By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Photo by Richard Lee
Greg Burk’s Light and Dark 10
Phil Ranelin, Inspiration(Wide Hive). The flow. The soul. The lubrifrictional harmonies. And he’s local, folks.
Keneally & Metropole Orkest, The Universe Will Provide(Favored Nations/NPS Output). A huge and ambitious modern work, teeming with ideas — guitarist Mike Keneally is one hell of a composer.
WASP, The Neon God, Parts 1 & 2(Sanctuary). Bleeding from every pore, Blackie Lawless blasts forth an epic about a slaughtered rock star.
Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force, Attack!!(Epic/Red Ink). As intense, focused and consistent as this guitar maniac gets.
The Darkness, Permission To Land(Atlantic). "Get your hands off of my woman, motherfuuuuhhhh-KER!"
Brian Wilson, Smile(Nonesuch). Didn’t think I could leave out the most creative pop music ever made, did ya?
1. Yale Accordion Academy. Not affiliated with Yale University, but run instead by 85-year-old Melba Yale, who will fix your accordion and talk you into lessons, something she’s been doing for 50 years. 8721 Crenshaw Blvd., Inglewood; (310) 671-9669.
2. Martin Music Center. While Lawrence Demian re-tunes your stradella, owner Sandy Martin will tell the story of Christmas 2003 when their 23-piece accordion orchestra was invited to perform at George Bush’s White House, only they were not allowed to actually bring along their accordions — security concerns — and had to sing their parts instead. 1101 W. Orangethorpe Ave., Fullerton; (714) 447-9163.
1. My Styx MP3s. Obviously, 2004 was the weirdest year in American history. We know this in our guts not only because of the rise of plastic-surgery reality shows, but also because this year the Styx song "The Best of Times" achieved its full historic potential. I don’t think I heard it once on the radio, but downloaded off of Limewire, "The Best of Times" was not just hooky and good — it was a prescient statement about the life of every person I know and love. Someone told me the album Paradise Theater was a pro-Reagan manifesto, and maybe it’s true — which only proves how fucked up 2004 was. This year, Reagan — whom Baby Bush’s buddies in the religious right deemed too liberal— actually looked comparatively presidential. Consider this: At least his wordplay was intentional.
2. Eric Gagne. Never got to see Guns N’ Roses at the Coliseum, but watching pitcher Eric Gagne at Dodger Stadium in 2004 — sauntering from the bullpen to the tune of "Welcome to the Jungle" — was a rock & roll moment for the history books. Gagne’s monstrous streak of 84 consecutive saves felt somehow inevitable as you watched it go down — casual, even effortless. As he confessed to Kevin and Bean on KROQ shortly before blowing it, the truth was that he was scared every time. But of course he was — you can only tap into the frequency of perfection for so long without feeling a little funky. And though his run may have ended, for fans, it will forever inspire. Dude’s a superhero.
3. Howard Stern. 2004 was the year Howard Stern grew up, and proved that the freedom to talk dirty with porn stars is no luxury — it’s a pillar of American democracy. As Stern’s battle with Clear Channel, the FCC and the Bush regime proved, "entertainment" is the canary in the coal mine of free speech; censors and fascists always attack the fluff makers first. The irony of Stern’s defection to satellite radio — alongside his Viacom boss, Mel Karmazin — is that Clear Channel would never have become so powerful if media fat cats like Karmazin hadn’t lobbied the FCC for deregulation in the first place. At least Stern and Karmazin have the balls to bail on two-timing bedfellows.
4. The Death of On Air With Ryan Seacrest. The market is cruel, the market is fickle, and, sometimes, the market is right.
5. Oldies 1260 and 540 AM/Saul Levine. Standing up to both Clear Channel and Viacom/Infinity, the mom-and-pop "True Oldies" stations (owned by Saul Levine) are reinventing oldies radio for people who actually like music. With a catalog of thousands of songs burned from old 45s, these stations make K-Earth and KOLA 99 virtually unlistenable by comparison. (When was the last time you heard "Pretty Ballerina" by the Left Banke, or "Bongo Rock" by Preston Epps?) Like Indie-103’s bosses, Levine doesn’t hope to make a killing. He just wants to make good radio. I told you it was a weird year.
