By Spencer Wilking
By Christina Black
By Calum Marsh
By J. Pablo
By Phillip Mlynar
By Jenna Sauers
By Brian McManus
By Elliott Sharp
New Paltz, NY
At the height of the non–David Byrne Talking Heads' bitchiness toward Brian Eno's extended role in the group, Tina Weymouth complained that Byrne and Eno were like little schoolboys so sickeningly BFFs that they'd probably start wearing the same shoes. That was around the time of Remain in Light, their last truly great album—the group stopped working with Eno, much to their detriment. Byrne and Eno's Everything That Happens Will Happen Today is the sound of two grown men coming back together and realizing that not only are they still wearing the same shoes, but those shoes look a lot better on them than they do on U2 or Coldplay.
I hadn't made one of these history-of-punk compilations for a while, and the thing that jumped out at me this time is how virtually everything I put on there post-Nirvana was female: Outside of Pavement and "Fell in Love With a Girl" (which is half-female, come to think of it), it was Scrawl, L7, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Hole, Sleater-Kinney, Ladybug, She Mob, and the Vivian Girls. That's probably not a surprise to anyone who was following closely through the '90s, but some of these songs I discovered well after the fact, so I've just personally come to the realization that males should never be allowed to sing punk rock again. Women add beauty, sadness, reverie, and lots else that might not have worked so well for Slaughter & the Dogs, but now seems like the only way to do it.
The Vivian Girls give themselves that band name, but then apologize profusely as soon as they piss off anyone. If "Where Do You Run To" wasn't so damn good, this band would be dead to me.
New York, NY
Ne-Yo's sexuality remains oddly indeterminate for such a devotee of the r&b songform, and I would believe it if a couple of years from now he comes out as a well-adjusted gay man who listens to Arthur Russell demos. It's the only explanation for why Year of the Gentleman proffered so much sage advice on how to conduct yourself in a heterosexual relationship: The album was like getting an earful from a gay pal about your love life. For one thing, I can't think of a single straight pal who sips Rosé. I can't think of a single gay one either.
As a whole, Chinese Democracy, Axl Rose's long-awaited solo debut, is unlistenable, clocking in at 14 songs and 71 minutes. Cut it in half, and you have an album-rock landmark that's a solid 35 minutes—which was all you needed in the pre-CD era.
Damned if I don't genuinely love Chinese Democracy more than any other hard rock album—or rock album, period—in ages. I love the venom and rage of "Better" and "Shackler's Revenge," the melodic loop-de-loops of "Catcher in the Rye," the rock-opera theatrics of "Street of Dreams," the gorgeous "Sorry" solo by the dude with the chicken bucket on his head, and especially the way Axl Rose turns the word true into a bloodcurdling scream on "I.R.S." I'm all for the 45-minutes-or-less rule for most albums, but I really do wish this one had been a double. I can't wait to hear the rest of it —even if I have to wait until 2023.
So I'm finishing a soda in the parking lot of an In-N-Out in Long Beach, and I have Death Magnetic exploding in my car. I had just got the CD and was in the initial shock mode, sitting by myself. A couple sits at one of the outdoor tables. Everyone else is either inside in the air-conditioning or stuck in the ridiculously long drive-thru line. The guy has a leather motorcycle jacket on and he's pawing his girl, who's either 25 or 55—I don't know because she's wearing so much makeup. Wilting from the sun, he takes off the jacket and says, "Turn this up." I do. His head nods silently. The guy has been through the wars, as he's missing a tooth, and there's a huge bald amid long gray hair. "This is the shit. Who is this?" I tell as my soda runs out. "No fucking way. No way." I say yeah and nod my head as if to say, Who'd-a thunk? "They turned to shit 10 to 12 years ago," he says to me. "No, this ain't fucking them." I shrug and let it play. He whispers to the girl, and she goes in and gets in the long line nearly snaking out the door. I can't get a girl to pass the salt. He sits next to the car and nods his head, eyes closed, to the music, as if I don't exist. One other guy gathers around and sits on the hood. The girl comes back with two double-doubles and shakes, including one for me. I thank her and she smiles. She's 45. The guy devours the burger and says, "Man, sounds like the demons are back, no more bullshit—I mean really back, and Kirk is playing like a muthafucka." They keep eating. My shake is strawberry. Sorry. It sits in the cup holder. The guy gets off my hood; we've been sitting listening for nearly an hour. I begin to pull out. The guy with the girl bangs on my roof lightly. "That really fucking rocks man, thanks." He's probably writing for the OC Weekly now.
Long Beach, CA
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