Everyone here knows the scene… the father/daughter and mother/son dances have justfinished, everyone is reveling in the joy of being in the presence of true, virginal marital bliss, the bride and groom are glowing, and the dance floor is benignly free from the spilled beer and wine which will soon tarnish its reflective glory. Suddenly, a voice booms out over the crowd, vividly proclaiming in tones eerily reminiscent of Orson Welles, “Are you ready to dance, Baxter/Bennet Wedding?!!!!!”

What happens next is usually an aural genocide of such proportions that it makes Curious George and the Banana Grabber (Arrested Development reference alert) look like Moby Dick. From Celine Dion to Tim McGraw, reception attendees are usually abused in ways which the CIA would find reprehensible.

Seeing as how I am currently in the stages of planning my own wedding, I have put together this ultimate hit-list of wedding songs which are sure to neither get the crowd going nor bring about actual romantic feelings, but which DJs still believe kick up the party, in the hopes of exercising the demons of awful music from ruining my own reception.

5) Marcia Griffiths – The Electric Boogie

How could anyone possibly not love a song which involves line-dancing and the word “woogie”? It’s quite easy, actually. Marcia Griffiths’ ode to all things electric is one of the most ridiculous songs ever written; filled to the brim with classic 80s synth drums and nonsensical lyrics such as the following:

I've got to move,I'm going on a party ride
I've got to groove, groove, groove,
And from this music I just can't hide.

Deep, Marcia. Deep.

4) Edwin McCain – I’ll Be

Although McCain’s song, which has now been used as the first dance for couples about 89 trillion times, was once actually not too terrible a soft-rock ballad it has been overplayed to the point where it cannot even be saved by the sight of the group of single women at table 8 who scream every word as tears build in their eyes. It’s always sad when songs get played to death, but at least McCain leaves those of us who can no longer stand to be within 100 feet of hearing range of “I’ll Be” with something to think about when he sings in the chorus, “I’ll be love’s suicide…”

Can anyone figure that one out?

3) The Commodores – Brickhouse

I must admit that I have actually gotten funky to “Brickhouse” once or twice at a wedding reception and it is a decently catchy song, but that does not excuse DJs from going to the well too often. “Brickhouse” has actually been the first song played as a party starter at two of the receptions I have attended and has been heard at every single reception I have ever been to, which makes one wonder: If disco is dead, why the hell is its reanimated corpse slaughtering uncoordinated white people at reception halls throughout the country?

Creepy Old Man Lyric Alert:
The clothes she wears, the sexy ways
Makes an old man wish for younger days

2) Kool and the Gang – Celebration

Does anyone actually need to be reminded to celebrate good times? When was the last time that you saw a team win the World Series, only to mope around collecting their gear before eventually making their way slowly down the tunnel into the locker room? The fact that anyone needs to be told to, “Celebrate good times, come on!” is ridiculous, not to mention annoying after the 59,549th time in the space of three and a half minutes of song.

I’d like to see a reworking of this song with Kool and the Gang reminding those with short-term memory loss to “Tie your shoes up tight, come on! Zip your coat up now, come on!” and so on. They could really do a lot of good in this world.

1) The Village People – YMCA

Come on, did anyone actually think this wouldn’t be the number one song on this list? Sure it can be cute to see grandparents swaying their hips and spelling letters with their arms, but at what cost to society?

There’s nothing to say here… it’s just awful.


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Radiohead Economics - Part Two

A few months ago I wrote an article entitled “Radiohead Economics” which, in essence, applauded Radiohead for their vision, not as rebellious rockers bringing down the system with their pay-what-you-want release of In Rainbows, but for their creation of a business model which could serve to make up for slow record sales. Most of the article dealt with theory and the fact that Radiohead were circumventing the usual system and allowing the increased demand for music to fall more into line with supply while continuing to make money, but little actual evidence was available to uphold my conclusions.

