MEMO: From the LEO Music Desk
To: JAY DITZER & T.E. LYONS
Gentlemen: I sincerely hope this correspondence finds you well. As you know, the time is upon us for the annual LEO Music Issue. This year’s crop of stories is particularly strong, if not a little intellectually heavy. We need a counterweight, something to bring a few laughs and hopefully even chortles, and you are the ideal pair for the gig. The assignment is this: Consider genres you’d like to see dead, wiped, gone from radio and shows and racks of CDs. I don’t care which ones you choose, just make sure to include a fairly rational argument to about your choice. And gentlemen, remember to always choose responsibly. —SG
CELTIC-LITE AND SIMILAR NEW-AGE DILUTIONS
Main Offenders: Since so many of the acts are interchangeable, you might as well just blame the labels (Windham Hill, Narada).
Goddamn the day (roughly the time the “Titanic” soundtrack came out) when all these bastard children of Keith Jarrett, Tangerine Dream and Clannad left their patchouli-scented gift shops — because now music lovers are tempted to throw them into internment camps. Senate hearings should be used to reveal that all of the possible melodies for this relaxing drollery were used up many years ago and they’re all just repeating themselves.
Concurrently, a federal grant program should be used to try to find something — Anything! — new in the way of tunes for these mellowed-unto-miasma musicians to play; otherwise, no new plastic/petrochemicals should be wasted (thus raising oil prices) and we should all just set up swap-meets to exchange the discs that are in existence now. —T.E.L.
Main Offenders: Widespread Panic, String Cheese Incident, Phish, the Grateful Fucking Dead.
Proof positive that technical virtuosity does not necessarily equal true musical ability, jam bands can play the living shit out of their instruments, it’s just that 20-minute improvised solos are deadly dull, and it takes a special kind of self-absorption to think that every note you peel off is transcendent and magical. Note to any musician in any jam band ever: You’re supposed to practice before the show, asshole, and there isn’t enough psilocybin in the universe to make that shit you pull out of your ass on a nightly basis sound good.
Also, if you have a conga player in your band: YOUR BAND SUCKS.
If the tiresome noodling and superfluous percussion weren’t enough to make you wish you were deaf, jam band fans are a special breed of nitwit, be they creaky hippies who came of age in the ’60s or trust-fund brats spending daddy’s money while following moe. or whatever around the country. What unites these two camps, besides their shitty taste in music, is their utter indifference to the tenets of basic hygiene. Soap and mouthwash are your friends, man, and the patchouli just makes it worse. —J.D.
JIMMY BUFFETT … AND HIS COUNTRY KIN
Main Offenders: Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton
It seemed there’d be only one of him, and I could live with that. After all, Buffett once (upon a time … your grandparents’ time) trafficked gently in well-modulated musical fun, and he’s shown himself to be a genuinely multi-talented individual, unlike many who go into publishing/acting/multimedia ventures (Jewel — are you listenin’, Hon?). But the complete output of the man’s new recordings for two decades have been a waste of time, yet they keep coming out with stultifying regularity. And the hordes that drink and dress up for him are like Mummers, except they’ve no redeeming excuse like with the crippled kids. This sad carnival of the entertainment industry has lately been spreading like a virus, particularly infecting some of Nashville’s more-dubious talents. A one-shot with Alan Jackson could be forgiven as lukewarm novelty, but the forcibly laid-back Caribbean clichés are getting way too much attention on radios and anywhere near water. Did I just hear that manatees were taken off the endangered species list? Let Chesney take their place. —T.E.L.
Main Offenders: Goo Goo Dolls, Sheryl Crow, Hootie, Dave Matthews, any earnest young white boy with an acoustic guitar
AAA, which in this case does not stand for American Automobile Association but Adult Album Alternative (but it might as well stand for “Awful Anodyne Assholes”), is a radio format that tries to fill a niche that somebody, somewhere, feels is being underserved. So if you tune in to your local AAA station, what you’ll hear are performers like the Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox 20, Train, Jewel, Hootie & the Blowfish, John Mayer and the newest AAA superstar, James Blunt. It’s music for PTA meetings and the dentist’s office. It’s the kind of stuff soccer moms listen to in the minivan when they’re driving to the Summit. Its fans are the type of people who think that Sheryl Crow is a “rocker” because she wears leather pants onstage, which is more a testament to Crow’s Pilates instructor than it is to her boring music.
