Outta Love Again

Whoops.

“Over the weekend, employees of tour promoters Live Nation were informed that “the Van Halen tour has been shut down.” It’s not yet clear what went wrong…”

Guys, I just said it was a bad idea. You didn’t have to go and cancel the whole damn thing.

Ah well. Who wants hot sauce?

You won’t see this on your SATs

Remember the analogy questions on the SATs? They were usually structured thusly:

Sleep is to bed as urinate is to _______.

A) Sink
B) Toilet
C) Bathtub
D) Off a balcony, but only if you are in college and drunk

Maybe not as much with the potty humor, but that was the general structure.

Analogies were always my favorite part of the SATs. Using them as a rhetorical device that could be used to both build rapport, and make muddy concepts clear held a lot of attraction to me, and still does. The phrases “That’s like…” and “It’s similar to…” are probably uttered by me at least once a day, and I shudder to think how many times they’ve cropped up in my writing.

Little surprise then that the following tumbled out of my mouth during the Grammys last week: “You know, Britney Spears is the Nirvana to Christina Aguilera’s Pearl Jam.”

Sure, there was wine involved. But stick with me for a moment, and cast your mind back before the head-shaving, the hyperbole, the assless chaps, and the worship of the Who, (respectively) to the early days of the career of each artist.

Both Britney and Nirvana were the first horses out of the gate, though they were clearly not in for the long haul. Though Nirvana had a very fine first album prior to its breakthrough, both seemingly came from nowhere and re-oriented music culture for the next few years, creating imitators in their wakes, and had an influence that went beyond the charts. It extended to fashion, mass media, and the way those that heard their music thought of themselves. Both Nirvana and Britney functioned as arechtypes, and spurred others to pursue something larger than themselves, whether it was an artistic statement, or music as a means to fame (without Britney, there is no American Idol, period).

Christina Aguilera and Pearl Jam seemed to follow their predecessors, though they’d been following similar paths all the while, and suffered only for timing. Both found themselves grow increasingly uncomfortable with the way fame and image seemed to dictate what kinds of art they could create and, in response, they released albums that almost dared some in their audience to continue to call themselves fans (Vitaology in PJ’s case, Stripped in Christina’s). Later, they came to terms with both their art and image, to emerge as more than survivors, but as the gold standard of their respective movements.

Now, I know some of the above might be taking things a bit far. Particularly that bit about the “gold standard” though I dare you to name any other teen popster whose albums you’d rather listen to than one of Aguilera’s, and dare you to deny that Nirvana is more about what they represent than what they’ve achieved (and before you answer, which did you find yourself pulling from your collection more recently: a Foo Fighters album or a Nirvana album?).

In any case, like the SATs, this isn’t about the perfect answer, it’s about picking the best answer.

Reunionize Yourself

Sorry for the lack of posts. Lots of life change, what with the new job and the new place. Won’t happen again. Promise.

In the interim, reunion tours for both The Police* and Van Halen were announced, and it’s not possible to find two bands that are more indicative of the Goofus and Gallant school of thought when it comes to rock reunion tours.

On the one hand, you have The Police, who – with the exception of the occasional one-off gigs here and there – haven’t worked together artistically in the past 20 years. They’ve been offered scads of money before, but never saw the need. But at this stage in their respective individual careers, a reunion tour is a challenge, a gauntlet thrown down. With Sting having recorded an album of music on the lute (!!!), it’s a chance for him to prove that old Onion editorial was correct. For Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland, it’s to remind those who’ve forgotten that the band’s artistic success was built on the creative tension that existed between the three of them, and that no matter how things looked on the outside, the entity known as The Police required the efforts of all three. This house, often divided against itself, did stand. Take away any part of the whole … and you have an album of music played on the lute.

And speaking of removing part of the whole, there’s Van Halen.

The day after my Senior Prom, I – along with my date and some friends – went to Great America. In conversation with the acknowledged Guitar God of our high school, I derisively referred to the band as “Van Hagar,” a slight for which Guitar God took me to task. “C’mon, it’s not like they were ‘Van Roth’ before.” I had no retort.

I thought of this moment when I heard that VH bassist Michael Anthony had been unceremoniously (and if there’s a more apropos adverb for it, I don’t know what it is) booted from the band. Michael Anthony’s crime seems to be having toured with Hagar recently, which is ironic, since Roth famously did the same on the “Sans Halen” tour a few years back.

I thought of that moment again when it was announced that the brothers Van Halen were reuniting with David Lee Roth, with Eddie’s son Wolfgang on bass.

Talk about being careful what you wish for. Even the most strident Sammy Hagar defenders would admit that a tour with Diamond Dave fronting the band would be worth seeing. Since the Roth years of VH, in particular, depended on the thump-thump-thump and “Oooh baby baby” that Anthony brought to the party, this tour’s going to end up like the end of “The Monkey’s Paw,” where the departed relative you wished back to life turns out to be some weird zombie knocking at the door in the middle of the night.

