Friday, December 1, 2017

Trapper Jenn Ranked You, Charlie Brown

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas
2. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
3. There's No Time For Love, Charlie Brown
4. Snoopy's Reunion
5. Charlie Brown All-Stars
6. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
7. She's A Good Skate, Charlie Brown
8. He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown
9. Happiness Is A Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown
10. I Want A Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown

11. It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown
12. Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown
13. What A Nightmare, Charlie Brown
14. Why, Charlie Brown, Why?
15. What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?
16. Happy New Year, Charlie Brown
17. You're A Good Sport, Charlie Brown
18. It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown
19. You're the Greatest, Charlie Brown
20. You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown

21. You're In Love, Charlie Brown
22. He's A Bully, Charlie Brown
23. It Was A Short Summer, Charlie Brown
24. Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown?
25. It's A Mystery, Charlie Brown
26. It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown
27. It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown
28. Play It Again, Charlie Brown
29. You're In the Super Bowl, Charlie Brown
30. It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown

31. Someday You'll Find Her, Charlie Brown
32. Snoopy's Getting Married, Charlie Brown
33. A Charlie Brown Valentine
34. Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales
35. It's the Girl In the Red Truck, Charlie Brown
36. Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown
37. It's Magic, Charlie Brown
38. Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown
39. It's Spring Training, Charlie Brown
40. It Was My Best Birthday Ever, Charlie Brown
41. It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The 1980s Called, They Want Me To Do A List

The greatest decade in world history. Remember when I ranked the 1990s? Same rules apply.

10. 1988
Video Games: Sure, every Metal Gear released since is better than the NES version, but for comedic value? Sure, "Doki Doki Plumber" wasn't the Mario sequel we were meant to get, but it was still fun. Two "Nintendo Hard" classics came out in '88: Zelda II: The Adventures Of Link and Ninja Gaiden. (Only the latter was worth my blistered thumbs, though.) Sega finally caught my attention with Altered Beast. And finally, on my eleventh birthday, Japan blessed gamers with Super Mario Brothers 3.

Books: Stephen Hawking and William Gibson kept the eggheads happy. Roald Dahl kept the children happy. Anne Rice kept making herself happy.

TV: What's more infuriating: the St. Elsewhere ending or the WGA strike denying Gilda Radner a chance to host SNL? A couple pretty good shows were unveiled this year: The Wonder Years, with its novel use of voice over, and Murphy Brown, which in a few years would become a political cause célebre. So were a couple of amazing ones: Roseanne, one of the truest scripted to ever make air, and Mystery Science Theater 3000, although if you weren't in Minnesota, you were SOL.

Film: So many future pop culture staples (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Die Hard, Big, Rain Man) and a few that shoulda been (Heathers, Hairspray, Space Mutiny). Check out The Accused for Jodie Foster's finest performance, and Coming To America for the funniest film ever shot.

Music: So begins the descent. Cheap Trick went from "Surrender" to "The Flame." Aerosmith went from "Back In the Saddle Again" to "Angel." The Beach Boys went from "I Get Around" to "Kokomo." For all the best music, you had to get your hands dirty.

9.   1983
Video Games: Ah yes, The Year Of the Crash. 1983 saw the beginning of a industrywide recession. By the end of 1985, revenue had fallen off by close to 97%. The culprits were multitudinous: oversaturation, inflation, inferior product and competition from home computers.

Books: Salute the ladies: Gloria Steinem for Outstanding Acts and Everyday Rebellions (a feminist must-read) and Joanna Russ for How To Suppress Women's Writing, a "guidebook" for dissuading female scribes.

TV: You know the old saying: whenever God closes a M*A*S*H, He opens an AfterMASH.

If kids weren't watching He-Man, Reading Rainbow and The Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show, they are now what's wrong with America.

Hill Street Blues was so killer in '83 I can't pick my favorite episode: "Gung Ho," where an undercover is shot and killed in an arcade by domestic terrorists while numerous Hill Street cops are felled by a stomach virus courtesy of sketchy Chinese takeaway; or "The Belles Of St. Mary's" where viewers are introduced to Vic Hitler, Jr., the narcoleptic stand-up comic.

Film: Lost opportunity it may ultimately been seen as, however, Return Of the Jedi is still a hell of a movie. Competing Bond flicks vied for dollars, with Sir Roger Moore coming out on top. Scarface and A Christmas Story were two unspectacular office workers who nevertheless rose in the ranks over the coming years.

Hot take: D.C .Cab is funnier than National Lampoon's Vacation.

Hotter take: John Landis probably would have rather gone to prison over The Twilight Zone Movie than have Stephen Spielberg stop returning his calls.

Music: Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus over the Serengeti, 1983 was a wonderful time for music. "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" played everywhere. "Blue Monday," "Photograph" (the peak of hair-metal), "Let the Music Play," "Hungry Like the Wolf" (greatest single of the decade), "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," "Burning Up," "Total Eclipse of the Heart," "Major Tom." Fuck me!

(What about "Mr. Roboto"? Yeah no, that song eats.)

No shortage of amazing albums, either. In fact, R.E.M., Metallica, Slayer and Shonen Knife all put out their first full-lengths in '83.

8.   1984
Video Games: Um…uh...

Books: Funny for how so many the very words "nineteen eighty-four" bring instantly to mind a book. Dread certainly abounded: the landslide re-election of Reagan, the terrifying possibility of nuclear warfare, the spread of HIV/AIDS. If only any work of fiction released that year could even sniff Orwell's masterwork. The sole memorable read was a rare nonfiction venture by Joseph Wambaugh, the extraordinary Lines and Shadows.

TV: Before "Must-See TV," NBC made Thursday night "The Best Night Of Television On Television." From 8 to 11, viewers could sit back and enjoy the following: The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, Night Court and Hill Street Blues. Oh, and Cheers? Both actresses in the cast were pregnant. And this was the debut of the Frasier Crane character. Pile it on, why don't I? Miami Vice! Jim Henson's Muppet Babies! St. Elsewhere turning one of its characters into a serial rapist! Whew.

