“Out of the Blue and Into the Black”

There are often events in the course of history that define a generation. What happened on April 8, 1994 is one of those events. Despite what people will tell you it’s not April 5th, 6th or 7th that really had an impact. It was on April 8th that an electrician in a small town outside of Seattle, Washington called a radio station to announce he had discovered the body of Kurt Cobain in a room over the garage in a house owned by the deceased. But the house had been put up for sale. The details of Kurt’s death can be debated to the point of exhaustion; although it was ruled a suicide there is significant reason for some to believe there was foul play involved. The world had seen an alleged suicide, but more importantly a tragic ending to the life of an amazing person with a tortured soul. But it is not that controversy that I want to discuss or remember today.

Today, April 8, 2004, we mourn the 10th anniversary of Kurt’s passing, something that seems impossible to many, but is undoubtedly true. Love him or hate him, Kurt was the voice of a generation and he made an impact on society greater than many before him or since his death. The phenomenon that surrounded him was exactly what John Lennon meant when he claimed the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus.” There is no sacrilege in this comment; it’s merely a representation of popularity and of icon status. Kurt, to many, is beyond this, he has been placed on a pedestal and viewed as a deity of all things good and right about rock and roll. Ironically, this is not what the man would have wanted at all, but his death sealed that fate, just like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean before him. Kurt died young, in his prime and will forever be remembered as flawless, never hitting a decline like so many other artists.

One has to wonder if the achievement of flawlessness through early death was taken into consideration while whatever act was committed; be it suicide, murder or whatever. Though that thought alone stands against much of what Kurt believed and stood for. He was a humble man who simply enjoyed writing and playing music, it was well known that he hated his celebrity status and the worship that followed him. It bothered him so much that Kurt actually felt guilty for it, expressing often that he was not what everyone thought he was and that he really didn’t want to be a rock star. Yet it was inevitable, Nirvana was one of the biggest things to happen to music and western society since “The Twist”. Their impact on culture today is immeasurable and there is no telling how many people have been inspired by it or will be for days to come. The realization of this for Kurt was too much to handle at times and he would indulge in heroine and alcohol to relieve this suffering; as well as the persistent stomach pains that has followed him throughout life that were no doubt stressed and unaided by the pressures of life in the limelight.

Those who were a fan of Kurt’s work remember his death like our parents remember President Kennedy’s death and Martin Luther King’s death. Many of us can recite exactly what we were doing, where we were, and what we did following— it had that much of an impact on people. It is scary to think that there are two things in my life that have had and enormous impact on me: Kurt’s death and the events of September 11th. I am not by any means comparing the two, but I think it is very significant that those both stand out in my mind as evoking a similar series of emotions.

Why do we do this? What compels human beings to glorify movie stars and musicians to such an intense level so that their deaths have as much impact on our lives as the loss of thousands or the loss of a grandparent? Surely this must be yet another unhealthy side effect of our increasingly media driven society, but it’s one we’ve come to deal with, even adapt to and openly embrace. If it’s not Kurt, it’s Princess Diana or Jerry Garcia or so on. This just doesn’t seem right, but we justify it. We justify it based on how those people make us feel. Kurt’s wounded voice was something so many of us could instantly relate to, he spoke in riddles that somehow made sense of it all and tapped into many emotions some of us weren’t even aware we had. Kurt meant a lot of different things to a lot different people. For some he just created music. For others he created more than this, he gave them a voice, he gave them purpose and something to believe in.

While it is natural for us to do so, it is not my belief that April 8th should be remembered as sad day at all. I believe it should be a day on which we celebrate the impact of one man who really made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. While he was only with us briefly we should appreciate what he did during this short time for we were lucky to have it at all, a man who never wanted to make a difference at all, who inadvertently made the world a better place if only for a moment by just being himself.

“My my, hey hey
Rock and roll is here to stay
It’s better to burn out
Than to fade away
My my, hey hey.

Out of the blue and into the black
You pay for this, but they give you that
And once you’re gone, you can’t come back
When you’re out of the blue and into the black.

The king is gone but he’s not forgotten.
Is this the story of Johnny Rotten?
It’s better to burn out ’cause rust never sleeps
The king is gone but he’s not forgotten.

Hey hey, my my
Rock and roll can never die
There’s more to the picture
Than meets the eye.”

