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Coldplay, Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends (Capitol)
Chris Martin is the Hugh Grant of modern rock.
Much like how Grant’s romantic comedies offer an easily palatable version of love that filters out most of that messy heartache shit that pops up in every relationship from time to time, Martin’s band offers an easily palatable version of rock and roll without any of the abrasiveness, attitude or sexuality that’s ruffled the feathers of the prim and proper ever since the genre kicked, screamed and fucked its way into the popular consciousness all those many moons ago.
They’re both nervously charming English niceboys whose simpering and mewling warms the hearts of Bed, Bath and Beyond shoppers and Bed, Bath and Beyond shoppers-at-heart the world over.
And they both make caustic douchebags like me want to vomit until our eyes burst.
Hell, Chris and company even inspire level-headed pros to lash out from time to time. Take Jon Pareles, head pop music critic at the New York Times, one of the fairest and most objective people in the field. Even he couldn’t resist calling Coldplay “the most insufferable band of the decade” in his June 5, 2005 review of the band’s last album, X&Y. Ouch.
Now, most musicians in Coldplay’s position would laugh off stuff like this while sipping Cabernet Savuvignon and nibbling Caciocavallo podolico cheese in their gold-plated jacuzzis. After all, they’re multi-platinum recording artists with legions of fans and we critics are just a bunch of nerdlingers circle jerking over humanity’s most subjective art form.
But, as Martin said in his June 26 interview with Rolling Stone – ejaculatorily entitled “The Jesus of Uncool” – Coldplay actually took Pareles’ verbal bitchslap to heart. They decided to shake things up a bit.
They meditated on the duality of existence: life and death, love and hate, peace and war, Sprite and Coke, et cetera, et cetera. They wrote multi-part suites instead of mere songs. They hired legendary U2 and Talking Heads producer Brian Eno to zazz things up with synths and strings and tablas and all kinds of other crazy crap. They snagged some nifty 18th century French revolutionary outfits from the costume shop down the street.
They set the stage for an album so epic, so important, so life-changingly fantabulous that it needed two titles in two languages to fully convey its grandness.
But when you strip away all the neat bells and whistles and get into the album’s musical and emotional core, you realize that nothing has changed except the window dressing. Same mid-tempo, mom-friendly balladry. Same sexless, kinda sorta heartbroken crooning. Same spit-shined, bombastic-yet-unconfrontational production style.
Same Coldplay. Same Chris Martin. Same as it ever was.
Viva La Vida gets a rating of four weddings and a funeral. (Cue rimshot.)
Torche, Meanderthal (Hydra Head)
Most of the time, heaviness is relative.
To 80-year-old Granny Agnes, grabbing a gallon of milk out of the refrigerator might feel like pulling a plutonium anvil out of a black hole. To four-time World’s Strongest Man champion Magnús Ver Magnússon, hurling a full beer keg might feel like tossing an overstuffed pillow.
And so it goes with music. To Granny Agnes, Motley Crüe might sound like the blood-fueled vomit belches of Satan himself. To Bonesaw McGorefucker, a jaded dirthead with ass-length hair, a Grizzly Adams beard, a closet full of camo pants and a floor strewn with dirty t-shirts of bands with unreadable logos, Cannibal Corpse might sound as innocuous as John Denver’s Greatest Hits.
However, some bands transcend subjective perceptions and present a brand of downtuned destruction that’s just plain heavy no matter who you are.
Take Torche, for example.
Torche is so heavy that they could knock a yokozuna-ranked sumo wrestler on his ass by playing a single chord.
Torche is so heavy that if you dropped one of their records out of a plane, it would result in an earthquake that would make the demolition of China’s Sichuan province seem as insignificant as the collapse of a bed top Playmobil town caused by the negligent use of Magic Fingers.
Torche is so heavy that they make your mom look like Kate Moss. (OH SNAP!)
But Torche is also smart. They know that heaviness alone can only take a band so far. It’s what you do with it that separates true thundergods from mere mortals. And so Torche augments their aural assault with soaring, majestic, catchy vocal and guitar lines to burn the beatdown into your brain.
To me, listening to Meanderthal conjures up images of riding on the back of a winged colossus as it divebombs Buffalo into oblivion from 10,000 feet while singing a siren song in celebration of the devastation that I can’t help but hum along to myself. I can’t guarantee that it’ll give you the same wacky thoughts, but I can guarantee that it’ll be a listening experience you won’t soon forget.
Meanderthal gets a rating of one mint condition theatrical print of Destroy All Monsters, the ultimate in Tokyo stomping giant monster action.
Cute is What We Aim For, Rotation (Fueled By Ramen)
The jig is up, emo dudes. I’m onto you. I know you’re just in it for the chicks.
And if there’s anyone out there that doesn’t believe me, just think about it for a second. The flamboyant hairstyles. The makeup. The too-tight clothing. The androgyny. The hard-rocking but not too hard-rocking songs.
This is hair metal 2.0, people. The only difference is that when an emo kid wears a Scorpions t-shirt, he/she’s doing it because LOL, THE ‘80S and not because of any real sense of scene identification.
And what’s the defining characteristic of the hair metal scene? The sex. Yeah, those guys did a lot of fucking in their day. It’s no different with this new breed of cock rocker. Yeah, sure, the emos put on a veneer of effeminism and innocence, but it’s just a charade.
It’s a classic Trojan Horse, disarm and destroy technique. You and your bandmates saunter on up to Janie from the record shop and her little sister Liz who works at the bookstore, you do your whole routine of “Oh, look at me, I’m so cute and harmless and yeah, I’ve had a lot of one night stands in my day but they didn’t mean anything and, shucks, I don’t even know how they happened because I couldn’t snag a piece of tail if a gecko fell into my hand ass first!” and before you can say “Panic! At The Disco,” Janie’s doing the Eiffel Tower with you and the drummer and Liz... well... Let’s just say she’s earning that backstage pass the hard way.
So parents, lock up your daughters. If he wears chick pants and you’re pretty sure he’s not a chick, shoot him. If he has hair that’s half long, half blown-off-with-a-shotgun, smash his fucking face in. If he wears retro clothing circa 1985, get really retro on his ass and bust out the medieval torture devices (might I recommend the Pear of Anguish?).
We will protect our women, emos. This means war.
Rotation gets a rating of one Filthy Pirate. (Ask your kids. They’ll know.)
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