Film: Note about '84: I gave the music, film and TV categories perfect 10s. If not for the other two being so underwhelming, this year would have topped the list.

These are not hit films, these are haymaker blows: The Terminator, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom, Beverly Hills Cop, The Karate Kid. Gremlins is still the hardest I've laughed in a movie theater (for others, that honor might go to This Is Spinal Tap, also released in 1984. Or possibly even Police Academy, or Revenge Of the Nerds. Hey, they were funny at the time!)

I'll never forgive Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter or The Neverending Story for such shameless deceit.

Music: Hell, the most "80s" moment of my life happened this year: sitting on the couch, waiting for the premiere of the "Purple Rain" video, munching on my first-ever McDonald's "Value Meal."

Duran Duran released their most overlooked single and their most overrated single. Madonna tried to seduce a lion. Culture Club and the Eurythmics made people scratch their heads while shaking their party pieces. Van Halen and Bruce Springsteen showed that synthesizers weren't just for "new wave homos." Prince and Hüsker Dü were both on their viking ish, though their respective ships differed madly in size, shape and substance.

7.   1987
Video Games: Contra and Street Fighter swallowed up the quarters, while kids like me were content to wear butt imprints into the carpet playing The Legend Of Zelda, Punchout! and Mega Man. (Castlevania II as well, least until that day-night cycle shit made me throw the cartridge under the bed.)

Books: Oh wow. Besides Beloved and Misery, this was a flaccid 52 weeks for the art of words.

TV: I watched so many crappy sitcoms in the decade. Guys, I was so young and so easily amused. I laughed at Dave Coulier in not one but two shows. If My Two Dads did any good in the world, it warned me how painfully unfunny Paul Reiser was, so that by the time Mad About You came around, I knew better. I was a bit too young to appreciate Star Trek: The Next Generation, although given the quality of the first couple seasons, I don't bemoan my age too much.

Bye, Fraggle Rock and Hill Street Blues.

Film: An abundance of sluggish comedies and humdrum action flicks. (If yer gonna be bad, at least be entertainingly so.) 1987 at the movie house was just basically flickering cash. Death Wish 4, Superman 4, and Police Academy 4 were the perfect punishments for a country that would have voted Reagan in for another term had he not already reached the limit.

Music: Rock is back, thanks to a tattooed scarecrow and his band of less-than merry men. Appetite For Destruction should have sent all the limp-dicked pretenders scurrying back into their rented holes, yet somehow, Aerosmith became even more popular. (Guessing it was due to veteran status.) SST Records continued churning out marvelous mole rock.

Pop continued on sprained ankles, while R&B just lay on the dirt with two broken legs. Michael Jackson followed up Thriller with Bad , but did he really? Prince made a salad with homegrown veggies--and threw the dirt in for good measure. Nice guy Bruce Hornsby's piano-heavy tunes were the radio's way of saying, "Hey there, Jenn's sister, I know exactly what it is you wanna hear!"

6.   1986
Video Games: Metroid and Kid Icarus both belong in the pantheon, but can we not forget Arkanoid taking the Breakout series of games and ratcheting up the everything?

Books: Stephen King ruined clowns forever with It, a story that resonates to this very day. The Sportswriter kicks off Richard Ford's "Bascombe Trilogy" and the ruggedly gorgeous Silent Terror marked my entry into the stunning mind of James Ellroy.

TV: Don't miss the second half of Golden Girls' first season, which features Rose's homicidal vagina. After being let go from Hill Street Blues, Steven Bochco re-created it...with lawyers. America got to know Oprah…and Garry Shandling.

Film: So if I say that The Karate Kid 2 and Howard the Duck are cinematic cellophane, you wouldn't even flinch, but what if I throw Top Gun in the trash can alongside? What if I tell you Aliens is dope, but The Fly is doper?

MVP goes to John Hughes, whose name appeared on two more of the best high school films. And goddamn I cannot wait for the Big Trouble In Little China remake to come out and fail in every conceivable way by which success can be measured.

Music: Still so many classic singles ("West End Girls"! "Danger Zone"! "Kiss"! "Don't Wanna Know If You Are Lonely"!), but the fatigue is setting in. Three years after her big brother ruled the pop/dance/R&B charts, Janet Jackson took Control. Run DMC helped catapult Aerosmith back into commercial relevancy, meaning they share some of the blame for "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing." On the other hand, they are responsible for bringing the Beastie Boys to a wider audience, meaning they share some of the credit for "Sabotage." Speaking of white rappers, the greatest to ever touch a mic had his Stateside breakthrough in '86 with a tune about a dead composer.

Was this thrash metal's best year? Master Of Puppets, Reign In Blood and Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?, although a lotta people seem to overlook that last one. Don't.

Van Halen put out 5150, their first album with new singer Sammy Hagar. Sonic Youth put out EVOL, their first album with new drummer Steve Shelley. Only one features my favorite song.

5.   1989
Video Games: I never made it past the dam level in TMNT. (And you thought Cannibal Holocaust did turtles bad.) Thank Jebus for Game Boy….

Books: The year's best novel, Katherine Dunn's Geek Love, concerns carnival freaks. Meanwhile, Martin Amis still can't write a convincing female character.

TV: Seinfeld, Baywatch, Family Matters, American Gladiators, The Simpons--you're welcome, Nineties.

Film: Warner Bros.' Batman series got off to a stellar start. Back To the Future 2 has actually improved with age, thanks in no small part to the sad predictability of the species. Films like When Harry Met Sally... and Field Of Dreams were made mostly so I can tell what kind of people I never want to waste conversations on.

Driving Miss Daisy earned a Best Picture nomination. Glory did not. Do the Right Thing did not. Burn Hollywood burn.

Music: Old men lectured listeners about world history ("We Didn't Start the Fire") and homelessness ("Another Day In Paradise"). Young ladies declared new nations and brought B-girl lingo to the masses. Hip hop was in a fascinating place, with "Fight the Power" and "Ladies First" fighting for attention alongside the likes of "Funky Cold Medina" and "It Takes Two."