When I see Van Halen, I want some dude (I’m not picky about who so long as he was not at any point affiliated with Nuno Bettencourt) in brightly-colored pants singing about ladies in some fashion. I want two goofy-looking Dutch cats hammering away on the skins and blowing my damn mind on guitar, respectively. And lastly, I want a dude in a mullet, crooning background vocals, and playing something that resembles a bottle of Jack Daniels with strings.

It’s hard to fault Eddie for wanting to spend more time with his kid, but I was pretty sure the rock cognoscenti agreed that making family members a part of the band was a bad idea ever since Paul wanted Linda to join Wings. Recent public appearances by the man seem to confirm that the dude is back on the sauce. He’s acknowledged that when he was heavily hitting the bottle back in the day, Roth would talk him into things he might not have ordinarily thought were a good idea. It’s also pretty clear from Ed’s foray into the world of adult film soundtracks that he’s got a base need to be making music in some fashion, whether or not such ventures have any artistic merit. The last time all three of these elements combined, the band produced “Big Bad Bill Is Sweet William Now” off Diver Down. So I can’t see how this is anything but a bad idea.

There are plenty of people who argue that nostalgia is the enemy of rock and roll. When something like this Van Halen reunion tour happens, it’s hard to come up with an effective argument. I’m hoping The Police are able to provide one.

Otherwise, we’re going to end up with another album of music on the lute.

* Check that quote from the guy at Pollstar at the end of the AP story. Is that the most depressing thing you’ve ever read in your life?

Surprises

At first, I dismissed the second item in this set of entertainment briefs with a haughty “Oh well, it’s from the British press” and looked for the word “reportedly,” but then I noticed it was a pull-quote from FHM*, which means it’s probably nothing more than wishful thinking on Ms. Jameson’s part. But:

Porn star Jenna Jameson has named Scarlett Johansson as the actor she wants to see play her in a forthcoming biopic. Jameson, whose book, How To Make Love Like A Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale, is being made into a film, told FHM magazine: “We’re looking hopefully at Scarlett Johansson. She’s my choice. I think she’s beautiful.”

Lord knows I’ve also been looking hopefully at Scarlett Johansson, but honestly, I think I’ve got as much chance as Jenna does at *ahem* working with her. Then again, I didn’t believe she was recording an album of Tom Waits covers, so what do I know?

* * *

After receiving a press release from this site that laughingly claimed to promote a show with “Chicago’s top bands,” Tankboy and I started discussing musical prejudices today. Specifically, being able to predict with near-certainty whether or not a band will suck by looking at its name. He pointed out that “indie bands pick crap names just to mess with people, while suburbanite-style bands do it because they think the names are actually cool.” True enough, most days.

But then we checked out a band called Real Lunch that sent us a pitch e-mail. I thought it sounded like some weird unintentional combo of that post-mortem Beatles song and the William Burroughs novel, which I later discovered was intentional. A bad omen, that. Plus, they’re from the ‘burbs, still in college, and their frame-heavy website sports a ridiculous bio and a picture of their drummer’s bare ass. All of that was enough to dismiss them out of hand.

And yet …

Their bio (such as it is) mentions Ben Folds and Squeeze and the influences are so obvious, I wonder if it’s as calculated as their name. No matter. There’s also a heavy 70s AM radio vibe going on here as well, particularly in the solo that ends “In The Flood.” It’s immediately accessible music that hits all my New Wave love buttons, which may mean they’re terrible and I’m just a sucker for music that was popular when I was eight years old. Perhaps they’re just masters at catchy hooks that hide otherwise pedestrian music. Like putting truffle oil on regular potato chips to make them seem like more of a culinary achievement than they are. I don’t think that’s the case with these guys, but even if it is, that’s still an achievement.

So again … what do I know?

mp3 – Real Lunch “She Can’t Dance

* Look, I realize FHM isn’t exactly a paragon of reporting virtue, but I don’t think they’re in the business of making up quotes. Rewriting the laws of physics and anatomy through air-brushing on the other hand …

Thoughts on the Bears’ 2007 divisional playoff game (last five minutes of regulation)

So in the last five minutes of the game, the Bears – heretofore not playing stellar ball – look as if they’ve blown a first down and Fox cuts to a commercial. They return to explain that, in fact, said first down was not blown after officials brought out the chains and a couple plays later the game is tied at 24-24 with 4:24 left to play. Joe Buck then reminds viewers that the television series “24” premieres tonight on Fox.

Coincidence?

Speaking of sports commentators, Klosterman on the second acts of desperate men.

Also, what’s with the T.G.I.Friday’s “three-course menu.” You choose an appetizer, an entree and a dessert. Isn’t that just called … eating?

What were the conversations like at the pitch meeting for that Hummer commercial set to the music of Badly Drawn Boy? “Hmm. Dreamy, atmospheric pop and breathy male vocals. Yes, I believe this perfectly encapsulates the image we want for our vehicle. And not near as expensive as Coldplay!”