2003: Who’s Better Who’s Better Who’s – Ah, Who Cares

2003There were 48,000,000 records released in 2003, and Ja Rule appeared on exactly one of them. Ja’s Blood In My Eye was a bitchy wimper in the wake of Kevlar don .50 Cent, who by the end of his year-long coronation was being blessed by the Pope for having been shot nine times. John Paul’s into heaven sent, he ain’t into making love. You know who is? Pharrell Williams, who used ’03 to expand the Neptunes’ fiefdom into awkward falsetto freaky-deaks. If I was the Asian guy portion of that duo, I’d make moves now to avoid Andrew Ridgley Syndrome in 2004. (Note: ARS is treatable either with Levitra® [vardenafil HCI], or by trading in any unused Sponge Bob paraphernalia.)

Obviously, besides the tired and bruised circular debates over file sharing and the record industry’s supposed woe (I did my part by sending the then Big Five/now Big Four a check for $16.40; its background depicted a cheery brown bear wearing a natty 3-piece suit and braided watch chain), 2003 was dominated by politics politics politics. We were Punk’d on a daily basis by poker-faced Ari and that ever-exasperated Rummy (“Just leave me the fuck alone you twits!” his tone always seemed to say). The liberals made a lot of noise while the boys on Capitol Hill just kept the money train a-rollin’; Cheney had a few more heart attacks, and I heard a rumor down at the diner that Dubya turfed Gore’s lawn. Again.

Well, the meetups, Moveon.org, and Janeane Garofalo will be happy to hear that Al at least got a shot off this time. He endorsed Dean and blew out the taillight of George W’s shiny new Fox NFL Sunday-endorsed F-150 with his daddy’s gator getter. As the Prez’s hoots and hollers faded into the gloomy District night, Gore noticed a group of shabby people huddling for warmth by his house’s exterior dryer vent. Recognizing that crimped mushroom head of Justin Guarini, the members of Trapt (determinedly humming “Headstrong” through chapped lips and chattering teeth), and 2003 “America’s Top Model” victor Adrianne Curry, the ex-non-president brought them all inside for a cup of Tipper’s tea and a viewing of the “Carnivale” marathon his TiVo created for him. “Congratulations,” the machine said in a series of comfy bleeps and bloops. “You’re the only knob to ever watch this show!”

Chan Marshall puts her pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. Difference is, she makes gold records. Well, maybe You Are Free didn’t go Gold – it was nominated for the 500,000-or-less Shortlist Prize, after all – but its moody beauty defined the late winter, and flashed awesome afterimages for the rest of the year. In the end, no amount of fawning “New Yorker” articles or heavyweight collabos could make Cat Power the Flaming Lips of 2003 – or, a crazy, often for real, indie act kicking it mainstream with .50 and a bottle of bub and sharing stages with Justin Timberlake. This kept the quiet blues and halfway-hopeful beauty of You Are Free close to our hearts; it kept its weirdsexy fragrances of cedar and orange peel all our own. The deal was quite different for the Electric Six and the Darkness, two combos that fed the flame of rock’s return with paperboard boxes of goofy machismo, dance beat hardwiring (“D-D-Don’t Don’t Stop” the Junior Senior!), and sky-high pyres of glorious glitter rock might. (“I see Blue…He’s GLORIOUS!”) Yes, Detroit’s Electric Six became the Electric something else when infighting cut off a few of its dance-metal tentacles. Even so, its “Danger! High Voltage” joins Justin Hawkins and the Darkness’ “Get Your Hands Off of My Woman” (motherfucker!) and “I Believe In a Thing Called Love” in the winners’ circle for brazen and bawdy cock rockery. Sorry Kid Rock, you can’t come in. I love you man, but your version of “Feel Like Makin’ Love” blows. What’s with that orgasm-as-rhythm breakdown? I’d rather listen to Britney and Madonna hamming up in “Me Against the Music.” Wait, no I wouldn’t. That shit sucked more than Limp Bizkit’s “Eat You Alive,” or worse, Durst’s ego-expanding daisy cutter cover version of “Behind Blue Eyes.” When will Fred be in the same room with Puddle of Mudd, Fuel, and those dorks in Trapt so we can send in Jack White to pound all their asses?

Speaking of Mr. White, he and Meg’s Elephant is certainly deserved of its best of-this best of-that chatter. But what about the Romantics? Back in September, GloNo uncovered a cadre of insurgents hell-bent on destroying 61/49. With hands clapped tightly over ears, these people refused to listen to even one note of the record, rating it below all the drunken wedding reception hookups that would have never occurred were it not for strangers pogoing to “What I Like About You.” But they were as wrong as Pimp Juice. 61/49 rips and shudders with the gritty great pluck of a veteran group. It has no agenda, no reason to exist other than to entertain. And, along with the New Pornographers and the Datsuns, the Romantics turned in one of the best live shows of the year. Don’t try to act like you don’t know who we be, neither. Maybe you were one of the four people (ABC execs are ineligible) who bought into “8 Simple Rules”‘ “Valerie’s Family”-like resurrection. “Oh, James Garner,” you said, knowing the real reason you were tuning in was to see Kaley Cuoco in a Juicy. “He was wonderful in ‘The Rockford Files.'” Yes, you were the same person who kept the Styrofoam NBC comedy “Coupling” on past week one. Well, come and dance on our floor, and take a step that is new. If you were doing all of that, you missed out on the blurry head rush of Azure Ray‘s “The Drinks We Drank Last Night,” aka the “Life in a Northern Town” of 2003. The Azure girls’ Hold On Love competed wonderfully with The ShinsChutes Too Narrow for the coveted Best Indie Rock Album to Make Out With Your Honey To. The match was a draw – thank Christ for CD changers. However, next time you bring Pilar home from the bar to “look at your etchings,” make damn sure you take Hatebreed out of the stereo. With Rise of Brutality, the stalwart Connecticut combo unleashed 32 minutes of brutish, passionate, pretension-devouring NYC hardcore that killed nü metal germs on contact. Yeah yeah, Jamey Jasta did the MTV2 “Headbangers Ball” hosting thing. So what? Remember when Thurston Moore and Beck hosted “120 Minutes” back in the day? That was one of the best things on MTV ever. Certainly better than the video for Trapt’s “Headstrong.”