4.   1982
Video Games: TV gave some shine to gamers with the debut of Starcade, while at the actual arcades, cups ranneth e'erywhere: Dig Dug, Q*Bert, and the one the only the Ms. Pac-Man. Meanwhile, Atari released Mr. Pac-Man for consoles: twelve million cartridges, in fact, pretty interesting strategy considering there were only ten million Atari 2600 consoles on the market. Sales went no higher than seven million, and the seeds of disaster were well and truly sown.

Books: Good year for books that would become movies: Shoeless Joe, The Color Purple, Schindler's List. Dinner At the Homesick Restaurant remains the finest novel set in Baltimore.

TV: Sha-la-la-la. Republicans would kill for an Alex P. Keaton on prime time now. I think millions of us would at least maim to have Letterman back in late night. NBC rolled out two beloved shows in '82: Cheers and St. Elsewhere. SNL added Brad Hall and Julia Louis-Dreyfus to the cast, which only in hindsight is notable.

Film: The head honchos put the kibosh on all the promise of the "auteur age," no longer willing to trust directors with pet projects and grand visions. The big studio flicks of the 80s were more focused on having a blast--of the literal and figurative varieties. So while Hollywood might not have produced the next Godfather or Easy Rider or Nashville this decade, it did give us the following--all in a single year.

--The best kids movie (E.T.)
--The best sci-fi movie (Blade Runner)
--The best high school movie (Fast Times At Ridgemont High)
--The best STAR TREK movie (Wrath Of Khan)
--The best film set in Charm City (Diner)

Take that, cinema snobs.

Music: Fools worrying about how to craft a hit single, please. This was the year Michael Jackson, Prince and Duran Duran each released albums full of nothing but hit singles.

3.   1985
Video Games: Pull back the curtain, flip on the houselights, sound the fanfare. The Nintendo Entertainment System is here to save the video game industry. Eatin' shrooms and shootin' ducks (and smart-aleck canines). No one even noticed ColecoVision leave the room.

Books: Outstanding works by Cormac McCarthy and Joseph Wambaugh. The second (and best) Stephen King short story collection. A little something titled The Handmaid's Tale.

TV: Bad ideas abounded: bringing back The Twilight Zone, putting Robert Downey, Jr. and Anthony Michael Hall on the SNL cast, canceling The Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show.

The good, thankfully, outweighed all that. I'm talking the debut of The Golden Girls. Four old broads in Miami: the smart-ass, the dummy, the slut, the other smart-ass. They attended Madonna concerts and dated midgets. They made my mother and I laugh like hyenas on helium. Correction: they make my mother and I laugh like hyenas on helium.

Film: Top-heavy. Back To the Future, The Goonies, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, The Breakfast Club and, ahem, Kurosawa's Ran, ya plebes. After all that? Uh…Roger Moore getting upstaged by two other actors in his Bond farewell, I guess that's pretty cool.

Music: Tears For Fears went 3-3, with three home runs. Phil Collins went 0-4 with a fielder's choice. Pfft, British people don't even play baseball. Woulda been better for everyone if USA For Africa had just donated beaucoup buckeroos and spared us the maudlin singalong.

Solid year for metal (Bonded By Blood, Hell Awaits) and indie rock (Psychocandy, This Nation's Saving Grace). How is it Run DMC are still the only hip hop act to sound at home rapping over power chords?

2.   1981
Video Games: Arcades and consoles are billion dollar business. Recalcitrant gorillas, space battles, frogs vs. everybody.

Books: Philip K. Dick, Raymond Carver and bell hooks in the same year. I don't think it's possible to romanticize this decade, I truly don't.

TV: Dry your eyes over the Muppets, guys. The most important dramatic series to ever appear on American television made its debut in 1981--Hill Street Blues. And no one watched it. Ranking 87th of 96 network shows that year, NBC nevertheless gave the critically-lauded cop show a second chance after it won a then-record eight awards at the Emmys, including Best Drama. Smart! Letting Dick Ebersol take the reins at Saturday Night Live, not so much.

Film: Harrison Ford made the seamless transition from slick space smuggler to daredevil archeologist, under the auspices of Steven Spielberg. AFI Silver has no issue recognizing that. My suggestion of a Cannonball Run/Evil Dead double feature, though?

Music: The biggest hit of the decade, per Billboard, was "Physical." Here's where I eviscerate not only the track, but also the American public for its infuriating vacuity. Except I'm not doing any of that, since "Physical" is the statue which stands outside the Smithsonian Museum of Guilty Pleasures.

The Cars went pop like snot bubbles. Prince's fourth LP, Controversy, smashed together music and politics until they sucked off their taste buds. Lovers of music which could safely be called "MTV-resistant" had Mission Of Burma, Black Flag, Glenn Branca and Whitehouse to blast. Haters of life spun Mike Love's first solo effort, which reeked of just that, effort. I'd rather take Campari intravenously.

1.   1980
Video Games: Atari struck with Space Invaders, but the arcade scene is still the place to be. Pac-Man, perhaps you've heard of him?

Books: Nice gumbo. Enrapturing YA (The Indian In the Cupboard), excellent true crime (The Stranger Beside Me), revolutionary academic text (A People's History Of the United States), a meandering novel from a purportedly important writer (Earthly Powers) and one of the funniest novels I've ever read (A Confederacy Of Dunces).

TV: Worst season of SNL yet (despite the presence of future superstar Eddie Murphy), Ron Howard leaves Happy Days, and what the turkey-stuffing hell did we the people do to deserve Flo and The Stockard Channing Show on the same night?! Oh, 1980 was also the year everyone was asking "Who Shot J.R.?," found out, then promptly forgot.

Film: Between The Shining, Friday the 13th, Caddyshack and Airplane!, movie theaters must've reached unprecedented stinkage and seat-stainage. An erratic year to be sure, with a number of good films that had the potential for greatness. Especially that boxing movie and that space movie. Oh well, they tried.

Music: Tusk!

