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Pearl Jammed

So there's this story, spun so that it focuses on the Denver fans who walked out of the Pearl Jam show in response to Eddie Vedder making comments against the war. Rather than the story actually focusing on, hey, Eddie Vedder making these comments.

I have some unease about celebrities like Sheryl Crow making huge statements against the war, just because of my usual eye-rolling about celebrities and causes. But the fact is, in the absence of almost any real political opposition to the war coming from any prominent Democrats outside of Robert Byrd, Ted Kennedy, and Howard Dean, the fact is that while the Susan Sontags of the world can make anti-war statements to the intelligencia, the only people who can earn and gather attention for the anti-war position in the major media headlines are, yes, celebrities. Otherwise, the media would just depict the anti-war position the same way they depicted the Seattle WTO riots of a few years back, as just "fringe."

Do I think Eddie Vedder has anything particularly profound to say about this war? No. Am I glad that he is still out there using his soapbox to take potentially unpopular views to register them, as opposed to some celebrities who spend their careers supporting no-brainer, no-opposition causes like honoring WWII veterans and the space program? Yes.

But I do think that Vedder might have, um, gone a little over board with stomping on Bush's likeness and impaling him on a microphone. That might be a little overkill. Then again, Pearl Jam was never a band renowned for its subtlety.

Still, good for Vedder for at least saying this:
During the show, Vedder said: "Just to clarify... we support the troops."

"We're just confused on how wanting to bring them back safely all of a sudden becomes non-support," he said. "We love them. They're not the ones who make the foreign policy .... Let's hope for the best and speak our opinions."

It's been far too easy for the war-supporters to both dismiss opposition to the war as fringe and Hollywood, and far too easy for them to equate opposition to the war as opposition to the people dying in the trenches, rather than opposition to the foreign policy concocted by the Bush administration. Good for Vedder for speaking and singing truth to power.

posted by Anon. 9:20 AM
More feedback

It's been a week of engagement among Palmermix readership. Bill Altreuter responds to our comments about J. Geils and Jonathan Richman.
My J. Geils evaluation is based on their '70's output. I actually like Monkey Island. I agree that stuff like "Centerfold" is probably diminished by the dated synth sound, but I would say that the band's output from that period is respectable-- and is certainly superior to what Aerosmith was putting out at the same time. All that said, is the J. Geils Band "important"? I am not so sure. Where does Cecil Cooper (to continue with the baseball analogy you like) rank with first basemen from that period? (It worries me a little that I can make the baseball/Boston/rock'n'roll think work like that-- my mind should be filled with more important stuff.) I put it to you that the J. Geils Band occupies a similar place in rock's pantheon.

I take issue over Jonathan Richman's place in The Academy of the Over-Rated. The influence of the band really cannot be disputed (early Talking Heads were mining this vein, for example, as were a number of other Punk artists). I like Alex Chilton, and he gets points as an influence, too, but I will concede that he is the sort of artist that one first listens to because some critic has dropped his name.

posted by Anon. 6:55 AM
The new Lucinda, redux

The new Lucinda Williams is a superior effort to her last record, Essence. While some of the lyrics are sloppy -- and some of the musical choices strange -- it's easily, music-wise, her best album ever, with lots of crunchy guitar. Lyric-wise, it's not as good as her eponymous record or Car Wheels, but hey, it's worth it anyway. World Without Tears coming out next week, but you can read our review of an advance copy of it, from a month or two back, here.

My advance copy of it didn't feature the cover art. Which, as you can see below, is, well, weird.

posted by Anon. 6:49 AM
Aerosmith redux

Who needs war debate when Palmermix is offering you discussion of the true issues of our day: Aerosmith, any good?

First, Jordan weighs in again.
Don't mess with you. The least you could have done is correct my grammar
(persistence show_s_, not show).

My final retorts: in a field like rock or pop, where being retrospective is
as important as moving things forward, why is being a perfect iteration of a
distinct form (here, blues-influenced guitar rock, in a pop single form,
extra brotherhood, hold the psychedelia) a liability? Obviously, we can
argue perfection (maybe not quite, but, as a 30-year old singles band, much
more bad than good, in my opinion), but I think the point remains.
Influence and singularity alone do not a hall of fame make.

