Best Music Writing 2004

Special web Exclusive Anthology

Writing we're proud we had this year, highlighted for one little moment. We'll go right back to total shame next week.

JONATHAN RICHMAN: "Everything I truly valued in rock & roll was right there: magic, adventure, rhythm, mystery, intimacy, emotion—without the amped-up armor or smug poses most rock was dressed in then. And he had life figured out. His song 'Affection' said everything one really needs to know in life, which he pretty well reiterates in the title of his upcoming Vapor label album, Not So Much to be Loved as to Love." (Jim Washburn)

LIZ PHAIR: "We don't ditch our friends just because they've stumbled. We don't even ditch them if they turn uncool—or have 'committed an embarrassing form of career suicide.' We'll forgive you your fling with the cheerleaders; just never make us hear their names again." (Rebecca Schoenkopf)

THROW RAG: "'You know what the coolest thing is?' asks Wheeler, leaning forward, excitement building. 'We're all going to die! So we're all going to know what happens when we die! Outside of having a kid, it's going to be great. I'm stoked on it. I think there's going to be a clarity and a presence. I don't think there will be sadness—just an understanding. Like, "Whoa, these were my motivations, these were my things, it wasn't about any of that." It'll be so simple.' He flops back in his chair, spent, and smiles. 'It'll be so awesome!'" (Alison M. Rosen)

DIOS: "'Listen,' she said. 'I need to get their CD. This has only happened to me maybe once in my life: I just walked into a place, and I didn't know who was going to play; I just wanted to see the show. And then I heard the opening band, and it's one of the best bands I've ever heard, you know?' I knew she meant it because I've said the same thing and because there's a goofy, googly-eyed adoration that just beams out of you if someone hits the right two piano keys together, and you can't camouflage it. True love is cheap on tour only because it's there every night if you want it, and that was the kind of thing that always made me happy. 'I know,' I said honestly, making change for her. 'But no one believes me because I do merch.' And then I tried to sell her a T-shirt." (Chris Ziegler)

BUCHANAN: "This is the moment when the expectations of your fan base—building with tectonic inevitability—are finally satisfied. When you finally have an answer for the strangers who come up to you at shows and incredulously ask why you're not signed yet. When you think that maybe, finally, you've 'made it' and can breathe for a while." (Rich Kane)

VIOLENT FEMMES: "There's this sort of cute junior in my art class, Randy, who wears glasses and that '9 out of 10 kids prefer Crayons to guns' Pearl Jam T-shirt, like, every day. He asked me if I wanted a ride home from school after art club, and we were gonna go to the park so he could smoke, but then when he stopped the car, he put on the Violent Femmes, and I was like, 'Oh, I love this record.' And he was like, 'Oh, I bet you really like this one,' and he put on 'Add It Up.' And I was like, 'Duh, everyone likes that one,' but I barely got the words out before he totally started making out with me! And here I was freaking out about smoking a cigarette for the first time—I didn't even see it coming!" (Kara Zuaro)

CONTROL MACHETE: "'Everyone in Mexico eventually respected us little by little: by our beats, by our rhymes, by the chingo of times we'd play,' HernŠndez suddenly gushes. 'And then we play with 50 Cent. It's all destiny, gŁey. We're starting our own reconquista of hip-hop.'" (Gustavo Arellano)

JERRY LEE LEWIS: "I drank three bottles of orange Mad Dog and watched five episodes of Green Acres. I wanted to throw around some horseshoes. During a commercial, I tried calling Phoebe. 'Call me back, cupcake,' I told the answering machine. That next morning, I didn't know where my pants went and I had a hickey. I figured I blacked out and called the first name in my book. April or something." (James Bunoan)

LIMBECK: "Life is the road and the road is life, as long as the credit card holds out and your boss at the shitty day job back home keeps taking you back. And right now, the road is leading the four guys who make up OC's Limbeck straight to the Jelly Belly factory up near Fairfield, just outside Sacramento." (RK)

THE PLATTERS: "We're all derivative: the buildings we build, the way we talk, the songs we sing are all taken from or influenced by someone or something else. In music, this is simply accepted science. Sometimes, it's homage. But where it gets a little weird is with the so-called original bands that aren't. Like the Platters Live, which play the Mission at San Juan Capistrano on Saturday night. Simply put, it has no Platters." (Theo Douglas)