Now, however, enough numbers are in that we can truly match up the theory with the reality. According to Mashable.com, Radiohead saw 1.2 million ‘free’ downloads of In Rainbows during the time it was up on the band’s website and freely accessible in its first week. The ‘free’ download of the album, which many bemoaned as an end to the record industry and disastrous to profits, actually resulted in an average of $8 (other reports have the number at $6 through Nov. 6th) being spent on each downloaded album. That is only slightly less than the amount that the album would most likely have sold for in stores; and one must also consider that by circumventing packaging costs, shipping, and other fees, the amount of money made on each album is most likely nearly equal to the selling price. This led to a total of $9.6 of revenue (if the Mashable.com numbers are correct). With very little in the way of cost cropping up other than the recording of the album, it is almost assured that Radiohead made more off of the ‘free’ release of In Rainbows than most of their proper album releases.

Furthermore, In Rainbows is now also available for purchase in most retail stores as a proper CD release. It went straight to number one, selling 122,000 physical units in a traditionally very slow time period for CD sales (yahoo.com) in its first week. Hail to the Thief, by contrast, sold around 300,000 units in its first week on its way to selling around a million copies. Radiohead will most likely not sell a million physical units of In Rainbows, but the amount of CDs sold, although roughly half of what they sold on their last album, is not as large of a gap as it seems as the industry on the whole has declined rapidly since Thief and the physical release of In Rainbows was preceded by very little to no advertising or publicity on the band or their label’s part.

In the end, if these numbers can be trusted, Radiohead will generate more revenues from In Rainbows than any other album they have produced and more than most of their albums combined. Total profits will also be significantly higher due to the low cost revenue generated by the ‘free’ release, resulting in a win/win situation in which Radiohead and the general public both benefit from a market in which users have set their own price.

Again, though, this is not a model that will work for most artists, but bands with Radiohead’s stature can certainly benefit from copying what Thom Yorke and company have been up to.


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The Dangers of Rock Band

I was recently afforded the opportunity to play the new ‘it’ game: Rock Band, (which is currently burning through the eyeballs of more than a few of this country’s young men and women) by none other than Tuesday’s On the Phone contributor extraordinaire Jameson Czech. While I enjoyed my time on the plastic axe (though not my time on the extremely frustrating drum kit), I could not help but become a bit horrified at myself and at the game itself the longer I played. The game put out feelers, wrapped them around my throat, and refused to allow me to think about anything other than: “PLAY MORE ROCK BAND!”.

Usually when a game does this to me it is simply the sign that the game is well designed and, quite frankly, damn good, but the more I thought about Rock Band the more I became worried. I thought back to when I first picked up (real) guitar and started teaching myself how to play. It was not only among the more difficult things I’ve ever had to do in the pursuit of enjoyable leisure, it was also easily the most annoying. I’m still not Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn, but I do alright (well enough to front a semi-real band: Brownfields). If a game such as Rock Band had existed when I was first learning guitar, however, I most certainly would have traded in my 15 pound Peavey T-150 for the 2 pound plastic Fender Strat that glimmers so beautifully in the blue light of digital television.

And this is the real danger of Rock Band. It allows kids to take the easy way out of actually learning an instrument by wrapping it up in a shiny package which allows wannabe rock heroes to live out their wildest dreams without really learning the skills or theory which is so necessary in reality. Where would we be if Johnny Greenwood or Paul McCartney had decided that playing their plastic X-BOX guitar was satisfying enough?

Of course there is also another possible endgame to all of this: it could actually stimulate people to go out and buy a real guitar or learn how to play the drums because they see themselves succeeding in the virtual world. Rock Band could be a gateway video game; one which leads to higher interest in studying and creating real music. My only hope is that anyone who starts actually tagging skins or shredding frets after playing the game doesn’t bail out and return to Rock Band before the high learning curve of playing an instrument is conquered.

I’d like to continue these random thoughts but I really need to go call Jameson so I can PLAY MORE ROCK BAND!