Let’s cheer for even less videos in 2004. Who needs ’em? If there were no videos, MTV would have even more time for “Rich Girls”, which is like crack for the eyeballs. “Rich Girls” takes the network’s fascination with fabulosity and celebrity bling to the crumbling edge of soul-baring hyper-reality. Cutie patootie Ally Hilfiger and her chunky, ambiguously-rich pal try so desperately to, er, do good and stuff, talking a great game about equality and human warmth as they primp, wax, and test drive Tommy’s new Ferrari. They wonder about the love life of their Land Rover’s chipper GPS gentleman, and fail to notice the mortified faces of the garment district workers as they listlessly help Daddy pick out patterns. Unlike “The Simple Life” and “Newlyweds” – where the weight of sickening spectacle uniformly crushes and shuns the viewer – “Rich Girls” engulfs and comforts you. It’s garish, absurd, and insulting. But it has Ally. She’s all of those things, and petite and radiant and severely emotionally unstable to boot. But there’s a better than, uh, gooder chance that she’ll uncover the meaning of life in 2004. Rumor is it’s in the Hamptons, or maybe New Orleans, which is where Mr. Quintron resides. He’s the one man gang behind Are You Ready for an Organ Solo? (Three-One-G), the most-bumpin’est party record this side of Ludacris’ Chicken-N-Beer (best line of the year: “Feels like a midget is hangin’ round my neck!”). Quintron plays, well, an organ and homemade drum machines while counterpart Miss Pussycat cheerleads. Unlike the explosive gutter noise of records past, Organ Solo whirs and slurs along like a homeless Prince workin’ it in a brothel for a hot bowl of soup. In 2003, it was some of the best fodder for that had-to-happen-eventually trend, dance music for the indie set. The floor was already crowded with entries from the Rapture (the 2002 holdover and utter dance-punk masterpiece “House of Jealous Lovers”), Stereo Total, Black Moustache (“Hot Monkey! Hot Ass!”) and of course Peaches, whose Fatherfucker was all bark and none of Mr. Quintron’s sexy tooth’d bite. Now, if we can only get Ally to endorse Quintron’s Drum Buddy on “Rich Girls”…

There is much to look forward to in 2004. Another season of “America’s Top Model,” for example. Musically, who will provide our soundtrack to the deafening squelch of election coverage? Chingy? Well, we probably can’t count on Chingy. Maybe it’ll be Stephen Malkmus, who quietly issued yet another solo triumph with last March’s Pig Lib. Will Malkmus take up the mantle? Maybe it’ll be Alf, who’s been making a quiet comeback of his own via collect call commercials. Ha! I kill me! No, we probably don’t need to worry about just who it’ll be, because Wal-Mart will happily decide for us. If the friendly neighborhood giant does jump into the dowloadable music game in ’04, it should handily destroy all the Internet mom and pops, Glorious Noise included. (Does a blue “How may I help you?” smock match this orange?) Man, where’s Al Gore’s gator getter when you need it? Jeez, you’d think the inventor of the Internet would protect his baby. In ’04, the room will no longer be on fire. Poor Ruben Studdard will be replaced with a new American Idol before he even gets his shit off the ground. The “Queer Eye” guys will be bludgeoned to death by actual, real-life, non-cartoony gay people. A rag tag band of celebrities will unite to broadcast “Regular dopes: Uncensored!” The inevitable “Everwood” porn film will finally be released, and Jenna Jameson will succeed in her quest for legitimacy, because – besides exclaiming “Fo’ shizzle, he got shot nine times!” – there’s nothing whitebread Yogalates™ housewives love more than a B-list celebrity they’ll never know who did some bad stuff (you know, like anal), went straight, and lived to tell Dr. Phil about it. Me? I’m going to download “Headstrong” for $.88 and put it on a mix tape for Ally Hilfiger. Assimilation and pastels – the new black for 2004!

Shaking it like a Polaroid picture,


2 thoughts on “2003: Who’s Better Who’s Better Who’s – Ah, Who Cares”

  1. Hail, hail spit ‘n drool! Way to wind up this sorry year in ‘music’, Johnny. If only The Romantics had gotten the comeback buzz they so richly deserved.

  2. Dude. Johnny. I *love* Carnivale. It’s the only show I watched religiously this year.

    Of course, I also liked “Twin Peaks.”

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