Trust the Gene Genie

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Perfect Song

I was having a conversation with an old editor and the idea of the perfect song came up. You know, the idea that for the listener there are a handful of songs that don't have a wasted lyric, a missed note, nothing. They are perfect. It got me thinking about (some of) my perfect songs. And now I will share a few. Oh yes, sit back and enjoy. And don't worry, I'll update this thread frequently. Because I know every last one of you is eager, eager, eager to know what songs out there I consider perfect.

Wilco's "Red-Eyed and Blue." First, the song is melencholy without being suicidal, (hello, Elliot Smith) and still manages to end with this happy whistling solo. Oh, Tweedy totally pulls it off. And the more you listen to the song, the more you find there. The lyrics are wonderfully, deceptively, simple: "We got solid state technology and tapes on the floor and some songs we can't afford to play." And Tweedy's voice, his emotive, half-mumble, resonant barritone is just so suited to the music. It moves you.

U2 "If You Wear That Velvet Dress." There are, obviously, better U2 songs out there ("Ultraviolet" and "Stay" for example) but "Velvet Dress" is one of the most rich, atmospheric and haunting songs I've ever heard. I love the lyrics. Bono just doesn't write like this any more: "Do you really want me to/Be blue as you/It's her daylight that gets me through" and "It's okay, we struggle for things not to say/I'm not listening to you anyway/I've got my own hands to pray." I mean, c'mon! And Edge's simple, quiet guitar riff that backs through most of the song blows my mind.

Anyway. Something to think about.

And I would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to remind youthat tomorrow is the last day of free minidisc give-away contest. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Get those submissions in.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Take the test

It's the day after Thanksgiving, so hopefully you're having a lazy day lounging around the house eating leftovers. I'm at work. And Becky, well, she's at home with two crazy girls.

Anyway. To spruce up your day I'm pimping for one of my least favorite U2 fan sites. Well it used to be one of my least favorite U2 fan sites. That was before U2log got all uppity, lost its sense of humor and started posting items like once every two weeks. So became my default fan page. Anyway, they're conducting a survey of the online U2 fan community. So, if you're online and you like U2 -- or hate them and need a place to voice that -- hop on over here and take their little survey. It's actually pretty thorough and kind of fun. But you only have until Wednesday.

And while I'm at it, here's an iPod update for good measure (and here's where you can see the last one):

Gigabytes used: 8.2

Number of songs: 2087

Number of pocasts: still 3

Most random recording: "Holiday for Strings" by Walter Schumann and his orchestra

Most eclectic recording: "Taki Rari" from the original "ultra Lounge" compelation. I think you could argue anything from that album is eclectic.

Favorite recording currently (it could change at any moment): "The Two Sides on Monsieur Valentine" from Spoon's latest album, "Gimme Fiction"

Most embarrassing recording: Joe Satriani's "Always With You Always With Me" from "Surfing With the Alien." What? Cheesey as hell, sure. But I love it, o.k.? It's so 80s power ballad and without words. Without words! So sue me.

Number of U2 songs: 299

Number of Aaron Neville songs: 1

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

G vs. E

It's the great debate. Is there such a thing as good music and bad music? Of course there is, you say. And I would agree. However, one could argue that there's simply music people like and music people don't like; that good and bad are labels much too objective to use when describing music. Obvioulsy in a theoretical sense this is true. So the debate then becomes this: there's good music for me and there's bad music for me.

Good music for me: Wilco, U2, Led Zeppelin, Spoon and the like.
Bad music for me: Alan Jackson, Creed, Styx, the Carpenters and the like.

While so much of that is subjective -- to use the cliche one man's trash is another man's treasure -- one man's mind-blowing rock band is another man's stupifyingly rote pop group. I would argue there are groups or artists, a handful at the most, that rise, like cream, to the top of the pop music milk jug. Groups that defy subjection and, based on their work can truly be judged as good or bad, not just good for someone or bad for someone.

But to prove the point, you need a few objective measuring sticks, like time. It stands to reason that if a band is good -- or rather -- of a qualitative substance it will out last music that isn't good or of quality. For example, the Beatles are still highly regarded and widely praised while Herman's Hermits -- the Beatles contemporaries at the time -- have gone the way of the dodo.

Of course, time as a measuring stick isn't fool-proof. Given the nature of media in a technological age, if it was produced and released, it's gonna be around forever, somewhere. You'll always be able to find someone in some corner of the world who's still (seriously, not ironically) listening to the BeeGees. And while a Herman's Hermits song may pop up every so often on the golden oldies radio station, you don't hear as much about them as you do the Beatles.