-Neil Young “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)”

Wasted Words 24

Recommended download: Most Precious BloodYour Picture Hung Itself

Hello guys and gals, and everything in between. Welcome to this weeks edition of Wasted Words. I picked up several new CD’s recently. I grabbed N.E.R.D Fly Or Die, which you will find a review for in this very column. I went to a show the other night at, believe it or not, a skating rink. Local bands, Oblique and Mantis played. Mantis just released their new album, Moonshine Tabernacle, which I picked up. It’s a damn good album. They’re described doom/stoner rock, but to me it’s all rock n roll. I’ve only seen these guys play a couple times, but they put on a great show that really gets the crowd going. If you’d like to check them out, you can visit their website at www.mantisrocks.com. I’ve also been going through some of my hip hop cassettes and updating them to CDs. So far I’ve gotten NWA Straight Outta Compton, Ice Cube AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, Public Enemy Fear of a Black Planet, and Onyx Bacdafucup. All of which are hip hop classics, regardless what anyone says. I highly recommend each one of those albums to any hip hop fan. Now, on with the news and reviews. Enjoy.

N.E.R.D.Fly Or Die The follow-up to their debut album, In Search Of, could leave most people scratching their heads. I purchased this album expecting a hip hop record. What I got was a mixture of jazz, R&B, soul, and a bit of hip hop. The sound on this album is completely different from that of their previous effort and definitely not what I was expecting/hoping for. Most songs consist of Pharrel singing rather than rapping. If you’ve ever heard him sing, you would know why this is not a good thing. Guests on the album include Lenny Kravitz, ?uestlove, and Joel and Benji Madden of Good Charlotte. Fly Or Die is not a terrible album, but it’s not a great album either. It’s merely a decent album, which takes a few listens to really get into. Maybe it will grow on me after a while, but my recommendation as of now is to pass on this album.
Recommended tracks: Thrasher, Jump, and She Wants To Move

Avenged Sevenfold have a new video up. It’s for the song, Unholy Confessions, from their album, Waking The Fallen. You can check it out here.

Oblique also have a new video. It’s for their song Presense Guiding. You can check it out here.

Initial Records’ annual Krazy Fest has been postponed, or possibly even canceled. Originally, the event was scheduled to take place in April. It looks possible for it to take place this summer or fall. There is also speculation that this event might not happen at all.

Taking Back Sunday fans should be excited to know, the band has announced their album should be in stores in July. I know I’ll be looking forward to it.

The Deftones will be heading into the studio in June to work on their new album.

Don’t forget, on April 20, to run out and pick up a copy of Rock Against Bush Vol. 1, out on Fat Wreck Chords. The album will feature 26 songs, all of which are either rare or unreleased tracks. Also included will be a DVD featuring music videos and political content. It should be decently priced, as most Fat Wreck compilations are.

Nu Metal kids shall be converted! Death By Stereo are heading out on the road for several dates on the Jagermeister Tour, along with Slipknot, Fear Factory, and Chimaira. You can get more info here.

That’s all for this week kids. Until next time, I’m out.

The Gut: Baseballs best off-seasons

Well it’s time for another version of The Gut. I’m sorry they haven’t been more regular but I can’t see the point in writing about Hockey because it sucks these days. And Basketball is nothing but a western conference show. With me living on the east and all I don’t get to see the good teams too often. But the good news is baseball is back!

After one of the best playoffs in recent history baseball did something that I thought only football could do. It made major headlines in the off-season. Between A-Rod moving to NY and steroids baseball managed to stay on the front page of the sports section for most of the winter. So who had the best winter?

Hey Mike don’t smile too much when I say this but the Anaheim Angles had the best winter of anybody. They added 4 excellent players in Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon, Jose Guillen, and Kelvim Escobar. They already had a solid team and may have been helped just as much by Tejada leaving the A’s and the Mariners getting older. I pick the Angles to just walk away with the AL West title this year.

I can see the Yankee fans singing now…. “All our ex’s live in Texas” How did George let Andy Pettite and Roger Clemens go to the Houston Astros? This gives them 4 of the better pitchers in the game when you “throw in” Wade Miller and Roy Oswalt. The only question they have is Dotel in the closer role. I have faith in him; after all don’t most players become stars when they leave the Mets?