ICARUS LINE: "As the Icarus Line winds up their set, [guitarist Aaron] North gets frustrated with sound problems. He hangs over his amp—on the face, he's painted, 'punk is dead'—trying to fix something in the back, playing all the while, his legs dangling in front of the amp. Finally, he lifts his guitar in the air and runs, jamming it as hard as he can into the wall. It breaks, but it doesn't break right, so he smashes it into the ground repeatedly until it splinters. Pardon me, but what the fuck? What about all that stuff he said about his equipment being his only possession and blah, blah, blah? 'The neck was breaking,' he says to you later. 'I was just giving it a proper burial.'" (AMR)

BUILT TO SPILL: "In conversation, you can only ask, 'But what do you mean?' so many times. What's he really saying when he claims music doesn't play a big role in his relationship with Karena anymore? You can't tell. And why, when he says, 'When you're young, music kind of brings people together,' can you hear him underlining the 'young' part? Want to romanticize things? Mention your friends have chosen Built to Spill's 'The Weather' as their wedding song, and even though it's going to be a big wedding with bridesmaids and priests and aunts and uncles and cousins, he'll sound genuinely thrilled. But as he talks about songwriting, he's about as excited as a sleepy sheriff explaining the day-to-day procedures at the jail." (KZ)

RICHARD BUCKNER: "That environment is everywhere in Buckner's songs, a reflection of the continent he's traveled across again and again: haunted, wide-open spaces; maybe a ragged steel guitar solo on the horizon; a piano line rushing up from nowhere like a city-limit sign; the heartbeat of the small town in the welling toms and country pap-pap drums; and the rare intersection where all of them come together. A long and winding metaphor, yeah, but there's a lot of time to think on those drives." (Rex Reason)

GWAR: "With a frothy vigor, [Oderus] explains the rest of his grand old plans for the Grand Old Party members: 'I would give birth to a snake-head fish. You don't have those on the West Coast, but they're a phenomenon in the East. They're called the Frankenstein fish because they can get out of ponds and flop around on dry land until they get to another pond, where they eat everything. A lot of people think they are fish, but they are actually individual sperm cells of Oderus. What I would do is I would come in [Bush's] flayed ass and let the Franken-fish eat him from the inside out.'" (Michael Coyle)

BRETT CAIN: "What truly makes Cain such a refreshing change of musical pace is far simpler than his talent and presence: he laughs. All the time. During gigs, during songs, during conversations. It's part of his utter lack of pretension. His ambition and dreams may be as big as his persona, but onstage, what you get isn't ironic indifference or rock-star-in-training bullshit—it's exuberance and unbridled passion. And it doesn't matter if he's performing an original song such as his frighteningly radio-friendly ode to life, 'Make Life' or the theme song to The Jeffersons." (Joel Beers)

JOSH ONE: "He looked down at his cell phone, then felt a thud. Looking up, he saw his car was right about to plow through a storefront. He quickly swerved the car onto the street, and then the car's airbag socked him on the head like a right hook from a boxer. 'I thought I was invincible,' he said. 'But that was the last straw.'" (Andrew Asch)

THE MELVINS: "While he's describing the crew, Rutmanis decides to break down the band, too: 'Buzz is like a chia pet with a black shirt on . . . that never shuts up. Crover is like how Duane Allman sees himself. I'm a giant blinking cone of sanity.'" (RR)

RYE COALITION: "'We almost had to get a loan from a loan shark,' Cuseglio sighs. It's hard to tell if he's kidding. 'Come on,' Leto says, as if it's the most logical thing in the world. 'What bank's gonna be like, "Here's 10 grand--go make a record"?'" (KZ)

BAY CITY ROLLERS: "Alex's went to dust around me while I was looking past the nose—a cute little upturned nose!—of this punker girl, and suddenly her nose turned fake-tan orange and deflated and her lips bloated to a sticky Botox pink, and she wasn't wearing a studded belt anymore; she had stonewashed jeans split at the knees and a laundry pile of a haircut, and I couldn't tell whether that tinkle-clink was from the ice cubes in her Long Island iced tea or all the turquoise and silver on her fingers, and she was brushing the highlights out of her eyes and screeching, 'MARRRRRRRGERRRITTTAVILLLE!' And I looked down, and I had a belly out past my toes, and I felt the Dockers constrict around my hips for a second—just to remind me not to put up a fight—and I had a Long Island iced tea, too, and I knew that I couldn't die because I was already dead." (CZ)

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