too much typing—since 2003


Terror? Tyrannosaurus? Tinnitus?

I was going to write about The Invasion of the Solar Nipple Medallion (which is not, alas, the title of the new album by The Darkness), but instead I'm writing about the Tris McCall Report 2003 Critics' Poll results. First, the Wrens' Meadowlands won: Yay Wrens! As a long-time Wrens fan, I'm pleased to see them get some of the accolades they deserve (by the way, what exactly is an "accolade"? Can you mix drinks with it?) Apparently, though, I'm even more terminologically maladept and from-Mars culturally than I'd thought: the Wrens are "emo"? Yeesh. Doesn't help me figure out what the term means, though. I always assumed it's what happens when punk rockers simultaneously discover broken hearts and major-seventh chords.

What surprised me was Tris's remark that "support for Ted Leo...was almost exclusively concentrated among Jersey or ex-Jersey voters." Leo's moved to Jersey from DC, true - but in the rest of the obscure corner of the rock'n'roll galaxy I reside in, Hearts of Oak was a universal favorite. It placed a strong second in Aaron Mandel's Loud-fans List Poll (behind the New Pornographers' Electric Version), for example. So, given the fairly strong regional tilt to Tris McCall's poll (Jersey, NYC, and environs), it would appear that for some reason New Yorkers don't dig Ted Leo. Their loss!

Coming in at number 15 in the Critics' Poll is the Darkness. Tris claims that it can't be a very good sign that so many of the top-polling titles are "lovingly detailed historical re-creations": on the one hand, I get it - but I'm also dubious about whatever alternative there might be. I'll use the Lilys as case in point: their Precollection (#18) is their first album since Eccsame the Photon Band to be hailed as sounding primarily like itself and not, supposedly, like a lost transmission from the planet 1966. But comparing the band's prior album, The Three-Way, with actual music from 1966 reveals a lot of key differences. First, very few Kinks-style songs from 1966 had such twisty, sideways chord sequences, and even fewer sported such oddball song structures. In other words, if The Three-Way were just a glorified-tribute-band recording, it'd be a serious hash thereof. Instead, main Lily Kurt Heasley takes certain characteristics from that era (some guitar sounds, riffs, and drum rhythms, mostly) and runs some changes on them that, in a different sonic context, might sound almost like prog-rock. (The obverse of The Three-Way, then, might be an album that took prog-rock signifiers such as odd time signatures, analog synths, and virtuoso instrumental technique but applied them to Kinks-like song structures. In fact, the results would probably sound kinda like a latterday Dismemberment Plan album.) So these albums (the ones I'm familiar with, anyway) are "re-creations" with an emphasis on the word's second component, not on its first. And to me, at least, there's nothing wrong with that: it might even be inevitable. Frankly, I always mistrust musicians who claim to have heard nothing but music written prior to 1790 or something; I see nothing wrong with influence, even obvious influence, so long as you do something with it other than press Start on the photocopy machine.

To end about where I began: Justin Timberlake's JT placed in the top twenty. I'm deeply, thoroughly confused - given the makeup of the poll's participants. (The title of that album, henceforth, should be read as standing for "Janet's...": wait, I thought I had a joke there, but now I can't think of an appropriate word that begins with T.)

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