Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The AV Club's 50 Best Albums of the Decade Are All Wrong: Introduction & Albums #50 - #31

CONTENTS:
Intro & The AV Club's #50 - #31The AV Club's #30-#11
The AV Club's Top 10 & AfterwordAlan Greenspan Presents Our Top 10
___________________

by MOBUTU SESE SEKO with RIGAMAROCK & SHWAYWHAT

Few best-of lists that are not your own ever seem any good. Even if you cheer the inclusion of a few favorites and respect the probity of choices you wouldn't make, you still grit your teeth through the rest to keep from saying, "How the fuck could they pick that?" The AV Club's list of 50 albums deemed the "Best Music of the Decade" is no different, but its poorness seems as much institutional as it is personal.

The AV Club garnered mainstream attention as a semi-funny look at pop culture inside a funny newspaper. The name was self-aware, paying homage to the dorkiness of being a cinephile/audiophile or book wonk in high school. Even though it's still stuffed inside a funny paper, the AV Club is its own beast now. As well it should be, because continued name-association with a satirical paper would point up The Onion media group's commercial self-interest in not making fun of the AV Club almost constantly.

Its updates serve up enough deadly serious nerdbites for anyone to have a field day, with feints at comedy mainly coming as either token gestures or the stubborn persistency of staffers who cannot be fired. The AV Club now effects something between Gawker Media and Pitchfork. It's a self-aware machine that wants to have its fawning pop favorites and its twee enthusiasms — then eat them too, and have you clap your hands by your head in wonderment that they so deftly manage to avoid taking sides.

Nothing exemplifies this quite like "The Hater," a regular pop-culture column about hating on pop-culture figures and pop-culture coverage. It burrows into its meta-commentariat niche without any sense of understanding that it rips on gossip mongering and starfucking while employing the same lusty pageload-humping enthusiasm of a Gawker site without the pithiness. Gawker at least avoids pretensions to innocence, but the AV Club adds a few diffident sentences in the hopes of making you complicit in being self-consciously gossipy. This false modesty is standard procedure for their newswire links, which cut-and-paste press releases and try to dignify them with extra sentences, like there's a paragraph-to-link ratio that masks trading in the sort of celebutainment trash you'll ostentatiously deride as soon as it can fill column inches and Search Engine Optimization at the same time.

On the "aching sincerity" side of the pop-culture fence, nowhere is the lurch toward full-on mimicry more apparent than the AV Club music reviews, which initially tried to keep up a tongue-in-cheek tone as a means of creating a distance from the wonky DIY indie twerpiness of something like Pitchfork and the establishment bloviating of Rolling Stone. The result of years of this is a hybridized format just as entrenched as both, one that invokes indy buzzwords while also trying to sardonically eyeroll at them with establishment gravitas (and vice-versa), all within the same piece. "Oh, there go those kids with 'shredding distorted chords' followed by 'plangent chords' again. If only they knew neither was real rock, which is what you'll find from this new side project by... you guessed it... Jack White, who we just spoke to here [LINK PLEASE CLICK]."

The AV Club periodically makes a hobbled attempt to obfuscate sounding like everyone else by declaring their determination to do what everyone else does — while questioning its validity. How subversive. Hence the frequent gag of their [time period]-in-review pieces that poke fun at the silliness of trying to encapsulate a span of time with randomly selected pop-culture artifacts, then attempt to do the same. Why? Because no one is going to click on the same essay about why the AV Club won't publish lists, but people will click lists a shitload of times to argue about who or what is on them.

As said, this year the AV Club published a decade-in-review music piece without even bothering with a bit of frontloaded irony about it before plunging into the same thing they used try harder to be ironic about. They're now locked into a recursive loop of pop-cultural fawning and self-aware meta-commentary about their fawning that tries to sabotage it with a wryness that's hopefully just enough to seem exculpatory. Only they keep missing the mark, a fact almost impossible to hide in the blurb-length format of pop-culture lists, where even reading the piece while brutally shitfaced makes it painfully clear that it's the infection toying with the doctors and not the other way round.