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Top Ten Albums of 2007 - According to Luke

Music is an extremely difficult beast to attempt to convey through descriptions and wherever I’m able to on this list I attempt to stray from any efforts which seek to convey the experience of listening to the music to any readers; instead I focus on the merits of the music and the emotional reaction which songs trigger. Be sure that even if I don’t go through an album song by song giving my own play-by-play that each album is not only good, but rather incredible and worth at least a listen to for you, particularly the top five albums.

-TRIVIA: Which two artists on this list have worked together in the past? 15 points if you know the answer.

10) Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
There is really only one term which can be used to describe an album with as much sonic power and emotional force as Neon Bible

Absolutely fucking massive

...and that's all that really needs to be said.

9) Paul McCartney – Memory Almost Full

It’s quite surreal to be writing about Paul McCartney at this point. Let’s be honest, Macca may be a legend, but he’s produced some really bad solo music. Even if he occasionally hit pay-dirt with a decent album (Band on the Run) even his best efforts were wildly inconsistent. While Memory Almost Full does have a song or two which doesn’t quite hit all the right notes, it more than makes up for its weaker moments with some of Macca’s most experimental and solid music since his (yes) days with The Beatles. “Only Mama Knows” enters with overly-dramatic strings, but quickly kicks into a rousing rocker which could easily be Helter Skelter Part 2 and shows that McCartney has seemingly found a way to continue to write his songs while incorporating modern music. Similarly strong tracks like the perfectly poppy “Ever Present Past” sparkle with vitality and originality despite feeling entirely McCartney-ish. On the whole the album is simply one of the most interesting things from 2007 to listen to; it is crisp, varied, and an utter delight.

8) Silverchair – Young Modern

Yup… Silverchair.

Allow me to let that percolate for a bit.

Silverchair: “You gonna wait fat boy, fat boy, wait til tomorrow”. Fifteen-year old Curt Cobain wannabes from Australia. Greasy, grunge hair. Anorexia.

Much like their mid-90s contemporaries Nada Surf, Silverchair have slowly been building actual musical credibility with their last few album releases, even if they went largely unnoticed in the United States. Their transformation is now complete, however, as they have fully morphed into a tight, energetic, and impressively creative band led by a front man as flamboyant and confident as Brandon Flowers. Although they can still hold their own on the alternative hard-rock front, they have blossomed into a band unafraid of taking chances (7.5 minute epic “Those Thieving Birds Part 1 and Strange Behavior and Those Thieving Birds Part 2” and “If You Keep Losing Sleep”) while showcasing an ability to write appealing pop-rock songs with massive hooks (“Reflections of a Sound”, “Young Modern”) and all the while constructing a damn good album.

7) Super Furry Animals – Hey Venus!

Another pleasant surprise on this list, Hey Venus finds SFA finally back on the top of their game. After releasing completely brilliant albums in the 90s and early 2000s such as Radiator and Rings Around the World (and a song called “Ice Hockey Hair”… inspired!), SFA began to fade along with many of their counterparts in the britrock movement (despite being unfairly lumped in with the rest). Phantom Power was decent but had too few strong songs and, although they are to be commended for mixing it up on 2005’s Love Kraft; it was a bad, bad album. So it was altogether insane for one to believe that they could in any way recapture their former glory.

Hey Venus!, however, showcases SFA at their best with their trademark weirdness mixing perfectly once again with 60s pop inspired melodies and the lavish production which made Rings Around the World one of the greatest albums of the 90s. “Show Your Hand” and “Run Away” are nuggets of pure joy and Gruff Rhys voice is as strong and unique as ever. Have a listen and enjoy…

6) Band of Horses – Cease to Begin

Cease to Begin was not even on my radar this year as Band of Horses’ first album not only failed to make my top ten list but failed to inspire more than two listens. The album was simply bad. I’m not quite sure how they have managed to go from such a poor album (in this humble blogger’s opinion) to such an inspired work of modern music. The album sails along smoothly throughout its course as Band of Horses’ styles, the up-tempo, layered rockers like “Is There a Ghost” and “Marry Song”, and the slower songs tinged with country such as “The General Specific”, meld perfectly together, creating a unique and full vision which sparkles with careful production and honesty.

