Happy New Year, faithful readers!
Sorry to have been absent for so long, but let's get down to brass tacks: Exactly one week ago, I was sitting in this very chair, preparing to write my first blog post of 2011, and I discovered that the week's only new release was by some ukulele player named Jake!
And if I just wrote about that--and made the rest, unthinkably, filler--would I really be doing any of us a good turn?
But, to be fair--most of all to Jake, for whom I assume album release schedules really aren't in his control--let's get last week's blog out of the way:
Jake Shimabukuro: Peace Love Ukelele (Mailboat) A single listening to this hot platter makes one thing abundantly clear: Everything's jake!
Whew! Done deal! So let's begin the New Year by offering up even more of the criticism that has made this blog a favorite of readers around the world and elsewhere!
Cake: Showroom Of Compassion (Upbeat) I'd be the last guy in the world to argue with the label's product description that this hot new platter is "vintage CAKE," were it not for the fact that the older cake gets, the drier, crummier and more stale it becomes! Plus, ants seem to go for it! Instead, I'd be inclined to describe it as "thoroughly moist--at times even damp--and a grisly reminder that what was once flavor of the month can become an eventual cause of embarrassment to those who listened to music as a mere backdrop while pursuing laughable and now trivial, non-musical pursuits!" That said, alerting readers that they can have their Cake and eat it too hardly seems a public service! Still...what a lovely logo! Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, but is the fact that the members of Steel Magnolia first met in a karaoke bar and sang Air Supply's "All Out Of Love" together really all that different on a sociocultural level than being an actual coal miner's daughter? I say no! Nominated for oodles of awards and on the precipice of a level of fame so vast it makes me shudder merely to type it--well, this is about my seventh Diet Coke in about an hour--Steel Magnolia are about to break big on a level that we don't often see! Largely because we stay at home and look at pictures of ourselves when we were younger and happier, wonder why the phone never rings, and occasionally forget to put on pants! N*E*R*D*: Best Of N*E*R*D (Virgin) For the level of buzz Pharrell Williams and his partner Bucky gets, you'd think that a so-called hits collection would be chock-full of familiar tunes that if you didn't already love, you'd be sick of because you've heard them walking into various coffee shops and dry cleaners in your neighborhood! But when I put this CD on, I didn't recognize a frickin' thing! So, like, what's the deal? It's not like I accidentally put Satriani Live!, the 2006 Epic/Red Ink album in my CD player and decided, Oh, what the heck, if I simply pretend this is the Best Of N*E*R*D album no one out there will even notice the difference! And even if I did, I would never admit it! Wire: Red Barked Tree (Pink Flag) One of the year's best albums--hey, it's been less than two weeks!--is clearly this unexpected gem from long-lived, UK post-punk, delightfully but excessively modified legends Wire--who in retrospect now seem one of the best bands of the last few decades, and whose new album is surprisingly good. Alarmingly good. So good it will singlehandedly seek out writers who use the expression "(X).(X).(X)." for emphasis with absolutely no notion of how idiotic that looks! Long past being abrasive, Wire are hardly scraping by--it may be shocking, but they're delightfully current! I sicken me! the Bats, Able Tasmans, etc. without seeming purposefully derivative, for which they deserve vast credit! While offering up nothing exactly out of the ordinary, their overall slant--noisy guitar, obscured vocals, unexpected hooks--drives home the point that absolutely fabulous music is being made at this very moment in locales most of us know nothing about! Perhaps they've all gathered in the respective locales and are talking about us in hushed tones! But now...we're hip to them! So what's this water going down the bathtub drain clockwise thing, dudes? the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Ramones, etc.--and other famous faces discussing the meaning of punk, the difference between punk in the US and the UK, the effect of punk rock on the world's culture, and whether anyone in the world ever expected people to be walking around with Mohawks in 2011 when they could living at home and downloading songs on the Internet! As a sociological document, it's priceless! As a meal, it's completely inedible! Trust Company, Papa Roach, or Lit, I would have absolutely no qualms in extolling their virtue! Sadly, though, these decisions are rarely mine to make! For now! Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley and Charlie Daniels and benefitting St. Jude Children's Research Hospital! Best of all, it's only available at Cracker Barrel! Like most of their employees!