6. Indie 103.1 FM/Steve Jones/Henry Rollins. Speaking of weird/good, in 2004 Clear Channel took on a bold new experiment in L.A. (well, bold and new for them, anyway): funding good radio. They claim to just sell the ads for Indie 103 (which is owned by a Hispanic broadcaster), but they’ve obviously got an interest in seeing Indie succeed at the cost of their competitors’ stations. Who wins? Local bands and music lovers, and anyone who enjoys hearing a Sex Pistol describe his bouts with smack between songs by Sweet and Mott the Hoople. God knows how long it’ll last, but Indie 103 has made me prouder than ever to be an Angeleno, from its cozy local-band nights at little bars to its championing of rocker-turned-freeform-hero Henry Rollins. (Finally, Jim Ladd can stop bragging about how he’s the only freeform hero left!) Rollins is the best DJ I’ve heard since John Peel (R.I.P.) — as with the Dodgers last season, I worry he won’t get the recognition he deserves until it’s too late. Someday we’ll find: These are the best of times!
Top 10 Songs To Keep the Riffraff Away
Have you ever gotten out of your car at a Los Angeles gas station and heard smarmy Muzak being piped through a sound system, or walked by a building being refurbished and heard the horrifying strains of George Gershwin? Maybe "A Horse With No Name" by America or "I’m Not in Love" by 10cc? Well, those catchy toe-tappers aren’t there so you can do a little two-step while you fuel up. Those songs are there to stave off punks, hippies, beggars, pimps, hookers and bums. Your average street person is as tough as nails, but they can’t stand up to a single strain of James Taylor crooning "You’ve Got a Friend" — it works like audio pepper spray. The following are some ditties sure to keep the creeps off your driveway and squatters off your construction site:
10. "Love Will Keep Us Together" — The Captain and Tennille. The good Captain and his toothy wife crafted this song of hope without realizing the repugnant aftertaste it would leave after 30 years.
8. "So Far Away" — Carol King. Its subliminal message compels derelicts to take a powder. That one about the earth moving under her feetis another good sonic bouncer.
7. "My Cherie Amour," "Sir Duke," "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" and "Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday" — oh shit, just make it the whole Stevie Wonder song list.
5. "I Can See Clearly Now" — Jimmy Cliff. One-hit wonders are sure-fire deterrents and may be used liberally. Redbone doesn’t count because they sort of had two hits.
4. "Ride Captain Ride" — Blues Image. See above.
3. "Sunny" — Bobby Hebb. Lyrics like Thank you for the smile upon my face are extremely repulsive when trying to sleep in a Dumpster.
1. A tie, between Johnny Mathis (during the holidays) and those wimp crooners Chicago (for the rest of the year). "Baby, what a big surprise." Bonus: These guys are also lethal to many insects and small furry rodents!
By Piotr Orlov
Regardless of whether they felt hounded by international terrorists, re-election-stumping errorists or media-created bogeymen, the American people had a long, hard year. Thankfully, our songwriters caught the feeling blowing in the wind. Hence, some of 2004’s most popular ditties were also de facto folk anthems, documenting the nation’s socially schizoid id on the pop charts and bearing history’s skid marks for later generations to decode. Alongside ye olde bugaboos — anger, rebellion and helplessness — artists named names, defamed social subcultures and drew color lines. Here are five signs of the time that hit the 2004 hit parade:
Eminem’s "Mosh" had everything a modern piece of folk-art propaganda could hope for: great content (hip-hop’s best-selling MC in fine vitriol, pulling few anti-Bush/-war-in-Iraq punches), fabulous format (leaked pre-election to liberal Internet sites as an animated video in which Em rallies the people to take on the government), and a calculated marketing plan (another simultaneously released single didn’t have a whiff of politics). The result was like a coherent Howard Dean speech made narrative, with high marks for historical accuracy and proper pronunciation of al Qaeda.
By contrast, Green Day’s "American Idiot" had no historical accuracy, just emotional truth. Though it’s the kind of punk rant that could’ve been written at any moment since 1976, its denouncements of a "redneck agenda" and of "one nation controlled by the media" were setups to Jon Stewart punch lines. "Idiot" got even more populist on the Web, where mash-up producers layered its fierce guitars beneath all manner of chaos (Ultra 396’s "Woo-hah Makes Idiot American Fuck War" combines them with Busta Rhymes and Public Enemy vocals), freeing its fury from punk -segregation.
