Like Clichés on Acid
Let us now discuss the labyrinthine, in-your-face, introspective, esoteric, head-bobbing, fist-pumping, booty-shaking, genre-defying mélange of the Rock Critic Cliché milieu. (Riffage. Let us also discuss riffage.)
Like any other, this profession suffers from a unique lexicon of ridiculous, impenetrable jargon. I am certainly not immune to this disease, nor can I suggest a foolproof cure. But perhaps I can diagnose specific viruses and prescribe medicine for lousy metaphors. (Gotta knock it off with the lousy metaphors too.)
As we behold 2006's shimmering, hypnotic, melodic dawn, I pledge to you: Every bolded word in this article, I will never use again after this week.
Angular: Frequently describes guitars that sound, well, pointy. Sharp, unpleasant, of or like Fugazi. As opposed to circular.
Coruscating: Really, really angular.
Listenable: "I didn't like it."
Unlistenable: "I didn't listen to it."
Seminal: "I sold it back for $5 without listening to it, but then everyone else wrote about it, so I had to buy it back for $12 and pretend I liked it."
Minimalist: Describes any song that does not employ a full string orchestra. "Hall & Oates' 'I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)' is a seminal, coruscating slab of minimalist pop."
Danceable: "I couldn't dance competently if my pants were on fire."
Beatlesesque: (Fires rocket launcher at head.)
Radio-ready: "This is the only song I remember."
Anthemic: Really, really radio-ready.
Jangly: Fate intertwined with R.E.M. Adios.
Drops, e.g., "Tone Loc's new album drops January 24": Knock it off; you're white.
Wheels of steel, as opposed to turntables: White white white white white.
Swirling: Conjures lush soundscapes of boring pretentiousness.
Cerebral: Yes, sir: Brian Eno is smarter than you.
Cinematic: What, like Meatballs?
Eclectic: "From polka to bluegrass to baile funk to death metal! It's a floor wax and a dessert topping!"
Crunk: White white white white white white white white.
_____-esque/ish: "Dude, I gotta finish this: Aqua Teen Hunger Force starts in 20 minutes."
Like _____ on acid: "Dude, that giant bag of fries totally just said 'crunk. '"
Wanton Hyphen Overuse: An ordinarily calm writer friend of mine flies into a rage whenever this technique is employed. Specifically, he refers to it as "I-can't-think-of-what-to-write-so-it's-time-to-just-say-'fuck-it'-and-hyphenate-the-shit-out-of-a-whole-mess-of-words-that-might-come- close-to-an-accurate-description-of-something-that-I-might-be-able-to-work-out-myself-if-I-read-real-books-instead-of-Spin-while-I-go-poo-poo." He'll be fine, honest.
Wanton: Not yet. I still really like wanton.
_______ Yet ________: Increasingly common. Angry Hyphen Guy particularly chafes at the "Retro Yet Futuristic" tag: "What, like Barbarella?"
Wanton Capitalization Overuse: Such as, oh, say, Angry Hyphen Guy. I'm still enamored of this one too. Let's save it for '07. Rob Harvilla
If there's one good thing I can say about 2005, it's that the words malpractice and Doc le Roc never appeared in the same legal file. But as I often tell those prone to bad habits, absence of disease isn't the same as having good health. Sure, this past year was worse for medicine than music (Hello, Terri Schiavo), but for some reason, my iPod still took a back seat to my stethoscope. At first, I couldn't figure out the problem. There were as many promising new bands as medications: The Kaiser Chiefs' debut works better than Cialis, and Franz Ferdinand and Hot Hot Heat delivered solid follow-ups to their overhyped debuts. But that's when it hit me like a shot of Demerol: The queasy feeling I had was from 12 months of overhyped releases, both musical and pharmaceutical.
But for each new side effect-prone drug, there were three equally untested rock bands being touted by the mainstream and indie media alike. Sure, there are plenty of bands I wouldn't personally prescribe to my patients quasi-punkish groups like My Chemical Romance, for starters but I'm OK with their usage. At least they're promoted for what they really are poppy rock music for squeaky teens. What really irks this doctor is the rampant 'script-writing for tepid, yawn-inspiring bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Bright Eyes. Go ahead, look at the bands named in most 2005 top-ten lists: Coldplay, Sufjan Stevens, Wilco, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. They might as well read Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata.
So why does the rockin' doctor sound like he's having an aneurism? It's the same reason my blood pressure jolts when I see drug commercials playing to people's feelings of inadequacy. Rock music that doesn't rock is as bad as medicine that doesn't medicate. And the side effects of listening to a weeping sap like Conor Oberst are significant. It makes me wonder whether Spin and Rolling Stone are in cahoots with Eli Lilly and other overlords of antidepressants. Just think: How many happy pills does it take to get through Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning? Now, multiply that by the number of RS readers who bought the album and you can see where the drug companies stand to profit. It's enough to make herbal medicine sound appealing. Toad skin, anyone?
Findings: The membrane lining separating indie rock and easy listening shows signs of erosion. Diagnosis: Overmedication. Treatment: A copy of the Stooges' recently reissued Funhouse and Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation. Doc Le Roc It's that time of year again, when all of our sins come back to bite us in the ass. Last week, most of us made altruistic (read: unrealistic) promises on New Year's Eve, resolving to fix all the things we keep doing wrong. These resolutions from musicians are proof that you're not the only one trying to get it right this time around:
"To move out of my mom's basement by the end of 2006." Mark Civaitarese (The Unseen)
"I will look for a Halloween costume at least a day in advance so that I'm not left with the last item on the children's rack." Sage Francis
"I promise to drink no less than I have been and to have no more unprotected text... text messaging, that is." Gavin DeGraw
"Don't make the same mistakes I made last year." Bobby Valentino
"Stop drinking a bottle of beer a show. Instead, step it up and go for a personal best by trying to drink two bottles a show." Elvis Cortez (Left Alone)
"My New Year's resolution is to clean up my office and to work out really hard and get in really great shape." Aimee Mann
"Think positive." Amanda Barrett (The Ditty Bops)
"I promise and swear upon my dead ancestors that I will do more situps and pushups this year so that I look good at the beach." Steve E. Nix (The Briefs)
"My New Year resolution is to have less material to write about, which really means less drama with girls." Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy)
"I resolve to commit one hour, every day, to practicing my bass guitar, one hour to concentrating on my visual-art mediums, and one hour to sitting quietly and saying nothing." Bif Naked
"This year I am making a resolution to cook more when I am at home and to eat healthier on the road." Bryan Laurenson (Copeland)
"Eighteen of us just got back from Italy, where we got to visit family. I want to learn Italian so I can communicate better with them next time I go back." Sonny from P.O.D.
"I resolve to not break as many strings or snort while laughing onstage." Melissa Ferrick
"This New Year's, I plan to call my three-legged cat by his name and stop referring to him as 'Tripod,' because I imagine that it's slowly chiseling away at his self-esteem." Matt Taylor (Motion City Soundtrack)
"I'd like to upgrade from Yellow Tail to Kendall Jackson, Popov to Ketel One, and Natural Ice to Bud Light. Sometimes the best things come from a glass bottle and not a plastic turbo jug." Barry Kerch (Shinedown)
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