But here's the point. Fifty years down the road, I think more people will be listening to Lyle Lovett than Toby Keith. Time simply favors quality because the passing years quickly erode the marketing flash that attracts people to poorly written and rapidly produced, throw-away songs. That leaves to the spotlight well written and well produced music. It's why Creed has already started to fade and groups like Pearl Jam (of which Creed is merely a rip-off) get better and more respected with age.

Critical praise could certainly be another measuring stick, but it's much more fallible than time. Even the best critics buy into the hype and marketing of certain bands and differing types of music sometimes. Who didn't talk up Jewel when she first hit the scene? And who remembers her now?

On the other hand, when the majority of mainstream or major market critics uniformly praise a band or a musician, it's a good bet there's something more going on there than with other middle of the road artists. Easy examples might be Johnny Cash or the Rolling Stones or James Brown.

Which segues into what the last measuring stick might be: influence. Great music influences while bad or even mediocre music does not. Creed exists on this principal alone. The group is almost a tribute band -- but probably more aptly discribed as a rip-off -- to the grunge rock acts that paved the genre before them; acts like Temple of the Dog, Alice in Chains or Soundgarden. These groups are generally conidered good -- especially in the case of Temple of the Dog -- because they influenced nearly every rock band that came after them for a decade.

The same can be said of The Band, The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, certainly the Beatles and then blues artists like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker which launched classic British rock, like Cream, Led Zeppelin and of course the Rolling Stones. Influence certainly isn't as objective as time, but it certainly shows how strong music and memorable bands rise above thier peers.

But I've gone on long enough. So as your Thanksgiving dinner talk turns to music, go ahead, bring up the good vs. bad debate and see what happens. If it doesn't end in a stuffing and potato sling fest, you haven't defended your position with enough gusto.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Koppel

With Ted Koppel leaving the air tonight, I thought a word might be in order. And I can almost hear Cody shaking his head, thinking, "Koppel, the rat jackal of the liberal media pack."

But I would argue that Koppel is a journalist's journalist. He did what good journalists do and that's question the establishment, be it Republican, Democrat, corporate or public. And he did it always with professionalism -- emotional diatribes or off the handle accusations or way-out-from-the-left-field conspiracy theories never ever appeared. He merely asked the tough questions to whomever he was sitting across from. (He was famously prickly with Maureen Dowd, one of the funniest interviews from recent memory.) Anyway, the profession needs more Koppels and less Coopers, Williamses and O'Reillys.

And since I've opened this so-boring-it-makes-me-want-to-read-a-newspaper can of worms, I'll go on to say, once again, that a liberal bias in today's mainstream media is an illusion. Fox News is the highest rated cable news network, most stories (on any news network) deal with missing white twentysomething girls or "crazy" celebrities or crippled airplanes still in the air. And that's because these are the stories that draw the demographics that appeal to networks' advertisers. It is so much more about money than politics its just plain frightening and disturbing.

Sorry. Had to get it off my chest.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The month of living dangerously

Yeah, so it's been almost a month. I'm awesome. An awesome blogger. The best there ever was. Anyway. Let me bring you all up to speed (I keep pretending I have an audience outside of Becky).

Spent last week in Washington, D.C. visiting my folks. We did Thanksgiving Dinner on Friday with my older brother Dan and my little brother H.L. It was a blast. My folks' place is pretty small and it got a little crowded at times, but it was fun to chat it up with my brothers and see my girls play with their cousins. Best of all, though, was my mom taking the kids on Wendnesday so Becky and I could just have the day to ourselves. Aside from me botching lunch, the day went well. But just so you know, the next time the temple cafeteria is ever an option? Take it. It's always the solid bet.

But the most important news, of course, is U2 related. An old high school friend of mine just sent me almost 15 GB of U2 concerts in mp3. It's from a little Web site he discovered that has made its mission in cyber-life to compile recordings of every live U2 show ever staged. You basically wait in line to gain access to the site and then, once granted permission to enter, you have seven days to download everything you can get your hands on. My friend's computer crashed a month or so after he got in and as a result lost the url for the site. He's been searching for it ever since. I know, sounds like some wierd 80s TV drama. Anyway, he came away with, what he guesses, is a third of the content on the site. He sent me like 3,000 or 4,000 songs. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that.

In other music news, I have not listened to the Creed CD. It may take me some time.

And last but not least, you guessed it, I have not received one entery in my MiniDisc contest. Needless to say, I'm very disappointed. These MDs are not going to just give themselves away, people. I've got to get rid of them somehow. So I'm instituting a deadline. Entries must be in my inbox no later than Nov. 30. So get cracking.

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