Naturally, the AV Club's list of Best Music of the Decade sucks. What's interesting, though, is that it sucks completely. There are 50 entries on it, and every single band named, review written and posture taken is incorrect — comprehensively incorrect, obnoxiously incorrect... incorrect in the sort of way that hurts small kids and gives you brain damage if you read it in an unventilated room. Reading it sincerely twice makes the reader contract Nazi AIDS. And ass cancer. As a matter of fact, this list basically turns you into Glenn Beck.

The AV Club's 50 Best Albums of the Decade Are All Wrong: Albums #30 - #11

CONTENTS:
Intro & The AV Club's #50 - #31The AV Club's #30-#11
The AV Club's Top 10 & AfterwordAlan Greenspan Presents Our Top 10
___________________

by Mobutu Sese Seko with Rigamarock & Shwaywhat

(Note: all thumbnailed images go to Youtube videos of relevant songs from the band.)

30. Sufjan Stevens, Illinois (2005)
This is pretty much the least essential album anyone's ever heard, so of course it's on the AV Club list. If you were wondering what happened to Cat Stevens and Fisher Stevens' improbably orders-of-magnitude-lamer lovechild, this album is your answer. Meaningless gimmickry is the name of the game in indie music, and this gimmick is the most meaningless in recent memory: album conception via Rand McNally. Still, it's great to hear Zamfir getting work again in pointless one-minute instrumentals. And the lyrics? EVERY ONE A MASTERPIECE:

The AV Club's 50 Best Albums of the Decade Are All Wrong: Their Top 10 & Afterword

CONTENTS:
Intro & The AV Club's #50 - #31The AV Club's #30-#11
The AV Club's Top 10 & AfterwordAlan Greenspan Presents Our Top 10
___________________

by Mobutu Sese Seko with Rigamarock & Shwaywhat

(Note: all thumbnailed images go to Youtube videos of relevant songs from the band.)

10. The National, Alligator (2005)
"Alligator is The National’s third full-length, but the first that introduced a fully realized vision of the Brooklyn band: brooding, smart, and uniquely capable of soundtracking the ennui of rainy city life. It’s been accused of being boring, but it absolutely isn’t." Thanks, AV Club! Here's an idea: any time you feel compelled to frontload a single-paragraph blurb review of an album by addressing a common charge of it's being boring, it's boring. Just the fact that it's pretty much the first thing that comes to mind after placing the album in the band's chronology and placing the band geographically is a huge indicator that whatever point you're making is already a loser. "Brooding" and "soundtracking the ennui of rainy city life" are like two different rock-review variations on, "You're gonna love this girl! She's got a great personality."

Alan Greenspan Presents: Our Top 10 Albums of the Decade

CONTENTS:
Intro & The AV Club's #50 - #31The AV Club's #30-#11
The AV Club's Top 10 & AfterwordAlan Greenspan Presents Our Top 10
___________________

Note: we, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo?, recognize that many readers will derive little of value solely from a list of negatives without an accompanying list of positives. A mere litany of displeasures offers no perspective unless leavened with the sincere enthusiasms of the critic. Surely someone who excoriates Wordsworth's style can be dismissed out of hand as an anti-Romantic, but if he or she is also an ardent admirer of Byron, then one must read his or her opinion more attentively.

Likewise, we do not wish to be dismissed: we refuse the mantle of Philistines, hatas or bustas. That we are much exercised by the AV Club's list should be manifest by now, but we submit that our criticisms come not from a knee-jerk compulsion to gainsay the hip, the mainstream or the voice of an authority but rather from a sincere, supple and multi-dimensional appreciation of all genres of music. We like many artists similar to the ones dismissed above, just as many of you might dismiss the artists you see below while celebrating their contemporaries.

To show that we are human beings with loves and hates and passions just like yours — that we are men and women who've been born and still yet live and, however so unfair, will surely die — we asked each regular and guest contributor to Mr. Destructo to compile his or her list of the ten best albums of the decade (#1 being the best and #10 the tenth best) and tabulated this consensus staff list. These are the rhythms and verses that syncopated our steps and gave voice to our hearts.