The first #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 was a ballad from friggin' KC and the Sunshine Band, clue A as to how legendary this decade was about to be. Clue B? Devo going platinum.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

B.O.S.S.--Ranking All 21 Lollapalooza Lineups

A year after putting out the album that propelled them to rock stardom,  the members of Jane's Addiction had enough of other. Singer Perry Farrell envisioned a farewell tour that eventually grew into a traveling festival of music and arts. Emphasizing the fringes, declaring war on the dumb pretty glistening center, Lollapalooza took "Alternative Nation" around the USA, trumpeting inclusivity at all 26 stops. The weirdoes no longer had to huddle in the corner, screaming was encouraged, and anyone that bristled at the sights and sounds could sit and spin.

After a mostly-great initial run ending in 1997, Farrell brought Lollapalooza back in 2003. Plans to expand the next year (two days in each city) fell through thanks to poor ticket sales. For 2005, promoters decided to keep the idea of a two-day festival, albeit in a single location: Chicago's Grant Park.  The year after that, another day was added, and that format has been the standard since.

1. 1994
Expanded to 42 performances, all the better to enjoy the Pumpkins before Billy Boy spiraled utterly out of control, shaving his head and gluing that stupid shirt to his bird chest. That fucking main stage does not relent. Even replacing Boredoms with Green Day wasn't unforgivable, since back in the '90s, Green Day were still writing songs instead of operas. Stereolab and Shonen Knife on the second stage? Jesus, take the panties.

2. 1993
Now up to 36 shows. Primus were never as good as a bassist-led band should be. Alice In Chains and Dinosaur Jr. back-to-back in any context is ridiculous and wonderful. I could bitch about putting the rap version of Up With People on the main stage, but I'd rather squirt over those side offerings: Redman, Sebadoh, Free Kitten and Thurston Moore, Royal Trux, and goddamn motherfucking ass-screaming fan-daming Tsunami.

3. 1995
The last great year of the original run, despite abandoning open fields for seated amphitheaters, which bummed out both bands and fans. The most thoroughly documented backstage drama of any Lollapalooza, but the music matters most. Bar the Bosstones, a legendary main stage. Hell, time your arrival right, you could have avoided that checkered chucklefucks altogether! That was my plan…then my best friend's aunt wouldn't let her borrow the car. Meaning I missed Pavement getting pelted by mud. And Helium. Fuck aunts.

4. 1991
First ain't always best…in fact, a damn good percentage of the time it ain't. What was the best sex of your life? Exactly. The diversity was there, as was the energy, and even a bit of the ol' danger, seeing how Gibby Haynes spent the first few of the 26 total shows firing a shotgun full of powder into the mortified crowd during the Surfers set. Fuck yeah, Alternative Nation.

5. 1992
Actual hip-hop this time! The second stage expanded, with some true gems. Pearl Jam were out to change lives, and did. They could/should have supplanted Ministry in the order, honestly. (I smell pussy…is that you, Al?)

6. 2006
These lineups destroy my cerebral cortex. Going from Nada Surf to Built To Spill to Sonic Youth on one stage; the "adidas-Champ Stage" headliners were, respectively: Sleater-Kinney, Thievery Corporation and fucking Blues Traveler.

7. 1996
Any regular TJMD reader knows I don't hate Metallica. But them headlining the world's premier festival for alternative music was just crap. Soundgarden or the Ramones would have made massively more sense. The promoters hemorrhaged cash last year, though, and they needed the huge name. (I remember seeing Shaolin monks listed as one of the main stage performers and wondering why they couldn't get Wu-Tang Clan. Then, for some later dates, they did. Well done.)

8. 2008
Kanye headlining in his hometown, about to release his worst album, woo. He didn't overcook his noodle and start slandering other major celebrities, either. Look at this: Cat Power, Mates Of State, CSS, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. Fuck you, 'Ye.

9. 2005
Interesting Main Stage selections. I'd show up knowing I'd likely never get bored, though I wouldn't expect to be thrilled at any point either.

10. 2010
Stooges before Modest Mouse. I get it. I don't like it, but I certainly get it.

11. 2014
Think of the oddly great rap selection as a fat pulled pork sandwich between a pair of warm buns, and the best of the side acts like a slab of sweet cornbread next to it on the plate.

12. 2009
Landing Depeche Mode for their only summer festival appearance in the States was a coup. Allowing the singer for Kaiser Chiefs to continue on with that name is a catastrophe.

13. 2010
Gaga is back, on the same stage as Devo. Blues Traveler on Lolla kills me half-dead. They strike me as antithetical to the whole thing. First U.S. show since 2006 for the Strokes, which I'm sure excited a lot of people who still regard the 1980s as the most overrated decade for music.

14. 2011
Shit, the Cars? Wait, Benjamin Orr died in 2000. Oh well, at least there was future Peanuts Movie star Trombone Shorty. Pretty solid side stage options, including the sun-kissed Best Coast.

15. 2013
Three days featuring lots of acts that are comfortably ensconced in my musical library, yet I can die peacefully knowing I never once saw any of them live.

16. 2017
Much chaff (Blink-182, Live) and a few unmissables (Run the Jewels, Tegan and Sara, Warpaint). Lazy as shit, but so am I some days. Just usually not three in a row.

17. 2015
Macca. Fucking Paul McCartney. I'd show up just to see him, maybe check out Gogol Bordello's 27th appearance, then leave. Side stages? Weaker than a baby punch.

18. 1997
The last Lolla of the original incarnation, featuring Orbital, The Orb and Orbit! The headliner rotated between those first two, The Prodigy and Devo, who should have felt enormously insulted.

19. 2012
Even flabby Black Sabbath ("Slack Flabbath") is better than Franz Ferdinand in any shape. I still hate that my best buddy saw 'em back at Ozzfest. (I have Fugazi over him. Still.) Afghan Whigs and Frank Ocean notwithstanding, 2012 is Flotsam-Jetsam City. Not to mention the inclement weather that affected many sets.

20. 2016
A fourth day, another 100K, another how many million? Red Hot Chili Peppers headlining for a record fourth time? Appealing as snorting peppery vanilla pudding. I've seen Kurt Vile live twice, both times in more ideal settings (including the last-ever Sonic Youth U.S. show).