Also, the hall rewards at least 25 years of history. I concede that without
"Walk This Way" II, the band would never have had the momentum or the
attention to pull off the success of Permanent Vacation or what followed.
However, facts are facts, and I find the great majority of those MTV singles
great pop-rock (or rock-pop, or radio rock, take your pick), and much more
vital than the late-career output of many, many hall-members. With the
notable exceptions of "Love In An Elevator" and "Falling In Love Is So Hard
On The Knees." It seems that the band should stay away from fellatio
innuendo altogether.

Finally, the band's embrace of the music video form, an arena where they
truly did and maybe do push things forward, should not be discounted. All
in all, a worthy package.

In the end, as in all things, this comes down to aesthetics, and our
disagreement about them.

As always, some valid points here. My rebuttal.
1) I completely agree that influence and singularity should not be the sole, or even the prime, criteria for Hall entrance. There are many great bands and artists who, on the surface of things, did nothing that revolutionary, but instead just made great music. Before "What's Going On," had Marvin Gaye really done anything that revolutionary that Jackie Wilson and Smokey Robinson hadn't already done? No, he'd just recorded a bunch of great singles. Or, I don't know, how about the Pretenders? Or a John Prine or a Richard Thompson? No creating of new genres, just creation of great music. The problem is: I think it's inaccurate to say that Aerosmith has consistently made great singles. Which brings us to point #2.

2) Jordan says the vast majority of the Aerosmith MTV singles were great pop-rock. I disagree. I think Aerosmith found a single that worked for them and kept re-doing it over, and over, and over again. The power ballad. With occasional departures into more straight ahead rocker territory ("Dude Looks Like a Lady," "Elevator") and one semi-interesting departure into a message song without much of a message ("Janie's Got a Gun"), Aerosmith proceeded to do the same song again and again, "Crazy," "Angel," etc. It doesn't matter that Diane Warren didn't actually write them: the point is, she could've. Not good.

3) And putting aside the whole notion about whether or not we should celebrate a band for its music videos, were Aerosmith's music videos truly trailblazing? Was there anything inventive, like Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" or even TLC's "Waterfalls," or anything even funny, like Fat Boy Slim's Spike Jonze videos? Or is it just that they had Alicia Silverstone in 'em?

Steve H writes with this little point.
For what it's worth, I would argue that even the
*band* Boston was a better Boston band than Aerosmith,
and had, on that first album alone, more really good
songs than Aerosmith did in the entire '70s. Not that
I actively dislike Aerosmith, but I defintely don't
actively like them. Heck, I don't think anyone since
that one Mike Myers character has actively liked that
band in years, and wasn't the point of that one
character, at least initially, to laugh at how
ridiculous it was to like Aerosmith?

Who knew that Palmermix would be debating Aerosmith for so long!

posted by Anon. 6:37 AM


Toys in the attic

The Aerosmith discussion continues. Jordan sent me a rebuttal, that's on my laptop at home and which I'll post later, and Steve H offered his own thoughts which I will also post. But Bill Altreuter, Buffalo's top blawger, offers these thoughts:
Palmermix is interesting on the Aerosmith question. Rocks is, I suppose, a solid album, and there are certainly those who respect Toys in the Attic. After that, it seems to me that the band's principal claim to rock'n'roll immortality is its longevity. To put it in baseball terms, Aerosmith is sort of the Jim Kaat of rock. Except I like Jim Kaat. (I would also dispute the importance of the Cars. One decent album, by my count. Important Boston rockers from this period: Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers. Maybe, maybe J. Geils.)

First off, the Jim Kaat analogy is brilliant. I've never thought that the "longevity" factor really deserved that much respect in rock and roll. The Four Tops always called attention to the fact that they were together the longest, but I still think the Temptations were the superior Motown band, even if their line-up was constantly changing. So I agree with Bill on that front.

