Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Humpty Hump: Rare fast food gigolo

Many of us brag. Perhaps we don't mean to do so. But maybe we have insecurities, so we boast about our accomplishments, hoping that the world gives us credit and validates us.

Snooze Button Generation founder and CEO Joe Stevens, for example, recently was proud of winning his fantasy golf league. Although that feat amazed most of North America and Europe, it is not considered especially important on other continents. So some feats are incredible to some, but not to all.

That's where Greg "Shock G" Jacobs, also know as "Humpty Hump" comes in.

In the critically acclaimed 1990 hip-hop classic "The Humpty Dance," Humpty Hump sings: I'm a freak. I like the girls with the boom. I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom. I'm crazy. Allow me to amaze thee.I could be wrong, but getting busy in a Burger King bathroom is not something to brag about. Burger King bathrooms tend to be not that clean or romantic.

Is the "Humpty Dance" a significantly important song for the Snooze Button Generation? ... Why, yes, it is.

Is getting busy in a Burger King bathroom something to brag about? ... No. But getting busy in an Arthur Treacher's, now that would be impressive.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sufjan Stevens: No relation

I am white. Therefore, I like Sufjan Stevens.

As the month of Rocktober continues to be celebrated, it is important to note that singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens has no familial relation to Snooze Button Generation founder and CEO Joe Stevens.

Both Stevenses have similarities, though. They hail from gritty Midwestern cities (Sufjan from Detroit and Joe from Cleveland), and they both have ties to Kensington, Brooklyn. In fact, Sufjan Stevens is likely the most famous resident of Kensington, while Joe may have held that crown from 1996 to 1998.

There aren't many recording artists in which SBG CEO Joe Stevens looks forward to hearing a new release, but no-relation Sufjan Stevens is one of them, even though his tour de force came out six years ago. Sufjan's songwriting is at a high level; it's multi-layered, deep and impressive. There are a handful of his songs that are easy to cry to, including "Casimir Pulaski Day."

According to Paste Magazine, which has a lot of lists on the Internet, Sufjan Stevens' "Illinois" was the best album of the 2000s. Most likely, that's a correct pick.In 2003, Sufjan released an album called "Michigan," then in 2005, he released "Illinois." It also was announced that he was embarking on a states mission to do albums on all 50 states.

However, in 2011, no other states album exists. In an interview in 2009, he even said, "I have no qualms about admitting it was a promotional gimmick."

Those are hurtful words. Sufjan Stevens must do another states album. Unfortunately, he may not because he takes himself too seriously and, therefore, will never be happy. Oh well. He sure did well with the lone two states albums.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A salty salute to Guided By Voices

I met a non-dairy creamer
Explicitly laid out like a fruitcake
With a wet spot
Bigger than a great lake
Took me to the new church
And baptized me with salt
She told me, liquor
I am a new man

As the glorious month of Rocktober continues, Guided By Voices frontman Bob Pollard deserves his just due as one of the greatest songwriters of the Snooze Button Generation. Now, Bob is 53, so he is a little older than SBG members. But he would agree that the vast majority of his fans are in the SBG.

Chain smoke rings like a vapor snake kiss
She says she don't know why
The closer you are, the quicker it hits you

Five years ago, Paste Magazine released its list of the top 100 living songwriters. Bob Pollard checked in at No. 78. The top three were No. 1 Bob Dylan, No. 2 Neil Young and No. 3 Bruce Springsteen.

Although numerous disagreements pop up with this list, including Springsteen being ridiculously high, one interesting thing is that you realize how SBG-aged songwriters rarely have made their mark.

Bob Pollard has made his mark, and he is probably the most prolific songwriter alive. He has more than 1,400 songs registered with BMI, and his lyrics are magnificent and cryptic. His lyrics have incredibly vivid imagery that is hard to figure out, which to me is exactly how life is.

Cold hands touching my face
Don't hide - the snake can see you
Old friends you might not remember
Fading away from you
The goldheart mountaintop queen directory
Bob Pollard and Guided By Voices remain close to my heart because they started to get popular in the early '90s when I saw them a few times in Columbus, Ohio. A cool friend of mine, John Petkovic, and his excellent band Cobra Verde also played with Bob for two years in the '90s.

My life is dirt, but you seem to make it cleaner
Reduce my felony to a misdemeanor
When I feel sick, you’re an antibiotic
Organize my world that was pointless and chaotic

From 2004-2010, GBV disbanded, and Bob did some other projects, including an outfit called Boston Spaceships. However, the original GBV lineup got back together last year and will be releasing a new album in January.

Maybe I should resist the urge to try to decipher Bob's cryptic lyrics, but wait a minute, on one song, he flat-out mentions my dad, the XMan. That's got to mean something!