Getting hit by a truck full of Skyline Chili

21. 2003
The return of big ol' sucker shit! Lick mine. Jane's Addiction, bootleg Rage Against the Machine, Tool Jr., the guys that challenged Limp Bizkit for the dishonor of "Most Superfluous DJ In a Rock Band" back in the '90s, offensively inoffensive backpacker rap, and that was just Day 1. Day 2? Can eat me with a stuffy nose.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Sweet and Sour 16: Concert Combos That Defied Humanity

Merely mentioning these double take-inducing pairings is nowhere near sufficient. Adding further commentary, a bit better. Here at TJMD, we (me, myself and I) yearn to take the extra step. In bare feet.

Behold, the Sweet and Sour 16:

That is how we do.

Winners were determined via a single factor: of the competing performances, which would I--meaning me now, in 2017--most want to be in the audience for. Which gig had the greatest potential to make me feel love, hate ,confusion, giddiness, sexual arousal, and the hunger for popcorn.

Let's look at the "teams."


What Happened: Prince was on the verge, while the Stones were losing the urge. Hardly anyone seemed to realize that, though. The Stones were touring behind their 18th LP, Tattoo You, which featured the big ol' hit "Start Me Up." Sure the record wasn't on the artistic level of the one immediately preceding it--the stupendously groovin' Emotional Rescue--but compared to the eight that followed? Abbey Road status.

Prince was about to release album four, Controversy. This record would mark a creative breakthrough for the Minnesota viking, as he mixed in politics with polyamory. Prince wasn't just aiming to make listeners feel; he wanted them to think.

A month before embarking on his own headlining tour, Prince agreed to open up two shows for the Stones at L.A.'s Memorial Coliseum. The first took place on October 9, 1981. Mr. Nelson and his band found themselves under attack almost immediately. Not only did the group have no major hits to their name, that weirdo out front was wearing bikini briefs and a trench coat. Lusty boos clogged the atmosphere. Food and footwear were hurled towards the stage.

After 25 minutes, Prince left that stage. Then he boarded a plane and left the state, back to the land of lotsa lakes. Management cajoled him back in time for the second show, two days later. That set was seen through to completion, although the reaction was no warmer. (Backstage, Prince allegedly called the crowd "tasteless in music and mentally retarded.")

Why I'd Want To Be There: Hindsight is 20/20, and that's what creates the dilemma in almost every one of these matches. The Stones were not slouch status yet-they were pumping out sets thirty songs strong, still a force on the charts as well as the stage. And Prince wasn't yet Prince, but the guy still had four records of generally high quality to cull from. Who cares how he dressed or if he had a possibly fatal aversion to spelling out certain short words? The Stones audience for those two nights represent the ultimate in "I want to stand here amongst these tens of thousands of shitheads and feel so smug my nose might start bleeding."

Best, here's a quote from Keith Richards shortly after the incident: "Prince has to find out what it means to be a prince."

That's what his parents named him, ya dick!


What Happened: For two months in 1974, the man behind "Runaround Sue" opened for Baltimore's finest. I was able to confirm eleven shows, though likely there were more.

Frank Zappa with a gold album is like me losing 100 pounds. No one can quite believe it happened, yet it happened, and it was overdue like a pregnant woman in her thirteenth month. Dude was a genius. A genius is someone who is not only highly intelligent but enormously creative, allowing them to use their intelligence in ways that the average "well-read" person cannot. That is why Zappa's biggest radio hits are "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" and "Valley Girl." That is why he asked Dion out on tour.

Zappa fans gave the mononymous doo-wopper a generally tepid reaction. Given that the guy's heyday on all checkable calendars had long passed, it could have been worse.

Why I'd Want To Be There: Just to see Frank, really. And to keep fingers crossed I'd be part of a crowd reacting to the man who took the "harm" out of "harmony" in the only acceptable way: polite silence.


What Happened: Isn't it ironic? Yes, a fearless English rock band opening thirteen shows for a Canadian child actress-turned-Gen X spokeswoman is actually ironic.

Projectiles? Put-downs? Crowds longing for well-processed angst proved too antsy for such boldness.

Why I'd Want To Be There: Time is the drug. Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus have me recalling "Hand Over Feet" with fondness. Add in the marble cave sonics of one of the most hysterically over-scrutinized bands of my lifetime, on the cusp of recording their emblematic album, and just give me a seat in the back of the venue.

(The one song--besides "Creep"--that got any positive response from Alanis fans was "Lift." This convinced the band to leave it off their forthcoming third album, lest they have another "hit." I can get why Kid Rock lambastes Radiohead for their pretensions. I just don't get why he's so ride or die bitch for the Confederate flag given he's from fucking Detroit.)


What Happened: The tour for The Yes Album lasted a full year--July of 1970 to July of 1971. That final month saw Black Sabbath welcome audiences for a total of three shows; the very same month they unleashed their third wreck-hard, Masters Of Reality. Punter appraisal was, apparently, pretty positive. 'Cause who boos Black Sabbath?

Why I'd Want To Be There: Yes were just coming into their own. Fragile wouldn't be released until four months after this tour's conclusion. That's the album with "Long Distance Runaround" and "Roundabout," super-awesome songs that classic rock radio cannot ruin. Sabbath, on the other paw, were operating at peak planet-devouring. I want to watch goblins pick through a weeded garden of rusted hammers. I want to stand imperfectly still as those very hammers carom off my body like a crackhead in a bounce house.

The headliners must have seemed post-coital.


What Happened: New York's finest shared the stage at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom, on the last Saturday of 1990: Public Enemy, one of the most brilliant and confrontational groups in the history of hip hop music, and Sonic Youth, the Beatles of indie rock. It should have been Concert of the Year.

It was not. By all accounts the gig was sadly average, thanks in substantial part to the venue's notoriously poor acoustics. Once the house lights came up, though, and the five thousand attendees began filing out, extraordinary things began to happen. A small group of anti-war/anti-authority protesters were demonstrating near the Aragon. The cops arrived. And kept on. Waves of cops. Brutality ensued. (While accounts recommend neither side for medals, it must be noted that only one side had guns.) Luckily, no one was killed.