Ah, the music: Too pussified to be rock, too knee-jerk lefty to be country, too staid to be “alt” anything, AAA is defined by its white-bread blandness. It is rock music for people who don’t really like rock music. —J.D.
SKITS IN HIP-HOP ALBUMS
Main Offenders: I’m afraid to say — my children need their father.
Doesn’t anyone else recognize the direct line between these, the everybody-stay-in-line choreography of Motown revues, and minstrel shows? At one moment in time, when the early De La Soul interrupted their songs with shenanigans worthy of Firesign Theater, it was a great complement to socially conscious music. But it was always meant to be a rarity. Instead, by now we’ve had countless you-hadda-be-there answering machine conversations and too many embarrassing exchanges with the underage. It’s a lazy excuse for filler, the last gamble to put some distance between beats that are hopelessly redundant, or grovel in the direction of pure gossip-tabloid vanity. Note to Kanye West: Your political remarks would have a lasting impact if the public believed that you opened your mouth only when you had something to say. —T.E.L.
HAIR METAL NOSTALGIA MERCHANTS
Main Offenders: Bon Jovi, Poison, Ratt, Warrant, W.A.S.P., L.A. Guns, Quiet Riot
There’s something so incredibly sad and pathetic about these bands reuniting, or (more often than not) partially reuniting with a couple original members and a bunch of ringers and then playing state fairs and tertiary markets in those “Rock Never Stops” package tours. Rock may never stop, dudes, but your slender cultural relevance certainly did.
I realize that most of these halfwits pissed whatever money they earned between 1982 and ’88 away on cocaine and alimony payments to various porn star ex-wives, and lord knows all that Botox and Rogaine won’t pay for themselves, thus the steady flow of quarter-full arena gigs and shoddy CD releases. Obviously these cats aren’t suited for real jobs, but the fact is that musically speaking, these candy-ass hair farmers weren’t all that good to begin with — all hair metal is and ever was is Duran Duran with a distortion pedal and a drinking problem.
And since their fan base consists largely of people whose taste in entertainment hasn’t matured in 20 years, well, what we have here is a perfect example of a musical genre that not only deserves to die, but deserves to be taken out behind the barn and shot. Repeatedly. —J.D.
ADULT-CONTEMPORARY MAKEOUT MUSIC THAT PRETENDS TO BE JAZZ
Main Offenders: Babyface, Ginuwine
There’s a fine line of distinction here, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Anita Baker’s absence for a decade (mid-’90s until very recently) was a distinct loss — and Barry White, may he rest in peace, everybody notices that he’s gone. But if Keith Sweat dropped off the face of the earth, there are dozens of partially inspired slick-n-smooth acts that’d be ready to step in the vacated place — and the substitution might not be noticed, ever. Rhythm and blues speaks to passion and sorrow, and jazz is the greatest expression of heady freedom ever made available to the man on the street — how can we let these be get shuffled and fused into near-meaninglessness?
I have the answer: Sex. Contemporary R&B’s use as a late-night, low-light soundtrack is what gets many overworked (and deserving, I guess) fat people laid after long cubicle days in today’s hustle-bustle America. I suggest that as an alternative, we should exercise properly … as in going to a roadhouse, dropping some quarters in the jukebox, picking some Aretha Franklin/Mitch Ryder/early Cars, and then asking the hot redhead to dance while her biker boyfriend is off taking a piss. —T.E.L.
ACTS THAT ONLY WRITE OR PERFORM SONGS IN THE FIRST PERSON
Main Offenders: Maybe Alanis Morrisette is poster child, but this is a freakin’ pandemic
Whether a band’s filled with narcissists is only part of the problem: The inability to get away from “I … Me … My” is damaging to all of music. It narrows music’s ability to open doors of experience for the listener. For goodness sake, even those one-chorders The Ramones quickly worked themselves out of the trap with “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker.” Yet this insidious and insipid trend can be found all over the place. If we got rid of bands that can’t write or interpret anything in third-person, emo and most “core” types of noise would go away quickly. But why are so many of today’s musical acts unable to get themselves away from their tortured mirror-gazing (or shoegazing) even long enough to cover “Walk on The Wild Side?” Bluegrass acts dig into an old murder ballad, and just like that the audience is reassured that the stage (and their hard-earned ticket money) is taken by people who understand community and storytelling, not just their own needs and insecurities. —T.E.L.
Send hate mail to