I don't worship the Cars; and there was always something a little too white about the band. But still, they did use the muted palm technique of guitar playing better than anyone else, and they did have more soul than most of the other punkish bands of that period. And I don't care what you say, but "Magic" and "You Might Think" are great singles.

Now, on the topic of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. Talk about someone who belongs in the Alex Chilton museum of "over-hyped by the critic intelligencia." I was about to type that I love the original Modern Lovers' record. But then I thought about it -- I don't really love it. I love "Roadrunner," and I kinda like "I'm Straight," and "Pablo Picasso" is fine. But really, nothing they ever did was as good as that one song, "Roadrunner," and then

For all doubters of J. Geils Band, I suggest that you're judging the band based upon their top 40 heyday of "Centerfold" and "Love Stinks." (Which, despite the heavy synthesizer presence dating them, are legitimately enjoyable songs.) But pick up Blow Your Face Out or Live Flush (I think that's what it's called), their two live records from the 70s, and you'll be listening to one of the best live bands of the period. Peter Wolf is a terrific white soul singer, and at their best, the Geils band had as tight a sound as any group this side of E Street. And that's a fact, jack.

posted by Anon. 4:35 PM
Power-Pop Wilburys?

This huge news was sent to me earlier today:
Word from the Costello offices today confirms that EC is planning to
join Graham Parker, Joe Jackson, with Nick Lowe on a fall World Tour
tentatively titled "Angry Young Men - Live". The group is expecting
to play songs from each of the artists' catalog, plus work of their
prime influences such as Bob Dylan, and at least 3 to 5 new songs
they're co-authoring. The tour is expected to begin at New York's
Beacon Theatre the first week in August, and then play 27 dates
across the US. UK and European date plans are pending
This is big.

Update: This is also a fraud, I think, an April Fools joke. Sorry.

posted by Anon. 4:20 PM
Like a... something

For all the talk of Madonna's career faltering -- and the New York Times did this huge piece, in the Business section, no less, looking at exactly that -- she still seems to capture the headlines. Instead of making news for releasing a music video that was potentially tasteless, she makes news anyway for choosing not to release the music video.

Want to see Madonna's "American Life" video itself? Well, here it is. Wait, just get gibberish? Use Windows Media Player and that link. And enjoy.

posted by Anon. 11:48 AM


Sweet emotion

Apparently, it's been a slow day at the Legal Aid Society in the Bronx.

In addition to providing Lockhart Steele feedback, Jordan, legal aid lawyer, bon vivante, and confidante to Queens' mysterious mixmaster Rufus King, has decided to take issue with today's Aerosmith post:
Long time no argue. I take issue with your treatment of aerosmith.
Unseemly to put them in the hall of fame? Putting aside issues of whether
being in the hall is worth a damn anyway, esp. in a field like rock (let us
assume it is a legit accolade), they've certainly earned it. Their early
output, particularly the singles, puts them up there with any of their
contemporaries at the time. Unless you write off the seventies, which I know
you don't, Aerosmith is as worthy as the Mac or the Eagles (are they in? I
assume they are).The persistence of those songs on classic rock radio show I'm
not alone in feeling that way.

Although, now that I think about it, it's really only "Walk This Way," "Sweet
Emotion," and "Dream On." Is three enough?

But it still goes beyond that. For the second "Walk This Way" alone, they
might have earned it, given that single's impact and infectiousness. Its
influence can be overstated, but not by much. Cultural shifts, or public
recognitions of them, are big deals, and should be recognized as such.

Finally, I've always respected them for remaining a real rock band, even this
deep into their career. With very few exceptions, the songs have been band
originals (yes, I know, Diane Warren and "Armageddon," but it's an an anomaly,
albeit one with a huge shadow). You gotta love a band who really plays, plays
well, and clearly loves the act of playing musical instruments for other
people. Are Sting and Phil Collins really supplying a lot of bottom end to
their smooth jazz records? Or their live shows?

For what it's worth, I thought "Jaded" was the best Pavement-influenced
pop single I ever heard back in the era when Pavement did some influencing.

All of that said, "Love In An Elevator" is profoundly annoying. Give me "Rag
Doll" any day of the week.