Remix culture’s bandwagon-jumping also helped propel Jadakiss’s "Why?" toward folk prescience. Initially, the Bronx rapper’s solo song asked timely questions — a mix and match of news reporting ("Why they let The Terminator win the election") and conspiracy theorizing ("Why did Bush knock down the towers?"). But as the track hit the community’s nerve, the inevitable mixtape versions featured others rappers — platinum kings like Common and Nas among them — barking social plaints, like it was the mean new "Walking Blues," and everybody deserved a verse (which in 2004 they got).
Modest Mouse’s "Float On" wasn’t interested in conveying news items. Instead, it dealt in elemental surrender and blind hope. The breakout hit by the West Coast indie-rock careerists was proof of continued detachment by post-collegiate types, even faced with unemployment ("we were gonna quit anyways") and rip-offs ("worth it just to learn some sleight of hand"). The great anthemic chorus blasting from alt-rock radio all year assured that "we’ll all float on OK," though contrary evidence was all around.
Country Music Association’s newcomer of the year Gretchen Wilson also didn’t peddle current events, but her Song of the Year–nominated "Redneck Woman" foretold a post-11/2 truth. Unlike the suburban divas Nashville manufactured during the ’90s economic bubble, Wilson is gloriously white trash, and this honky-tonk rebel yell — produced by country’s finest gay-friendly production team (Big & Rich) — revealed red and blue divisions unaffected by evangelical morality rolls. Had Kerry used it instead of "No Surrender" in the South, things could’ve turned out differently.
(Life-changing reissues and previously unreleased rarities from back in the days when nobody said lame things like "back in the day")
1. Cheifs, Holly-West Crisis (Dr. Strange)
2. Twisted Roots, Twisted Roots (Bacchus Archives)
3. Urinals, Negative Capability (Warning Label)
4. Wire, On the Box: 1979 (Pink Flag)
5. Really Red, Teaching You the Fear (Empty)
6. Métal Urbain, Anarchy in Paris! (Acute)
8. The Cramps, How To Make a Monster (Vengeance)
9. The Ramones. It was a great year to be a Ramones fan, if you overlooked the premature death of yet another original member, Johnny. Rival Greek choruses pushed for space around the freshly dug graves to tell their competing Rashomon versions of the Ramones myth, with drummer Marky’s relentlessly satiating DVD, Ramones Raw (Image Entertainment), and Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia’s more-tragic-than-comic documentary End of the Century (Magnolia Pictures) best capturing the band’s Rockaway Beach of the mind. Gabba gabba sad.
Top 10 songs played before the Dodgers came up to bat in 2004!
Shawn Green — "Song 2" (Blur)
Milton Bradley — "Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang" (Dr. Dre)
David Ross — "Break Ya Neck" (Busta Rhymes)
Eric Gagne — "Welcome to the Jungle" (Guns N’ Roses)
By Falling James
1. The Dresden Dolls, The Dresden Dolls (8 Ft.). Under the face paint and grand theatrical flourishes, the year’s cleverest songwriting, alternately fanciful and romantically doomy.
2. Mission of Burma, ONoffON (Matador). "Prepared" is heartbreakingly pretty amid the postpunk chaos, while the melodically blurry "Falling" evokes both a rapturous dreamtime flight and the last thoughts of a man plunging ruefully to his death.
3. Dead Moon, Dead Ahead (Tombstone). "We’re the best-kept secret in a world where no one survives," these contrarian garage-rock visionaries howl balefully and quite truthfully from their cave in the Oregon forest.
4. Neko Case, The Tigers Have Spoken (Anti). On her first live album, the reigning anti-diva takes her country roots into brave new dark-pop worlds.
6. Biblical Proof of UFOs, Interstellar Messages (Old Testament Aliens). The state of the art in local modern hard-rock -propulsiveness.
7. Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter, Oh My Girl (Barsuk). Transcendently languorous pastoral interludes.
8. Johnny Dowd, Cemetery Shoes (Bongo Beat). Johnny’s jealous that his bride got to wear the wedding dress, and other deadpan hilarious calamities.
