Monthly Archive for November, 2010

Stuff I Hate

War is bad, OK? But it's too broad a subject.

Today I’m gonna talk about things I hate. This is only fair because I recently talked about things I like.

Rather than drone on about awful things like war, modernist architecture or rap music, I wanted to drill deep and get specific. I also wanted to discuss things most people like, because that’s what makes me…special. So join me as we gallivant down the primrose path of stuff that pisses me off.

Sliding Glass Doors

Hi! I'm a poorly-insulated, ugly piece of crap!

How the hell did these things became ubiquitous in American suburbia?  They’re ugly as hell, require endless cleaning and leak cold air like sieves. They do offer an expansive view of your neighbor’s identical ticky-tacky house with sliding glass door, so I guess that’s some sort of fucked-up consolation.

Ironically, a lot of people hate the lack of privacy that sliding glass doors demand, so they cover them with godawful vertical blinds. You may as well smear mud on a pig. Big help.

Dates

Jesus Christ, we're disgusting!

Who eats these things? You may as well put a bunch of freshly killed cockroaches on a plate and dig in. My father used to enjoy dates, mostly because he knew we kids wouldn’t eat them. I grew up and learned to appreciate things like olives, capers and whiskey. But dates? Fuck, no. Just looking at them makes me want to heave.

Wireless Networking

Bleep bleep! Fuckin' bleep!

I’m alone on this one, I know. Everyone loves the convenience of these goddamn things. But I hate ’em.

They’re painfully slow, regardless of whatever 802.11x standard they’re pushing nowadays. They’re unreliable and horribly insecure  compared to good ole’ Cat5. They’re also a huge PITA to configure, and once configured don’t allow for the networking flexibility of a wired network. Screw wireless networking. Just give me an Ethernet port and leave me alone.

germeister

Liquor for idiots.

“Hey, look at me! I’m an idiotic 20-something frat boy who thinks he’s discovered some kind of awesome new drinking trend! Oh, boy! Look how drunk I am now! Ya know, Metallica ruled the world with this shit! Woo-hoo! Let’s all do Jäger shots and Jäger bombs and frozen Jäger popsicles! Woo-hoo! Look at me!”

Shut the fuck up, you twit. You’re drinking the liquor equivalent a Tonka Toy. You’re a child, and I hate you.

KISS

Look at us! Just don't pay attention to our crappy music!

I was smack dab in the middle of the KISS demographic when they were at the height of their popularity. When I was 12-13, they ruled the world. A bunch of my friends were in the KISS Army. Not me.

I thought their look was cool, but when people played their records, I was left with shrugged shoulders. I didn’t get it. It was just mealy, mediocre, happy-crappy, quasi-hard-rock dreck. In 1977, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were about a million times cooler than KISS.

As the band aged and faded, my assessment of the band was confirmed by Gene Simmons, who became a walking example of shallowness, greed and artistic bankruptcy.

Sunset Photos

Oooh. Lovely.

Yeah, I know that awesome sunset moved you. It was inspiring. The way the clouds were lit, the water glittered and the trees stood black against the sky.

Fuckin’ great. I totally understand. I’m as guilty as anyone.

But rather than toss another sunset photo onto the heap of them polluting the Earth, why don’t you just put down the camera and enjoy the goddamn sunset? If you must take a photo, try this:  turn your ass around and take a photo of what the sunset is actually illuminating. You might be surprised.

Harley Davidson Motorcycles

Fat, slow and loud is no way to live your life, son.

Oh, I’ll catch some flak for this but I don’t care.

Harleys are overweight, cumbersome, slow, noisy pieces of junk for people who don’t really like motorcycles. If you’re a fat, middle-aged moron who shits his pants when a Ducati winds out third gear, then Harley Davidson is for you.

You can revel in the legend of outlaw bikers gone by as you hoist your meaty leg over the cushy seat of your leather-clad idiotmobile. Be sure to have your gay-ass chaps on. You’ll need them to round out the derision of every single person who glares at you when you rev the engine in a quiet neighborhood on a warm Sunday afternoon.

You fuckin’ douche.

Fake Mullioned Windows

No one is fooled.

Maybe I’m biased because my house has actual mullioned windows, but these things are fucking stupid.

I can appreciate that manufacturers and homeowners find aesthetic value in mullioned windows, and that real mullioned windows are expensive. But whenever I see these vinyl abominations, it makes me think about the fakery and silliness of the American suburban landscape. Fake mullioned windows are not a disease. They’re just  a symptom, like pus-filled lesions.

London

What's all this then?