Why I'd Want To Be There: On its face, PE/SY is a daring pairing. Given that Chuck D cameoed on an SY song earlier in the year, though, you could hardly call it "unexpected." Also both groups recorded their most iconic full-lengths in the very same place--Greene Street Recording in Manhattan.

Weak sound notwithstanding, SY played "Cinderella's Big Score" that night, a tune I never saw live. Not to mention bookending the set with "White Kross" and "Inhuman." What they say about pizza and sex applies to Sonic Youth concerts also.

There's no guarantee that foreknowledge would have spared me from being caught up in post-show violence. I just wonder what everyone would make of the rectangle in my hand.


What Happened: At some point, the nights were no longer of white satin. It's arguable this bill should have been flipped. Even though the Blues were on album #12 and SRV on #1, one record was clearly superior to the other. These things have little to do with quality, though, which is how the phenomenally gifted blues guitarist ended up opening 28 dates in late '83 for a bunch of enervated cosplayers.

Why I'd Want To Be There: This is a lot like the Yes/Black Sabbath set-up. Great style clash, legends on either side of the coin.


What Happened: Better yet, in Louisiana. In January. The quintessential American punk rock band, the NYC rock band, one of the most massively influential gangs ever to make a racket, the Ramones sold more shirts than albums. Four of which were in record stores by the time a group of glorified session guys decided to grab some glory.

Per tour manager Monte A. Melnick, the paying customers "didn't have the time or energy to boo." This account tells a different story.

Why I'd Want To Be There: Sometimes, I just need to be angry. The Ramones opening for Toto. In no galaxy will that fail to piss me off. (Also, I'd find out who's telling the truth--the manager or the spectator.)


What Happened: Only once, on 11/27/82 at Orlando's Tangerine Bowl. Once was probably enough. Joan Jett was the meat in the sandwich, but neither opener went over well. Goddamn why do audience members try to harm performers as a way of expressing their animosity?

Why I'd Want To Be There: Yeah, this 'un's a sandwich with two different varieties of bread. I'd love to have been there, just to show those fools how to do all sixteen dances. Drunk and happy and dressed in Red Galaxy leggings. I'd also like to make fun of all the Who fans who thought this was actually their "farewell tour."


What Happened: Summer of '67. Monkeemania is at its quantifiable peak. They beat out Get Smart for the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy. Their third LP (and creative reclamation) Headquarters was second only to Sgt. Pepper's on the Billboard albums chart. Eager to gain cred as something other than a bunch of bubblegum vendors, they handpicked vituperative guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix as a "support act" after witnessing his fiery turn at that year's Monterey Pop Festival.

I'm a Monkees fan, as well as an Experience fan. Let us be romaine: the Monkees were tentative hand-holding and shy glances. Jimi and the guys were a two-handed slap to the bare, unsuspecting ass. The crowds, overwhelmingly young and female, revolted accordingly. Jimi left the tour of his own accord after only seven performances. A month later, Are You Experienced? came out, and it's just now hit me, 1967 is probably the greatest year in music history.

*checks Wiki*

Yeah, it was.

Why I'd Want To Be There: Ladies and gents, the shining example of a musical mismatch. The moment that Micky Dolenz said, "The weird-looking black guy who humps his guitar before he burns it would be perfect," and no one stepped in to point out how insane an idea that was, history was made. I wish I could go back and attend all seven shows. I'll have to squirm my way through "Your Auntie Grizelda" and the oh-so anticipated solo turns for each individual member, but other than those rare missteps, this is actually one of the better hit-to-miss ratios here.


What Happened: Punk vs. Metal! Meta Knight vs. Yoshimitsu! Weed vs. Cocaine! For their final tour with Ozzy--well, until '97--the Birmingham boys were promoting one of their more calamitous records, Never Say Die! The Ramones were pegged to warm up the crowd for four shows in the last months of 1978. Went over as well as a Pinto on the Autobahn.

Why I'd Want To Be There: Sabbath. Ramones. David S. Pumpkins on you hoes.


What Happened: The most recent example in this bracket is also one of the longest and most successful: 48 performances during VH's 2012 reunion tour with David Lee Roth. The more I thought on it, the more sense got made. Both groups were far past their commercial peaks, yet neither had lost their ability to knock out the hits to frothing thousands. Both were party bands at heart and oh oh, serendipity! The first show VH played after announcing their reunion was an intimate gig at NYC's Cafe Wha?, a li'l place owned by DLR's family--and the same venue were, in 1964, Kool & the Gang played their first-ever concert.

The sweet celebratory vibes were irresistible. Only the lamest of wads didn't have fun.

Why I'd Want To Be There: Goddamn those hits. "Jungle Boogie" to "Get Down On It." "Unchained" to "Panama." Move, groove, nothin' to prove. Titties jiggle and booties shake. I need to bear direct witness to David Lee "The" Roth, frontman par excellence. Yeah, so that's Eddie's son on the bass, and I doubt he's using an instrument shaped like a liquor bottle but hey--no such thing as the "perfect situation" exists.


What Happened: A year after The Greatest Concert That Wasn't, SY were pegged to accompany the Horse for 49 shows over the first four months of '91. Rock critics splooged in euphoria…while the Neil faithful shriveled up in disgust. His road crew hated on the Youth as well, depriving them of much-needed volume and oh my God, is that a chick in the band?

Why I'd Want To Be There: Distorto Mondo. Louder than love, stronger than dirt. Sonic Youth's last album at this time was their so-called "sellout" (meaning it contained more than two songs that wouldn't make a virgin listener start acting like a member of Rick Mears' pit crew) so it must have somewhat exhilarating to be hated, so virulently and consistently.


What Happened: I return to the "farewell tour" of 1982, which saw the Clash hang around for a handful of shows, including one at Shea Stadium which years later found its way onto CD. The Casbah was rocked, rhetorical questions were asked ad nauseum, and it was not a put on. Many Clash nuts headed for the exits before the headliners sauntered onto the stage.

Why I'd Want To Be There: Think optics, not sonics. Once-vital to now-vital. The love of money to love and money. A shadow compared to a fleshed-out body.


