We seriously need money. Anything. A buck. Come ahhhn!
Scarlett Johansson, Anywhere I Lay My Head (Atco)
I was so ready to rip this album to bloody giblets.
For one thing, it’s a celebrity album. Saying that celebrities-turned-musicians have an awful track record is like saying that untreated syphilis can be kind of unpleasant.
And it’s not just a celebrity album. It’s a celebrity tribute album. Specifically, it’s a tribute to Tom Waits. For those unfamiliar with Waits’s music, imagine a three-pack-a-day-smoking carnival barker fronting Satan’s personal jug band. And pretty little Scarlett Johansson wanted to recreate the madness for her musical debut. How cute.
I licked my lips at the prospect of curbstomping an album that would almost certainly be an Everest-sized mountain of pure shit. I cackled as I sat at the computer and clicked play on track one. I cracked my knuckles and waited for my fingers to dance a gleefully venomous jig across the keyboard.
But against all conceivable odds, the album doesn’t completely suck. In fact, it’s kind of good.
Ugh. Way to ruin my fun, you fuckers.
Now, the album isn’t anywhere near flawless, mostly because Scarlett’s performance is so lifeless that I’m surprised EMTs weren’t called to the recording studio to declare her dead at the scene. She could have been replaced by any random deep-voiced hot chick with a decent sense of pitch and the results would be exactly the same, if not better.
The production team deserves all the credit for making this thing halfway enjoyable. First, they made Waits’ music their own. They took his recipe for musical moonshine, switched out the harsher ingredients and brewed themselves something smoother – a dusky, dreamy indie pop concoction that sounds like something Angelo Badalamenti composed for a lost David Lynch mindfuck.
Then, they drowned Johansson’s flat, Valium-addled drone in effects and let it sink beneath the waves of their sonic ocean.
The result: an album that’s nowhere near as disastrous as it should have been.
We’ll call this round a draw, Hollywood.
Anywhere I Lay My Head gets a rating of two bra-busting gazongas, fulfilling a 2006 federal mandate requiring all stories about Scarlett Johansson to contain at least one reference to her tits.
3 Doors Down, 3 Doors Down (Universal)
A reading from the Book of Kurt:
“And, lo, Kurt Cobain stood atop the mountain with his mighty Fender Mustang, unleashing a thunderous i-IV-III-VI chord progression in F Minor, that most righteous of keys. The great spandex dam tore asunder. The tears of the downtrodden spewed forth from the break, the flood waters carving a new landscape where meaningful rock and roll would flourish. And it was good.”
So sayeth the Bible of Modern Rock. And I guess for a little while all that shit might have been true. But despite what everyone who was there, man would have you believe when they wax orgasmic about “the year that punk broke,” the Great Grunge Explosion of the early ‘90s that Nirvana spearheaded probably did a hell of a lot more bad than good in the long run.
Case in point, this heaping helping of alternametal gruel.
You see, right after Nirvana kicked in the door wavin’ the four-four, imitators spawned and made the genre quite a bore. Almost instantly, bands like Bush, Live, Everclear, Collective Soul, Silverchair, Seven Mary Three and Days of the New popped up and rode the Seattle sound’s “quiet verse, loud chorus, whine about my shitty life” formula so hard into the ground that it’s a wonder northwestern Washington state is still above sea level.
Then a new crop of emotionally scarred meatheads took the formula, beefed up the guitars to appeal to the Varsity Blues set and proceeded to dominate mainstream radio with a generic sound that’s exactly what hair metal would be like if it was played by a bunch of self-loathing mama’s boys with a severe allergy to fun.
The dreck that nigh indistinguishable bands like Godsmack, Nickelback, Staind, Puddle of Mudd, Daughtry, Seether, Hinder, Three Days Grace and 3 Doors Down feed listeners is just as substanceless and processed as any of Poison’s musical Twinkies, but the sweet poppy cream filling that makes L.A. trash metal such a guilty pleasure got replaced with a slimy jelly made of the bitter, snotty tears of a petulant teenager caught staying out past curfew.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Viva la revolution.
3 Doors Down gets a rating of 1,000 muffled screeches of “I HATE YOU, DAD!” as heard through the bedroom door of an oppressed pre-teen whose parents just don’t understaaaaand.
Annihilation Time, III - Tales of the Ancient Age (Tee Pee)
I can’t skate and I don’t smoke weed but Annihilation Time makes me want to build a halfpipe in my backyard and use the leftover wood to carve, like, the gnarliest bong ever.
They sound like what would happen if Deep Purple decided to ditch the keyboards, quit the major label – probably by getting trashed on Natty Ice, breaking into the label prez’s penthouse condo and pissing all over his priceless Turkish rugs – and crash out at the local punk flophouse, watching trashy horror movies and listening to Black Flag and other assorted late ‘70s/early ‘80s hardcore punk acts all day.
Translation: they fucking rock. I even have objective evidence just in case my gushing isn’t convincing enough.
Consider this. At Annihilation Time’s last basement show in Buffalo, one guy jumped out of the swirling mosh pit, straddled the ceiling-mounted air duct like a monkey and repeatedly bashed his face into it in time to the music.
If that’s not definitive proof that they’ve achieved maximum rocktitude, I don’t know what is.
As for the album, it’s their best full-length yet. If you’re looking to get into them, grab this one and the Cosmic Unconsciousness 7" and work backward from there. And if you really want to rock the fuck out, go see them live. Just don’t go literally banging your head like that guy I mentioned before. I hear concussions kinda suck.
III - Tales of the Ancient Age gets a rating of one bongwater-soaked Thin Lizzy t-shirt and one vomit-encrusted denim vest with a Motorhead backpatch.
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