Now, to give voice to our thoughts about these tremendous works, we turn to former Federal Reserve Chairman and clarinetist at the Juilliard School, Alan Greenspan:


Top 10 Albums This Decade That I Totally Woulda Knocked Up Your Old Lady To
by ALAN GREENSPAN

I thought when I wrote for these idiots it was gonna be a one-and-done thing, but apparently all these assholes know about writing music is which one of the Rock Band buttons they hit with their fat fucking monkey hands. That's why they called in the big guns, because they know what you're thinking: "This bunch of jackasses I don't know anything about just ripped on 50 albums in a row. Why???"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fucked-Up Video Wednesday: I Took All the Brown Acid

I'm not going to sport with anyone's patience or intelligence by pretending I found this junk all on my own. The first video was linked off Deadspin and is another product from the good people at Everything Is Terrible! — a blog devoted to sharing edited versions of videos found on old VHS tapes at second-hand stores. They're the people who found the amazingly bad "It's Time for Cat Massage!" and this nugget called "Look What God Made!"

I can't describe the following. Deadspin made a crack about watching this and then checking the water supply for drugs. It's not a bad idea. Everything is wrong with this video: about half a dozen classic children's songs rewritten with terrible slant rhymes; bad interaction with the CGI, even though the CGI is just a baseball animated over a real-life baseball; clumsy voiceover on children frozen with horrifying rictus grins; characters that look like Towelie from South Park; a girl being reassured that a baseball won't hurt her if she gets hit by it because BB the Baseball is "too sweet to hurt anybody"; it goes on.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

'I Am Martin Eisenstadt': A Lie So Noble That the Person Issuing It Doesn't Even Have to Be Real

If you turned off the TV and started ignoring political articles the day after Obama won, you might have missed a curious incident immediately following election day. A story emerged from the McCain/Palin camp from an anonymous staffer, claiming Sarah Palin thought that Africa was a country. It seemed too good to be true. Here it was, a simple confirmation that Palin's intelligence was cretinous at best. Unfortunately for Palin-watchers, the leak's anonymity undermined its potency — until, finally, a McCain staffer named Martin Eisenstadt came forward and confirmed it.

Eisenstadt's background featured all the experience you'd expect it to: service in the Reagan administration; a journey to the wilderness of think tanks in the Clinton years; glorious restoration under Bush, along with the requisite ideological clusterfucking of Iraq; and being rewarded for one candidate's failure by hopping onto the campaign of another, failing upward until McCain's loss in the general election. Eisenstadt presented another avatar of the morally vacant conservapundit opportunist, glomming onto any airtime or column inch available to him, no claim or blurb too odious if it was tasty enough to mention. No wonder he'd throw conservatives' darling veep candidate under the bus for the chance to get in front of Chris Matthews.

The only problem was that Eisenstadt didn't, and doesn't, exist. (Yet, perversely, the Africa story is true, although in tamer, questionable form.) In this case a non-person confirmed a story whose veracity is anyone's guess. The media was only too happy to oblige.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Give Patrick McHenry (R-NC) Islamophobic Birther Tweets or Give Him More Just Like Them

Do you use Twitter? Why not try an experiment? Take an apolitical Twitter account. Make a racist or verbally violent comment on muslims or Obama's supposed conspiracy to destroy white, conservative Christian America. Append the hashtag #tcot to the comment so it gets filtered into a feed read by people interested in the "Top Conservatives on Twitter." Then ask yourself a question:
Q: How long will it take for someone to follow your feed or RT (re-tweet) your comments in approval?

A: Not long at all. But what may surprise you is that your new fan may be Republican United States Representative for North Carolina's 10th District, Patrick McHenry.
That's what happened to a Twitter user named MagicHDetective, after posting the following tweets satirizing far-right paranoia over Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan:



And here is the email notification he received from Twitter just a minute after that last tweet, showing him that Representative McHenry was now following his tweets:



Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Yankees Are Cancer: World Series, 2009

You already know the outcome, so welcome to the last bit of liveblogging doom, gloom, angst and loathing for the 2009 baseball season. Think of this as the sports equivalent of watching Glenn Beck read a newspaper. Only I'm not actually insane. Let us instead enter a legitimate Chamber of Loathing:
Being a baseball fan and rooting for the Yankees is like being an oncologist and rooting for cancer.
I don't remember when I wrote that. I want to say the 7th inning. And while I recognize that it is partially histrionic, I think also that it's true.