I'd contest and counter some of Jordan's argument, except unfortunately halfway through his email, he seems to be having second thoughts himself.

I hate the Eagles, myself. But to suggest that Aerosmith was as influential or important a band during the 70s as th Eagles or Fleetwood Mac seems faulty. Aerosmith never had the influence that a Black Sabbath or, for that matter, an AC/DC had on the ensuing decade of heavy metal and hard rock. In fact, they weren't even the second best Boston band of the 70s (that goes to the J. Geils Band and the Cars, respectively). Aerosmith's whole reason of existence in the 70s was to be an American Stones. Which they did fine enough -- mostly thanks to Hamilton and Perry's guitars -- but this was not a band that was doing anything near as interesting with their music as, say, Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie were doing with melody.

In fact, had the Run DMC duet never happened, I think we can safely say Aerosmith would have faded into oblivion, as much a relic of the 70s as, say, Supertramp. But because they managed to stage a comeback right at a time when hard rock was in, offered a "cleaned up from drugs" story that was a publicist's wet dream, and figured out that having Alicia Silvertone in their videos would help their profile in a pre-Britney age when people were just starting to become restimulated by jailbait scenarios.

I also think it's faulty to congratulate any band for writing their own material, if the material isn't so hot. Especially since most hard rock and heavy metal bands write their own material, when you think about it. The Diane Warrens of the world make their business much more on the singer-singers -- the Celines, the LeAnn Rimes, etc. Plus, the fact that Aerosmith continues to write songs that don't reflect their older age and standing -- just the same old "loving that girl" material -- is just steps away from parody.

Finally, "Sweet Emotion" is a dangerously close rip-off of the Stones' "We Love You." That said, I will admit that it's a pretty good song. But then, just because I love "Ride Captain Ride" doesn't mean I think Blues Image was awesome.

posted by Anon. 2:00 PM
When I'm going down

There's sometimes nothing worse than when a favorite song gets into your head and you can't let go of it. Except, of course, when a song you don't care for gets into your head anyway, and you still can't let go of it.

For various reasons -- namely that there was talk of potentially using an Aerosmith song in a future episode of the show for which I work -- I have had "Love in an Elevator" in my head.

It won't leave.

Again and again: "Love in an elevator/Living it up when I'm going down/Love in an elevator/Living it up when I hit the ground." Repeat chorus. Repeat chorus. Repeat chorus.

Aerosmith, one of the bands whose presence in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame strikes me as... well, unseemly.

posted by Anon. 11:17 AM


They trying to wash us away

Listening to the Randy Newman box set I picked up at the Warner Brothers store a few days ago. While his recent music all sounds the same to me, especially the songs for Disney movies, and while I find his scores for films to be hopelessly gloopy and overdone (the exception being The Natural), I had forgotten how wonderful his songs from the 70s can be. Especially "Sail Away," "Birmingham," "Guilty," and "Louisiana 1927," his wonderful song about the awful flood hitting Louisiana during the Hoover administration. Just beautiful songwriting, with great arrangements of piano and string, and smart lyrics. Somewhere along the way, the smart became smarm. But for a time, Randy Newman was good enough to stand with Dylan, Van Morrison, Joni MItchell, and the other great singer/songwriters of the 1970s.

posted by Anon. 4:02 PM


Endless love

I was never a big fan of the Lionel Richie/Diana Ross duet, or the Brooke Shields movie of the same name. But after linking to this, I'm becoming a fan.

posted by Anon. 2:49 PM
Opening day

Baseball season is here again. You can listen to John Fogerty's over-produced "Centerfield." Or Chuck Berry's deceptive civil rights anthem "Brown-eyed Handsome Man." Or maybe "Short Man's Room," Joe Henry's strange ode to an old player. Or Buffalo Tom's "Summer," with its Willie Mays reference. Or the Beastie Boys, with their references to Sadahuro Oh or Rod Carew.

Me, I'll just hope for a Phillies-Red Sox World Series. And hope. And hope. And hope.

posted by Anon. 9:39 AM