Photo by Richard Lee
Phil Ranelin, Inspiration (Wide Hive). The
flow. The soul. The lubrifrictional harmonies. And he’s local, folks.
Fly (Savoy Jazz). Mark Turner, Jeff Ballard and
Larry Grenadier made a simple, penetrating record I can’t stop thinking about.
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.
The Lost Chords (WATT). The dry-witted, contrapuntal
spirit of Monk lives on in Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow and Billy
Darek Oles, Like a Dream (Cryptogramophone). Local
bassist Oles teams with Brad Mehldau, the L.A. Jazz Quartet and Adam Benjamin
for sheer beauty, no apologies.
WASP, The Neon God, Parts 1 & 2 (Sanctuary).
Bleeding from every pore, Blackie Lawless blasts forth an epic about a slaughtered
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!”
Social Distortion, Sex, Love and Rock ’n’ Roll (Time
Bomb). Mike Ness has written an eternal adult classic in “Highway 101,”
and this album plain rocks.
Brian Wilson, Smile (Nonesuch). Didn’t think I could
leave out the most creative pop music ever made, did ya?
(But please note the advice given by the Accordion Federation
of America’s Sylvia Pryor: “If your bellows leak, best to send them to
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.
By Kate Sullivan
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
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
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.
9. Any post-Beatles Paul McCartney will chase off unwanted intruders
for up to five miles away.
8. “So Far Away” — Carol King. Its subliminal message
compels derelicts to take a powder. That one about the earth moving under
her feet is 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.
6. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” — Gordon Lightfoot.
Gordon himself can’t stand this one.
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
2. Kenny G, George Benson or Chuck Mangione are especially effective
against runaway teens.
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
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
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)
7. The Gun Club, Miami; Death Party; The Last
Vegas Story (Sympathy for Record Industry)
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)
Cesar Izturis — “Izzo” (Jay-Z)
Steve Finley — “Sledgehammer” (Peter Gabriel)
Milton Bradley — “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang” (Dr.
David Ross — “Break Ya Neck” (Busta Rhymes)
Kaz Ishii — “Guerilla Radio” (Rage Against the
Jeff Weaver — “St. Anger” (Metallica)
Eric Gagne — “Welcome to the Jungle” (Guns N’
Jason Grabowski — “Here I Go” (Mystikal)
Jose Lima — “La Cacata” (Banda Mambo)
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.
5. Patti Smith, Trampin’ (Columbia). Get
it just for “Radio Baghdad,” a swirling 12-minute incantation built
on an ostinato psychedelic riff that unweaves Bush’s evil spell.
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
9. Sally Timms, In the World of Him (Touch
& Go). Cowboy Sally pumps up the spaciness on balladry by her favorite male
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.
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.
3. Dexter Romweber, Blues That Defy My Soul (Yep
Roc). Ex–Flat Duo Jets cat Romweber preaches the big beat with disarming zeal.
4. Thee Undertakers, Crucify Me (Grand Theft Audio). Recorded
in 1980 but never released until this year, Crucify Me may 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
The fastest: Leila Josefowicz’ violin barely touching ground,
airborne in John Adams’ mercurial Violin Concerto, with the Philharmonic on
The slowest: Philip Glass, solo and with the Bang on a
Can All-Stars, at Royce Hall on November 10. With so little happening at such
great length, maybe it just seemed that way.
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
I Have To Go to the Bathroom Right Now
Empty Shot Glass
The Rolling Stones
We Hate School
The Ron Jeremy Experience
—Flannery Lunsford and Martin Hirschland,
John Marshall H.S.