Most baseball fans want to see their teams win, and aside from a few sociopaths or fans of teams who've been so horrible for so long that they've earned a malicious desire, very few fans want to see their teams stomp holy hell all season and win a championship effortlessly. In video games, it's one thing to play in God Mode, to force trades and make your team a roster of monsters, but in real life I think we all acknowledge that victories are sweeter for being won rather than being taken and walked off with. I think any Red Sox fan would, in a candid moment, admit that 2004 and 2007 would have been dreadfully dull without the 0-3 and 1-3 comeback runs in the ALCS to get to the World Series, because those Series games were almost painfully lopsided. (I think any good Red Sox fan would also admit that the team had an obscenely large payroll and reaped the rich benefits of the same.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fucked-Up Video Wednesday: Do You Know What I'm Saiyan?

We last met Alex Jones in what is easily the best YoutubeDoubler ever, doing what it is he does best, going completely nuts. Jones literally believes that European monarchs are going to help take over the earth with robot people, that 9/11 was an inside job, and the Jews he works for were in on it, and that the Hitler-run wing of the Obama administration is using states' Child Protective Services departments to kidnap and indoctrinate the few free-thinking lads and lasses who haven't already been rounded up in FEMA camps with their gun-owner parents or been tracked down by GPS-bearing members of the census bureau.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Series Blog, Games 4 & 5: Gutty Twitter, Centaurs and Chinless Buzzards

This is the latest part in a volume of frustration. Part One deals with David Wells wearing a Member's Only jacket over his fatness. Part Two celebrates another postseason loss for the overrated/under-ridiculed Tony LaRussa. Part Three is your resource for FISTING and how getting a job because of your dad and grandpa doesn't work so well for people around you. Part Four details how godawful Joe Buck and Tim McCarver continue to be. Part Five focuses on World Series Game One and fan-paranoid jinxes. And Part Six covers World Series Games Two and Three. Let's play ball!


World Series Game Four

Ugh, another national anthem, another gross martial display. Just once I sort of wish that the Air Force or Army (or whichever branch) didn't screen their singers carefully enough and sent someone out there with PTSD. We'd sit as baseball and the Armed Services again solemnized and venerated combat, death, injury and horror, and the well-coiffed representative would belt out the familiar lines, reaching the "laaaaaand of the freeeeeeeee" and hear the fireworks go off and immediately flip the fuck out. I think maybe that might dial back the aggressive patriotism to tolerable pre-9/11 levels, at least for a couple years.


8:23 pm:
McCARVER: More than anything else [Blanton's] a gutty performer, and that's why he's out there tonight.
We're not even at the first pitch yet, and we have a "gutty" sighting. As was the case with Chase Utley in Game One, McCarver has nothing to say and is scrambling for meaningless baseball generalities. In Utley's case, he didn't expect the guy to be the offensive hero of the first game, so he ad-libbed something that at first blush might have seemed meaningful. In this case, he's just trying not to insult Blanton. He can only bring up his good outing against the Rays in the 2008 World Series and the home run he hit off Edwin Jackson for so long — there is airtime to fill — but he can't go negative without alienating a huge FOX market share.

Series Blog, Games 2 & 3: Corporate Whore Stadium and, Like, Double Guitars

As I explained at painful and unfunny length in the Game One blog, I'm sports superstitious. Sure, I'll be ironic and dismissive about it, but I still take it seriously behaviorally. Sort of like a guy who constantly busts on fat chicks yet has unprotected sex with a different one every night. I might dismiss my sitting in a weird position for "Good Luck," and even mine some good jokes from doing so, but I'm still the one sincerely doing something inadvisable or aesthetically wanting with my body.

Because the Phillies had won Game One while I was chitchatting with people online, I had to do that for Game Two, right? I didn't want the Phils to lose. The problem was, the people I'd been yammering at weren't online. Thankfully, one of my few Pennsylvania buddies, a former online writer I know, was around and willing to be bugged. Let's play ball!