The Boston Red Sox got Curt Schilling but I think that move is way over rated. Would I want him on my team? Yes! Do I think that Curt pushes Pedro to number 2 in the rotation like the guys from Mike and the Maddog? Hell no, as a matter of fact with the addition of Pokey Reese a groundball pitcher like Derek Lowe might have more wins than Schilling. But the real key to this team is Keith Foulke, if he can handle the pressure of pitching in a pennant race in the middle of baseballs greatest rivalry that Boston has a chance to take it all.

The New York Yankees… Nice dramatic pause right? Well what is there to say about the Yanks? For starters let me say that A-Rod wasn’t that big of an upgrade from Soriano offensively. Not so big that I would have paid an additional 20 million a year for. Kevin Brown however is a dominant pitcher who will remind all of baseball why he was the first player to get 100 million dollars in a contract. And while Javier Vzquez only went 13-12 last year he did post an ERA of 3.24. If he pitches as well for the Yanks as he did for the Expos last year expect this young righty to pick up 17-20 wins.

I only wish for the Baltimore Orioles sake that they could move to the horrible NL West. This team got so much better with the additions of Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez, and Mr. Viagra himself Rafael Palmeiro that it would walk away from that division. Unfortunately for the Orioles sake they are in the same division with the Yanks, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Devil Rays (Yes they actually aren’t a bad team this year).
I don’t even want to type this but the Philadelphia Phillies did what they needed to. They went out and got one of the top five closers in all of baseball when they traded for Billy Wagner. And it’s almost like they got 2 players because there is no way in hell that Pat Burrell bats .200 again. I expect him to have a solid year and for them to win the east. But there is good news in all of this; the Braves will not win the east for a 12th consecutive year.

In closing this article I would like to add this quote from Baltimore Orioles third baseman Tony Batista: “People say the Yankees are the team to beat,”. But it’s really the other way around. They’re the ones that have to beat everybody.” Keep that in mind Yankee fans and good luck to everyone in the Baloolapalooza fantasy league. I hope you guys like the view of my ass cause its all you’re gonna be seeing.

Open Mic w/ Bear Frazer – Britney … Who's listening now?

Say you have this blonde-headed 17 year-old schoolgirl, dancing in a white shirt and plaid skirt, singing a catchy pop song, whom could never do anything wrong. Little girls dream about being her and grown men dream about being with her. She is a role model. And then, suddenly, the more she sings, the more controversial she gets. Her outfits become revealing, her social life becomes a mess, and her stress release leads to experimentation. On top of that, her music quality starts to dwindle. It seems that America’s dream girl isn’t so perfect after all.

This story may sound familiar, as it has been an epic developing from Britney Spears’ birth on December 2, 1981 to her current cutting-edge video, “Toxic,” that has been airing all over MTV. She has had a bumpy road (to say the least) to get where she is at today, but is her career in the world of entertainment coming to a close? Is her career on the rise or on the fall? Let’s take a closer look.

Britney has had an incredible start. She has been in show business ever since she was an 11 year-old on the Mickey Mouse Club, where she got her start as a Mouseketter. Shortly, she began recording demos until Jive Records picked her up. In late 1998, she released her first single, “Baby, One More Time” (which would ultimately be the name of her album). This track had such a great beat, catchy lyrics, terrific vocals, and a nice video to promote the music. Then, she exploded. “Baby, One More Time,” landed at the number one spot on the singles chart, and in addition to that, her debut album would be released in early 1999 and that immediately fly to the number one slot. She had the largest debut in album sales for a female artist, but she did have a little help from the other songs she released, “Sometimes,” and “Crazy.”

This was the best thing going on. Here, you have a sweet, attractive, innocent girl singing her heart out and she was only 17 years-old. She not only appealed to the young female audience, but men started enjoying Britney (either for her looks or talent). The thing that made this more intense was the lack of young female performers in mainstream music. Sure, you had Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, and Madonna, but they were older than Britney. What Britney brought to the table was her age. Never before in the late 1990’s was there a young pop vocalist who had the virgin image and dancing ability. The great thing is that other record labels noticed this and followed suit. How do you think the Christina Aguilera’s, the Jessica Simpson’s, and the Mandy Moore’s popped up?