9. Sally Timms, In the World of Him (Touch & Go). Cowboy Sally pumps up the spaciness on balladry by her favorite male -songwriters.
10. The Things!, Major Bailey’s Menagerie (www.the-things.com). Only Nancy Mitchell, with that heroically powerful voice, can breathe new life into "Strychnine."
11. Love, On Earth Must Be (Castle Blue EP). Stormy pop rainbows fluttering delicately on the wings of fantastic feathered fish, Arthur Lee’s first new songs in a decade. Gorgeous.
12. Girlschool, Believe(Communique). Harder & heavier than any pack of riot grrls.8 Eerie CDs
1. The Cramps, How To Make a Monster (Vengeance). Can’t-fucking-live-without-it slew of unhinged rarities.
2. Vic Mizzy, Songs for the Jogging Crowd (Vicster). Just as it so memorably did during his Addams Family–Green Acres heyday, the genius of composer-musician Mizzy, on his first-ever album, reigns supreme.
4. Thee Undertakers, Crucify Me (Grand Theft Audio). Recorded in 1980 but never released until this year, Crucify Memay get these morbid E.L.A. punk rockers the recognition they deeply deserve.
5. Gretchen Wilson, Here for the Party (Sony). The Redneck Woman single-handedly explodes the Nashville girl-singer standard with this set of impeccably delivered hard-country moderne.
6. Go Betty Go, Worst Enemy (Side One Dummy). Debut five-song disc from rad punk rucas GBG came off a bit too squeaky-clean, but even the most mall-punk-courting production can’t screw up an extraordinary song like "Son Mis Locuras."
7. Johnny Cash, Life (Legacy). Personally compiled and sequenced by the Man in Black just before his death, this collection of vintage classics ("Country Trash," "Wanted Man") rates as one of his greatest-ever albums (and he managed it without any help from Bono or Quentin Tarantino).
8. Pete Anderson, Daredevil (Little Dog). Although best known for his long association with Dwight Yoakam, Detroit-born guitar chieftain Anderson’s second solo instrumental set stays far, far away from the back hills and instead charts some evocative, atmospheric and previously undiscovered rock & roll geography. Dazzling.
The loudest: On June 3 at Walt Disney Concert Hall, four brass bands, four sets of kettledrums and some 200 choristers greet the Day of Judgment as envisioned in Hector Berlioz’s Grand Mass of the Dead under Esa-Pekka Salonen’s death-dealing baton.
The softest: On November 11, many seconds of a silence that nobody seemed to want to break greet Thomas Quasthoff’s harrowingly beautiful singing of Gustav Mahler’s Songs on the Death of Children, with the Philharmonic led by visiting conductor Christoph Eschenbach.
The most extraneous, outdoor: the new echo at the Hollywood Bowl that greets all the short, sharp notes from the orchestra with exact mirror images of themselves — twice for the money!
The most extraneous, indoor: Disney Hall’s new pipe organ, out of tune with its surroundings, and with the orchestra. Great for silent movies, though.
The most alluring: Robert Wilson’s conceptualized mounting of Madama Butterfly for the Los Angeles Opera on February 12 — a stage bare of the usual clutter but alive with the intensity of Puccini’s drama.
The least alluring: tenor Richard Leech’s agonized stab at the B-flat in the "Flower Song" from Carmen, October 22 on the same stage, symbolic of the level of opera Wilson’s work rises above. (Top ticket: $190)
The least comforting: the amplified cell-phone imitation at the start of every Disney Hall event, as an exhortation to turn off your own damn things. There are nicer ways, folks.
The most comforting: the quiet gurgle of the rose-shaped fountain in Disney Hall’s garden.
Quando, My Love
Cry Loving Me
I’m So Shy
I Recogize [sic] That Face
Don’t Be Mad
Waiting To Dance With You
Since When You Know Me
I Love Petite Women
Have a Caramel
I’m Still Waiting for You
If You Wish To Love Me
Woman of ’72
Missing Tender Care
Bachelor Without Worry
Monkey Dancing Monkey
I Love Women
Do You Remember
15 Unacceptable High School Band Names
I Have To Go to the Bathroom Right Now
Empty Shot Glass
We Hate School
The Ron Jeremy Experience