Don’t get me wrong: I love England.  I feel at home every time I visit. I may even live there one day. But I won’t live in London.

London has everything negative about a mega-city: noise, pollution, attitude and crime. But London is sadly lacking in the things that makes a mega-city bearable: the electric excitement of the streets, the air of possibility and the cohesive nature of organic city growth.

In short, London is a fucking mess. From its unspeakably ugly skyline to its uninspiring public parks to the crassness of its mumbling hordes, London falls flat compared to New York or Tokyo.

That said, London has a galaxy of attractions, museums and historical sites. But I’d rather live in New York. Or Vienna. Or Louisville, Kentucky.

Tighty Whiteys

Oh, THAT'S attractive.

Guys: you’re not 10 anymore.  Time to throw out your skid-stained undies and buy grown-up underpants.

Movies About Women Struggling Against All Odds In A World They Didn’t Make

Extended version? Kill me now.

Listen, ladies: shit ain’t all that easy for us men, either. The fickle finger of fate shoots us down with depression, failure and prostate cancer. You ever see any tear-jerker movies about some kind, beloved guy who struggles to find peace as he slowly dies of prostate cancer in a society that doesn’t seem to care? Have you?

I didn’t fucking think so. There’s no crying in baseball for men, either.  So put a sock in it.

Shower Curtains

God, I hate you.

They ALWAYS rise up from the heat of the shower and tangle against you when you’re trying to scrub the filth off your hairy carcass. No stopping it. You can add weights to the bottom or any number of other tricks and it just won’t work.

I’m so glad I’ve been curtain-free for so many years. I like my shower stall with its glass door. If I need to use the tub, I’ll take a bath. I dread taking  a shower in someone’s tub with a goodamn shower curtain crawling up against me like a slimy triffid. Fuck those things!

Your Band

How totally original!

Sorry, dude. I know everyone thinks your band is the coolest-ever mix of the Dead Kennedys and The Sonics with a hardcore Melvins twist, but you suck.

I think it’s great that you get a kick out of it and a buncha kids enjoy misbehaving at your shows. I salute your efforts. Really: I do. But in the grand scheme of things, your band isn’t really good. It’s just another guitar-driven mash of sloppy power chords with some bozo hollering into the microphone. It’s been done to death and you’re not particularly good at it.

Granite Countertops

No, really! I'm upscale!

Granite has its advantages. It’s durable and handles heat and scuffs well. It’s also expensive and heavy, sometimes requiring significant shoring up of your kitchen counter.

But its primary disadvantage is its ubiquitous snob factor. Every smug-faced douchebag you know MUST HAVE granite countertops. They don’t know why; they just saw it on TV and decided all cool, smart, rich people have it, so they should, too. Now they can swan around the kitchen like a Roman magistrate and tell everyone how much they paid those grubby men to install this fabulous new granite countertop.

Is it really all that much better than compressed fire slate or formica stone? No. But you have to have it anyway, because you’re a dick.

and finally:
Chat Rooms

Har har! We're so witty!

I tried IRC and a few other chat room formats and just couldn’t figure out how anyone could maintain an attention span that alternately requires fast responses as well as minutes of inactivity. Screw that. Furthermore, anything said extemporaneously is by nature less interesting that anything said with forethought and careful editing. Want proof?  Here’s this same paragraph in chat-speak:

IRC=teh ghey.
Totally.
BRB or AFK?
Chat=CWOT

I rest my case. Chat rooms are stupid.

Be sure to read about all the other things I hate in future posts to citizented.com.

10 Perfect Albums

Perfectly awful doesn't count.

There are some musical acts I absolutely adore. There are some songs that are more important to me than food. And there are some albums that I really, really like. But once in a great while, there emerges the Perfect Album.

They aren’t perfect, really. “Perfection” is a superlative that cannot apply to an art form like music. Instead, the Perfect Album is an album that stands alone. This doesn’t mean every song is a winner; the Perfect Album can have foibles. But the Perfect Album always refers to itself consistently as one truly great artistic work.

Some albums are listed as groundbreaking, trendsetting works that pundits cite as indispensable.  The web is full of these lists. They usually feature Pet Sounds, Highway 61 Revisited, Nevermind, London Calling, Who’s Next, Never Mind the Bollocks, The Joshua Tree, etc etc. These are all seminal albums worthy of praise. But they aren’t my Top 10 Perfect Albums. They all fail.

Today, I give you Citizen Ted’s 10 Perfect Albums. They are not in order of greatness because they are all Perfect.