Post-punk XMan parked his fork-lift
Like a billion stars flickering from the grinder's wheel
Lower hybrid clad in metal
In subgroup tools

Friday, October 14, 2011

WMMS 'gets down' more than any station

It 6 p.m. on a Friday. Let's blast the Buzzard!

For a long part of my youth, I somehow always listened to 100.7 WMMS at 6 p.m. on Friday. The station played three songs every Friday at that time, "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen, "Friday on My Mind" by Earth Quake and "Cleveland Rocks" by Ian Hunter. Cleveland used to be a thriving blue-collar town, and those songs kicked off the weekend for many of my Northeast Ohio compadres.

As the month of Rocktober continues to be celebrated, there is a chance that WMMS: The Buzzard could be the "Greatest Radio Station of All-Time," if that tag exists.Rock 'n' roll is huge in my hometown, the Rock 'n' Roll Capital of the World, and The Buzzard remains the most distinctive station there. Of course, the station has had numerous make-overs throughout the years, but the fact that I still think of WMMS every Friday must mean something.

Some scientific data exists that might make The Buzzard the "Greatest Station of All-Time." From 1979 to 1987, Rolling Stone named WMMS the "Best Radio Station" (large market). However, for the 1987 victory, the station admitted that it had stuffed the ballot box.

With rock 'n' roll in turmoil, The Buzzard keeps on keeping on. It still plays rock and now is also the flagship station for the glorious Cleveland Browns.

Out of nostalgia for my youth, I plan on listening to the three Friday songs today. Interesting to me, through intense Internet research, I found out that DJ Murray Saul used to do something called his "Get Down" in the mid '70s before the three previously mentioned songs became a mainstay on WMMS.

If you click on "Get Down" above, it certainly sounds like the rantings of a lunatic. I somehow love the rantings.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Is it possible to rock wearing shorts?

The greatest thing about AC/DC is the shorts. The worst thing about AC/DC is the shorts.

As the Snooze Button Generation continues to celebrate Rocktober by focusing on rock 'n' roll, an extremely important, age-long question must be pondered: Why are shorts so uncool on rock stars?

A reasonable human being might say that no, no, shorts don't automatically make a rock star lame. Just look at Angus Young of AC/DC.

Nah, I don't think the shorts work. Angus comes off as creepy and a joke. If that's what he's going for, that's great. However, this shorts issue is quite complex, and Angus can't be dismissed. Quite frankly, he almost pulled off the shorts thing. For that, he deserves props, and it is obvious that the best thing about AC/DC is the shorts.

Is it ever right for a male to choose shorts as a style choice when temperature is not a factor? Answer: No.

I have no images in my mind's eye of Frank Sinatra in shorts. I cannot think of any stylish gentleman in shorts. Anderson Cooper? Johnny Depp? Elvis?Well, shorts don't exactly come to mind with Elvis, but his "Blue Hawaii" vehicle made temperature a factor. He was in Hawaii, for god's sake.

Every so often, an extremely douche-bag-esque rock star pops up who attempts to wear shorts. It simply won't work. I remember seeing a video by Faith No More in which the lead singer wore shorts. Ridiculous!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Is Pavement too commercial?

I have reverted to a '90s indie rock guy, despite putting that persona behind me for at least the past decade.

I am not sure how this has happened, but any conversation with me about music turns into a treatise on the death of rock 'n' roll, the listing of indie bands from the '90s and the question, "Is Pavement too commercial?"

Pavement is the quintessential indie rock band, and I've always liked pretentious Stephen Malkmus and his players. However, at a certain point in my life, I pretended not to like the band because liking Pavement was too typical for guys like me. Heck, I even met frat boys who liked Pavement. That could not be a good sign.

Last year, I was shocked to see that Pavement released a greatest hits album called "Quarantine the Past: The Best of Pavement." (Wait a second! How old are we now?) Anyway, it's a good compilation, and the band rocks and is smart. What else does a band need to do?Back in the '90s, I didn't automatically dislike bands if they were popular. But I found indie bands better, even though it sometimes felt too trendy to like those bands. And what exactly is an indie band?

Well, some people might say R.E.M., the Pixies and Replacements could be considered indie rock. But I define a band as "indie" if it never had a big hit. R.E.M. certainly had hits, and I think the Pixies and Replacements had big enough hits to vault out of the indie-rock genre.

So by my definition, some big and excellent indie rock bands that come to mind are My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr., Superchunk, Lush, Ride, Fugazi, Sebadoh and one of my ultimate faves - Guided By Voices. I definitely give credit to the big indie record labels, Matador, Sub Pop, Touch & Go, Thrill Jockey and Dischord, for the genre's success.