What Happened: Rush fans amaze me. Who's the best band? Rush. Who's the best bassist? Geddy Lee. Best guitarist? That would be Alex Lifeson. Best drummer? Anyone who doesn't say Neil Peart is a commie rap fan. These are the same people who bought Counterparts in 1994, listened to it, and took it seriously.

Rush fans don't surprise me, though. They were less than enthusiastic for Melvins over the four shows the bands played together in Feb. 1994? The hell, you say.

Why I'd Want To Be There: Melvins, at their best, are an hour-long prone-bone session with a deceptively athletic plumber. One of their greatest songs is about a crime-solving goat! And Rush has more than several songs I like in spite of their fanbase, in addition to enough chaff to allow me to skidaddle off to the ladies room with no fear.


What Happened: Halloween, 1975. Cleveland. A nearby river is on fire. Probably. At the WHK Auditorium, local radio station WMMS-FM is holding a private party, invitation-only. Sun Ra, the Noah of the Arkestra, Saturn's outermost ring, will be entertaining the lazily-costumed audience, who are also high as giraffe pussy by the time the first act takes the stage.

Devo were hired for the party as a joke, and approximately no one in attendance saw (or heard) the humor. The spuds were raw. Started out talking shit on a prominent local DJ, then performed seven songs that, track title for track title, might be my favorite concert setlist ever. Live debut of "Jocko Homo," incidentally. And it went on for half an hour.

Why I'd Want To Be There: Any serious Devo fan would carjack Marty McFly to be in the WHK that night. Wasted radio schmos throwing full cans of beer at the legends-to-be, in rare quartet mode (back before they dropped a Mothersbaugh and gained a Casale). The Mongoloid Years features fifteen especially chaotic minutes from the performance, and that's cool. Some numbnuts finally leapt onstage, grabbed the mic, and began insulting them. That, friends, is the kind of blinding rage that must be seen. I so wish I'd been there, in a Wonder Woman costume, on the arm of some schlub doing some connected relative of mine a solid. Eyes unblinking, mouth drying, as a verbal tiff between bassist Jerry Casale and a promoter nearly goes physical.

A couple sources I saw claimed the deranged end of Devo's set precluded Sun Ra from unleashing jazzy bop that evening. Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh both have said in subsequent interviews that Sun Ra did in fact play that night, to an audience of ten.


What Happened: Label mates hit the road in late 1994 for 62 shows. The 'Box were riding the high of fooling a couple million people, while the Lips were six albums deep, playing their butts off before a less-than timeless band for a less-than riveted fanbase. "She Don't Use Jelly" had not yet hit, so they were basically trying to show the execs at WB they were worth the promo.

Why I'd Want To Be There: Incredulous. That's the only word I can think of to describe this travesty. The stepchildren of the Seattle scene and the bashful, drywall-eating kid with the indecipherable accent, together on one bill. I've never "riffed" a concert, since I think people who pay to watch other people play music should, y'know, shut up and watch other people play music, but the band responsible for "You" and "Far Behind" don't deserve my respect. Or even my B+ riffing game, really.

As you can see in the bracket, I'd spend my one temporal coin on either of the Stones/Prince gigs. The need to feel superior to so many people at one time bests even my desire to watch some inebriated radio executive in a Dracula costume tell the members of Devo how much dick they suck.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

CRIMINAL ELAMENT, "Hit 'Em Where It Hurt" (1994)

Behold. The most corn-riddled frisbee ever shat out by Pen 'n' Pixel. The pinnacle and the nadir, all in one.

Keep your humanoid animals, your holograms, your cities of fire, your gratuitous partial nudity. I want an oceanic evening sky, four dangerous young men in white tees, a locomotive ridden by a red-eyed dog. I want a car. I want a racehorse. I do not want any understanding of scale or gravity.

The cover for Hit 'Em Where It Hurt conveys speed, danger, and ridiculousness. Criminal Elament sacrificed clarity and common sense to ensure we understand how helter is their skelter.

"Indadoe"--Wavin' all types of numbers. Considering this is their first album, of course Criminal Elament want to introduce themselves with a skit of a plane being landed in a thunderstorm. (I think.)

"Life Of a Youngsta"--I can tell the MCs apart; I just don't care that I can tell the MCs apart. Each of these young men is married to the same cadence, which ultimately does neither her nor them any greater good.

"Trippin' Out"--Begins with horse racing commentary…wow, the cover is actually connected to the music.

Houston rap group talking about hallucinations? If it ain't the Geto Boys, it better be the 5th Ward Boyz.

"Side Wayz To the Next Life"--As a general rule, authenticity is a laudable quality. Gangster rap prides itself on authenticity. The best of the genre combines lyrical and musical skill to create a riveting soundscape. Criminal Elament do not represent the best of the genre.

"Hit 'Em Where It Hurt"--The funk of Al Gore! The subtlety of John Leonetti!

"Family Stick Together"--Unless one of them quits their job in a fit of a temporary insanity. Doesn't matter how hard they try afterward to get their life back in order, if they don't follow a predetermined set of rules to prove their worth, that person will not receive significant familial support. You cannot be your true self around family members. They will judge you harsher, and more unfairly, than any stranger. The best of them will pretend to care. They will all forget their culpability when you die.

"Da Train"--All right, so the cover wasn't haphazard. Still sucks.

Seinfeld bass with Home Improvement snares. Everywhere hurts.

"It Goes On"--Tight, old-school vibe.

"Outdadoe"--Why, it's a fuckin' hoedown! It's a fuckin' hoedown, why?

Anticlimaxes remind me why I'm ardently pro-choice.

Friday, November 24, 2017

SEXX FIENDS, "Let's Get Butt-Naked" (1994)

Tiny T and Rated X are the Sexx Fiends. Hailing from the great state of Texas (TX, get it?), these pussyhounds listened to a shit-ton of Miami bass and thought: yeah, bitch.

I was so fixated on the visual of two shirtless dudes hovering on a studded leather bra that I damn near missed that guy on the left (is it T? Is it X? Do I care? Kinda?) has his hand down his pants.

"Watch Ya Gal"--The intro cost thirty bucks, and they paid in ones. Guarantee.