5) Radiohead – In Rainbows

It’s good… read Jameson’s review.

I will only add that not only are the members of Radiohead musical geniuses, but they are also economic masters of the universe.

4) Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
I’ve never had more pop-rock albums on a top ten list than this year, and although this album is only really the third best of its genre this year, according to me, it is still an amazing piece of music, particularly when one considers how Spoon continue to reinvent themselves and their music without altering significantly what they play or how they play their music. They have added some new twists as horns are introducted into songs like the Motown inspired “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb”, but for the most part this is the same Spoon it has always been (though more closely linked with Gimme Fiction than any other album) and yet they somehow make themselves sound completely new and fresh.

The melodies are among the catchiest ever produced by someone who sounds like the sound your feet make when you walk on gravel, and lift “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” into heights which easily lift Spoon immediately into the pantheon of ‘important’ modern bands.

3) Mr. Hudson and the Library – A Tale of Two Cities

This is quite possibly among the most original albums ever created. Refusing to be satisfied with the awful mashups which layer classic, jazzy songs over modern beats, Ben Hudson felt the need to properly mix jazz and hip hop, utilizing his love of Chet Baker (a favorite of this blogger) and his experience as a beat-maker. What he manages to produce is nothing short of astounding. A Tale of Two Cities, awful album name aside, is probably among the coolest albums anyone will ever produce. Cool in the Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Rat Pack, skinny tie, “I’m so cool I set my own trends” sense. The songs are sparsely played, with minimal beats and instrumentation, but Hudson strikes a perfect balance between his melodies, beats, heavy bass, and wry lyrical musings.

“Bread and Roses” is an epiphany of a song and “Brave the Cold” and “Ask the DJ” showcase Hudson’s unique view of life while propelling the songs forward with unique and lovely production. If it hadn’t been a particularly strong year for music, this would easily have been the number one album of the year. As it is, it is a near perfect piece of music.

2) The Electric Soft Parade – No Need to be Downhearted

The Brothers White return with their third album as ESP and it clearly shows their maturity from teenage wonders to full grown indie pop-sters. No Need to be Downhearted is one of those albums which, when it finally kicks into gear, is almost impossible not to listen to all the way through. From hair-metal guitar licks to Bonham-esque drums, through Weezer-ish pop and heartfelt string arrangements ESP have crafted an album without a dull moment and managed to squash in so many different musical ideas that it is a wonder they were able to keep a single identity throughout the entirety. Considering the fact that too few albums released today actually have flow and cohesion their ability to smash together a broad range of song types and have it come out as smooth and effortless as No Need to be Downhearted might be their most important and impressive achievement.

If you need a single song album primer go find “If That’s the Case, Then I Don’t Know” and experience one of the greatest riffs and chord progressions ever produced in modern rock.

1) Field Music – Tones of Town

Field Music managed to produce my #2 album of 2005 and the fact that they are the only holdover from that list appearing here should be a telling sign. Throughout this year I’ve been consistently complimenting originality and cohesive visions and no album sums up those concepts better than Field Music. Tones of Town is a singular achievement which transcends description, but if pushed only one word can possibly come close to describing it: woodblock.

The use of the woodblock on songs has not been in popular demand since… well, ever. Yet, Field Music not only manages to cram their two minute masterpieces with more instrumentation, harmony, and lyrical sharpness than you can shake a stick at, they also manage to make wondrous use of cowbells, handclaps, beat-boxing, and woodblocks. This is not a joke. After hearing “A House if Not a Home” I not only wanted to buy a woodblock, I felt myself smiling for no absolutely reason. The entire album, in fact, makes me smile, sing along, clap my hands, and dance (in a way only Elaine Benes could appreciate).

Tones of Town clocks in at a thin 31 minutes, but its 11 songs are anything but skeletal. The amount of variation in songs, sounds, and styles achieved by Field Music is nothing short of miraculous, making the album infinitely listenable and continuingly surprising and pleasing. After any listen, though, one is always left with the same general feeling: complete satisfaction and wonder.


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