2003 Soundtrack

The Year in Music

Local Artists

The Blank Tapes, Country Western Honky Tonk Saloon BluesA one-man show operated by ambitious OC gent Matt Adams, this 24-song, 80-minute epic was a strange, scrumptious blend of acoustic guitar art-meanderings—part travelogue, part campfire cookout, part intoxicated love sonnet and part late-night hoot, something that sounded like Beck, Jack Johnson, Frank Black, Jeff Tweedy and Ray Davies getting together one night, smoking a ton of pot and rerecording the Grateful Dead's American Beauty album, and coming off greater than you'd ever imagine. Taken together, there are sonnets of heartbreakingly beautiful lines, like this one: "You're making me feel like a banana peel/Just rotting on the ground."

Commerical Songs

Junior Senior, "Move Your Feet"; Apples in Stereo, "Shine a Light"; and Polyphonic Spree's "Section 9."

What does it mean that TV commercials introduced me to three of the best songs we heard all year? Only further confirmation of the continued decline of commercial radio, ironically enough (KMXN not withstanding; read on). So what we got through marathon watchings of VH1's I Love the '70s were vibrantly colored station promos blaring "Move Your Feet," the greatest bubblegum pop smash since the heyday of "MMMBop"; the several-years-old but eternally joyous "Shine a Light," which the Kohl's chain resurrected for their ads when they moved into the SoCal market; and the ethereal, dreamy harmonics of "Section 9," which plugged Volkswagen and Apple's iPod. But just as we were ready to totally sell out and declare TV commercials the best source for new music, we had the misfortune of hearing the Velvet Underground's "Heroin" hawking Nissans and, creepier still, Bob Dylan's "Lovesick" working it forVictoria's Secret!

DVDs

The Kids Are AlrightRadio StationsKMXN 94.3. Live ShowsAll Tomorrow's Parties at the Queen Mary, Nov. 8-9: Cool and crowdless, with some great new bands alongside living legends, plus a welcome absence of annoying advertising banners. This is how we want all our music fests to turn out. Gerald Clayton at Steamer's, Dec. 5: Just when you thought straight-ahead jazz was in danger of entering a slow, sad death spiral comes this teenage piano phenom who packs lighting bolts in his fingers. The Dead at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Sept. 18: Beautiful—like Jerry never died, maaaan. Pearl Jam at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, June 2-3: A night when the covers surpassed the originals. We got John Lennon's "Gimme Some Truth," wherein Eddie changed the "Tricky Dicky" diss to "Georgie Porgie." And Little Steven's "I Am a Patriot," where Eddie only knows one party, and its name is freedom, and he "sure as fuck ain't no Republican." And the Clash's "Know Your Rights," and the Who's transcendent "Baba O'Riley," and most importantly, CCR's "Fortunate Son," a balls-out anti-war rant that still resonates like a Hulk punch. And how many other amphitheater-packing bands these days would bitch from the stage about the corruption of the FCC's pro-media-consolidation policies? Yerba Buena at the Coach House, July 23: A sweaty, white-hot NYC dance band fronted by three Cuban-born singers, Yerba Buena blended jazz, funk, hip-hop, hard rock and Afrobeat, a mix that on this night was so infectiously, mind-alteringly fantastic that we completely forgot who the headlining band was, went fuzzy on who the opening band was, and left right after they finished their set, figuring no one would be able to top them anyway. As sex metaphors go, they were a handjob for the soul.BooksMilk It! Collective Musings on the Alternative Music Explosion of the '90sMuseumsOrange Groove: A Red, Ripe & Rockin' ExperienceBest AlbumsOutkast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.Easily the greatest double CD since Sign o' the Times, which is to say it's also the greatest album Prince never made (or the album Prince would have made 10 years ago had he not been a contra in the hip-hop revolution), a spin-your-head-around assemblage that references jazz, funk, rock, classic soul, psychedelia, DJ culture, and probably four or five genres yet to be named.Pansy Division, Total Entertainment.The classic jesters of homocore get serious, but not nearly as often as they did on their last album, the downer Absurd Pop Song Romance. There are still grim relationship songs, obvious from titles like "First Betrayal," "Saddest Song" and "Not Good Enough 4 U." But this time they've brought the levity back in such songs as "Alpine Skiing"—it's what you call it when you're jerking off two guys at the same time, y'see. There are disco experiments with the safe-sex anthem "No Protection," and the sweet, stick-in-your-head pop of "At the Mall," a 12-minute hidden track about the joys and grotesqueries of climate-controlled consumerism—men's-room glory holes, for instance. And then there's the not-coming-to-a-Clear-Channel-station-anytime-ever tune, "He Whipped My Ass in Tennis, Then I Fucked His Ass in Bed."The Willowz, The Willowz.Hiding out in a secret hovel somewhere in Anaheim were the Willowz, who apparently decided 2003 was the year to make themselves known, and we were only too happy to help spread their gospel. They're a trio who knew how to sculpt the perfect two-minute rock tune: make the guitars sound really, really rude; have the girl bassist sweeten it up with a few vocal outbursts; let the drummer go apeshit, but not too; and top it all off with garbled lines so no one will know what the fuck they're singing about, thus building the mystery (on track three, is singer Richie Eaton hollering "meet your demise" or maybe "mission to Mars" when he screams "MEESHADAMAAAZZ!"?).. Any local name that plays off orange is lame, but this extensive exhibit of OC rock & roll history during the three-week run of the Orange County Fair—and curated by OC Weekly's own Jim Washburn—turned out to be bigger and better than anyone could have hoped, though Washburn had just three months to pull it off. A thorough affair, it featured displays spotlighting everything from the Rillera Brothers (likely OC's first rock & roll band) to the clothes Gwen Stefani wore during No Doubt's 2003 Super Bowl performance. Now all the show needs is a permanent home. by Jim DeRogatis. DeRogatis, rock critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, gathers most of his significant scrawlings of the last decade into this 384-page book. There's terrific, funny criticism, inspired profiles and tons to piss you off, as any self-respecting critic ought to do. But the real jewel is DeRogatis' retelling of his eight-month stint as deputy music editor of Rolling Stone in 1996, in which he dishes on the dream of working for the world's premier rock & roll rag under the bony claws of tyrannical editor Jann Wenner, who skewed his mag's coverage to suit friends or wound perceived enemies. Writes DeRogatis: "I was assigning desperate freelancers to cover the birth of Art Garfunkel's baby, or to do a story critical of Don Henley's efforts to save Walden Woods because [Wenner] had not been invited to the former Eagle's latest wedding."Did this really happen? An OC-based rock radio station—"Cool Radio," we think they dubbed it—that actually played songs by OC bands, and not only on their four-hour Sunday night Go Loco show, either, but in their regular playlist? Was it all just a dream, like that entire season of Dallas? We don't hear it anymore, so we guess that's what it must have been—one short-lived but lovely hallucination.. Do we really want to see a digitally cleansed Pete Townshend take his climactic running leap at the end of "Won't Get Fooled Again" from real-time speeds and from four different angles? Of course we do, in a performance at The Who's peak, recorded the year they ought to have broken up forever.
 
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