10. Acetone “Cindy” 1993

I heard a cut from this album on the local college radio station and immediately ran to the store to buy the CD. That was in 1994. It’s still in hot rotation on my MP3 player.

This album lowers you through a stucco ceiling and delivers you onto a comfy sofa where guitarist Mark Lightcap carries you away on walls of sweet tube-driven Fender Twin luxury. Sad singer Richie Lee tells you stories of broken hearts and broken minds, lulling you into his viewpoint effortlessly. Before you get too sleepy, though, Acetone will gleefully tear away at the wallpaper with shrieking punk noise – just to make sure you’re paying attention. “Pinch” is one of those songs that really gets your hair flyin’ and your teeth gnashing.

With a masterful sense of tone (hence the name), Acetone’s “Cindy” is, quite simply, perfect. The band followed up with a few more records. One of them, “If Only You Knew”, was very nearly another Perfect Album, but “Cindy” still gets the win. In 2001, singer/bassist Richie Lee killed himself. The world is a dimmer, emptier place in his absence.

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9. Zero 7 “The Garden” 2006

It’s worth noting that the art of great songwriting is not dead. Don’t let Billboard fool you. There are still people out there crafting soul-wrenching, beautiful music with brilliant arrangement and careful attention to detail. Sometimes, they even make an entire album of such songs. This is one of them.

Zero 7 pulls from a wide staff of artists. A revolving cadre of singers and contributors build a single moment in music, delivered brilliantly on this record. The melodies are instantly familiar and timeless and endearing, yet they ride on an unusual conveyor belt of electronic and acoustic tools. The compositions are spare, avoiding the pitfalls of adding a zillion tracks to make it “bigger”. Zero 7 knows how to build up a crescendo without going overboard.

They went wide off the mark with the latest album “Yeah Ghost”, but all is forgiven, because “The Garden” is a Perfect Album.

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8. Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” 1973

Yeah, yeah. I know what you’re thinking: every rock reviewer on Earth has this in their Top 10 and we’re all sick of this album and may it die a slow death on Classic Rock FM radio.

I admit I rarely listen to this album and when I hear it on the radio I want someone to turn it off. Not because I hate the music – I love it. I’m just goddamn sick of it. Nonetheless, this is a Perfect Album.

Sure, “Money” is a stupid song that jars the flow. But you must absorb DSOTM in context. This means turning the lights down low, sparking up a bowl and playing this album in its entirety over a nice sound system at almost-too-loud volume. Do so, and you will re-discover (as I have) that this record is far more than a collection of tunes.

It’s also more than a just a space-doper concept album. It’s an exploration of sonic discovery crafted with care and delivered with precision. And the vocal scat on “Great Gig in the Sky” is very possibly the greatest vocal piece ever recorded. Ever.

There are plenty of moody noodlers who make “atmospheric” music. But none of them have the impact of this record. None of them. This album is Perfect.

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7. Love Jones “Here’s to the Losers” 1993

In the stable of retro lounge acts of the 1990’s, one album towers above them all. Love Jones have crafted an album of such unbelievably tight musicianship, of such fun and irreverent lyrics, of such pith and verve, that one must be dead inside not to adore it.

“Here’s to the Losers” has its lulls, its weak spots. But the Perfect Album seems to pull you along the bumps with promise of good times ahead. I have played this album to death, but sometimes I just gotta go back to it, like a junkie to the darkest corner of the local Needle Park.

The retro lounge movement may be dusty now, but “Here’s to the Losers” remains steadfastly alive. Any album that doesn’t take itself seriously yet rings with the contemplative genius of truly talented musicians is an album worth treasuring. From the wastrel silliness of “Custom Van” to the nostalgic earnestness of “Ohio River” to the crazed pathos of “Paid for Loving”, this album is an end-to-end victory of great harmonies and carefree joy. It’s Perfect.

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6. Goldfrapp “Felt Mountain” 2000

Not many folks enjoy somber, moody music but I do and this is my list, so suck it. This album is a purposeful salute to the 1920’s Berlin cabaret scene, a timeless form of sensual music updated for the digital age in this priceless, Perfect album.

Alison Goldfrapp’s breathy presence comes forth like a live singer crooning over your shoulder as you grasp a G&T in your sweaty palm. She lets a finger linger on your arm, then shimmers back to the stage, where her voice cries out of love and betrayal like fallen angel awash in the spotlight.

The album is spartan; very often you’re held aloft only by the slightest tendrils of sound, but you are nonetheless captivated by it.

Sadly, Goldfrapp quickly left Perfect Album territory to create a string of execrable electro-dance-pop records, but this achievement will always be theirs.