Tiny T calls himself "the nymphomaniac motherfucker." He meant "satyromaniac." Don't gimme no lip about 1994 being "pre-Google," I promise it wasn't "pre-dictionary." Anyway, Tiny T fucks a lot. He knows 99 positions, seven more than Prince! I cannot possibly be offended by this. He temporarily changes his name to "Li'l T" just to rhyme with the words "will be."

"Can't Spoil Ya"--Ah, dilemma! The independent woman…who wants to be indulged every now and then. And the broke men…who resent them. This song is actually shrinking on me.

"Butt Naked"--Cartoony skit. Will this record ever begin to piss me off?

"Cum With Me"--Actually features faux-intercourse and thinks a woman exclaiming, "Ooh Tiny!" is a turn-on.

"Hey Ho's Re-Mix"--There's a bawling kitten sound that reminds me of the sound my Mac fan makes. It distracts me from understanding how busta simps are fuckin' up the game.

"Nigga Don't Get No Bigga"--The sex might be meaningless and loveless, but at least it's consensual.

"Punk Bitch"--Wherein Tiny T explains the origin of his sobriquet: he stands only five feet five inches tall.  A simplistic bump without the grind.

"Hollar At Ya Boy"--L.A. meets FL meets TX and cooks up that rarest of dishes: the disappointing enchilada.

Another use of "cock" in place of vagina. No, I will never get used to that. The hook is handled by an actual young boy, whom I would like to thank for not allowing my interest to flag.

"Suck On"--Fuck off.

"Stop the Ho"--Who's the Isley stepbrother convinced he's sprinkling paprika on the proceedings this evening? Because I want to erect a statue to his self-delusion.

"Yo Gal"--Has all the replay value of a used rubber.

"Ain't No Luv"--I know Tiny T didn't want me to think of diapers when he talks about refusing to "pamper a slut," but hey, the artist can't control how their work will be received.

"Throde Off"--An amateurish cluster-bomb produced by Dr. Dre's cousin's attorney.

"All That Shit"--Hey, Sexx Fiends named a song after what I say every time I pass the Scotch section at a liquor store!

When your doorbell begins dying, sample it.

An album by "Sexx Fiends" should be hardcore in every facet. The language should be filthy and explicit. The beats should bang in any setting. The sexism should inspire me to make my grill a "No Hot Dogs" zone. You failed, Sexx Fiends.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

BIG BEAR, "Doin' Thangs" (1998)

You can't talk hideous album covers without giving twisted props to Doin' Thangs. People might not remember names, but rest assured, "that album with the blinged-out bears" cannot be forgotten.

Doin' Thangs isn't the worst Pen 'n' Pixel cover since, if nothing else, it delivers the ideal amount of absurdity. Big Bear is shown, alongside other big bears, doin' thangs. Sittin', chillin', snackin' on nuts and berries, sippin' Cristal, puffin' non-chocolate cigars. The genius of the cover is that it leaves me wanting more. I want to see Big Bear hanging out in the woods, grabbing fish from the river and climbing a tree.

Instead, I'll listen to him rap.

"Intro"--Shout out to those what made the Big Bear dream come true.

"No Lies"--Big Bear as a rapper is capable and amiable. I could say the same for his beat selection: melodic, bass-heavy, room temp.

"Doin' Thangs"--Big Bear is proudly "southern fried," because Nebraska's the South, totally. Ah well, some thangs--devouring chicken fingers, downing six packs, blowing blunts--can't be contained to just one region.

Vocal swagger BB has in spades. Lyrical agility, eeehhhh.

"Goin' through shit like I'm an anus."

"This click's harder than dicks."

Damnit, Big Bear! Both those atrocities were in verse one, though. There are two more to come, in which he acquits himself, especially at the start of the second:

"I'm guess I'm just talented
To even survive through all the fakery
And mockery of haters tryna sucker me
I'm sucker free"

"Heaven Or Hell"--Languorous Shakurian lament.

"Money An' Fame"--"Bland an' inoffensive," she sneered, to the amusement of no one else.

"What'cha Workin' Wit'"--Luniz on the assist? And you played them this chopstick-ass beat? I guess cash and weed makes even bear crap smell like fudge.

"The Realist"--You doubt Big Bear? His management company is OSO Fo Real Entertainment.

Hardest beat yet, with interesting instrumentation. The 11 x 11 Boys mean-mug and smash fists to palms. Can't deny the energy, even if I've listened to the song three times now and couldn't quote one line under threat of death.

"No Where To Run"--I'm genuinely surprised at how well-done the album is. Nothing beyond the cover qualifies as outstanding--for the era, the region, or the genre in general--but I am digging the way Big Bear rides beats, especially the one for "No Where To Run," which I'd call "funkacholic"--funky and melancholic.

"Player Hatas"--"I'm in the Bahamas swimmin' naked." Oso, no.

Self-fulfilling prophecy rap can be quite bittersweet.

"Hoes Is Scared"--Produced by O'Dell from Beats By the Pound. (I knew No Limit had some involvement with this.) Nice up-tempo track for BB to rock that K-Mart pimp hat.

"All Sides"--Viciously rigid.

"Ain't No Love"--No guff taken. Good thing, since the haters are multitudinous. And possibly imaginary.

"No Matter What"--The Big Bear brand could have been a joy to behold. Food Channel show called Cookin' Thangs. Street basketball league named Ballin' Thangs. A gun range named Shootin' Thangs. And of course his own record label, Rappin' Thangs.

Don't forget the self-produced, straight-to-DVD street film: Doin' Thangs: The Movie.

"No Hope"--Ode to "the hurt sisters," and an apology for the foul ways of man. Don't sweat it, Big Bear.

"Chop It Up"--Smooth as buttercream posse cut teeming with gangsta lean.

"Be Real"--Lawn chair pimping. How ya gonna yell at a bitch to have your money lest hell rain down when you're holding a Dixie cup?

"Outro"--Big Bear and some cubs talkin' thangs.

Doin' Thangs is the best of the ten albums I reviewed for this series. And it's not actually that good. Just kinda average. Still, I was surprised that it even reached that  height.