If you like, I'd be willing to split the cost, and we could both have half of the CD. I want the half with the better song on it, since you got both the Strong Bad and Trogdor stickers.
[User Picture]
Date:April 22nd, 2004 08:11 am (UTC)
I think you'll find a lot of people consider ELP to be extremely pretentious. Good arguments for this can be found in critical reviews of their work (as opposed to fan reviews at Amazon.com, which, like any reviews there, are split evenly between people who absolutely loved the product, and people who are angry because they spent money on something they eventually ended up not liking). In interviews and live recordings from the peak of their career ELP (especially Keith Emerson) made it pretty clear that they thought they were THE pinnacle of cultural evolution to which all others should aspire. By the later 70s, they'd settled down a bit. More recently written reviews of ELP work (and Rick Wakeman, and Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds) also tend to latch on to the fact that there's a great deal of pomp associated with concept albums. Myself, I like concept albums.

As for the "chaff," I'm talking about the fact that I can recall you saying that even you could do without the first four songs of Brain Salad Surgery, and that (with the exception of Keith Emerson's solo tracks and the last two tracks featuring the whole band) you didn't like most of Works vol. 1. I (and plenty of other ELP fans) find parts of Tarkus and Karn Evil 9 (namely the second impression) to consist of a few highlights surrounded by a lot of plodding improvisation, which, though most professional keyboardists could never play it, is completely uninteresting and detracts more than it adds to the piece. This is excusable on a live album. On a studio album copious improvisation sounds like filler. Speaking of filler, there's a lot of it on their later albums (Black Moon, In The Hot Seat, Emerson, Lake and Powell), but I've never heard you speak very highly of those. They're not difficult to find either new or used, so obviously somebody likes them enough to have bought them on their initial release, and to keep them in print. Why do we use the phrase "in print" in reference to movies and music? I have no idea.

I'm also somewhat torn on their adaptations of classical music. I question some of the choices they made with Pictures (such as speeding up the rhythm at the beginning of Gnomus (though I might be alone in that)). Their jazz-fusion version of Fanfare for the Common Man sounds tedious compared to the original arrangement (I know you disagree with me on that). Mars, The Bringer of War sounds great, but I get bored with it while I'm listening. That doesn't happen with the orchestral arrangement.

On the other hand, there's plenty to like in ELP. Most of Karn Evil 9. Parts of Tarkus. Pictures at an Exhibition, which is so good as a whole that the complaint I just registered about Gnomus is easily overlooked.

As for how Mick Jagger made the list, I think they're referring to his solo work. I could justify labelling some of it as "mediocre," but genuinely "bad?" Certainly not. Blind Melon's first album is nowhere near as good as their second album, but given your recent stance on music with lyrics, you might want to avoid it. Oingo Boingo is just... interesting. Actually, Oingo Boingo's work is hit and miss too, but it's because they were under pressure to produce at least a couple of "hit singles" per album, which makes some of their albums sound as if they were recorded by two different bands.

Wow, that was a long response.
Garmonbozia for the soul.

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