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5. The Posies “Frosting on the Beater” 1993

Another album from 1993. What can I say? It was a good year. And this Perfect Album is an unusual pick for me because I’m not a big power pop fan. But a Perfect Album is a Perfect Album, so who am I to quibble?

No need to describe the music in depth. Here’s all you need to know: Beatlesesque harmonies, raw jangly guitars, big kick beats, and catchy melodies. It’s not rocket science, but I know it’s damn hard to write one iconic rock song. And this album is riddled with them. From “Dream All Day” to “Solar Sister” to “Flavor of the Month” to “Definite Door” to “Burn and Shine”. Any one of these songs would be a world-crushing smash hit for any band, and the Posies have them all on one record.

More importantly, the entire album reflects everything that’s infectious and pleasant about power-pop rock. And it’s delivered without syrupy kids’ stuff. Why this album didn’t make The Posies a household name is beyond me.

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4. Big Audio Dynamite “This Is Big Audio Dynamite” 1985

I don’t like reggae. At all. And I kinda liked The Clash, but I never bought their records. So how can this album be Perfect?

Because Mick Jones is a lyrical genius, and because he knows how to fuse together popular sonic forms and weave them into something wholly unique. Not only did he tinker about for a long while to make this record, but he was very careful to make the entire album one seamless expression. Not a concept album, not two 25-minutes opuses. Instead, he created an entirely new musical attitude: a statement in the literal, lyrical sense and in the musical, aural sense. And one is hard-pressed to find a single cut that betrays his efforts.

You may not like this music, that’s fine. But I recommend you read the lyrics and see for yourself how popular culture can be described and lampooned by someone with a deft hand at the quill.

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3. Nick Drake “Five Leaves Left” 1969

All three of Nick Drake’s albums are amazing bits of songcraft, but his first record contains the largest quantity of gems. Despite a few thoughtlessly arranged bits by an overzealous producer (all flute flourishes must be killed on sight!), this album shines Perfect regardless.

If you play guitar, listen carefully to this album. Once you get over Drake’s masterful finger-picking, pay attention to how his voice enters and leaves. Somehow, this guy is able to jump in and out of the melody as he sees fit, all the while performing some rather intricate guitar work.

And the music itself? Melancholy, introspective acoustic diamonds all. Drake died in 1974 from an OD of antidepressants. Just like his song “Fruit Tree”, he didn’t really know any international fame until long after his death. It’s really sad, because he probably never knew he made a Perfect Album.

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2. Mike Oldfield “Ommadawn” 1975

Oldfield fans may curse my name, but this album is his Perfect Album. Not Tubular Bells. Not Hergest Ridge. Ommadawn.

If you don’t already know, Mike Oldfield is a composer and multi-instrumentalist of great renown. You probably know the opening of his “Tubular Bells” album – it’s the theme to The Exorcist. His first few albums were all long instrumental compositions, each side an entire piece. He wove together traditional English country music, symphonic bombast, electric synthesizer rock and wonderful instrument solos.

In Ommadawn, he takes us on a journey through his beloved English countryside. We ride along a medieval road on horseback, past a menacing castle at night, through a pub-side minstrel show and into a bizarre yet beautiful Celtic incantation. The entire journey is musical – even the lyrics, sung by his sister Sally in a made-up language.

Even when he lets his melodies repeat a few bars too long, you are simply too lost in it to care. Fucking Perfect. The MP3 does this music no justice. Play the CD on a good sound system. Loud.

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1. Portishead “Portishead” 1997

This is the second album from the Bristol three. In 16 years, they’ve only released three albums because making Perfect Albums is really hard work.

With vocalist Beth Gibbons hissing into the microphone, Portishead takes us to a dark, strange place – a dream. But there is no malevolence here, only a strangely intoxicating representation of the real world. You have been invited, but you don’t seem to know anyone here. Gibbons calls you to the stage and you are enraptured.

This is the only “song-based” Perfect Album that unravels like a remarkable screenplay. It is a whole, an experience. The music is spartan and crafted to the finest detail, and its echoes haunt as well as bemuse. A piano plays next to you, when suddenly a DJ scratches a record and whips you into an entirely different place. This is the work of genius. A Perfect Album.

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That’s it. Ten Perfect Albums.

Feel free to send me your Perfect Album choices. I love to hear what other people like! Here’s the rules: I bared my soul about music I like. You can pick away at my choices and even call me a stupid little douchebag. But in return, you are required to tell me exactly which records you utterly adore. OK? Good.