By the time the late '90s hit, a bunch of other bands, like Modest Mouse, Neutral Milk Hotel and Arcade Fire, surfaced, but I just never got into the next wave of indie bands.

Is '90s indie rock the best genre of rock ever? For a lot of the Snooze Button Generation, it is. OK, fine, the rock in the '60s and '70s is pretty killer, but we did not live while that music was in its prime.

We lived through Pavement, Superchunk and Fugazi, and, yeah, that was the best rock of our lives.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Flaming Lips: Creating happiness

"What's your favorite band, man?"

For the past 17 years, I have answered the same thing, and I doubt I'll ever answer differently. For the past 17 years, my favorite band has been The Flaming Lips.

Good god, the reasons why The Flaming Lips are meaningful to me are so numerous that it borders on the absurd. Plus, the band has staying power, having been together for a miraculous 28 years while doing cool, innovative things. The Beatles were together for only 10 years.

For stretches of my life, I have been obsessed with The Flaming Lips. I've seen them live 10 times, own all 13 of their albums and urge anyone who hasn't seen them in concert to do so. Their live shows are full of confetti, puppets, fake blood, crazy lights, the showmanship of frontman Wayne Coyne and constant madness that makes it impossible to not be enthralled.Back in 1993, I remember when the album "Transmissions From the Satellite Heart" came out. A few of my friends were big into music, and they already were fans of The Lips. I, too, got into them, and the band got some popularity with the song "She Don't Use Jelly."

For the next years, I've looked forward to every release they've had, and eventually, I even got the inaccessible and bizarre album "Zaireeka." That is a four-CD set in which all four CDs are meant to be played at the same time.

My peak experience with The Lips came in 1999 when I interviewed Wayne for about an hour and picked his brain about creativity, philosophy and Long John Silvers. I wrote a long article about The Lips for my mainstream newspaper, but really, the interview was more to answer some questions I've always wondered.

I've always considered the band's 1990 album "In a Priest Driven Ambulance" the band's tour de force. Wayne did as well. Before that album came out, the band had been around for seven years with not too much success, and he and his band decided to put everything they could into the album to see if they would keep rocking or maybe give up."In a Priest Driven Ambulance" got the band signed to Warner Brothers, and then The Lips came out with "Hit to Death in the Future Head," another awesome album. Even though I recommend all of The Lips' albums, these two are the best. They also are the only two albums that feature Jonathan Donahue, who left the band to form another band I like a lot, Mercury Rev.

Anyway, the big thing I took away from my long talk with Wayne is the idea that all human life is like playing with the house's money. Why are we here? How did we get here? Hell, man, this is all a bonus of goodness.

The Lips have always pushed the bounds of creativity of what rock 'n' roll can be, what a live show can be, and they've always stayed relevant. But beyond all of that, perhaps Wayne's sincerity, heart and philosophy is why I like the band so much.

A few years back, he did a "This I Believe" segment on NPR tiled "Creating Our Own Happiness." I urge you to go to that link, click the "Listen" button and hear what Wayne has to say. He speaks the truth.

Yeah, The Lips are my favorite band. They'll always be.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hair bands kick off Rocktober

The Snooze Button Generation is pleased to announce that today is the first day of "Rocktober" and the SBG will be focusing on rock 'n' roll for the entire month. We will kick off Rocktober by focusing on THE GREATEST HAIR BANDS OF ALL-TIME.

Now, SBG CEO and founder Joe Stevens never was into hair bands, but he respects their cultural significance. By merely growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, in the 1980s, Stevens has official status as a "connoisseur of hair bands."

With that said, the best three hair bands of all-time are Poison, Ratt and Motley Crue. Case closed.

The tricky thing about that assertion is the definition of what exactly makes a "hair band." Motley Crue, for example, is more than a mere hair band, so let's give the crown to Poison with Ratt in second place.

A hair band, for anyone culturally unaware, is a heavy metal or hard rock band from the 1980s that had a overload of hair. In most sophisticated circles, it is gauche to like these bands, but secretly, many people like some of their songs.

Hair bands were out of fashion for the '90s and the bulk of the early 2000s, but nowadays, they've been so lame for so long, that they're not so bad any more. Honestly, a handful of hair band songs totally rock. Right?After Poison, Ratt and the Crue, the next tier of hair bands features Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Skid Row, Warrant, Winger and Whitesnake.

If another tier exists after that, let's go with Stryper, Europe, White Lion and Great White. Sort of like the Crue, Guns 'N' Roses, Def Leppard, Metallica and a few other bands can't quite make the list because they are more than mere hair bands.

And Dokken and Queensryche just suck.