With multiple hit singles, her career was only going further. In 2000, she released, “Oops! … I Did It Again,” and in its opening week, it sold over 1.3 million copies. She was moving in the right direction. She released the leadoff track, (which is the same as the album title), “Oops! … I Did It Again,” the second single, “Lucky,” and her third major tune, “Stronger.” This is where the controversy really started taking shape. There were two big rumors floating around. The first of which would be whether or not she was dating the most noticeable member of N’SYNC, Justin Timberlake (later revealed that she was) and the second would be whether or not she had breast implants (which has been denied). Look at the equation now: multiplatinum selling albums, number one hits, dating a popular male from a well-known group, and just enough racket to keep her in peoples’ minds.

Then, people started lashing out against Britney Spears. During her performance at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, she stripped down to a revealing skin colored outfit. This caused a lot of angry parents and journalists to look down at Ms. Spears. They felt that she was telling kids that it is ok to strip. But doesn’t the saying go, “bad publicity is better than none?”

Even though Britney got negative vibes for her recent actions, she was working on her third album. Always around release time, she would be in the hot spot. She was saying how she wasn’t a little girl anymore, but mature, and her music is going to reflect that outlook. She probably took the attitude, “My performance at the 2000 MTV Awards was inappropriate, eh? WAM! Buy my new album.” She released her album, “Britney” in 2001 and the lead off tune was “I’m A Slave 4 U” (which could be considered the only somewhat successful single). “Britney” sold an impressive 746,000 albums in the opening week, but it was about half the amount she sold with “Oops … I Did It Again.”

For the next few years, it would be downhill from here. Britney got bashed due to her 2001 MTV Award performance, where she danced with revealing clothes and a snake wrapped around her neck. Then, her longtime boyfriend, Justin Timberlake dumped her in 2002. During an interview with Diane Sawyer, she cried. Her family had health problems. At first, she said she never did drugs and then, admitted to experimenting (not to mention, drinking under-age). On top of that, Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit Singer) claimed he engaged in sex with Britney Spears. Britney denied having sex with Durst, but admitted she was no longer a virgin. Then, at the 2003 MTV Awards, she French-kissed Madonna on live television. The biggest bombshell would happen right after New Year’s in 2004 when she married one of her hometown friends from Louisiana, only to get it annulled 55 hours later.

In late 2003, Britney unleashed “In The Zone,” her fourth album, and also released the first track (featuring a duet with Madonna), “Me Against The Music.” Her current single, which is blazing up the charts, “Toxic.” The opening week had another drop in record sales compared to her previous efforts. Although it is still amazing, she only moved 609,000 units.

This leaves one to wonder, “Is Britney Spears on the rise or fall?” By looking at the info, when Britney first came out, she was the hottest craze and kinda started a new music sub-trend. When she was young, she broke out, which eventually introduced a slue of young female artists. At that time, it was easier to market a teen pop superstar to the masses. She was the big fish in a little pond, but since she is no longer a young lady, she is entering a big pond as a little fish. She is attempting to enter a league where the contenders are of the likes of Madonna, Mariah Carey, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, and Beyonce Knowles. If you’re songs haven’t been up to par with these ladies, then it is easy to get lost in the mix.

Jive Records always does a great job advertising Britney’s albums, but the quality is declining. She has had terrific media exposure right before every one of her albums appeared in stores. Whether it’s good or bad, her compilation can be guaranteed to sell several hundred thousand copies. She releases her best song in the beginning, but doesn’t have too many good supporting songs to back up her momentum. She just released “Toxic,” which is probably her best song since she unveiled Lucky in 2000. Since 1999’s “Oops … I Did It Again” emerged in stores, opening week sales for her following two albums have dropped (from 1.3 million to 746,000 to 609,000).

So, what does she have to do to maintain longevity? If Britney wants to continue to be a force to be reckoned with, then she must present incredible songs that catch our eye like she did when she first came out. Her original audience is also dying out. With all these allegations and rumors, it hurt her image. Since she is no longer a little girl, it’s a slightly tougher for her to preserve a teen crowd and regarding her male audience; they are mainly interested in her body (if they were once into her music, they aren’t anymore). But, it all relies in her music and her ability to perform. Hey, doing Playboy couldn’t hurt either.

So, now we have this 22 year-old dancing around in skimpy outfits, trying to appeal to everyone like she was before. The only question is, who’s listening now?

So, is Britney on the Rise or the Fall? Leave a comment and tell us …